One of the most common search terms that leads people to this blog is some variation on “What’s next after Facebook” or “the Next Big Thing after Facebook.”

That’s understandable. Social media moves like a cheetah on rocket skates, and for some social-media marketing professionals, being able to predict the Next Big Thing can mean attention, caché and credibility. For others, it’s not a professional drive so much as a fascination with what’s new and hip — akin to being a fan of a band without a record deal or raving about a little hole-in-the-wall diner nobody’s ever heard of. And some folks are still pining for that perfect social network, the one that just does everything right.

The trouble is that there is no Next Big Thing — at least, not yet. Facebook isn’t showing any signs of a MySpace-style collapse. Location-based networks are still limited by smartphone-adoption rates. And as for Google’s long-rumored social-network project — let’s just say I’ve been burned by Google before, and I’ll believe it when I see it.

So forget about the Next Big Thing. What you want to be looking out for are the Awesome Little Things — networks with specialized functions, unique features and cool underlying technology that may not have the mass appeal that Facebook does but still have the capacity to push the social-media sphere to a new level. These are the networks that have the potential to drive consumer demand, inspire the big boys and maybe even be integrated into a more popular network via a buyout.

Here are a few of the networks I’m watching. I’m not saying these guys are all going to turn the industry on its ear. But they’re all trying to push things forward, rather than just cash in on another network’s success.

  • Diaspora: Of all these Awesome Little Things, Disaspora has the most buzz by a country mile. The pitch is that it’s an open-source social network that allows users total control over their information. Since grabbing headlines last spring, information about the network has been fairly scarce. That’s about to change, as Diaspora is set to officially launch on Sept. 15. Privacy is obviously the big hook here, but it will be interesting to see if the site’s feature set is robust enough to provide a compelling Facebook alternative.
  • AllMyBiz: I confess, I do not love the name, but I love the idea — a social network that makes it easy to partition your personal and professional lives. A lot of people (myself included) neglect either Facebook or LinkedIn because we just don’t have the bandwidth to fit in another network. The ability to separate my professional life (journalism, content aggregation, e-mail newsletters) from my after-hours pursuits (running, video games, homemade pickles) without a lot of fuss makes a lot of sense to me. Sadly, it’s still in closed beta.
  • Face2Face: Whenever I hear someone object to location-aware social networks, the word “creepy” invariably comes up. And lets face it, there are certain risks that come with choosing to broadcast your location. But I like the possibility of serendipity that comes with location-based networks. Everyone likes to unexpectedly bump into a friend — at a party, in an airport, on the street — and Face2Face makes that more likely by telling you when someone you know is nearby, without actually telling you exactly where they are. That way, if you’d like to make plans to meet, you’ve got avenue for doing so — and if not, you can always pretend you didn’t get the message in time.
  • Pip.io: Like Diaspora, part of Pip.io’s pitch is that it’s easy to control your privacy settings. But what I like about the network is the way it focuses content around actual conversations. In many ways, it’s like a combination of Twitter and old-school message boards. The ability to push updates out to Twitter doesn’t hurt.
  • Grouply: I totally understand why Ning got rid of its free option — it was the right move for that company. But not all Ning users could afford to keep their own specialized social networks going under the new pay system. For those people, there is Grouply. I’m not sure Grouply competes with Ning’s feature set, but the price is definitely right.
  • Scoop: Remember when Facebook was “thefacebook” and you had be in college to join? Yeah, me too. Those were the days, right? Well a new generation of studious youngsters is set to get their exclusive network, in the form of Scoop. What sets Scoop apart from old-school Facebook is the new network’s mobile angle. With investment dollars coming from Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s TomorrowVentures, Scoop is showing a lot of promise, though, like a lot of networks on this list, it’s still not open to the public.

What little-known social networks are you excited about?

Image credit: thesuperph, via iStockphoto

One of the most common search terms that leads people to this blog is some variation on “What’s next after Facebook” or “the Next Big Thing after Facebook.”

