The Rise of Niche Networks



The following is a preview of a webinar I’ll be hosting with my agency, Powerhouse Factories, called The Rise of Niche Networks. The free webinar is on August 15, 2012 from 11:00 am to 11:45 am (EST). You can register here.

We love the headlines that let us know a social network just surpassed a user number threshold. It’s exciting to see the reach social media has, but the numbers cloud the vision of many marketers. They appeal to our training over the past few decades to maximize reach, but the opportunity with social networks isn’t to reach as many people as possible. It’s to tap into people’s passions.

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and others can be considered to be mass social networks. They have millions of users that cover every demographic and every interest. These platforms are important, but marketers looking at them often overlook the opportunity with niche social networks, specialized online communities devoted to a passion or single segment of the general population.

Niche social networks get their start in counter-culture being devoted to a specific segment. Some use their devoted, cult following to become mass networks. Facebook grew with college students. Twitter grew with tech enthusiasts. They’re coming back and growing in popularity.

Niche Going Mainstream

Users are turning toward more niche social experiences that are closer to their interests and offer them to be more expressive. This explains why Pinterest grew from 400,000 users in May 2011 to 11.7 million in January 2012 or how Tumblr went from 6.9 million users in November 2010 to 15.9 million in October 2011.

Online behavior is changing. Users aren’t completely satisfied with mass social networks. In fact, they’re dissatisfied.

Users are evolving, but most marketers aren’t.  They look past niche social networks to continue marketing on Facebook, Twitter and the most common social networks.

Mass social networks certainly play an integral role for many brands, but they shouldn’t be used as a reason to overlook other opportunities.

The Niche Opportunity

The opportunity with niche isn’t the number of users. It’s the concentration of users. When you dig into Facebook’s 951 million users, you find that your brand is actually going after a very small segment of that larger user base. However, there’s likely a niche social network that is completely concentrated with customers and potential customers.

That concentrated user base is also more focused on a single topic or subject. Facebook and other mass networks require users to shift their focus from one thing to another. Niche social networks allow users to focus on a single topic, which means a greater opportunity for brands to leverage user passion and focus.

There’s no reason not to follow this trend because there’s tremendous opportunity. Mass social networks are crowded, and niche networks allow brands to stand out in a very crowded landscape, target by passion, add diversity to social media platform strategies and tap into their most passionate customers or potential customers.

Tell us how you see this trend?