By Abir El-Hallak
Creating a social media strategy for your startup
In Part 1 of this blog post we saw how social media is no longer just a voluntary avenue for startups but rather an indispensable and cost effective marketing tool that allows you to connect with your audience and build your brand paving the pathway to growth and success. The savvy use of social media will guarantee your brand receives the necessary attention among the endless pool of brands out there. According to the team at Hootsuite, the social media management system for brand management, “success stories of startup companies such as Distractify and Airbnb prove that a great social media strategy is the cornerstone of a strong company launch.”
But how can you build the social media presence of your startup? How can your startup maximise impact with a social media strategy? How can you create a social media strategy that’s right for your startup? Here’s a step-by-step guide.
Social Media Goals
As an entrepreneur, you are fully aware of the magnitude of importance of strategic planning. With your business objectives in position, your next step is to align your social media objectives and efforts with your broader business objectives and goals. This is a challenging but necessary initial feat that will keep you focused and directed. The main areas where social media objectives align to business objectives are as follows, although your startup will probably place emphasis on one or two of these business areas in order to accelerate growth:
We have seen how the use of social media is important to your startup’s brand identity. The objective is to measure to what extent your brand is being spotted in the market along with its share of the social market by using various metrics.
The first to consider is your online reputation score and there are several online reputation management tools that will help your startup build and preserve its positive online image such as Klout (that uses social media analytics to rank its users according to online social influence via the “Klout Score”), PeerIndex (a company that provides social media analytics based on footprints from application of major social media services) and PeerREACH (which analyses your connections and interactions to establish your expertise and assess your levels of influence).
Brand sentiment is another useful metric which focuses on building positive associations with your brand and is best accomplished by employing social listening tools. Brandwatch is of course a top enterprise-level social media monitoring tool but there are other excellent and free alternatives. Examples include Hootsuite, TweetReach, Social Mention, Twazzup, Addictomatic, HowSociable, IceRocket, TweetDeck, Mention, Twitonomy, Followerwonk, SumAll, Simply Measured, Google Alerts…. the list is endless and rich and your startup would greatly benefit from identifying the right one that fits best with its culture and business.
These social listening tools will allow you to monitor brand-related conversations in real time and respond accordingly which will uncover vital data regarding your most influential followers and guide you to your target audience resulting in the better management of your startup business. Indeed, identifying social media influencers will allow you to build an online community of brand ambassadors to give your startup the much needed exposure to grow.
Determining the appropriate social media platforms for your startup will greatly depend on your goals, strategy and content. Each social media network boasts its particular audience and service and your startup would benefit from defining its own target audience in terms of age, gender, income level etc., as well as the nature of its business and comparing these with the demographic data of a social network to ascertain the right fit. There are five major social media platforms worthy of mention and with the potential to add value to your startup:
|Reaching the masses||Over 700 million active users|
|One-on-one customer engagement and content distribution||Users are more likely to make a purchase from a brand they follow|
|B2B and new business partners||Facilitates global networking|
|YouTube||Brand awareness||Videos to millions of users resulting in sharing content on other platforms|
|Startups with physical products||Fastest growing social media platform|
Your content style, for example, video, images, long-form, etc. will play a role too. Identifying your audience’s content style preferences will ensure you use the right social networks resulting in the all-important sharing of that content. Here is a useful break down of social networks into 7 different types, courtesy of Jason DeMers at Search Engine Land.
Raising brand awareness and effectively distributing content will diametrically lead to the acquisition of new customers and consequently the maximising of the value of your social media strategy. It is of vital importance for your startup to build an effective network and defining the characteristics of your perfect customer is the first step in this target. Research plays an important role in this process by identifying where these potential customers are already active. This in turn will facilitate the decision as to which are the right networks to use for your business, as pinpointed above, in order to create your social media profiles and start a conversation with your target audience.
Throughout your sales cycle, social media will allow your startup to uncover who your influencers are by discerning your existing and potential buyer persona, who your brand advocates are as powerful potential sales tools and will tender the platforms to engage with existing and potential customers as well as to follow, and intercept if necessary, competitor conversations. The ideal scenario is for your social media profiles to be lead generators that will direct traffic to your own website (and blog if appropriate).
There are numerous creative and cost-effective ways for your startup to gain viral attention through social media and reach customers and therefore boost sales and the key here is to not be afraid to experiment. Is offering virtual gifts a concept that fits in with your startup’s culture and ultimately increase sales? Is the use of a video landing page going to result in a growth in your YouTube views, for example, and consequently motivate visitors to navigate to your primary website and “Like” you? Will starting a niche specific vertical blog in addition and related to your industry specific blog result in guiding a new brand of potential customers to your product or service? Or is participating in forums in your industry the best fit for your startup to engage a community of potential customers? There are numerous original social media approaches your startup can adopt in order to be spotted and acquire customers.
A further benefit is the potential for your startup to expand through the recruitment of new team members on social media: “a startup’s online audience isn’t limited to potential customers and investors. If your company is looking for passionate talented individuals to join your cause, they may be among your social media followers” (7 Essential Social Media Tips for Startups).
Customer satisfaction resulting in retention
Your social media strategy should also incorporate customer service and this is particularly important at the onset of your business.
Here are some facts and figures:
- 86% of social media customers want to hear from a company with regards to a complaint
- Customers will spend 20-40% more with a company that responds to customer service requests over social media
- 71% of customers will recommend a brand following fast and effective customer care
The bottom line is that you will save money by utilising your social media profiles as effective communication tools to interact with your clients in order to address and act on comments and suggestions resulting in increased customer satisfaction, improved products or services and budding reputation as a quality and reliable business. You may even decide to employ your customer care representative as your social media manager, a further cost reducing strategy.
Evaluate your social media strategy regularly
Your startup’s social media strategy is a continuous work in progress and it is therefore crucial to habitually refine your social media goals as well as review and appraise your current social media status in order to improve on or identify the need to create new social media profiles. This step not only ensures your startup remains ahead of the game but effectively using the right analytics to evaluate progress and make necessary modifications will guarantee the high return on investment your startup demands from your social media strategy.