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Vertical Social Networks Focus Interactions

Whether you're a doctor, an IT pro or a cat lover, there's a specialized social network to serve your interests and security needs.

10 Social Networks For Special Interests
10 Social Networks For Special Interests
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Facebook has more than 1 billion users who discuss and share anything and everything. And, for some people, that's the problem -- too much info, too few filters, too diverse a user population. People looking for a more focused experience are increasingly turning to specialized -- or vertical -- social networks.

Indeed, it seems there is now a social network for every taste and interest. Focused on education? Check out EdWeb. Are you in a highly regulated industry such as finance? IdeaPlane may be network for you. Like cats? Catmoji is a Pinterest for feline fans.

Russell Rothstein, co-founder and CEO of IT Central Station, a social networking site targeted at IT professionals, thinks people are looking for the kind of privacy and validation that they can't get on more open social networks. He also believes they are looking to more efficiently connect with like-minded, like-motivated and like-challenged people.

IT Central Station is built on user-generated reviews, like Yelp, but Rothstein is quick to note that the site is not Yelp for IT. "Our site is built purely as a social network," he said. "From the reviews, users can identify the people who have already done research and who have already gone through the buying process, and then our users connect with one another behind the messaging system. It's all private, so I'm not posting it on my Facebook timeline. It's private connections, just like LinkedIn private email. Users build relationships that way."

IT Central Station user Eric Dirst, senior VP and CIO of educational services provider DeVry, appreciates the opportunity to connect with his professional peers, as well as the validation the site provides.

"The biggest thing is there needs to be some governance," said Dirst. "It's hard to instill any governance around Facebook or Twitter or other more open social platforms."

[ Social's great, but it isn't for everything. See 7 Business Tasks That Don't Work On Social. ]

Governance is especially important to users who work in highly regulated industries, which is why social networks are springing up all over in, for example, the finance, legal and healthcare spaces.

Doximity is an example of a network focused on healthcare. Doximity offers physicians the ability to collaborate using HIPAA-compliant communications, said Jeff Tangney, co-founder of the company. Doctors who want to register for the site must go through a rigorous validation process that takes about a week to complete, Tangney told The BrainYard. What they get in return is the opportunity to network with their peers in a way that they wouldn't have otherwise. "Many organizations have a rule that their doctors can't be on Facebook," said Tangney. For doctors, the challenge becomes the need for teamwork, the chance to bounce things off colleagues."

Industry- or interest-focused communities are not new, of course, but the vertical platforms we're seeing today include the social communications and collaboration tools we have become accustomed to on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest. On Learnist, for example, users can create boards demonstrating "learnings" and follow other users whose interests they share.

Businesses should take note of these kinds of specialized social networks for two reasons: One, your own employees may benefit from joining networks focused on your particular industry, and, two, such networks provide a ready-made, targeted audience for content marketing and other branding and sales opportunities (depending on the specialized platform's revenue model).

Are vertical social networks the next big thing? Please let us know what you think in the comments section below.

Follow Deb Donston-Miller on Twitter at @debdonston.

For the 16th consecutive year, InformationWeek is conducting its U.S. IT Salary Survey. To date, more than 200,000 IT professionals have participated in this survey. Take our InformationWeek 2013 U.S. IT Salary Survey now, and be eligible to win some great prizes. Survey ends Jan. 18.

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Russell Rothstein
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Russell Rothstein,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/10/2013 | 9:18:41 PM
re: Vertical Social Networks Focus Interactions
Great story Deb. I think one reason why special interest social networks will continue to grow in 2013 is that they tend to have better "signal to noise" ratios than the large horizontal social networks.

Looking forward to reading your next piece!
Erytanek T
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Erytanek T,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/11/2013 | 2:17:29 PM
re: Vertical Social Networks Focus Interactions
Great story. Vertical social networking will lead into the future as more and more people turn to filter content related to them and like minded individuals. One upcoming vertical site to watch this year is ZhLeet.com
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