When trying to create brand awareness through social networks, marketers tend to zero in on The Big Three: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. But what about the hundreds of niche social networks out there? I’d like to give a shout out to all the little guys.
Consider this analogy. When interviewing for my internship, I was asked the classic question, “Tell me a little about yourself.” It would be odd if I were to answer with, “Oh, I’m just like everyone else.” The point is that individuals don’t see themselves as ordinary. They’re not the same as the other 1 billion Facebook users, and it’s time for marketers to take notice.
Niche social networks operate much like larger social media communities, allowing members to interact and share ideas, just in a more specialized arena. They are highly effective for targeting exclusive audiences that share a common passion. They’re also marketing avenues that should supplement branding efforts on general social media channels.
Finding Your Niche
Choose an interest area that’s related to your company’s specialty. Chances are there are already niche social networks of dedicated fanatics who are excited about your topic. But it’s important to find the right community.
Try talking to peers, gathering ideas from employees and reading trade journals to find which networks are best for your brand. Another helpful tactic is to ask existing customers directly, perhaps by posing questions on a larger social network.
With a little research, you’ll find hundreds of micro-communities that connect people with specific shared interests. If you’re trying to market cooking supplies, you need to connect with the foodies of the world. These passionate people unite and interact on sites like Food Gawker and Foodspotting. Perhaps you’re promoting facial hair trimmers. Lucky for you, Stache Passions is a niche online dating network dedicated to connecting women with their very own mustache men.
From a marketing perspective, these micro-communities are an effective way to reach the people who are already interested in your brand’s line of work. Members of micro-communities are already familiar with your industry and are more likely to accept your message. Therefore, niche social networks naturally support a marketer’s preliminary struggles to target and segment consumers.
Speaking the Language
There are a few things to keep in mind when breaking into a niche social network. These people know their stuff. Remember, a person doesn’t join an online micro-community unless she has a passion for the subject. You’ve got to speak her language. But before you can interact, you need to take the time to understand the ways in which people interact on the site. Ask yourself:
- What topics are trending in the community?
- What’s the dominant opinion about those topics?
- Who are the thought leaders in this community?
- What sort of language is common in the community, but considered outside the mainstream?
Investigating these questions is essential to establishing yourself and your brand as a member of the group. If the community recognizes that you are a poser, your brand will be instantly scrutinized and your credibility as a group member will tank.
It’s like when that new guy shows up at a party and starts blabbing about things nobody cares about. Or that other guy who uses incorrect terminology to describe something simple. At best, the guy will be ignored with a few people snickering behind his back. At worst, he will be ostracized by the entire group.
No one wants to receive the social media equivalent of a blank stare. Developing brand loyalty is all about understanding the consumer. While reaching large audiences on general social media is important, thoughtfully engaging with dedicated individuals in niche communities will drive the right people to your website.
How do you find and engage new communities? Tell us in the comments.