Niche Marketing Is The Key To Viral Marketing

Bobby Hendersons post explaining his Fine Art Taco experiment should be required reading for all marketing, advertising, business people, and bloggers.

taco experiment

Essentially Bobby put up a site with some badly lit pictures of taco’s and claimed the site was targeted at a specific demographic, people that liked both fine art and tacos. He demonstrated this demographic with a very nice example of a Venn diagram, showing the critical intersection.

niche market

Today BoingBoing linked to him proving his point of course, clearly there are enough people to buy his weakly framed and badly lit taco photos to keep him in beers for a while.

But of course no one is really interested in his photographs or the tacos, they are really interested wonderfully predictive nature of his experiment. His venn diagram and blog post are almost the queen of hearts a magician will remove from a sealed envelope after guessing the card.

But his point about niches is important, tight niches are what enable something to go viral, they provide the kindling to get something going. They are not the fuel, that’s the sites like boing boing, tech crunch, digg, the mainstream media. Think about it, it really doesn’t require much more that 40 people to digg something until the rest of the site gets on it, so intially you just have to get 40 or 50 people excited enough about it to get on the front page of digg.

One case study in not being too niche, if you will forgive the self reference, is my t-shirt blog, which I started about a year ago. A lot of people thought it was too niche, a lot of people wondered if I would be able to find enough to write about. Well a year later that site has been on BoingBoing (indirectly) and on the front page of digg. After 1 day on boingboing I had picked up over 1500 rss subscribers in a day, had over 10,000 unique visitors. My one day on the front page of digg of course crashed my server and then let to about 25,000 unique visitors. In fact my most viewed content on the site is two very niche blog posts my top ten list of star wars t-shirts, and my top ten list of video game t-shirts (and as they are months old and still get about 50% of my traffic they also demonstrate how the long tail works on niches as well).

If it really is only about 50 to 100 people that are passionate about something it’s no wonder that a post titled the 50 most influential bloggers is some of the best linkbate this year… that and the leave brittney alone guy (dugg over 5000 times geez).

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  1. Posted September 14, 2007 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    “In fact my most viewed content on the site is two very niche blog posts my top ten list of star wars t-shirts, and my top ten list of video game t-shirts (and as they are months old and still get about 50% of my traffic they also demonstrate how the long tail works on niches as well).”

    Yeah but I would assume these both get plenty of search traffic from ‘Star Wars’ and ‘video games’, right?

    And I get the point you’re making about niches, but let’s be honest, anything that appears on Boing Boing is going to get a huge spike in traffic/hits/links/subscribers. Granted, it’s easier for Boing Boing to pick up on something if more people are blogging about it, but all it takes is one of the writers finding it, and it’s gone.

  2. Posted September 17, 2007 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Prior to the Internet becoming popular, marketers talked about market segments with large numbers of people, which made network TV buys economical.

    However, we’ve become so Cluetrained that marketers need to pay more attention to the niches that consumers form on their own. It’s interesting to watch the micro niches that are created by people using SureToMeet to invite people to their private events, and discuss the event online before and after attending.

    For example, no marketer would have targeted — or even known about — “Ultimate Frisbee players who work in the entertainment industry in L.A.” It’s a growing micro niche because people who are interested in it know friends who are, too. So, they invite their friends to join in. I don’t know if any of them clicked on the Ultimate Frisbee ads that Google puts on their pages, but they had to buy that gear somewhere.

  3. Posted September 17, 2007 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    Hey Karl –

    I think the ability to light a spark within a tightly focused niche is absolutely key to igniting a viral fire. Of course at the end of the day, few marketers are going niche with the intention of staying niche. Everyone wants to break out of the echo chamber and ride the wave that can carry them from cult favorite to out-and-out mainstrream sensation.

    So I’d add that it is important to taget a niche, but not just ay niche — but a niche that engages in active, multi-faceted conversation. This is why marketers reach out to bloggers – even bloggers that might not seem to fall within the marketer’s stated target audience. Why? because bloggers talk – on their blogs, on twitter, in Facebook, over email, on the phone, at meetups, etc. — and talk breeds talk.

  4. Posted September 18, 2007 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    @Mack believe me there is a lot of competition for the keyword “star wars” and “video game”, not a lot comes from google, but more from people all over the place linking to it. My point is that it was enough of a niche for people to get it on the front page of digg, thats the small passionate niche.

    @Gregg great point on not wanting to stay niche, but I guess sometimes thing move to mainstream by being elevated by the passionate niche. Kitten War was a niche, ended up on the Colbert report.

  5. Posted September 19, 2007 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    Web 2.0 tools have allowed the scaling of viral marketing activities to niches, because it has dramatically reduced the publishing and distribution costs. You needed to go mass market in a monolithic TV world, but each blog can cater to 50 people, because the cost of that blog is close to zero. This dynamic changes fundamentally how we think about reaching consumers and catering to their interests.

  6. ThomasK
    Posted September 27, 2007 at 1:54 am | Permalink

    Viral marketing is a powerful tool, but a large number of viral campaigns fall apart in the initial steps. I read a good article “A Case Study of a Viral Post“. One of the most important things is to get your viral campaing noticed on big sites/media in order for it to spread efficiently in ‘influential ripples’.

  7. Posted October 9, 2008 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    Good in-depth analysis here.

    I did a case study for one of my clients and it’s fun to take someone else’s site and enthusiasm and watch them “go to town” on the niche.

    We did things a little differently here since her niche wasn’t that “niche-y” as you say, but rather a widespread and popular sport/hobby full of enthusiasts..

    Our Niche Marketing Case Study is at if you care to comment..

    Some things I learned from doing this case study was Google External’s tool can be pretty misleading unless you know exactly what information they’re giivng you. (PPC info, mostly)

    Stop on over and tell me what you think of the 5 post series.

    BTW, I also agree with you about the viral aspect of having a tight niche site, because that’s what makes it an “authority” and makes it get linked to and talked about etc…thereby making it experience viral growth..

    Thanks for emphasizing that aspect of niche marketing, didn’t occur to me before but makes more sense now.


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