Aug 18 Semantic Social Media: The Future of Social Networking? A Special Podcast
The race to be the social network seems like it’s been over for at least 6 months. Facebook has trumped MySpace, and MySpace is busy (finally) trying to refocus both their business model and what they offer users and brands.
Beyond the race for number 1, dozens of smaller social networks (such as CafeMom, Gather, LinkedIn, TeamSugar and more) work to differentiate themselves by either focusing on a particular target audience (i.e., moms) or specific functionality (i.e., business networking).
That’s still just the tip of the iceberg. There are more than 1,000,000 social networks hosted on Ning aloneâ€”the majority of which are useless, abandoned, or should be abandoned.
Does this mean there’s no more room for social networks in 2009 and beyond? Surprisingly, the answer may be “no” for those who focus on semantic social media.
Enter Semantic Social Networks
While most social networks are built around relationships, semantic social networks are built around a particular topic. One good example of this is a new network, from the publisher of Nature, called Scitable.
Scitable focuses on pulling together undergrads, postgrads and university faculty around specific scientific topics, with the initial emphasis on genetics. In relatively short order, the site has attracted a few hundred thousand usersâ€”an amazing number given how specific (and cerebral) the topic matter is.
In this podcast, I talked to Nature Education’s Publishing Director Vikram Savkar. Vikram does an outstanding job explaining the concept of semantic social media and how to build a social network around a topic.
Networks Require Lots of Nurturing
The success of Scitable struck me as a replicable model for others interested in building communities around topics. You should note, however, the significant investment Nature has made in this community. Besides the platform construction costs, Nature has “between 10 and 40 people” staffing the site in some capacity. We’re way passed the “build it and they will come” model of social network building and the technology is no longer the big challenge. Rather it’s the marketing, initial content creation and fostering the initial dialogue that takes most of the effort.
What do you think? Are you thinking about building a community like Scitable? If so, what’s your biggest roadblock?