I have to strongly disagree with this post written by Paul Drago on Ethos Planning (and no, I’m not just being controversial). Paul gives 4 main points to support his argument that Niche Social Networking will Fail:

  1. Free flow of information- information can still be free in a niche site in my opinion.
  2. User base will thin out- I would argue this point is actually in favor of niche social networks winning out. Yes, users will thin out and yes, they will leave Myspace (it’s more a matter of when than if in my opinion). Where are they going to go? Niche social networks. If they remain small, the right advertisers will be very willing to pay a lot of money to get in front of a niche group of users. Niche sites will probably start integrating e-commerce into their sites for additional revenue.
  3. People are firmly entrenched with Myspace and Facebook- He even says, “I’ve seen signs of “MySpace” burn out,” which confirms my own observations and thoughts. People are tired of the myspace SPAM. Ultimately, the more users a company controls, the more prone to SPAM and hacking they will become. Look at Microsoft vs Apple. You hardly ever hear about hackers targeting Apple. Why bother to hack Apple since Microsoft controls 90%+ of desktop machines? I won’t say anything bad about facebook because I firmly believe in their model. To me, they should not be grouped with myspace because they do serve niches by catering to certain college campuses.
  4. Why create a whole new site when you can just create a myspace/facebook group?- Myspace groups are crap. Enough said. They provide only a snippet of the interaction that niche sites can.
  5. Employers use Google- Yes, employers use and will continue to use Google. I don’t think anyone thinks “Drunks and Sluts Social Space” is the type of niche site that would work. I’m talking about sites that cater to groups like University of Washington students (facebook), high school sports (Takkle), and business professionals (linkedin). Employers are not going to mind those types of sites. To me, this is actually another negative for myspace- that’s where employers are finding the crap. They are more likely to see someone that belongs to the “Drunks and Sluts Social Space” myspace group than to find a niche social network they are part of.

Finally, I would say there is a huge opportunity for anyone that can centralize everything in one place for the user, much as Paul says. I think facebook has its eyes on achieving that goal. Sites like Ziki and MyBlogLog are also attempting that same challenge. Who will be the ultimate winner? The jury is still out on that one.

  • David G

    Good post. For more on why social networks are so resilient, read Linked by Barabasi.For me it comes down to two things:
    1) The power laws that describe the growth in interactions in a well-connected network (like you have in a niche), also prove that social networks can produce a “winner takes all” scenario.
    2) Because the nodes on a social network are people, “morality” keeps them from being “attacked” by competitors.

  • While I agree with your posts– and I am was not trying to put down social networking in general. I have just seen a huge number of social networking sites sprout up lately. I am esp. leery of any site that copies MySpaces platform.
    I think you and I have two entirely different ideas about social niche sites. I am talking about something like “artslut.com” (which, btw is not porn) or “bakespace.com” as opposed to something like facebook or linkdin, which I think offer very valuable networking goals.

    Perhaps I should have been more clear.

  • Drew Meyers

    Thanks for the comments. I do agree that tiny niche sites will have a very difficult time being successful. The sites that I think will be successful are those that are, in a sense, a niche site within a large social networking site. If people on bakespace.com could find everyone on facebook, it would be a very powerful site. This is the main reason that I think facebook has such a great future. They are choosing to enter the market slowly, rather than just opening it up and anyone and everyone like myspace. They first dominated college campuses with niche network sites before now moving into the corporate network world. I’ll be following their future very slowly.

  • Thanks for the mention, guys. ArtSlut is about providing opportunities for artists & art enthusiasts of all types from musicians to painters & cake decorators. The main focus at the moment is ArtSlutTV, which will advance the careers of creative people & inspire others to live life creatively. So, ’till we get further along with that, the site is growing & changing slowly. That said, it is a LARGE niche. We just haven’t done any marketing yet, whatsoever. As the owner of ArtSlut & a lifelong artist, I feel really good about the project & the amazing strides that it is making – most of which are behind the scenes for the moment, but are big. In the meantime, I’m falttered you’ve heard of us, since it started by accident from a window display & I would be absolutely thrilled for any kind suggestions you may have towards helping us reach that niche & grow our memberships. This isn’t just for painters & you are correct about merchandising. We sold about 10,000 tee shirts, before deciding to sell the gallery where it started… wow, there’s still so much to do. Well, thanks again guys & I hope to hear from you, Barbarella, Top ArtSlut

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