online community

Finding And Using Niche Social Media Websites

We’ve all at some point heard the adage of ‘quality over quantity’. Usually, we are not hearing it for a good reason, but as a reminder to ‘be happy with what you have.’

In the case of niche websites, however, it means something a little different.

We know about the giant social networks: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. like we all know about big cities like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. But let’s say you LOVED cheese. Sure, you can probably find tons of good cheese in most big cities, but Madison, Wisconsin is near lots of local cheesemakers and may be a better destination for you if you are looking for all things cheese.

Niche social media websites are like Madison for cheese seekers; they are small places enthusiasts of [fill in the blank] are most likely to be. If you sell something to these enthusiasts, you are also more likely to talk to a potential paying customer on these websites than some of the larger websites.

What are some examples of niche websites?

If we think of something we want to connect about, we can probably find a niche website for it.

So here’s my random list of things (yes, I made this up with no reference to Google when I did):

microbrew beer
amateur woodworking
gymnastics coaching
first editions of books

Hey look what I found:

Untappd gets points for reminding us all there are still people with Blackberries.

I appreciate that this social network didn’t spend a ton of time on design. Hey, it gets the job done!

I bet if I made a login (and was actually a gymnastics coach), I could find other gymnastics coaches.

Two million people doesn’t seem like a lot compared to Facebook’s one billion but, hey, it’s still actually a lot.

OK, you made your point, there is a social network/niche website for probably everything. How do I find them?

Well, you aren’t gonna find many with an attitude like that! Kidding.

Google searching whatever term plus ‘social network’ is a good place to start. Thinking of some synonyms may actually help, as well as thinking of things a little more broadly (ex: I bet Library Thing has at least a group or forum for bestseller enthusiasts.

Another place to check is blogs in the same arena. Back before social networks, communities of frequent commenters were established on blogs. In some cases, in particular if there’s already a good group hanging out on a blog but not a giant enough group to go set up a whole new website, the comment section of a cool industry blog can lead you to where those people are hanging out. In some cases, it may be the forums of a woodworking website and in others, it may be a private Facebook group.

You can also look at big websites/blogs and see what drives traffic to them on Similarweb.com. For example:

Tools like this can help you see interlinking websites and the overall landscape of a particular industry/topic. Note: websites like this only seem to track websites that have a lot of traffic so this won’t provide you a complete list so much as a way to find more sites.

Why spend time on niche websites if there is less people there?

Because 1) even though there is a smaller group, they are more likely to be engaged 2) because if they are more engaged, they are more likely to buy what you are selling and 3) because there is less activity, your presence is more likely to be noticed.

Am I trying to give you more to do? Of course not. But I am trying to say, give niche a chance, as a participant or a more ‘commercial’ user. You may find yourself saying that quality is better than quantity after all.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Blogging 201: The Not So Basics

Hi and welcome! If you are just hitting this post, have you seen Blogging 101: The Basics? If not, go there first. You can follow just what’s in basics for at least a couple months. During this time, you are going to figure out your writing style, which is honestly what will hold your audience.

It took me probably six months to find my voice. Was I funny? Was I informal? How long should my posts generally be? Writing online is different than writing a newspaper article, an essay… anything really. And the best way to get good is to practice.

Let’s say you’ve done that. You get what your blog is and isn’t, contentwise. You have a voice. You have three blog posts in your head (or drafted in your blog software itself) ready to go. Now it’ time to get into the more technical issues you’ve probably noticed, especially reading other blogs.

What ways do you want to make money?

There are some different ways to make money blogging and what you want to figure out at this point is what does and doesn’t feel sleazy to you.

I was confronted with this month 4 of blogging. I got an email from a potential advertiser. How much would I charge? What kinds of ads did I have available?

It was an excellent question, one I hadn’t even asked myself yet. After looking around at blogs, I realized I would feel comfortable with ads in the sidebar of my blog only. I didn’t like written ads in content (made it hard to read) and I wanted to have control over what ads appeared there. (Once this blog became a business itself, I yanked ads entirely.)

