How often do you scroll through your Facebook news feed, glance at friends’ posts and think, “I. Don’t. Care. Why would you post that on Facebook? Maybe I should unfriend him…”
This, in my opinion, is the future of virtual communities. Our current social networks appeal to a broad range of participants and consumers, but the day of the specialized online community is coming. Users are beginning to look for more targeted, niche groups to which they can better relate. Although networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn certainly aren’t going anywhere, the demand for specialized content is increasing, especially among professionals. Users want to be able to identify with the people they’re communicating with (another reason sales teams should be using social media!).
For example, although LinkedIn is primarily made up of professionals, there is a vast range of careers represented on the site. LinkedIn has recently launched a ‘Groups’ feature for more targeted connections among users. According to LinkedIn: “Many professionals advance their business goals by counting on professional groups, alumni organizations and work groups to make vital new business contacts which will enhance their trusted connections.” Google has a similar feature in which users can create circles to organize their contacts into different categories, each with their own level of access to your profile.
These niche groups will be driven by the consumers — the users — and while this is great for private users, who don’t want to scroll through annoying, nonsense Facebook status updates any longer, it could be bad news for marketers.
Personally, I think it’s going to make my job a bit more difficult. Social media marketers have enough on their plates already, right? Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Quora, blogs, LivingSocial, Groupon, Flickr, Pinterest, Instagram, FourSquare … I don’t think I need to keep going, but there are a LOT of networks we’re supposed to keep track of, update, pay attention to and be fresh, inviting and appealing on. By dividing these networks into smaller groups, social media is presenting us with quite a challenge. Am I going to have to seek out virtual communities for every. single. car. my dealership sells? Oh, boy.
LinkedIn Corporation. (2012). Your Groups. LinkedIn Corporation. Retrieved from http://www.linkedin.com/myGroups?trk=hb_side_grps_top.