Social media is an ever-evolving beast. Not only are new social media networks popping up all over the place each and every day (think ello and TSU), but the rules are changing all the time as well. Ad free networks. Networks with built in currency where invites and friends determine your wealth and worth. Networks of merely one word messages and images for correspondence.
Things are a bit different than they used to be; it’s no longer 2004 and the only major player in social media outreach is Facebook. So what about this blue giant? What about our good friend Facebook for finding great audiences to engage with? What about Twitter? Or one of the newer kids on the block, Google +? All these networks have proven as useful channels for communication, idea sharing, entertainment and much more. They’ve proven themselves to consumers and marketers: these are places where users aren’t afraid to part with their information at the cost of always-on human interaction, no matter how alone at home you might be or how removed you are from society. Depending on where you live, these networks reign as law, standing the test of time.
The Popular Networks
Today, we might call these the ideal networks to find your ideal audience; your perfect place to find audiences for your social media marketing campaigns. But you know what? There’s something wrong with this state of mind, something I find a bit stale. Not the networks themselves, perhaps, but how we classify them and always rely on their popularity and reach. When you think ‘social media marketing‘, your mind probably flickers to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or a few other networks you hear about day-to-day, week-to-week. Is that good behaviour? Should we envision these communities as the internet’s most essential forums for communication and identity?
You could call this a rant, but I’m tired of hearing that the power of social media is limited to the most popular social networks. As a business, some will say you can only pick Facebook, Twitter or whatever other mainstream network that compliments your business and its presentation online. Don’t think for yourself; do what everyone else is doing. Force yourself to use a Facebook, even with it’s declining reach and business adoption.
Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
So what’s the truth? If these networks aren’t the only ones, where else should you look to engage and leverage audiences interested in your product or services?
You might not like the answer, but it’s wherever your audience lives.
Where Your Audience Resides
You don’t like the answer, and I get it, but it’s the truth and I’m not going to attempt to pull the wool over your eyes. A community is a coming together of people from countless backgrounds and experiences, although many individuals share qualities, likes, desires and many other things with other members of such communities. It’s what makes them tick; a gaming community around multi-player covert shooters is going to be different than one that frequents Twilight fanfics (hey, there’s very likely overlap between the two). They’re different, but similar.
You’re not going to find the heart of these communities in the same place; you’re not going to find the most passionate, most invested users all together on Facebook or Twitter. In a matter of speaking, it’s too cluttered and ‘mainstream’. Twitch, for example, serves as a platform for competitive game streaming, and continues to blossom into successful gaming community. Twitch may be more mainstream than other game oriented networks, sure, but they’re extremely passionate because they have a network of more passionate people who have invested their time away from popular networks.
I’m aware there are thousands of groups and lists out there on Facebook and Twitter respective, places where you can find influencers and thought leaders in every possible niche; on Facebook, for example, users are given the option of groups. However, the problem lies not in the strength of these platforms technically: it lies within them at a fundamental level. Because networks like Facebook are a place for everyone to interact and cut their own piece of the pie, we see less…how should it be phrased? Isolated communities? Less distinction? When we build a giant condo with millions of rooms, it gets crowded; you know that next door you’re going to find anime enthusiasts to…well, just about anything. Not that it deters you, but what about those ‘cool kid’ clubs? Where else could you feel different and understood?
I’m not promoting a network in particular, nor am I discrediting the typical social media campaign organizer or manager and calling them lazy. No, what I’m attempting to do is trying to get us interested in new ideas, new communities and taking the time understanding your audience. And I mean your actual audience, not the one you think exists where you think it does.
Think beyond the typical. Do your research. Don’t be afraid to fail if these communities don’t happen to reciprocate; refine your strategy and take the next step. That’s how marketers have struck it rich, and that’s how they’ve succeeded.