Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The long tail of social networking

In case you hadn't noticed, social networking's gone got niche. Whereas the first wave of social networking sites (e.g. Classmates, SixDegrees, MySpace, Friendster, Linkedin) were relatively broad churches, with demographic emphasis the main differentiator, some of the latest kids on the social networking block are more niche than a Wim Wenders movie.

The unspoken rule of the first generation of social networking sites was to keep the focus general enough to facilitate a rapid growth in membership. However, the inclusive social networking model has become increasingly less viable for start-ups as the marketplace has become more crowded and dominated by a handful of big hitters (e.g. MySpace, orkut, Xanga, Facebook, Bebo).

This has paved the way for a new wave of social networking sites focused on niche areas of interest or identity. Don't believe me? Check out the hastily cobbled together A-Z list below which runs the gamut from Activism to Wine via Training shoes (strictly speaking it's an A-W, as I haven't yet found a social network dedicated to xylophones, the Yakuza or Zoroastrianism).

The narrow focus of a site like SneakerPlay may put a comparatively low ceiling on its potential membership, but it also increases its attractiveness both to users with that particular interest and to advertisers who are keen to hit their target demographic with greater precision (Nike currently has a banner ad for its AF1 Playoffs running on every page on SneakerPlay).

The recently relaunched Ning is the logical next step in the specialisation of social networking, as it enables you to create your own social network. With over 30,000 Ning networks already created, this opens up the possibility of a significant long tail of social networking although many of the networks are either still being set up or only have one member (the founder).

Whilst I suspect the current long tail of social networks doesn't begin the stack up against MySpace's 150 million odd user accounts, I doubt that will still be true in a year or two as niche social networking matures and more generic social networks start to see a decline in traffic.

A-Z of niche social networks

Activism: Care2, TakingITGlobal
Art & Design: Amateur Illustrator, Stuart, Teapotters
Auctions: biddingBuddies
Books: LibraryThing, Shelfari, Tagabook
Cars: CarDomain, CarSpace, Carster, Motortopia
Clubbing: AfterTheClub, DontStayIn
Comics: ComicSpace, Hypercomics
Cooking: BakeSpace, Group Recipes, Open Source Food
Cycling: BikeSpace.net, velospace
DIY: Curbly
Ethnicity: BlackPlanet, Koolanoo, Quespasa, WorldLounge
Fashion: ShareYourLook, Shoutfit, Trendmill
Fitness: ontri, PlayLocal, Traineo, We Endure
Film: Flixster, Yamji
Football: Joga
Gambling: Gaambol, Gottabet
Health: DailyStrength, OrganizedWisdom, RealMentalHealth
Hunting: TheHuntZone.com
Intelligence: intellectConnect
Motherhood: ConnectingMoms, MommyBuzz, MothersClick
Music: Hip-Hop.net, Linked Musicians, MakeOutClub, MusicHawk
Neighbourhood: ((echo))MyPlace, My Neighbourhoods
Outdoor activities: MyOutdoors.net, Outdoorzy.com, thoos
Parenting: GotKidsNetwork, Minti
Pets: Animal Buds, Catster, Dogster, Fuzzster, HAMSTERster, Petster
Photography: The Black Stripe
Politics: essembly, HOTSOUP.com, My.BarackObama.com
Religion: MuslimSpace, MyChurch, OakTreeIdea, ShoutLife, Xianz
Rugby: RuggerSpace.com
Smoking: Smoking Passions
Sports: FanPage, FanNation, FanSpot, Takkle, SportsMates, Ultrafan
Trainers: CriticalSole, Sneakerplay
Travel: TravBuddy, Travellerspoint, TripConnect, TripUp, WAYN
Video games: Gamervision, The Great Games Experiment
Wine: Bottletalk, Cork'd, Vinorati


Anonymous said...

Another one for the fashion social networks bit -> Fashionising, trying to do for the fashion industry what MySpace has done for music.

Anonymous said...

I'd just like to point out that despite the name, Gottabet isn't about gambling. I'd put it under D - for Dares and challenges. The emphasis of this site is very much on fun - getting your mates to join in with whacky stuff you dare to do.

Great list apart from that!

Bertrand said...

Dan, very interesting A-Z. I bet you 10 peanuts that Gottabet.com will go mainstream :)

Anonymous said...

I say, it's about time! As a marketer and personally, I am not a fan of one-size fits all.

Great list!

Anonymous said...

I am a co-founder at Outdoorzy.com and it seems like the niche social networking realm has only really begun to blossom in the past 6 months or so. When we had our idea to launch a social network for outdoor enthusiasts about a year ago the market was non-existent. Now there are a few small networks like ours. It will be interesting to see how the small power struggles play out in each of these niches. They won't be played out in the media so much like the Myspaces of the past few years. I think they will be played out on the home pc's of the users.

Amelia said...

Incredibly useful list and your blog is full of smart thought inspiring stuff. Good to meet you at the conference today!

Unknown said...

Great list - thanks.

One for IFAs and Financial Advisers is IFA Life, which is hosted at the business social network Ecademy:


Anonymous said...

And might you consider adding the homeworking website at www.enterprisenation.com ...

Dave Hodgkinson said...

Great list.

Please add iSporty: www.isporty.com, the netword for sporty people to keep in touch with their sports clubs, friends, events.


Anonymous said...

All True.
I know many people go to MDjunction.com which is also a health related social network and mychurch too

Anonymous said...

It should be clearly noted that Makeoutclub.com, founded in 1999 and launched in 2000, precedes all of these websites and is remembered as the first original social networking site (before that term was coined.) Friendster and Myspace were 2003 and 2004 respectively, and Facebook though earlier than myspace and friendster was not open to the public until early this year.

Makeoutclub.com relaunches with all new features and design APPARENTLY this april, judging from the closed beta reports on the current forums...

samdaams said...

Great list, but some of these sites (like ours) were around before the whole social networking thing took off. Just thought it useful to point out that not all of these have spun off the idea of copying myspace in a niche market :)

yours2share said...

Terrific list, you might also consider yours2share which brings together people to share just about any valuable asset

Anonymous said...

I think that niche social networking sites are the future. They allow linke-minded individuals connect and collaborate with each other, leading to more productive and fulfilling relationships.

Also this appeals to advertisers as they can target their advertising spend.

Niche social networks are springing up for a whole variety of interests, industries and localities. Websites such as Ning facilitate this and search engines such as http://findasocialnetwork.com make niche social networks easier to promote and find.

Joe said...

Another one for the parenting category - peatot.com

Anonymous said...

here another to your list looks very new http://www.dropacar.com

Anonymous said...

Well said.

Dmitri said...

There is a hobby social network www.hobbything.com as well.

Unknown said...

Niche social networks are a welcome addition to the web. Because they are more narrowly focused, they are better able to serve the needs of their community.

Qnahealth is a new social network for health related information and support. It's designed to be friendly and easy to use and is focused around users asking and answering questions and sharing their experiences and knowledge.

We invite everyone to take a look as they explore their online health information options.

We welcome bloggers!

Anonymous said...

Here is another one for your parenting list.

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