The Rising Stars of Social Networks in 2013: The 7 Wonders of Cyberspace?

I thought the social network space was filled up by the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Google+, kind of like how online bookstores have been dominated by companies led by Amazon. Sure, there are new social network competitors, but we grok the beast. But just when LinkedIn seemed to define the boundaries of social networking, Instagram comes out of nowhere and suddenly we understand less than we thought. Far from set in its ways,  of social networking is being rocked by waves of game changers. In an article in Fortune, HootSuite CEO Ryan Holmes serves up 7 contenders to watch in 2013.

1. Pheed

First up is Pheed, where you can offer "media-rich stream of text, photo, audio, video and even live broadcasts" by subscription. Currently used by celebrities like Paris Hilton, Pheed answers this question, according to Holmes, "Why share your gorgeous photos, funny videos and brilliant observations with the world for free on Facebook and Twitter, when you can sell them?" As Pheed states,

"Pheed gives you the option to monetize [your content] either by applying a monthly subscription fee to your channel or setting a pay-per-view live broadcast event. In both cases, you select the pricing and earn directly."

2. Thumb

It's decision time with the second Platform on the Holmes list, Thumb--as in thumbs up or down on choices you face. It's incredibly simple: take a photo of something and ask a question into the Thumb network, from what should I wear with my jeans to "What do you think of this layout?" Holmes notes this service is exploding,

"Simple questions typically generate hundreds of thumbs up or thumbs down, plus comments, from the network’s very active user base, sometimes within minutes. Appealing to the twin social impulses of vanity and voyeurism, Thumb generates serious engagement among users (reported to be around four hours a month, second only to Facebook among established networks)..."

3. Medium

Up next is Medium. " In many respects, it resembles a carefully curated blog network. While creators are limited to the select few, everyone can read and comment," Holmes notes. Launched by Ev Williams, whose had a hand in starting Blogger (now part of Google) and Twitter, Medium aims to rise above that great wasteland of internet content to share more meaningful blogs. As Williams puts it,

"It’s not too late to rethink how online publishing works and build a system optimized for quality, rather than popularity. Where anyone can have a voice but where one has to earn the right to your attention. A system where people work together to make a difference, rather than merely compete for validation and recognition. A world where thought and craftsmanship is rewarded more than knee-jerk reactions."

It isn't clear how they'll survive financially (along with the rest of the writing world), but if their Frontpage Picks are any indication, they're off to a compelling start. Featured stories include "Missing Jon" (about grieving for a friend), and "I almost got arrested for planting a bomb at Planned Parenthood" (about... look, just go read it; it's hilarious, well-written, not to be missed).

It's clear how this could rocket forward, kind of like the Huffington Post got going. But the choice by Holmes to include Medium in a list of social networks illustrates how fuzzy the boundaries that define the field are becoming. Yes, the founder has built social networks. But what's the difference between, say, the online edition of The New Yorker and Medium? You write for both only by invitation. Both passionately search for the best writing. Yet neither alter the social network space. But just despite not meeting the standard for a social network, Medium is nevertheless setting a new standard in content.

4. Hootsuite

Number four on the list is Conversations, created by Holmes's own Hootsuite. His goal is to create social media for the office,

"Instead of getting lost in long email chains, team members collaborate in real-time by posting on message boards, Facebook-style. Anyone can be invited to join a conversation, enabling customer support teams to rally around issues, marketing teams to coordinate campaigns, etc. Social media has revolutionized how we communicate in our personal lives – Why not bring some of those benefits into the workplace?"

5. Chirpify

A somewhat better known service is Chirpify, which turns twitter into a marketplace where you can tweet "pay" to a seller and purchase something. Just as a pilot fish is not a shark, I don't think social network describes Chirpify. But it's fast growing service now encompasses Instagram as well as Twitter, reports Ingrid Lunden in Techcrunch.

6. Flayvr

Sixth on his social network 2013 list is Flayvr, bringing order to photo sharing on social networks and privately. Again, this is a tool, not a network. Handy, though.


And last on his list is Chirp. Okay, this one is different, Holmes says,

"Sharing using sound – For sheer “wow” factor, Chirp may take the prize in 2013. Say you want to instantly share a photo or link with a roomful of people.  There are plenty of options out there, but they all have drawbacks.  Networks like Instagram or Facebook are members-only.  Email requires typing in multiple addresses.  Bluetooth has to be paired device by device.  Chirp, however, is different. Your phone emits a high-pitched, two-second-long, robotic squeak. Other phones within audio range pick up the sound and instantly download the photo or message.  Chirps can be shared in a boardroom or a crowded bar, broadcast over loudspeakers to reach huge audiences or even embedded in YouTube videos or TV programs."

Chirp isn't just about sharing photos--you can share notes and links as well.

Holmes suggests our vision of social media encompass more than what constitutes a new network,

"Facebook will continue to reign supreme in 2013, Twitter will thrive and Google+ will accrue critical mass. But in the shadow of these all-purpose social networks, some truly exciting specializations are underway."

Of these, I pick Thumb as the truest new social network likely to redefine something big, in this case, how we make small decisions. You?

Be sure to read the next Social article: Deezer Music Streaming Service Launches Developer Affiliate Program and Upgraded API