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Niche social networks expand in 2010

Niche, secure social networks such as milBook will continue to grow in 2010

Last night I participated in a panel called "Social Media Odyssey 2010" hosted by Social Media Club. When the moderator, Jennifer Lindsay, asked us what we'd bet on for 2010, I talked about improved understanding of business to business and social media. One area I neglected to talk about is the growth of niche, special interest social networks, especially those with strict privacy guidelines especially for health and military outfits.

Today, the U.S. Army, announced that its private social network milBook is nearing 20K members. Touted as a secure, behind-the-firewall Facebook-type social network, has hundreds of user groups and is making a mark as the most widely adopted Web 2.0 tool by the Department of Defense.

"These technologies help those working on similar projects across ‘DoD' to connect, share information, incubate new ideas, and help build the ‘DoD's' body of knowledge and expertise, MilBook, which reached 18,000 users since its inception in October 2009, is part of a suite of tools known as milSuite that also includes a blog and wiki. This is the first tool that the military has had for employees to share content and collaborate.

According to the announcement:

MilBook provides several options for users who wish to share information with specific individuals. By creating discussion threads, they can exchange ideas among specific, self-created groups on topics such as Army policies. The information can either be restricted to that user or shared with the entire milBook community, Filler said. Regardless, it will always remain behind the firewall.

"The purpose of the portal is to incorporate insights and lessons-learned from Soldiers and officers, based upon recent experiences in theater; but the goal is to ensure tactics, techniques and procedures remain relevant," said Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, vice chief of staff of the Army, during his final remarks at the LandWarNet Conference held in August in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "A Soldier redeployed from Afghanistan, for example, could access the ATTP for site exploitation operations, make changes and add new material based on firsthand experiences in the country."