There aren’t enough social networks, said no one. Ever. There’s Facebook for my general “friends” however you define them, LinkedIn for my professional network, Twitter for news and general wit, Pinterest for my love of things, Nextdoor for my geographic neighborhood.
Who haven’t I connected with yet? If I haven’t connected with someone by now, do I need to connect with him at all? I may have to start my own social network for people tired of social networks.
Well, there’s Mightybell, which isn’t new but it’s not widely known either. It’s trying to make the case that, maybe, perhaps, it’s possible, there’s another use for social media platforms. Or that current platforms don’t offer a deep enough space to foster true online communities. Mightybell’s social value proposition is as a platform to bring people together based on their interests and passions. Users can create a group (or as Mightybell calls it, a ‘circle’) for those who like to cook from scratch. These circles allow users to post recipes online, give feedback, and organize events.
The site just launched its latest feature, “communities,” which allow a broader organizational approach than mere circles. For the cooking from scratch circle example, members can join a a more niche community of “vegans” or “people who live in baltimore.” Within those communities, there can be circles, meaning more possibilities to connect based on mutual interest. This will make, according to founder Gina Bianchini, “a thriving network of local chapters.”
Originally, Mightybell was a how-to website. If someone wanted to achieve a goal, the website provided a place for users to write step-by-step instructions on how to achieve it. Since its launch last year, however, it has slowly morphed into a wider reaching program, trying to connect people based on their passions and goals. Bianchini explained that users “wanted less structure.” It seems people felt constricted by the group-like atmosphere of circles, so now we have communities.
In some ways these changes Mightybell has made since its launch seem like a pivot or pivots. Bianchini disagrees. “We’ve had the same mission the entire time,” she says. People still connect based on their passions, but it’s the mode by which they can connect that has changed.
If it sounds like every other social platform out there, well, it kind of is. But it’s also the only one focusing on fostering a community. Facebook offers community-like features with its groups, but they are relegated only to the groups themselves.
As Bianchini explains it, Mightybell provides a way for people to connect with each other at internet scale. While it’s true that I can join a Facebook group about something I really like, that page is the only place I can access that information and other group members. Mightybell allows people to connect and organize at a much larger scale. For example: let’s say I am a writer in New York. I can create a “community” entitled ‘New York Writers,’ and invite others of my writerly ilk to join. Within this I can create specialized “circles,” such as “tech writers” or “lovers of encyclopedic fiction.” Anyone within ‘New York Writers’ can start his or her own circle. Within each I can post relevant updates, questions, or schedule events. At the same time, as the creator and member of ‘New York Writers,’ I can post something that goes to every member the community. It’s sort of like a platform for many niche social networks.
The danger for Mightybell, I think, is that the less niche it gets , the more generalized the platform becomes. And that makes it look more and more like a generic Facebook knockoff. Bianchini is banking on this current iteration to help Mightbell create scalable communities.
Is it working? Well, Bianchini told me the site boasts more than 7,000 of its ‘Lean In‘ circles, and tens of thousands of circles nationwide. At the same time, she declined to precisely say how many users. Hopefully it’s more than 7,000.