One future direction often predicted for social media is an eventual move away from catch-all social networks to niche networks that cater for our personal groups or interests. But what will this mean for businesses using social media to market their products and services?

With Facebook, Twitter and Google+ – the ‘Big 3’ – the focus is on connecting with as many people as possible, and receiving a fast-paced stream of broad information that reflects the diverse interests of a large community.

The difficulty with these networks is the inability to move at a slower pace, to hone in on specific interests and to take time to learn from and share with others.

Niche social networks on the other hand inspire ‘custom sharing’.

Across the web, networks based around specific interests are springing up. LinkedIn is probably the best-known of these, with its business and jobs focus. For music lovers, and MOG fulfil this need; if you’re African-American you can join Black Planet; if you’re into social activism, you may be on Take Part; if you only want to connect with a small circle of close friends and family, Path will let you do this.

For businesses with a niche customer base or audience, it may mean moving away from the larger social networks and onto these niche communities – assuming you’re allowed. Or you may want to create a bespoke community just for your audience, as electronics firm Premier Farnell  has done very successfully with Element 14.

As this trend develops, it will be increasingly important to listen and monitor where your audience lives online, and avoid the common mistake of assuming that the ‘Big 3’ is where everyone resides.

Do you use a niche social network? If so, why? Leave a comment and let us know!