People all over the world are logging onto to social networks. At least that’s what you would believe if you looked at the media coverage of things like MySpace and Facebook. However, new research from Nielsen NetRatings suggests something altogether different.

According to their latest analysis less than one in ten people who use the Internet are actually visiting any of the social networking sites. Even though the number of visitors is growing, it still represents a minority of web users. In other words the “fuss” about social networking does not represent the degree of usage.

While MySpace and Facebook battle it out for being the “top dog” in social networking, the rest of the world is happily going about its business without even bothering with either of them. Meanwhile “behind the scenes” of the big push of such general social networking sites, smaller, more specific social networking sites are being built. Social networking sites for instance like Bounty, for new mums which appears to attract a significant slice of mums-to-be. What might be called “vertical market” social networking is gaining more audience share than general sites like MySpace.

Rupert Murdoch may have sunk tons of cash into MySpace and, for all we know, may be making a return on his investment. However, it is more likely from these figures that more profit will be made from niche networks, rather than general ones. People rarely connect generally – there is always some common interest they share. Owning a collection of niche social networking sites will be more profitable for a big company than owning one general site.

On the other hand – you could always start your own social networking site for your own niche. Several pieces of software now exist to enable you to do this relatively easily. Ning is proving to be highly popular and so too is KickApps – both worth a look.

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