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Ever since the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the resulting backlash from the media about the negative effects of social media on our lives, users have been flocking from Facebook in droves. In fact, according to Pew Research as much as 40 percent of U.S. users have taken a break – sometimes for weeks on end – from checking their account

Not only are these users concerned about corporations’ misuse of their data, but they’re tired of watching other people’s life highlight reels. Those highlights often come across as a fabricated reality that makes many of us doubt our own life choices and compare our achievements and happiness to others’.

Cyberbullying has become a growing concern among teens, as well, and studies have found that excessive use of social media can generate “Facebook depression.”

If you’ve ever felt a pang of envy seeing an old college friend climb Machu Picchu or meet for drinks in a Paris nightclub, you can most likely relate.

Your own life, stuck behind a computer, starts to seem inadequate, even if you tell yourself that it’s not the reality you’re seeing. Then there are the endless posts about people’s babies, photos of what everyone is eating and mundane daily activities documented for the world to see.

This panorama is occurring amid general frustration with untargeted, unscrupulous social media and people who have a thousand “friends,” the majority of whom they’ll never meet. The result is that the prospects of social media seem to be changing fast. And that’s a good thing because it means that a new generation of social networks is cropping up to offer a different value proposition –one meant to be more personal and real.

THE FUTURE IS NICHE

Social media isn’t going to disappear. In fact, almost 42 per cent of the world’s population has at least one social media account, according to new reports from We Are Social and Hootsuite. But, “the new social” doesn’t aim to target everybody anymore. Instead, the future is niche, as more networks arise to unite people who share a common interest — be they neighbours, parents, women, shoppers, entrepreneurs or members of any other group.

Despite their latest efforts to curb the reach of brands and marketers, traditional social networks have become less about people. They’ve failed their users by selling their data to advertisers, causing a wide range of adverse and long-term side effects. As a business owner, you need to be aware of these changes and adapt your content to keep up with these trends, especially as new social platforms become more user-oriented than their predecessors.

It’s time to return to the personal touch. In this context, any social media platform that provides its users with more personal experience is more likely to gain a place in their lives. This new wave of social media is ready to capture the attention of internet users and, as these media grow, they will open new business opportunities for marketers and advertisers.

A new women-only social network, Find-Sisterhood, for instance, allows users to discuss personal issues from entirely anonymous accounts. The platform encourages women to ask any question, with no barriers. That feature makes this social network a goldmine of valuable insights for marketers.

“The special thing about our app is that it’s an anonymous social network for women only,” says founder Ana Pompa Alarcón Rawls. “We use one-way cryptographic to make every single post and comment untraceable. No one, including our team, will ever know who posted what.”

Anonymity is what allows users to be candid, and that could prove to be very fruitful for businesses. Let’s say your company wants to know more about the lifestyle of your target market. Simply ask the right questions and you’ll get all the information you need, to build an effective marketing strategy. The social platform also uses sentiment analysis for content analytics. So, you can track hot topics in a specific geographical area and the reactions those topics generate.

For example, when moms from a particular New York neighbourhood talk about the difficulty of juggling work and childcare, that information could benefit a local daycare business, which could then address these concerns to capture the attention of its target audience. This is the kind of valuable information that could help you to build highly personalized content for your target audience.

KEEP IT NEIGHBORLY

Businesses can find potential customers with NextDoor, a safe platform where users can easily exchange information with their neighbours. It’s an effective way to keep up with everything that’s going on in a given neighbourhood. Since the app uses geographical location to display posts from other users in the area, it’s a goldmine for finding people nearby.

Marketers may find this app difficult to monetize at the beginning because the platform checks all addresses before accepting an account, through a procedure similar to the one used by Google My Business. Moreover, business pages aren’t available in all countries for now.

However, there is an option for users to recommend businesses they have had positive experiences with, and considering that many users ask questions that are typical for a newcomer to a neighbourhood, such as where to find the best tailor or family-friendly restaurant, there are plenty of opportunities to get word-of-mouth advertising, which can steer dozens of customers to a business.

Once businesses gain a foothold, they can track discussions in the neighbourhood and identify the topics that generate engagement in the area. The platform can also be used to drive targeted traffic to websites or blogs and raise awareness on specific topics related to the community.

SMALL COMMUNITIES PERFORM BETTER

One of the social media’s biggest problems is the size (it matters). Every minute, Facebook registers around 300,000 status updates and half a million comments, according to a data roundup published by Zephoria Marketing. Every second, 6,000 new tweets are registered on Twitter.

Many internet users are looking for smaller platforms, for more authentic interactions with their friends, families and followers. Users want platforms that have no algorithms in place to filter information and that has a higher purpose than just a place where users can chat and share viral videos.

Care2 is such a place. It’s a community of around 30 million members. That’s eight times less than the size of Facebook in the United States but that doesn’t necessarily make it less powerful as a marketing tool. Care2 users are looking for ways to change the world for the better. Its main topics are petitions, causes and healthy living. Care2 also promotes brands willing to support causes and get involved in the lives of their communities.

The platform opens up a different kind of business opportunity for brands looking to connect with members using those people’s core values. The intent is to make things more personal, which is exactly what Internet users are looking for when they switch from the giants to smaller social media.

BUSINESSES MUST PROVIDE A CURATED EXPERIENCE

As you migrate from Facebook to niche social media, be sure to align your message with the new expectations of your audience. Come up with a fresh approach that will allow you to strike up user-centred conversations, without alienating or annoying that audience.

Related: Facebook’s Relationship Status With the Public Is ‘It’s Complicated’: What Mark Zuckerberg Needs to Do to Get the Thumbs Up.

The future of social media lies in one-on-one conversations with your fans and followers, exchanges in which they not only want to take part but take the lead. The less intrusive you are as a business, the higher your chances will be of building a substantial community around your brand, getting new leads and increasing conversions.

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