Over the past few months I’ve been happy to see many of my colleagues at UB and other institutions starting to use social networks. Not only are they on sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, they are actively using them to build relationships.
The next step will be the development of niche social networks. Think of it as the intersection of social networks and the long tail. While Facebook and LinkedIn attract millions of users, these users have very dissimilar interests and share little in common. They were not built to be flexible. Niche social networks have the potential to allow like-minded people to connect in a much more meaningful way than the larger sites.
Many new tools are emerging to build social networks including Ning, CollectiveX, and Elgg. I am currently testing both Ning and Elgg to build an “Academic Network” which will allow students to connect and collobarate around shared academic interests.
As the number of social networks grow, social network overload will become a major issue. How can we keep up-to-date on the activity across numerous social networks?. Tools that aggregate your social websites are emerging as well including profilelinker, spokeo, and Profilactic.
Many of the projects I’m working would benefit from a niche social network. From a homeowners association to an elementary school to a community tennis association, a common goal is to bring people with shared interests together.
- The Nearly Never Ending Market for Niche Social Networks
- The Long Tail: Social Networking is a feature, not a destination
- Metcalfeâ€™s Law Recurses Down the Long Tail of Social Networks
- Social Networking: Time For A Silver Bullet
- Social Networkingâ€™s Next Phase – New York Times
Is there a reason you aren’t testing CollectiveX?
I just came across CollectiveX a couple of weeks ago. I plan on taking a closer look this week to see how it works and if it will fit my needs.
I’ve got The Long Tail on my Xmas list, I hope someone gets it for me!
I think you’re right that niche networks can benefit hugely from social software currently available on the net. One of the issues nobody talks about that much is the ownership of the network, or at least the data of the community. Most networking services offered are hosted, I think Elgg is one of the few where you are in full control – install it on your server and you’re ready to go. Best of luck with testing the services, do stop by http://elgg.org if you’re having any questions or issues.
(yes, this is a shameless plug 🙂 )