There is a very difficult, fine line for brands using social media and where you decide to focus your efforts. You want to avoid opening up a brand account on every single social platform just because you can, but then you also want to focus on the niche sites where you will have to fight less hard to be heard amongst the noise and where you can reach people on a more targeted basis. The trick is, of course, to throroughly research the niche sites you might be interested in and find out if you actually have something to add to the mix. If your product is very visual for example, then Instagram might well be the place for you, exceeding the opportunities available in a format like a Facebook Page.
According to emarketer, niche social sites are starting to see significant growth in terms of unique visitors and time spent on the site. In the case of Pinterest, they have experienced a 52% increase in average time spent on the site since May 2011. Meanwhile Tumblr saw an increase in traffic of 172% from October 2010 to October 2011.
As more marketers begin to focus on the advantages offered by niche social media sites, it's worth looking at some case studies to show how this can be done well :
Lands' End - Pin It To Win It
Pinterest seems to have been attracting a lot of attention from brands, with Real Simple integrating it on their site and witnessing a higher level of referral traffic than they were getting from Facebook. For a more campaign-led approach, look no further than Lands's End 'Pin It To Win It' competition. The campaign was completely focused on Lands' End products, challenging people to create a PinBoard of their favourite Lands' End items, with the winners receiving a gift voucher of $250. Explaining why they chose the site for the campaign, Michelle Casper, Director of PR at Lands' End said "As a visual company, the Pinterest virtual pinboards foster inspiration, creativity and design, elements that are all relevant to our brand,â€
Ford on Empire Avenue
Back in May 2011, when Empire Avenue was very much in the early adopter phase (if indeed, it still isn't today), Ford were one of the first brands to experiment on the site, with a branded page. Though they may not have launched a full blown campaign on the site, they showed that they weren't just setting up the page for another search result in Google, but were actually committed to using it in the way intended. One article states that at the time of starting up on the site, they had invested in 118 other accounts, using it as a way to build a real community around their brand. Ford showed that it's not always about flashy one-off campaigns, but that really connecting with the people using the site is the basis for any good brand activity.
CondÃ© Nast advertising on Flipboard
A slightly different case study here, as it shows a large brand investing in a niche social network through advertising. While social advertising typically means Facebook advertising to most brands, CondÃ© Nast showed they were willing to try something a little bit different by offering a way for advertisers to reach Flipboard readers. Through a deal with CondÃ© Nast, in July 2011 Flipboard introduced full-page ads in selected digital versions of titles such as the New Yorker. While this may not be a direct b2c campaign on a niche site, the deal allowed other brands, such as Amex and Lexus, to use Flipboard to advertise and reach their consumers in a new way.
Levi's cast on Instagram
There are a few examples of brand using Instagram, but these have rarely extended beyond using the platform to tweet out photos to their followers. A recent campaign from Levi's however, is taking this to the next level. For their Autumn ad campaign, they will feature photos submitted through Instagram with the hashtag #iamlevis. The best photos will feature in the ad campaign and it's a great example of a brand using a new platform exclusively, to influence a more traditional ad campaign.
Philadelphia on Foodspotting
While the most obvious use for Foodspotting might seemingly be for food brands or restaurants, the Philadelphia tourist board proved otherwise with their campaign on the mobile app. They were one of the first organisations to launch a fully branded presence on the site, which included guides to local restaurants and breweries, as well as badges awarded to users who visited one of the restaurants featured within the guides. They also took this further through their 'With Love Philadelphia' campaign. This was a campaign directly designed to encourage people to explore Philadelphia more, through Foodspotting. They awarded a range of prizes to people who first followed them on Foodspotting, then completed the set guide created in the app. It's encouraging to see tourist boards using social media at all, let alone investing in a niche social site such as Foodspotting.