Niche Marketing 2009 & The Value in Social Network Marketing


Chances have it you use a social network as Facebook or MySpace, or contribute to a social media platform, such as a personal or corporate blog. The online playground is full of social activities with everyone including your mother jumping onto the next latest and greatest way to connect with friends, family, professionals and groups of your related interests.

social network marketing niche marketing Even with the recent win of Barack Obama as America’s new president, his campaign tapped into leveraging social media and networks to reach out to the niche audiences throughout America – by ethnicity and age demographics. Whether a special environmental group locatd in Seattle, or the tens of thousands of non-voters between 20 to 30 years of age in Chicago and New York, social networks and media platforms were a successful channel to mix into the Obama’s marketing campaign to win new voters.

2009 will bring to the boardroom a number of conversations about how social network and media can fit into the upcoming marketing campaign or yearly marketing plan. Hell, any forward thinking company who’s marketing can shift as quickly as my snowboard will cut and curve down the hills of Whistler mountain this year, will be on the edge of trying to learn how best to fit social networks as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and social media as blogs and forums to into their marketing mix.

Sure, many marketers will use the excuse to invest into social network marketing as a brand exercise to build evangelists and advocates of their latest and greatest campaign. But the insightful managers and directors upstairs should also be looking for the hard pay off – to not assume that overal lift in sales must have resulted from the social network endeavors of the campaign. Better yet to understand what contributions to the campaign, specifically the social marketing tactics, can be monetized to drive new business and sales.
Most marketers likely won’t get it right the first time around, but the continuous optimization of a social marketing campaign will pay its dividends in the end, and all measurable.

A word of caution – don’t believe that marketing through social networks and media can be quickily and easily monetized. Building fans, advocates, envangelists who contribute to your campaign takes time, patience and proper execution, and the effects of the patience is paid off in the long run – like organic search. You’re not marketing to the masses, but on a personal relationship level. And to be effective, a marketer must first understand why their audience uses the social network in the first place. So what are the 101’s of social network marketing?

1. Find a niche, and the niches within the niche
Think about this for a second. Take the first 2 or 3 social networks that come to mind. Now, how did they start off? What audience or niche market segment(s) did they tailor their business model too?

  • Facebook

Sure its one, if not the, biggest social network in the market, boasting over 64 million users…and where did they start? College kids. Connecting people with people who went to, or attending, a post-secondary school.
While this was/is their main focus, the social network of Facebook has now grown beyond just college kids and caters to multiple niches – a fortunate success, and the means to continue its popularity is to evolve its model to the niches that create the demand. More and more businesses today are now creating a Facebook business page to gain a presence within the site (good for search), and attract the fans and advocates to their page, to later seed updates virally through their Fan connections

  • MySpace

Second in community size next to Facebook, MySpace started its routes with the niche audiences of musicians. MySpace provided this community with a means to promote their band, image and distribute music.
While MySpace has stuck to its roots, MySpace unforeseen created a platform that allowed the public to easily create their own self promotional presence. Now movie stars, celebrities, sports heroes, the girl next door and the boy who sits behind you in Math class can use MySpace to create their own personal piece of virtual real estate, and connect with friends, family and fans.

  • LinkedIn

An obvious niche for this professional social network – career professionals. A highly referred professional career network to stay in touch and updated with your professional relationships. It’s also a commonly used tool by career recruiters to find you candidates through your own professional network . Though be aware, many recruiters may simply request to connect with you to tap into your professional network.

So three well known social networks, all of whom started with a select niche in mind. They started with defining their audience and the purpose of their community. So remember, if your marketing to these social networks, the sophistication of market nowadays empowers you with the ability to reach to the right individual, in the right location, at the right time, who has a direct interest in what you offer. Your social network marketing needs to speak to this – and what better way through social networks that cater to your market segments.

2. Participation

In my soccer days you’d always have one guy waiting on the line of scrimmage waiting for the ball to make the big goal. And the reality of it was no one would pass, play or make conversation (other than profanities) with that guy simply for the reason of his lack of participation.
So goes your social marketing efforts. The core of social network marketing and using social media platforms is to create dialogue, interact and engage your audience. It’s a live conversation. If you fail to participate in this dialouge by simply throwing up a Facebook business page, or executing your social marketing campaign with no follow up in your commitment, expect to fail.

