PandoDaily has recently started a series on “Anti-Social Networks;” that is, the online networks that don’t really fit the mold of the big social networks that currently dominate the landscape. Sarah Lacy writes:
“An anti-social network isn’t as simple as being a mere Facebook alternative, or a niche social network. Those have both been tried in spades, and have failed along the way, even when Facebook was weaker…. When it comes to building a consumer Web company around human relationships, the smartest entrepreneurs aren’t thinking niche. They are thinking orthogonal. There’s a difference. Look at the core things Facebook does well: photos, connecting you with everyone you know, providing a permanent record, and real identity. These are the exact four things that have made Facebook a powerful company with users and advertisers; these are the four things it can’t betray and hope to succeed.” (Sarah Lacy, Screw virality! Antisocial networks are on the rise, PandoDaily)
PandoDaily has explored some interesting examples (like SnapChat and Nextdoor) of services that offer alternatives to Facebook’s way of approaching photos, connecting with everyone and a permanent record, but have yet to explore the ways some networks are approaching alternatives to your real identity.
Facebook’s focus on a real identity and building a permanent personal record means that there are opportunities for online communities where the individual user themself is not the focus, but instead the community revolves around the content they create.
A few examples of this type of network include our company, 23snaps, where small groups of users (such as parents and grandparents) create and manage a profile and photo timeline on behalf of their child; communities like TripAdvisor where the interaction centers around a travel destination or venue; or networks like Fanfiction.net or DeviantArt where the focus is creative works.
In all of these cases, the primary focus is not the user participating in the community, nor individual relationships between the participants. While users may have a personal profile; engagement, interaction and discussion pivots around the content they’ve created.
This is especially powerful for subjects that cannot manage a profile for themselves. For 23snaps, parents maintain a profile for an infant or young child without the issues that would arise from actually creating a Facebook profile for a baby. A similar network could potentially exist for pet owners, or a classroom. For TripAdvisor, a community maintains a profile for a city or region.
While Facebook Fan Pages attempt to bridge the gap between an individual profile and a third party entity, the focus is too heavily weighted towards a personal timeline where the individual controls their own identity. Communities that jointly manage and interact with subjects that cannot manage their own online identity, or with creative content will always have opportunities for growth that won’t be infringed by Facebook.
“Anti-social networking” may be the wrong term for networks that deviate from Facebook’s core way of thinking but the successful networking services that do so are intriguing examples of both new revenue and networking models and what consumers are looking for.