This Year Will Mark the Rise of the Digital Niche Communities for Brands

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By Jayson Fittipaldi, Creative Director for SHARE US, Miami, FL

Although Twitter is no longer required to issue quarterly earnings reports since Elon took the company private, if it were to, as anyone paying attention knows, the news would not be good.

According to a recent report in The Information, the platform will announce revenue ‘plunged by 35 percent in the fourth quarter of 2022 as top advertisers fled the social media platform following Elon Musk’s takeover.’ According to the story, Twitter’s Global Sales and Marketing boss Chris Riedy said the company had generated revenue of $1.025 billion over the three-month span – or just 72% of its internal goal for the quarter – a 39 percent decline from this time last year.

That’s a lot of marketing budget not going into Elon’s coffers. So where should brand managers and CMOs be thinking about investing some of this spare social media marketing budget?

It may come as a surprise to some but the next big area for brand exploration is decentralized social platforms. To be clear, when we speak of decentralized social platforms we’re talking specifically about places like Discord, Reddit and Telegram, all of which are making their platforms more brand friendly. This may be the year that brands start to understand these new community ecosystems to create more organic relationships and a deeper understanding of their customers.

Consider that at CES a few weeks ago, Reddit released a special report today boasting its ability to predict future consumer trends by mining the sub-Reddits and their moderators’ insights. Discord also recently made news with its acquisition of Gas, the popular poll-based social app that lets friends share compliments. Given Gas’ mission to uplift and empower young people, one can easily see the branding opportunities.

If you think about it: We’ve been living in the age of the ‘big social media’ platforms for quite a while now but trends show that consumers are checking out other digital spaces. That’s attributable to not just the Twitter mess but also decisions at Meta and ongoing questions around privacy and ByteDance, TikTok’s China-based parent company. Right now we’re seeing a cultural shift around digital behavior with consumers looking to connect with more like-minded individuals with similar interests.

That’s where platforms like Reddit, Discord and Telegram come in. They offer brands more direct access to target audiences, allowing for more targeted communication with consumers, which not only increases customer loyalty but also gives marketers first-hand insights and feedback about what challenges may lie ahead. Brands engaging on decentralized platforms have seen a 66 percent increase in brand loyalty.

But these new platforms can also be challenging. Brands need to establish new ways of connecting with audiences on these platforms based on listening and creating experiences that reward their loyalty.

Let’s take a closer look at each and how to effectively use them.

Discord: Sometimes referred to as ‘Slack for Gen Z,’ Discord was born in 2012 with one purpose: to give gamers a space to talk, chat and discuss the game while playing. Since many video games are team-based or role-play video games, Discord has proven to be a great platform to build connections, particularly for brands within gaming, pop culture and music. Because Discord has an aversion to traditional advertising, brands need to join the platform as peer-to-peer members and work to win the trust and the community’s attention through genuine, authentic and independent participation.

Pro Tip:  Start discussions with existing customers and fans. Use offers of one-of-a-kind experiences to drive sales and loyalty and create topic-focused servers rather than launching servers to promote their brand or products. Also, use live events to boost interaction. Consider hosting a game night, a celebrity interview or a live concert.

Reddit: With 430 million monthly active users, Reddit is broken down into subreddits – communities that focus on niche areas spanning pretty much everything one could post about. Because subreddits are hyper-focused on one topic, the corresponding conversations attract passionate fans, subject matter experts and curious answer seekers. But because any user can create a subreddit and users are anonymous, brands have no means to verify themselves and have no official rights over brand-named threads like r/mcdonalds or r/ps5. The challenge will be to start natural, engaging and relevant conversations that don’t feel self-promotional.

Pro Tip: Consider using Reddit’s AMAs (Ask Me Anything), where brands dedicate a staff member to answering questions and engaging with the community. Smart brands use it to mine insights about how people think of your brand and how communities discuss the interests central to your brand. Remember to properly identify the subreddits that are talking about your brand that you want to engage with. Cross-posting to more than one subreddit is not advised as it appears spammy.

Telegram: This cross-platform messaging app with enhanced privacy and encryption features and support for extensive group chat features have over 400 million active monthly users, with over 70 billion messages shared on the platform daily. Brands are using Telegram for marketing because they recognize the platform’s benefits go beyond WhatsApp, which has a limit on the size of groups, while Telegram has none. Brands can gather as many followers as they want, organize group chats as they please and reach all the followers they desire with content. Some groups on Telegram have up to 1 million members.

Pro Tip: Find public groups that align with your target audience. Once you have found the right groups, get a feel for the tone and culture of the group. If the group seems a good fit for your message, reach out to the group’s administrator and ask if you can post about your product or service. When posting in the group, respect the other members and follow any guidelines the administrator has set. Don’t forget to include a call to action in your post and a link to your channel.

Decentralized niche communities are all about empowering brand loyalty, which encourages repeat purchases based on positive brand perception. Given that more than half of the revenue for most companies comes from repeat business, incorporating  niche communities into your marketing strategy with increase brand loyalty by creating a dialogue and open conversation, which enhances engagement and trust.