Now that was my answer. Yours may be different and that’s ok. You want to balance the making money part with the not being a sleaze part. Looking at what other bloggers are doing, you’ll see some things you like and some things you don’t.

Other things people will approach you with:

1) Sponsored posts. (Here’s a pretty comprehensive look at the concept.)
2) Getting sent products to ‘review’. (IE the sponsored post’s friendlier seeming cousin.)
3) Can someone write a blog post that gets published on your blog about X? (Sometimes people want this free, sometimes they seem willing to pay.)
4) Affiliate programs (where you get link(s) to share to a product online and, if someone buys, you get a cut. More here.)
5) Other things I can’t anticipate.

By deciding what you will and won’t do for money, you’re setting a precedence for your blog. And remember, saying no to something you don’t want means that when something you do want comes along, you can be ready.

(We’ve written in depth about some of these: Affiliate programs, Display Advertising, PPC Advertising, Ad Networks. Since I’ve never done sponsored posts, I linked above to someone who had looked into them more deeply. )

How big do you want to get?

Contrary to popular belief, seeing comments is not the only way to know your blog community is getting bigger. For example, on ours, we get maybe 1 comment for every thousand or so people who look at something something. Really! Below a screenshot of views from Google Analytics versus comments:

views-versus-comments

I will also say in our case, interaction is taking place more on social media for us so having comments on the blog itself is less important to me. To make this an anaology, I’ve built the internet equivalent of a small coffee shop in a small town.

But some people want to build the internet equivalent of a shopping center:  a website with contributing members, product upsells, advertising revenue, etc. To become the go-to resource and community about X or Y.  If you want to build the online headquarters for all base jumpers or the next HuffPost, you are looking at building an online community. (Yes, I like to feel Breaking Even has a small specific online community but we are intentionally small.)

If you want to create the large shopping center of a website, you’re going to need a few things.

1) Actively write in such a way that encourages people to leave the comments on your posts. This may include writing posts whose topics may be a bit controversial or even just opinionated. (Sometimes the term ‘click bait’ is used to describe sensational headlines that drive clicks.)
2) You need a robust commenting system. (My only opinion on this? Don’t make someone create an account on your site to leave a comment. Everyone hates one more password to manage. Let your commenters log in with Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc. to leave their comment. I use Disqus because it lets people use whatever login or create one just for my site, among other features.)
3) You need to respond to comments. If you want people in your community interacting, you have to lead by example. If you have any commenting standards, make sure they are enforced.
4) You need some way for these people to contribute in addition to leaving comments. (IE they need to be able to not wait for you to start a discussion.) It could be as simple as a hashtag people use to contribute photos to a curated page or as complicated as members having their own subsites on your site.

Will your community evolve? Absolutely. But will a bit of planning and intentionality on your part of the ‘mall developer’ make the evolution and growth go much smoother? Yes.

How do you want people to get your information? 

You probably have die hard fans now that want to get ALL your posts. You may want to add the ability for people to subscribe, via RSS or email, to your blog.

Your blogging system will have a way to do this but I just wanted to put it on your radar. Now that you have a following, make sure those people can see posts easily. Here’s a lovely example:

hubspot-subscription-page

 

Do you like your software?

Do you like the way at the bottom of all our posts we have five related posts? Do you wish you too could have an online store to sell your t-shirts? You are going to start having ideas (now that you’ve gotten used to the writing part) about how your blog should work technically.

You’re going to want more than you ever thought you would. Make a list of what you want, put it in order of importance even. Maybe the software you’ve been using is not up to snuff. Or maybe it is and you just need to learn how to do what you need to do.

Now I’m sure some bloggers will argue with me that it’s best to start where you’re going to end up. But who still lives in the first house they’ve ever lived in or has the first job they ever had? Very few of us. We grow, we change, and as we know more of what we want, we can move towards it.

