It could be argued that the most popular social networks are becoming victims of their own success. Facebook and Twitter, for example, have become synonymous with social networking, and they have done so by providing big, broad platforms on which everyone and his or her brother participates. There's a lot of value in such volume, but there is also a lot of virtual noise. For users looking to streamline their social networking experience, vertical or specialized social networks may be the way to go.
Vertical social networks are not new, but we have been seeing more and more pop up. We have also seen increased user interest in vertical social networks, as platforms such as Facebook and Twitter become social jacks of all trades.
Many vertical social networks are industry-based. Doximity and PatientsLikeMe, for example, focus on the healthcare industry. Honest Buildings is designed for the real estate and building trade, while Learnist and the like are geared toward education, and nets such as GovLoop speak to people in the public sector. IdeaPlane is a bit broader in scope -- designed for organizations in highly regulated industries -- but it appeals especially to users and organizations in the finance industry.
IT Central Station is an example of a social network geared toward a specific profession -- IT workers -- and provides a forum for open and focused discussion on the particular issues and challenges that IT professionals face.
There are also social networks geared for particular age groups. Grom Social, for example, is designed for the tween crowd. There are lots of social networks geared toward young people, but Grom Social is unique in that it was designed by a young person (11-year-old "Zach") for young people.
Other specialized social networks play to people's sensitivities. For example, Social Number is one of several "anonymized" social networks. These platforms enable users to collaborate without giving up any of their personal information. Indeed, with Social Number, users are identified by a number instead of a user name.
Finally, there are the really specialized social networks -- the ones that are focused on a particular thing. One recent entrant into this category is Catmoji, a social network designed by cat lovers for cat lovers. No longer do you have to search YouTube for those cute cat videos, or get distracted from other work when friends on Facebook send you the latest cat-based meme. Now users can cut right to the cat chase and get more cat photos and videos than they probably ever imagined exist.
The lesson here is that there is a social network for every taste and demographic these days, and social businesses should take notice of the potential opportunities these very focused audiences provide.
Follow Deb Donston-Miller on Twitter at @debdonston.