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 About.com 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.