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2012: The Year of the Small Social Network

There was a time when the conventional wisdom said that there was no need for any social network other than Facebook; those days are long gone. Now that Facebook has become a wasteland of app invites, political shouting, and re-shared pictures of kittens for literally everyone and their mothers, it has come to pass that people want social networks centered around a shared interest or community.

So just when social networking finally seemed simplified, all of a sudden it got complicated again. Now, to find the people you’re interested in finding, you first need to find their micro-social network. The good news for advertisers: As this trend continues, audiences and consumer groups will be micro-targeting themselves, making well-placed advertising more effective.

If you’re looking to stay connected to family or meet others that are into what you’re into, or if you’re in the business of selling advertising for people interested in smaller, less Facebooky connections, here’s a quick run-down of 9 interesting small socials out there.

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Would you work out more if exercising was a game? If it was something you could measure against your past performances and against others? Then Fitocracy might be the social micro-net that you’ve been looking for, where you can meet 10,000 unique monthly visitors.

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With 12 million members with more than 410 million books on their shelves, maybe Goodreads is too big of an operation to be called a micro-social network, but certainly small by Facebook standards. Nevertheless, the social network for readers who like sharing books racks up more than 140 million page views and 19 million uniques per month. That’s a lot of traffic created by affluent and educated book readers just itchin’ to be advertised to.

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Pair is a social network for couples, just you and your special obsessive someone who wants to know where you are right now. Where are you? Where are you now? Even if it’s the best new reason to be scared of commitment, the Pair app has been downloaded by more than 220,000 people.

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Keep track of all your siblings and cousins with FamilyLeaf because their posts get lost on Facebook and Google Plus’s family circle just hasn’t panned out. FamilyLeaf’s platform is centered around four concepts: sharing photographs, having conversations, recording tidbits, and its most handy feature -- unifying contact information, so everyone has updated numbers and addresses for everyone else.

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One solution to Facebook friend overload is Path, which restricts users’ social circles to 150 close friends and family members. This encourages its more than 2 million users to share more and more often. Path bills itself as a “smart journal,” which automatically updates your status if you enter a new neighborhood or city.

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Highlight is an app-based tool that scans your Facebook account for things you’re interested in, and then uses your phone’s location services to find others nearby who might be into the same things you are. So if you don’t mind voluntarily giving away your privacy or location, and want to meet strangers, this could be the micro-social for you.

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With the the Kibits app from the iTunes app store, you can create spontaneous groupings of people and then share with them through texts, photos, videos and more. It can be used for seminars, field trips, family situations, or in the conference room as an app-based GoToMeeting. It’s the sharing platform for the spontaneous social network.

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Small Business Bonfire

On Small Business Bonfire, entrepreneurs can meet and share ideas. With an email list of 2,300+ small business owners and web traffic with 10,000+ uniques per month, it’s the sort of micro-hub centered around a common interest that social networks are designed for.

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Yammer is the social network for your company, so you know that Judith on seven is having her 58th birthday; or that Fred in accounting is going in for surgery; or that Lunch-thief Larry just got promoted to project manager. Now a part of the Microsoft Office Division, Yammer is not going away any time soon.

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