Everyone wants to know the next big thing in social media, so what type of social network will make it big next? Early 2012 has seen many mobile based photo social networks try to rival Instagram's success - many of these are discussed in this previous post.
Trend setting social networks are also emerging at a rapid pace. No-one could have escaped Pinterest's rise, and with a dedicated API and iPad version due for release soon, Pinterest is set to go mainstream. Other trend setting apps include Fancy - which was around long before Pinterest, and the mobile based social network and word of mouth app Womzit.
These 2 trends will continue to grow and expand but are there other types of social networks set to emerge? I have been looking through all my findings from SXSW and information from recent blog posts and I've noticed that many of these new social networks can be grouped into 3 key types.
These are 3 very different sites, but one user could have a very different profile for each site. You wouldn't put your romantic persona on your LinkedIn profile so work colleagues can see it. On your Match.com profile, you may lie and say you are successful in business, so it might be a good job that your LinkedIn profile is separate.
What about your profile photo? On LinkedIn profile photos are getting 7x more activity than previously. If you are looking to get noticed - add your photo! More often than not though, your online CV photo would not resemble your flirty attractive photo on your dating profile, or your fun and friendly photo on TripIt.
Even though LinkedIn want photos and they are useful, they don’t want to pull in Facebook photos incase something in the photo is wrong - if you work with kids for example. LinkedIn create the safe version of you. Match.com pulls in Facebook photos of your choice, but no tweets for anonymity reasons. They don’t push any data from Match.com to other sites either.
Users are against convergence - they will feel safe if they control each online world and choose what things they want to push.
What if there was a social network that let you have all your personas in one place?
That seems to be the answer for a number of upcoming social networks due to emerge from beta. Each user can have several personas per profile, so users subscribe to a persona rather than a profile. You could have a romantic persona, a work persona, a sports fan persona, a collector persona etc. Gokit was making a lot of noise before and during SXSW, and I like the early look of their profile pages.
Other similar social networks include professional and interests mashup Moofaces, SXSW tradeshow exhibitor Deets, and Hibe. Hibe is up and running now and is simply explained in this video below.
The "Import Journal" Type
The second type of social network looks to import the data from your existing social media accounts and display them as a visual journal. Not so much a social network, but more a dedicated diary app. Momento set the trend last year in this space as it became an App Of The Year Runner Up at the App Store Rewind awards.
Users can connect Momento with popular web services to fill their diary with their online activity. In minutes Momento builds a record of each day using the information and media users have shared online. Users can import tweets from Twitter, Facebook Statuses, Flickr photos, Last.fm loved tracks, Instagram photos, Foursquare check-ins and more. Another Mac based journal app worth looking at is Day One.
Finally, one app that got my attention at the SXSW Tradeshow, with a similarly beautiful UI was Lifedots. It works on the assumption that memories are now scattered everywhere across the physical and digital universe. Lifedots helps users collect, organise and connect the cherished moments of their life, anywhere, anytime and in a visually dynamic way. Each memory becomes a dot that users can view by day, on a map view, or a listed view. They can filter dots by type, tag, person etc and then add features such as a rating, mood, favourite tag, or even weather type to each existing dot.
Still in beta mode, Lifedots is available on iPhone and via your web browser. As impressive as the early signs are, I am still on the fence as to whether this is utterly fascinating or down right scary; seeing where I checked in, what I tweeted, what photo I took and what my status update was every day from years gone by.
The "Small Network" Type
The third and final network type set to make it big are small networks. In some cases I mean networks for 2-5 users. Popping into a talk at SXSW on the future of entertainment, I came across an app called GroupMe. GroupMe appears to be massive in America. By the end of the talk, my lack of knowledge on GroupMe felt similar to not knowing what Facebook was. On a panel with speakers from MTV, GetGlue and Showtime, all 3 panelists were enthusiastic and sharing their love for GroupMe panelist and co-founder Jared Hecht and his product.
Jared Hecht admits he winged it in the initial MTV and Showtime talks, he admits it was scary for a 10 person company go to a huge corporation to say he had something that will change how their users interact with their show.
MTV results for a recent dance show proved users want to watch with their friends. There weren’t groups of 10-20 people but thousands of groups of 2-3 people. MTV want to work with GroupMe because they can offer things that they can't.
A Showtime collaboration with the popular show Dexter demonstrates a nice example, GroupMe lets users start a group with other Dexter fans. Showtime can then push exclusive content to that group. How frequent should a brand interact with their users in GroupMe app during and not during a show? Not very often works best. That group can then talk to each other throughout Dexter Series 5.
Another app worth checking out where users exist in a series of reefs is RingReef.
EveryBlock and Ravelry are products for bigger groups of 2-5 users, but still pitched as a specific small scale social network. Ravelry is a social network specific for knitters and crocheters.
EveryBlock is an American site for your local neighbourhood. Wherever I have lived in London there has been a Twitter account or Facebook group led by a community leader worth following or liking, but never a dedicated site as good as this. Take a look at the promo video below.
I think there are exciting prospects for all 3 social network types discussed, but in particular to the "small network" type. The overriding success GroupMe has had so far in America is testament to this, and there's no reason that this could not be emulated elsewhere. GroupMe and their rivals could become the place to discuss bespoke topics between friends, replace group text messaging or a place to discuss issues with work colleagues potentially!
What do you think of these types of social network? Is there a future for them? Or is there another type of social network you feel is set to make it? Let us know!