Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, Digg, StumbleUpon, Google Plus etc are the the better known bigwigs of the social web and undoubtedly the first places that come to mind when you think about developing a marketing strategy online. Going purely by the volume of traffic they have, it seems obvious to spend more time and energy developing activity and outreach on the platforms that have the most traffic and give less priority to the ones that have comparatively less traffic. It seems like common sense that if you have target market of 20 million on Facebook, that’s where you should spend most of your online marketing focus and yet this isn’t always the case.

When it comes to online marketing and engaging people through different web channels there’s a lot more than quantity of traffic that comes into play. The same set of social sites and using the same outreach formula may not always work since every brand, business, target market and web user base has it’s own characteristics. Facebook may bring in 1000 fans and not a single conversion over 10 months. A small niche community site or online group on the other hand may bring in just 50 visitors in the same time frame resulting in 10 conversions. There’s marketing potential far beyond Facebook and the obvious social media super sites.

Just to be clear, we’re not saying don’t spend time on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and so on. We’re saying don’t restrict your outreach efforts to only these sites and look beyond the obvious choices because you never know what works best for your inbound marketing till you experiment.

Let me illustrate:

A new picturesque family getaway hill resort was looking to  increase their online visibility to drive more bookings and eventually to rely on inbound traffic and conversions to keep the occupancy charts filled. They managed to create a Facebook page and spread the word through family and friends touching 400 fans in their first 3 months however, there were only about 3 bookings that could be attributed to their activity on the Facebook page. Some weeks later, one of their customers submitted a review of the resort on TripAdvisor.com and resulted in someone else discovering the resort as a result of this review. From that instance, the resort decided to explicitly request their customers to add a review on TripAdvisor.com if they enjoyed their stay and customers did. The TripAdvisor reviews showed up well in Google search results for ‘places to stay’ related to the region and the bookings clearly saw an increase. Learning from the experience, the resort spent more time submitting their details to similar hotel directory sites, travel review communities and listings stepping up their activity on these sites and although the traffic increase was not huge, the conversion rate was growing and inbound bookings went up significantly as more people discovered the resort through their searches for staying options in the area.

A children’s clothing and apparel brand setup an online store in an attempt to break out of it’s local operations and look global for customers. They spent significant resources working on on-site SEO and creating accounts on Twitter, Facebook as well as setting up a blog which they could use to showcase their style tips and advice. They soon learned this is a very crowded and competitive space online and got frustrated not being noticed and getting the attention they thought they would. Their break came from getting actively involved on family and kids fashion sites like mykidsfashion.com, stylecaster.com, cafemom.com and others. People seemed to respond better to photos of their kids wear and gradually the purchases started happening. They were finally connecting to the right audiences in the right places and developing an influence there.

There’s a wide web of places online beyond the popular choices to develop an influence and reach out to the right people online and sometimes all it takes is a little will and effort to experiment and find out what works best for you. It can be a long process but well worth it in the end when you find the right mix and focus efforts on the ones that yield results.