Niche communities and online social groups offer numerous benefits to businesses. But, like any social group or club, you have to understand the rules of membership in order to enjoy them.
1. Know The Language.. Huh?
It may sound silly, but learning the language of your market is vital. Every niche has its own lingo, terminology, slang, shorthand and expressions, and being fluent in them is essential if you want to be accepted. Language is one of the things that actually make a niche a niche, something that sets them apart from mainstream users. Not being able to understand what your community is saying is a surefire way to never be welcome there.
Image courtesy of mariannecezza.wordpress.com
2. Mix and Blend
Social media has changed the way brands connect and interact with their audience. Most successful companies have a Facebook or Twitter account. Google Plus, however, is fast becoming the social media game changer for businesses due to its various options and tools not found on other social sites, as well as its major influence on Google search engine rankings. Top companies such as The New York Times, Pepsi and Vivint are all heavily involved with G+, but many small businesses have not yet caught on. Whatever social site you belong to, try not to become a social outcast by constantly boasting about your credentials or what you have to offer. Rather, focus mostly on your interest and enthusiasm for your niche.
3. Cameo Appearance
Social media has certainly changed the way brands connect and interact with their audience. But, a face to face conversation is still the most powerful way to really endear yourself to your niche. Putting together a focus group of potential customers is as easy as arranging hangouts through Google+, Meetup or Facebook.
4. Say What?
Feedback from your niche users is easy to ignore, but actually doing so is dangerous. There’s nothing wrong with making assumptions about your target clients as long as you’re willing to accept that you may be wrong. The Stylisted, for example, thought that low salary was the biggest concern for independent stylists. They found through user feedback, however, that scheduling is the most difficult part of their careers, and they adjusted their services accordingly.
5. Start Digging
Specialty markets are rarely as simplistic as they look. Every niche culture has subcultures, specialties, enthusiasts and connoisseurs, and you need to know them all. If you’re trying to hedge into the astronomy community, never let your users find out that you don’t know the difference between an exoplanet and a variable star.
Image courtesy of www.sexyarchaeology.org
6. The One and Only
Once you get a real feel for your niche, give them something that nobody else can. Academia.edu lets intellectuals from all different fields submit their academic writing for peer review and publication, and then it allows the submitter to track its popularity on the web. This is something the real world could never possibly offer.
7. Marathon Man
Even if you feel like your brand is taking off within your niche, don’t let yourself run out of steam. If you have a blog (if not, you should) attached to your site, have at least five entries ready to go by the time you launch and keep your content fresh as often as possible.
Image courtesy of www.thelocalexplorer.co.uk
8. Defensive Position
Passionate community members like to know that their niche is protected from outsiders who don’t understand their common experiences. You want newcomers to feel welcome, but consider social networks like Sermo and PoliceOne, which members have to provide their credentials in medicine and law enforcement to join.
9. Congressional Debate
Don’t forget to set up a posting area for your users to interact with each other, instead of just you. This lets users discuss and connect with each other, and their conversations can point you in the direction you should take your brand without having to do any extra research.
10. A Little Something for You
Charitable donations are probably the strongest way to connect with your community and get them to see you as more than just a faceless brand. Vivint employees not only donated $1.5 million to twenty different relief organisations all over the world last year, but they also tallied 23,000 community service hours (many involving building homes for the poor, which is in line with their home security and energy services). Even though Vivint is stationed in Provo, Utah, they’re able to reach their widespread clientele on a personal level with this kind of effort.
About the guest author; Lindsey Patterson is a freelance writer who specialises in technology and the latest social trends, specifically involving social media.