A reach mentality has focused marketers' attention and investment on the biggest social networks out there. More than 1 billion monthly active users makes Facebook a prime opportunity. Twitter is all over TV and has great awareness. And we're constantly reading about the power of Pinterest for driving users to retailer websites. These are all incredible platforms, but what about Untappd, Nextdoor or even ParentsConnect?
The social web is rich with countless niche networks like these that are devoted to a passion or single segment of the population. They don’t have massive numbers, but they offer significant benefits and reasons for marketers to pay attention.
Social media behaviors are diversifying. Intrusive advertising and platform saturation have led many, particularly Millennials, to spend less time on the most popular social platforms. Instead, Millennials have adopted a diverse social behavior that includes being present and active across multiple social networks and experimenting with new, niche ones, as shown by the rapid growth of Snapchat, WhatsApp and Whisper.
Niche networks concentrate the right people. User numbers are often the primary focus when developing a brand’s social media marketing plan, so instead of going after the right people, the focus skews toward going after as many people as possible and obsessing over ‘likes,’ followers and views, all of which mean nothing if they don’t represent the right people. That’s not the case with niche networks made up of users focused on a shared passion. McDonald’s leveraged Snapchat to tap into its Millennial user base and generate conversation around the launch its new Bacon Clubhouse Sandwich.
Niche networks offer rich insights from passionate users. Niche networks are made up of the same people caring about the same topics, which means they’re more vocal about a topic than they might be on a platform like Facebook. On niche platforms, users find themselves among like-minded individuals, so they feel comfortable getting excited about a topic, which creates an opportunity for brand messages to have greater resonance and an even greater opportunity to gain insights from what is essentially an online focus group of people passionate about a particular category. Home brands like IKEA have brought this approach to Houzz in an effort to tap into DIYers, contractors and homeowners.
Niche networks are uncluttered and less competitive. The mass social networks are only getting more crowded. 64% of advertisers plan to increase their Facebook investments this year, and 67% plan to do the same on Twitter. News Feeds are crowded. Facebook users have the potential to see as many as 15,000 stories from friends, family and brands in their News Feeds each time they log in. Standing out is an ever-increasing challenge for any brand, but that’s not the case within uncluttered, niche communities.
Niche networks play a role in an overarching social strategy. Niche networks don’t replace mass networks like Facebook, but they can be used to create relationships with category experts (or influencers) who can then carry a brand’s message to non-experts. They also offer fertile ground to test new ideas and generate content that can be shared across multiple social and non-social platforms.
Niche networks won't be for every brand out there, but there are many reasons to not dismiss the and instead embrace them as a viable opportunity.