The Social Media Download Part Deux: The Niche Platforms

social mediaLast week, we took you through Part I of this three-part social media series where we discussed the four major social media players: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. In this post, we’re going to delve into the niche players in social media. These platforms don’t have the scale of a Facebook or YouTube, but when used correctly, these are effective avenues to gain leads.

Think about it this way: more often than not the main thoroughfares in your state are the quickest and most expedient ways to travel long distances. These same roads are also the most crowded and in most cases, the most expensive way to travel. If you’re a local you know the back-roads with the scenic views, no tolls and far less cars. Think of these niche players as the back-roads: less busy, less competition “on the road” and a goldmine for one-on-one engagement.

* Disclaimer: These are not ordered by preference or importance, rather we have selected nine niche platforms that we feel you can use to benefit your small business.

 

Brazen

The Skinny: Brazen positions itself as a “career management tool for next-generation professionals” and as “a networking event that is going on 24/7 and is only a few mouse strokes away.”

Pros: Brazen Careerist encourages real, candid conversations. Much like other social networks, users select the groups they wish to join and respond to/follow users within these groups. Conversations are as abundant as they are diverse. A recent post, “Why You Might Be Better Off Without a Job After College” is trending above “The Anti-Stalker’s Guide for Converting Online Contact into Real World Collaboration.”

Cons: Interacting with others is usually helpful, but the loyalty amongst these interactions is difficult to gain. Although users have the ability to become a “fan” of other users, Brazen has a hard time cultivating this friendship. For example, I currently have 21 fans, not one of which I can name to you off the top of my head. Clearly, Brazen does a great job of getting people to communicate and interact via these groups but still has a ways to go before this becomes truly a “social” network.

Quora

The Skinny: Quora is a question and answers collaboration website that attracts about 200,000 unique visitors per month.

Pros: Quora’s users can control the quality of its content. Users can “vote up” good questions and answers and “vote down” content he/she deems poor. Yahoo Answers and Answers.com were the existing bellwethers in this category until Quora gained some steam last autumn.

Cons: Quora suffers from a lack of diversity. Topics within the tech and start-up realms dominate discussions within this site. Venture too far outside of these categories and you’re bound to find categories or topics that have hardly been mentioned.  Quora is also still dealing with influxes of poor content that push relevant, useful material farther down the page.

To learn more about Quora check out our post earlier this month.

 

Reddit

The Skinny: Reddit operates very much like Digg, one of its chief competitors. This is a social news website where users can post links, which are then displayed according to users’ personal preferences and what the community likes.

Pros: Reddit is an easy way to drive free traffic to your website. Ideally, good content (news article, blog, picture or video) that you post to this site will get voted up and thus more users will click through to your site. Reddit boasts over 8 million unique monthly visitors (self-reported).

Cons: The user-interface is not pretty. Additionally, if you post too much, reddit will freeze you from posting any more links for an unspecified amount of time.

digg

The Skinny: Digg is a social news website made for people to discover and share content from anywhere on the internet, by submitting links and stories, and voting and commenting on submitted links and stories.

Pros: In my opinion, Digg has a cleaner, more appealing interface than Reddit. Digg also benefits from the star power of Kevin Rose, its affable and uber-successful founder and serial entrepreneur. Both Digg and Reddit are great areas to share your content and drive free traffic to your website you wouldn’t otherwise have gained. Quantcast estimates that Digg receives 8.5 million unique visits per month in the US.

Cons: In August, 2010 Digg released version 4 of its site, which caused a backlash amongst Digg users. The site experienced a number of bugs and glitches that caused Digg users to post heavily to its rival, Reddit.com.

 

Delicious

The Skinny: Delicious is a social bookmarking service that allows users to tag, save, manage and share web pages from a centralized source, according to its site.

Pros: Delicious allows its users to have a single set of bookmarks between multiple computers, so you can access these whenever you have an internet connection. Delicious allows you to share your bookmarks and receive bookmarks in return. Started in 2003 (the oldest social bookmarking site), Delicious benefits from rich content and a strong community.

Cons: Simple and unspectacular design may turn some post Facebook-users off but those who have grown up through the evolution of social media will appreciate the simplicity and breadth of content this social bookmarking site has to offer.

Stumble Upon

The Skinny: Stumbleupon is a discovery engine that finds the best of the web. According to Wikipedia, it’s an “internet community that allows its users to discover and rate Web pages, photos and videos.”

Pros: This recommendation engine finds and recommends web content based on a user’s interests and through peer-sourcing principles. Rating websites with a thumbs up or thumbs down helps to foster networks of web surfers linked by common interests. In recent years, Stumbleupon has launched Stumblevideo in 2006, a site that allows users to stumble through videos, and Stumble Thru in 2007, which enables users to stumble within sites, such as YouTube and Wikipedia. Stumbleupon reports that it has upwards of 10 million members as of May 2010.

Cons: This site is great for uncovering content that you would not otherwise have found. As one can expect with a discovery engine, the “social networking” aspect of Stumbleupon is somewhat limited and interactions between users remains tied to “thumbs upping” or “thumbs downing” a site.

The Skinny: BizSugar is a social media site where you can share small business news and tips.

Pros: This site is a must for small businesses. BizSugar enables users to post and share content, which is then voted in the form of “sugars.” This model drives free traffic for your site, especially when your posts make it to BizSugar’s front page. You can vote on submissions and each week BizSugar selects the “Top 10” articles from that week, which is compiled and sent to all BizSugar members.

Cons: BizSugar is what it is and doesn’t try to be more. There are other niche social media sites that scale better than BizSugar but for qualified traffic and a great forum of small business information, BizSugar is second to none.

tumblr

The Skinny: Tumblr makes blogging easy for anyone looking to jump into the blogging fray.

Pros: Tumblr boasts nearly 19 million blogs and over 5.6 billion posts. In just over four years, Tumblr has evolved from a two-man start-up to a premier destination for those looking to enter the blogosphere. Users new to blogging enjoy this platform for its clean interface, ease of use and community. Tumblr’s signature feature is the “reblog” button that shares your post across thousands of blogs with just a click of the mouse.

Cons: Tumblr is not self-hosted and is easy to create and subsequently delete. As a result, many users complain that Tumblr is not uniquely created by each user…it’s more a shell that users fill out and customize.

Blog Engage

The Skinny: Blog Engage is a Digg-style directory that allows bloggers to submit their blog articles for free where other users can review, retweet, share and vote your articles up.

Pros: Need free traffic to your site? Look no further than Blog Engage. Blog Engage provides small businesses with a direct opportunity to share articles with other small business owners and customers. Install the Blog Engage WordPress Plugin to your blog and make it easy for your readers to share your posts on this platform.

Cons: Blog Engage’s function is mostly limited to submitting blog articles. Blog Engage also has a chat function (think gchat or facebook chat) where you can be spammed. Since signing up for Blog Engage, I have been pinged by other users, who send me a bit.ly link, asking me to vote for their posts….not the biggest fan of this feature.

 

What niche platforms did I miss? Share with us your experience in the Comments section below with the above platforms and include any platforms we missed. Next weeks’s post will include your recommendations and will be the final piece of this three-part social media series.