Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. If you ask people which social networking sites your business should be on, these are the names you'll hear. That makes sense, since these unofficial "big three" have a combined 2.8 billion accounts.
Beyond them, you might toss Google Plus, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Snapchat into the mix. Although there's nothing inherently wrong about targeting massive networking sites like these -- honestly, you need to have a presence on these platforms in 2015 and beyond -- it's challenging for a small businesses with a minuscule marketing budget to see much of a return.
It's nearly impossible to cut through the noise and carve out a niche without months and months of hard work. You pretty much have to go for it; but it's not easy. Is there a better alternative? Quite frankly: Yes.
It's a strategy that only a handful of companies are currently using, but it has massive potential for smaller niche brands and bigger businesses that are facing budget limitations.
Small Market Social Strategy
We'll call it the Small Market Social Strategy. It entails targeting smaller, newer niche networking sites that most businesses don't even know exist ... yet. By identifying and building around these sites, you enjoy three distinct advantages:
1. Get Ahead of the Pack
By building a presence on new social networking platforms, you're able to beat the rest of the pack. You can build your presence as the site scales, which will give you a distinct advantage over brands that decide to join later on. If the site ends up being a massive success, you've nudged your way into a major opportunity. If it doesn't scale into a huge network with billions of users, there's still value to be extracted.
2. Cut Through the Noise
One value is your ability to cut through the noise. Smaller-niche social networking sites are great because you can be heard more easily. If a network has only 250,000 users (as opposed to 250 million), you won't have to fight against so much of a crowd. You can do what you do best and you'll automatically stand out.
3. Reach Highly Targeted Users
The third distinct advantage of the Small Market Social Strategy is that you're able to reach a targeted group of users. These niche sites typically attract a distinct user base. If you can identify who's in that user base, and whether there's an overlap with your target market, you've identified a big opportunity. It's better to reach 100 highly targeted customers than to reach 10,000 uninterested ones.
How to Find New Social Networking Sites
The most challenging facet of this strategy is locating the right networking site(s) for your business. This will likely involve a bit of trial and error, and might make you feel like a modern Sherlock Holmes.
The internet has gotten pretty crowded, so you'll have to roll up your sleeves and get a little dirty if you want to find the good opportunities. Here are some tried and true methods:
1. Watch Your Customers
Your customers will tell you a lot. Study their habits, see what they're talking about on existing social networking platforms, and keep an eye out for anything new. If some of your customers are already flocking to a particular site, more potential customers are probably there, too.
2. Browse Quora and Other Sites
Quora can be noisy and crowded at times, but it's worthwhile. It's underutilized by most brands because it's misunderstood. Learn how to utilize Quora's search capabilities and you'll recognize that it's a great tool for discovering new trends.
3. Subscribe to the Right Resources
Finally, you need to subscribe to the best resources to stay on top of the latest news in the social networking industry. Find a handful of blogs and industry publications you like and make a habit of reading them on a daily basis.
Five Social Networking Sites to Keep an Eye On
Though you'll need to do your own research to identify sites that are particularly relevant to your brand, here are a handful of new social platforms that might come in handy:
• Capshare. This is one of the fastest-growing and most promising social platforms. Billed as an app that allows users to "Make interactive movies using your pictures, videos, text, captions, effects, and favorite music," Capshare has quietly carved a unique niche. This flexible sharing platform capitalizes on video -- which social users are absolutely crazy about right now -- and personalization. Keep an eye on this one.
• Bubbly. Looking for a unique platform? Search no further than Bubbly. It's already taking off in the UK and Asia, since a number of celebrities have signed on. Expect it to penetrate the U.S. market soon. The app lets you record, share, and discover unique audio clips. Users can alter their voice with a number of filters and then share them on the platform itself, or via email, Facebook, Twitter, or an array of other sites. The network has a lot of potential and your business could be one of the first American brands to leverage it.
• Heard. "Heard is a social exchange that matches user content to the perfect audience, whether it's 1 or 1 million," the site reads. Users join the conversation by creating posts or commenting on existing ones. Other users can then interact with the content you posted and vote their opinions up or down. With "badges," users can earn trust with their audience by verifying pertinent details regarding industry and expertise.
• Meetey. This location-based app lets users share geo-specific moments in real time. The company touts its social networking app as a combination of photo-sharing and social discovery. Think of it as Instagram meets Foursquare. The network allows users to connect and engage with people in their area, while also being able to share anonymously and consume content. Meetey offers plenty of potential for local marketing.
• Cyberdust. Backed by one of the biggest names in technology -- Mark Cuban -- Cyberdust is a social networking app that's unlike any other. It allows users to message other users utterly and 100 percent privately. It's like Snapchat for texting. Send and receive encrypted messages that disappear after they're read. Cyberdust has huge potential for pre-event marketing and sending out quick blasts. The company reports that its read rates are much higher for Cyberdust messages than tweets and Facebook posts.
Putting it All Together
If you're still trying to cut through the noise and build a presence on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, don't stop. You definitely need to focus some of your efforts on these powerful platforms.
However, don't spend all your time and energy on them. A substantial portion of your future resources should go toward carving out unique niches on smaller networking sites.
Whether on Capshare, Cyberdust, or anything in between, your brand can benefit from pursuing the Small Market Social Strategy. Not only will it help get you ahead of the pack, but it also gives you a chance to cut through the noise and reach a highly targeted market that's ready to connect and engage with your brand.
What are you waiting for?