Social media is undergoing an identity crisis. After numerous public embarrassments surrounding fake news, technology addiction, and most recently, privacy concerns highlighted by the loss of 50 million user’s personal information to organizations like Cambridge Analytica, users have had enough.
In the court of public opinion, Facebook and other social media platforms are viewed in a negative light due to such scandals.
But long before these concerns reached a boiling point, consumers had a much less detrimental, but equally valid reason for developing disdain for these platforms: Ad fatigue.
Over the course of its existence, Facebook has become flooded with ads. This was even acknowledged by the company’s CEO in a post that informed audiences of an upcoming algorithm change:
“. . . recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content — posts from businesses, brands and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other. . .”
Facebook has lost 2.8 million users in the past year; and the vibe moving forward doesn’t point to ‘optimistic.’
Due to Facebook’s negligible privacy practices and ad revenue gluttony, digital consumers are increasingly turning to niche social media platforms to fuel their digital connections.
There are a plethora of niche social networks and most cater to smaller, yet highly passionate and vocal consumers, united by specific topics or locations.
While the major social networks shouldn’t be wholly abandoned in favor of a niche-centric marketing strategy, to build a loyal, trusting, and more refined audience, brands should seriously consider a deep dive into such platforms.
Niche Social Networks Gain Popularity
With all the dissenting press surrounding the behemoth social networks, new opportunities are unfolding. Because of this new sense of urgent distrust, consumers are flocking to smaller networks that feature a more intimate setting.
This has given rise to a variety of networks such as Untappd which specializes in beer, the paranormal-focused Supernatural Connections, the family-oriented Life Cake, and board-driven sites like Capsure.
Sites like Capsure are appealing because they offer an ad-free platform that focuses on enabling users to create genuine connections. Capsure makes it possible to share personal moments in private with family and friends using photos, audio and video. Specific boards can be shared with all a user’s followers or only a select group. The company also donates a portion of its revenue to the Alzheimer’s Association to help prevent memory loss.
This is the direction social media is headed; back to where it came from. These sorts of platforms create intimate environments geared towards private connections within a user’s network of friends and family.
Considering the focus on real-life relationships, brands need to seriously rethink their social media efforts. Here are some of the ways businesses can utilize niche networks to their advantage.
Consider Unlikely Niches
Too often, brands try to only target groups that are directly related to their offerings. With niche social media, it’s wise to think outside the box.
Say, for instance, that your brand offers a mindfulness meditation app. Clearly you will want to target platforms geared towards meditation. Take that to the next logical step and look at yoga communities, martial arts sites, platforms focused on plant-medicines, psychology circles, neurology networks and similarly related audiences.
Additionally, you might want to consider looking at sites focused on one of your business’s core values such as philanthropy or innovation.
The simplest method to finding such groups is to search Google using the following query:
Find Sites with the Right Demographic
To formulate an effective strategy, you need to know where your audience lives, and therefore align your efforts with networks that tout the correct audience demographics for your brand.
While certain tools for uncovering this information such as Quantcast are no longer available, there are still a variety of methods for obtaining this data.
Firstly, consider turning to Alexa for help. While you likely will need to spring for one of the paid packages, it’s a small price to pay for the value you will gain. A good amount of demographic data can also be harvested using Google Analytics, however, some find this route questionable. You can also try to reach out to the site directly for this info as many networks publish it publicly.
Become a Master Storyteller
Storytelling is one of the most powerful artforms and communication tools available to humans. When a business employs this gift in a crafty way, it enables brands to build awareness, recognition and meaning.
When speaking to niche social media networks, storytelling is paramount as this can forge a community around a business’s identity and offerings. Before launching into your brand’s ethos, however, make sure that you have sufficiently studied and understand the community’s tone, norms and values to provoke the most positive response.
Fail to master this and you risk being labeled as spam or an unwanted intruder. So this strategy can have some unfavorable ramifications if not approached properly.
Alter Your KPIs
When brands engage in social media efforts, few care about anything outside the normal metrics: Followers, likes, shares, clicks, conversions.
Take a moment to step away from all of that and focus more on building loyalty and word-of-mouth for your brand. While these sorts of metrics are much harder to quantify than retweets, this is crucial in building a sustainable business.
Instead of focusing on driving the most clicks, determine the number of repeat visitors driven from these specialized destinations. Use social listening tools to see if your message is resulting in others sharing your story.
Sometimes, the unquantifiable measurement of loyalty is much more valuable than direct conversions.
Major social networks reach broad — and disenchanted — audiences. Seek out passionate communities on the thousands of niche social networks that cater to specialized groups of vocal advocates and this might be the tactic to take you from mediocre to mind-blowing success.
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This article, "The Truth about Niche Social Networks and Why Your Business May Need Them" was first published on Small Business Trends