The future of social media – a commentary

Paul Chaney (Twitter id @pchaney) blogged recently that the future of social networks is in niche communities. I found that very thought-provoking, and I found myself thinking about my own experiences, which I wanted to share.

I’m a regular on Facebook for social interactions with a broad range of people, from family members to friends from various times and places in my life. I find it a good way to keep in contact with people who I might not have any contact with if I had to do it one at a time. I’m active on LinkedIn for purposes of career networking, and have recently started tweeting to share information about my professional field and to build my personal brand.

I am also a moderator of the Cats Forum, and have been since 2004 (and a member since 2001). That forum really is a community, with a lot of people who love cats and have become good friends in the process. We have lost a few people to Facebook. Some of those people like Facebook because it has no moderation, whereas we have a few rules on the Cats forum – no personal attacks, no spamming, no discussion of politics or religion. Some people just don’t have time to do both the Cats forum and Facebook, and they can reach more people through Facebook so they do that. I think the biggest change is that Cats forum people used to share a lot of off topic things on the forum, which they now post on Facebook. There is still definitely a place for a community around a common interest, but we haven’t really seen people leaving Facebook and coming back to the forum, other than at times when they have a sick cat or a particular question.

On LinkedIn, the broad network extends my reach to companies I could not otherwise connect with, but to me the true value of LinkedIn on a day to day basis is the small groups. I am part of a number of professional sub-groups, and also one for photographers, since that is a big interest of mine. That is where the real dialogue occurs, which supports Paul’s thesis.

I’m interested to hear what others think about this, and I’ll be curious to see what the world of social media will look like in a year or two.



About Pat Wolesky

I consider myself primarily a communicator, and I have 15 years of communication experience which includes product brochures and data sheets, ads, direct mail, press releases, Web content, trade show materials, online newsletters, training materials, and blogs (to name a few). I also have extensive experience in Web content management and knowledge management. Most recently I've been studying Search Engine Marketing, particularly Search Engine Optimization, and in late April of 2011 I completed training through Dakota County Technical College to be a Certified Master of Social Media.


The future of social media – a commentary — 5 Comments

  1. Thanks for mentioning my niche networks post Pat. I use an analogy often that, incidentally, I failed to include in the post, which is: You can get a seat at someone else’s table or set a table of your own. Or, you can do both.

    In other words, getting a seat at someone else’s table is likened to using the behemoth social networks for your group or forum. Setting a table of your own is tantamount to building a proprietary network around your brand. In Facebook’s case, setting up a group or fan page is not unlike getting a table in a large food court.

    I believe a good strategy is to set up shop in Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. and, as you grow a fan base, then create something of your own. But, it all depends on your marketing goals I suppose. Still, I’m really keen on the idea of branded online communities.

    • Paul, thank you for stopping by. I think there is a place for many models. Twitter is sort of “stream of consciousness” but I love being exposed to all the little nuggets of wisdom that people tweet (such as your post). I am a person who values community, whether it’s a community of practice or a community around a common hobby or interest, or even an illness.

      I like your analogy. I think many of us are currently in the “seat at someone else’s table” stage, but as businesses get more comfortable with the whole idea of engagement with customers we’ll undoubtedly see many interesting things develop.

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