You should understand the long tail of social media

By Tiffany Nieslanik

Perhaps you’ve heard the term “Long Tail” in marketing or business before. If you haven’t, it was first coined in the early 2000s by Chris Anderson to describe how products in low demand or with low sales volume can collectively make up market share that rivals or exceeds the relatively few current bestsellers and blockbusters, but only if the store or distribution channel is large enough. A great case study of this is YouTube versus Netflix, both businesses that earned roughly $30 billion dollars in 2022 in very different ways. To put it in simpler terms, sometimes having more of a lot of things is equal to or better than having a lot of a few things (think keywords, product offerings, and so on).

Fast forward two decades and most industries now have a long tail worth focusing on, including social media. In fact, we’d argue that most of your social plan should focus on the long tail of social media and thriving there as a creator. After all, long-tail creators usually have a decent amount of followers, but more important than that number is how engaged their followers tend to be. Read on to learn more about why long-tail influencers are important, owning your niche, and how your long-tail community is the way forward for social success.

You should know the importance of the long tail

In the early days of social media, a mass audience model was the leader where your value was dependent upon how large of a following you had. These days, that model isn’t holding up as users become more aware of the attention economy and continue to shift to follow content they find interesting – curated collections that cover topics important to them. In this environment of increasingly fragmented media, the long tail is the hockey-stick chart of digital marketing. 

As a creator, this is good news. You already know that a smaller, engaged audience is always better than a larger, disengaged audience. You have long realized that building authentic and genuine connections is the best way to foster your community. And you are focused on building your overall share of voice in a particular topic rather than chasing vanity metrics. 

Even better? More and more data points are showing that long-tail efforts have higher engagement rates because they often show something about the viewer’s intent. This means that your content, recommendations, and endorsements can result in higher conversion rates for any brands you partner with. If you decide to partner with someone, you can lend your authenticity to help build the reputation and credibility of the brands you love most by leveraging the relationships you’ve built with your audience.

You should own your niche

The most successful long-tail creators are known for their interest or craft because it is obvious that it’s their main content creation focus. Whether you are into cooking and gardening or fashion and make-up, owning your niche is paramount to being part of the long tail of social media. Imagine a stay-at-home mom who shares her meal planning, budgeting, and cooking adventures or a yogi who shares reels of his favorite snippets of a sun salutation. These are folks living in their niche, displaying their passion on the social platform of their choice. And their audience is able to pick up on their authenticity and true joy in the content they share.

Compare this image to a celebrity account, which may have millions of followers, but whose audience has little in common with them. Those followers most likely differ greatly in demographics, location, interests, preferences, and so on. Long-tail influencers, on the other hand, cater to really specific audiences. Their followers most likely value the creators’ ideas, opinions, and thoughts within that niche, and they trust their recommendations greatly. These social media accounts are subject matter experts in whatever subject they represent. And this is the key to turning the long tail of social media into success for your brand.

So, when considering where you fit into the social media sphere, aim for a specific niche. With the long tail of social media, you don’t have to appeal to tons of people, just the right ones.

You should understand the benefit you offer

As a creator in the long tail space, you will be nurturing deeper connections with your followers. This means that you aren’t going to endorse a brand or product you aren’t aligned with. And that your audience will be more highly engaged than an average account, resulting in more meaningful interactions in comments or shares. This is huge for brands looking to drive more awareness, sales, and more.

Some of the best qualities offered by long-tail creators include hyper-targeted, highly engaged audiences, more community trust, more flexibility, and more accessibility. So when you are considering partnerships with brands, remember what you bring to the table.

Finally, to be a successful creator partner, keep in mind these few things. 

  1. Your interest and content should be relevant to the industry of the brand.
  2. Build your followers honestly and with consistent connection around shared values or interests.
  3. Reach isn’t everything, but most folks in the long tail of social media have somewhere between 1,000-10,000 followers (micro) or 10,000-100,000 (macro).

Just like you, your audience will be niche. Become a resource for them. Offer content that educates, entertains, and provides value for where they are, and you will be riding the long tail of social media in no time at all.

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