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Niche Social Networks - the opportunities for brands (2012)
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Niche Social Networks - the opportunities for brands (2012)

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Niche Social Networks are small networks often focused around one subject, like food or smaller networks, like Path, that are focused on a handful of connections. …

Niche Social Networks are small networks often focused around one subject, like food or smaller networks, like Path, that are focused on a handful of connections.

In 2012 we looked at a number of these niche or vertical social networks highlighting some networks to consider and the opportunities and challenges for harnessing these.

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  • 1. Social Network trends for 2012 Directors Briefing January 2012 WWW.DIGITALTOMORROWTODAY.COM
  • 2. Social Network trends for 2012 Introduction The Time & Habit Challenge 2012 will be a big year for social networks. Google+ as the challenger will work hard to grow its base of new sign ups into the millions whilst also extending its relevance across the Google network. Any new social network will have a tough job growing for three reasons: Facebook will continue to grow towards an estimated 1 billion global users and forecast $1bn IPO in May. After a slight plateau in audience growth last summer, Facebook will be working hard to extend its offering and relevance with a boost in the number of approved partners accessing the social graph and consumer timelines. The post IPO funds available to Facebook may well see a spending spree focused on aqcuiring [comparatively] small businesses like the recent Gowalla deal, to strengthen key areas. 2. The issue of time spent is further compounded if this new network does not have the same ‘crowd’ you are used to connecting with. Unless you are excited by meeting new people all the time, you may question the value of a new social network if you are the only one of your network on there. Meanwhile, Twitter which is expected to hit 200 million users this quarte, will need to push hard not to be left behind. Without a major infrastructure (Google) and content partnerships (Facebook) Twitter will need to keep findings ways of maintaining relevance and improve their visible revenue streams. New Social Networks While most of the column inches you read will cover these major battles, you may miss some important social networks on the rise this year. So, we bring you five of the must watch social networks for 2012. ‘Not the Facebook Killer’ None of these networks will challenge the ‘establishment’ instead growing focused and engaged niche networks centred around one or a handful of interests. 02 / Social Network trends for 2012 1. Existing Behaviour - if a consumer is used to updating Facebook once a day and maybe tweeting a few times, they may not have time, or feel they have time to start updating or engaging on another social channel. 3. Platform use - most of the new social networks are mobile based and most are still only iPhone only. This will hamper their growth with non iPhone audiences which are growing. 4. Wider Sharing These niche social networks will be connected to the major networks to ensure the widest potential for sharing with your established networks, which also works for growing the audience of a new network. Characterisitics of the new networks These new networks are sharing a number of key elements in common: 1. Mobile - the new networks subscribe to the ‘Social Mobile Local’ approach. They are social networks accessed almost exclusively through mobile devices allowing users to share and engage socially with elements of location added in. 2. Beautiful Design - Path has lead the way with a beautiful design which will raise the bar for new app development. Focusing on the design aspect of the iPhone, Path has developed a beautifil app that looks great. The recent coverage of its latest release focused on the stunning beauty of the app, not its abilities.
  • 3. Social Network trends for 2012 3. Socially Connected - all new networks ensure you can connect with the mahor networks to find friends and share content. Few of them are allowing ‘copied updates’ from other networks to ensure the content is unique and fresh for each network. NETWORKS TO WATCH Tumblr We think Tumblr will be a growing social network in 2012, and the least ‘niche’ of all we cover here. Please do review our previous briefing for more on Tumblr and how brands can use it. Path If we’re honest we can’t yet see the value in Path. It is a beautiful iPhone app that allows friends to share status updates, photos and video with hand picked friends. The app makers have no plans to run ads instead offering small premium elements like photo filters. In a smart move which may point to its potential, Nike have released a new Fuel Band, a new wristband that measures your daily activity and posts it socially to Path (and other channels.) If you have an iPhone we recommend you check it out. We continue to use it in the hope of discovering its value. 03 / Social Network trends for 2012
  • 4. Social Network trends for 2012 Instagram Instagram allows you to take share photos easily from your iPhone. Instagram has its own community of ‘Instagrammers’ who actively share their own photos liking and commenting on others. Brands including Playboy, Ted Baker and Bowers & Wilkins are using Instagram to share pictures that enhance their brand. We expect Instagram to be a big hit of 2012 with more and more brands picking up on its potential as a standalone network and as the potential to use it for sharing visual content across other networks. Pinterest Pinterest is a pin board of interesting things. Currently ‘invite only’ this social network allows you to ‘pin’ intersting things you see across the web. Each user has the ability to create boards that reflect their interest, so we can share a ‘brands’ board and another board for ‘amazing sunsets’. Like any social network, other consumers have the ability to view the pins, share them and follow interesting (or known) users. This visual representation of ‘bookmarks’ is a growing (and not so new) trend that is also being used in Delicious Stacks. The ease of sharing will help this network with initial growth but may also lead to the disposbale nature of the network. Brands that create visually stunning images, websites or inspiring content are most likely to be shared on this social network. 04 / Social Network trends for 2012 Foodspottin Foursquare saw fantastic growth in 2011 and with it the advancement of its food finding service. Select the type of food you want to eat, confirm your location and the app will return suggestions for relevant places. These suggestions come with check in profiles, and any tips relevant.
  • 5. Social Network trends for 2012 This has proved moderately useful but still left us wondering, ‘is the food any good?’ Enter Foodspotting, a new mobile app and social network focused just on food. The app is simple: visit a restaurant and take a picture of the food you are eating. Rate the food and name it for others to find. Other users can then use the app to find local food (based on your ‘phone’s GPS), see the food and the reviews. With new connections to the Facebook timeline, Foodspotting is a great example of how the niche social network can grow with direct Facebook integration. Restaurants, bars and cafes looking to promote their food should be actively updating their own content to ensure it is visible to the growing number of foodspotters. The Brand Potential for Niche Social Networks The niche social networks will not offer the same level of potential expsoure the major networks do. However, they also offer a more targeted and potentially relevant audience with less noise. Like any social network a brand needs to consider how best it can add benefit to a consumer’s social experience. With the exception of Path (currently) there are opportunities for brands in these channels. The combination of tight focus and wider sharing potential make them ideal opportunities for further review. 05 / Social Network trends for 2012