Are Niche Sites The Future Of Social Media

As much as I love the big sites like MySpace and Facebook for their incredible and innovative impact on the web and social marketing, I also hate them for being such a mess to get anything really useful out of.

If you look at these massive sites, they cater to pretty much everyone. Getting a piece of useful information out of them, you first have to become a wiz at using their filters to get rid of what you don’t want. Even then, you are more often than not presented with a large selection of mostly entertaining but useless information.

But there is hope on the horizon.

The Opposite of Google

Relevance is the basic of why Google is so big. Its strength has always been to give you what you want, when you want it. They do the filtering for you, and you get relevant results immediately.

In a social network, they try to accomplish this by adding subgroups, filters, search functions and other means, but it is still user driven to the nth degree. This means that spammers have free roam of these networks; and will use the broadest possible definition of every keyword to get their information on your screen. As soon as you step outside the boundaries of your personal group of trusted friends you are presented with the exact opposite of Google. Vast amounts of non-relevant information.

The Future – Targeted Social Media Networks

This week we saw GLCzone.com go live. A niche social media site that targets bloggers primarily writing about health and personal growth. I’ve had a lot of contact with the owner of this site over the last few months and I’ve begun to see the genius of it all.

What this does is create not only a gathering place for likeminded bloggers, but a powerful resource for readers. For the reader, a niche site will remove a large amount of the non-relevant information by design. Creating a ‘best of both worlds” aggregate where you get a variety of blogs presented to you, but gathered around a topic that is relevant to your current needs.

Niche social media sites provide the missing link in social media evolution. They are the intermediary between Googles high relevance, and Diggs “whatever goes”.

Better for Publishers

Granted, a niche social site will not give you the Digg Effect with 100.000 readers crashing your web server. What it will get you are targeted readers, with a clear intent of looking for what you have to offer. It makes sense for publishers to be part of a targeted network rather than trying to scream over the noise of a major site.

Bloggers and site publishers who participate in niche sites are likely to get much higher rates of visitors converting to loyal readers. Niche sites do the work of filtering out the rest for you.

Although the Digg effect is missing, this is the only drawback, the rest of your metrics should see a significant improvement with niche site traffic. Less bounce, longer stays with more page-views and higher conversions.

Although sites like Digg are never going to go away, they do embody “Quantity over Quality”. For bloggers that are only interested in seeing their hit counters go up, that’s great. But it does little for those that are looking for people to actually become loyal readers and commenters or convert through sales or ad clicks.

SEO Opportunities

A Niche social media setting also does something very interesting for SEO. These aggregate sites will undoubtedly have a higher pagerank compared to the participating blogs. And since they are topic focused, they compete on many of the same keywords.

That translates into both an opportunity and a threat. The opportunity is that these sites will be Google front page material, causing more readers to land there after a search. Smaller blogs participating in niche sites will get a second chance to be in front of readers’ eyes.

Threats

For those that don’t participate, these niche sites will function as a very powerful “front page blockers” Hogging much of this attractive real estate.

So with SEO in mind, not participating is basically suicide until you can fight these sites on your own. In a sense this is the self-serving strength of the niche site. For small bloggers, not participating will slow any progress down, while participating makes them capable of competing and outperforming almost all of the larger blogs that are not part of these networks.

If you consider the tourism industry you will see how this is already in effect. When you search for a hotel by name or location, chances are you will find hotel review and travel sites before you find the actual hotel’s own webpage somewhere on page 4 of Google.

Better for Readers

The readers that come to a site like GLCzone.com are looking for exactly what it offers. Blogs and information about physical and mental health, when they get there, they will not be distracted by an information overload or be unable to find relevant information hidden behind the link bait titles.

This quickly translates to readers who are generally interested in certain topic areas will be more likely to visit these networks to find information. Since the aggregate sites will show up high in search terms, they are easy to find and will reduce the non relevant onslaught of sites like Digg. A niche social media site will be the needed step between an organic Google search and a wide open social network.

Social Media is about to take the leap towards relevancy.

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