Take a look at your teenage daughter. Odds are that she is probably glued to a screen, tablet or cell phone, with her fingers busy tap tap taping as she swipes her way through her multiple social media accounts. Your teenage daughter is part of the target market for many businesses from apparel and accessories to firms specializing in college applications or designer hair bands.
But teenagers are not the only ones addicted to social media, according to statista.com 81% of the US population had a social media profile in 2016. That is around 207 million people in the United States alone make their presence felt on online platforms.
Social media may have sprung into existence as an entertainment tool, but today it is one of the most powerful and evolved marketing tools available for entrepreneurs. 96% of businesses use social media marketing in some form or another globally, with $9.4 billion spent on social media advertisements in America alone, in 2015.
Clearly, marketing on social media is essential. Channels such as Facebook and Twitter have become integral parts of lead generation, brand awareness, customer acquisition, and content distribution. For any strategy, social media marketing has to have a front seat. All the more so if you are a startup.
Why use Social Media?
Though everyone seems to agree upon the importance of social media, most do not know how to maximize its potential.
Previously, companies needed a lot of resources to advertise during primetime television or on billboards. But with clever and targeted social media marketing, startups can maximize marketing dollars without compromising on quality, while reaching millions of potential customers. Word-of-mouth marketing is a startup’s best chance of success when it has only limited resources available. This is what social media marketing does at its best.
Consider these statistics:
The statistics speak for themselves. Social media has built a strong and solid foundation that is only poised to rise in the long term. It bodes ill for any business to ignore its importance or underestimate it.
Social media accounts can become your primary lead generators. With good quality interesting posts, you can drive traffic to your website or blog. By concentrating on content generation, you can increase brand awareness which in turn would generate leads. You can then use your social media to convert leads into prospects and prospects into customers.
How to use Social Media?
Now that we have (hopefully) underlined the importance of social media to you, we will concentrate on the how. Here is how you can use your social media accounts to help ensure that your startup doesn’t shudder and die, rather soar into the sky like a hawk.
Before you launch your media marketing campaign, you need a strategy that will drive your focus, keep you on track, and help you select the right channels. Begin by deciding what kind of image you want to portray; it is best if your online image is aligned with your company culture.
For example, is your company known for humor? Does it have a more relaxed, easy going feel or do you rather come across as conscientious, with a straightforward, classic approach. However or whichever way you define yourself, stick to it. Consumers prefer consistency and can generally sense when businesses are not being true to their image.
To grow your strategy, you need to build a consumer profile. Being classy is not going to cut it if you are intending to sell funky shoes to teens!
Once the profile is created, you know which of the preferred platforms are for your potential customers in your target market and what appeals to them. For example, hypothetical Sally is a millennial and socially responsible. She takes helping others and protecting the planet seriously.
Brands like Chipotle uses this information effectively. Not only has it maintained an image as a brand that values fresh ingredients, it also has a web series titled “Farmed and Dangerous,” featuring a millennial farmer that opts for sustainable chemical-free farming and is the nemesis of a large corporate food company.
Keeping this is mind, Chipotle’s social media persona would involve being conscientious and protective of the environment while avoiding any active sales pitch.
Startup companies need to be sustainable to be successful. In a blink of an eye they can get overwhelmed by fast pace and growth, and in catering to customers and converting leads, neglect to track, measure and evaluate their social media accounts.
After setting up your accounts, you need to develop a social media management routine. Use your routine to take regular “temperature” checks for all your channels, to ensure that you are maintaining a steady presence and that your posts are being well-received. There are various tools, like Audiense and Hootsuite’s Grade Your Social that can evaluate your Twitter presence. You can also receive reports on profile strength and engagement reach.
One of the best attributes of social media is the interactivity it provides. You can reach the majority of your audience at once and receive feedback. For example, if you have a physical location that customers visit, you can claim your locations on review sites such as Yelp and Foursquare and engage with customers when they check in.
The Boston-based restaurant and entertainment venue The Harp uses Twitter to get feedback from a customer in the below example:
Receive feedback from your customers when they check in. Source: Mention
However, your start up may not have a physical location that your customers can visit, in that case, it becomes important to find conversations about your product and join in. You can do so by building communities on channels such as Facebook where special sales promotions can be used to spice up your normal social media routine and increase engagement.
You cannot afford to neglect your channels. Doing so may damage your image by betraying audience expectations which could tarnish your image and cost you online followers and hence potential customers.
