When you meet people in the offline world, who do you meet? Chances are it is small groups of people with similar interests to your own. Most of us value these carefully selected groups.
They are places where we talk about things we are interested in, learn from people we trust, and, ultimately, enjoy ourselves. Niche communities are the online equivalent of these real-life groups. They are spaces filled with people interested in the topics we want to spend time discussing.
By offering immense value to members, they are also important assets for the people and brands that create and grow them.
This article will discuss niche communities and how your brand can create one to improve customer success.
What are niche communities?
Niche communities are social spaces based around a particular interest, profession, or topic. These groups are filled with people who are passionate about the subject at the heart of the community.
They often have a small member base—although there are certainly examples of niche communities with a large number of members. Sites like Github, Instructables, and Goodreads are all large sites that could be classed as niche communities due to them being based on a specific interest.
But what niche communities lack in size, they make up for by being home to valuable conversations and an engaged audience.
What are examples of niche communities?
Niche communities can start around any topic, from hobbies to professions and everything in between.
For example, Bettermode customers have created communities on topics such as customer support quality, pets, marketing operations, and law.
Here are some examples of niche communities.:
ConvertKit - A community of creators to foster collaboration, offer support, and share resources. CoachHub: A Community of Practice for coaches across the globe to connect and help each other improve their craft. Quality Tribe by Klaus - SaaS company, Klaus, is building a community for CX (customer experience) quality professionals. WebinarNinja - A community of entrepreneurs to help them uplift each other, collect feedback, offer help, and share best practices. DeineTierwelt- DeineTierwel aims to connect pet lovers and enable them to share knowledge and help each other.
Niche communities improve upon social networks in many ways
Niche communities are taking over the space that was originally filled by social networks.
While these sites were—and in many cases still are—the go-to platform for communicating online, they have several big failings.
First is their size.
The biggest platforms are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, TikTok, and Snapchat. These sites have anywhere from hundreds of millions to billions of users.
While this makes them useful for building a large volume of connections, it is harder to find a like-minded group of people. Instead, users are more likely to get lost in an avalanche of videos, ads, and suggested content.
People also struggle to find valuable conversations on social networks.
Studies show that people who are members of both online communities and social sites report being more likely to have meaningful conversations in the former. They are also more likely to feel appreciated and respected in online communities.
What about groups?
Facebook tried to solve this problem with its Groups feature. In theory, these spaces should be an easy way to connect with people.
But they are held back in many ways.
For starters, groups don’t offer the community-building functionality of dedicated platforms. It is harder to create groups designed for specific use cases.
Create separate spaces within a community.
Embed the group on your website.
Customize the look and feel of the group.
The Facebook algorithm is another big roadblock to community building.
The problem is that Facebook wants you to spend as much time in the app as possible.
It doesn’t care whether this happens through time spent in a group or watching a video. It simply shows the content most likely to keep people engaged.
This means that even though people have signed up for your group, they won’t necessarily see your updates—potentially harming engagement. Also, this social network is inherently full of distractions -- there are notifications from friends and family, ads, cat videos, and more.
Another problem is that Facebook actively promotes competing niche communities to your users. The group feed has a section that shows users other communities similar to the ones they have already joined.
This means you could be spending time building your community, only for Facebook to redirect members to a competitor!
Check out the image below for an example of this.
What are the benefits of a niche community?
A niche community solves many of the problems listed above:
They try to build small targeted audiences, not connect everyone on the planet.
They focus on building value, not keeping users online for as long as possible.
They display relevant conversations, not ads or clickbait videos.
By fixing these issues, niche communities bring significant value to users and those who operate these groups.
Here are some of the main benefits of a niche community:
Establish stronger relationships
Building a niche community helps you form stronger relationships with customers, leads, and people in your industry.
That’s because these groups let you connect with people on an individual level. It’s a far more personalized interaction than other types of digital marketing like blogging or PPC ads.
And the relationships don’t just form between you and people in the group. Members also build relationships with each other, increasing the value of your platform.
Build authority in your space
Communities are an excellent way to showcase your expertise and build authority.
When someone joins your community, they’ll discover your brand. This makes them an excellent way to increase brand awareness among a relevant audience.
And by leading discussions and sharing content, you can use your group to show off your expertise.
Just be sure that you don’t make your niche community too promotional, or you might put people off.
Access to a targeted audience
When you build a niche community, you get access to a specific audience.
If these people fit your customer persona, there is a good chance that you can turn them into customers further down the line.
