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Marketing beyond Facebook: How niche should your social strategy go?

By Jillian Ney

April 23, 2013 | 6 min read

Jillian Ney, head of research at Kiltr and currently Scotland's only doctor of social media, urges marketers and social media professionals to expand their horizons beyond the obvious sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Dr Jillian Ney

I don’t know about you but I’ve been reading a lot about the demise of Facebook recently - well that and big data. I’m not surprised that Facebook attracts so much attention but is Facebook really the holy grail of social media? Should we be that worried that the growth and interest in Facebook appears to be slowing?

Well, probably, if Facebook is your central social strategy. What about the other larger social platforms that everyone constantly discusses and advises on, where do they fit in?

We know that a social strategy should support the brands business objectives, that Facebook is the third largest country in the world, that Twitter usually has a significant share of social voice, that Pintrest is driving sales... but does that mean that we neglect to look at the wider social landscape?

I was reading a whitepaper by Lithium on ‘why Facebook shouldn’t be the centre of your social strategy’ and thought that someone else was on the same train of thought. No such luck.

While I agree that ‘if Facebook remains the main social place where you interact with your fans, you’ll continue to have to fight to make your voice heard,’ I think Lithium fall short on advice to extend a brand's social presence.

Yes, I agree that a hub and spoke system should win out - we have been talking about this out at KILTR for a while - but we again are only hearing about big platforms where brands have to fight hard to get their voice heard.

The question is, as a social media professional, how well do you know your industry? Do you know every social platform?

Even the graphic representations of the social media landscape fall short on clearly depicting the full scope of social media. New platforms are being launched daily and it is difficult to keep up with them. They are smaller and probably niche so do they really have that much of an impact on your business, your clients' business?

They could. Clearly it depends on the brand, their target audience and how social fits into their business objectives. It will also depend on the functionality and remits of the platform itself. This latter variable may be a reason why many people or agencies shy away from niche platforms they don’t use day in and day out. It doesn’t mean that the brands customers don’t.

I recently overhead a conversation in a coffee shop. I know I shouldn’t have been listening but two ladies working in social were discussing social media and the fact that they do not have the time to find out how a certain platform (that shall remain nameless) works. WTF? It is your job!

This got me thinking, that in an industry that suffers credibility issues why are we not doing more to work with the vast number platforms out there? We have chosen to work in social so why are we following on like lemmings off a cliff with our never-ending discussions on Facebook strategy?

Are we working for the client or just going with what we know?

Even in ‘The Chicken Shop’ programme on Channel 4, a guy worked in social. I’ve never been quite so embarrassed about my profession than watching him ask why the chicken shop wasn’t on Twitter. They are on Facebook, in case you are wondering.

The word bespoke appears in a lot of material when consultants, agencies and marketers are promoting their social media prowess. Is there really anything overly bespoke about it though? In the seven years I have been researching social media I have yet to hear, first hand, recommendations being made on niche platforms. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen but when I interview people, companies and agencies the focus has been on the bigger platforms.

I know, the third largest country in the world, Facebook has numbers. But niche networks have engaged numbers around a specific topic, interests, regions. Does it not make sense to also target that engaged niche, if the brand fits within said niche, than hoping every man and his cat will follow you on Facebook?

I’m not saying don’t work with the bigger players but we need to take a more holistic view of social. Running off a share of voice analysis from social media monitoring software only plays a part in strategy development.

Yup, they have a high share of voice in some platforms but in my experience that share of voice is predominantly indirect to the brand and some community management practices are still lagging behind in capitalising on conversations away from branded social spaces.

The niche networks don’t really show up in these analyses but they are still ever present. Consumers do use them just not in the droves on the larger platforms; it does not make them any less useful. It just means we need to spend the time learning what is out there, getting creative, analysing results and adapting strategy if need be.

I’d be really interested to hear if you do work with niche platforms, recommend them to clients and the like. Maybe people have focused their interview discussion around bigger platforms because they are the ones most people know? I’ll need to go back and investigate.

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