Social media is a huge and hungry machine that never sleeps. It just keeps growing with every minute that passes. And with all the choices and the fast-changing nature of digital trends, it can sometimes be a little overwhelming for marketers – especially if you’re a B2B trying to work out which platforms you should be on and how you’re going to prove a return on your investment.
If you’re facing that situation then one route you may not have considered, but one that could prove very beneficial, is looking beyond the big boys and the likes of Facebook and Twitter, instead making use of smaller, more niche networks.
Finding your audience
The key question you need to answer with any marketing activity is ‘where will you find your audience’? Because that is where you need to be, making yourself visible and communicating strong content, delivered to the right people at the right time.
A little searching and digging around could reveal some very niche social media platforms that are a perfect fit for you and get you in front of your target audience. There are thousands out there, it’s all down to finding and focusing on the ones that will work for you.
A great place to start is by searching using your industry as a term along with the phrase ‘social network’. See what ideas are flagged up. As an example here is what a search may flag up for a real estate agent.
Big vs small
For B2Bs, social media can provide a channel for you to communicate directly with your target audience, while allowing you to position yourself as an expert in a specific field. This can be achieved by being communicative, helpful and providing high quality, interesting and relevant content.
The biggest returns will come when you manage to fully engage your audience – however, this may be easier said than done, particularly on the big networks where you risk your messages getting lost. That’s where small niche platforms step in. There are fewer people on them, but they tend to be a lot more targeted and so more open to conversation.
So what sites are we talking about? Here’s a list of 60 to get you started.
These sites may come in the form of a forum, a website, a networking platform or simply be a blog with an active community making comments. They will often have their own rules, particularly when it comes to promotional posts, so the first thing you need to do is find out how the platform is run.
Check what the rules are and decide what your best interaction strategy will be. See what else is being posted and shared and how people are interacting so you have a good feel for the site before you write anything. The last thing you want is to leave a bad impression by diving in too early and coming across as spam.
Keep these points in mind:
- Listen first – take the time to find out how things work
- Be genuine – always be helpful, friendly and genuinely interested. Social media is about interaction, asking questions and talking like a human being (not a sales script)
- Be relevant – only provide content that the audience will want and appreciate
- Never spam – above all avoid being salesy, as nothing will turn someone off quicker than that. Users are also likely to report anyone they see as being pushy or too promotional.For more ideas, the team at Buffer has come up with this great article on how to go about finding your social media niche, which provides some pointers on what to do when you find one.Others sites to look for:
Quora – a tool that finds answers to users’ questions and could show you in good light if you give good information to the questions relating to your industry
LinkedIn groups – provide fantastic opportunities for chat, however, it can take some time to find the ones that really work. When you do it will have been worth all the effort though because of the high-quality relationships you’ll build there.
Slack – these channels are yet another way to find a highly targeted niche audience. Most commonly used by developers and marketers, but some other channels have already formed.
Reddit – whilst being more of a news site, in the ‘subreddits’ in particular a lot of conversation can be found.
Neighbourhood sites, these spring up in many locations and are geared towards private people connecting but over time their business offering will grow too. If you’re very locally focused this might be a great option to get known.
While it can be difficult to find and target a niche B2B audience on a large platform like Facebook, it’s not impossible. Facebook holds a lot of information about their users and through their advertising platform you can target a specific audience in a very cost-effective way.
For example, did you know you can upload a file with all the email addresses of your existing customers and ask Facebook to create a lookalike audience? They typically won’t be able to match all of the email addresses to actual users, because people often use personal email addresses to log into Facebook. But even with a smaller audience, it can work quite well. They will analyse what these people have in common and find more users like them that are on their platform and to whom you can then direct your adverts.
You can also use Facebook’s ad platform to find out how big your audience is. This usually works best for consumer brands, but if you play around with the interests you will probably find a few applicable to a B2B audience as well. Twitter has similar targeting options. As with any platform, it is best to play around with them and test the results until you find a winning formula for you.
So, are niche sites the way to go?
The answer is yes and if you manage to hit on the right ones, then it could prove a very valuable marketing exercise.
For any B2B it is important to be seeking out conversations with your existing and future customers. The secret is to pinpoint where they are and then to demonstrate your expertise and knowledge. Some networks will naturally work better for companies to use as a whole, while others will work better when used by individuals representing a company – LinkedIn groups for example. Make sure that is part of your research when you’re looking at potential sites.
Remember, people do business with people and that will never change, so getting socially active in front of a strongly targeted audience can present a great opportunity.