When businesses launch social media campaigns, they generally focus on the major platforms. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are especially popular for business marketing, since they boast large membership numbers and generally seem to bring the greatest return on investment. But new social media networks arrive on the scene each year with potential to grow in popularity the way Instagram, Snapchat, Vine and Pinterest have.
For small businesses, lesser-known sites are a promising avenue to reach new customers. Since few companies utilize these sites for marketing, there is little competition for user attention. Brands can often benefit from these smaller sites catering to a niche in their search for a unique way to connect with customers.
Everyone active in online user acquisition should devote a couple hours a week to testing and exploring such outlets. Start with these small-but-promising platforms.
1. Sulia. Traditional social networking tends to be a mishmash of everything. Users see cat videos mixed with pictures of friends’ lunches, as well as links to new products from their favorite brands.
All of this can come across as “noise” to the average user, many of whom really would rather have a site that caters to his or her individual interests. Sulia’s content is segmented by topic to make it easy for users to connect with the networks they want. Members can choose from various channels, such as politics, arts and entertainment, sports or business.
Users serve as content curators, posting photos, links to interesting stories, etc., to engage other members. When a user sees an interesting post, he can choose to like it, comment on it or share it on Facebook. Over time, Sulia users earn “trust” ratings, granted by other people on the site, that help their posts to be taken more seriously.
2. Sharebloc. Customers are increasingly turning to sites like Reddit for consolidated content. Sharebloc began as a content delivery system called VendorStack, pulling content together and organizing it for readers. After several transformations, the site reinvented itself as Sharebloc, a B2B content delivery network focused on helping professionals learn and grow from each other.
The site has been compared to LinkedIn for its desired customer base but it takes more of a content-driven approach. Users are encouraged to submit their own articles and share interesting content they find across the Internet. The result is a community of businesses helping each other grow.
3. Pheed. Visual content is an important part of social networking today. Pheed focuses on this, letting users share videos, photos and live broadcasts, as well as text-based content. Users have a variety of subscription options, ranging in price from $1.99 to $34.99 per month.
One of the biggest benefits of Pheed is its loyal user base. The site has a pay-per-view option that allows businesses to sell video recordings of seminars or tutorials, gaining both exposure and revenue.
4. Bubblews. This social media network is trying to disrupt Facebook and others by sharing its ad revenue with the people who post on the site. Bubblews co-founder Arvind Dixit says he knows that people spend hours of valuable time each week populating social media sites with information. He thinks they should actually get paid for it.
"Facebook and the others started off like parks, a place where people come to chill out. But there was no commerce,'' he said. "As they got bigger, they had to figure out how to become a business, and they did it obtrusively. We thought, 'Why can’t we build a business that does right by users at the same time?"
More than 200,000 people have signed up. Dixit concedes that most don't have a huge following and don't make much money, yet. However, he believes a model that lets people make money off their social interactions has a future.
"A lot of people are afraid of technology nowadays because it may create the need for less jobs. We want to give the average person opportunities."
5. Learni.st. Learni.st bills itself as a crowdsourcer of knowledge, serving as a gathering place for users to post content on “boards” shared with other members. This expands on the Pinterest concept of photos pinned to boards. Learni.st caters to small business owners interested in becoming thought leaders in their respective industries.
Using Learni.st, you can create boards with content related to your own industry, attracting followers who share your interests. Many of the board topics are of interest to startups, since the sight was designed with the growing small business in mind.
In addition to free content from business owners and consumers, premium content is available from big names like filmmaker Gus Van Sant and former professional football player Dhani Jones.
As you launch and refine your marketing campaigns, consider these growing social media sites as possible additions to your strategies. Instead of struggling to be heard in the flurry of posts and marketing messages on larger, noisier sites, get noticed by a smaller audience on a lesser-known outlet.
Just as with the big sites, it takes dedication, consistency and creativity, but over time you can build a following and find more customers for your business.