By Irina Skaya, Sr. Commmunity Manager
With over 845 million worldwide users to date, it’s easy to forget those days when Facebook, famously founded at Harvard, was a closed social network limited to Ivy League students. Today Facebook is a place where we have too many friends and too little privacy. There are increasing rumors that the social network giant might be rethinking the need for smaller, more private communities with its recent announcement of Groups for Schools. The primary focus of Groups for Schools appears to be a social network tied to each school, with an emphasis on sharing files and activities that can be used for classwork and staying up-to-date on what’s happening around campus.
Facebook is not alone in rethinking its purpose and “formulating a more targeted micro-community,” with this back-to-its-roots strategic approach. We are already seeing a growing buzz around more niche social networks and mobile applications such as Yatown, a neighborhood social network, Foodspotting, a social network for foodies, and MuggleSpace, which bills itself as “the ultimate Harry Potter Social Network.”
Are niche networks the next wave of online innovation?
Here are some ways brands have leveraged targeted networks to drive deeper brand engagements and brand growth.
Nordstrom - Prior to Pinterest’s skyrocketing growth over the last couple of months, Nordstrom was one of the first fashion brands who had a well-developed Pinterest following. Nordstrom leverages Pinterest to showcase its new collections, current trends, and promote store events. The retailer also uses specific Pinterest boards to provide users with relevant and timely fashions—for example, a “Holiday Sparkle” board in time for the winter holidays. Nordstrom also uses this social network to learn more about its community by looking at what trends and styles are driving engagement, such as likes and repins.
Southwest Airlines – Over the past few years, Southwest has partnered with Foodspotting as well as other location-based services such as Loopt and Gowalla to reward customers for checking-in on their mobile devices. Using the Foodspotting mobile application, Southwest social media employees have “spotted” foods across the different locations the airline travels to, and Southwest has extended the Foodspotting play offline where it has hosted several foodie tweet-ups and events.
Pepsi – Pepsi partnered with Turntable.fm, a virtual DJ music service, to spin music at SXSW, featuring DJs such as Flying Lotus, AraabMuzik, Deejat Theory, Upper West and Brenton Duvall.
ABC Television – This year, viewers of the 84th Annual Academy Awards were able to play along live with the Viggle mobile app, dubbed as a “loyalty program for TV,” answering trivia questions and winner prediction polls. There were a total of 88,000 check-ins to The Oscars on Viggle alone, attributing to an overall 4.2 million mentions.
With the rapid growth rate of new niche social networks, what are YOU doing to reignite your brand in an increasingly fragmented social media landscape?
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