Explosive growth of social networks over the last 5 years has changed the landscape of Internet usage; for a large percentage of 18-24 yr olds Facebook is the Internet and this presents huge problems for brands as they try to grapple with the ever shifting monster that is the Facebook revenue machine. The few have decided that they don’t want their connection with their customers dictated to by Zuckerberg and it’s roller-coaster ride on the NASDAQ.
The mainstream appeal of Facebook, Google plus etc has started to alienate niche interests and conversations. Who really wants all of your contacts to see how excited you get about model trains, or Star Trek? Historically, niche communities gathered in Usegroups or Forums but these feel and look so dated in 2013, having changed little since the late nineties. The world is changing, though. As Facebook’s mainstream appeal starts to slip under a weight of privacy issues, advertising, tracking and intellectual property a new paradigm is starting to gain some traction.
Private social networks have been around for a few years, pioneered by companies such as Ning, they’ve been slow to take off, granted. Brands, organisations and groups need to leverage the niche social network in a different way to forums and Facebook and that’s what slowed down adoption. The community of users need to be educated to use social in a different way and this is starting, ironically, in the enterprise with business-based social networks from Yammer, Podio and others.
But it doesn’t stop just there. Lady Gaga’s tech team Backplane created LittleMonsters.com as a fans’ site and helped make Lady Gaga one of the most popular entertainers in the world. Backplane is now branching out to create more niche communities for brands, starting with Conde Nast’s photography magazine and Guns’N’Roses. Little Monsters pulled in nearly 1 million registered users and over 2 million monthly unique visits.