Which social media networking sites should brands keep an eye on?

The vast majority of brands are familiar with how to use social networking mainstays like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for marketing purposes.

But each of these social media networking sites came from somewhere, and there was a time when they weren’t as well-known as they are now – and those brands who were prescient enough to get in on the ground floor were able to reap the “early adopter” rewards.

According to Statista, these are the most famous social networking sites worldwide as of April 2017:

If you’re looking to push the envelope with your social media strategy and make your brand stand out from the crowd, which social networking sites should you consider? There are some which are well-established but lesser-known, while others may be new but up-and-coming.

We’ve rounded up a selection of social media networking sites you might not have considered marketing on, but which can introduce your brand to a whole new audience with the right strategy.

Snapchat

While Snapchat is on the cusp of being considered a mainstay of the social networking landscape, the question of how to market on Snapchat has stymied many brands who might otherwise have taken advantage of its sudden surge in popularity.

Snapchat is still a newer social network, and frequently trials new ideas and features which later see adoption by more “mainstream” social media networking sites like Facebook and Instagram. For example, Snapchat and its Lenses can be credited for originating the augmented reality trend which is currently making its way through social media, and its ephemeral “Stories” feature has been replicated by Instagram, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

Snapchat’s most recent innovation, Snap Map, sees it venture into location marketing, with some truly interesting possibilities for brands further down the line.

With more than 10 billion daily views, Snapchat’s reach is not to be sniffed at, and as a proving ground for features which are later adopted more widely across social media networking sites, Snapchat is a great one for brands to keep an eye on and experiment with more creative advertising.

WhatsApp

WhatsApp is not new, but it certainly deserves its own place in this list, as a generally underrated social app that countless people love using on a daily basis.

WhatsApp currently counts 1.2 billion monthly users, and it’s the most frequently used social platform among its userbase, with 58% of them checking the app more than once per day.

Facebook’s decision to acquire WhatsApp in 2014 seems to have been a wise one, as the app is exploring the market for digital payments to create an even more engaging experience that goes beyond messaging.

Moreover, the idea to introduce Stories to the app earlier this year – again, a feature originated by Snapchat – proves that messaging apps can make the ideal choices for a combination of communication, engagement and ecommerce.

WeChat

WeChat, a Chinese mobile messaging service, boasts a highly engaged audience of 889 million monthly users. It’s almost ubiquitous in China thanks to the fact that it can be integrated into other day-to-day tasks such as payments, a feature that other messaging apps are now catching onto and starting to experiment with.

From ecommerce to digital content, finance and online-to-offline services, WeChat serves as a great example of how a social app can go beyond just social networking to become a staple of users’ digital lives.

For a comprehensive look at WeChat’s rise and the possibilities it holds for marketers, don’t miss Clark Boyd’s Introduction to WeChat:

An introduction to WeChat: The evolution and future of China’s most popular app

Reddit

Originally founded in 2005, Reddit is also not a new social network, but it merits a mention due to its consistently engaged audience. It’s a user-centric link sharing platform that has stuck to its simplistic interface despite its huge growth, keeping its focus on users and the links they are sharing.

With more than 250 million monthly visitors, it is particularly useful as a microcosm of niche internet communities and interest groups. Thanks to its numerous ‘subreddits’ on every topic under the sun, brands can easily identify the specific audience they want to target, and either advertise to them outright, or simply keep an eye on what they are sharing and what subjects are popular in that community as a kind of consumer research.

Medium

Medium is a combination of a social media networking site and publishing platform which has become popular among writers, marketers and anyone looking for an user-friendly publishing platform for many different topics.

It counts more than 60 million monthly visitors, seeing a 140% increase from 2015.

Its interface makes writing easier, while its visual appeal helps people spend more time on the site. Content writing and content consumption have become easier and the quality of the content, and the opportunities for increased exposure have turned Medium into a reliable source of content.

Its decision to launch a premium subscription service earlier this year garnered some criticism, but the fact that several users were eager to pay to access more quality content proves the value inherent in the platform and its aspiring writers.

Moreover, Medium’s growth has grabbed the attention of many marketers and brands looking for a platform with a strong existing userbase with which to build their brand through canny content marketing.

Peach

One of an increasingly numerous cohort of visual social networks, Peach made a splash on the social media scene in 2016 with its humorous, GIF-focused approach to social networking. This buzz led the app to become one of the most downloaded social apps in Apple’s App Store.

Peach is simple with a clear interface, and it aims to make sharing fun, with brands like Merriam Webster and The Huffington Post seeing some early success with light-hearted messaging.

Although it hasn’t grown much since the initial hype – at least not to the extent that was assumed – it’s still around and is an option for brands interested in exploring visual social networking options other than Snapchat.

Mastodon

One of the most interesting new entrants to the social media networking scene is Mastodon, a social network that’s known as Twitter’s open-source competitor.

If you’re already a Twitter user, then you’ll notice that Mastodon is almost identical, at least in terms of interface and usage. The differences lie in the fact that posts can be up to 500 characters, while individual posts can also be made private.

Back in April, there was such a huge and sudden demand for the site that it ended up being down due to the high volume of traffic. This was a result of a sudden growth of 73% in just 48 hours.

Mastodon consists of numerous “instances”, or else niche timelines that users can join to access more posts. The most popular instance is Mastodon.social, but it currently doesn’t allow new users to join, so you may need to explore more instances to find the right entry point.

There has been extended discussion the last months on whether Mastodon could actually be considered a competitor for Twitter, but it’s probably too early to tell. Despite the interesting features that it offers, its decentralized interface can also be a bit complicated, with a steep learning curve for the early user.

But with Twitter facing numerous challenges in staying afloat, Mastodon could be the social network to succeed where it has failed, and is worth keeping an eye on for that reason.

Telegram

Telegram numbers more than 100 million users and can be described as a combination of WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Snapchat.

Messages can also be made secret through end-to-end encryption, or that can also have a timed “destruct” feature to last for a set amount of time, in a trait reminiscent of Snapchat’s disappearing messaging.

Telegram seems to boast a great combination of instant messaging and private communication. It has also jumped onto the chatbot bandwagon with its bot API allowing developers to create their own Telegram chatbots, opening up interesting possibilities for ecommerce and customer service.

As it says, it aims to offer “a new era of messaging” and the existing reviews indicate a growing audience which loves using the app.

Airtime

Airtime is a group video-chatting service that could be considered a combination of live video broadcasting (such as we’ve seen from Periscope and Facebook Live) and video conferencing (in the vein of Google Hangouts and Skype).

It allows people to join a video chat and send or stream media in real-time. This app offers a slightly more personal spin on the popularity of live streaming, making it easier for groups of people to enjoy a new social experience.

The app was created by Sean Park, co-founder of Napster, which combined with the explosion in popularity of live video of all kinds, makes it definitely worth keeping tabs on.

For an overview of how to integrate live video into your brand’s overall marketing strategy, check out our guide below:

How brands can integrate live video into their marketing strategy

Overview

There are new social platforms emerging every day, but not all of them will be able to find success in a crowded social media marketing.

However, even if not every app can reach Facebook levels of popularity, there is still the potential for brands to reach an engaged and niche audience to guarantee future success.

After all, Snapchat is the best proof of what a social media networking site can achieve if it focuses on simplicity, innovation, and engagement, all at the same time.

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