It seems there’s a growing amount of chatter around the emergence of niche social networks and an interesting article by Jack Wallington over on Wallblog, discusses social networks in general not being so great at bringing people with shared interests together, to create new communities.
Jack believes that more traditional online communities such as The Student Room and Gamespot have been overlooked with so much focus on the big three platforms (MySpace, Bebo and Friendster :-P).
This is certainly something we’ve seen with our clients over the past three years and there has been a palpable shift from building and maintaining long-term communities of interest to the more short-lived, broadcast, marketing-type activities across the top social platforms.
I personally started managing online communities eight years ago, in the form of a forum and blog for Mazda and their MX-5 roadster. This was a highly driven (pun intended) and passionate community of car enthusiasts that not only shared a common interest online, but offline too – with regular ‘meet ups’ and annual drives across Europe to meet other MX-5 enthusiasts.
Like many niche communities, this wasn’t one that would have responded happily to direct marketing. It took time to get to know the culture, and in doing so we were able to participate in a way that increased brand loyalty and awareness.
The emergence of platforms such as Google+ and the ability to easily share content within quickly created niche groups via circles within the major networks is an interesting progression to watch.
The places we frequent and the people we’re surrounded by have a way of setting the tone for the interactions we might have – and that includes online environments. I wouldn’t share the fact that I made a rather splendid pear tarte tatin on LinkedIn, but I would share that with friends and family on Facebook.
I’d personally feel more inclined to go to a specific online space where people share my niche interest – whatever that may be (actually, if you’re interested, it’s building a house in Italy), and perhaps next year we might see the same shift in marketers realising the true worth of the more focussed groups rather than being blinded by big numbers across the big players.
[image: Maria Rosaria Sannino]