It has become common practice for brands to engage with their customers on social media; whether it’s tweeting about a special campaign, posting behind-the-scenes photos on Instagram or live streaming on Periscope, companies are capitalizing on this phenomenon.
No matter which kind of a business or startup you are running, at this day and age, social media is an indispensable part of advertising your brand. According to statistics, 47% of web users turn to social media when making a purchase; 97% of marketers use it to increase their exposure and promote, but 85% of them don’t know which tools are the best to use. This indicates that, while social media has found its way into marketing, it is still a confusing tool for most entrepreneurs.
What Are The Benefits of Using Social Media?
You probably shouldn’t start using social networks before you actually know why you are doing it for. Don’t just be lead by example of others; knowing the reasons behind doing a certain thing will allow you to get a better understanding of the bigger picture and make sure that your social strategy is as effective as it can be.
Social media marketing is kind of like killing two birds with one stone. Except that it’s like 8 or 9 birds, but you see my point. Let’s look at some of the reasons why social media is beneficial for your startup:
Connects customers with brands and vice versa
Whether a Twitter user will accidentally stumble upon your brand or someone will see a link to your page on Facebook, the main thing is that it introduces you to customers who would traditionally be much harder to reach.
Allows you to get to know your customer base better
By looking at updates, statuses, photos and comments of your customers, you will get a better idea of what they want and need. This will allow you to both modify your marketing strategy to achieve better results and adjust your offer, if needed.
Lets you react to issues immediately
If someone has trouble with a product of yours or is unhappy with the service, you can instantaneously respond to the issue and deal with it. Customers value companies that react to complaints, which means you will improve the overall perception of your brand.
Grants you more influence
When someone is on social media, they view it as a social network, not an advertising tool. Therefore, what you say has a friendlier tone to it and is more likely to influence your customer base, instead of sounding like you are only interested in making a sale.
Increases the number of sales
Social media isn’t just about spreading the word about your startup, it also has a huge influence on sales. Not only will you allow a greater number of people to buy from you, but you will also be able to offer them additional reasons to make a purchase, such as online coupons. You’d be surprised at how effective these things are.
Levels you with major brands
This is probably one of the greatest things about social media. If you are a one-man startup, virtually, you have the same possibilities as bigger companies. Big brands can spend millions on usual marketing campaigns, but on social media, everyone is pretty equal. Your success will depend more on your hard work and creativity, not on resources.
Improves brand loyalty
Studies have shown that people who follow a brand on social media are more loyal to it. We won’t get into the reasons why this is true, but the important thing to know is that, in order to achieve long-term sales, loyalty is the key factor.
Lowers marketing costs
Social media doesn’t just increase your sales, it reduces your bills, too! Unless you hire a social media manager, essentially, it is free. This allows you to save the money you would normally spend on advertising and invest it elsewhere. While you can still use Facebook or Twitter ads, their price is minute in comparison to all the usual marketing outlets.
Gives you more insightful feedback
For example, when you release a new product, social media is a powerful tool to promptly see customer impressions. You can hear their thoughts and interact with them. If nothing else, it is a much faster way of acquiring feedback, so you pretty much don’t have anything to lose by at least trying it.
Now, let’s be realistic about this: if you create 10 accounts on different platforms, you will have to take a substantial amount of time out of your day to remain active on all of them. In the online world, absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder. Here, consistency and timing are what counts.
Considering the fact that you are an entrepreneur who’s in the process of building his company from the ground up, time is the one thing you can’t afford to waste. You need to be clever about it; learn to delegate, find ways to increase your productivity and organize your day.
Apart from time, money is also a big factor for you, am I right? For major companies, hiring a social media manager is no big deal, but for you, it might be a little more complicated than that. You need to keep track of every cent, so spending money on social media probably isn’t the first thing on your list of priorities.
But the thing is, social media is important for your brand’s recognition and development. So, how do you find a way out of this vicious circle? By tackling this task yourself.
“But I don’t have the time!”, you’ll say. Here is where you are wrong. Before you start creating accounts on all the platforms you can think of, I will let you in on a little secret: you don’t have to be active on every platform. Yes, I know, the more, the better, right? Wrong.