Quality trumps quantity every time. And quality begins with it eye-catching headlines. Take these for example:
Such articles tend to be click-bait for your social media platforms. Many startups cannot use such language or terminology but this is where you experiment a bit. For example, GE has a reputation for innovation. To build on that reputation, it launched a campaign that encouraged its fans to film science experiments of their own. In a single week, they had generated over 600 user submissions, increased its follower’s growth by 345%, resulting in 253,800 engagements.
The idea is to be creative with social media marketing to make a splash. By using social media staples of behind-the-scenes peeks and crowd sourced content, you can create audience excitement and be rewarded with their engagement and loyalty, which can eventually result in increasing the bottom line.
When publishing content keep the 80/20 rule in mind. The purpose of 80% of what you post should be to generate brand awareness by developing trust and relationships. 20% of what you post can be a sales pitch such as free trials, sales, product launches, discounts, etc.
Your industry consumer profile, strategy, goals, and overall approach determines the appropriate social media platform. For example, Pinterest suits the fashion industry whereas if your aim is to increase business-to-business sales, LinkedIn would be a better choice. Similarly, if you are a small local restaurant, YouTube videos may not be your primary social media channel.
Begin by looking at your competitors, see which channels they are active on and how to counteract them. But don’t limit yourself to your competition, they may have overlooked a relevant channel that you can exploit.
Currently, there are 6 major platforms that can be of huge value to startups, depending on their industry;
Facebook is the whale of social media with over 1.94 billion global monthly active users of which 1.74 billion were mobile monthly active users as of the first quarter of 2017. The United States has over 190 million Facebook users. Suffice to this, if you are looking to reach the masses, begin by making a Facebook page and posting regularly on it.
Based on active users, Twitter is one of the top 10 leading social networks worldwide with 328 million monthly active users as of the first quarter of 2017. Not only can you use Twitter as a broadcasting tool, you can also use it to make an impact in the minds of your existing and potential customers. By leveraging brevity, it forces you to get the message across in 140 characters which is great to attract the short time span people have these days as they skim through their feeds.
Concentrating on industry contacts and business connections, LinkedIn is available in 24 languages in over 200 countries. Suited for employers and working professionals, it is ideal for companies to present themselves and enhance their connectedness in their areas of expertise. With over 467 million members worldwide, it is one of the most popular social networks, especially for facilitating global networking.
Justin Bieber is not the only one who has risen to stardom on the YouTube bandwagon. YouTube is your best friend for brand awareness. Not restrained by brevity requirements, it gives you the opportunity to let your consumers know your brand better, improve consumer recall, increase your perceived legitimacy and enhance your overall reputation. With more than 1 billion hours of content consumed every day, YouTube gives you a chance to make and promote videos that could help you outshine your competition.
Google+ is a late player to the game but backed by the behemoth search engine, it has 440 million monthly active users. It has many features that can be especially beneficial for startups since it leverage Google’s search engine powers. For example, you can use Google My Business to increase your visibility especially if your business has a local presence.
Pinterest can give you a plethora of ideas via pictures and is the best platform to spread information. If your consumers are shoppers and are looking for the ideal product or the perfect gift than your brand needs to be active on Pinterest. With more than 150 million active users, it is believed that it is used mostly by women. Pinterest is not the network if say you are planning on selling software targeted towards oil drilling companies, but if you are in an industry related to art, photography, beauty, fashion, hobby crafts and such, then Pinterest could be a useful tool.
To increase word of mouth traction, cross promote. When you Tweet, incorporate the link of your Facebook page or your blog where you have to talk more about the article, event or promotion you have Tweeted about.
You don’t need to use all social media channels simultaneously. Use social media demographics to check where most of your target market is active and then use a combination of those channels, each promoting the other. Every company wants their content to go viral, after all it means instant brand recognition. However, aiming to make shareable content is a lot more sustainable.
Social media marketing is a must for all businesses but it is the first step in the marketing plan of any and every startup company. Each business is unique and needs a strategy geared towards it that determines how best to proceed forward optimally.
Once you understand the importance of social media, profile your target market and post quality content where your customers likely are, the next step is to engage, maintain, and increase connections. By building an online community on your chosen platforms, listening to what they have to say and experimenting with quality content in the form of innovative campaigns, you can unlock the power of social media for your startup.
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