Over the past few months I’ve been happy to see many of my colleagues at UB and other institutions starting to use social networks. Not only are they on sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, they are actively using them to build relationships.
The next step will be the development of niche social networks. Think of it as the intersection of social networks and the long tail. While Facebook and LinkedIn attract millions of users, these users have very dissimilar interests and share little in common. They were not built to be flexible. Niche social networks have the potential to allow like-minded people to connect in a much more meaningful way than the larger sites.
Many new tools are emerging to build social networks including Ning, CollectiveX, and Elgg. I am currently testing both Ning and Elgg to build an “Academic Network” which will allow students to connect and collobarate around shared academic interests.
As the number of social networks grow, social network overload will become a major issue. How can we keep up-to-date on the activity across numerous social networks?. Tools that aggregate your social websites are emerging as well including profilelinker, spokeo, and Profilactic.
Many of the projects I’m working would benefit from a niche social network. From a homeowners association to an elementary school to a community tennis association, a common goal is to bring people with shared interests together.