Choose the platforms that are the most adequate for your type of business and you will not only save time, but also manage to balance doing less, while making the biggest impact possible on your audience. If you want to stay on top of the social media game, but still keep your sanity, the first thing you need to determine is which platforms you should choose.
Which social media platforms should I use?
For starters, pick one or two platforms that you like best. That way, you will be able to focus and invest more energy into one or two particular things, instead of trying to simultaneously juggle 5 or 6. When you’ve reached a solid number of followers and have it down to a science, you can expand and add a couple more. The important thing to remember is that it’s better to be significant on two platforms than average on five.
Nowadays, we have so many social networks that it’s hard to keep track of all of them, let alone figure out which ones are the best for your startup. While most people will automatically jump on Facebook and Twitter (just because almost everyone seems to have an account on these two platforms), you need to consider if that truly is the most suitable choice.
You want for your accounts to grant you the biggest influence possible, but if you choose a wrong one, you are essentially limiting yourself and holding back from reaching your target group. For example, if you have a design company or something where the visual element is more prominent, Instagram is a far better choice than Twitter. Naturally, both of them have pros and cons, but by posting your work on a platform that is known for its visual qualities, you are making the most of your content.
To figure out which platforms would serve you best, think about 3 things:
1. Who is your target audience?
Does your target market consist of teenagers or people in their forties? What do these people do for a living – are they housewives, programmers or plumbers? A guy in his mid-twenties won’t be interested in the same platforms as a middle-aged mother of four. I know grandparents that have profiles on Facebook, but that doesn’t mean that they’ve ever heard of Meerkat. Make sure to know who is your target audience, that way, you’ll come to the right platform more easily.
2. What type of content does your audience want to see?
Depending on who people are and what they do, the value they find in countless types of content will greatly differ. Some will benefit from reading blog posts, some will want to be informed of the latest news or products and some will find value in photos. Knowing who your audience is, try and figure out what will be the most valuable thing to post. The more you acknowledge their needs and fulfill them, the more they will appreciate you.
3. Which platforms support the content you want to publish?
Once you are clear on the first two questions, what is left is to eliminate all the platforms that don’t meet your requirements. Although developers are constantly updating their apps and adding more features, every big social media network has a primary purpose. Sure, you can post a picture on Twitter, but this platform will never be primarily focused on photos.
I’ve tried to summarize the most popular social networks and give you a general idea about which ones are most suitable for you.
Pros: It has over a billion users worldwide, more than any other social media platform. It’s great for sharing life experiences, interesting links, family photos and documenting your everyday life; Facebook is more personal than any other social network and is great for keeping in touch with the people you know.
Cons: Keeping up with the latest events and news; plus, following is also more of a one-way street. Facebook has lost some its former glory, but since it is still so common, having a page on it is an unstated must.
Pros: Instant access to latest news, reactions to important events and easily accessible quick links. Every tweet is given equal priority, so you’ll witness the public’s reactions as they come. Twitter is perfect for short announcements and communication with anyone, even if you don’t follow them. With over 650 million user, Twitter is the perfect medium for reaching a wider audience.
Cons: It has a 140 character limit, so it’s not suitable for longer posts where you have plenty to say. Also, it is primarily focused on the present moment, so anything older soon becomes irrelevant.
Pros: Instagram is great for any kind of photo-sharing. It has a lot of great photo effects, so your brand will be represented in a visually appealing way. Instagram users mostly belong to younger generations, with under 90% of them being under 35.
Cons: Posting a photo can only be done on your smartphone and it is mobile-oriented. It’s a more lenient app and users don’t post as much as they do on, for example Twitter. That means that you can easily overburden your followers’ feed. Plus, it’s not suitable for rants and information – Instagram is strictly visual.
Pros: Pinterest allows you to share pretty much anything that is aesthetically appealing. Whether it’s DIY’s, images, artworks or links to blog posts, the more beautiful and inspirational it looks, the better. It’s highly useful for e-commerce businesses.
Cons: Depending on the type of business you own, this could also be considered a good thing, but the majority of Pinterest users are women. Pinterest requires a little more effort on your part, because you have to create your own pin-boards (which resembles a photo album of things you’d love to buy, places to see and other inspirational photos). Plus, the only thing that draws the attention of your fellow Pinners are images, so text is irrelevant.
