Find a Niche that is Wide Fucking Open

find a nicheI was talking with someone the other day about online publishing and blogging.  This person is interested in starting a blog which could earn some side income.  Naturally the conversation touched on how to stand out online nowadays.  There are an estimated 200+ million blogs and more popping up everyday.  So if you want to standout from the crowd you have to find a niche.  What I tell people is you shouldn't find a niche with high competition and a lot of people covering that subject but one that is WFO short for “Wide Fucking Open!” 🙂

It is best to find a niche that is WFO for a lot of reasons.  The biggest reason is if you are the first person to get into a niche that nobody else has covered you have a much better chance of becoming the online authority in that topic.  This makes it more difficult, but certain not impossible, for others to come in and dominate the untapped niche that you found.  It also means you site will attract more specific visitors, ie more targeted traffic, and therefore advertisers.

I see a lot of webmasters and bloggers make the mistake of going into topics that are highly competitive.  There is nothing wrong with this if you have a good gameplan and the skills to do it.  Keep in mind a lot of companies and individuals have good SEO, link building, and  social media skills from working online for several years.  If you don't have any online experience while trying to start in a competitive field it is likely your website will not go down in flames… but die a tedious and slow death.  I know because I've experienced this myself and it is painful to watch.

The question everyone asks themselves though is, “Where do I find a niche that hasn't been covered already?”  It is pretty simple actually.  When you are searching for answers to your questions in Google and don't find what you are looking for that is when you should consider starting a site to provide that information.

About 6 months ago I started a forum in a eco-niche that was what I would say was “Wide Fucking Open.”  There were several blogs in the this niche and many companies that sell these eco-friendly products all around the world.  What I was trying to find was a community for this product so I could learn about it more in-depth than what I currently knew.  To my surprise there wasn't a community or forum for this niche even though lots of people around the world love participate in this activity.  So what did I do?  I decided to a community for it.

While the community is small, it is growing everyday.  I am always surprised by the people that are finding the forum and engaging on it.  We have several members from outside the US which includes France, Australia, and Canada.  I might not make a lot of money off the forum but that doesn't matter to me.  My main focus is on providing value to the web and the people on the community first.  Hopefully money will come later but since the niche is WFO I assume I can attract direct advertisers at some point.  (I certainly don't want to operate the forum at a loss forever.)  I doubt there are many others who have the time, inclination, or skill to build another forum like this and in this eco-friendly niche.  So essentially I have cornered the market for this topics, at least for the time being.

While the internet is getting more crowded everyday it is still possible to find a niche that you can dominate.  I know because I still find them all the time and I am sure you can too.

Are Forums better than Social Media?

All the hype and rage you hear from marketers nowadays is all about social media this and social media that.  However, could it be that social media doesn't provide much useful information?

I ran across an interesting article on Social Media Explorer the other day which should make some marketers and companies rethink their social media strategies.  The report examined where the conversations about banks and the banking industry takes place online.  The winner?  Forums.

In the report they found that 90% of information about banks being discussed online is found on online forums.  Social networks accounted for 1% of the real conversations about banking. While Jason Falls, the writer, would obviously like you to purchase his report on the banking industry, keep in mind that he runs a site about social media.  If they were smart they would have thrown out the report and declared social media is the best place to market for banks! 🙂

social media

The article really got me thinking about where I go to find useful information online.  If I wanted to know more about web hosting, I go to a hosting discussion forum.  I would not turn to my followers on Twitter or Facebook since they probably don't know the answer and couldn't help me out.  Most of the time when I need technical help or I am trying to learn something new with software I do the same thing.

Posting cat memes and pictures while fun… come one, that's not useful to anyone.  Of course we all know that Singing Dogs are quite useful for the internet.  (These are my dogs by the way.)  To a certain extent social media is really more ideal for being entertained and engaged.  Something marketers are keen to capitalize on.

For a second I would think about where you get useful information when doing a Google search.  Do you always find what you need on blogs? Probably not.  Does Facebook's search engine (Bing) even work well? No. Can you find technical help on Twitter? Some places sure, but for the most part I doubt you can get technical questions answered in 140 characters or less all the time.

The current bank I have my money with I did research before opening an account with them.  Googling I found a bunch of threads, from genuine people (I hope), recommending their services and after reading these positive reviews on forums I decided to bank with them.  I have been using this bank's services for almost 2 years and couldn't be happier.  Their service and products are better than the local credit union's I was using and they have excellent customer support.

However, in all my research I didn't see anyone from the bank post on these forums or see bank reps taking part in any conversations.  Jason Falls hits the nail on the head when explaining why most marketers don't incorporate a forum into their overall marketing strategy.

marketers are petrified of them [forums]. Why? Because marketers typically aren’t welcome there. Most forum administrators are quick to thwart link droppers and promotional banner wavers. You can’t blame them. The users come there for … wait for it … conversations.

This is an excellent point!  I will get a lot of angry emails for saying this, but the reality is that marketers can't have real and meaningful conversations.  Participating in a forum means you need to really respond to what people say and not feed them what you want them to hear.

A common complaint I've heard about forum marketing is that it can be a lot of work with minimal results.  While it all depends on the niche, and what forums are available in the niche, again you need to provide real value and not just be trying to sell your products or get backlinks for you site.   Let's be fair, marketing on social media networks isn't easy and takes time, work, and a lot of money.

Having recently attended BlogPaws, a pet blogging conference, there was no discussion about forums, forum strategies, or how to get a community started.  The majority of the discussions regarding social media networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.

Before going to the conference though I turned to the BlogPaws Newbie discussion group to get useful information regarding the conference for new attendees.  I got a lot out of the discussion group where I learned great tips and advice about attending BlogPaws I wouldn't have gotten unless I was part of the Newbie group.  If I had gone to the Twitter or Facebook pages I really wouldn't have gotten many answers to my questions or gained as much insight into BlogPaws before attending.

Since forums have been around since the dawn of the web I guess they really don't have the coolness and ‘new kid on the block' appeal of social networks.  I also rarely hear anyone say they want to start a forum since blogging or building a website product or service is what most people want to get into.

If Social Media Explorer's report is accurate, a lot of marketers should consider what having a good forum presence can offer them and their brand.  Forums are not going anywhere and will be around until the internet dies I bet.  So if the conversations for your audience is on forums, you either should get a forum strategy or start one.

Catch me on Twitter @AdamYamada … if you can!

[Image Source – Social Media Explorer]