Archives for posts with tag: niche networks

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Facebook is a terrible tool to build communities outside of your immediate friends and family. It’s a good platform to maintain existing relationships. It performs badly when it comes to creating new communities based on shared interests. I’m still active in many forums and stats show they tend to build powerful, long-lasting communities.

The emergence of niche networks.

Big social networks have received all the attention in recent years but the real action happens in community forums. There are millions of these sites that have a combined audience comparable to Facebook. The one big advantage Facebook offers for marketers: Scale. It’s so much easier to communicate a message on a unified platform compared to millions of communities, often behind password walls.

In addition, you need to be passionate about specific topics: Unless you’re into Dubstep in Brazil, why would you ever know about forums discussing that topic? Or baseball forums in Germany. Sumo forums in Los Angeles. Bobblehead forums. These forums are surprisingly popular and extremely resilient because of their community bond. For every interest there is an online community to accomodate: fishing, hiking, TV shows, Rugby, Bakersfield fans – you name it. They live and grow every day even if you know nothing about them.

Real relationships

I joined a EDM (Electronic Dance Music) forum in 2000 and still participate every day. The conversation has transformed from sharing club experiences to political discussions, parenting issues, travel advice, general entertainment. I’ve never met 99% of the community but we’re a lively bunch and engage on a daily basis. It’s fascinating to experience this use of the Web and the untouchable strength of community.

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to engage in niche networks

Facebook has become the Microsoft of Social Networks. It’s there, you can’t escape it but you don’t love it. We use it every day but we are really not passionate about it. I’m sure Facebook will be around for years to come, just like Microsoft won’t disappear. The real love and passion happens in niche networks. By integrating more social features into their forums, niche communities will soon begin to have their heyday. Soon means about now.

All this talk about Facebook and Twitter have distracted from one the most important strengths of the digital medium: bringing people together to form a community. The current Forums 1.0 will soon be transformed into more advanced and socialized forums.

Scale is important.

The bond and passion of a community is more important. And a much better playground for your brand.

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Ok, let’s get this out of the way: I was a big proponent of niche networks and thought they would become more important than Facebook/Twitter and all the other global platforms.

I was wrong.

I still believe niche networks are the future but there’s a major underlying problem.

It’s another thing we have to take care of.

The last few weeks I’ve experienced an amazing uptick in Quora participation, I get too many emails each and every day letting me know someone new is following me. There is Path. I love Goodreads. And, this endless list of hundreds of new platforms. Too much. Everybody wants me to contribute. Add content. Participate. While I work, have a family, share content on Facebook and Twitter.

Enough is enough.

We don’t need more platforms, sites, log-in forms and passwords. What we need is a better way to share our information. That was the idea behind Facebook Groups. But it went nowhere. Because nobody saw the benefit of investing a lot of time in developing and curating your own groups. More settings, more hassle, more hard work.

What we need is ownership of our own data

I want to build my own experience where I can share the favorite moments of my life just with my kid. A scrapbook of her fathers’ life. I want to be able to create a network on the fly that enables me to share very personal experiences with a limited amount of friends. It can be 4. It can 60. It’s up to me, not Path’s limitation of 50 friends. I want to share my running experiences with my running friends. My concert experiences with my concert friends. My wine experiences with my fellow winos. But, the last thing I want to do is to sign-up for another platform. Learn another UI. Remember new passwords.

There’s only one solution: data portability. As I’ve written in a few posts before, we need to own our own data. Control our own destiny. And  share this data on our terms. This will allow us to develop new, personal platforms that enable each one of us to build micro-networks of shared interests. Create my own destinations, completely independent from anyone.

Let’s face it: That’s a huge problem for Silicon Valley. They rather focus on incremental innovation. Put lipstick on the pig of data exploitation (Ahem, Foursquare, anyone) and continue to make money off all of our data. And they will continue to push the agenda of creating thin value by adding more features and ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’.

But, that’s the past. The future lies in giving all of us control of our data. And release the real power of innovation.