Niches Happen


The question has been raised by Jeremiah Owyang, “Should brands Join or Build their own Social Networks?”

Today, the bulk of our social networking online happens within vast networks like MySpace and Facebook.  Yet many have suggested that the future might belong to verticalized, more personal approaches (a.k.a. “microcommunities,” as seen in white-label approaches like Ning; demographic nets like Eons; or trade-focused networks like MyRagan).

“Facebook and MySpace are just too huge,” pundits argue.  “There’s no differentiation.  It’s too impersonal to share the same space with millions of strangers.  Most people can only maintain about 150 people in their network before they experience an attention crash.”

But I think the vastness of the larger socnets is part of their strength. 

People who invest hundreds of hours into cultivating their socnet presence want some assurance that their chosen networks offer long-term viability! 

Moreover, these Big Socnets offer a shared, common experience for friends/followers; those who connect via these platforms know what they’re getting into, know how to use the apps, etc.

And in any case, from these big, horizontal platforms, niches naturally emerge.  ‘Cuz it’s probably true that we can’t reasonably sustain more than 150–odd relationships, we self-select our Top Friends (so to speak).  We become fansumers of brands in order to interact in an ad-hoc but focused way with people who exist outside our core socnet group, creating tangential niches.

I look at my own groups of Friends/Followers on Facebook and Twitter, for example, and I see 300–ish people who tend to be in Marketing/PR/Tech, in either Boston or the Bay Area. 

Of those ~300 people, I probably have met and interact regularly with less than 1/2 of them.  These ~300 contacts grew organically from my public presence on this blog and as an agency principal. 

From the hordes, a niche emerged. I don’t concern myself with the millions of people I don’t know, even though they exist in the same socnets.

That’s not to say that vertical socnets like Eons or MyRagan aren’t viable.  Just not as necessary as some have suggested. 

Give us the big, nebulous social network: we can make of it what we want, thank you very much.

Posted on: December 18, 2007 at 11:36 am By Todd Defren
3 Responses to “Niches Happen”


  • Perhaps we had rather call them cliques as opposed to niches. The difference being that a niche is fairly well defined by demographic, psychographic or even geographic factors. A clique is a little more casual.

  • Tom Reidt says:

    I agree that letting the users of social media determine the form or group is the best way to go. People will create their own meaning out of it regardless, why try and force them into specific boxes?

    Like the comment from Jeremiah above, we all belong to numerous networks, both in real life and on the web. If we have to go to a dozen different network sites to interact, the majority of the community won’t be very active. Better to have one large group with niches within it, where it’s easy to stay active in multiple areas.

  • Thanks Todd for adding to this conversation. I do see some smaller niche communities forming in Facebook. People belong to many communities, not just one.

Show some social media love would ya?

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