Ah, the big three. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are often spoken in the same breath as "social media." And, some may argue, rightly so - between them, they boast over 1.6 billion users and account for the vast majority of marketing and advertising dollars spent on social media.
But they're not the only players in the game, and for good reason. While people turn to Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn to keep in touch with friends and colleagues, or to share some news or quick updates about their lives, the big three are simply too generic to solve dozens of specific consumer problems at scale - such as how to choose a restaurant in an unfamiliar city, discover new music based on recommendations from people who share your taste in music, or find new, high quality apps to download- by using the power of social connections and digital communication.
Yelp, Spotify, and social app discovery networks like Nokia's App Social are three examples that demonstrate there is ample room for dedicated, laser focused social networks to fill in the gaps and tap into the people we know and trust in order to identify and qualify anything and everything in our lives that we would otherwise miss.
Chances are, you don't turn to Facebook when looking for a new restaurant to visit. It's possible to crowdsource the question of where to eat to your network, but the likelihood that you won't get enough feedback in time for your dinner plans that same night, makes Facebook and the other big networks an impractical choice .
That's why Yelp has quickly become an institution. Since its founding in 2004, Yelp has quickly grown into the top review website, dedicated to "connecting people with great local businesses." With 117 monthly unique visitors and over 47 million reviews, Yelp's popularity stems from its focus on leveraging the social web to produce word-of-mouth recommendations for everything from restaurants to mechanics.
Because Yelp focuses just on local business reviews, it attracts very targeted users and content. Anyone visiting the site knows they will be able to read through dozens of recent diner experiences at local restaurants, ratings and reviews to make their own educated decisions about where to eat.
Rather than relying on a small group of first-degree connections on Facebook or Twitter, users get access to a large pool of reviews from restaurant-goers.
Getting music recommendations on Facebook or Twitter is a gamble. Some people share what they're listening to via third-party apps like SoundTracking or Twythm, while others will be happy to offer up recommendations if you ask. But since people are logged in to these sites for any number of reasons other than just sharing music, your voracious craving for new tunes will likely be satiated only by happenstance. Finding groups that share your eclectic tastes can be time-consuming.
Spotify solves this problem by bringing together music lovers to talk about and share music... and only music. When a user logs in to Spotify, she knows she's connecting with 24 million other active users who are just as music-obsessed as she is. She can follow playlists created by friends, or follow influential taste-makers for their latest recommendations.
By combining music with social networking, Spotify has created a space for music lovers to meet each other, discover new artists and songs, chat about trends and more. Its dedication to all things music makes Spotify a better option than the big social networks for those who seriously love their tunes.
When was the last time you got a mobile app recommendation from a friend? Sure, there are a handful of popular apps (Skype anyone?) that practically everyone and their mother recommends, but it's difficult to use Facebook or other big social networks to find great apps, tailored to your interests.
App Social is the newest social network on this list, and its mission is to make discovering quality, relevant apps easy - and social (Disclaimer: Nokia is an Evolve client). At the core of App Social are individuals' profiles and the ability to easily create lists of theirfavorite apps and share them with others. Rather than just reading a static app review or browsing a warehouse full of titles, users can see what real users recommend, including friends, family and any number of people whose opinions they trust.
Because everyone on App Social is using it solely to share Windows app lists and recommendations, users know they're getting quality recommendations from real people who have actually used and enjoyed the apps on their lists. Users can quickly scan categories and topics of app lists that interest them, instead of wading through dozens of unrelated posts and scouring endless groups on a bigger network.
Big social networks - the pure social social networks - will always have their uses. But for savvy users with specific needs, dedicated social networks like Yelp, Spotify and AppSocial fill in much-needed gaps. These networks don't necessarily pose a direct threat to Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, but rather exist within the social media ecosystem, complimenting and enhancing the big three.