Niche social networks

Now that we’ve covered two of the larger social networks, it’s time to look at some smaller niche social networks.

Even in the big networks like Twitter, you aren’t actually interacting with everyone. You have a cluster of people you’re talking with and another of people who are interested in you. These clusters exist inside of the entire Twitter network.

Looking at it that way, you can see that you’ve actually built your own personal social network of connections inside Twitter (and it works the same on Facebook or any other large network).

But more niche or industry networks can be used to build that network for you. Instead of finding all of the Rails developers on Twitter, you find a social network for Rails developers. Since the network is for Rails developers; everyone who’s there is either a Rails developer, a potential Rails developer, or interacts with them somehow.

This makes niche networks easy to get started with. You’re just plugging into an existing structure so you don’t have to grow it from scratch.

Examples of niche social networks for technical freelancers

Github: It’s not billed exclusively as a social network, but Github has become a place for several developer communities to come together. Especially around open-source projects.

Stackoverflow: Though more fluid than Github, Stackoverflow (and other sites in its network) has become another community for developers. With its firm Q&A format, it’s not as community focused and chatty as other networks but it’s still a valuable network to look at.

Slashdot: Though it’s changed in recent years, Slashdot used to be the place to go for sysadmins. Not only was it a news source but it was also a community where people would become known for their work or personality.

Reddit: Reddit has grown a lot since its founding. It’s centered around links and commentary, but there is a sense of community in places. The interesting thing about Reddit is the sub-Reddits, which gives different communities places to organize around.

Hacker News: Similar to Reddit’s early style, Hacker News focuses on programming, startups and interests of people in those communities. It’s evolved over time as it grows but you can still find different groups there.

These have all been focused on developers because that’s the group I know the best. There are networks for every industry and profession out there though.

Niche social networks do come with some problems.

The biggest one is that they are still very peer-based. This means when you’re on there the main people seeing your message are going to be peers, not your potential clients. While it will raise your visibility, it might not be worth the time (unless you’re trying to sub-contract or be hired by your peers).

Speaking of time, that’s the second problem with all social networks: they will use up all of the time you give them. Niche networks tend to have a closer knit community so it’s easier to get sucked in for hours, only to wake-up and wonder what happened to your day.

Like anything marketing, experiment with these or other niche social networks. Try them out, see how they do. Check your time, passion, and money investment to see if the return is worth it.

Soon I’ll show you how you can build your own niche network.

Eric Davis