This post will describe what social nicheworking is and how it is changing the digital media world. The goal of this assignment is to expand my online digital media “toolkit” by examining nicheworks and how they can be used for both business as well as personal uses.
What is Nicheworking
Nicheworking is a form of online networking that integrates specific individuals into a particular group. “A niche social network is one that targets a select segment of the general population. Sites like MySpace and Facebook have grown so large that some users feel a bit lost in the shuffle. That’s where niche social networks step in. These networks allow users to connect with fewer people who have the same interests, hobbies or professional associations” (Ronca). Nicheworks provide users with the ability to maintain private conversation with a few specific individuals within their network of contacts.
How Nicheworks Operate
In order to explain how nicheworks operate, I’ll use the popular Facebook Groups as an example to illustrate the purpose of such networks. Facebook groups came into being because of a real problem. To explain, well use Debbie to illustrate the problem.
“Debbie is still connected to a group of friends she made when she lived in Los Angeles. She now also maintains a network of new friends in San Diego, where she currently lives, in the same social graph. Of course, she is still in contact with her family. Debbie is also an active swimmer and trains ten year old kids in competitive swimming. She has friended other trainers and some of the kids in her class” (Ronca). Figure 1: Groups demonstrates Debbie’s social graph.
“In L.A., some of Debbie’s friends work in a gay bar. They share photos on Facebook of wild and memorable nights in the bar. Debbie loves the pictures and often comments on them” (Solis, 2010). Figure 2 illustrates the connection Debbie’s LA friends have with her social graph. “By nature of design, the 10 year old kids that have friended Debbie can also see her activity as well as the pictures she’s commented on” (Solis, 2010).
“Debbie realized, for the first time, that the kids could see this activity and she was upset at herself for not realizing this earlier. She blamed the system for letting it happen. The problem is that one social network does not represent how we “network” in real life and exposes discreet groups to one another intentionally or unintentionally” (Solis, 2010).
In order to solve this problem, Facebook introduced Facebook Groups so that users can control the privacy of their communication within their social graph. Groups allow individuals to add friends or contacts into a specific group, usually with a specific purpose or topic, in order to prevent all of their contacts from being involved in the conversation.
For instance, on my Facebook, I have four specific groups that I`m involved in; family, shreds (which is my group of snowboarding friends), late night puck (which is my group of friends who buy ice and play drop in hockey), and Osoyoos crew (which is my group of friends who frequent Osoyoos in the summer time). This is the kind of control Facebook Groups provides its users when communicating with specific individuals about particular topics.
Nicheworking in Digital Media
The nichework model has been used for business and marketing since the digital media revolution in the early 2000’s. These nicheworks provide perfect opportunities for businesses to target specific consumers with tailored advertising messages. Online advertising has changed the game when it comes to organizations allocating a marketing budget to capitalize on this growing marketplace.
Facebook Groups is a leader in the industry when it comes to social nicheworking. Debra Ronca explains that “Zuckerberg was clear to put the power of group creation and member curation in the hands of the individual” (Ronca). “Without doing so, Groups would not realize its full potential. If you have a group for your family, your roommates, your classmates, that’s actually useful. The product is designed so that the groups you actually use go to the top of the home page. The other ones will just fall away” (Solis, 2010). “In many cases, we are chosen for groups and similarly, we choose certain individuals for the groups we create. As in anything, this must be done with discretion” (Solis, 2010).
“Facebook Groups represents something much more meaningful than groups for idle chatter; they are platform for improving relationships, communication, and productivity in controlled environments” (Solis, 2010).
This model of group communication has been exploited by various companies in order to target consumers with specific advertising messages. This form of advertising is growing at an explosive rate that is difficult to anticipate in the future.
Services & Products in the Industry
In regards to various services and products that make up social niche works on digital platforms, I decided to look at 5 different sites that focus on particular industries and provide their users with particular value. The following platforms include; Kaboodle, Ravelry, imeem, Classmates.com, and Flixster.
