Your social media strategy is likely missing opportunities to engage customers and prospects because your view of what social media is and what it can do is too narrow.

The landscape of social media changes rapidly. New platforms enter, platforms die off, and the platforms that persist continue to update and change functionality at break-neck speeds. Recently, I wrote about how to cope with the recent (or not-so-recent, if you agree with my perspective) changes to Facebook’s organic reach. The reality of social media is that competition for engagement will continue to increase, and the visibility for your business will go down as these platforms push harder and harder for brands to pay for advertising.

For example, Snapchat, which was once the wild west of organic social media marketing, has started to run unskippable 6-second ads.

The major social media platforms are still worthwhile for your business even if you have to learn to use them in different ways. In no particular order, people in my line of work tend to look at the major social media platforms as including the following:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • YouTube
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest

Not every business needs to be on every platform. Some industries are better suited for specific platforms and will see limited on engagement on other social media networks, so if you are not using all of them, that’s okay. Many of our clients skew toward favoring one or two of these major platforms over the others because their target audience. One brand might have an Instagram-heavy strategy while another will play almost exclusively on LinkedIn.

But I’ve talked about what your social media strategy should entail at great length in previous posts as well as in my book, The Innovative Brand.

For this post, I want you to think beyond the standard social media platforms. I want you to tap into marketing opportunities that your competitors have overlooked by doing something bold and different. Start and lead a new conversation to engage your fans and your prospects.

You should look to see if your industry has its own social media platform (there is an entire social network dedicated to knitting, for example) or if there is a hidden group or page within a popular platform that houses a mini-community of potential customers. As you do that research, you should also explore Facebook Messenger, Reddit, and Imgur. These networks are gathering huge audiences of highly engaged users and many brands are still overlooking them.

Facebook Messenger

Technically, this is a part of the Facebook platform, but Facebook has made a deliberate effort to treat their Messenger app as a parallel offering. If you want to quibble about it being truly distinct from Facebook, come at me, but the more important lesson for you to glean here is that the Messenger platform has a great deal of built-in marketing potential. We have started to see brands directly message fans and potential fans (people who interact with a piece of content from a page but have not yet officially liked the page or bought a product) to build relationships, and we have also seen a rise in Messenger-based advertising campaigns.

The best practices for Messenger marketing are still in flux as the platform is relatively new as far as marketing goes, but here are some places to start:

  • Send “thank you” messages to fans who say something positive about your brand. Personalize the message as much as possible (which includes making it from a person rather than a faceless company rep).
  • Directly contact people who have questions about products or services. Focus on helping instead of selling if you want this outreach to land well.
  • Use Messenger to prospect. If you see people sharing your content and aren’t customer, send them a coupon code as a thank you. Again, don’t be too salesy, and keep the message light and sincere.

If Facebook is not a major part of your marketing mix, Messenger is unlikely to be the next level you’re looking for, but if you are using Facebook, you should start to be diligent with Messenger as soon as you can.

Reddit

Reddit bills itself as the front-page of the internet. The site is driven by user-submitted content—links to news articles, images, videos, text-only posts—and those users organize themselves into communities. The largest communities are incredibly broad, such as /r/funny, a community (or subreddit, to use Reddit lingo) dedicated to funny content. From a marketing perspective, the more intriguing and useful communities are smaller and niche-specific. For example, /r/CRTgaming is a subreddit dedicated to people who hunt for high-end old televisions for retro gaming (I may or may not be a part of this community).

Reddit is a massive site (with traffic rivaling Facebook), so you can find a pretty wide array of communities within the platform. Niche subreddits by interest and region abound, and we have found this to be a powerful way to endear a brand with a community. Simply being a worthwhile contributor (helping other members and participating in conversations instead of giving a sales pitch) can win you a lot of business. At the same time, you can target Reddit ads to specific communities, giving you the opportunity to tailor your message to the exact audience you intend to reach.

If you want to use Reddit for marketing, here’s how to start:

  • Be a participant first. Reddit users are masters at identifying shills, so be a genuine member of the community before you start trying to promote products or services.
  • Follow rules and guidelines. Reddit as a whole has rules that moderators and administrators enforce, and then each individual subreddit has its own policies as well. Take the time to read up to avoid embarrassing your brand.
  • Interesting content rules Reddit. You can be funny. You can be serious. You can be educational. Reddit users will engage with all types of content, so learn what your community prefers and contribute things that are entertaining first and sales tools second.
  • Be conscious of promotion fatigue. You cannot treat Reddit like Facebook and make a new promotional post each day. You either need to spread your content out around various subreddits (though savvy users will look at your post history and call you out) or you need to limit your original contributions to once or twice a month, so make them good. In the meantime, actively participate in community conversations.
  • Develop content-driven Reddit ad campaigns, especially if you are targeting by subreddits. Many advertisers use Reddit advertising as just another display ad network, but my suggestion is for you to treat Reddit advertising more like Facebook post boosting. Know your audience, and use advertising to get the right content in front of more of the right people.

Before you dive into Reddit marketing, let me warn you: It is a silly place full of nuanced history and inside jokes. Learn the landscape before you set up a campsite.

Imgur

Imgur is a social image sharing network. Yes, Instagram is technically a social image sharing network as well, but the Imgur approach is much different. Instagram serves up photos to users based on who they follow and has a secondary discovery feed that’s based on a user’s interests inferred from their activity. If you are like me and follow a bunch of jiu-jitsu people on Instagram, you will get a bunch of suggestions for jiu-jitsu-type content in the discovery feed.

Imgur users see the most popular and engaging images on the platform, as voted on by other users. This means that an Imgur feed is an eclectic stream of pictures and GIFs, ranging from heartwarming to heartbreaking and everything in between. Originally, Imgur was just a hosting platform for Reddit users who wanted to share pictures, but now it has grown into a full-blown community with its own culture and expansive reach. Where Instagram places an emphasis on the user posting the photos (because you have to follow them to get the content), Imgur is much more focused on interesting content from all corners of the internet.

If you have interesting content, Imgur can be a powerful platform to engage audiences. Here’s what you should keep in mind if you want to use Imgur for marketing:

  • Most of my suggestions for Reddit also apply to Imgur. Be a user first to get to know the culture of Imgur, add real value to the conversation instead of just promoting your stuff, and use the best content possible on the platform.
  • Acting as an individual instead of a brand is likely the best choice for Imgur marketing. Imgur enjoys personal stories, so if you want to tell a story about your business, put a face to it and personalize it.
  • Imgur as an advertising platform is incredible for content marketing. The original ad is gone now, but this article gives a summary of how Old Spice launched a GIF-heavy contest on Imgur, pitting two of its spokespeople against each other. For a more recent example, check out this 7-Eleven ad featuring Deadpool. It’s not the best example of an Imgur ad I’ve ever seen, but it shows how long-form content can have a place in advertising.
  • If you run an Imgur ad campaign, tie it to a larger storytelling effort for your brand. Imgur users love good stories and entertaining content. If you just post a promotion, you won’t see much traction.

Imgur as a social media site is still growing, and I believe it is one of the most underestimated marketing channels out there today.

What Next

As you look to these platforms and beyond for more social media opportunities, don’t forget what makes social media marketing effective in the first place: sincere connections. You should not lose sight of the fact that social media networks are online communities, and that means you have to be a worthwhile member of that community to truly make a difference. Don’t forget to be human and to have a conversation. You are not just there to sell. You are there to make a connection.