Social Networks: How Niche Do You Wanna Be?

Ann All

Andy Warhol once said that "in the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes." And that was before YouTube.


A modern twist on that statement could be that "in no time at all, everyone will have their own social network."


New York Times blogger Vindu Goel spotlights a site called Burnt Marshmallows, a social network for Canadian campers, somewhat snarkily implying that there are too darned many niche interest sites.


Burnt Marshmallows was built using Ning, a kind of an amazing platform that I mentioned back in September in my own post about the proliferation of social networks. As I noted then, just about every site that wants to engage users is adding at least some social features.


I also commented on the growing trend of Facebook-shy companies building their own internal networks. Even with internal networks, there are sometimes questions of just how niche they should be. Employees only? Partners and suppliers, too? Maybe even customers? Internal or external, if you go too niche, aren't you just limiting your exposure to new ideas, one of the ostensible purposes of social networks?


As an aside, I feel for Vindu Goel over the comments following his post. I suspect he was just tossing off what he saw as a quick, funny post, much as I did when I urged people who'd consider quitting their jobs over a lack of Facebook access to grow up, punks.


As with my post, many of those commenting on Goel's piece seemed to read more into it than he likely intended. He is accused of assailing the broader Internet community, scrappy start-ups and human creativity. Predictably, several folks promote their own sites, and a couple of readers veer off on a tangent about his use of the phrase "exponential growth." Just another day in the blogosphere.

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