There is life beyond Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. Not IRL (geek speak for “in real life”), but in niche social networks
— sites that focus on communities related to a specific topic and deliver a deep social experience. You just can’t find the proper level of fanaticism over the fundamentals of AAPL stock on Facebook or the ins and outs of the Astros’ batting lineup on Twitter. True obsessives turn to networks like these, where the commentary simply doesn’t stray from the issue at hand.
If you’re looking for some specialized socializing, below are five niche networks that might be worth a registration.
A social network for serious sports nuts
Sure, you can chatter about the Chargers with your friends on Facebook until you’re blue in the face. But Spanatix Founder Marlon Sullivan believes that for many, the real fun of talking sports comes from interacting with relative strangers—hence the popularity of sports bars and sports talk radio. Indeed, team affiliation can unite (or antagonize) strangers who’d otherwise never socialize in a semisober frenzy of fandom (see: World Cup). “At Spanatix, sport enthusiasts will be able to express their passion, competitiveness, and experience with others,” says Sullivan.
The Motley Fool’s CAPS
The world’s greatest investing community
Financial message boards are commonplace—and studded with spam, shills, and outright scams. The Motley Fool, a legendary finance Website, brings in Wall Street experts to interact with amateur moneymen in what CAPS Senior Vice President for Community Intelligence John Keeling calls “a massive database for aggregating stock ideas. It’s a great resource for finding stock ideas as well as getting a second opinion on stocks you’re following.” It’s less about being social, Keeting says, and more about helping you make money. Just as it should be.
An online community for movie nuts
As Flixster President Steve Polsky notes, there are a lot of movie nuts out there, with 20 million people part of the Flixster community and another 7 million accessing the site via mobile applications. Flixster is plenty engaging on its own, but the site’s real value, says Polsky, is its integration with other sites, including Facebook, Yelp, Netflix, iTunes, and Rotten Tomatoes, making it a true “one-stop destination for movie fans.” It’s the ultimate way to get a line on what’s worth seeing at the theater or on DVD every week.
For fitness freaks only
Getting in shape, staying on a diet, committing to a fitness routine—these are not simple tasks. It helps to have a buddy to support you along the way. FitTogether is a community that offers training buddies, fitness classes, and even a fitness dating system for the health conscious. As CEO Scott Bowen notes, “Facebook, MySpace, and other social networks like to keep you in front of a computer screen all day. FitTogether is a tool that hopefully gets you off the couch and back into the world of being active and social outside of cyberspace.”
A one-stop shop for anything travel
“The anticipation of travel can actually make one happier in the moment than the act of traveling itself,” says Tripwolf Site Editor Adena Harford. Tripwolf brings that excitement and enthusiasm into one place, combining travel tips from professional travel writers with personal experiences, and reviews from a worldwide community of thousands of travelers. Regular users on the network can solicit advice in real time, and casual users can access virtually all of the site’s content without even registering for an account.