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My last article was about Pinterest and its popularity among individuals and now businesses trying to capitalize on its rapid growth. Pinterest is a great example of what some people refer to it as a niche social network. They serve one general purpose, but do it really well.

Some other good examples of niche social networks with strong following and rapid growth are Instagram, Tumblr, and Foursquare. Each of these social networks appeals to people for different reasons. Let’s take a look at why they’re gaining popularity and stealing time away from the giants like Twitter, Youtube, and Facebook.

Pinterest – A Visual Discovery Engine

Bing may be the decision engine, but Pinterest is the visual discovery engine. Digg and Reddit blew up from 2005 to 2009, because they did one thing really well. They aggregated and organized popular articles and allowed power users to determine which content was most popular by voting. One thing that Digg and Reddit failed to acknowledge was that staring at a huge list of headlines with no visuals is a little mind-numbing. This is why they have fallen on harder times in terms of popularity and growth.

We are visual creatures. Most of us learn by seeing and doing something. Pinterest knows this. They know that Facebook’s biggest content draw is photos. So, what Pinterest does is brilliant. It took the ideas of Digg and Reddit and combined it with the best of Facebook, photos and interests.

Pinterest is almost 80% women right now, and that’s because the stuff that people search A LOT for one Google like how-to’s, recipes, and humor/entertainment, are MUCH easier to surf and sort through when you can already see a picture of it. That’s why Pinterest is growing like crazy.

Instagram – It’s like Facebook But Without All the Crap

Again, most people on Facebook look at photos. They want to see the photos that are being shared, because it makes them feel connected with people that they may only see a couple of times a year. Instagram is just a stream of photos. There’s no late-night rants about horrible roommates or detailed descriptions of a two year old’s vomit. It’s just cool looking photos. Who wouldn’t get addicted to that?

Instagram also works, because it plays on our egos. It makes us all feel like we’re photographers. I’m sure photographers hate it for that very reason, but it still allows us to produce work that we normall wouldn’t be able to, and it’s just different. That’s why it works.

Tumblr – Where Less is More

Tumblr does what a lot of people want to do, share something quickly without a lot of non-sense or hoops to jump through. I remember in the mid 2000’s it became pretty popular to have a personal blog. A lot of my college friends were starting Blogger and accounts, and some of them were really good at making lengthy, detailed updates.

Tumblr takes away the need or the urge to put together a 5 or 600 word dissertation every time you sit down to write something. Tumblr is kind of like Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, and Youtube all in one, because it makes it insanely easy to share a quick link, photo, video, or update about your life.

As I was typing this up, a wave came over me about how many quality social networks exist today. It’s overwhelming. That’s why I strongly suggest that you pick one or two and stick with those only. Social media is supposed to be fun and effortless. A social network you truly enjoy integrates into your life, your interest, and what you do best. As you can see, the social network you pick to update and follow most is not always Facebook or Twitter. Consider these niche social networks, and you may see that you’re using them more than the big boys.