Social media is still relatively in its infancy, and in its early years we’ve seen many battles to be the number 1 social network of choice. Currently Facebook is leading this race with Twitter chasing behind. However, what happened to those social networks that failed to stay at the top, or even failed to catch on?

It doesn’t feel like that long ago when the likes of MySpace and Friendster were enjoying their limelight, and MySpace is the perfect example of fickle Internet users flitting from each site claiming them to be the ‘next big thing.' Once users find their new social haven, the preceding monster social sites are forgotten, and the active user numbers are left dwindling down.

The reality of gaining success as a social media big hitter is exposed by examples of companies getting it completely wrong with bad planning, foresight and bad luck. If they’re really unlucky – this might be all three!

We’ve taken a look at the social media trends that have fallen by the wayside – those that never quite got going and the ones that tasted success yet still managed to collapse in the face of competitors.

iTunes Ping

iTunes Ping

Launched: September 2010 - Finished: September 2012

Even successful tech moguls can get social very wrong. This attempt of a social media music network from Apple’s Steve Jobs spectacularly failed and never really kicked off. Built into Apple’s iTunes platform, Ping was designed as a place where music fans could connect over their favourite artists.

Ping failed to grab user’s attention with its clunky platform, and cutting off integration access to major social channels. The boom of Twitter and Facebook hindered any chances Ping might’ve had as music artists and bands decided to use more traditional social media channels over Ping.

Ultimately, Ping’s demise can be attributed to the success of Facebook and Twitter combined with the fact that there was no real demand for such a platform, especially as MySpace (which previously offered this) had already sunk into oblivion.

Gowalla

 Gowella

Launched: 2009 - Finished: 2012

Gowalla was a location-based social network, where users could check into ‘spots’ in their local area. Users were able to score points by checking into venues multiple times, enabling them to win virtual prizes which could swapped or dropped on places to become a ‘Founder’.

Unfortunately for Gowalla, they launched on the same day as rival ‘Foursquare’, which turned out to be the winner of location-based networks. Despite an estimated $8 million of venture capital backing and a relaunch in a bid to differentiate itself from its major rival, it never managed to reach the same success as Foursquare.

However, it wasn’t a complete disaster as Gowalla was acquired by Facebook for undisclosed sum in December 2011.

Diaspora

 Diaspora

Launched: November 2010 - Still active

Dubbed as a Facebook rival, Disapora was created as the answer to Facebook’s much publicised privacy issues. Built on an open source social networking software, it was designed to be simple to use, whilst allowing you to control and own your personal data. It enabled you to connect Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr accounts, however it only allowed you to post updates from Diaspora. A lack of functionality to import any external news feeds ultimately made it a quiet experience.

Launched at a similar time to Google+ and looking almost identical, it struggled to beat the competition.  Google+ had substantial marketing reach and managed to create a far greater buzz around their launch – if even it turned out to be a damp squib. Other social networks boasted more impressive features and it failed to cut the mustard.

Google+

Google Plus 

Launched: June 2011 - Still active

Google described Google+ as a ‘social layer’, which incorporates Google’s multiple sites and platforms, encourages users to get interactive and share their online experiences. There was a massive hype around it’s launch with invitation-only "field tests" in June 2011 and early invites suspended due to an "insane demand" for new accounts – all this buzz seems to have amounted to little results so far, with many users calling it a ‘ghost town’.

This platform is currently fighting for dominance in the social media network war, a recent report from the Global Web Index showed that Google+ is now the second most active social media platform, so maybe it is finally making some headway? However, many have been quick to question the results’ validity, as Google now automatically creates a Google+ account for anyone using their services.  Most users seem to log on once, establish their account and then don't go back.

It appears to be popular with tech writers, SEO-ers, social media types, and generally the people that do this sort of thing for a living.  You don’t really seem to find ‘average-Joe’ on here yet – they’re still socialising on Facebook. Only time will tell if this budding niche network will turn into a Facebook killer in the future, Google+ may need to look at offering something truly unique from its counterparts.

It might currently be a trend that never took off, but it has a lot of power, so that must count for something. Google+ launch problems came from the simple issue that they created a platform that no one really wanted or really needed. If only Google had managed to acquire Twitter several years ago, they might not still be trying to break into social…

Yahoo! Buzz

Yahoo Buzz 

Launched: February 2008 - Finished: April 2011

Buzz was a community-based news article website, which seemed to borrow a lot of its ideas from the social news site, Digg. Yahoo’s Buzz combined social bookmarking and a voting system simply failed to light up the social media space at the time. Buzz fell to the wayside, as its buggy platform and lack of innovation meant that Facebook, Digg and Reddit gained much more traction with Internet users, Yahoo finally admitted defeat in 2011.

There are a plethora of new social networks being introduced every year, with some taking on the giants and others spectacularly flopping. There is always a gap in the market for something new, as technology and social trends evolve, but there are key principles that these potential networks should not ignore. The network should be constantly innovative, offering something different that is not currently available, and there needs to be a solid platform where users can engage on topics that they feel passionate about.