The proliferation of social networks has continued on a massive scale. We're not seeing a decline in the number of social networks. Instead, we've seen mass social networks like Facebook only get larger, while more niche social networks like Path and Instagram grow in popularity.
It's interesting because there's no clear direction on what people crave from their social networks. They want to connect with many but at the same they crave more intimate and focused conversations.
There's a Place for Both
In reality, there's no need to put one before the other. Both niche and mass have a place.
Mass networks like Twitter and Facebook allow us a channel to gather information as well as interact with people we wouldn't typically. This is where the "echo chamber" myth of social networks is debunked. We connect with many individuals who are creating and sharing information we wouldn't typically see, building our minds and our views on the world. There's inherent value on this.
On the other side of the coin, niche social networks allow for deep relationships to grow deeper. We can connect in a more intimate setting with those we're closer to. A social network like Path allows us to keep track of those we're truly invested in.
Niche and Mass Converge
Niche and mass networks are not separate entities. The incredible amount of data and knowledge networks have gathered about us and our social connections can create very niche experiences. Google+ uses your social connections on its mass social network to deliver very micro-targeted search results with Search plus Your World based on your connections. For example, I may be wondering what video game to purchase, so I do a very specific Google search on recent video game releases. I may then see that one of my friends recently purchased Mass Effect 3 and loves it. A very specific search on Google used a mass social network to create a niche experience only I could have had.
Making Niche and Mass Work for Marketing
This convergence offers opportunities for marketers. We can use niche social networks to show our brands through the context of relationships. While mass social networks offer avenues for us to distribute content and encourage others to share it, allowing it to spread.
It's an interesting dichotomy, but both mass and niche bring opportunities. It's the responsibility of marketers to frame their actions through the lens of the relationships existing on the different platforms.