By guest blogger- Gemma Clarkson: The rapid re-shaping of the digital landscape, that is the vast open space of the ‘web’, is constantly re-forming and expanding in every direction and dimension, especially the way in which we are able to reach out to people.

Due to the originally impersonal nature of the Internet as a means of communication, the introduction of social networking has been a revelation and overwhelmingly successful. In a recent Guardian article Facebook is shown now to have 500 million users, evidently representing their position at the forefront of the social networking ‘scene’ in terms of personal usage. They are also making efforts to grasp the business and corporate markets; this is evident when looking at the average age of the Facebook user going up from 26 to 33.

The business alternative to Facebook is LinkedIn, launched just 9 months before Facebook. LinkedIn is lagging behind the Facebook statistics with only 70 million registered members, although justified by only accommodating a niche ‘business only’ market, with an average age of 48.

The uphill battle for Facebook to remain at the top of the social networking ladder is most certainly not over. The not so well known Google-owned social network Orkut have never been a threat in the past, but recently it has been shown to be the clear leader in several markets, namely Brazil and India. Figures show that in India the number of users in each network was equal, this on top of the fact that 23% of web users in India are actively involved in the social networking scene. However, Facebook maintain their 1st place position, mainly due to their extraordinary fast paced growth.

Facebook and other such tools have now generated a ‘global village’, providing both individuals and businesses with the ability to communicate globally with ease. To this very point businesses are more than ever trying to use social media for marketing and communications purposes, although, the ever changing nature of this ‘dark art’ results in a constant battle for businesses to keep ‘afloat’. Having said this, the oldest recorded active Twitter user Ivy Bean sadly passed away this week at the age of 104; there is evidently no excuse but to keep on top of these advances.

Leading multi channel electronics distribution giant Premier Farnell are demonstrating their ability to do more than just ‘keep afloat’ in the social media environment, by creating Element14.

Element 14 takes the idea of Facebook and social networking and refines the purpose to suit a niche market of electronic design engineers. In the same way as Facebook you are able to generate networks, communicate, upload and share material with individuals that hold similar interests. Since Element 14 was launched around a year ago, it is proving, as reflected in its enormous popularity and success, to be a prime example that there are gaps in the market for more specialised and niche social networking platforms.