“Kaboodle is a free social network geared toward people who like to shop. Founded in 2005, its mission is to help people recommend, share and discover products. It’s different from a regular shopping site because it’s not just a list of products. It offers users tools to better organize their shopping as well as find the best prices. Kaboodle boasts more than 12 million monthly visitors with more than 800,000 registered users. The site doesn’t sell anything — it merely exists to help people to share information and bond over their shared interest in shopping” (Ronca).
Visit Kaboodle’s by going to http://www.kaboodle.com/
“Ravelry is a free community site for knitters, crocheters, designers, spinners and dyers — pretty much anyone who works with yarn and patterns. The site aims to help users “organize, share and discover” within the yarn artisan community. The founders created Ravelry to fill a niche they themselves were looking for — a centralized, easy place to find and share information about patterns, yarn and the like. They built their own community, inviting users to join and share their knowledge about knitting, crocheting and more. Founded in 2005, Ravelry.com currently has 350,565 registered users” (Ronca).
Visit Ravelry’s by going to https://www.ravelry.com/
“Imeem is a free social network built around music. Users interact to post and discover new artists, share playlists and watch videos. By building personalized playlists (something imeem calls “social mixtapes”), users can share their favorite music and artists with the community. Other members are welcome to browse and comment on everyone else’s playlists. Imeem offers streaming songs from just about every major and indie label, so it’s easy to locate your favorite songs. Even though the music on imeem is free streaming, users can purchase from iTunes or download ringtones if they find something they really like” (Ronca).
Visit imeem by going to http://www.myspace.com/imeem
Classmates.com is a Web site that connects current and former classmates. It was one of the first social networking sites, launched in 1995. Basic usage of the site is free, allowing users to search for and view alumni from their high schools or colleges. However, users must upgrade to a paid “gold” membership in order to view people’s details or send them a message. The alumni network currently has 4.6 million paid users and 40 million registered accounts. The site is popular with people trying to set up class reunions or find out contact information for classmates they’ve lost touch with” (Ronca).
Visit classmates.com by going to http://www.classmates.com/
Flixster is a free community site for movie fans. The site provides information on movies currently or soon to be in theaters, actor profiles, fan clubs, celebrity gossip, movie news, video clips and interactive features like forums and user quizzes. Founded in 2006, Flixster has more than 15 million unique monthly visitors who’ve provided almost two billion movie ratings. Private investors and advertising dollars keep the site in business” (Ronca).
Visit Flixter by going to http://www.flixster.com/
The Future of Nicheworking
I see nicheworking in the near future evolving to become an essential component for social media platforms. It provides individuals with the ability to keep conversations private, such as in real life where you wouldn’t share everything with everyone, rather you would share certain information with certain individuals. As all demographics continue to move towards social media, the demand for privacy amongst groups of friends will continue to grow.
“Groups represent the future of social networking. We can design groups where we communicate, collaborate, and co-create with purpose, whether it’s personally or professionally. But, for the time being, we can do so in a network we can learn, in real-time, how to take control of our online presence and the social graphs we choose to cultivate” (Solis, 2010).
“It’s also worth noting that most social networks make their money through paid advertising, and a niche network is an advertiser’s dream because it’s a readymade target audience. For example, a social network for pet lovers would provide a logical ad slot for pet food. In 2006, advertisers spent $280 million on social networks. By 2010, that number should rise to $1.9 billion” (Ronca).
With that said, I see nicheworking becoming a huge application in regards to social media for both personal and business use. Individuals can use nicheworks to communicate in privacy with specific friends, while businesses will be able to place tailored advertising messages in specific websites and pages. This dynamic relationship between personal communication and business advertising will continue to develop and evolve in the near future as social platforms and digital media continues to expand across the globe.
Ronca, D. (n.d.). How Stuff Works. Retrieved November 11, 2012, from Top 5 Niche Social Networks: http://computer.howstuffworks.com/internet/social-networking/information/5-niche-social-networks.htm
Solis, B. (2010, October 11). Brain Solis: Defining the Impact of Technology, Culture, and Business. Retrieved November 11, 2012, from Facebook Groups Gives Rise to Social Nicheworking: http://www.briansolis.com/2010/10/facebook-groups-social-nicheworks/