When you’re launching a business, whether it’s a clothing line, a tech startup, or freelance copywriting services, you have a huge amount to think about. The legal stuff, finances, building a portfolio, networking, building a good website, establishing an email list, organising overheads, hiring staff…the list goes on. Social media marketing is probably the last thing you’re thinking about, which is often one of the reasons many startups don’t get past that 3-year mark. They funnel all their energy into their fantastic service or product, yet, nobody knows about it. Why? Because they didn’t scream and shout online and provide their potential customers with value!
Many businesses don’t realise that social media marketing does much, much more than just generate sales. The ROI isn’t always monetary – the insights you can gain from online marketing can sometimes be even more powerful and valuable than money.
So, what are the benefits of social media in the startup phase?
- It will teach you about your own business. Yep – you read that right. Building a presence online allows you to delve deep into your startup culture and the value that you’re putting forward. Using social media will force you to take pictures, gather stock images, make graphics, and so on – and to do each of these, you need to have your brand style in mind. This will undoubtedly develop and change the more you do it!
- Social media is where you will establish an audience and learn more about them. As a startup, you will have a customer persona in mind, but you have no history to compare this to or to verify it. Therefore, it can only be an assumption. Using social media allows you to gain an insight into the types of users interested in your business (who is following you? Who is paying active attention to what you’re posting and engaging with it?), and tweak your business model to suit this. You can also create a much more detailed persona using the real people following you online – what are their needs? Their interests? Their motivations? Their dreams? Their lifestyles?
- Startup companies such as Airbnb prove that social media can be the cornerstone of a strong company launch. You may have built a website and created the perfect product, but when the launch day finally comes, no one buys. This is because nobody knows about it! Creating hype around your new business is essential for launch success.
- Finally – it ties it all together. Your blog, your networking, your hard work behind the scenes building your new product or service, your email list, etc. You can have each of these, but without social media, they aren’t interlinked. Social media is the perfect way to tie together all the other aspects of your business and give people a place to go to, where they can view all of your updates, see what you’re up to, chat with you, and even follow up after a networking event.
Are you convinced yet? Now, we are going to dive straight into the four steps of using social media to make a huge impact in the startup phase. Don’t forget to download our free checklist for getting started with social media as a startup!
Step 1: Have a strategy.
We go through this time and time again, but that’s because too many people say to us, “What can you do that my 12-year-old niece can’t do? She sits on social media all the time.” We build a whopping, hard-hitting, impactful, robust and all-around fantastic strategy – that’s what!
Don’t even think about starting without a strategy – so many businesses, startups and established, often say “We have tried social media, and it just doesn’t work.” – when in actual fact, they tweeted a couple of times and expected the sales to come rolling in. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work like that.
Luckily for startups, you’re starting with a blank canvas. You don’t have realms of outdated content already plaguing your news feeds, so you have the chance to build a fantastic presence from the outset! Start by listing your business goals and objectives. Think about what you want to achieve within the next 3 months, 6 months, and 12 months. This could be generating more brand awareness, getting clients, generating sales, or maybe something else. Use these goals to drive your marketing forward.
Next, develop your first customer persona. The reason we say first is that this will inevitably change, as we mentioned before. You may discover that you get traction from a different audience than you initially expected. For example, we are currently marketing an upcoming restaurant in Newcastle. They haven’t opened yet, and we started with the assumption that their audience will be people aged 50+. Through marketing, we have discovered that they are getting a lot of traction from females in their 20s!
Think about your brand style and tone of voice. If your brand was a person, what would they be like? Are they funny, positive and wacky? Or maybe more conservative, intelligent and factual. Once you have defined this, document it as you will need to refer back to this tone of voice every time you post, otherwise, your content will be inconsistent – this is especially important if more than one person will be posting on social media. It’s your brand style and tone that will make you memorable on social media.
Part of your strategy is also developing the other parts of the puzzle. We always tell clients that social media is just one part of a very big pipeline, that relies on a website (a good one!), a blog, images, video, and other content. Think of social media as being the central point, and all of these aspects are around the outside of the circle. If you haven’t already, it’s time to find a good web developer, plan your blog content out for the next few months, hire a photographer, and have professional videos created.
Finally, choose your social networks. Pick wisely – don’t pick any more than 3 if you are just starting out, as you will spread yourself too thin. It’s much better to put all your energy into 2 or 3 platforms and do them really well, than spread yourself over 5 platforms, with no return. When picking your platforms, don’t just choose because you think you have to be on there. “Well, isn’t every business on Facebook? I have to be on Facebook.” Only choose the platforms where you know your audience is hanging out. For example, if you’re a B2B business, you will probably want to focus more on LinkedIn, and possibly Twitter. A lifestyle B2C brand will focus more on Facebook and Instagram, however.
Step 2: Don’t be afraid to take your audience on the startup journey with you.
Airbnb was once a startup. GoPro was once a startup. Uber was once a startup. How cool would it be if you could say, “Hey, I remember the first post they ever made on Facebook! And now look how much they have grown!”
It’s all about nurturing those relationships from the beginning and allowing your audience to experience your growth and success with you. Not to mention, people love new stuff. They want to be the first to spot it. Ever heard the words, “I was a fan of ____ before all of this hype!” or “I have been using ___ since way before anyone even knew about them.”?
It’s that satisfaction of being the first to know about something, and that’s a great advantage that all you startups have when it comes to social media. You’re the new shiny toy in the box, so be the new shiny toy.
So what do we mean when we say “Take your audience on the startup journey”? One of the reasons startup businesses are so exciting is that they are constantly changing. Their brand is being developed, their product or service is being tried and tested, they are releasing new features, and their presence is becoming more known in the wider community. Use these changes to fuel your content. Announce new developments in the product, take pictures of your team working hard behind the scenes, showcase each team member and their role in your startup, and don’t forget to announce milestones when you reach them! Hit one million app downloads? Fantastic! Share it. Those who were following your content from the beginning will feel extra special as they have seen you go from 0 – 1 million, quite literally.
Step 3: Use social media to expand your team.
Social media is an incredibly powerful marketing tool. So powerful, that it has a range of uses that stretch far beyond ‘generating sales’. Not only can you gain a deep insight into your target audience as we mentioned before, you can also use it to recruit talent for your team!
Consider the role you’re looking to fill, and where you are going to find the best candidates for the job. For the startup restaurant we are currently marketing, we leveraged Facebook and Instagram to find students to fill front-of-house roles and used Facebook targeting tools to find experienced kitchen staff in the industry.
If you’re a more corporate startup, or looking for high-skilled individuals, LinkedIn is a great platform for recruitment.
Step 4: Measure your success and tweak your plan to fit.
The startup phase of your business is the most important when it comes to planning and perfecting your marketing. As we mentioned before, you will see your business change before your eyes when you go online – from discovering your true audience to identifying the most popular content. Measure your success online, and your failures, and use this data to drive your plan forward.
Depending on your capacity, you should be measuring your success on a weekly basis at least, to get the most from your marketing. If you are in the pre-launch phase, you will want to focus on the awareness metrics such as Brand Awareness, Reach, and Engagement. If you have already launched, you may want to focus on anything from App Downloads to Website Traffic and Conversions. This completely depends on your business goals.
If you notice a particular post has received more traction than the others, why is that? What can you do to replicate that kind of content? Was it popular in terms of reach, engagement, clicks? Get specific about this and capitalise on your successes!
To accompany this blog post, we have created a free downloadable checklist to help keep you on track through setting up your social media marketing plan as a startup. Download it here.
We hope you found our tips useful! Let us know by tweeting us @cambieandco.