Specialized Social Networks Gain Traction

By Hane, Paula J. | Information Today, January 2011 | Go to article overview
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Specialized Social Networks Gain Traction


Hane, Paula J., Information Today


Facebook continues its meteoric growth; it now claims about 500 million active users. People seem to love sharing comments, links, and photos with the folks in their social circles. However, privacy issues lurk in the background; there's also some discontent over wasting time with the inevitable drivel. Facebook is also increasingly used by companies to support public relations and marketing services and to elicit customer feedback. The question remains whether it will push some users out as focus turns to more social media broadcasting, personal endorsements, and influence. People looking for professional connections will head to Linkedln (which has 85 million members and recently began a campaign to help its users "brand" themselves).

A recently launched social network called Path is likely to appeal to people who want a more personal and controlled environment to connect with friends (a user cannot have more than 50 friends on Path; some Facebook users have hundreds or thousands of friends). Its founders call it "The Personal Network." It will be interesting to see if the new service can attract enough discontented Facebook folks (and advertisers) or if users will be willing to join yet another service.

It's Professional

A growing number of purely niche and specialized social networks are serving academic researchers and professionals who want to connect with like-minded folks, share information, and discuss their research. The professional focus of participants is clearly the appealing factor.

On Nov. 1, 2010, SAGE Publications, the academic and professional publisher, announced the launch of two new social networking sites for the academic community: Crimspace for criminology and criminal justice and Communicationspace for media studies and communication. In just 2 weeks after its launch, Communicationspace claimed 1,000 members, and Crimspace was approaching 1,000.

These free public social networks provide researchers with the ability to connect with colleagues; discuss issues and controversies in the forum; read free content selected from SAGE books and journals; view podcasts and videos; and find information on relevant events, jobs, funding, and training.

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