New Social Networks Gain Traction

While it’s too soon to talk about potential rivals to Facebook, some interesting new social networks have been gaining traction over the last couple months, and they just might give the incumbent something to think about -- or at least targets to acquire.

Celly, a Portland-based startup founded in 2011 which allows users to create “ad-hoc” social networks, recently announced that it has secured $1.4 million from investors in its latest round of funding. People can participate in a Celly network via computer, smartphone, or text message. To date Celly says users have created 20,000 “cells,” as the ad-hoc social networks are known, including cells created by the Portland public school system and the Portland police department. The company offers the basic platform for free, and sells subscriptions for access to premium features like group polling.

I’ve written before about Nextdoor, a social platform founded in 2010 which also allows users to create multiple private social networks -- in this case, focused on neighborhoods, thus bringing together residents of a particular geographic locale. The site includes useful features like discussion forums and bulletin boards that allow users to communicate with their neighbors (even if they haven’t met them in person) about all sorts of neighborhood-related stuff, e.g. garage sales, baby sitters, break-ins, and so on. To protect privacy, each social network is limited to people who actually live in their neighborhood. So far Nextdoor says it has social networks for 8,000 neighborhoods across the U.S., and the company recently began advertising the networks with good old-fashioned direct mail (in my case, I received a postcard with an invitation from a neighbor to join).

Last but certainly not least, there’s Pheed, unveiled back in November 2012, which is already winning inarticulate plaudits from that most coveted social media demographic, teenagers. It seems the kids nowadays think Pheed, which combines elements from predecessors like Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and SoundCloud, among others, is real cool, daddy-o, in part because it allows users to post content (including videos) with virtually no limits on size. A simple button also allows users to copyright their content. One typical endorsement came from Acacia Brinley, a social media doyenne who triggered a rush of new Pheed memberships by tweeting “@Pheed sickest app”. In fact Pheed is currently the top free iPhone app in the social media category, according to the Detroit Free Press.

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