That’s understandable. Social media moves like a cheetah on rocket skates, and for some social-media marketing professionals, being able to predict the Next Big Thing can mean attention, caché and credibility. For others, it’s not a professional drive, so much as a fascination with what’s new and hip — akin to being a fan of a band without a record deal or raving about a little hole-in-the-wall diner nobody’s ever heard of. And some folks are still pining after that perfect social network, the one that just does everything right.

The trouble is that there is no Next Big Thing — at least not yet. Facebook isn’t showing any signs of a MySpace-style collapse. Location-based networks are still limited by smartphone-adoption rates. And as for Google’s long-rumored social-network project — let’s just say I’ve been burned by Google before, and I’ll believe it when I see it.

So forget about the Next Big Thing. What you want to be looking out for are the Awesome Little Things — networks with specialized functions, unique features and cool underlying technology that may not have the mass appeal that Facebook does but still have the capacity to push the social-media sphere to a new level. These are the networks that have the potential to drive consumer demand, inspire the big boys and maybe even be integrated into a more popular network via a buyout.

Here are a few of the networks I’m watching. I’m not saying these guys are all going to turn the industry on its ear. But they’re all trying to push things forward, rather than just cash in on another network’s success.

  • Diaspora: Of all these Awesome Little Things, Disaspora has the most buzz by a country mile. The pitch is that it’s an open-source social network that allows users total control over their information. Since grabbing headlines last spring, information about the network has been fairly scarce. That’s about to change, as Diaspora is set to officially launch on Sept. 15. Privacy is obviously the big hook here, but it will be interesting to see if the site’s feature set is robust enough to provide a compelling Facebook alternative.
  • AllMyBiz: I confess, I do not love the name, but I love the idea — a social network that makes it easy to partition your personal and professional lives. A lot of people (myself included) neglect either Facebook or LinkedIn because we just don’t have the bandwidth to fit in another network. The ability to separate my professional life (journalism, content aggregation, e-mail newsletters) from my after-hours pursuits (running, video games, homemade pickles) without a lot of fuss makes a lot of sense to me. Sadly, it’s still in closed beta.
  • Face2Face: Whenever I hear someone object to location-aware social networks, the word “creepy” invariably comes up. And lets face it, there are certain risks that come with choosing to broadcast your location. But I like the possibility of serendipity that comes with location-based networks. Everyone likes to unexpectedly bump into a friend — at a party, in an airport, on the street — and Face2Face makes that more likely by telling you when someone you know is nearby, without actually telling you exactly where they are. That way, if you’d like to make plans to meet, you’ve got avenue for doing so — and if not, you can always pretend you didn’t get the message in time.
  • Pip.io: Like Diaspora, part of Pip.io’s pitch is that it’s easy to control your privacy settings. But what I like about the network is the way it focuses content around actual conversations. In many ways, it’s like a combination of Twitter and old-school message boards. The ability to push updates out to Twitter doesn’t hurt.
  • Grouply: I totally understand why Ning got rid of its free option — it was the right move for that company. But not all Ning users could afford to keep their own specialized social networks going under the new pay system. For those people, there is Grouply. I’m not sure Grouply competes with Ning’s feature set, but the price is definitely right.
  • Scoop: Remember when Facebook was “thefacebook” and you had be in college to join? Yeah, me too. Those were the days, right? Well a new generation of studious youngsters is set to get their exclusive network, in the form of Scoop. What sets Scoop apart from old-school Facebook is the new network’s mobile angle. With investment dollars coming from Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s TomorrowVentures, Scoop is showing a lot of promise, though, like a lot of networks on this list, it’s still not open to the public.

What little-known social networks are you excited about?

Image credit: thesuperph, via iStockphoto

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41 Responses to “Forget about the Next Big Thing: 6 little social networks to watch”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by SmartBrief on SocMed, meghanduke. meghanduke said: RT @SBoSM: 6 little awesome little social networks you need to be watching: http://ow.ly/2xe7g [...]

  2. [...] uit ziet gaat Facebook geen last krijgen van een MySpace-verval. Wel zijn er volgens een blogger op SmartBlog on Social Media een aantal kleine sociale netwerken die de moeite zijn om in de gaten te houden. Die een handige [...]

