How to get started on social media
Social media has become an integral marketing tool for startups working with smaller budgets and grassroots campaigns. Before you start, here are ten things you must think about.
1. Strategy comes first
Ask yourself what you hope to achieve through the use of social media? Once you’ve established this, you’ll have a clearer understanding of the potential benefits, and can start to develop a social media marketing strategy.
You’ll want to conduct research to find out which social networks your business needs to be on based on where your customers engage. The major networks are Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Instagram. This will help ensure your content reaches the right people.
2. Don't spread yourself too thin
If you’re running a small business, you may not have an hour a day to manage social media. Pick one or two key social networks, then expand based on customer feedback. This way you can identify if and where you need to expand, rather than needlessly increasing your workload and wasting minutes that could be spent elsewhere.
Remember, to stay relevant and create content in line with customer expectations you need to keep up to date with platform developments and new forms and styles of content.
3. Branding counts
Social media can be a very noisy place, with thousands of brands posting content daily. One key way your startup can stand out is to have consistent branding – a distinctive and authentic appearance and voice that represents your company’s culture and personality. This means choosing a visual (colour scheme, logo, profile picture) and written (tone of voice, messaging) style – and making sure your social channels and content work with it. Your customers will then be far more likely to recognise your content and engage as a result.
4. Browse, follow and share
In addition to creating good content, interaction with your customers is one of the most important reasons for getting onto social media. Pay attention and follow your current and potential customers, industry leaders and influencers. You’ll get an insight into trends and find inspiration for relevant content.
Sharing content from these pages and followers is another way to build those all-important relationships online. You’ll also find that if you share content from others, they will be more than happy to do the same, helping to increase the exposure of your content to a brand new audience – all for free. This is an especially good idea for those startups looking for funding, these relationships can help to increase exposure to your business and its cause.
5. Join the conversation
Get involved in the conversation with customers and other businesses who are discussing topics of interest, either on their blogs or social channels. The goal for your business is to not only comment on these conversations, but to add value.
You can add value by making sure that when you respond, this reflects your business’ expertise on the topic. This is another great way to increase exposure to your startup online and build more followers and engagement in the process.
Keep an eye on what your customers say about your startup on social media to help customers who may need support and protect your business’ reputation. You can use the search function on your social networks as well as tools like Mention and Tweetdeck to monitor key hashtags and conversations around your business – all for free. Then make sure you jump into these conversations to assist and add value, not sell.
6. Monitor response times
Customers today are no longer willing to wait up to 12 hours for a reply via email. Thanks to social media, your customers now expect a response within 1-2 hours, which means it has become even more important to monitor your social channels to ensure you do not leave any messages unread – or worse – ignored.
Ensure you tackle all comments, both good and bad, on your social channels in a timely manner to help maintain trust and meet customer expectations. When getting started, you need to ensure you check this at least twice a day as a minimum or set up free listening tools such as Hootsuite to be notified when a user has contacted you.
7. Track your results
Analysing social media data doesn’t have to be difficult. Most social networks now have built-in analytics. It’s important to review these analytics on a weekly basis to help track customer behaviour and key trends. This will help you to stay on top of what’s working on your social channels and what needs to be changed, allowing you to adapt your social media marketing strategy accordingly rather than relying on guesswork.
8. Have consistency
Success on social media means your startup must think long term, as you won’t achieve results or build trust overnight. That is why you’ll want to make sure you are sharing content and engaging with others on a daily basis.
As soon as you stop sharing information, your customers will be engaged elsewhere. Keeping consistent will help grow your customer relationships in the long-term, which will lead to increased trust and greater awareness, all of which helps to boost your sales.
9. Don't oversell
Social media offers your startup plenty of opportunities to sell and raise money online. However, there’s a time and place to sell on social media, and it’s not in every message you post.
The 80/20 rule is a good guide when sharing content. 80% of the time, your content needs to add value and help answer your customer’s key concerns and pain points. 20% of the time you can promote. There’s nothing worse than a spammy social media account, and your followers will diminish if you sell to them too often. Engage with them in other meaningful ways and you’ll then find they are happy to engage with your promotions in return.
10. Integrate your marketing
You can increase the exposure of your social pages and content by promoting across your other online marketing channels and even offline.
Examples of this include adding social media links to your website, emails, and blog posts. This also works in the real world, where you can share your social channels on leaflets, business cards, and at events through word of mouth, especially when networking at startup events in your industry.
Developing a social media presence and achieving results online doesn’t have to be a daunting process. The easiest way to get started is to create a plan and strategy based on the goals you would like to achieve. And make sure you put the needs of the customer first.
If you can communicate, create and engage on a daily basis, you’ll soon be on your way to more sales, increased trust with your customers, and a recognisable brand.