In an age of pervasive digital entrepreneurism, there’s a social network for practically every subculture under the sun. Take Codias, for example — it’s a network for political conservatives. There’s Sermo, a forum for doctors. And HoffSpace is an internet fan club dedicated to television star David HasselHoff. But one of the fastest-growing niche networks has nothing to do with politics, profession, or celebrity obsession. It’s called Fishbrain, and it’s a social network for fishermen.
Fishbrain CEO Johan Attby came up with the idea in 2011, after he sold his first Silicon Valley startup in 2011. “I though, you can slide social networks in a different direction,” he told Digital Trends. “In general, networks like Facebook and Instagram are sharing platforms — they’re super broad. And when you’re posting about your passion, it’s irrelevant to many of your friends.”
With the spark of an idea in mind, Attby began researching the world’s most popular hobbies. One of the largest by spending, he discovered, was fishing. Fishmen — anglers, as they’re colloquially known — catch as many as 60 million fish each year. It’s an industry is worth a collective $48 billion — more than double that of the $18 billion streaming music industry, Attby pointed out
And it’s almost tailor-made for social media. Anglers like to share pictures of their catches with others, Attby said, because few keep the fish. “They always take a picture, and we provide a place to share it.” Fishbrain users can tap built-in publishing tools to share their proudest moments. A new feature launching today will allow Fishbrain users to post and share videos, which they can tag to the location of their catch.
It’s all about personalization. When you sign up for a Fishbrain, you’re asked to specify your favorite species of fish and your preferred method of fishing (e.g., fly fishing), among other specifics. Then, Fishbrain’s algorithms recommended content that matches your criteria — sort of like Facebook’s News Feed. “We try to present the most valuable content to you,” Attby told us. “Same with videos: We try to serve you the most relevant videos. If you specify that you like fly fishing, videos tagged with ‘fly fishing’ will be most likely to appear in your feed.”
The social network tags every catch logged by its millions of users with data like species, weight, lure, and 15 different weather parameters.
Fishbrain offers another, more intimate level of personalization. When you sign up, you’ll be automatically added to a group: Fishbrain Counties, or chat rooms tied to geographic locations. Group members can share real-catch data, track species, and see what others are catching. “You’ll see if there’s a group that wants to go fishing, and learn about the best lakes,” said Attby. “You can subscribe to as many counties as you’d like.”
Lastly, there’s the predictive element. Anglers are eager to get a lay of unfamiliar land, Attby said, and that’s where Fishbrain’s data points come in. The social network tags every catch logged by its millions of users with data like species, weight, lure, and 15 different weather parameters. Then, it applies machine learning to that data in order to provide what Atterby calls a Fish Forecast: A graph that shows peak fishing times for specific streams, beaches, and other prime locations. “That’s the beauty of going after a [niche] — you can build a specific design or user experience around it,” said Attby.
It appears to be a winning strategy. Fishbrain’s membership now numbers north of 3 million, and the network’s users have logged more than 1.9 million catches across 249 counties. They logged 1.1 million last year alone — three times the previous year.
“Our users are eager to show off their entire fishing experience — not just the catch at the end,” Attby said. “Thousands of anglers share their fishing videos [and] pictures on Facebook and YouTube, and now that they can share [them] within a social community devoted specifically to fishing, we know it will spur along conversation as well as a competitive spirit within the Fishbrain community.”
Fishbrain is available for free from the App Store and Google Play Store.