Paul Hanrahan
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What is a Niche Social Network?

Social media is an incredible resource for any cultural organisation looking to attract new audiences and engage with current ones. The scale of networks like Facebook and Twitter can be intimidating, potentially leaving you feeling like a small fish struggling to attract attention in a very big pond.

In addition to battling on through the mainstream waves, have you ever thought about taking a step back from all of the noise and zooming in on extremely specific markets instead? Welcome to niche social networking – a way to reach a fresh – and very interested – crowd.

Forums, blogs, Listservs, message boards, Google groups, and of course Facebook and Twitter have been bringing people with shared interests together for years. But separate to, and even within these networks, things get much more focused on very niche, specific topics and groups. At Culture Republic we are always advocating to find the places where your audiences are and going to them.

Find a focus relevant to your organisation or event and show how it links to the passions and interests of users on niche social networks to get the word out about your upcoming events, performances and exhibitions.

What are the benefits?

There are plenty of specialist networks that relate directly to visual arts and craft, music and much, much more. By targeting specific groups of people cultural organisations can access potential audiences who will pass on your information or invites to other like-minded souls.

It’s not so much about how many people are using a specific site, but rather how relevant the audience is. Niche networks have high potential for engagement for because there is much less competition than on a mainstream network.

Think about Meetup, a social network that connects people in real life who are into just about anything. Or Goodreads, which connect avid readers up with each other. Dogster is a social network for canine lovers with over 121,000 Facebook fans, while Genius is a network for music fans that allows users to annotate lyrics with additional information. These are online communities, or ‘fandoms’, where people are extremely passionate about the topic at hand – the perfect audience for your organisation’s new work!

For instance, there are social networks for people who love all things vamipirical. If you’re producing a play with a creature of the night, a post on VampireFreaks could be a fast and targeted way to get the word out, attracting those visitors most likely to be enthusiastic about the work.

A case in point

Uist Wool, a social cultural enterprise on the Scottish island of Uist, is a brilliant example of how being more niche can help reach out to people with a very specific interest. They use Ravelry, a user-driven community site focused purely on connecting knitters and crocheters, to showcase their Hebridean knitting patterns and the yarn they are now making to sell to the market.

Niche social networking is direct and allows you to engage and listen to your target audience – seeing what they like and don’t like, what they are looking for, where they are, and who they are.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be taking a closer look at some of the niche social networks out there to inspire you with new audiences and new ways to connect. Stay tuned.

Main image credit: Batgirl and Poison Ivy with the Batmobile by Gabbo T (CC BY 2.0)