The much-reported purchase of heretofore-also-ran social network Tribe.net by Cisco quietly signaled a shift in the way companies might be thinking about social networking, according to The New York Times.
Instead of striving for the massive reach of networks like MySpace and Facebook, which have millions of users, Cisco sees Tribe.net's technology as having the potential for businesses to communicate more effectively with stakeholders. Such specialized networks could be rolled out to bring together a company's customer base or manage vendor communications.
And if they're running on Cisco's infrastructure, they have the potential to be flexible and meet the needs of the group, instead of the group's expectations being set by the site's limitations.
Presidential candidate Barack Obama, for one, has launched a social network on his site that connects his supporters. These sorts of customized, niche networks seek to bring the functionality of other sites to walled-garden communities where everyone is there for a common purpose.
Similarly, Ning.com recently launched a service that gives anyone the ability to create a specialty social network.However, even with the attractiveness of content and themes specially tuned for a specific audience, not all communities experience rapid growth, resulting in people being reluctant to join a group if few others are participating.