Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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Social media can be a curious place.  At its best, it is often overwhelming and at its worst it can be a rather lonely existence. Depending on the social media platform that one is on, usually, deep and meaningful conversations around one’s topics of interest are the exception rather than the rule. For most consumers, the fear of being trolled of being on the receiving end of online slander prevents them from touching upon topics that are controversial or close to their hearts.

Groups on major social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are undoubtedly familiar to businesses. However, the landscape of online social networks, on the other hand, is changing, and businesses must adapt. Here are three reasons why firms should concentrate on specialised social groups. Conventional social media platforms are also getting bombarded with brand messages and advertising which may make it difficult for companies to set themselves apart amidst all the white noise.

According to backlinko, globally, 3.96 billion individuals use social media, more than double the 2.07 billion individuals in 2015. Despite depicting robust growth, in present times, the growth of social media platforms has plateaued.  Presently, the average person would have 8.6 social media accounts, up from a mere 4.8 in 2014. Since 2015, the average annual growth rate for social media has been 12.5%. Based on insights, let’s take a closer look at why businesses should focus on niche social media platforms and communities today.

Closed communities are gaining popularity

People seek for a sense of belonging where they can express themselves, interact, and learn more than ever before. They desire to be a part of a certain sort of social group. As a result, specialised, closed social groups are gaining traction in comparison to public feeds on social media platforms such as Facebook. In most countries, the adoption of major social networks has stalled. According to a Pew Research Center poll, more than half of Facebook users aged 18 and above have changed their privacy settings in the last year, 42% have stopped using the network, and 26% have removed the app from their phone.

Further, according to recent data from Global Web Index, the amount of time millennial and Gen Z audiences spend on various social platforms is either flat, falling, or not increasing as rapidly as in the years past. If one were to delve deeper to get a sense of what’s driving this trend: Many millennials and Gen Z audiences claim that after years of carefully curating online personas and amassing many  online “friends,” they’re ready to be themselves and form true friendships based on similar interests. At the end of the day, it is the human need for meaningful conversations among likeminded peers is what is driving this shift.

Access to a highly curated audience

Despite the fact that social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have millions of users, they are not necessarily the ideal platform for every product or business. Many companies’ marketing efforts would find themselves being effective if they connected with a smaller audience of a few hundred people who have similar interests. Without too much white noise, brands would be able to connect better with the target audience and make the impact they seek.  Marketers will have to rethink their strategy in order to target these younger consumers on social media. The first step is to grasp the unique qualities of these more restricted, and sometimes more private and exclusive online environments. These places are akin to virtual campfires.

According to Harvard Business Review, brands can zero in on the right virtual campfire by determining They must first determine which groups and aspects of culture their brand belong to. Then, figure out what kinds of online experiences these people want. Brands like the NFL, Marvel, and Nike have done exactly that, using the game Fortnite to engage their audiences by selling skins (stylized weaponry and clothes for players’ in-game avatars), developing branded mash-up game modes, and performing limited-edition product drops within the game.

The road ahead

It is imperative that brands don’t use the ham-fisted approach of simply replicating their market strategy from other platforms for closed groups and communities as well. A nuanced approach where a strategy is created only after observing the behaviour of people in the community for a while will be profoundly more impactful.  Ostensibly, giving a lot of thought about value engineering and engagement will be critical.  Sometimes, this may mandate a completely out of the box approach.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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