Alternatives to the Social Media Mainstream

Facebook. Twitter. LinkedIn. Google+. The fantastic four of social media. With a combined active user base of over 1.5 billion people (overlaps notwithstanding), it is no wonder that online marketers flock to these sites. In the eyes of businesses, that’s over 1.5 billion consumers.

lead-generationBut how many of this 1.5 billion are qualified leads? Depending on your business, chances are this percentage is relatively minor. While even a small percentage of such a large population is nothing to scoff at, the challenge comes in capturing the attention of this population, creating engagement, and building relationships that can turn into qualified leads. While this is definitely an achievable goal, it often requires pricey ad spends and an already vibrant offline consumer-base, and even then it is sometimes difficult to hit the target. For new, small, or lesser-known businesses, reaching this goal can become daunting.

But what if there was a social network where all the active users were already interested in your product or service?

Enter the ‘niche social network’ – online communities purposefully built around a certain topic or focus, ranging anywhere from food to fashion to fencing. For users, it allows for quick and easy interactions with other individuals who have similar interests and hobbies. They no longer have to sift through content and ads that are of no relevance to them, which can quickly become frustrating.

For marketers, these alternative online communities offer a valuable resource for a variety reasons. For starters, audience segmentation has already been taken care of. Every user will at the very least have a minor interest in the focus of the particular social network. This means that the individuals a business has the opportunity to interact with will most likely be both marketing and sales qualified.

But remember…

Niche-vs-dominant1. Niche sites are not an invitation for relentless self-promotion. The same social media marketing best practices that apply on the “big name” networks apply on niche sites as well.

2. Don’t be a poser – listen to your audience, speak their language, know who the influencers are, understand how their interact, and share useful information and resources. Your goal is to build relationships that can eventfully be nurtured through both the marketing and sales funnels.

3. The world of social media does not begin and end with the big players. We’ve already seen the success of some niche networks, such as Pinterest and Instagram. While not every niche site will reach the same level or popularity, this does not mean success cannot be had on lesser-known networks. Again, it is the quality of the people on the site that is more important than quantity. It is not about how many people you’re reaching, but whom – it is about depth over breadth.

Let’s take a look at some valuable niche sites that your business is missing out on:

Literary Focus

Goodreads

Goodreads2

As its name suggests, Goodreads is about finding and sharing good books. With a multitude of groups, forums, book clubs, and quizzes, it is a site that makes for great user interaction.
How to Market on Goodreads

Wattpad

Wattpad

Wattpad is a unique platform. It allows users to both read and write. Users can submit stories to the site in installments, and readers can follow their favourite writers, getting notifications when a new installment is posted. Users can share what they’re reading and comment on the writer’s work. It really is a site geared toward building relationships among readers and writers.
How to Market on Wattpad

Scribd

Scribd

Currently the world’s largest digital library, Scribd is a platform where users can discover, publish, and read a variety of materials. These materials are not limited to books, but other resources as well such as brochures, comics, guides, magazines, presentations, and menus, just to name a few. It promises to maximize distribution through search engines and the social web.
How to Market on Scribd

Health and Fitness

 

Fitocracy

Fitocracy

Fitocracy is an online community of individuals striving for their own personal fitness goals. The idea, however, is that users can support and encourage one other on their respective journeys. Users can set up personal challenges, and are rewarded with ‘achievements badges’ upon completion. This game-like feature aims at making working out fun and interactive.
Fitocracy Marketing Case Study

Athlinks

Athlinks

Athlinks is a social network geared at athletes. It allows them to compare stats and interact with one another. One of the main features of the site is that it highlights local races and athletic events that users can attend and meet other athletes. It not only focuses on promoting interaction on the website, but in real life as well.
How to Market on Athlinks

Foodies

Foodspotting

Foodspotting

Instead recommending what are considered to be the “best restaurants”, Foodspotting recommends the best dishes, and then tells you where to get it. Users can follow one another and interact by rating and ranking dishes from restaurants in their area. It is a great platform for discovering great food and new places to eat.
How to Market on Foodspotting

Fitocracy Marketing Case Study

FOHBOH

Fohboh

FOHBOH (short for “Front of House”, “Back of House”) is a B2B network for those in the restaurant industry. It is an online community of restaurant business professionals that allows for interaction and exchanges of ideas.
How to Market on FOHBOH

Business Networking

Biznik

Biznik

A self proclaimed social network that “doesn’t suck”, Biznik is all about connecting entrepreneurs – from freelancers to the self-employed. It is a space to share ideas, create discussion, and network with like-minded individuals.
How to Market/Network on Biznik

Meetup

Meetup

Meetup is a great resource for everyone in any industry who is looking to plan events or just simply do a lot of networking. For those planning events, Meetup shares your event with users who are both in the area and have expressed an interest in the topic of the event. This can be anything from pets, to film, to health, to marketing – almost any kind of event can be promoted on meetup. For attendees, event suggestions are organized by topic as well as location, making finding events both easy and relevant.
How to Market on Meetup

Going Green

Care2

Care2

Care2 is a social network all about being environmentally conscious. It promotes the benefits of an eco-friendly lifestyle and helps educate users about all things “green”. Having an awareness of our environmental impact is a recent trend not only among individuals but also businesses as well, and this site caters to developing this consciousness.
How to Market on Care2

Something for the Boys

Gentlemint

Gentlemint

Often referred to as the “Pinterest for men”, Gentlemint does in fact take on a similar format to this much-loved image sharing platform. Users can share images that are able to be commented on and re-shared. A more male-oriented platform, the images shared on this site tend to revolve around cars, booze, and tools, making it a prime space for businesses that cater to those interests. Manteresting and Dudepins offer similar services.
How to Market on Gentlemint

This is just the tip of a vast niche marketing iceberg. If an interest exists, it is almost certain that there is a social network based around it. In addition to those mentioned in this post, there are sites aimed at animal lovers, baby boomers, expectant mothers, artists, knitters, and the list goes on…and on…and on.

However, as with any such platform, some degree of creativity is needed to truly harness the marketing opportunities that these sites offer, but if executed wisely, the efforts will be worthwhile. And added benefit is that barriers to entry are quite low on many niche sites. Less competition means more visibility for your brand. By growing as the site grows, your company will be able to establish itself as a key player and an industry leader.

While the marketing strategies employed on each site will vary, the golden rule remains: participate, don’t promote!

About the Author: Myia Kelly is a Marketing and PR Assistant at Powered by Search, specializing in social media, media relations, and content marketing.

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