Marketing · Social networking

How would you market a niche social networking site?

Bridger Jensen Owner & Founder at Venture Imagery

May 12th, 2015

Hoping some have experience in this area. I have a 2 part question. Let's say you are starting a niche social networking site for people who love backpacks. The site is free, attractive, and useful for enthusiasts.

Question 1: What is your personal marketing plan? I know that's a big question, but tell me a few steps you'd use to attract members (anyone have success or failures in this area). I am hoping you all have some ideas I have not thought of, or some hard-earned lessons I can hear.

Question 2: Say that you have decided to use PCP or PPV as part of your marketing plan (advertising on google, FB, other niche sites, etc). What do you think the price range is for customer (or "member") acquisition? I am ok with a large range. Ball park estimates are welcome. I am aware that bidding over keywords is a large part of this the price, but for simplicity sake you are welcome to give me a broad range. I am building a preliminary proforma. Thoughts?


May 12th, 2015

You might want to check out the upcoming TEC: -- it's the rebranded ForumCon which is an annual conference dedicated to online community builders.

The basics: you are going to need a core group of 10-20 very active users who seed the community with content and conversations.
Be strategic: focus on targeted content that drives engaging conversations
Recruitment: find and recruit active participants from other communities. That is the easiest way to start and it's not that easy. Doing that without getting banned from those communities is the challenge. You could also recruit from the staff/regulars at local outdoor gear stores, climbing/hiking clubs and meetups.
Bond: it really helps to forge a real-world bond for those early adopters by having some events for them (hiking trips etc for your community would be an obvious suggestion). These folks are going to be volunteering their time/effort to make your community a community -- treat them like gods.

Re paid acquisition -- it's REALLY hard to convert paid traffic into a new community without the basics (per above) in place. i.e. there needs to be an existing community that someone would want to join. A community means active conversations from which they can get (or solicit) advice. You need to get started on recruiting your foundational diehard activists first and that will probably involve lots of 1:1 recruitment. It doesn't scale as a method but it makes everything that follows possible.

George Lambert Interim CTO - CTO's for Hire

May 12th, 2015

Answer 1: Be visible in the space.

Find Centers of Influence throughout your target market - and try to get them to engage with your site. There will be people, companies, blogs, facebook groups, discussion threads, podcasts etc. Make a list. Introduce yourself and look for co-marketing opportunities. Bringing Celebrity Subject Matter Experts into your community benefits you both as you grow. Also - reach out and find places to be seen and heard. Look for traditional outlets to get exposure as well, like radio; not by purchasing ad space, but by being a guest on shows of interest, and bring along your new celebrity partners.

Answer 2:  In the campaign with stats below, we paid $0.70 "per like".   The visibility was actually much higher than that because people saw it that did not  click the "Like It" button.     Invitation and Referrals are always cheapest and most effective. Organic is better. MUCH BETTER, not only because it is cheaper but more effective. Brand Awareness is different. 

The page was turned off for almost a year - so all of that traffic is the result of 1 set of ad spends.  Note that the organic numbers went up was well as the paid numbers. 


I did an experiment on buying targeted exposure on Facebook with a $50. a day test campaign. Here are the results from Facebook's site as of a couple of hours ago.

Aswan Morgan Mobile Entrepreneur; eCommerce Personalization, Optimization & Conversion Expert

May 12th, 2015

  • Establish / incentivize a group of "Mavens" (highly active early adopters) to seed the network with content
  • Build features into the product that support virality
  • Engage relevant sites in blogosphere

Rastin Mehr Hackerpreneur, Early Stage Startup Advisor

May 12th, 2015

Social network is not a business. It is a infrastructure that you build a solution upon. What problem are you exactly solving? 

Daniel Farmer Vice-President Sales & Operations at Baldgorilla

May 12th, 2015

Here is my view on this,

1) are marketing plan is only effective if you have a good Revenue plan; meaning if you do not know how you will be generating revenue how can you plan to market to the best audience?

I would prepare revenue objectives and target audience. then move toward goals and growth curb. once my measure are in place I would then try to find the best approach to get the best bang for the buck. If you find that your going after outdoor type of people, my guess is they are not online as much as the tech guy that plays half-life! Then once you have your action plan, make sure to track it! every day, hour, minute! see what works and what doesn't and modify. In the end, the more you invest the better the results but you will always have to be on top of it!

2) I do agree with the other comments, Natural (organic) growth is 20 times better than paid growth! Organic will stay and impact on the long run. I would try to get evangelistic followers that will promote your site and breath it on the daily. the more you get of these, the better the results. Make sure you get them involved and get there feedback. this will be more valuable than any PPC you can find.

Good luck!


May 12th, 2015

1. Start locally, grow organically, build a small group of loyal fans, then acquire using social media. 2. Target advertising in FB, select a range of 5000 to 10000 users per day, budget 50$ per day We had quite a success building our niche app. Thanks, Rethesh

Patrick Williams Co Founder and CEO at The Thursday Room

May 12th, 2015

Check the market that you are looking to. School kids backpacks for home work are a lot different that backpacking around Asia for six months. Once you have established clear goals for the product and you want to get it out believe and research the sites that this audience is going to now. Asia>REI Kids>Old Navy and see if those stores will play ball with you to get some traction on their sites. 

Bridger Jensen Owner & Founder at Venture Imagery

May 12th, 2015

Perfect thanks. To be more clear, the "backpack" theme of the site is just an example. All of your advice generalizes to my business plan though, and so it is so great to hear it!

Victor Aladekomo Partner at Pidux Limited

May 13th, 2015

There is no right answer to your question. You need to start testing available options(Marketing strategy) to know whats best for your business/product. Start with referrals, many startups have used this strategy to grow their user base without spending much on marketing. Assuming you've solved some user's problem as Rastin raised in a unique way, and your product is well implemented. Referrals will work if users are comfortable with your product to want to show it off to their friends! 
Test! Test!! Test!!!

Anil Gupta

May 14th, 2015

I can guide you on how to make this popular in cost effective ways. 

The key for success is perfect combination of perceived value and how to make people aware about your site.

You can write to me at or ping me on skype at for further discussion.