Throughout this book, I discuss social influence marketing on the major social platforms: what you can do on the paid side of the equation as well as on the unpaid or earned media end. Still, much more social activity is happening online beyond Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, and Twitter that needs to be accounted for. Industry insiders believe that in the coming years, greater fragmentation will happen as user-generated content flows more seamlessly between the major social platforms and the rest of the Internet.
Exploring the Niche Social Networks
So what are these niche social platforms that I’m talking about? Table 2-1 outlines the top 20 social networking platforms as of February 2009 from ComScore, a marketing research company. Keep in mind that although this categorization uses the term social networks very loosely, it still excludes user-generated content (UGC) video sites such as YouTube and community platforms like Ning
Marketing via Niche Networks and Online Influencers
Arguably, by studying the monthly unique visitors and growth rates of these social platforms, you may wonder whether calling them niche platforms is even appropriate. They still have millions of unique visitors each month and, barring few exceptions, appear to be growing at a relatively brisk pace. For many people, these social platforms are more valuable and personal than MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.
Finding the Right Social Platforms
If I were to start a new business, it would probably be a business that, through some magic formula, would tell marketers which social platforms their specific customers are spending most of their time in a given month, with guidance on how to reach them. I would probably make a fortune for the simple reason that it’s hard to find these customers beyond the major social platforms.
It’s easy to learn the paid and unpaid marketing solutions on the second rung of social platforms. (They’re listed in What about the rest? How do you as a marketer beginning to apply social influence marketing know where your customers are spending their time? Making your job even harder is the fact that you can’t just focus on the social networks: You need to look more broadly at the video Web sites, the mainstream media Web sites, the blogger networks, and social media publishing tools that are all beginning to incorporate social functionality.
Understand your customers
To discover where your customers are spending their time online, you need to begin by understanding them better. Depending upon their socio-technographics (which means how your customers engage on the social platforms), they might be spending a lot of time on the major social platforms or very little. The first step in understanding them is to determine their participation levels in the social Web.