Wednesday 24th of March 2021
You’ve probably heard of it, Clubhouse is the new kid on the block, and everybody is talking about it. However, Clubhouse is only one example of what we call niche social media platforms, but what are they? Basically, a niche social network targets a small segment of the population. In comparison, mainstream social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have grown so big that they don’t appeal to a small segment of the population anymore. As a result, creating close-knit communities, and finding the right people to socialise with has sometimes become a challenge.
Why are niche social media platforms so attractive? Simply because they give a sense of belonging that many people have lost with large social networks. Going back to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, once physiological and safety needs have been fulfilled, this famous psychological theory suggests that the third level of human needs is belongingness, and niche social media platforms are great at this. They represent the social groups that give people this sense of belonging to a community. Another reason why users are turning to niche social media platforms is that they are constantly bombarded with advertising messages that they didn’t ask for. More private social networks allow them to discuss their interests without being constantly interrupted by ads. Plus, there is nearly a social media platform for every single hobby or vertical you are interested in.
From a marketing perspective, this is a great opportunity to reach highly targeted audiences. Granted, with 2.8 billion monthly active users your consumers are very likely to be on Facebook as well, so why should you bother going on a niche platform? Well, it makes more sense for certain brands to join a niche social media platform, in order to engage in meaningful conversations and become part of their community of consumers. People are more likely to interact with your brand if you show a genuine interest, and the conversion rates are likely to be much higher than on mainstream platforms. Finding a niche platform that is relevant to your brand and what you do is key to leverage the full power of niche social media and increase brand advocacy. If you are a bit confused as to what options are on the table, here are our top picks!
Audio-only experience seems to be the new trend, and Clubhouse is currently the main player on the field. Launched in April 2020, the audio only app already totals up 2 million active users a week. Boosted by the fact nothing is recorded, the platform uses the infamous Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) method to keep people listening. Clubhouse also quickly gained traction because of its exclusive nature. The social platform is only available to those who have received an invitation from an existing member. Oh and did we mention that you need an iPhone to use it? Indeed, the platform is still being developed, but the app is expected to launch on Android devices sometime this year.
Interestingly, mainstream platforms like Twitter are trying to compete by offering similar services and features. Twitter recently revealed it was currently testing “Twitter Spaces”, a new functionality that would allow users to take part in audio-only chats. Eventually, some of them succeed. We all remember Instagram breaking into the “Story” space back in 2016, shortly after Snapchat introduced the feature that made it famous. Now, stories are almost a must-have for social media apps, available on nearly every social network from LinkedIn’s Stories, to Pinterest’s Story Pins, to Twitter’s Fleets. Going back to audio-only platforms, many apps are already trying to compete with Clubhouse, such as Dizhua, Tiya and Yalla. Other startups like Sonar, Locker Room, Quilt, Yoni Circle, Roadtrip, Space, Capiche.fm, Yac, and Cappuccino, are already trying to find their own niche on the audio-only market.
Dispo is the ultimate anti-Instagram app. The platform only launched on the 19th of February this year, and is currently experiencing an impressive growth. It offers limited functions in terms of photo editing, and positions itself as a ‘raw’ platform. Forget stickers, filters, text, and other editing options, Dispo only allows users to post photos as they are. The app is too new to tell if it will last, but it certainly appeals to many internet users looking for a ‘back to the roots’ experience on social media.
The general trend shows that WhatsApp and Messenger users are looking for more privacy, people are switching to more private messaging platforms, where they can chat without being worried about their personal data being processed. The move is not surprising given the constant push from larger platforms to try and enter our private life. Telegram and Signal are the two big winners.
Signal was launched in 2018, and created by a security researcher whose real name remains private (no pun intended). The messaging app is quite attractive, with enhanced security, no personal data collected, and some cool features like disappearing messages, and the ability to verify the security of your end-to-end encryption. The platform has since grown quite a bit, especially since Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk asked his Twitter followers to switch to Signal in January. It’s user database has increased massively, making it even more attractive. Plus, Signal’s security has been proven to be better than WhatsApp and Messenger, with for example the cloud backup option being unavailable on Signal.
Telegram was founded by the creator of VKontakte, also known as VK, a Russian social network similar to Facebook. It is important to stress that the app does not offer end-to-end encryption by default. However, users are able to start “Secret Chats” whereby the end-to-end encryption is activated, and more recently Telegram rolled out an update to strengthen the privacy of the app. The update includes features like expiring links and an auto-delete option for messages, which was previously only available within the encrypted “Secret Chats”.
If security is your main concern, there is also Threema, a new app that is believed to be even more secure than Signal. You don’t even need a phone number to start using the app, so your chances to find a contact on the platform are relatively low, but you can be sure you are in control of your personal information. Telegram is a great alternative to “classic” messaging apps, but bear in mind that your data is rarely 100% private, like the researcher Tommy Mysk suggests.
In the gaming community, Twitch and Discord are the obvious platforms, although their use is now starting to spread far beyond the gaming community. Have a read.
Twitch is a live streaming platform where streamers share what they see on their monitor, while they can also be heard and watched through a smaller window. There is also a chat feature so that viewers can comment and chat with the streamer. The videos can be watched live or on demand, as Twitch saves streams. The platform launched in 2011 and has significantly evolved over the years. It now offers a subscription option, allowing users to enjoy a channel without ads, and to support their favourite streamers. The platform remains geared towards gamers, and is largely used by gamers, but you can watch pretty much anything from live cooking sessions, to Q&As, to live music. As you can guess, Twitch is one of those social networks that particularly benefited from the pandemic, as many well-known musicians and other professionals from the entertainment industry joined the community.
Discord is a social media platform that allows users to talk to friends, or strangers via text messages, voice messages, or video chat. The platform started in 2015, as a gamer-first platform, where they could chat while playing video games. Now, you can find all sorts of discussion groups, called ‘servers’, about topics ranging from education, to exotic animals, to cryptocurrency! If you are familiar with coding, you can even create your own Discord bot, to automate tasks like greeting new people on your server, or playing music across your server. In a few years, Discord has found its place in the realm of social media. Its user base has grown massively, reaching 140 million monthly active users (interestingly, Twitch also reported 140 monthly unique users in 2020). Like Twitch, its core users remain video games enthusiasts, but without being a gamer you can probably find a community that you will want to get involved in. Some student unions are even using Discord to share advice on the various University courses and use private servers to help students to find the right course for them.
Beyond niche social media platforms, some niche search engines are starting to gain in popularity. Google remains the most popular search engine in the world, representing over 90% of the global search market, but consumers are starting to switch to other search engines that represent their interest and their values better. There is a large number of search engines you can choose from, depending on what you are looking for. Do you want your data to remain anonymous? Then DuckDuckGo is what you need. Do you want to help save the planet? You should choose Ecosia.
As we said previously, niche social media platforms represent a fantastic opportunity for brands, allowing them to create a true connection with their consumers. However, this doesn’t mean that mainstream social media platforms are dead and that you shouldn’t exist or advertise your brand on there. Social media experts believe that the real risk is to spread yourself too thin and lose the intention in your message. The idea is to focus only on the right social media platforms for your audience. In the same way, only create impactful ads that cause minimal disruption (we know it’s a challenge!), and target the right audience so that your ads feel relevant to them instead of feeling like additional noise. If you are looking for advice, the social media management platform Buffer has a great guide to help you choose the right platforms for your brand. Alternatively, we specialise in providing high quality online advertising services, so get in touch and find out how we can help!