We spend a lot of time on Firepole Marketing telling you how important it is to find your absolutely perfect ideal customer, and build a relationship with them.
It’s a pretty smart way to get your business going.
Finding them can be challenging – but it’s almost always worthwhile.
Social networking is one of the ways we do it, and almost everyone has at least one of the “biggies”: a Facebook account, a Twitter account, A LinkedIn profile – you know the ones – the sites you think of when you think “social media.”
They’re so big and so prevalent that maintaining a presence on them is almost a hygiene issue, that is to say, something you have to do just to be “as good as all the other options.” Having a Facebook page won’t make you special – but not having one might cause a raised eyebrow. You know what I mean.
That’s the problem with the biggest social networking sites: participating is just the price of admission, and they’re so widespread that they hardly matter in terms of differentiation or finding the people you really want to be working with.
Happily, there are other options.
If you’ve ever been sick of the major players in the social media industry, this post is for you. Let’s look at our alternatives and some new ways to use the bigger social networking sites.
Small and Niche Social Media sites
Have you ever heard of Academia.edu?
What about DailyStrength.org?
I hadn’t either.
Until I consulted this this Wikipedia article which lists over a hundred different social networking sites that you can join and meet people on.
If you’re prepared to lose at least an hour of your life, I highly recommend you go check out the list, and some of the sites they mention.
Facebook, Twitter and the rest may be great because everyone uses them – there is strength and power in numbers, no doubt about it.
But Academia.edu is all about researchers and academics helping each other out. DailyStrength is a networking site for people who need emotional support while going through medical issues. Elftown is about sci-fi and fantasy, Ravelry is all about knitting and crochet and Wiser is a sustainability-themed social networking space. And those are just a few of them!
Just imagine what that means if your niche is represented!
Tiny, niche networking sites – if you can find one related to your interest – are an amazing social media strategy because they take tons of work out of community building because they provide the venue for you to meet and make connections. People basically pre-qualify themselves for your business just by joining.
And if your niche isn’t represented? Well, for you, there is Ning: a tool that allows you to create your own social networking space.
What would your ideal social networking environment look like? Are you happy with what’s already available – or do you want something more?
Websites and Blogs Where Communities Live
I think many of us dream of one day owning the website where a vibrant commenting and support community forms, and seems to take on a life of its own. Take for example big news sites where new content is posted daily, a huge array of topics is covered, and the comments regularly reach the triple digits and beyond. I’m thinking of sites like the Huffington Post, and anything in the Gawker Network.
These are sites where the commenting community is as important (if not more so!) than the actual content of the blog.
This is huge for networking on a one-on-one basis. On these sites, commenters know each other by name, and have full, real-time conversations about the blog’s subject matter. If you can find a couple of posts about anything related to what you do, and spend time getting to know people in the comments, you can nurture very strong relationships with a variety of people. These comments never go away; they are kept for posterity, and are frequently read as avidly as any other content.
There are plenty more of these out there on the net as well – do you have any recommendations for your fellow Firepole Marketing Reader?
There’s Something About Forums
Forums do not have the best reputation online. Some people look down on them. Some people dismiss them as a time-sink for people with nothing better to do.
Me? I think they are an amazing place to find information, meet people and get questions answered on the quick-fast.
Forums are fun.
And they’re everywhere! Tons of people have learned how to use forums, and website owners run them on topics from personal fitness to parenthood, to the environment to finance, from cooking to online marketing.
Joining is generally as simple as picking a username and password, and while most have rules about who can link to what and where, you can usually make your blog or website known in your profile information and signature.
Forums are similar to blog commenting in that if you leave many useful, insightful comments, the owners of the space, as well as your fellow contributors, will start to get to know you, respect your opinions and invite you to engage with them in new ways. That could mean joining them on personal blogs, contributing to websites and publications associated with the forum, or even coming to you for consulting or advice.
Have you ever spent any time on a forum? What did you like about it? What didn’t you like about it?
Re-Purposing Space in the Big Guy’s Back Yard
Facebook, Twitter, Google+ are big, open playing fields when it comes to entering and staking out your own territory.
This is important because sometimes there isn’t a small social networking site for you, or the forums in your space aren’t that active or valuable. If your options are slimmer, then you have to go where the people are – but that doesn’t mean that you need to jump into the main arena and hope for the best.
Now, creating your own space on someone else’s platform isn’t ideal. They own the space and can change the rules at any time, which could potentially mean that changes affecting your business are going to be made by people who don’t know you or have any interest in what you’re doing.
But that is a risk business-owning users have to take sometimes; you shouldn’t let it stop you from building relationships where your audience or customers like to hang out. Just try not to put all of your social networking eggs in one big-name basket.
Here is a brief rundown of some of the different ways you can make the big pool of people smaller on some of the main social networking sites. (And if you’ve got any other suggestions, please let us know in the comments!)
- Facebook Pages are basically profiles of you or your business that your audience can elect to join. These can be amazingly powerful for networking and sharing information, even though they are far from perfect for this purpose.
- Twitter Chats are live events where people from all over the world collect around a hashtag to discuss a certain issue. They can be really illuminating once you get the hang of them!
- Google+ Hangouts are the next best thing to an in-person meeting. You can sign on with video, see who you’re talking to, and share documents and other information.
- LinkedIn Groups are gatherings on LinkedIn around a certain theme where information, links, comments and advice can be shared between members.
For all of these social media strategies, always keep in mind how your audience likes to engage. At the end of the day, the person you are trying to reach and make a connection with gets to make the decisions about where you hang out and spend time.
Hey Scavenger Hunters:
I’ve got a very exciting Bonus Challenge for you today! Tea Silvestre of Prosperity’s Kitchen is running an episode featuring our own Danny Iny and talking all about email marketing (something I know you care about!) on Monday, March 11th from 10 to noon PST – and I’d like you to see it! Show up here at the appointed time, and grab a screenshot of the live stream! (+5 points for Tweeting or Sharing about the event on Facebook. +15 points for showing up live and asking a question in the Google Hangout!) Please take a screenshot of your tweet and/or live question, and email it with the subject heading: EMAIL MARKETING FROM PROSPERITY’S KITCHEN. (The Scavenger Hunt is over – but you can check out the results right here!)
Who Made the Hunt Possible?
Tea Silvestre from the ever popular Prosperity’s Kitchen and Nicole Fende, otherwise known as the Numbers Whisperer, are Gold Sponsors for this event, and Lindsey Rainwater is our greatly appreciated Silver Sponsor.
And let me not forget the GamesMasters. These are the folks who are going to be keeping track of all you players!