Beyond the big six networks—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram and Pinterest—there are dozens more that are quickly rising in usage or are super valuable for particular audiences and niches. That’s a ton to keep track of, and it can be a mystery to know where to spend your time.
To help you decide, check out this guide and five “fringe” social networks:
Tips for choosing a social network
Choose the social networks that best fit your strategy and the goals you want to achieve on social media. You don’t have to be on them all—just the ones that matter to you and your audience.
Here are a few factors to consider:
- Time. How much time can you devote to a social network? Plan on at least an hour per day per social network, though tools such as Buffer can save time.
- Resources. What personnel and skills do you have to work with, and do you have the resources to create what’s needed?
- Knowledge. What will be the learning curve for you for a given social network?
- Your audience. Where do your potential customers hang out?
This last one is likely to be quite important as you consider the social networks beyond the largest social media platforms. If your audience is spending its time on a fringe social network, it might be appealing for you to be there, too.
How to tell whether your audience is on a particular social network
To determine where your audience hangs out on social media, you can look for a number of signals. Do you hear about a certain social network quite often? If so, it’s probably because those you are close to—your audience, in most cases—is talking about it.
Beyond intuition, here are specific signals that could lead you where your audience is hanging out.
1. Check the referral traffic from social to your website.
In your Google Analytics reports, select Acquisition > Social > Network Referrals and see all the traffic that has come to your site from the various social networks.
Does a certain network seem to send you a bunch of traffic? That could signal that a portion of your audience hangs out there.
2. Notice the social networks of the people who email you.
If you run your small business or manage your brand through your inbox, you’re likely to receive a lot of emails from your audience.
There are tools that help provide extra insights into your email contacts, particularly the social networks they frequent.
3. Study the demographics of the networks.
You’ve probably got a great idea of the makeup of your audience. If you can match that understanding to some up-and-coming social networks, you might spot opportunities to connect.
Demographic information tends to come out sporadically, when a website performs a study or a social network makes a public announcement. Pew Research Center, TechCrunch, Statista and DMR are my favorite sources for this information.
Though you should choose the social networks that suit you best, reserve your username on every social network, even if you’re not sure you’ll ever spend time there.
Doing so helps keep these spots on hold for you if your strategy changes or a network gets quite popular. It also helps protect your brand from others who may impersonate you or establish a voice and tone that you’d prefer they didn’t.
To find out which spots still have your username available, use Knowem, which checks the major 25 social networks to see what’s available.
“Fringe” social networks
Don’t look only to large social media platforms for your brand’s PR and marketing strategy. Here are five smaller social websites and apps to consider:
Snapchat is a messaging app in which text, photos and videos will disappear one to 10 seconds after the recipient opens them. Of its 200 million users, 71 percent are under age 25.
Snapchat is one of the fastest-growing social networks among the 25-and-under crowd . There’s a lot to like for young people—the network is new enough that it’s yet to see large adoption from parents or brands, and the temporary nature of the content is appealing to many.
That’s not to say that businesses can’t succeed on Snapchat. Though content disappears after a short time, users can take a screenshot of what they like, allowing some content to endure elsewhere. Snapchat has encouraged brand involvement with the release of Snapchat Discover, a story tool for editorial brands.
One fun way that brands use Snapchat is to annotate the images with drawings and doodles. Here’s an example from the NBA:
Recommended for: those who focus on a young audience, 25 and under.
Vine is a mobile, video-sharing service built by Twitter, where users create and share six-second videos. Of its 40 million users, 57 percent are women.
The connection between Twitter and Vine is tight. Vine videos can be shared easily to Twitter, and they embed quite smoothly into a Twitter stream. The audiences most primed to consume Vines spend time on Twitter or Tumblr, two of the best short-form networks.
Brands have found creative ways to use Vine, creating smart how-to videos and short films. One great example is this fun video from Dunkin Donuts, reimagining a highlight from that night’s NFL game.
See more fun examples here.
Recommended for: those with a large following on Twitter, or those whose content fits a six-second format well (how-to videos, comedy, memes).
Tumblr is a microblogging platform where users can post text or multimedia—images, GIFs, video—to a short-form blog. Roughly 230 million people use Tumblr each month, and 50 percent of its users are 18 to 34 years old.
Tumblr appeals to people who enjoy sharing snippets of what they find interesting or amusing. Brand managers can find value in the short-form nature of Tumblr, as it’s quite easy to publish any small thing—a quote, a photo, a video—that comes to mind.
You can use Tumblr as a WordPress alternative, too. People can follow your blog, adding your posts automatically to their Tumblr dashboards, and users can “like” or repost any content on your page.
A great example that comes to mind is Penguin Random House, which shares all sorts of fun, short-form book posts.
Recommended for: highly visual brands; those with a young audience or whose content lends itself well to images, GIFs, video; those who have enough unique short-form content to support a Tumblr blog in addition to a main blog.
Vimeo is a video-sharing website with a community of filmmakers and video professionals. The platform has 170 million monthly active users.
Similar to YouTube in almost every way—social sharing, embedding on a website—Vimeo has carved out a niche with its clean, smooth interface. It’s focused on the viewing experience itself, warranting its popularity among video professionals.
Patagonia has a great presence on Vimeo, where it shares wonderfully produced videos.
Recommended for: filmmakers and video professionals; those with big, beautiful HD videos and audiences who care deeply about user experience.
Quora is a question-and-answer website; the questions and answers all come from a community of 2.9 million active users.
Great conversations take place on Quora, and it’s easy to address questions that involve your brand or your industry. Sharing expertise is a great way to be active on Quora. You can also write content directly into its publishing tools, which is a neat way to repurpose existing blog posts or articles.
We’ve found Quora to be particularly useful when questions surface about Buffer’s history or culture. Joel or Leo can hop in directly and contribute their expertise to the thread, and we can monitor topics and keywords to stay aware when these conversations occur.
Recommended for: those who would like to contribute to the conversation about their niche or brand.