In case you haven’t heard, the Facebook was recently the first social network to break the 1,000,000,000 users mark. That’s 1 billion…with a “B.” While Facebook in undoubtedly the king of social networking as we know it, over the past 2 years we’ve seen a plethora of new social networking sites jump on the scene.
The Era of Niche Social Networks
Over the years Facebook has evolved into a photo sharing and life streaming platform good for base online communication between friends and family. However the social networking giant’s biggest flaw is that it actually appeals to 1 billion people. These new social networking sites aren’t trying to please everyone: rather they’re defining themselves into a specific niche and are able to serve the needs of that community exceedingly well.
Where Facebook pleases all of the people some of the time, these new social networks please some of the people all of the time. Facebook is so broad they can’t afford to do everything for everyone, and as a result many people are logging out of the site and signing up for these alternatives. Some recent data from Experian shows niche social networking sites are booming.
Here are 9 of the newest social networks you should know about, and how they could change the game of social networking as we know it.
Sgrouples – The World’s Private Social Network
Sgrouples (sounds like ‘scruples’) is our very own private, group-centric social network designed to mimic how small groups of people interact in their real lives. Sgrouples allows you to easily post content to different groups based on your real life interests – friends, family, work, sports teams, and hobby groups.
In addition to the group networking flavor that gives Sgrouples it’s name, users can also connect 1:1 with their contacts, integrate Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, collaborate on Google-doc style docs, and upload & share files with 4GB of free cloud storage.
Why Sgrouples changes the game:
Sgrouples has unprecedented privacy controls, both in terms of how it allows you to post in secret to specific groups or contacts, and in how you allow the site to use your data. While literally every major social network is scraping, reselling, and sharing your personal information, at Sgrouples you retain total control of your private data.
In addition, no social network has combined live collaboration documents, cloud storage, social network aggregation, an events calendar, and private group collaboration all under one roof. Sgrouples makes it easy to control your online presence and choose exactly who has access to which content of yours. Sign up for an account and see for yourself what Sgrouples has to offer.
Nextdoor - A New Social Networking Site for Neighborhoods
Nextdoor is a social networking site with a unique attitude – get people off their computers and out into real life. Nextdoor requires a real address to sign up, and then places you in a hyperlocal network with your neighbors and peers. You can then post listings to your local community and meet individuals with similar interests or hobbies.
Since there’s obvious privacy concerns with a social network tied to your home address, Nextdoor is private to people within your neighborhood, with additional privacy settings available to protect your home.
Why Nextdoor changes the game:
As stated, Nextdoor has a unique goal – take people offline and into real-life communities. Noticing a trend here? Users don’t want to share with hundreds of fake “friends” anymore, but rather want to share with local real-life groups and communities. This marks a major shift in how social networking users behave online, and private social networks like Nextdoor and Sgrouples will only continue to gain popularity.
Pinterest – Heralding an Era of Visual Change
Most of you are probably familiar with Pinterest by now. Everybody and their mother is pinning these days it seems. But I’m willing to bet most of you had never even heard of Pinterest this time last year. So why did Pinterest go from zero to hero so quickly? If you’re someone like me who hopped on the Pinterest bandwagon in 2012, the answer is immediately obvious:
Pinterest is visual, entertaining, and most of all it’s easy to use.
Why Pinterest changes the game:
The visual new social network highlights the connection between visually compelling design and user experience. Toto, we’re not in Netscape anymore.
Where social media sites like Flickr are great web 1.0 photo sharing networks, Pinterest takes interaction and engagement to the next level with exciting design and a dead-simple interface. Of course Pinterest’s uniqueness has been widely duplicated by this point, but imitation is the sincerest form of flattery right?
Beyond an exciting UI for end users, Pinterest has also skyrocketed to success because of the natural way brands can promote their products on Pinterest. Pinterest can refer more traffic than Facebook, Yahoo organic search, and even Twitter depending on your niche. No wonder brands love the platform.
PS – Pinterest recently jumped on the private social networking bandwagon with the release of their secret boards feature.
