Are you in the early stages of building a brand online? Or perhaps you’re a small content creator who has been posting on socials or blogs consistently for a while now, but hasn’t seen the results they were hoping to get?
In any case, if you’ve been looking for advice on leveling up your content marketing game, one of the terms you must’ve seen over & over again is “drilling down on a niche.”
Traditionally, a niche is a topic (or set of 3-4 topics) that people relate with your brand, personal or business, and know you for. It’s your “specialization” & dictates what you talk about online.
A niche is what you stand for. And every single famous creator out there, without an exception, has a niche.
Ashish Chanchlani from India, sitting at 14.5M IG followers, is the “funny guy.” He posts memes, skits, and videos that make people laugh. You won’t see him talking about data science or makeup fads.
His brand personality is messy, and his feed reflects it- you don’t really care how the videos look, whether they’re professionally produced with high-quality equipment or not. You’re just there for the LOLs.
Another tech & life hack influencer with 400K followers, Jay Kapoor, records almost all his videos on his mobile’s wonky selfie cam at home. There’s still value in it.
On the other hand, when you visit Masoom Minawala’s feed, who’s a fashion influencer with 1.2M IG followers, you expect to see a more aesthetic & planned feed. Her content is refined, shot on an iPhone or professional cam, and highly edited.
And true enough, she usually posts about her outfits, makeup routines, travel escapades, and other lifestyle content.
Why would all these influencers not push for other topics? Wouldn’t it further boost their popularity? If Ashish posted about entrepreneurship, surely it would attract a open up a whole new crowd, and catapult him to 20M followers.
And if Masoom posted about men’s issues, she’d win over men, too, and not just women, which are her current TG i.e. target audience (looking at the comments).
The problem is that when you talk about everything to everyone, you often end up talking about nothing of substance to no one in particular.
It’s like going on stage & screaming your heart out about politics, then doing a dance, and following it up with a duet. The audience would have no idea what the hell just happened. They won’t remember. There will be no applause.
Why Niching down Works … initially.
Picking a niche & sticking to it in the long haul makes total sense. It’s just a simpler term for “strong market positioning,” which is the first thing you learn in B-school.
Vishnu, who’s known for his blog on divorce & heartbreak, explains the logic eloquently on his Medium, “Writing about one topic, like divorce, has worked for me. Readers often prefer you to focus on one issue because they care solely about that one topic. They want to hear about it, want to know your experiences with it, and want to know how to solve it.”
He says, “When you pick one topic, people look to you as an expert in that one area. You are no longer an all-rounder and jack of all trades. You move away from the masses and become the leader. You can differentiate yourself. You start attracting committed readers and followers who also care passionately about this topic.”
Where it falls apart
I was convinced by all this as well.
So I decided that I’d exclusively post about marketing on my Insta @manikrege.
It was in line with my educational qualifications in media comms. & marketing. It was one of the few things I can go on & on about for days. And the field in itself is vast as it is fast-evolving, so I was sure there would always be plenty to talk about.
I posted resources for marketers – listicles, industry news, op-eds, martech tutorials, databases, customer insights, and so forth. And it was going fine for a month. In my small but well-engaged circle of 500 followers, I was quickly becoming known as “Manik, the Marketer.”
But one day I discovered some really cool hacks about how to craft an impactful CV, and I really wanted to share them with the world because I knew it would benefit many fresh grads & first-time jobseekers in a similar position.
But I hesitated. It had nothing to do with advertising or business. So it didn’t “fit my niche.” Wouldn’t suit it.
This became a regular occurrence. I came across smart tech tips, made personal traveling lists, and thought of many great posts that I knew would help the youngsters who were following me.
But none of them were in alignment with the subject I’d chosen to master in public.
To compound this frustration, I got bored of marketing. I found myself out of brilliant ideas every other week. Some of the posts became repetitive & my engagement plummeted.
This happens to the best of us – even those who are very passionate about one particular thing – we think we can rave about it for eternity, but sometimes, we just “don’t feel it.”
New content creators often face this cage-like scenario of restrictive niches – prisoners of their own choosing. This is when your positioning comes in the way of your creativity. Rather than setting you free, it narrows you into a box.
Soon, you find yourself creating 10 different accounts, one for each aspect of your personality – a page for your guitar covers, another for your food pics, and yet another for publishing poems & short written work.
Unless you have a PR firm, the volume eventually becomes hard to juggle. You can’t keep all the accounts active on a consistent basis without burning out.
So. Much. Chaos.
Someone starts a podcast about career planning but wants to also talk about mental health & depression because it played a huge part in their story. However, they find difficulty in connecting it to their larger brand.
Another friend of mine started a makeup & beauty Insta page, but she started posting pics of food & travel. And also occasional posts about eco-friendly living.
Pretty soon, she was talking about everything in her life, making it no different than your personal (private) page that you’d ideally only open up to your inner circle i.e. people who you know intimately.
This wasn’t helping in building her “brand.”
What to do?
Solution: Finding a Middle Ground
As I was trying to figure out my unique voice, the one that would be mine “exclusively,” I discovered Simon Sinek’s book, “Start with Why” (2009).
