Media Planning & Buying Social Media

The Marketing Value of Niche Social Networks

Posted by Devanshi Garg on July 26th, 2013 at 6:10 am

There is something special about like-minded individuals in a group. Thoughts are aligned. Debates are proactive, yet heated. And the smallest kernel of an idea can quickly snowball into something great. Social media takes these facts of life and expands on the value that stems from such social cohesion.

Niche social networks where groups of people sharing specific areas of interest, hobbies, products, and lifestyles are beginning to surge. As Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn serve as a massive online public square or convention, niche social networks are the digital equivalent of attending a close knit club or society celebrating unique areas of interest.

As far as marketers are concerned, niche social networks can serve as a way to increase loyalty, customer communities and brand awareness. By facilitating a hub for dedicated fans to share their stories, experiences and advice regarding the brand’s work, organizations can introduce a powerful method for understanding customers.

Defining a Niche Social Network

While Facebook and LinkedIn are vast in terms of their user base, there are strategies for assessing specific segments and communities that help zero in on niche communities. There are countless LinkedIn groups and Facebook groups dedicated to specific areas: independent musicians, IT professionals, marketers, and small business owners to name a few.

By utilizing insight derived from these niche social networks, it is possible to understand the views and attitudes of specialized individuals in pinpointed areas. For instance, involving a corporate spokesman or community manager to engage inside these niche groups will provide valuable perspective when conducting assessments of a specific demographic.

Whereas larger social networks provide access to the voice of anyone and everyone, a niche group will provide access to professional experts in their specific areas, be it homebuilders, stay at home moms, or telecommuters. Niche social networks add a laser focused element to understanding pertinent demographics for marketers.

Prioritizing Depth Over Breadth

One of the main characteristics of a niche social network, is its users who are experts in the area of interest associated with the online community. This means that content, functionality and many aspects of a site must attend to the specific needs and interests of unique niche groups of members. A social network made for independent film aficionados and one made for New York City restaurateurs, should be unique in terms of content and features.

By zeroing in on a focused group of individuals, marketers can extract higher quality insights regarding demographic data. An emerging bicycle brand in Ireland may choose to focus on GoSkyRide.com, which caters specifically to bicyclists in the UK, instead of a wider fitness social network such as Fitocracy.com, which caters to all types of sports and an international audience. Rather than usage data being extracted from a large group of varying customer types, the data is specific to certain customer segments.

Such localized data stemming from users, is critical information for localized marketing efforts such as targeted ads and geo-fencing. Demographic research benefits greatly from such timely and local data. The context of users within specific geographic segments can also shed new perspective on buying habits, attitudes and interests.

Contextual Data for Specified Segments

While niche social networks do not capture as much user data as behemoths such as Google Plus and Facebook, there is certainly a data driven element within. Usage data and analytics reports regarding niche social networks, provide quality data regarding a specified area, be it: dancing, music, cooking, dating, athletics, etc.

By zeroing in on the members who join such social networks, interaction data will be much more insightful than general usage data from a larger social network. Quality over quantity certainly applies in this case.

Data stemming from a social network for baseball fans, will provide greater insight than combing the entire Facebook site for any users (however slightly) interested in baseball. The process is similar to attending a job fair for finding new prospects, as compared to walking along a busy street to find a random candidate amongst the crowd.

As technological innovations continue to progress, it is interesting how our social connections online are becoming more personal, localized and specialized. Marketers know full well, that social media specifically, has allowed once distant and cut off brands, organizations and corporations to pursue direct and intimate interactions with customers.

Niche social networks provide a valuable opportunity to listen not only to customers, but expert customers that know what they are talking about in regards to your brand. Remember that the customer is always right, but the discerning social consumer is certainly more valuable to marketers.

4 Responses to “The Marketing Value of Niche Social Networks”

  1. Adam S. says:

    Devanshi - Nice post and certainly timely. We're also seeing the emergence of niche social networks, what we call vertical networks, emerge across a variety of industries. In addition to the ones you listed, a few other examples include ResearchGate (Scientists), Edmodo (Education), Wave (Finance), and Spiceworks (IT).

    Niche or vertical networks have a few things in common - large, highly targeted user bases, incredibly deep and rich content that helps individuals do their jobs, and engagement that, on average, is much higher than you'd find on a mainstream social network. These networks not only offer great opportunities for their user bases (typically for free) but also give marketers, social strategists, PR, demand-gen managers, etc the chance to reach millions of potential customers in one place. We're even seeing tech start-ups building their first products, messaging platforms, etc with the network's help...product dev via the crowd.

    Great post. Look forward to reading more.

    Adam Schaeffer
    Spiceworks

  2. "By zeroing in on a focused group of individuals, marketers can extract higher quality insights regarding demographic data. "

    A smaller sample size but not be "statistically relevant" but it could be the best way to understand your audience like never before. You want to niche it down a bit so you get a direct line right into the hearts and minds of your customer.

  3. John says:

    I have been a Community Manager for about 4 years now and niche social networking is just starting to appeal to the masses. I believe it is part of the evolution of the web and will now become much more popular. I tell my friends often when explaining what I do that I like roses but I don't want to share it with my high school football coach. Looking forward to more comments here about the subject.

    jm

  4. Devanshi.. It is interesting because in the very early days of social networks.. there were actually niche social networks popping up for everything under the sun. Different companies offered free or paid services to run your own network through their technology. It was actually the rise of the Super Social Networks that put many of those sites out of existence. It would be interesting to see more of those emerge today though again perhaps more resilient and able to survive.

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