Cutting through the clutter
As with all wildly popular trends, social networks aren't immune to consumer backlash and burnout. And we're increasingly beginning to see such trends emerge in the land of social media. The clutter of information and features on the big social networks -- Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, and others -- has become too much for some consumers to take. In fact, it's not all that uncommon nowadays to hear from friends who have given up on communicating via big social networks completely.
It's sad, really. For some consumers, what was once an experience steeped in an ephemeral sense of discovery -- the newness of an online domain organized and personalized just to our liking -- has now become vast, all-encompassing, commoditized, and impersonal.
Beyond the user experience, the big social networks also present challenges for marketers. Large horizontal networks can be tough to leverage as targeted marketing tools because they have so many diverse users. They have the scale, yes. But brands trying to find their voices in these networks are easily drowned out by the rest of the noise.
Enter niche social networks. Although they don't boast the gargantuan user numbers widely touted by the Facebooks of the world, these little communities are likely to play a big part in the future of online marketing. They work differently, focusing on specific passionate groups of people who congregate around a targeted subject. And they play by a completely different set of rules than the big guys.
If you're looking to cut through the clutter of the big networks and tap into your niche online audiences, here are some rules to live by.