October 2, 2014

7 Factors to Separate a Good Niche Social Media Site from a Bad One

Throughout a number of posts on this blog I’ve written about niche social media sites and their potential to be an excellent source of traffic for blogs. The idea behind niche sites as opposed to major social media sites like Digg, Reddit and StumbleUpon is that the visitors you receive from niche sites will be far more targeted, and generally higher quality traffic. Because the niche sites focus on content that relates to a particular topic, the visitors that arrive at your site should have more of an interest in your blog and will be more likely to come back in the future.

The major problem with this is that there are so many niche sites out there, and many of them are a waste of time if you’re trying to market to their audience. A topic that has not been discussed on this blog in the past is the differences between a good niche site and a bad one. For the purposes of this article I’m referring to a site that is worth your time as a user and a marketer as a good site, and one that is not worth your time as a bad one. The good and bad are relative to this discussion in terms of marketing and exposure, it’s not meant to say that is necessarily good or bad in any other way.

Why Does This Matter?

Most bloggers are looking to gain more exposure from social media, which includes more visitors, new visitors, improved branding, inbound links, subscribers, and repeat visitors. Major social media sites can bring huge amounts of exposure, but achieving success with these sites is difficult and typically only certain types of content are likely to do well. Niche social media sites make it easier to get some results and the types of content that you can use are not as limited.

7 Distinguishing Factors:

1. Focus

A strong niche social media site should be focused on one specific subject. While general social news sites like Digg include a wide variety of content, they also have visitors with a wide variety of interests. Niche social media sites have a tighter focus and thus an audience that is more targeted. Some niche sites are focused tighter than others. The more focus a site has in it’s target audience, the more accurately you can gauge what that audience will like and how they will respond. The whole purpose of niche sites is to get rid of the content that isn’t relevant to most visitors, so a niche site with a wider focus is generally not as good as one with a tighter focus.

2. Relevance

If the audience of a niche social media site is highly targeted, that is a positive for you as a marketer, assuming your content is relevant to the areas of focus. This isn’t a gauge of the niche social media site itself, rather, it is a gauge to see if that specific site is a good fit for your content. It may be a very strong social media site for one blog’s content, but very poor for another’s. Take some time to observe the audience and the content that is featured to see if it fits with your blog.

3. Size of Audience

While niche social media sites will always have a much smaller audience than the big boys, that certainly doesn’t mean that they are not useful. However, the majority of niche sites have very small audiences, and at a certain point it becomes a waste of your time to market there when you could be using your time for something else. Unfortunately there is no exact number that means a site is worth your time, but you should have a better idea after using the site for a while. If your content is becoming “popular” and only getting 5 visitors from the front page, it’s likely that you could make better use of your time somewhere else.

4. Connection to Other/Larger Social Media Sites

One of the best experiences early on that convinced me of the value of niche social media sites was what I have referred to as the Domino Effect. The idea behind the domino effect is that many social media users are active with multiple social media sites, so if they comes across your content on site X, they may vote for it or submit it to site Y. This may sound minor, but it can make a huge difference in terms of getting votes and giving your content a springboard to popularity at various social media sites.

In some cases, certain social media sites will share a high percentage of users with other social media sites. You may not be able to find this out with a good deal of experimenting and analysis, but if you find a niche site that has a connection to a larger or more significant site, you should do what you can to achieve success with the niche site, as this can be an easier backdoor to success with major social media sites.

5. Amount of Content that is Featured

The number of posts or items that are featured at a social media site will impact how much potential exposure you can get. If a huge number of sites are featured it means that yours will get less time in the spotlight. On the other hand, if not enough items are featured, the site is unlikely to have an established audience. Ideally, you’ll want to find some middle ground where your item gets enough exposure but there are still a decent number of items featured each day.

6. Tools

Many social media sites, especially the major ones, have tools that users can take advantage of. It may be a toolbar or bookmarklet that makes it fast and easy to submit sites, or it can be a button or script to allow your readers to vote for your blog posts. Many niche sites have these items available to their users, but not all. I wouldn’t consider this a make-or-break item on this list, but if a site does have tools available and you want to maximize your impact, take advantage of them.

Voting buttons for niche social media sites are great for putting on your blog posts. Digg buttons are more popular, but niche voting buttons can have more of an impact. It doesn’t take many votes to get to the front page with most niche sites, so the votes that are accumulated are more significant. Also, you can leverage the community of a strong niche social media site by using the buttons, as users of the site will feel more at home on your blog when they recognize that you’re considering them to be a part of your target audience.

7. Growth Potential

The best niche social media sites are still up-and-coming. Even those that have been around for a while still have a much larger potential audience to tap into. When you’re evaluating a niche site, try to examine it’s potential for growth. Does the site seem to be professionally run in a way that the owners are serious about the site, or does it seem like more of a hobby for the owners? Is the focus of the site so specific that the potential audience is very small? These things aren’t always easy to determine on your own, but you can usually get a reasonably accurate idea if the site has any potential for the future.

What Do You Look For?

What do you like to see in niche social media sites? What convinces you to be active at a site?

About Steven Snell

Steven is a web designer, blogger, and freelance writer.

7 comments

  1. I totally agree with your point #4 Connections with other social media sites. As you said most of the social media users are active in all major ones. So once they notice your presence in one place they will follow you in other sites too.

  2. Hi Steven, it has been quite some time since I comment here but I am always reading the good stuffs that you present here.

    Just a food for thought about joining a social media sites as I am learning how to blend into these sites and leveraging them for traffic and personal branding. The characteristics that you listed are normally present for SM sites that are up for quite some time as trends and patterns can be easily identified. What if a site is brand new?

    Will you join the site and put your efforts into it early so that you can become a much “senior” member on the site later on when it gets popular or will you choose the waiting route?

  3. Hi Wayne. Very good question. Personally, I would probably only use a new site if it was highly targeted to my niche. If it was a general site I would wait for it to grow an audience before putting too much time in. Of course, there are definitely advantages to being an early user, the problem is that it’s hard to know which sites will take off.

  4. I totally agree, Very good article I will keep a update on your blog and keep checking :) Btw I blog over at http://www.genxor.com

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