While Facebook, Twitter and others get lots of attention, they may not be the best for your business.
Facebook. Twitter. LinkedIn. Pinterest. Foursquare. Instagram. Google+. YouTube. Flickr. Those are just a few of the countless social networks we, as building product marketers, are inundated with information about constantly. And frequently, it’s an over-the-top prognostication like “Facebook Timeline has changed everything!” or “If you’re not on Pinterest, you’re behind the curve!”
The constant stream of information like this can be overwhelming, and tiring, as a building product marketer, because much of our business is B2B focused, and because our industry, as a whole, is not known for being on the forefront of technology (I know, you’re shocked to read that). While some of those mainstream, consumer social networks make a lot of sense in our building product business, I think, in many verticals, there are niche social networks that can provide tremendous value. For clarity’s sake, this is what I’m defining a niche social network as: “online communications tool for a selected group of professionals.” They’re commonly a message board or forum but can also exist in other forms like a LinkedIn group.
Why can they provide value for building product marketers?
- Less Waste: if you’re on Facebook with the goal of attracting homebuilders, for example, you may end up with many “likers” that are consumers or people simply after giveaways or other freebies.
- Perception: to many people, being on Facebook or other mainstream social networks has a negative connotation; those people may believe investing time and money in those networks to be a waste and “for kids”. While those perceptions may not be true for us building products marketers, you can avoid that battle completely with more niche, vertical networks.
- Better interaction & feedback: by far the most important reason. The best niche networks are usually started by someone in that space, rather than a trade publication or product manufacturer, though many trade pubs and manufacturers have tried to start their own, to varying levels of success. Those networks have grown organically, without much (if any) paid promotional efforts and are more trusted by users than one connected to someone trying to sell them something (trade pubs/manufacturers). They’re full of professionals in a vertical discussing their businesses, the products they use and other topics.
So how do you find these networks? Well, the best way is to ask the people you’re trying to reach because finding them via normal search engines can be challenging – remember, these are low cost, low budget groups usually.
Some great examples of this include:
- Lawnsite.com (lawn care pros)
- ContractorTalk.com (home contractors)
- DrywallTalk.com (drywall pros)
- PlumbingForums.com (plumbers)
In an upcoming post, I’ll talk more about the right way for building product marketers to participate in these networks, as a manufacturer, and help you avoid the wrong way.
- B2B space still not embracing social media, says Avanade chief (from ZDNet)
- Directory of Niche Social Networks, mostly Consumer but some B2B
- B2B Magazine Podcast on FohBoh, a social network for restaurant owners/suppliers