In light of the privacy concerns and expanding user base on Facebook, niche sites have been stealing some of the spotlight from the reigning social network giant. VEOMED is one of the latest attempts to bring together a community outside of Facebook. Targeting the medical community, VEOMED appears to have found success in mixing features of Facebook, Twitter and Youtube to create a balanced network that enables members to have scientific dialog across a variety of multimedia formats. It’s possible that this is the formula that will fragment the currently heterogeneous social groupings currently populating Facebook.
In just six months as a publicly available service, VEOMED has attracted over 80 medical organizations including the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Harvard Medical School, and Columbia University Department of Psychiatry. With such big names attached, it’s no wonder that tens of thousands of medical professionals use this network to share ideas, hypothesis, research findings, and other medical information.
VEOMED works by allowing organizations and professionals to set up portals where they can add PowerPoint presentations, videos, articles, and other multimedia. Members can use this free service to receive a stream of information from the subject areas or portals they follow (similar to Twitter), watch videos of conferences, lectures, or techniques that are rated by the community (similar to YouTube), or set up their own portal to interact with others (similar to Facebook). And within this feature rich social network is a plethora of medical information freely available to members of the medical community who want to advance their field.
This type of social network specialization has been tried before. uSurvive is a social network designed only for college students. It caters to those students who want to avoid having to deal with awkward questions from parents or potential employers that can crop up on the ultra-inclusive Facebook. Togetherville is another niche social network aimed at young children. It emphasizes internet safety and security, while bringing parents and children together on a simple, fun, and educational site.
These sites are growing in popularity, and as VEOMED illustrates, they can find success by integrating the best elements from competing networks. News feeds, video sharing, and profile pages appear to be three of the most universal features of successful social networks.
So what does this all mean for Facebook? There are two basic camps in the debate over the impacts of niche social networks on Facebook’s current hold on the market. One side argues that they will begin fragmenting the social network population, as people begin gravitating towards the niche sites that appeal most to their identity. In this scenario, Facebook is seen as too large and inclusive. The other side maintains that Facebook will retain its supremacy because members have an established presence, including friends, photos, and profile information, that could not easily be ported over to another network. From this perspective, Facebook’s inclusiveness is an enticing feature.
The true outcome will probably be somewhere in the middle. Niche social networks do offer something different than Facebook, and many people will likely find one or two that they can identify with on a personal or professional level. This doesn’t mean, however, that members of Facebook cannot also be members of VEOMED, uSurvive, Togetherville and any other network they choose. In all likelihood, social network users will begin to diversify their social network “portfolio” by having a presence on a variety of networks.
(Originally posted on SocialTimes)