Once you have the writing part down for your blog and you start thinking of the technical stuff, that’s the good time to make the software decision. And you don’t need to worry about moving your posts. A simple Google search of ‘moving from X software to Y software’ will tell you exactly how to do it. And if you hate the idea, you can pay some nerd to do it for you in a few hours of their time. In other words, no endless copying and pasting, I promise.

So to me, those are the big second level questions of having a blog. I have my answers to them, and you’ll have yours. But just a reminder, just start writing and think of this other stuff once your blog’s content has a clear voice. Also, please comment with your blog URL so we can see it.

 

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Marketing Monday: Nike plus

Every Monday, we check out a cool new marketing technique used by an individual, business, or group. Want to be featured? Contact the BE Blog.
I’ve noticed my online friend Lynn Cyr (an artist among other things) has been posting her runs on Facebook via the Nike website. I clicked through to see the partnership with Nike and iPod that not only encourages people to work out but think about music at the same time. I asked Lynn a few questions about her running and how she uses her Nike+.
1. Do you have the special shoes with your Nike+ or do you just clip it on?

Lynn Cyr, artist/web developer/user of cool running technology

No, I don’t have the special shoes for it. They now sell clips that you can use, but when I started using my Nike+, there was no such thing. So I came across this blog post that showed how to attach it to any shoe… and that’s how I’ve done it since!
2. How long have you been using the Nike+? Do you feel this device has improved your workouts?
I got the device as a birthday gift (at my request!) from my husband in March 2008. I started using it the very next day! Before that, I never exercised… let alone RUN! As I went on my runs and saw some progress (faster pace, longer distances but same duration, etc…), it really got me hooked! I can honestly say without a doubt that this tiny device is what got me started as a Runner! I’ve used it fairly consistently ever since, except for breaks I would need to take because of injuries (bleh!!).
Not ONLY did it turn me into a Runner, but I even trained for my very first 1/2 Marathon that first year!! My friends in Quebec convinced me that I should train, even though I’d never run before (except for a 5K race I did like 15 years ago – and even *that* was a very short-lived period of running). I trained and trained, but didn’t end up racing, since I ended up with an injury (not related to running). But I did run my first 10K race in Boston, though!
3. What are your favorite workout songs to get you pumped to keep going?
I’m a Rock chick at heart, so I always go for the Hard Rock and Metal “screaming” songs. LOL!! Nothing whips your butt into shape like some metal rocker yelling in your ear! But I do mix it up a bit. I have a “Cardio Mix” playlist on my iPod, which is what I use to run. It includes Rock, Country, and even some Dance tunes. But still, my all-time favorite song that really gets me going is “Lose Yourself, by Eminem.
4. I see that you share your results on Facebook in addition to on the Nike site. Has this further motivated you? Do you think doing so has motivated others to get running?
Knowing others are “watching” me, so to speak, definitely helps. It doesn’t stop me from slacking off every once in a while, but seeing the comments and “Likes” after a run really make me feel good. It usually sets the tone for the rest of my day 🙂
As for motivating others, I can’t tell you how many times I get asked “So hey, what’s that Nike+ thing I keep seeing on your Wall”? After I tell them all about it, they’re all gung-ho and get one for themselves. I know at least 3 people for sure that bought one because of my direct recommendation!
5. Have you met other people from sharing the results on Nike’s website? (I’m always interested in how interactions in a specific arena like this translate into other interactions, online or in real life).
This, to me, is the best part of the Nike+ system!! It’s allowed me to meet so many folks online who share my passion for running!! A few of them have become Facebook friends too now… and in fact, I’m meeting one of my “Nike+ friends” in person NEXT WEEK for the first time!! I’m headed to Toronto to visit my family, and we’ll be getting together for lunch since she lives there too! We’re both really excited!

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Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.