Shoutem and Socialight - are offering platforms that allow anyone to design, develop and launch their very own social networks for mobile devices. Although neither service will likely lead to the next creation of the next Twitter or Foursquare, the tools they offer are perfect for design a niche site for a select group of users. Whether it's a closed network for you and your friends, a fan-based network for celebrating a favorite TV show, a one-time use network for a particular conference or event or even something designed for use within a particular company, these services have you covered.Forget building your own iPhone app, you can now build your own mobile social network! Two companies -
We've already seen social network DIY services take off on the desktop, mainly due to Ning and their niche network building tools. That same concept can now be reproduced on the mobile platform thanks to Shoutem and Socialight.
Shoutem: Niche Networks for Communities
Having recently exited its beta testing phase, Shoutem's globally available service lets users easily create private mobile social networks without needing programming and development skills. With their platform, anyone can control the access and the design of their network and launch it as a mobile application for the iPhone, Blackberry and soon, Android.
Shoutem recommends using their product to build specialist niche sites for sports fans, clubs and events. Already, some companies have launched their own small networks using the service. NFL Shouts, for example, lets game fans communicate with each other during football season. Ranch and Rodeo, meanwhile, connects an international audience to a destination site where fans can interact.
Socialight: Better for Brands, Businesses...and Mom?
The other company to recently launch something in this space is Socialight. With their new Socialight Community Platform, anyone can create networks which are accessible via the web, a WAP site or an iPhone app. The company seems to have more of an enterprise focus than Shoutem, noting how their tools have helped "companies and brands" create their own apps. However, the tools Socialight provides can be used by anyone, even individuals...even your mom as explained in this video on Vimeo.
Not Just Mobile, Location-Based
What's interesting about both launches is their focus on location-based services. In Socialight's case, they offer tools for sharing geo-tagged photos and other location-based community content, all of which can be viewed on a map interface. From the mobile application, users can upload and share anything - whether that's a photo, video or text - and have it posted to the network.
Shoutem does much of the same thing with tools that enable file and photo uploads. They also target their app to local communities like colleges, cities, restaurants, bars and clubs.
Why Niche Networks for Mobile?
Considering that there are already several popular mobile social networks out there, including Brightkite, Loopt, Gowalla and Foursquare to name a few, you may wonder why people would need to join yet another. The answer to that question is two-fold. One difference is access. These niche networks can be closed communities for just a select group of people working on an invite-only system. The second difference between those publicly available services and the ones designed with these new toolkits is that they are laser-focused on a single purpose. You may not want to spam up your Twitter account where you promote your business to discuss things related to your local book club for example, but you could easily do so via a niche network.
But perhaps an even better example involves how local businesses could use these tools in building apps for their customers. On Socialight's homepage, they're currently featuring "Socialight Concierge," a toolkit for the hotel and tourism industry which lets companies create "curated concierge experiences" where "guests access location-based information about restaurants, shops, and places to visit, together with city tours and historical points of interest, all in a branded environment." The richness of this mobile application goes far beyond anything we've seen with the simplified DIY mobile app building tools. These are no mere informational apps, they're comprehensive networks where some content is managed by the business, but the real value comes from the customers socializing within the community.