Raising capital. Honing your business plan. Evaluating vendors. Finding the right space. Hiring.
Given the exigencies of getting your startup off the ground, it's easy to understand how social media can get pushed down on your priority list.
It's understandable - but it's definitely not a good idea!
If you're putting off creating a sound social strategy until you "get your feet under you," you're already falling behind. According to this Fast Company article by HootSuite CEO Ryan Holmes:
- There are more than 2 billion active social media users worldwide, and that number is growing at a rate of 25% each year.
- Nearly 80% of businesses now have dedicated social media teams.
- Nine out of 10 companies (including your competitors!) are active on social networks.
- More than half of those companies say that social media boosts their sales.
Developing and implementing a smart social media plan is no longer hip or cutting edge - it's a must-do for your startup. So bump it up your priority list! Use these ideas to get focused, get active and get the results you need:
Allocate time and resources. I know what you're thinking: "I don't have the time, the people or the budget to devote to social media." But you need to find it. If time, resources and money present significant challenges, resolve to start small and then scale-up your efforts as your business grows. Even if you can only dedicate a handful of hours and dollars now, assign someone responsibility for creating and executing your initial plan. As your revenue and team grow, you can increase your social media activity.
Define your goals. As an entrepreneur, you obviously understand the importance of having a clear strategy for your business. The same holds true for your social media efforts. So before you start posting, tweeting and engaging, consider what you want to achieve.
The possibilities are nearly limitless. From building your brand to filling your sales funnel to recruiting exceptional talent, social media can do so much for your business. Here are a few goals your startup might want to focus on:
- Creating brand awareness / defining your brand
- Distributing content
- Driving traffic to your website
- Generating sales leads
Choose the right channels. To choose the best platforms for your business, start by developing a complete customer persona. Consider factors like: demographics; goals/challenges they face; biggest fears; hobbies and interests; and where they typically hang out on social media.
Once you've defined your customer persona, choose two or three platforms as your starting point for engagement. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google, and Pinterest are five of the most popular platforms, but don't discount other channels which may align better with your brand and target audience.
Create killer profiles and pages. Give your customers a reason to stop, take notice of your profile/page and then follow you! Take the time to build complete profiles, including: uploading your logo or other branded profile photos; adding links to your website and other social accounts; and sharing a few updates.
Build your following. Just because you build complete profiles, don't assume followers will flock to you. Go out and find them:
- Use each network's friend-finding features. Most networks also provide tools for connecting you with people you already know (e.g., searching email contacts). Take advantage of these options to quickly build a base of connections and followers.
- Add links to your social accounts to your email signature.
- Feature social links on your website.
- Cross-promote platforms. If you quickly build an audience on one network, ask members to connect with you on another.
- Follow others and/or "like" their pages.
Share amazing content. The more your content strikes a chord with your audience, the more likely your audience will be to share it. In addition to status updates:
- Try quizzes, polls or surveys to drive engagement.
- Be visual. Photos, graphics, infographics, GIFs, and videos are much more engaging than straight copy.
- Infuse a little humor (as long as it complements your brand personality).
- Feature your followers. Customer profiles, mini case-studies, and testimonials are all great ways to focus on your target audience in a relevant way.
- Post thoughtful comments on your followers', friends' and connections' activity.
Listen and respond as much as you talk. Social media engagement is a two-way street. To succeed, you should listen to your followers, take their feedback to heart and respond promptly when warranted. Develop protocols for interacting directly with customers, including best practices for handling both positive and negative comments.
Monitor activity. When you participate in social media, you absolutely must monitor what your audience is saying about you - especially when your reputation is first being established. Use each platform's notification features to alert you anytime someone responds to or engages with your brand online, so you can respond promptly. And regardless of which platforms you use, set up Google Alerts for key terms (e.g., your company name, your name, etc.) to notify you whenever you're mentioned online.
Get outside help when you need it. Creating and executing a smart social media strategy takes discipline and focused, consistent effort - but it's a must-do for your new business! If you lack the internal time, resources or expertise, consider bringing on a contract social media expert. A project professional can help you: define your goals and target audience; build your following; create the processes and systems to ensure success; and create amazing, engaging content your followers, fans and connections will want to share.