Pinterest, Instagram Lead New Age of Niche Social Media Growth

By Steve Smith
08/29/2012

Yeah you knew that niche social nets like Pinterest and Instagram were darlings of the digital press and in some cases new primary drivers of social refers. But their overall impact on the social networking ecosystem has been even more tectonic. According to Experian Hitwise, in the US alone the share of social media visits going to Pinterest has risen 5124% between July 2011 and July 2012. Not a typo: 5124%. But just wait for the growth of Instagram: 17,319%.

The expansion Experian is charting involves the growth of these networks’ respective shares of overall social media traffic. This is not a phenomenon restricted to the U.S. market. They both are now among the top 20 social nets in the major markets worldwide.

At the UK Experian blog analyst James Murray argues that Instagram and Pinterest have succeeded in part because they have drafted off of Facebook scale and Twitter distribution rather than tried to compete with the mightiest of social nets. The two newer image sharing entities use Facebook Connect and twitter hashtags to grow their network on top of the others.

But as we have said in these pages before, the success of both of these newer nets does help shake off the presumption that Facebook has already won the social media game. In fact a number of smaller social nets have been growing fantastically in key worldwide markets. Conde Nast-owned Reddit, the media sharing network, has seen its share of social media visits more than double both in Australia and in New Zealand. Google+, which many publishers in the states eschew, is seeing 476% share growth in the UK and 5750% share growth in Brazil.

In the U.S. there is still room for innovation and share grabbing. Experian highlights Skillwho.com, a network that helps people connect with others having the right skill set from among friends or a local community. Skillwho saw its share grow more than 7000% in the last year. Again, not a typo. Networks that trade in specialized knowledge and slices of people who are hard to find in the Facebook morass are on the rise. Stocktwits.com has seen a 943% share increase in the US from its exchanges of investment ideas.

Facebook has proven to be a platform for many publishers and now, ironically, it is becoming a platform for other social networks. Ultimately, Facebook gains more than loses from these connections. Of course, Facebook now owns Instagram, and it has been buying up talent from a number of mobile companies that also leveraged connections to the social network. But the success of Pinterest and Instagram speaks to a need among many users for a different kind of experience than the all-in-one Facebook platform can provide, which spells opportunity for magazine publishers. National Geographic has 242,533 followers on Instagram, but 11 million Likes on Facebook. Still, the kinds of content the company produces maps almost perfectly to the photo net.

Which is to say that as the selection of social networks broaden, magazines have the opportunity to find new channels for extending their brands, following their core audiences, and achieving a high profile in a niche that is narrower than Facebook.