For the past decade large social networks have been front and center in terms of capturing users screen time. First through computers, and then through mobile phones. It started off as a great way to connect with friends, share updates, and ultimately bring the world closer together. As humans are innately social beings, the concept of a single platform connecting the entire world was fascinating in theory. Instead, these large social networks took advantage of biological and psychological impulses to take advantage of users in ways that resulted in them staying online for longer and longer periods of time. Ultimately, these platforms no longer connect humans to each other in the way they are meant to, but rather, exploit them by bombarding them with hyper specific ads based off of their personal data.
Can you feel it now?
Why Big Social Networks are Dying
Now, I am not saying overnight that the largest social networks currently in existence will vanish. It will be a slow death as they will try to continue to adapt to the tides of societal change. First and foremost, the distrust of large social networks, specifically Facebook, has left a bitter taste in users' mouths. Activity is slowly declining as is user growth. But where are all of these users going? Hopefully enjoying more time in the “real world” with family and friends, but as a second best, likely to a smaller, more initmate neworks that actually are communities that empower users to have real and in-depth discussions with like-minded people. Large social networks will likely try to adapt to the trend of users preferring smaller communities, however, their strength over the last 10 years will be their weakness, they are now too big to be able to properly niche down in the capacity necessary to provide a true community feel. Examples of this migration are already occurring exemplified by the many droves of users joining topic based Slack groups and Telegram groups. They are smaller, more focused, and yet have the modern ability to communicate with others from the ease of your phone. Are these types of communities the future? I certainly think so.
Officially Introducing Niche Communities
So what do we call these new types of social communities that seem to be popping up everywhere? Like any new trend or industry there is still lots of fragmentation when it comes to nomenclature and definitions. We see what’s happening and have defined the trend, but it’s a pain in the rear-end tying this trend to a single term or catch phrase. Now, I am not the owner of this trend, far from it, but this is my attempt to bring all the amazing people talking about this trend together and link them all to a single term. So what it is it? The one that I keep coming back to is Niche Community.
Why name it Niche Community? I think the two words chosen here perfectly align with what these new era social gatherings represent. They are for one, mostly focused on a particular or single topic or in other words, a niche. They are not trying to be everything social networks of the past. Secondly, they are not trying to become giant networks with billions of users, they are picky and more specific about who comes in as they are trying to create real connections amongst its users, a true community. Niche Community also has a nice ring to it and I believe it is a term that others are slowly gravitating to as well.
What is a Niche Community?
Quite simply it is a gathering of like-minded individuals who are focused on discussing or attaining similar goals and interests within their given niche. This gathering takes place on digital and real-world platforms that are not built off of existing large social networks like Facebook groups. Telegram, Discord and Slack groups are likely to be included within the Niche Community definition as users can be part of only one group and not automatically a member of a larger network.
I am also building the ultimate directory of all Niche Communities on CommunityHunt and if you know others that are not listed please do add them!
Who are the Niche Community Influencers?
Like any growing trend or movement, there are always leaders or influencers that are driving the charge by openly promoting, sharing, and/or innovating. From my vantage point, here is a list of my favorites. Again, if you know others please tweet me and I will be sure to add them!
Why Marketers and Brands Should Pay Attention to Niche Communities
We all know the success brands and marketers had on social network platforms. The ability to target specific audiences in order to improve brand awareness and ultimately sales was made incredibly easy through networks like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and even now TikTok.
With more and more competition for ads on these platforms, specifically increased costs per click, as well as users getting exhausted by ad overload and dismissing them, big social will no longer provide the ROI that marketers and brands are seeking. Niche communities will become more desirable as places to advertise for two reasons. First, community managers and moderators can ensure that the brands that are looking to advertise are indeed high quality and can actually provide value to their member base. Secondly, since niche communities are hyper focused within a given topic, advertisers have more certainty that the quality of their clicks will be high. The challenge for those running communities will be to find the balance of getting advertising revenue dollars while ensuring the user experience and the trust of the members does not get compromised.
In 2020 I will be allocating more time to this website and adding more relevant content in regards to niche communities, highlighting popular ones, interviewing community managers and founders, and sharing content that I find valuable. The mission and goal of this website is to ensure niche communities are easily discovered, ultimately supporting the great social network migration. Again, if you are interested in niche communities and want to reach out, be sure to tweet or get in touch.