The Web has consumers socializing and connecting in ways unimaginable just a few years ago. And there are plenty of places to connect with like-minded people. Lets take a look beyond MySpace and Facebook and examine some niche social networking sites. While these sites' traffic may pale in comparison to the big networks, there's a good opportunity to connect to a dedicated audience who might be more open to learning a little more about your product, services or targeted offer. Like any social networking marketing, tread lightly but with purpose. If you provide real value to members, they will be much more willing to engage your brand.
ParentsConnect.com, a Nickelodeon product, has seen a massive spike in traffic starting in June 2008. Here, parents come together to share tips and advice and find resources to help out with family life. Click on the "Local" tab and you can find deals on products and services, not to mention add your own. Compared to most family and Mom-focused networking sites, ParentsConnect has a more affluent, educated audience (Quantcast.com).
Mom Bloggers Club, a network of 1,600 members "is a place where moms
who blog converge to talk about the latest trends in blogging and
support each other in their blogging endeavors. Moms can find
everything here from discussions about RSS feeds and sidebar widgets to
parenting advice and giveaways." There are forums, groups and judging
by the number of comments in these areas, it's an active community. And
what does every Mom need to do to keep her family running? Shop. Maybe you have something to offer this community. And since they are bloggers, chances are if you impress them, it will spread.
Also check out BabyCenter.com, GotKidsNetwork.com and CafeMom.com.
Social shopping is about as direct as it gets. People come to these sites to spend money and get advice on products and services. iliketotallyloveit.com takes a page from Digg by featuring products on the home page that have been voted up by the community, everything from furniture to coffee mugs. You can also submit products for inclusion, then try to get votes to get your stuff on the home page. iliketotallyloveIt.com's traffic is up 245% from last year (compete.com).
BirdPost.com is a networking site for bird watchers - niche indeed. You can connect with other members, follow birds and geo-tag their locations. On your profile page you can link your birding blog or website. So why would you be interested in something like this? Well, I imagine bird enthusiasts need everything from books and binoculars to camera equipment and hiking boots.
As you can see, there are social networks out there with active communities in various niches. The idea is to spend a little time investigating your industry - chances are there's a network out there where you can do a little promotion and hopefully brand your business with a dedicated audience. And if you can't find one, consider a product like Ning.com, where you can build your own.