Of dogs and monsters: The rise of niche social networks


This month we helped launch a brand new online community, designed for animals and people. Well, actually, pet owners and their pets. Far from a long-shot, it has already made national print and broadcast headlines, and represents a growing trend for this kind of specialist offering.
Mysocialpetwork makes good on the decade old quip that ‘the internet is mostly just pictures of cute kittens’. Its arrival in the UK follows on from Europe, with the site providing a place for owners to post pictures, status updates and more, on behalf of- or about- their furry, scaly or feathered friends. Two weeks after launch and our client has received hits via the likes of BBC 5 Live’s breakfast show, The Sunday Times, Mail on Sunday and The Daily Telegraph. That’s impressive, although we’re not particularly surprised.
For one thing, we worked hard on an innovative pre-launch campaign. Secondly, the rise of niche social media has been a long time coming. The major networks were not designed to serve a specific market, but specific markets exist, and they all need to be served. Hence Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg forking out $1million last year for a stake in SumZero, a community for professional investors.
No doubt many of those may well be members of another platform, namely Best Of All Worlds. Conceived by Erik Wachtmeister- a Swedish Count no less- it acts as an online meeting point for the wealthy and well connected. Likened by its creator to a members-only country club, imagine the powerful and prestigious talking to each other without worrying about the riff raff, as they always have, albeit with instant messaging and status updates, but sans century-aged Scotch.
Lady Gaga made headlines- and attracted plenty of attention from music pros- when she launched her own network last year. Little Monsters means you no longer need to be at a concert to know everyone in the vicinity is a die-hard fan. Make friends, arrange trips, buy tickets and share music is the mantra her management seem to have adopted, and the benefits are clear in an industry increasingly reliant on events as its core product. Understandably, other platinum sellers are already being touted as the next adopters.
In contrast to the decadent entertainment industry, Impossible.com is a more worthwhile variation on the same idea. Aimed at altruists rather than Gagaists, here people can offer their skills and expertise for free, either as a donation or in exchange for other services and items. According to Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia: “It’s the basis for an economy not based on money.??? We’ll not be giving up on Sterling just yet, but it’s certainly an applaudable concept.
The list could go on, too. My Last Wish is a slightly macabre example, allowing you to find others with the same list of things they’d like to do before they die. Meanwhile, Untappd lets you check into any pub, locate those with comparable taste buds, and discover where they go to satisfy that thirst. In each case a gap in the market has clearly been identified, in the same way as fan clubs, specialist magazines, and forums have been doing for so long already. With that in mind, keeping an eye out for any relevant to your industry would be time well spent.