Niche social networks aren’t just about bringing people who share the same interest together. Message boards and blogs have been doing that for years, and while they foster discussion, information share and community, that’s all they do. Where niche social networks really shine is how they providing a sense of community while also creating services designed specifically for that niche market.
What types of services? One of my favorite examples which is understandable to many people is Goodreads a social network for readers. They let users track books they’ve read, keep lists of books they want to read and read & review books so their friends can see their recommendations. It doesn’t matter if you’re into sci fi, YA, or romance – the service works if you like to read and keep track of it while you do.
Last time I wrote about niche social networks, I promised that we would look at two sites – Ravelry and Untappd. Both have provided excellent services to members of their communities, while also working to connect businesses and members of their network.
First up is Ravelry. Ravelry is a site for knitters and crocheters – with about 2 million members worldwide. I’ve been a Ravelry member since 2007, and I’ve watched the service grow exponentially over time. They have message boards and community galore, but what they really do well is help the knitter or crocheter organize their stuff. From a place to list all the yarn you own, to a place to help you figure out what patterns you want to make next, Ravelry specializes in making their site useful. It’s helpful for those who want to use the typical networking tools – friends, a place to chat, groups to join – but it also helpful for those who just want to get down to business and keep track of things of their hobby.
The helpfulness of their services don’t stop with the individual knitter or crocheter. Ravelry offers a way for yarn companies, pattern designers, publications, and independent businesses relating to knitting & crocheting to connect with these consumers. Some of the offerings are standard (i.e., banners that live on certain pages) and some are really innovative. A quick review:
- The Pattern store – Allows designers (large and small) sell individual patterns. This has led to a huge growth in independent pattern design as both large and small designers can sell patterns.
- The Marketplace – Allows members to search for advertisers – from specialty stores to local vendors. Ravelry has over 1,500 advertisers of all sizes, and they work to ensure that all ads are relevant to the community. You aren’t going to find an ad for Clorox or Omaha Steaks on Ravelry. What you will find ads for yarn, tools and patterns.
- Groups – While anyone can create a group, many stores, online retailers, yarn companies and designers create groups that allow them to interact with Ravelry members. This allows them to share information, pass on relevant deals, and provide customer support within the Ravelry community.
- Profiles – Yarn companies (called “Yarnies” on Ravelry) can have profile pages where they can add and update yarns and information.
As a business, Ravelry is incredibly transparent about how they make their money, and they have many options for both large and small businesses.
Do many of the organizations who use Ravelry’s services also use Facebook, or Twitter? Many – both large and small – do. However, what Ravelry offers businesses that want to target knitters & crocheters is a direct line to individuals interested in their products in a highly personal way.
Here are a few resources and articles I liked this week:
- Twitter/LinkedIn partnership coming to a close – I don’t know about you, but I’m so glad that this is happening. I got incredibly tired of seeing people’s personal stuff show up on LinkedIn.
- What should we call social media – A Tumblr devoted to gifs that every person who works in social media thinks about, but don’t say out loud.
- The IRL Fetish – Interesting look at what it means to be “offline” and “online” and whether or not those distinctions are important.