You can stop here if you want but I promise there’s more to say.
Several months ago, I showed a video of Chris Anderson on Charlie Rose where he explained that he believes we are at the beginning of the social networking movement and that Facebook/MySpace are the online version of Target/Walmart. I share this belief and think that over the next 5 – 10 years there is going to be an explosion of niche social networks. The Internet allows you to find exactly what you’re looking for (assuming what you’re looking for exists online). As more and more people get online they are going to define themselves in increasingly unique ways creating tribes.
For the purposes of this post I think of a niche as a collection of like minded people. This likemindedness has to do with shared interests around a particular item, specific places, etc. These are social objects.
Social objects according to Hugh MacLeod are any reason for two people to be talking. In other words, talking about things they have in common or sharing their affinities for such things as Russian Navy Diving Watches.
The key to creating niche social networks is going to be the manifestation of that social object (product, place, etc) as an online artifact. For example; if there were a niche social network focused on baseball, the artifact would be an online baseball card that housed all of that players stats, video highlights and current status; all playing on the strength of the Internet.
As marketers creating these artifacts OR better yet providing tools that let the members of the niche create the artifacts we will need to be hyper-aware of the cultural needs of the niche to determine the nature of the social object.