Social media is often the last thing on the to-do list for most startups – there’s always seemingly something more important that takes priority (raising capital, getting clients and tweaking products/services) and it usually gets pushed to the bottom of the slush pile.
But social media is just as important, if not more, than any of those things. It is – or should be – a critical part of your overall brand. A solid social media footprint might just be enough to convince investors to throw in another round of financing – or attract the attention of clients and vendors that you never even thought of.
Startups live AND die by social media – it’s where and how they build their brand. A killer social media strategy isn’t a want; it’s a must-have, particularly if you want to differentiate your startup from the competition.
So before you go on social media aimlessly, keep these five tips in mind:
1. Develop a clear strategy. If your “strategy” consists of throwing a page up on Facebook or Twitter and just hoping you’ll get a million followers with sheer luck, think again. You need a plan – a real one, with timelines, milestones, goals and benchmarks.
An effective social media strategy should help you to:
- Identify your audience. Who is your audience? Is it customers, peers, vendors or a combination? If you’re not clear on who your audience is, don’t expect the audience to figure it out. Until you build a social media following, it will feel like you are talking to yourself. So make sure that you hone your social media messages to your specific audience and go where they are.
- Solidify your goals. Determine WHY you are on social media. Some companies use it to attract new customers and others use it to establish their companies/executives as thought leaders. Make sure you know why you use social media.
- Determine your social media brand. Who are you? Are you the whimsical, irreverent voice? Or are you serious? A mixture? Cut through the clutter and figure out your brand. Dare to be different. Memorable social media campaigns happen when companies do things competitors don’t.
- Pick your medium. Don’t spread yourself too thin by posting on every outlet on the planet. There are too many social media outlets to count, and some are better suited to your brand than others. You might be a star on Facebook and Twitter but fall flat on LinkedIn or Instagram. Pick a few to target and go from there. Devote the bulk of your resources to venues where you have the most success.
2. Commit resources and manpower. Come on. You really aren’t serious until you devote the time AND the company resources to social media. And no, making the 22-year-old unpaid intern manage social media doesn’t count. She might do a great job Instragramming selfies but developing followers, building a community and monitoring the company’s online reputation? Not so much.
3. Develop a regular posting schedule. People on social media have ADHD. If you don’t post, someone else will. And followers will quickly forget about you if they don’t see anything worth reading and sharing. You should aim to post 2-4 items per outlet a day; anything more might be overkill. **Bonus: Keep your posting schedule regular by making it as easy to post as possible. Schedule and manage posts on various channels using free services like HootSuite.
4. Focus on building a community. Amassing record-breaking product sales with a single tweet sounds nice. But sales should never be your primary focus. It’s about building a community of followers, sharing content and engaging your audience. Sales pitches should be limited to one in every 10 posts. Anything more and the whole thing will start to feel like a sales tool.
5. Measure results. Sure, it feels good to have 1 million followers, but that isn’t the only barometer of success. What kind of results are you getting for your investment? How many sales from social media? Website analytics? New customers? Product recognition? Programs like Hootsuite, Facebook Analytics, Bitly, Klout and Twitter can help answer basic questions such as how many people you reach, when and where.