Pros: Increased activity on Google Plus also influences search results, so you’ll see more traction on your website or a blog. With over 550 million monthly users, this platform shouldn’t be underestimated. It’s great if your target market is predominantly male, tech-savvy or is related to creativity, like bloggers, designers or photographers.
Cons: Even though it has millions of users, it has a relatively small reach, especially if we compare it to Facebook or Twitter. Google Plus is a smaller community, so if you’re trying to reach a wide audience, this might not be the best option. It’s not good for instant news, either.
Pros: It’s great for instant communication and seeing things as they are happening. If there is an event you want your audience to witness or if you want to get feedback quickly, Periscope is interactive and a great choice.
Cons: The videos are only stored for 24 hours, so if your audience isn’t previously notified through another platform that you will be live streaming, they might miss it. Plus, it’s relatively new, which means it doesn’t have the same reach as some other social media apps. Periscope is more of a supporting platform, not a main one.
Building Your Social Media Profile
Once you’ve decided on the platforms you want to use, it’s time to start creating your profiles.
On most social media sites, you will be asked to upload an avatar or a profile picture and write a short bio. Keep in mind that it has to be professional – the picture should be a logo of your business and your bio should describe it in the best way. While you can show a little personality or humor, it still has to be serious enough so that people would see you as a valid company. Don’t forget to include a link to your website, so that people could find out more about you and what you do.
You can read more on setting up your social media accounts here.
Building a Following and Expanding Your Reach
Building a social media presence isn’t an overnight task; you don’t create an account, publish a post and gain instant popularity. It takes time and repeating effort. When you have your profiles in place, it’s time to start posting and gathering an audience.
1. Create a schedule
The best thing you could do when creating an online presence is to have a posting schedule. I know it sound a little excessive, but the only way to constantly keep up with everything is to get organized.
Plan what you are going to post, when and on which platform, then stick to it. You can set reminders on your phone or write it down in a calendar.
You can use multiple social media channels to get more attention. For example, when you publish a blog post, add links to it on Facebook and Twitter, and upload a picture to Instagram that is related to the topic of your blog post. That way, all of your followers will find out there is something new for them, one way or another.
3. Spread the word
Most likely, you already have personal accounts on Facebook or some other social media site. Let your friends know that you have a new, business page and ask them to follow you or share it with their friends. It’s the quickest way to spread the word in the initial stage of joining social media.
4. Publish valuable content
People will follow you if you are valuable to them. I’ve mentioned this before, but let’s go through it again, anyway. It really is that important. Content with value gets more shares and attracts a bigger audience, which means faster recognition for your brand. Value should always come first when you are posting on social media.
5. Follow similar businesses and individuals
When you follow a company that does a similar thing to what you do, you are essentially placing yourself in the same category as them. When someone opens their list of followers and sees your name, they are much more likely to click on your profile.
It isn’t enough to just post content – you have to be available, friendly and communicate with your audience. People love companies that are down-to-earth and seem human. Interaction is important, so engage in conversation, ask questions and comment, it’s the only way someone will pay attention to you and your brand.
7. Provide a benefit
In order to get somebody to revisit your page, one of the best ways to achieve this is to give them something in return. Whether it’s a discount, a gift or a coupon, providing a benefit for your audience is great for both parties. If there is something in it for them, the audience is more likely to follow you on Twitter or like your Facebook page.
8. Use hashtags
Hashtags stretch your exposure and bring more attention to your profile. However, don’t go overboard and turn into a spammer – your potential followers won’t appreciate this. Use relevant hashtags that are related to your post and you will be more likely to attract the right members of the audience.
9. Be patient
Last but not least, be prepared to wait some time until you see results. On average, it takes from 3 to 6 months to see real results, so you need to keep up the good work. Don’t get frustrated if nothing seems to happen after a few days; good things come to those who wait.
Be consistent, current and approachable, and after a while, your social media status will improve. What it means for your business is more recognition, sales and success. Trust me, investing your energy into building a great social media presence is not only beneficial for your startup, but can also be a rather fun experience.