3 min read The Future of Digital Communities.
COVID-19 imported the future that we were planning on for around 2030- a future where everybody is going to be able to see and create a digital community.
This digital community is unlike that of present-day social media.
These communities will function more like how gamers’ communities do. Gamers are great at having a digital community today. Yet for some reason, the world is taking note.
Everyone, individuals and companies alike, is still trying to do live online with the audience they get from Facebook groups and pages.
Profitable Digital Community
Stuart Kime is the Co-Founder and Chief Future Officer of hOp, a company that builds trust within the community while selling micro-social networks to multifamily apartments and churches. Their venture started by selling private social networks to apartment complexes, giving the residents a quick and easy way to communicate as a whole. The company assumed that the platform would be used for the residents to rent and sell to each other. But what the residents created with this micro-network took them by surprise.
People were giving and sharing. They were seeing things pop up on the network such as:
“I’m at Chick-fil-A, does anybody want anything?”
“I’m making brownies, does anyone have vegetable oil? I’ll give you a beer.”
A unique marketplace was unfolding, but hOp was never going to get paid on it. They realized they had created a great feature but had the wrong customer. They switched their sites to property managers and owners- people who would have an interest in sponsoring this community. This essentially turned the micro-social network into a subscription-based SaaS application.
They then extended to other potential users in subsects that can benefit from this ease of communication but don’t have the modern tech in place to do it such as churches, schools, and HOAs.
The Shift to Micro-Social Networks
Giant social networks like Facebook are trying to make everything happen on their platform. Facebook tried to clone Snapchat, eBay, and Letgo but inside of Facebook. Now they’re even doing their Nextdoor clone. They are dealing with these large algorithms that are going to lead to challenges in functionality. They end up taking control away from the end-user and dealing with outrage, an outrage you hardly see on smaller social networks such as LinkedIn for example.
With smaller social networks comes smaller audiences, meaning less competition, increased control over information, and more direct reach.
These micro-social networks also come with the advantage of increased privacy. Look at the difference between Facebook advertising (a mass social network) versus DuckDuckGo (a smaller enterprise). DuckDuckGo works sort of like a Google, but instead of needing to read your Gmail and Google Docs to know more about you to put the right ads in front of you DuckDuckGo simply uses your search term.
Facebook is trying to know about you- to really know about you. Facebook is one of the largest buyers of ovulation data from Maya, which is the largest cycle tracker for women. They are collecting ovulation information to know which ad to put in front of you at which time. It’s a bit ridiculous. Creating privacy-friendly alternatives to these free tools that all of us are using on the internet is going to be probably one of the largest growth sectors in the next five to 10 years, and micro-social networks are prime applications to provide this.
It seems like it’s going from Facebook to micro-social networks in the generation because people want more control. How should an investor update their investment thesis to participate in this?
The key is to look for those who actually own their audience- not those who are running it through Facebook. Investments should be made in companies that have direct control or connection over their social network. Strong companies moving forward are going to be those that create their own world, so to speak.
Another interesting way of positioning is going to be going after the sectors that have already mastered this new kind of digital community. For example, gaming communities are really strong. Companies like Discord are going to be moving us into the future with their digital community applications.
In short, it is about looking at deals that deal a lot with owning audiences instead of running audiences.
Read more in the TEN Capital eGuide: https://tencapital.group/ten-capital-eguide-the-future-of-investing-in-saas-2/
Hall T. Martin is the founder and CEO of the TEN Capital Network. TEN Capital has been connecting startups with investors for over ten years. You can connect with Hall about fundraising, business growth, and emerging technologies via LinkedIn or email: firstname.lastname@example.org