Prior to the digital age, if a business did not have a large, local customer base it would be unable to continue existing. Catering to niches has never been extremely profitable, as businesses relied on local demand to sustain themselves. But with the introduction of online shopping, people seeking niche goods can order them from any location around the world, thus making it possible to make a profit selling niche goods. However, this development made it difficult for companies to successfully promote their content, as the internet is oversaturated with advertisements.
So, one of the biggest challenges for a business catering to a niche market became getting enough exposure to reach the people who are interested in what they are selling. If the ratio of interested to uninterested consumers was 1:20000, spreading word about your product to the one person is extremely difficult, as it is almost impossible for a person to spread the word about a good they do not care about. And as word of mouth happens to be one of the most effective advertisements, it is imperative to find a way to get word out.
This can be achieved through an interesting new tactic. With the rise of social media and specifically the creation of the hash tag, companies can now narrow their marketing efforts to focus on specific sections of the market, conveniently segmented for them by social media platforms.
For example, businesses catering to environmentally conscious shoppers have utilised Instagram as a powerful, free marketing tool by following hash tags frequently used by those shoppers. Consider the company OFFEE sthlm, which sells bioplastic products made from waste coffee grounds. The first step of the marketing process for them is to isolate the consumers who they believe will be most interested in their products, in this case environmentally conscious shoppers. Next, they identify the hash tags which these consumers would often use or follow. Once the hash tags are identified, the social media manager follows these hash tags and interacts with the people who are using them. The most effective interaction pattern can be achieved through Instagram specifically, as the “OFFEE” account can comment positively on pictures people upload within the hash tags, and attract visitors to their page through natural curiosity.
This comment-lure strategy is so effective because Instagram pictures rarely receive large numbers of comments, so it is likely that the original poster reads every single one of the comments they receive. A user is likely to look at the account who left the comment, and if the content is something they are interested in, they will most likely follow the account. As the interaction has been curated by the company, it is almost certain that the environmentally conscious shopper will follow the account. Now, the consumer would not have deliberately sought out this account even if it fits with their interests, as the sheer amount of accounts on Instagram is overwhelming and there is no universal classification system which distinguishes between their themes. This direct interaction based marketing method is therefore mutually beneficial, as the consumer’s interests are catered for and the company increases their chances of making profit.
There is, however, one basic rule for making sure that the strategy is successful.
No matter how tempting it is to forego constructing individual comments and copy and paste a scripted comment, the urge must be resisted. A spam-like comment will only result in a negative reaction on the original poster’s part. This is because individually crafted comments create the impression that the company is genuinely interested in the original poster’s content, and will predispose them to liking the company’s account. The interaction essentially creates a personal connection between the consumer and the company, which generally results in greater brand loyalty.
By interacting with a large number of people in the relevant hash tags, a brand can build up a significant following. The company can then grow to become the biggest supplier of the niche goods, and create a monopoly of scale which could not be replicated by small businesses. Thus, a niche market can be tapped essentially for free.
As small communities from across the world turn to social media, it would be a serious business opportunity lost to miss this new way of marketing.