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Guess What! The Zuck Isn't the Only Person Who Can Create a Social Network

Facebook = genius, Linked in = makes sense…but what I’ve learned recently is that there is amazing technology that will allow you to create your own social network online within minutes for basically no money. I learned all of this from a presentation by Nick Floro at Macworld 2011.

Ning, Social GO and Buddy Press make it easy to build custom and powerful social websites. I am simply amazed at the features that these companies offer. You can simply plug this community into a tab of your existing website or make the community your site’s main feature. Some of the features offered include: Custom profile creation, 50+ design options, moderation and privacy features, rich invitation engines, status updates, dynamic activity feeds, rss feeds from blogs, chat features, group creation, blogs for every member, photo and video sharing… the list continues, but the main idea is that these sites give you every feature you would ever want in your very own social community.

What does this tell me about communities online? That is the real question. Although it may sound radical, I think that we are about to see a major expansion in the social communities offered to us online. We have had a great deal of vertical expansion, and 2011 will bring us a tremendous amount of horizontal expansion. Below, I’ve listed some ways I think communities will branch out in 2011..

Growth of the Niche Social Network

Once Facebook gets saturated with people from every part of your life, users may want to find other, more niche communities to share specific aspects of their lives. Years ago, I had an idea of an art community website because for me personally, I don’t want to share my art pieces with random friends from high school. However, I would love to share them with other artists who can give me feedback and inspire my creativity with their work. In fact, this trend has already started with niche communities popping up in different places…

DeviantArt – Art Network (darn, my idea, taken!)

Coastr- Beer drinkers

Ave Maria Singles- Single Catholics

Ravelry- Knitters

Social Networks with Best in Class Privacy Policies

In addition to niche markets, Facebook users are getting sick of having privacy concerns. Remember five years ago when Facebook had the same consistent interface every day and the site looked outdated and stale? Oh, the good old days! Now, Facebook comes out with a new feature on a daily basis—and most of these features I don’t even realize until I’m on CNN.com and see headshots of my friends who have read the same article (just strange!).  Users are looking for more secure solutions, and communities have sprung up to serve these people…

Diaspora- Flexible interface but strict privacy policy

OneSocialWeb- Also, prides itself on a safer solution

Smaller Online Communities

As our Facebook friends continue to grow to include people you met once or twice, users may want to actually go back to a real community that has meaning in their lives. Path, which launched in 2010, limits the number of users a person can have in their network to 50. This may sounds strict, but I can see the point here. By having a strict cut-off, people will make sure to only have the most meaningful connections possible.

Social Communities for Specific Age Groups

At the Girls in Tech Amplify Business Pitch Competition last November, I heard an impressive pitch by the founder of Everloop.com, Hillary DeCesare. She founded Everloop for her young children whom she didn’t want on Facebook yet. Everloop targets ages 8-13 years old (users need to be at least 14 to join Facebook).

With the creation of NIng and other “Do It Yourself” social networks, I see a huge trend in the horizontal growth of social networks. Why should Facebook be the only company that can grow a community online?  Online communities are a beautiful thing, and I’m pleased to see that others are joining in on the fun.

About the Author: Allison Strouse is a manager of Online Media and QuinStreet, Inc.  She specializes in creating online media properties for B2B clients. Currently living in San Francisco, CA, Allison enjoys writing about anything on her mind which usually includes one of the following: people who inspire her, lessons  learned from others,  internet marketing, social media, food, tech investing, performing and visual arts…A personal blog is in the works, but until then,  you can stay on top of all blog posting by visiting GirlsInTech.net or following her on twitter @AlliStrouse.

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