22 September 2009

The future is niche

Now social networks like Facebook have reached the stage where almost everyone you know is on it, the next big thing will be niche networks. In my opinion this is an emerging trend which will lead to an incredible amount of very successful but smaller networking websites, each of them serving a very specific niche audience. Some of them are already around for some time, but indicators show their time has come to shine.

These “themed” networks will cater the needs of very specific groups of people, based on their job description, professional activities, lifestyle, hobbies or interests. Any common interest will do to bring people together around a specific topic.
These are the kind of niche networks we will probably see the most :

- Based on a professional selection (e.g. a network only for lawyers)
- Based on a hobby or interest (e.g. a network for fans of sailing)
- Based on a business relation (e.g. network for all the clients of Porsche Belgium)

Those who start these niche networks have 3 options :

- They can start a "group" on a larger network. Being part of a larger structure will give them a head start and they still have more or less autonomy to manage the group.
- They can also choose for a whitelabel offer, which is an exact copy of the infrastructure of a known network, which can be altered to their specific needs.
- Once a network reaches a certain number of members they will feel the need to have their own platform. This is the only way to design a completely tailor-made website catering very specific needs.

In the last months I also read a few articles about the mass dropout of early adopters from the larger social networks. The average age of new members seems to be increasing. Most early adopters were in their late teens or early twenties and used to be very active on these websites. Today more and more members aged +30 are joining these platforms, while we see some of those early adopters leaving again and heading toward the niche networks.

More on niche networks in my upcoming book 'Friends with Benefits', to be released Nov. 21.

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