Marketing your startup in social media is something you should begin on day one —but there’s a right and wrong way to go about it. 1871 member and social media pro Carol Fowler, CEO and Co-Founder of TheSocReports, provides a checklist of steps to lay the foundation for growing your social audience.
Guest Author: Carol Fowler, CEO of TheSocReports
During the past decade, social media has upended traditional media and advertising — and the pressure to excel is enormous for brands of all sizes.
When Pew Research Center began tracking social media adoption in 2005, just 5 percent of U.S. adults used at least one social media platform. By 2011, that share had risen to half of all Americans, and today 69 percent of the American public uses some type of social media. The average person has five social accounts – starting with Facebook, the biggest gorilla of the bunch, with 2 billion users worldwide. The challenge is, as a startup, you begin at a disadvantage because you are competing with every brand — not just other newbie entrepreneurs hoping to acquire customers — from Coca-Cola to Nutella to Amazon. Don’t despair; it’s just essential to lay a good foundation.
The risk of delaying a social media strategy: A marginal online presence can directly impact business leads, salaries, career advancement, speaking engagements, book sales – and in the U.S., even election outcomes. Plus, how do you know if you are doing it right?
I’ve spent the last five years studying the keys to social media success. This research led me to create a social media analytics tool for personal brands and small business called TheSocReports — in part because I saw so many people using social media in a purely promotional way (hang with me, and I’ll explain why that’s a BIG problem.)
So it’s with that background I share five steps to laying the foundation for social success. I’m constantly amazed at how few people take time to think about these things before jumping head first into Twitter.
Follow this advice and you will be on a strong path to growing awareness about your awesome startup and getting people to actually pay money for your product or service.
Set goals for what you want to achieve in social media. Before you write the first tweet, you need to ask yourself a really important question:
Why is my business on social media?
If you don’t know the answer to that question, that’s the first red flag. This goes for whether you are managing your own brand or someone else’s. You must set goals for what you want to get out of your social media activity.
Goals generally fall into one of two categories:
Hard goals: Sell products, collect email addresses, drive ticket sales, event turnout
Soft goals: Generate brand awareness, promote thought leadership, bolster employee morale
Hard goals are measurable, and soft goals often aren’t. That’s why social media gets a bad rap because many grumpy business leaders question the “ROI” (return on investment) because those softer goals are what marketers are hoping to achieve.
Those soft goals are worthy, but you need to pick at least one hard goal to quantify the success of your efforts. Growing your number of Facebook Page Likes is NOT a goal. It’s a means to an end. What matters is how the social media activity drives your business.
These goals should inform everything you do. And they will change from time-to-time.
1. Know your audience.
As a startup, it’s really tempting to want “everyone” to love you. For sure, you are finding your way and often changing who your ideal customer might be.
Because all of the social media platforms are so different, identifying the characteristics of your customer group or groups is needed in order to focus your efforts.
Audience characteristics to consider:
If your target audience is female, under 30 and college grad who lives in an urban setting, then you will definitely want to use Instagram.
Digital marketers call this exercise developing “customer personas” and they can get more granular — identifying how the imagined customer spends weekday evenings or where she shops for clothes. That’s great. The more time you spend getting into the lives of your potential buyer, the better you will be able to bond with her in the social space.
2. Pick two social media channels best for your objectives.
Once you identify your goals and know the audience you want to reach, then it becomes a matter of deciding where you place your content. That should depend on the strengths of the platform. Do NOT try to be everywhere. Pick two or three platforms MAX. Better to have a loyal audience on one platform than a less engaged group on three.
Sadly, some companies hesitate to commit to social media because they think they need to be everywhere, and they can’t see being able to sustain the social activity while working non-stop on the business itself.
I could go into great detail on the types of users on each, but this guide will give you a good idea of where you need to be devoting your energy:
•Slightly more female
•Wide appeal to all ages / Only place to reach 40+
•Better educated / 77% of college grads are on it
•Reach is suppressed / Brand Pages (500k+ Likes) are at greatest disadvantage
Instagram / Snapchat
•Next to Facebook, best place to reach under 30
•Visual-centric / Food, fashion, beauty reign
•Strong driver of website traffic with minimal effort
•Visual-centric / Topics of content organized into ‘boards’
•‘How to’ content is popular
•Under age 30 is largest demo
•Almost half earn $75K+
•Career-centric / Can be good place to recruit talent, show thought leadership
•Huge with young / 98% of Internet users 18-24 are on YouTube
•Males into sports and gaming / Females into beauty
•Typical user watches 4-10 hours a month
•Also skews young
•News-centric / 90% of people on platform want latest information
•Reach is suppressed / Brand Pages (500k+ Likes) are at greatest disadvantage
•Smaller audience than Facebook, but the audience is more influential
Once you pick your channels, you should think seriously about creating a blog for your startup. You’ll want an online home for your authored content — and while LinkedIn can be an option for authored posts in the short-term, it’s always better to steer traffic to the site you own. Once there, people will discover more things about your brand — a win-win.
Original content also helps establish your credibility as an expert in the thing you are striving to have people associate with your brand. Writing may not appeal to you, so perhaps video or photography is a better fit. Just commit to whatever you feel plays to your strengths. Once a week is ideal, but if you can’t publish more than once a month start there.
3. Measure, Adjust, Measure.
The next step in the creative process involves numbers. You need to set up a method to manage and measure what happens. Remember the goals you set in step #1? Create a spreadsheet to track your results over time.
Google Analytics is indispensable for measuring the amount of referral traffic coming to your website directly from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and the rest. Look at these numbers everyday.
There are many social media publishing tools out there that will also give you quite a bit of information about which of your posts are performing best. My company has been using Sprout Social for a few years, and we have found the platform to be robust and ideal for monitoring multiple accounts on one screen (“Smart Inbox”). One reason I developed TheSocReports is that there was no tool at the time that allowed me to see my results in competitive context. I invite you to check it out if that’s important to you too.
The tools or software you use are your choice. The main thing is to monitor your KPIs (“Key Performance Indicators”) monthly. This will become a powerful way to tell a story of momentum to motivate your team or pitch to investors. Above all, you want to learn from what your one-of-a-kind audience is most interested in seeing, then pattern your behavior.
4. Find your voice.
Simon Sinek, the British-born marketing guru and motivational speaker, says it best:“People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.”
Hands down, the biggest mistake you can make in social media is thinking you can use it like a megaphone to persuade people to give you money in return for whatever you’re selling. Some startups jump into the social space and immediately start touting the features of their newest, best thing and encouraging people to sign-up for a trial or place an order.
No more than 5 percent of your posts should be promotional. The rest of the time you should act like the gracious host of a dinner party: Praising the work of others, asking for advice, showing humility, expressing wonder, recommending a good movie, etc. In other words, take time to establish yourself as a likeable citizen before turning on the sales machine.
Do you really want to talk only about yourself? Don’t behave in social media in a way you wouldn’t in person. That also goes for hurling insults and cheap shots. Be nice.
So there you have it. Going through this exercise shouldn’t take more than a few hours, which is well worth the investment. Having a strategy that you continue to revisit and tweak will get your startup noticed, not ignored, and will lay a solid foundation for growing a social audience for weeks and months to come.
Carol Fowler is a nationally recognized content strategist with more than 20 years of broadcast and digital management experience and a proven track record in establishing and operating award-winning news operations and bringing them into the digital age. After holding various VP roles in Chicago television news (WGN, CBS, FOX), she founded the digital content agency, KloboMedia and devoted her energy to helping brands better understand the impact of their activity in social media. Out of this research, TheSocReports was born.