A niche future for SM developers?

It’s all a bit quiet at the moment, isn’t it? This is my first post in nearly a month which is shameful, I know, but I just haven’t really spotted anything worth mentioning or opining over.

Google Buzz was a flash in the pan, and from what I’ve seen hasn’t had much of an uptake – maybe regular Gmail users will use it a lot, but I certainly don’t check it much. Google Wave has levelled off too.

The problem with Wave was that it was complicated if you weren’t a techie, but it did seem fairly active for a while. But now even the most active waves in my inbox have died off.

Twitter is still going strong, and Facebook is doing its thing quite happily, but I wonder if perhaps we’ve reached a plateau? Twitter and Facebook are massively successful, probably too successful and well established for any other app to come along and seriously compete. They don’t have to worry about each other; Twitter is broadcasty, for us to shout to, at and with the world whereas Facebook is more for close-knit community networking and one-to-one discussion.

If Twitter is the Microsoft of social networking, and Facebook is the Apple, then stuff like Wave, Buzz and the others are the little customised versions of Linux that you get on netbooks.

It could be that things have quieted lately because we’re seeing a calm before the storm. With Twitter due to release a load of new features on to the web interface maybe other developers are holding back. Maybe.

I think it’s more likely, though, that they’re not even trying to compete in the first place. The main reason for the success of Twitter and Facebook is that when it comes to it, they’re just downright good fun! That’s a market they’ve got cornered – so if you’re trying to develop a new social network then it better be the most fun you can have online without hearing the word “HEADSHOT!” or you might as well not even bother.

The future of social media, I reckon, lies in targetted development. For smaller developers to survive in a world dominated by Twitter and Facebook they need to start developing custom SM apps and tools for businesses and organisations and trade sectors. Like a scaled-down LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is 3 years older than Facebook, it’s still going strong with 60 million users worldwide (I was among the first million. Just sayin’) and it has never felt threatened by, or the need to compete with, Facebook. Why? Because it is aimed purely at professionals seeking work and contacts.

So before the Social Media Sci-Fi Apocalypse, I think we’ll see a lot of break-away developers trying to narrow their focus and cater to a niche. I joked about it in the post I just linked to, but when it comes to competing with Facebook and Twitter resistence really is futile.

Addendum: On an unrelated note….if you can please tune in to BBC Radio Scotland at 0900 tomorrow (Monday 7th March). There will be a documentary on about prostate cancer. It was written and produced by a friend of mine, John Thomson, who is himself a recovered prostate cancer patient. It promises to be informative and entertaining. If you can’t tune in tomorrow, check it on the iPlayer later.

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