Social, Savvy and Specific

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We’ve been keeping on our eye on the specialized social media market this year, and with good reason: Niche social media sites — and the social media marketing that comes along with them — are exploding. From television watching to fashion to vampires, we’ve seen thousands of social media users who have something specific they want to talk about make the leap from Facebook and Twitter and give the specialized guys a try. So when GOOD reported on Healthcare Savvy, a site devoted to folks talking about healthcare triumphs and disasters, we had to see what the fuss was about for ourselves.

The concept is too brilliant to resist: The social networking site allows registered users to review and discuss healthcare. It’s kind of like your basic shopping or restaurant social media platform, but devoted to shopping for healthcare. Clearly neither the private sector nor the government is making these decisions easier for people, so the people are speaking back… and what they’re saying is funny, wise, proactive and interesting.

Everyone has been faced with shopping for healthcare, and this commonality is what binds the users of Healthcare Savvy together. The site just launched this month, so it isn’t loaded with content but it also isn’t bogged down with advertisements and sponsored blogs. There’s a kind of subtle rebel spirit on the site but the content generally (and wisely) avoids the great healthcare debates. We enjoyed clicking around Healthcare Savvy and couldn’t help thinking what other niche social networks could be next.

The boutique effect on social media and online branding is one we’ve just started to see. Technology and desktop publicity is as such that anybody anywhere can now sew together a network of folks who have something distinctly in common with one another. Niche networks allow marketers and bloggers to talk to target their audience just that much more directly rather than getting lost in a sea of social media drones.

3 Summer Social Media Marketing Don’ts

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It’s recently come to our attention that many think summertime is the time of year to slack off on our social media marketing and putter away the brilliant online branding we’ve worked so tirelessly to build when the temperatures were much cooler. In two words: Um, no. So we thought we’d publish our list of summer social media don’ts as a seasonal reminder of what not to do on Facebook, Twitter and the rest.

1.) Don’t Panic — So sales are slow and all of your clients are out of town and nobody is responding to your clever status updates. So what? It’s no reason to launch into promotional overdrive by flooding social media with infomercials dripping with desperation. Instead, just keep up the good work… and remember, social media is only as effective as the messages we send out. So stop sending out “the sky is falling” messages and you might just be pleasantly surprised.

2.) Don’t Go There — There’s plenty of unsavory topics to sink your teeth into these days. From overdosing stars to money-grubbing moguls, it’s hard to resist flinging Internet mud on Twitter and Facebook. But that kind of thing is best relegated to boozy dinner parties in private, not on company social media accounts. With our social media accounts, we want to keep our noses clean and out of other people’s business.

3.) Don’t Fall Out of Touch — Everybody needs a vacation, obviously. But to fall off the social media map is a big mistake. Recent studies have found that brands who get dropped on social media are usually the ones who fail to keep their content fresh. This isn’t to say you should spend your days in the sun Twittering instead of relaxing. There’s definitely a middle ground. If you can’t update while you’re away, turn it over to your most trusted, workaholic employee.

Do Energy Drink Companies Target Kids with Online Marketing?

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Whether a person has a relationship with energy drinks says a lot about that person. I use the word “relationship” because Red Bull, Monster and the like tend to develop romances with their consumers. Is it the high caffeine content or the weird vitamin smell that turns seemingly normal people into junkies? Who knows, but whatever it is, energy drinks have this power over their devotees who soon either become ashamed spouses who know their relationship with Red Bull is wrong but they just can’t stop or brazen energy drink guzzlers who pound the funky-smelling stuff not caring if it burns a hole in their stomachs or makes their heads explode.

So now, a decade or so after being introduced to the marketplace, the American Academy of Pediatrics has come out with a scathing report that not only recommends that children never consume energy drinks but also scolds the beverage industry for marketing the drinks to young people. If you read that sentence and then said “duh” — well, that would be the appropriate response. Of course these things are horrible and naturally beverage makers are marketing them to children. This is the same song and dance liquor and cigarettes have been doing for the past 100 years.

Red Bull officials, however, say they do not target kids in their ads. In a statement, the company who uses animation in its television spots said, “We do not market our product to children and other caffeine-sensitive people.” Well, I have no doubt that the company does not mean to look as though it is intentionally marketing to children, but that isn’t to say its product isn’t appealing to them. Red Bull has become a master of online branding and social media marketing. The company hits its 18-and-up demographic while “unintentionally” looking cool to the tween set, too. The Red Bull Soap Box Racer game, for example, features build-it-yourself custom racers and is available to friends who like the brand on Facebook. While it may not have been designed for my 12-year-old nephew, it definitely is the kind of thing he would find cool.

But Red Bull isn’t alone when it comes to youth-tinged marketing. (Check out Coca-Cola’s new interactive boxes for further proof.) Again, none of this is surprising and the allegations will most likely have very little impact on the sales of energy drinks. Besides, Red Bull, like every other brand, is trying to develop relationships with buyers regardless of what age they are.

So let’s turn it over to you, dear readers. Are energy drinks the new cigarettes when it comes to marketing? Let us know in the comments section below!