For the unfamiliar ones, Sinek is the most-watched TED Speaker & the biggest authority on empathetic leadership.
His eye-opening talk, “Why good leaders make you feel safe,” is one of the top-ranking videos on YouTube of all time, and for a good reason.
In his book, he says, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.”
He continues, “Regardless of WHAT we do in our lives, our WHY—our driving purpose, cause or belief – never changes.”
Although the book is primarily aimed to help business leaders/entrepreneurs set up a good culture in their organizations, I found the insight relevant to my personal case.
I was being restricted by my brand strategy because it was topic-driven & not purpose-driven.
I never asked myself, “Why am I posting these things?”
More importantly, I never bothered to meditate on who I’m trying to help.
A purpose-driven personal brand starts with a specific audience it wants to help and finds its mission in this analysis.
It brings together 2, 3, 4, 5, or n number of topics under one umbrella theme that drives the reason behind why you’re doing what you’re doing.
For example, I came to realize that my purpose was not merely marketing or career planning, but something much more general & high-level.
I wanted to help youngsters learn the art of “selling,” whether it was their business, product, or themselves. So under this theme, I could post:
- Analyses of marketing campaigns
- Tips for optimizing your CV & LinkedIn profile
- What to post on social media (content marketing)
- Public speaking tips
- Interpersonal skills – as they matter a lot in closing deals
- + many other topics!
With this shift in perspective, I felt liberated from my self-imposed shackles and began to experiment with different topics.
But I always ensured that each of my posts ties back to my theme of “how to grow – as a person, a professional, and a business.”
Eventually, I settled on calling myself a “Career Growth Accelerator,” so professional growth & branding became my core.
This is the “Black Book” PowerPoint I created for myself, just to keep myself on the right track.
Occasionally, I would also publish marketing tips, travel recommendation lists, mental health writeups/poems, quirky creative designs, and topical/trending tweet formats.
But in the end, my captions & speaking style would ensure that the message comes back to “fulfilling your dreams & growing.”
For example, when I posted pictures of my trip to Goa, my caption talked about how important it is to take a break from your work.
I shared 3-5 tips on having a stress-free vacation, such as:
- Communicating your unavailability to colleagues in advance
- Setting up an auto-responder to let mailers know you’re away
- Enforcing uncomfortable but necessary boundaries by saying “NO” to ad-hoc work
- Keeping your phone back in your room to practice off-screen time
See how I connected it to my central theme?
I’m not good at cracking jokes or making funny stuff, so I chose not to do something that’s clearly not meant for me, instead of sticking to a serious tutorial channel-like vibe. But I knew being serious & boring isn’t going to help me scale, so I kept the language & tone friendly, or as some would call it, “casual & conversational.”
This became my voice. Now people started bookmarking & forwarding my posts, saying “Check out this guy. He posts useful tips that can help you be better at work.”
I can’t express how good having this clarity in one line felt. It was like getting rid of a nasty sinus infection (or clearing one of your clogged nostrils). The clouds had lifted away.
More Examples of Flexible Brands
If you’re clueless about what you should post on your social media i.e. the topics you should select, our friend Vishnu from the intro has some effective prompts to get started, so I’ll defer to his blog post for that.
Coming to the focus of this article, once you’ve figured out your set of topics, you’ll need to find a common thematic string that ties them neatly.
Let’s talk about the example of our fashionista, Rhea, who also wants to post about traveling, green living, and eating out.
In this case, she could brand herself as a “Miss Gorgeous Pants – The tiny explorer of All Things Fresh.” Her relatable “purpose” would be to cherish the inner child who constantly seeks out new experiences in all walks of life.
Her bio may invite people to follow her on her journeys as she tries new outfits, visits new destinations, tries exciting food, and also explores yoga, meditation, self-care routines, or anything else that feeds the soul.
In choosing this high-level theme instead of going the traditional fashion-only route, Rhea opens up opportunities to collaborate with businesses beyond just the fashion industry.
She stands for something more than just another boring lady trying out new outfits everyday. She’s all about rediscovery & exploring the new, a brand image that is much more dynamic, unique, and above all, memorable.
Guess what? Such a brand already exists- it’s called “Curly Tales,” and they’re a bunch of women trying out all the things I just described above. A reporter Kamiya Jani started the lifestyle blog in 2017, and today, it has 1M+ followers across various platforms.
One last example I’d like to highlight is that of Gary Vaynerchuk, the ultimate social media guru personality. At a massive 10M follower base, he’s easily one of the most engaged accounts on Gram.
Gary posts on all these topics:
- NFTs & crypto
- Starting up your own business
- Motivation in life
- Art & creativity
- Content marketing (he owns an ad agency, VaynerMedia)
- Freelancing & income
- Importance of family & relationships
- Mental Health
- Clippings from workshops with fans
- And many more topics!
To be fair, >75% of his recent posts are simple mobile video recordings of his interactions with fans, who ask him for advice on various topics. It’s that dead simple – the guy doesn’t do any expensive production shoots or prepare scripts.
But all his published pieces fit well into his puzzle because his purpose has always been to inspire the common man to hustle.
