Even if most of my current marketing efforts for clients happen on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, my personal interests and hobbies have led me to join newer, more niche networks where I spend considerable amounts of time. I often find them more relevant and socially stimulating than more “traditional networks.”
When I first signed up for Facebook, it was important to be friends with everyone, even those acquaintances in my General Biology study group (oh, college flashbacks). Ever expanding my network of friends was a top social priority, but the fact is that as social networks evolved, size started mattering a lot less than seeing relevant information from people you care about.
Another testimonial: When I signed up for Facebook, I listed that I was interested in over 200 pages: sports teams, games, TV shows, musicians, books, and the list only goes on. But what meaningful content did that bring me? It turns out, if I have an interest, it’s important to go where other people with that interest are spending time, and more and more that’s becoming niche networks. Below we’ll talk through some of today’s more intimate social experiences and comment on how brands can work themselves into those conversations.
Listening to music has become a social experience, where you can follow your friends and brand influencers, share playlists and create musical experiences through song arrangements. If you want to talk about an extremely engaged audience, the average Spotify user who uses the service across multiple devices listens to an average of 146 minutes of music per day. Paying for a subscription to Spotify, which is arguably the best social music service, allows users to bypass commercials. There are more than 10 million paying subscribers, and over 1.5 billion playlists created so far.
Just like you can do with images and video on other platforms, on Spotify you leave your mark by the record of what you listen to and how you contribute to a community of music enthusiasts. While traditional audio or banner advertising may reincarnate memories of annoying times on Pandora, brands have also joined the Spotify community to provide their followers with playlists and other forms of content marketing. It’s advertising under the guise of providing meaningful content.
In 2012, Carnival Cruise Lines used its “Carnival Cruise Tunes” branded playlist to attract almost 450 Spotify subscribers, who spent nearly 800 hours listening to the list. The average engagement on this playlist was approximately 20 minutes per session. Other brands with success stories on the platform include Herbal Essences with its “Songs You Sing in the Shower” public playlist, Victoria’s Secret with its compilation of songs and artists from its heavily publicized annual fashion shows, and fashion powerhouse Rebecca Minkoff, who creates playlists for virtually every occasion that are on-brand and for customer enjoyment. Even if you can’t swing the price-tag of an official branded playlist, there’s still a place for your brand on Spotify as a regular user.
JAWBONE FITNESS BANDS
The surge in health awareness has ushered in a trend of wearing fitness trackers, and what better way to be held accountable for exercise and sleep patterns than to join an app with your friends. The Jawbone UP24 Band is worn by the user 24 hours a day and syncs with an app on a smartphone to provide data on REM sleep, a route and count of steps taken with GPS information, and even counts of calories burned via various activities based on your weight and other demographic information you provide the service.
You can also integrate your UP24 band with IFTTT (If This Then That) to create recipes for connecting with other smart devices, including the Nest thermostat. For example, you can create if/then statements such as “When I wake up (detected by UP24), then set my house to 72 degrees (completed by Nest).
The social aspect of Jawbone fitness bands is astounding, from competing with friends to hit 10,000 steps/day goals to bringing light to important issues of energy conservation by making it cool to own a smart thermostat. Look for more integration of UP24 bands with other smart appliances to trigger tasks such as starting your coffee-maker or toaster. And know that tech nerds are heading in droves toward this complete technical integration, and the social aspect is sure to grow. How can you create a branded recipe with your app?
Whether you’re in a fantasy football league at work, reminiscing with your college buddies or talking with a random smattering of acquaintances, chances are that it occupies your mind on game days (three days a week, on Thursday, Sunday and Monday) as well as on the days preceding when you’re setting your lineup. Forget to check into the injury report or size up your opponent for the week and you are almost guaranteed to miss points. All of these facts create a network of football super fans who are extremely educated, have significant disposable income and display unparalleled levels of engagement: the exact climate you want for participating as a marketer.
While the most valuable NFL team, the Dallas Cowboys, is valued at $3.2 billion, the NFL as a whole brings in $10 billion annually. Even more impressive than that, 32 million people spend an average of $467 on fantasy football, which adds up to $15 billion. As Bryan Del Monte cleverly points out, fantasy football is worth more than real football. So why are brands clamoring over those Super Bowl spots, again?
What brands should be working on is figuring out how to join the intimate networks of fantasy football players. Volkswagen in 2013 introduced the Coach’s Corner, which allows users to compete directly with CBS Sports Personalities. The anchors’ reactions are incorporated into VW-branded banners.
While some branded sponsorships have found success, it’s surprising that more brands haven’t found ways to join in the fantasy football culture. They can do this by providing educational content, unique competitive opportunities and a social aspect that will bring brands closer to football super fans.
Amazon announced in August that it is acquiring Twitch for just short of $1 billion, giving this gaming video app even more potential for mainstream success. With Twitch, already used by 55 million people, Xbox One players for example can follow different gaming broadcasters to watch their live-streamed videos with a side-by-side view while they’re playing the game. You can earn social rewards watching Twitch videos, and even request to join the gaming parties of your favorite broadcasters. There is also a built-in chat functionality.
Xbox One is built for social broadcasting and sharing. Simply tell your Kinect, “Xbox, Broadcast,” and you’ll start recording a video of your game data that can then be shared with your network. Xbox One and the Twitch app work together to facilitate social gaming and sharing, giving all of your favorite Xbox games a social element even if it wasn’t initially inherently available.
Where are the brands in this story? Well, Speedstick has already experimented with using a gaming video on Twitch for a product placement for deodorant. Only time will tell if more brands grab at the opportunity to reach an extremely engaged, mostly millennial audience. Finding ways to incorporate brands in games or to create brand advocates out of the most influential broadcasters will clearly be a path to success.
Across all of these niche social networks emerge common trends: multi-device technical integration, passion for a particular interest or vertical, ease of use and a highly engaged audience. What does this mean for brands trying to engage their audiences in increasingly segmented and specialized locales? How are you evolving your strategy to hit an audience that seeks out new niche networks? Knowing your audience and marketing to them with deep content will ultimately provide this deep value.