When advertisers try to come up with cleverly unique ideas of how to leverage a brand, it is often the pervasive (and addictive) social networks known as Facebook and Twitter that they turn to.
But these social networks are becoming more of an automatic, superfluous go-to when marketers run out of creative ideas. What some advertisers fail to appropriate (I’m not holding all advertisers responsible here), is the use of niche social networks. What they also fail to recognize is that the niche is a different animal to tackle.
For one, niche communities, according to Heather Wailing at Mashable, do not necessarily respond well or similarly to those belonging to the mass markets. The more obvious reason for this I can think of is that mass media messages do not always appeal to the masses (even though that is clearly their intention).
Hence the niche was born, out of reason for being ignored or not feeling the love as the rest of us are supposed to feel. These individuals created their own virtual public sphere to participate in (note the Habermas citation). Social niche networks have their place for the more specific tastes,including Flixster if you’re into movies, imeem if you’re into music and Ravelry – if you’re into knitting.
In leveraging niche markets, the best route is to go back to one of the archaic necessities of conversation: listening. Listening to your niche, understanding what makes them tick and genuinely being curious and enthusiastic about their culture will help you define the necessary tools to get them involved and engaged in a conversation – whether it is to introduce them to brand you think rocks or keep them coming back for more.
I will go on even further to say that you might need a slight inclination to become the shepherd of your sheep, so to speak. Seth Godin addresses this leadership attribute ever-so-clearly in his book titled “Tribes,” in which he argues to become an influential leader, one must create movements that empower communication within a ‘tribe’, or a group of like-minded individuals connected to a leader and a shared interest.
The role of a leader is crucial in establishing your niche’s goal as well as an authentic foundation for people to make connections, as opposed to forcing the tribe to follow you. This form of persuasion is in no way forceful but guiding – hence the shepherd and sheep reference (insert “ah-ha! moment here). Leaders, synonymous with advertisers, thus help sustain a consistent and healthy equilibrium within their niche, under a form of solidarity and a shared sensed of consciousness.
As leaders of their niche, advertisers can help guide and empower these smaller communities to become powerful participants and contributors to the bigger picture – the brand story – and through the appropriate channels. And as an unintended result, empowering your niche will empower you as the “Evan Almighty” who knows how to run the show. As Godin once wrote among his many social media rules, “We need you to lead us.”
Photo credit: bellasinclair.blogspot.com