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Is there still room for new social networks?

If you’re like me, you probably remember a period not too long ago when you couldn’t open your e-mail without getting another invitation to join a new social network. The business results of all those social networks indicate that you responded the same way that I did, which is to ignore those invitations.  More recently, those invitations stopped coming as everyone decided that there’s no more room for new social networks. Then Google came out with Google+, and while the jury is still out on whether the big G will have a winner with this one, I personally believe that there is plenty of room for new social networks. They just need to be different from what we already have.

I’ve written before about Google+. I like the ideas of the circles to share messages a bit less indiscriminately. I like Huddles and lots of other features, too. But I am still not using it, because I haven’t decided to spend the time it requires to reach what I believe would be mostly the same people that I reach through Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, the three social networks that I spend time with now. I might someday change my mind about that, if Google+ gets a following, but I wonder if there isn’t a totally different kind of social network that people are ignoring.

Social network
Image via Wikipedia

If you look at how social networks operate, they are rather similar. They all start with no users. They all ask users to sign up, to populate their profiles with public and/or personal information about themselves, and (most importantly of all) to start sharing. Unless they get enough people to do all of those things, they fail. If Google+ fails, the reason will be that they did not persuade enough people to do those very things.

But what if there was a different way to start a social network? What if you didn’t need to persuade people to set up their profiles or share? And what if you could charge them for access to the network?

Sounds crazy, right?

Except it exists. If you have never heard of First Street, it’s a social network that has a completely different model than the ones you know. First Street was started by the publisher of yearly directories of staff members of the U.S. Congress. They actually have decades worth of information on every Congressional staffer–enough to create the equivalent of a LinkedIn profile without the person ever providing any information at all!

So, they started a social network that already had the profiles of every person they wanted in the network–a quarter of a million of them. Interesting, sure, but what is the business model? It is a lot simpler than Twitter’s and Facebook’s. First Street sells access to the social network profiles to every lobbyist who wants to reach a Congressional staffer.

Voila! A new successful social network, all because it doesn’t work the way all the rest of them do. So, what kind of data are you sitting on that could become the next successful social network?

  • Do you have 20 years worth of Yellow Pages data?
  • Do you have the Who’s Who list for the last 40 years?
  • Do you run a membership organization with lots of member data?

If you are sitting on data, you might be sitting on a pile of value. You’ll need to navigate the privacy issues of the rights to that data. You’ll need to figure out who might pay to get access to that data. But if you do, you might be the owner of the next successful social network.

 

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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