Doing It for the Cheerleaders: The Explosive Growth of Niche Social Networks

An unusual email drifted over the transom today:

Please help me and my sister grow our site, My name is Madison and my sister is Morgan we are all star cheerleaders and we asked are dad to start us a web site like Myspace but for cheerleaders and dancers. The site is called we are hoping that we can make this the biggest web site for cheerleaders and dancers, we started the web site in December and it is doing ok so far, we have about 1689 members mostly cheerleaders.

Can you please help us get the word out about are site? And anyone can join. is very cool and fun my dad put over 750 games on for everyone to play and it’s all free.

Not so big on the commas, eh? These kids these days, I tell ya. I was of course immediately suspicious that it was a porn site (cheerleaders, c’mon), but it seems at least vaguely legit at first glance — though I ain’t taking that invitation to join (I’m already creepy enough as it is, thank you very much, though check out the upcoming birthdays page — not a whole lot of cheerleader-aged folks in sight…draw what conclusions you will).

This site illustrates something also mentioned in last week’s Facebook article: that the growth of niche social networks creates potential problems for the mass-audience sites, since they may suck away time that would otherwise be spent on MySpace and Facebook. Most niche networks will die, of course, since it takes critical mass to keep them going, but those that survive could well end up being a significant part of the overall social-networking universe.

For campaigns and advocacy groups, the trend presents both problems and opportunities: problems in that it dilutes the effectiveness of mainstream-site advocacy, opportunities in that it creates targets for niche marketing and issue-based recruiting. Note that all kinds of commercial entities are getting into the social networking business — according to Newsweek, Penthouse Media Group has invested heavily in social networks, running sites ranging from Adult Friend Finder to “Christian dating web site,” whose motto is “Bringing people together in love and faith.” Love is, indeed, a many-splendored thing.


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Colin Delany
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