Leslie Campisi

Niche Networks: The Future of Social Networking

By: Leslie Campisi | March 27, 2014 | 

Niche NetworksBy Leslie Campisi

In case you missed it, six months of headlines have declared Facebook all but dead and buried for brands and marketers.

There’s truth to the claim – while Facebook is hardly a ghost town, young people have begun migrating to more intimate messaging services such as Snapchat.

While we’re at it, let’s mention the fact that the growth rate of Twitter has been slowing down considerably, and that any list of active users will contain a far greater percentage of marketers, journalists, and PR professionals (aka people not in your target audience) than the public at large.

As these established networks stagnate and the social world continues to splinter, the challenge in making sure your well-crafted message reaches the most receptive audience only grows more intense.

For many, the next step lies in the rise of niche networks.

Niche Networks: What are They?

Good question.

The concept isn’t a new one, but its definition has changed quite quickly: A 2011 Mashable list of top niche networks lists Instagram, Pinterest, and Foodspotting, two of which have already gone on to (much) bigger and better things.

Today, a quick Google search for your area of interest will, in all likelihood, reveal a corresponding community.

Are you an ornithologist? Connect with your friends (feathered and otherwise) at BirdPost.

A craft beer lover? Look for tastings and suggestions at Pintley.

A running/biking fanatic? Sign up for Strava.

An ambitious designer? Share your work on Dribbble.

A recovering goth/industrial addict? You get the point (but try Vampire Freaks if you’re curious).

The potential value of less specific networks such as Social MomsDogster/Catster, and Care2, or the “largest online community for healthy and green living, human rights and animal welfare,” may be even greater.

We probably don’t need to tell you that such niches double as potential gold mines for marketers.

Digging in to Find the Value

How can we better serve our clients’ needs by tapping into these niche networks and getting closer to their audiences?

Some networks make the answers obvious. GoodReads encourages publishers to schedule online Q&A sessions with popular writers and sends members email notices for events involving authors they’ve read. The GoodReads model works because it’s transparent, and it delivers real value to both user and sponsor.

Hyper-specific B2B networks such as Active Rain, a community run by – and for – real estate professionals, mirror LinkedIn groups by hosting conversations on topics relevant to the discipline. What better place to mention your client’s real estate locator app than the community’s “technology and tools” blog?

In order to derive value from these groups, we must gain entry into the communities in a transparent, trustworthy way. Behind each keyboard must be a real flesh-and-blood human who understands the interests of the network.

What experiences have you had working within niche networks?

This piece comes from research performed for the 2014 edition of the firm’s annual Digital Trends Report.

About Leslie Campisi

Leslie Campisi is Managing Director, US, at Hotwire, a global communications consultancy serving technology companies and digitally enabled brands, where she oversees operations in New York City and San Francisco.

  • This is such a great post! One of my biggest pet peeves, especially when it comes to social is that people tend to default to the same ole strategies, same ole places, same ole tactics. But as you point out so well there is a world of opportunity out there just waiting to be found! Niche marketing is only going to become more powerful as the world becomes more crowded with multimedia marketing messages at every turn!

  • “Behind each keyboard must be a real flesh-and-blood human who understands the interests of the network.” << I think that point is KEY. If I were to just drop into a real estate professionals network without really spending time getting to know the industry, it would be a waste of my time and my client’s (not to mention the people who I interacted with on the network).

  • I was just shocked to hear how many niche networks there are out there! How is it that I’ve never heard of most of these??

  • Great points Leslie!
    Still trying to figure out Instagram. I have 24 hours each day and am so busy on other networks, but I see massive growth potential with all my travel pictures and home business branding. I need to dig deeper. Thanks for the kick in the tush 😉

  • lesliecampisi

    RyanKBiddulph  Thanks, Ryan! It’s true, there’s only so much time in the day. You definitely need to consider your overall “portfolio” of social presences, and how you’ll make time to juggle another, before diving in. I love Instagram though. (Probably because there are so many dogs on it 😉

  • lesliecampisi

    Eleanor Pierce  Exactly. This is where the client-agency bond has to be really strong. I find it often makes sense for the agency to step out of direct engagement and work more as a coach on the sidelines.

  • lesliecampisi

    LauraPetrolino  Thanks, Laura! Yes, much fun (and creativity) awaits 🙂

  • Jason Roberts

    I’ve used Pintley before, but I’ve never really been a fan. This is mainly because I’ve been an Untappd ( think Foursquare for beer ) user since Dec 2010. Most breweries are missing huge opportunities to market to their core audience on the app. However, Sixpoint (Brooklyn, NY) knocks it out of the park with their presence on the app. While I was in Chicago last week, I had their their fantastic beer called Resin. The Sixpoint account toasted my check-in. I’ve seen them do this to check-ins on other accounts too.

  • Arment Dietrich, Inc.

    I’ve seen that one around – a bunch of my beer-nerd friends use it – do use it when you’re shopping for beer, or is it mostly to compare notes with others on what you like/don’t like? ^ep

  • Jason Roberts

    I use it to locate beer/bars in other cities and to encourage me to try new beers and not get stuck in a rut. I recently passed the 500 unique beer mark while I was in Chicago. I have local friends that have already topped 2,500.

  • Arment Dietrich, Inc.

    It definitely falls into the category of things that are both good for the sector at large (craft beer) and good for the individual brewers who participate. ^ep

  • Jason Roberts

    Untappd allows the breweries to claim their brewery on the app. You would be surprised to see the amount of breweries that haven’t done this yet.

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