“Most ‘social networks’ are not really that social any more.”

“They are content distribution networks.” @garyvee

I really enjoy @GaryVee’s posts and I admire his unquenchable desire for the hustle. Not many people can match his relentless New Yorker dynamism, but he is one of those guys you have to pay close attention to. He spits out valuable pearls of entrepreneurial wisdom with amazing frequency.

His post ‘Google + is not dead’ came with a bundle of important points that are worth expanding on a bit.

“There is a small niche group of people that I respect immensely who have been early adopters of Google+ since the start, and I want to make sure I am meeting them on the platform they have chosen to be on.”

Yup, me too. But more importantly, where else are there great communities of people you respect — like your customers and prospective clients? Where do they hang out (digitally)?

One of the hard lessons I learned at my previous company was never to neglect your own forums — if you were lucky enough to have one. We had a thriving community of tech-heads on our own in-house forum, but we let it wither, without giving them the attention they deserved. At the time we had good reasons for concentrating our efforts and resources elsewhere, but some of the forum community were valuable and loyal customers and we probably lost most of them to the competition.

One of our major competitors in the gaming PC sector made their forums the centrepiece of their sales and marketing. They were pretty wild and anarchic communities, but as Gary points out, their loyalty was unbreakable.

Too many B2B companies often mistakenly go looking for customers in the obvious places like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, when there’s probably a specialist forum or platform for your industry.

If you’re in the UK education technology business then you should be spending a lot of time with the Edugeek community. Small but smart companies who specialise in selling computers to schools, like VeryPc have made them a crucial part of the way they talk to, and support, their customers.

The international IT pro community that is Spiceworks started as a bit of collaborative inventory software but their forum morphed into a leviathan that now boasts over 6 million members. If you have anything to do with professional hardware you’d be mad not to join in.

I want to make sure I am meeting them on the platform they have chosen to be on.”

Birds of a feather flock together, so there’s most probably a community for your sector — no matter how niche it is. In fact the more niche, the more likely that there’s a community somewhere that would welcome the right kind of (gentle, natural and helpful) attention. Don’t rush in with the hard sell. Listen first. And carefully.

Gary also makes another great point: “And let’s not forget that most “social networks” are not really that social any more. They are content distribution networks.”

Facebook is intent on becoming a new kind of publisher and a powerful ‘traffic driver’ (see here and here for example) and seems less concerned now with being a really social network. I have written before that I don’t believe that focussing attention on your own Facebook page and posts is a good idea anymore — especially if you are in a B2B market. Your customers probably don’t want to see you there.

The point Gary is making is one that I wholeheartedly concur with and it’s worth repeating again. Facebook is still a very powerful amplifier for any company or organisation, but nearly always that will come from someone else posting your stuff, or writing about you. So, as usual, create great stuff — everywhere you can — and let your friends and fans do the rest.

Gary sums it all up perfectly. “You don’t give up on anything if you have an audience there. Don’t abandon it. If it exists and there is value for you in it, use it. It’s worth your time. It builds equity, communities, and lifelong customers. I promise.”

Go looking in the corners, the quiet places and in the nooks and crannies. In your industry’s niches you’ll find probably a highly receptive audience.

As a footnote it’s worth pointing out the obvious about Google +. It’s hard-wired into Google search algorithms so a post on + probably does a huge amount for your search rankings. Google are still rewarding loyalty.

Blogger is another big community that Google are letting wither, but posts on blogs hosted on Blogspot/Blogger still rate very highly in search results.

nothing is ever dead till it straight up does not exist any more.”

Well worth a close read. Thanks Gary