Perhaps you’re familiar with a concept called the Long Tail. It’s a statistical concept that has been applied to all sorts of real-world situations, from retail production to game design. It holds true in the world of social media platforms, too. Consider this version of the graphic, which shows the audience breakdown for typical social media platforms and channels.
In this example, Facebook and Twitter get the lion’s share of the social media posts, followed by stalwarts like Reddit, Google+, Tumblr, Instagram and Pinterest. Then we get into middle tier platforms like Nextdoor, Everyblock, CircleSavvy and similar sites. Further along we come across smaller sites, niche web forums and hyperlocal discussion boards, stretching on into infinity.
It pays to do some research and see if your town or region has conversation taking place in the long tail. Mine did – several years ago a local resident created a mini-social network designed just for our medium-sized village. She promoted it around town, and over the years it’s gained a decent base of regular users. While much of the chatter there involves typical topics like new restaurant openings or childcare recommendations, sometimes discussions crop up there that really give village administrators a window into the town’s soul. As a result, we keep an eye on their discussion forums to get a feel for what the community is talking about from month to month.
That’s not the only example of homegrown social media platforms around my area. Our local newspaper’s website allows anonymous comments beneath stories, which over the years has sprouted into a feisty garden of public discourse. Even our elected officials have been known to wade into the fray — though you’d better put on your rubber boots if you want to slog through the worst of the bile in search of honest, strident discussion. One town over, the Forest Park Forums are bumbling along with their charming blend of acerbic small-town wit and grousing.
In each case, the discussion is taking place in the long tail of social media, far from the helpful dashboards and hashtags offered by Facebook and Twitter. These conversations don’t easily fit into analytics (it’s impossible to “like” a comment on the Forest Park Forums, for example), but they’re arguably just as important. In fact, many homegrown social media platforms appeal to people who would rather not participate in commercial social media such as Facebook and Twitter. You know who I’m talking about – the people who grump about “the gub’mint” watching you online.
It’s up to you to identify these sites and, if necessary, integrate them into your workflow. In my example, we check our homegrown sites on a monthly basis, and occasionally post breaking news or major announcements using their online submission systems. It’s a totally manageable bit of extra work that occasionally yields actionable items that we can send up the ladder to the manager’s office.
What sorts of homegrown social media exist in your area? Send an email to [email protected] and let me know!