New social networks are popping up on a regular basis, and the fact that these specialized communities don't have Facebook's 800 million users doesn't necessarily mean they aren't great places for brands to be. In many cases, brands are adopting niche social networks based on the quality of interactions as opposed to broad-based reach – and are reaping the benefits.
Some of the rising social networks include Pinterest, Houzz, Tumblr, Instagram, GetGlue, IntoNow, and PlayUp. Each of these networks courts a different demographic and audience, and each offers unique ways to share content like photos, links, and comments.
But brands shouldn’t rush to create pages or advertise on every social network, even if the audience seems like a perfect fit. Having an outpost on myriad niche networks is great for SEO and making a web “land grab”, but to take full advantage of focused social networks, it pays to create specific engagement programs for each community.
Before taking the plunge on smaller social networks, brand marketers should ask five key questions.
1. Are members of at least one of our target audiences there?
Do a bit of research and make sure your target audiences are represented on the social network. When your goal is to engage with potential and current customers, the quality and focus of the social network’s members are critical.
2. How much time and resources will we direct toward this new community?
Think about how much time you’ll need to engage with a new community. Remember that connecting with a new community means building out your brand’s page/presence, as well as daily community management tasks.
Estimate that it'll take between 10-12 hours to create new assets, craft messaging specific to the channel, and deploy the new presence. Ongoing community management will vary depending on how active you want to be on the new network.
3. How will we use this new channel?
Will you use your presence on a new social network to promote one aspect of your business? Maybe one product? Will the network be a place where you ask for product feedback or for consumers to take part in the product development cycle?
Instead, maybe you’ll use the new social channel to build your brand reach in a global way. With broad-based communities like Pinterest, brands are simply showcasing their brand voice through images and ideas – bringing users closer to the brand.
4. What does success look like for us in this channel?
Setting specific engagement goals for each social network is critical. By setting short-term, growth-related goals at the onset, you can more easily manage for success.
Remember, these are new communities and you likely won't see huge brand or sales impact right away. As the community grows and matures, so should your metrics and goals. Map out specific goals for engagement, user actions, sharing metrics, etc.
5. Where will this channel be in two years?
There are plenty of social media futurists out there, but no one knows for sure if a social network will stick around in consumer’s hearts and minds for the long haul.
Take the time to map out which features you hope the channel will add in the next two years, such as new functionalities, enhancements to usability, and new marketing and advertising methods just for brands. The communities may never deliver these, but a “wish list” will help you assess whether the network is delivering the features that matter to your brand now and down the line.
The newest social networks always look shiny and new, but the real goal for brands is to participate in niche communities to reach specific, engaged audiences. By asking these few key questions before you engage with a new network, you can bring a little strategy and structure to your social marketing strategy.