Niche Social Networks As A Viable Business Model

Yesterday, Marshall Kirkpatrick wrote an interesting article about the seemingly infinite niche social networking space. I have to say that I mostly agree with what Marshall is suggesting. One after the other, we hear about yet another social network that launches. There are so many, I think we should add YASN as an acronym for “Yet Another Social Network.” Every day we see a number of them launch with a Mashable or Techcrunch posting. One newspaper after another launches one and commercial brands are launching their own social networks as well.

Eventually it seems as though every entity has its own social network. It makes sense but I begin to wonder if we will really sign up for a wide array of social networks to express our vast number of affiliation groups. Ultimately, humans love to be a part of affiliation groups. Those affiliation groups have shared interests among their members. The only problem is that the number of interests that we each have has appeared to expand as we spend more time on the internet.

Personally, I am interested in Non-Fiction business books, The Office, web development, mens clothing, international travel, tennis, blogging, DC new media, business news, the stock market, Facebook, networking, dating, entrepreneurship, Wine Library TV, video editing, foreign languages, skiing, sleeping and a limitless number of things. Am I supposed to join a social network for each of these interests? The funny thing is that there are social networks for most of these interests.

Ning has tried to accomodate individuals facing the same problem. Facebook has provided users with groups and fan pages where you can find people that are members of shared affiliation groups. Honestly though, when does it become too much? Is it really possible to keep track of my activities across a number of disconnected social networks? I doubt it. That’s why I think Facebook (or a similar competitor) is the real solution.

The counter-argument would be that the internet’s key feature is the long-tail. Long tail interests and sites that cater to these interests are a key characteristic of the general web. Can one social network satisfy those users or should they be distributed across a multitude of social networks?