Between 2007 and 2008 Facebook became mainstream: it joined the list of 10 sites in the world with the most traffic and the number of users started to grow at an impressive speed worldwide. Phrases such as social network and social media became common parlance and businesses began to use social media marketing. However, even if more than a billion people check their Facebook profile every day and established media outlets such as press and tv spend money to become more “social”, none of them have a very clear picture of how things will develop in the future.
Everyone knows how the idea that everyone can be connected by their profiles on social media to other profiles of people, institutions or business has become all important, but very few people really understand how far that can go, and even the experts have different ideas and theories.
This is a list of 3 different and possible scenarios:
- Facebook will keep its position of most used and much loved social network for many more years and anyone who launches a new social project, interesting enough to be bought by Facebook will be someone who will be considered extremely lucky.
- Social networks are a bubble about to burst: they are important but investors have put too much emphasis on them so the bubble may burst as it happened with the “new economy” bubble in 2000. In due course we may have to rethink the entire social network scenario. If the bubble does burst, the entire market will change and only those social networks able to stand alone (without the help of investors) will survive.
- In the future users may prefer smaller social networks dealing with particular niches that match the user’s interests and requirements.
If the 2nd scenario is correct, this will automatically lead to the 3rd , so it is very possible that the future will belong to small social networks.
Small and specific is better?
In Western Countries many many people are already “bored” with Facebook and Twitter, a great number of users feel overwhelmed by the massive amount of content on their streams. Users look for and find alternatives in Instagram, Pinterest or just use a part of the Facebook features. Nothing lasts for ever, the passion for main-stream, general social media will come to an end sooner or later. People will begin to spend less time using them, or will react against the promoted posts that make up the main revenue stream for these businesses.
We already have an example of a very successful social network created with a specific target in mind and that is LinkedIn. It is the most important social media for businesses and professionals. There are already a lot of social media sites created for people that love videogames, gardening, cooking etc. You can find dozens of Pinterest clones for fashion, lifestyle, adult entertainment and son. Another example of a small but specific social network is Instagram. It was created as an App to quick edit pick and has grown very fast into a huge and engaged community. There are other examples of Apps that are based on social interaction like Wakie, where people can wake up someone else in the world merely by choosing a profile.
There are always niches. You just have to find one that’s big enough and rich enough to make it profitable. For example, you can look for a large number of people with a common interest or you can find a niche that’s very small but offering something very specific so that they will pay whatever you ask. Make sure the conditions are right for them to get it and to talk about it with similar people to themselves.
It is also important to feel we are part of something. On Facebook, you are among millions of strangers that have nothing in common with you except having a profile on a big social network. That is not “being part of it”.
The Power of Passion
Critics say: this sounds cool but worthwhile traffic is still only for big social media sites. Small niches will only get a small amount of traffic and people will not login to 10 small social networks according to their interests. They say, for this reason, it will not work, but let’s look at it from a different angle view:
- If you create a social network for a small niche, don’t try to compete with Facebook or Twitter for more traffic. You don’t need everyone. This would just increase costs without necessarily finding the right people. You need a specific group of people for your niche.
- It may never happen that the “big social networks bubble” bursts but on the other hand, it might. The big social networks are too dependent on their investors. They need millions of dollars every single month to maintain their teams, servers, different offices everywhere, constant monitoring and troubleshooting, law and tax advisory. A little social network will just stand on its own feet, with its little community. If it is led by passion and belief in the product, members will not mind if the user experience is not so perfect or has a lot of updates. Forums haven’t changed much over many years but there are still a lot of people that take part in active communities on specific forums. If they have a passion about something they don’t mind having to login to another site.
- It is likely that in future lots of people will just decide to stop “wasting time” stalking their friends on big generic social networks and join communities created around specific niches of interest to them.
Whatever happens, no-one can make cast-iron predictions of the future of social media. The reality is that Niche Social Networks are already with us. We live in a highly innovative world with creative people finding and developing niches with the same interests. It is an established fact that many are already working, surviving and attracting people.