People watch his shaky or unedited videos with the same excitement – they don’t care! They couldn’t care less about the production quality. They’re here for his inspiration, his stories, and his words of wisdom.
Gary’s mission is unusually crystal clear. to push the 20 to 35-year-old working class into entrepreneurship by embracing Web3 tech, practicing boundaries, working harder, and so on.
Having this purpose allows him to go batshit crazy on socials, dabbling into any topic he wants. He could get up & post a green veggie smoothie recipe tomorrow, and his audience would still consume it happily because he’ll connect it back to his purpose of making their lives better.
How to Replicate this Thinking
To create a solid positioning for yourself, all you need to do is ask yourself 3 questions:
- Who is my target audience?
- What do they want & need?
- Will they gain value from this?
Let’s tackle them one by one.
First, ask “Who is my audience?” Everything begins with this thought.
Don’t assume you know everything about them. Take a month to sit down with real people (physically, not online) & have some friendly chats. Make a note of their:
- Age group
- Gender & sexuality
- Income class
- Educational track record
- Hobbies & interests
- Fondest memories & golden moments
- Digital Patterns – how do they spend time online?
- Part of which groups?
- Which influencers do they follow?
- Most active times (on socials)
- Political & religious beliefs
- Major pain points/problems
- Content they enjoy consuming on social media
- What makes them excited?
- What are their core driving desires?
- What are their frustrations & complaints?
- What scares them off?
- What makes them nervous/anxious?
- What are their goals & ambitions?
- How would they spend $1,00,000?
- What changes do they want in their world?
This might feel like a deep dive, and yes it is. But you need all that data to really nail down your purpose without leaving any room for doubt or confusion.
Consider why you’ve chosen these people as your targets. Is it because you’re already part of that interest group or community yourself?
Or maybe you’ve been through that phase, and now you want to help others go through it smoothly?
For example, I didn’t have any good seniors to teach me productivity & career planning tips, so my brand is all about being there for youngsters because I know what it feels like to be all alone – this is the backstory I tell my audience, and it makes me more humanly believable.
Second, once you’ve fixed your audience, ask “What do they want & need?”
I spent months casually talking to juniors in my university at Monash, asking what kind of workshops or seminars they would love to attend before graduating. Many of them mentioned the need for public speaking training, technology workshops, etc.
Helping them became my life’s mission.
I used to offer them free coffee & ask them to share their anxieties or problems as first-time jobseekers. I even asked some of them to take out their phone & just casually scroll through their Instagram feed for 15 minutes, with me watching how they behave in real life.
When they stopped on a Reel & liked/commented on it, I made a note of what had piqued their interest. I visited that profile or post myself to dissect what audio, graphics, scripts, and words they were using – is there any way I could absorb some elements from their style while creating my own content?
These 1-on-1 interviews became the research fodder that dictated my content calendar. I dedicated each day of the week to one topic that would help my chosen audience.
Here’s a rough sketch of what it looked like:
|Monday||Psychology Tip (How to Think/Work faster)|
|Tuesday||Tech Tutorial (cool free apps or web tools)|
|Wednesday||Job-hunting hack (CV, Interview, Freelance)|
|Thursday||Soft Skill (speaking, negotiation, time management)|
|Friday||Casual post on enjoying or taking a break|
As I explained, although my topics were different, they all had immense value for the same kind of person: any 24-year-old would enjoy each of the 5 posts lined up in my calendar.
More importantly, I know in my heart that I would’ve loved to learn all these things back when I was in my university days. In other words, I would’ve definitely followed me – and knowing that gives me the confidence to create.
This brings me to the third & final question.
Before you post anything, shift your perspective from yourself to your audience. Instead of posting to satisfy your ego & get validation, ask “Will this add value to my connections? Will it benefit them? Will it be worth their time?”
A more direct filter question to ask is, “If I didn’t post this, will my fans feel like they missed out on something cool, relatable, funny, or informative?”
It’s fine to occasionally show off the fun bits of your life – that’s why we’re all here, after all.
But when 90% of your content is consumer-facing, with the focus being on giving them value, it drastically raises your quality as a content creator – it gives people a solid reason to care because trust me, they only care when it’s about them, not you.
See my LinkedIn post on this insight.
In this article, we talked about how I gained clarity on what I’m doing as a content creator. To summarize my 5 key insights:
- Don’t feel restricted or obligated to post only about 1-2 topics. You can post about 5 topics, even 10 … all you need to do is shift your focus on being a mission-driven brand.
- Building a mission-driven brand starts by gaining empathy for your target audience. Take a month off to learn about the people you want to help- observe their behaviors & uncover their anxieties, ambitions, fears, goals, etc.
- The journey to being relatable starts with being true to your natural personality i.e. living without filters.
- Post not to please yourself but to tell a story that’s useful. Make your profile something people come to for learning something new or unwinding & laughing after a long day.
I hope with all those examples & insights, you feel less intimidated by the massive challenge of finding your space in such a crowded world.
Everyone’s a content creator now, so it can feel hard to stand out.
But your mission is your mission, and nobody can replicate the story of why you’re driven by it. This mission is the unique gift you already have.
Use it to your advantage.