Successful social networks foster and embrace participation among its members. If you desire your audience to play in your yard, keep them engaged and interested. The truly engaged will be the corner stone of your community. They will become the evangelists who will build your social capital. They will recruit and invite people from their social relationships to join and participate.

And this all starts with your participation. This is not created overnight. Hire someone to become a social manager to begin the initial seeding of creating the community dialogue. And through this, over time, will build the user-generated content (conversations) necessary for marketers to listen to and optimize their offerings.

3. Technology

While not a key point for the audience, it is still an important area marketers should understand if launching a new microsite or social network website. The technology will define the right features that map to the marketers objectives (ex. Tell a friend modules), how these features will evolve over time, the technical maintenance, its implementation, its reporting capabilities and of course, costs.

4. Seeding

An integral first step for any social network, and online blog for that matter. The seeding of your message and purpose to your audience. Like all marketing campaigns, how will you get the message out about your new social network or campaign to start building up the fans, members, advocates and evangelists who are a necessary foundation to any social network.

These are the people who will build the second integral ingredient to a social network – content. Just as content is king with search engine marketing, so it is with social networks, except this type of content is created by the user, not manufactured keyword stuffed content pages as search.
User generated content are the conversations and dialouge among your audience. Facebook fosters this through allowing users to update their active status (what are you doing right now) and deliverying updates of users interactions (wall posts, profile updates, new photos, etc.). In its raw form, these interaction updates on Facebook, which is a form of user-generated content, is like crack to some people. It’s the gossip girl of the online world. By reporting to your social network what you’re doing right this instant, or the actions and events you performed, keeps people coming back to the site 3 to 4 times a day, and delivered through their blackberry, to see what people they know are doing right now.

5. Contributions

For members and users to create the blood of a social network, user-content, they must have an easy means to suppl y the flow of this blood….errr content. The social network must make it easy to contribute content. Again, look at Facebook – rather than rely on you to produce new content, they do this in a means by the previous example – send automated updates of your interactions, which itself is an indirect form of creating user-generated content.

Other means to create user content than indirect means as mentioned, is to offer methods of soliciting your opinion. Social modules as “rate this” or “comment” entice users to solicit their opinion and feedback. Again….all user created content. And what better way to publish members content on your site, than by the distribution methods as RSS feeds, email, blogs, ad networks, social tags, etc.

So by now you’re hyped and and excited to network with your audience through the social networks right? 😉 Keep these few key points in mind when tap tap tapping into socials networks and building social media into your plan for reaching those niche audience markets out there.

  • Transparency.
    Share good, bad and ugly. Share it all. Data shows that even the bad comments put out there about you will get negated 10 fold by a strong fellowship of members (ex. Travel and destiniation reviews).
  • Real People
    People connect with people and any ficticious image becomes transparent real quick.
  • Kill the Sales Pitch
    Ever been approached by a friend repping Amway? Then you’ll know what this means. Don’t breach the relationship by disguising yourself, then hit them with the sales pitch
  • Human relations 101
    Dale Carnegies “How to win friends, and influence them”. If you ever read this book, I believe it was chapter 3 (if memory serves correct) that said “take a genuine interest in others.” Even if it doesn’t benefit you directly, it will long term. Take for example customer service people who go above and beyond to service your need. That experience alone you may have shared with x number of people. That’s called referal marketing my friend, which drives 80% of most business revenue.
  • Listen
    And for the latter point to work, you must listen. Guys, I don’t mean just “hear” them, I mean actually listen. Surprisingly you’ll learn a lot ;-).
  • Patience
    Like any relationship, time is a fundamental ingredient to make it work. Let it grow organically.

So to truly effectively leverage social networks and the media platforms to get into those niche markets of yours, you must first understand why we use them. They offer tremendous power to reach and engage your niche audience….on their terms, not yours.
People are attracted to people, and marketing through social networks on your audience’s terms allows you to connect and engage with them to foster a deep, long term relation – both ways.There are boundaries marketers must abide, and a level of respect and trust that must be earned. It’s a marriage between your business and the audience, but without the pre-nup.

Any questions, comments and real-life examples, post them here (below). I’m listening 😉

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