Use Small Social Networks to Zero In On Customers
Facebook and Twitter may be the social networks to beat these days, but that doesn't mean that you can't explore other less popular websites out there. Beating the social media heavyweights (such as Facebook and Twitter) isn't easy, which is why some people decided to create more specific networks-those that cater to particular groups, instead of trying to please everyone. For instance, there's now a social network just for food lovers, while there's one specifically for people who want to stay fit.
A niche social site can cut out the clutter and unrelated chatter that often arise in big websites. Being part of a small but targeted network will enable you to participate in more relevant conversations and allow you to connect with more people in your industry. Immerse yourself in these specific communities, and you'll find that zeroing in on your target customers will be a lot easier.
With that said, if your business appeals to a specific group of people (i.e. brides, pet lovers, etc), then consider doing a little research to see if there's a social network that's geared towards a particular audience.
The websites listed below are a few examples of niche social networks. Note that these communities aren't for everyone, and if you don't find your potential customers in these places, then scout around for social sites specifically for your target market.
Small Business Bonfire – This website aims to be a place “where smart entrepreneurs gather to spark change.” As its name indicates, Small Business Bonfire focuses on small biz matters. The site offers tips and articles to help people manage their business. It also provides message boards that facilitate discussion among entrepreneurs. Like Facebook, this online community lets users create profiles, add photos, and even post content on their wall. You'll also be able to add other members as friends and send private messages to each other. You can really pick up tons of useful insights (while offering some of your own thoughts) through this site. Needless to say, if you have a B2B type of venture, and you're looking to touch base with small business owners, then this site is a great place to start.
Foodie – Its name says it all. Foodie.com is a place for people who love to cook and eat. If you have numerous customers who spend a lot time around food (i.e. chefs, moms, food critics), then be sure to check out this new social network. Foodie is still in beta mode, but there are already numerous discussions going on in the site. Users are free to talk and ask questions about various dishes, as well as post and comment on recipes on the site. Several celebrity chefs, authors, critics, and food bloggers are on Foodie, and users can easily connect with them. Similar to Twitter, you'll be able to follow others even when they're not following you, and vice versa.
Fitocracy – Targeting people who want to stay fit? Then you should definitely explore Fitocracy. Think of it the Foursquare for people who love working out. The site makes use of gamification to motivate users into achieving their fitness goals. Members earn points for working out, unlock achievements and even tackle special challenges on the site. And just like any social network, Fitocracy allows you to connect with other members of a community. Users can “make friends, get advice, and see what others are doing.” Fitocracy is still in limited private release, but you can request an invite by leaving your email address on the site.
YouPet – Its name is pretty self-explanatory; YouPet is a social network for pets. Head over to this site if you want to get a closer look at your animal-loving customers. YouPet implements basic social media principles; members can create profiles for their pets and interact with other members. Just register, add a photo of your pet, fill out a bunch of info (i.e. pet's age, favorite food, activities, etc.) and members can post messages on each other's walls. Now, beyond the novelty of the site, users can actually gather valuable data from YouPet. If your company is catering to pet owners, then use the site to do research on your target customers. Find out what kind of pet food they're buying, what types of activities they do with their pets, etc.
Luluvise – Launched late last year, this site is a social network just for girls. It provides a secure venue for females to privately talk about anything with their closest friends. From gossip and boys, to fashion and make-up, girls can share it all. Members can post photos on the site, and their girl friends are free to comment and like the content. Luluvise is strictly for females only—members register via Facebook, and the system checks whether a user is male or female. Indeed, this particular social network is a gold mine for businesses that cater to females. Unfortunately, it's a little difficult to connect with potential customers because you can only touch base with a member if she specifically invited you. However, the site is still very new, so it wouldn't hurt to check in every once in a while to see if the social network adds some business-friendly features. In any case, if you have a lot of female customers, be sure to keep Luluvise on your radar.
Pinterest – We've discussed Pinterest several times already, and there's been a lot of buzz about the site due to its impressive numbers. While it's true that the social bookmarking site seems to be on its way to join the big guys like Facebook and Twitter, you'll most likely have more luck on Pinterest if your target customers are brides, fashionistas, or artists. However, do remember that the site is growing at an explosive rate, so if you're going to use it to touch base with your female customers, be sure to do it now, before the site gets too crowded. Pinterest won't stay women-centric forever; other industries are already in the process of catching up.
Quora – The site aims to be a general Q&A bank where users can ask and answer questions for just about any topic. However, since a huge chunk of the things discussed on Quora are related to the Internet, social media, and venture capital, the site serves as a valuable resource for those in tech industry. As one member put it, “Quora is built to support questions of any topic, but the original community on Quora was (is) based heavily in the world of technology, the internet, and startups and so a lot of the questions and answers revolve around those topics.” If you're running an Internet company or startup, you can use Quora to connect with people in your field, and share your knowledge to gain potential clients.