Path - The Private Mobile Social Network
Path is a mobile-based social network that allows you to lifestream with 150 close friends and contacts. Path It started as a social networking site primarily for sharing photos but you can also check in, post status updates, and share music/movies/books. Again, Path isn’t a social networking site to blast to thousands of followers, but a place to stay in touch with the real people in your life.
Why Path changes the game:
What Twitter and Instagram are for public lifestreaming, Path is to private lifestreaming. Easy to use on the go, a simple, sleek interface, and the idea that some stories are best kept between friends. In fact, a big part of what sets path apart as top new social networking site is it’s own story.
Path does a great job of creating an intimate feel for it’s users, and encouraging them to share their story with real people. Posts are even called “moments,” which sets the tone perfectly. Path makes the statement: Social networking isn’t all about how many likes you can get, but the real connections you can cultivate.
Myspace – Old is New
Myspace was the first truly successful social network, back before Facebook dominated the scene. However, as you’ve probably heard Myspace recent announced it was getting a major facelift and changing to a sleek, Pinterest-like UI. Myspace has also kept all the music contracts it has amassed over the years, which positions it as the go-to social networking site for musicians and their fans.
Why Myspace changes the game:
Myspace is an ironic sort of Cinderella story in that it was once the giant on the scene, only to be toppled by Facebook and limp along with a declining userbase for several years. This Myspace 3.0 so to speak shows that anything is possible in the social networking scene, and reemphasizes the power of a user-friendly UI and a loyal niche audience.
They’re not trying to “win” the battle with Facebook as they’ve tried for so many years, but rather they’re signaling that the future of the web is in catering to a specific audience and doing that one thing really well.
Highlight/Ban.jo/Roamz – Meet the New Mobile Social Networks
Highlight, Ban.jo, and Roamz are examples of a new type of social networking site called social-local-mobile (SoLoMo) networks. And by ‘networks’ we really mean ‘apps,’ as they’re primarily for mobile platforms.
SoLoMo apps are social networks based on connecting you with people in the same local proximity. You can meet others for lunch, share in nearby events, or just find out more about people who frequent your favorite local hotspots. Highlight is only for iOS, while Ban.jo and Roamz are on both iOS and android platforms.
Why SoLoMo social networks change the game:
If you’ve paid any attention to digital marketing over the past year, you’ll know the trend is mobile mobile mobile. Mobile platform use is projected to overtake desktop internet usage by 2014, and everyone wants a piece of the action. While many apps simply provide a way to access your social networks via phone, these mobile-centric social networks operate in a unique way by integrating geolocation with their core service.
This is both incredibly useful, and incredibly problematic.
As mobile and data sharing technology evolves the capabilities and features of these SoLoMo networks have expanded in unimagineable ways. We’ve written about the problems with geotracking before, particularly when apps have access to multiple services and your personal information, and then broadcast that information to either local retailers or complete strangers. In short, hyperlocal social networks can be useful and highly targeted to their users, but the inherent loss of personal privacy raises a lot of question marks about the ethics of such a technology.
Will new SoLoMo social networks continue to grow like wildfire, or will the privacy concerns ultimately be their downfall? Only time will tell.
So to wrap up, here are the big trends in the world of web 3.0 social networking, and things to keep an eye out for as you consider a new social network:
- Specific niche audiences. Many new social networking sites no longer try to appeal to everybody. Instead they narrow their focus down to a specific niche and serve the needs of the people in that niche exceedingly well.
- Privacy is the name of the game. This isn’t 2006; we’re not so collectively giddy with the idea of social networking that we’re willing to share our lives with the entire world anymore. People don’t want 500 fake friends, they want 100 real contacts to connect with. They also don’t want to be tracked or spied on everywhere they go on the web. The online privacy revolution is here.
- Sleek, user-friendly design is a must. We’re in the future; we expect our technology not only to get the job done, but to look great doing it and to have an intuitive, user-friendly design. Web 3.0 users don’t have time to learn the ins and out of another social network’s complicated interface – they want to plug n’ play.
- Mobile mobile mobile. Every new social networking site is going mobile, and the widespread use of geolocation services poses some intriguing questions about online privacy and personal safety.
Images from: http://intersectionconsulting.