  3. Claudio says:

    Drimio is social network with focus brands. It´s interesting ideia.

  4. David Perdew says:

    Great post, Jesse. Most of these networks I hadn't even heard of yet. Some of these sound pretty promising, and there's always the "new toy" thrill of watching a "little guy" grow up. The only depressing part, of course, is when they get big enough to change professionally, like the Ning thing. To use your analogy, it's sort of like when the garage band you've been following from the beginning "sells out" when they get a label and an audience. I always hated that about musical artists I followed, the sound changing and all.

    Diaspora and pip.io sound the most promising. I still remember when message boards were the new modern thing, and I think we sometimes forget how useful they were for the time.

  5. Rockwell says:

    LateNightShots has been around for a few years and has an absolutely rabid following amongst the Georgetown crowd in Washington DC.

    • jstanchak says:

      Oh LNS. It's sort of like the social networking equivalent of The Jersey Shore, if everyone were well-heeled. Definitely worth checking out for the comedy value, if nothing else.

  6. Christi says:

    Great post! Thanks for the simple explanation of each site, I'm excited to check them out! I might have to bribe a college kid to give me a peek at Scoop : )

    Christi

    • jstanchak says:

      I hear ya. My brother starts college (school TBA) next year and I'll definitely be exploiting that.

  7. Joseph says:

    You may also want to check-out Kudosz. Kudosz.com is a microblog service for sharing kudos. It's not just another social website — Kudosz can actually save you money! When you give Kudosz to a business, if they have digital coupons available, they automatically link to them right from your microblog.

  8. I'm excited about Welectricity! A free social network that allows users to track, compare and reduce household electricity consumption. Launched on Earth Day 2010, it's already working for users from 42 countries worldwide. Learn more at http://welectricity.com/about – make sure to watch the video!

  9. I'm excited about PatientsLikeMe.com. They are collecting user-generated data from tens-of-thousands of patients, then showing that aggregate data to new patients. In addition, researchers are going through the user-generated data to find associations they hadn't thought of before. Made-up example: Look through 3000 arthritis sufferers who also happened to have high blood pressure. Did a blood pressure drug alleviate their arthritis? Again, not a scientific sample, but instructive.
    My recent post Front page content

  10. [...] Forget about the Next Big Thing: 6 little social networks to watch … [...]

  11. vooying says:

    That makes a lot of sense dude.
    http://www.online-privacy.it.tc

  12. We will base our criteria on how facebook really did in the social media industry. The are vastly improving from not so famous before but to a very stable social networking site that people tend to sign up with. I think that this new, litle social networking sites will follow what facebook has expecrienced.
    My recent post Top 3 Costly Email Marketing Mistakes

  13. Andrus Purde says:

    Hi Jesse, great post! Agree there are and will be many Next Awesome Small Things which stand out either by a certain niche (eg. cat lovers or Christians) or features (Grouply and many B2B apps). And there seems to be enough room for many more smaller networks that can complement Facebook on many levels.

  14. Tobri http://www.tobri.com is an interesting new network. It has a neat visual connections tool.

  15. cedgerly says:

    Great post! Like some others that have responded, I have never heard of most of these so I appreciate the heads up. Our New Media class at MSU is looking for resources like these to help propel us into the business world as social media and SEO experts. It will be interesting to see how these take off and possibly implement them into our business!!

  16. [...] takeaway form BlogWorld and something I have seen reiterated a thousand times since. There is no “next big thing.” We have still only begun to scratch the surface on the platforms we already have. Should we pay [...]

  17. Dr Vikram says:

    Thank you for the insightful blog. The collapse of My Space was incredible though not unexpected. Any information of the numerous law suits that Mr Zuckerberg has been facing on the fortunes of the company?
    Also just five years ago Google was hot and eight years ago it was cool to have Yahoo messenger. So I will not be surprised if the Facebook challenger is right around the corner and it may not even be in the list here.
    My recent post Office -Office – Leave

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