It’s simple; because they listen. As opposed to the masses, which are really good at ignoring you.
Do you really think Average Joe will listen when you say your Samsung Galaxy S II has a 1.2Ghz dual-core processor? No, he will ask his friend, Geek Mike, which phone he should buy.
Seth Godin, marketing guru, explains it perfectly:
He explains the TV industrial complex is gone, the golden years of the 60’s when all companies had to do is flood the TV with ads is now history. There’s too many choices, and way less time. Nowadays there’s complex networks of information, and everybody knows where and how to get recommendations of services and products, which probably will only be noticed if they are remarkable.
How do you explain that Google became such a big company without advertisement? You make a good product, and people talk about it. First the hard-core geeks, then normal geeks, there’s normal people, and eventually, even grandmas and grandpas. They started with doing one thing, but very well, and that made them remarkable. That’s why today even though Google+ as 74% males and 25% engineers (reference), they will spread the word, and eventually everybody will be there.
That is the viral effect of social networks. If you want something to spread through the network, you have to target the nodes that are more tightly connected, the ones at the center of the network. These would obviously be geek bloggers, many of which have thousands of followers, each of which will spread it to more and more people, until eventually you get to the masses. Google, Twitter, Facebook, the iPhone, they all seemed to be targeting only a small niche of technical people, but what many people didn’t consider, is that these geeks would find the value, and spread the message.
This should be obvious, but for some people it’s not. Some people say “oh, the geeks don’t like this, but it’s OK, they are not our target market” (Nokia comes to mind), which completely misses the point that if geeks don’t spread the message, you already lost.
And that is why GNOME 3, for example, already lost. They are ignoring the huge backlash from existing users telling them “we don’t care about you, you are a tiny minority”.
In this hugely interconnected world, you should not disregard the tiny minority that loves you, to seek the huge majority that doesn’t care about you, that is not only dangerous, but doomed to fail. Moreover, I would go even further and say, this tiny minority can actually tell you what you should do to reach the big majority better.