I'll never forget the day I attended Dr. Ralph Wilson's seminar on Internet marketing in Atlanta a few years ago. It consisted of a well-planned, logical progression of practical information on how to use the Internet as a marketing vehicle. In all the wealth of knowledge Dr. Wilson shared that day, one thing stood out, an illustration he used of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.
Dr. Wilson said that, if you looked closely at the wall, you would notice cracks between the blocks of stone that comprised it. He referred to them as "niches." He said the pilgrims would stuff these niches with slivers of paper, which were their prayers.
Dr. Wilson went on to suggest that we do the same thing in our marketing; rather than trying to scale the entirety of the wall, we should find an unfilled (or partially filled) niche and fill it. Brilliant!
I incorporated both the principle and his illustration into the book Realty Blogging, suggesting that blogs are good niche marketing penetration tools.
Now that we've morphed somewhat from blogs to other forms of social media, I want to suggest that the future of social networks is in the niches. Broad-based networks like Facebook or MySpace have some advantages in terms of the massive amounts of traffic they garner every day, but my experience has shown them to be largely ineffective for niche marketing purposes.
For example, most Facebook groups go unattended with very little participation. You'd think groups of three, four or five hundred (or more) would be a beehive of activity. Most aren't.
I think a much more effective model is the creation of indigenous, self-standing niche networks like the Society for Word of Mouth, which maintains a focus on using WOM for marketing purposes, or one I just learned about this morning, E.Factor, a niche network for entrepreneurs. To me, these hold the greatest promise for mining the goldmine of intellectual capital contained in the membership.
But that's just me. What do you think?
PS: I refer to Dr. Wilson as the godfather of Internet marketing. He is an amazing man.
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