The benefits don’t end with sales. You also get unrivaled insight into the challenges, needs, and goals of your audience.
For example, Condo Control uses its niche community to find people willing to beta-test new product updates and then collect feedback from these users.
Finding testers is as simple as making a post in the brand’s community. And it can use this information to create better products or marketing materials that speak to their specific needs.
More data control
If you build your community on a social network, you don’t control your data. Those in charge can limit your access at any time.
Facebook introduced business pages in 2007 and began encouraging brands to build audiences on the platform.
Many marketers invested a lot in building their audiences. At the time it was a huge source of potential traffic. But, it wasn’t long before the platform drastically cut organic reach.
Brands that had made significant investments in growing their audiences on these platforms had three options:
Throw in the towel and give up.
Accept their page’s increasingly small organic reach and continue to share content.
Pay to advertise to the audience they’d already made significant investments in growing.
Unsurprisingly, many brands chose the third option, and Facebook is now one of the biggest advertising platforms in the world.
This was a warning to brands about building an audience on a third-party platform: if you don’t own your data, it can be taken away from you at a minute’s notice.
That’s why many companies are now pivoting towards building niche communities on a platform that gives them control of their data. This is the only way to ensure you will always have access to your audience.
Access to user-generated content
Communities are valuable sources of user-generated content. You can put this library of information to use in many ways.
Index discussions on Google to increase brand awareness through SEO.
Add Q&As to product pages to answer common questions—just like Amazon does.
Integrate support queries within your knowledge base to help users suffering from similar issues.
At Bettermode, we encourage people who build communities on our platform to use their content at touchpoints throughout the customer journey.
This is called the community flywheel, and you can read more about how this benefits your business here.
Build a moat
One of the issues many startups face is competition from established companies. A community helps by creating a competitive moat around your product.
The idea is that while others can steal your idea, it’s much harder to steal the relationships built up in your group.
How do you create a niche community?
We’ve defined what a niche community is and established the benefits of creating one. Now we’ll show you how to build one.
In an ideal world, your community would grow organically.
While this can happen, it’s rare in the early stages. Community builders typically find that careful planning early on in your community’s development will help with growth in the long run.
Next up, we have six steps that you can take to give your own niche community a solid head start.
Step one: Decide what your community will be about
Anyone reading this article probably has a solid idea about what they want their niche community to be about.
Now is the time to finalize this decision.
Before you do so, think about:
The type of people you want to attract to your community.
How the topic fits in with your brand.
What is the competition like, and how will your community stand out?
A major consideration is how niche you want your community to be.
If you go too broad, you may struggle to offer a sufficiently powerful selling point. If you go too niche, your community growth will be limited.
Step two: Choose a platform
Next, choose the platform that will host your community. Your choice will affect the functionality you offer members and how you grow.
Most communities are built on one of three types of platforms:
Social media groups: Social media groups are free to use but lack many of the features offered by dedicated community platforms. These groups often merge into the general experience of using a social media site, meaning it can be hard to build your brand. Examples include Facebook Groups and Subreddits.
Chat apps: The features offered by chat apps vary, but some improve upon the experience of social groups. However, you still lack total control over your community. For example, you can’t index content on search engines, add your own branding, or embed content on your site. Examples include Slack and Discord.
Community platforms: Community platforms like Bettermode are the most powerful option. They include all the features you need to build a community of people as well as robust branding options. You can customize the look and feel of the community and host it on your own domain.
There’s only one way to decide which niche community platform is best for you. Look at your budget and the features you need and then explore available options.
For more information, check out this article on how Bettermode compares to chat apps Slack and Discord, and this one on how Bettermode compares to Facebook groups.
Step three: Set up your community
Once you select a platform, set it up in a way that promotes a positive user experience. Add your branding and create different spaces for the discussions you want to promote.
At this stage, create rules and guidelines that will define what people can and can’t do in your community. These should help people have valuable conversations.
Also, consider seeding content. This is when you add content to each of the spaces in your group.
Doing so ensures that early members have content to interact with from the moment they join—increasing the chances that they will stick around.
Step four: Start with a small but dedicated audience
The early stages of a community are often the most challenging. It’s easy for conversations to stall when you don’t have many members to contribute.
Get around this by recruiting a small group of community advocates as your initial members.
These are people passionate about what you are doing. They will set the tone for the discussions in your community.
These people could be members of your team or people you already have close relationships with.
The key is that you personally select this group and that they contribute to its development. Talk to them about what they expect from a community and set yours up to help them reach their goals.
Step five: Build an effective onboarding experience