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Social Media Portal Landscape - Communities


Online communities come in many different shapes and sizes; the forms they take include social networks and utilities, chat rooms, discussion boards, social bookmarking sites and email lists.  In short, an online community is a group of people that interact with each other in a social manner via the internet and can be of a personal, business or educational nature.

An online community or social network allows users to create a profile that can be public (viewable to the wider web including search engines), semi-public (viewable by members of the site and/or second degree connections) or private (viewable only by friends).  This profile serves as the core for users to connect, communicate and exchange with a ‘real-world’ network of friends, family and peers and also to connect with new like-minded individuals. 


Social networking is not a new phenomenon.  Community groups have existed on the internet since it became more popular to wider audiences from 1996; however, they have evolved with time and technology, and morphed into what we know them as today.  The earliest forms of online communities were primarily managed through email lists and bulletin boards (both of which pre-date the Internet some forty years) and chat rooms.  Some of the first online communities included The WELL which launched in 1985, theGlobe in 1995 and GeoCities in 1994 which was acquired by Internet company Yahoo! in 1999.

Social networks really started to gain momentum with the launch of SixDegrees in 1997, which was the first site to allow users to create profiles, friend’s lists and seek new friends.  Many social networks offered one or two of these key features; however, SixDegrees were the first to combine them. 

There were many popular social networks following SixDegrees including BlackPlanet, Cyworld and Ryze and notably Friends Reunited, which has attracted over 15 million global users since its launch in 2000, and was purchased by British television broadcasting company ITV for £120 million GBP in 2005.  However it wasn’t until 2002 that social networks started to reach mainstream audiences with the launch of Friendster, which turned down a $30 million buyout offer from Google a year after inception.


Enter MySpace in 2003, Facebook in 2004 and Bebo in 2005 which arguably remain the three most popular social networking sites in the world.  MySpace was the early winner and attracted over 106 million users worldwide and a buyout by News Corporation in 2005 for $580 million USD.  Facebook was initially a closed social network available to college students in the United States only, however opened its doors the public in September 2006 which catapulted it to the most popular social network in the world.

The company has remained independent although has received a number of investments from public and private investors including.  The largest investor was Microsoft, who purchased 1.6 per cent stake in the social network for $240 million USD, giving Facebook a highly discussed perceived value of approximately $15 billion USD.  Bebo became more popular with young people, and made the position of the most popular social network in the United Kingdom and was bought by AOL in March 2008 for $850 million USD.


There are hundreds of thousands of social networking groups on the Internet, with countless more launching on a daily basis – and competition is fierce.  Niche social networks are a huge growing area in this field, and you can be sure to find an online community dedicated to just about anything you can think of; whether it be vampire lovers, shoe lovers, alpaca lovers, plumbers or bio medics.  The sheer number of sites can make it challenging not just for consumers but also for potential partners, advertisers, investors and media professionals to locate and be kept abreast of. 

The benefits of adding your community to SMP

  • Let more of your audience know about your community and drive traffic to it
  • Attract advertisers, marketers and brand managers that need to reach your audience
  • Reach out to media, researchers and stakeholders
  • Differentiate your approach, products, service and/or technology from your competitors
  • Update your stakeholders and target audiences with case studies, events, press releases and/or whitepapers
  • Submit news scoops through SMP to be considered for social media news
  • Reach a new and existing audience by sharing our expertise through opinion and thought leadership articles
  • List other assets of your community posses that relate to the social media Landscape and demonstrate the other relationships that it has

Do you run an online community?

Become part of the SMP Landscape by adding your online community.