DigitalTown, Inc. (OTC PINK: DGTW) today announced the beta release of a breakthrough solution for online private communities.
Social Media grows up
Social media has in recent history been dominated by large and generic community hosts such as Facebook and LinkedIn. In recent years, social media has matured, leading to a second wave of innovation focused on specific sharing behavior, such as Discussing (e.g. Reddit), Sharing (e.g. Pinterest), Networking (e.g. Tinder), and Publishing (e.g.Tumblr).
The average US adult spends 5.6 hours per day on Internet-enabled devices up from 2.7 hours in 2008, according to eMarketer. However, when it comes to social media, Internet users are already taking the training wheels off. While Internet usage as a whole is up, usage of Facebook is in decline in the US. According to Compete.com, unique US visitors to Facebook.com peaked in September 2014 at 168 million visitors. Facebook has since experienced a steady decline to 162 million unique US visitors in September 2015.
Monetization of community content has also reached critical mass. According to Company reports, Facebook earns approximately $10 per year per user, growing at approximately 30% per year with no sign of any slowdown on the horizon. Despite this growing monetization of the user base, Facebook community leaders themselves do not participate in this monetization. Moreover, Facebook groups have very limited ability to sell products or services to their own community.
In the next wave of innovation, the concept of online community will become pervasive as a vast array of increasingly niche communities begin to power their own social networks on their own terms, outside of the traditional limitations of one size fits all social media solutions. This hyper-fragmentation will be made possible by new technologies that make it easier than ever for niche communities to create and manage their own online communities.
An early entrant in this next generation of Social Media is NextDoor.com, a provider of online neighborhood community solutions that has recently raised $210 million, most recently at a valuation of $1.1 billion in a financing led by blue chip private equity investors such as Insight Venture Partners, Redpoint Ventures and long-time bellwether Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers. This specialty social network platform is focused on powering online neighborhoods and currently serves 3.5 million monthly unique users according to Compete.com.
DigitalTown is reinventing how communities go online. Rather than being an after-thought, online communities can be set up in a matter of minutes. DigitalTown has been designed from the ground up to make it easy to design and host vibrant online communities that are connected by content, community and commerce.
A primary barrier to adoption of niche social media has been the complexity of the tools for creating and managing an engaging online community. DigitalTown’s flexible social media platform is built around five major community types: (1) schools and colleges, (2) teams and sport clubs, (3) churches and faith groups, (4) neighborhoods, towns and cities, and (5) hobby, fan and enthusiast sites. For any community type, it is now easier than ever to be online.
Operated by YOU
DigitalTown is a departure from the traditional one size fits all social network. Traditional social media platforms such as Facebook are operated by a single administrator. DigitalTown communities are managed by individual community managers that are able to tailor the user experience to the needs of the community. Communities can be public or private, and can operate either on a DigitalTown.com subdomain or on a stand-alone domain name at no additional cost.
The Facebook Offramp
There are more than 600 million Facebook groups currently in operation. While most of these groups have never achieved critical mass, there are many that have significant investment in content accumulation, such as photos, videos and posts. A unique feature of DigitalTown is the ability to automate the migration of legacy content from Facebook into a private community site. The Facebook migration tool is a free service from DigitalTown.
Single Sign On
One of the significant challenges for adoption of distributed community websites is the historical need to register with each site. The DigitalTown platform provides the option of a single-sign-on, which enables a user to register once and join multiple sites with a single member profile which can be maintained centrally across all of the sites where a user has joined.
DigitalTown Communities have the option of enabling private barter currencies to be used within their own private communities. These currencies can be used for a range of purposes including buying/selling, donations, membership fees, and event registration. The currencies can also be redeemed for cash.
DigitalTown communities have the option of being ad-free. If a community chooses to display advertising or sponsorships, this income is transparently shared. Up to 80% of collected advertising funds are disbursed directly to the community administrator’s account. Daily advertising rates vary by site based on volume and quality of traffic. Advertisers can search advertising opportunities across the network and can manage ad campaigns from a single control panel.
DigitalTown communities are able to power their own branded stores. These stores can feature community gear to promote the community. In addition, community managers are able to list and sell items to other members in the community. Proceeds from sales can optionally be denominated in the currency of the community and then deposited tax-free into member account balances.
A New Era for Social Media
DigitalTown is currently in beta testing. However, even today, DigitalTown already powers nearly 20,000 online communities around the world.
Rob Monster, DigitalTown’s CEO, who joined the company in May 2015, has led the development and launch of the new platform. Mr. Monster explained:
“The opportunity for niche online communities is massive. Facebook and others have inspired a generation that is willing to create and share content. Craigslist, PayPal, and eBay and others have inspired a generation that is willing to transact online. DigitalTown aims to bring together these separated experiences into a cohesive, safe and engaging user experience — a Digital Town if you will — where members can connect, share, and transact in a trusted online community.”
Visitors can explore the network, create their own communities, and explore advertising opportunities across the network, by visiting DigitalTown.com.
DigitalTown, Inc. powers vibrant online communities that unite people with shared interests with content, community, and commerce. The Company operates a national network of high school community portals that centers around sports and club activities. For more information, please visit www.digitaltown.com.