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Social Networking for Niche Audiences

MySpace for teens and young adults

MySpace.com was organized around interests in music while developing a huge user base—more of a portal with a range of different revenue streams. MySpace is the leading social-networking site with a large number of teenage and young adult users. As MySpace has offered more features and better searching, it has continued to grow in popularity. Simultaneously, advertisers have become more willing to associate their brand with user-generated content. "It's now about aggregating huge audiences or desirable niche audiences. That, and creating an environment to engage users with a broader value proposition, makes people loyal and gives them reasons to show up," says Sterling.

Community Connect for niche social networking audiences

Community Connect is taking the social networking world by storm, one underserved niche market at a time. It is the third largest social networking company in the U.S. in terms of revenue. With a look and feel similar to MySpace, users can create profiles and search for people by gender, age, and interests, as well as ethnicity. There are also chats, message boards, job listings, personals, and of course advertisements.

Community Connect is a small, rapidly growing social networking company that has built three MySpace-like sites,

  • MiGente.com
  • AsianAvenue.com,
  • BlackPlanet.com

    These social networking sites target Latinos, Asian-Americans, and African-Americans, respectively. Together, Latinos, African-Americans, and Asian-Americans make up about 33% of the total U.S. population, according to 2005 U.S. Census numbers.

    And all three groups continue to migrate online. According to researcher Forrester, 86% of Asian-Americans are online, 56% of African-Americans are online, and Latinos, at 45%, are currently undergoing the fastest online migration. The sites have a total of some 16 million registered users.

    When Community Connect launches its gay and lesbian-targeted site, Glee.com, by the end of 2006, the company's target market will grow by 40 million to 50 million, which is the estimated U.S. gay and lesbian population.

    Community Connect will launch another niche site geared toward evangelical Christians -- scheduled to launch in early 2007.

    Social networking is still in its "primordial ooze phase" and the business niche will continue to develop differentiation. Even the big players will veer away from serving the masses. More and more competitors will work to super-serve the needs of the niche groups.

    OTHER SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES

    Facebook is a social networking site for college and high-school students. In 2006 they launched a new feature that allows members to access the site from mobile phones.

    SimplyHired.com, a job-hunting site with a strong social-networking component. SimplyHired searches the Internet for job listings at every place from competing job boards like Monster to the help-wanted section of hiring firms' own Web sites and aggregates them on its site. It gets its revenue from selling paid-search ads, both through Google and other ad networks and through its own sales force.

    THE MARKETING OPPORTUNITY

    Monster.com had been unable to help its thousands of corporate clients develop diversity recruitment programs, since isolating minority applications would violate equal opportunity law. By partnering with Community Connect, Monster was able to secure résumés for clients from a database of job-seekers, 95% of whom were minorities

    Advertisers are increasingly drawn to niche sites where they can find a dedicated audience willing to engage with their products and services.

    There's a practical reason advertisers are attracted to niches -- they mirror the real world. "Brands visible in neighborhoods are the brands that fare the best—those that participate, that don't come off as profit-hungry corporate giants trying to make money," says Thompson, director of interactive services for UniWorld Group, which handles online advertising for AstraZeneca, Ford, Lincoln, Burger King, and HSBC Bank.

    After 10 years in business, helping underserved communities connect is paying off.

    Isn't it amazing how many "ten-year" overnight success stories there are?!