Social engagement is a big challenge for all businesses, especially those that cater to niche communities. The biggest mistake is assuming that you can simply create a profile on a mainstream social network and your followers will actively engage. The reality is that many niche audiences don't want to interact with your business through Facebook and Twitter because they use those networks to connect with all their friends and family members - not just those who share their interests.
Your niche audience - whether they are serious gamers, mommy bloggers, or fitness enthusiasts - really wants a partitioned social network specific to one aspect of their lives. An online place where they can interact solely with people who share their interests rather than with everyone they know. Here are three reasons you should invest in building a social community from scratch.
Partitioned social networks offer communities heightened privacy. While social networks like Facebook may offer a wide breadth of interactions, they are specifically designed for sharing what is going on in our personal lives with everyone we know.
But when it comes to our specific interests, we like to choose which audience hears our message. We surveyed gamers who told us that they didn't feel comfortable broadcasting their gaming activities to their networks on "established" sites. We saw a need to create a social outlet specific to gamers where they could feel comfortable sharing their accomplishments with people who are interested in the same topics.
It makes sense to share different types of information with each community we belong to. When something happens in our business life, we want to tell our network on LinkedIn. When something happens in our personal life, we want to tell our friends on Facebook. People don't want everyone to know everything about them, and social networking is becoming more about who you are sharing information with than what you are sharing.
The privacy of a niche community also allows you to keep your friends separate. You can interact with friends you meet online through a niche social network without giving them access to your personal network on Facebook where they can see everything about your family, relationship, children, and profession.
2. Ability to Offer Specific Features
Since mainstream networks are so broad, they simply can't cater to every niche. Vertical social networks, however, have the incentives and ability to create advanced features for one audience. Community-driven sites can go deeper instead of wider; the people who are a part of these niches are looking for a place where they can participate in particular activities with other people who are like them.
To build a network your niche will love, it's important to build your team from within the community. These people will be able to spot issues as they arise because they are familiar with the content, and they will be looking for the same things as your users. This also makes it much more likely that the community will grow organically and feel natural to other users.
As you begin developing your network, it's good to start small. Focus on one particular need or want in that community. Even niche communities have a myriad of issues and community-specific nuances, and you should work to address these one at a time.
3. Micro and Macro Network Effects
In a niche community, network effects are powerful on both a micro and macro scale.
Micro network effects exist when a small group of your peers are a part of the social community. For gamers, these effects are felt when members of your guild, clan, or team are already on the same network. Users are able to easily see and interact with their friends or team members, which boosts engagement.
Macro network effects appear when a member benefits from the size of the community and interactions with people they don't necessarily know offline. On Duxter, our gamers benefit from the macro network effects when they see or interact with content that is shared from outside their direct network. Gamers learn and gain access to information from the thousands of members who are playing the same game or interested in a specific subject.
Another example of these micro and macro effects can be easily seen on Twitter. Users create individual lists and interact with a core group of people interested in similar topics on a regular basis and have access to a wide variety of content from individuals, brands, or organizations they simply follow. By creating a niche social community, the users are not only able to interact with others in a personal way, but they also benefit from the larger community's knowledge and sharing.
If you've been struggling to get people in your niche to participate in mainstream social networks or you are frustrated with the limitations those networks impose, consider creating your own network. It could be the engagement solution you've been looking for.