Social media is an incredibly useful tool for business, yet it can be a challenge for startups to leverage the power of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the like, due to their smaller size and relatively low brand awareness. Although it can be hard to start from nothing, there are ways to get over those early issues and create a genuine social buzz around your new company. Here are a few tips to help you along your way.
Don’t Leave It All to Social Media Platforms
One of the key things about social media for startups is that you’re starting from nothing. This being the case, even a small print or web PR campaign can really kick start your social buzz. While this can be more costly for startups, the value of PR and advertising is greater the earlier you start. While your cost per acquisition remains the same, the value of those acquisitions is higher. Your goal is to create critical mass across whichever social media you’re using, so until you get there, you’re going to need some outside help.
This is where old-fashioned PR and marketing techniques come into play, as well as sponsored links and advertising within the social media platform itself. It’s common for companies to be happy with the high conversion that Facebook, for example, offers, and leave it to grow organically. However, this can be incredibly slow, and something of a missed opportunity.
Similarly, you’ll want to market your blog or site outside of social media platforms though guest blogging. Blogger outreach is fast becoming one of the most powerful link building techniques, but it also gets your brand into the community. Getting guest blogs out into your field makes a strong impression on consumers, as well as investors.
Focus on the Product over the Brand
While it’s good to have a solid brand message, focusing on brand at the point of start-up is simply not good practice. Your product should take front and center. As long as your brand matches the product, you’ll see your message being taken by brand evangelists and spread. Even if you haven’t quite matched your brand to your product, the collective social media voice will generate or modify brand to fit its desires and needs.
Focusing on the product creates social buzz because it’s a) tangible and b) eminently more sharable than a brand image. The snowboarding community are far more interested in seeing reviews of your product, or entering competitions to win your new board, for example, than they are about hearing how cool your company is and what it stands for if you’re a startup. This changes once your brand image is established and you have a large number of advocates, but to start with, it’s product, product, product.
Don’t Sterilize the Message
Making your message too on-topic is something of a turn off. Although social media is about finding your own niche as a user, many startups confuse that for users looking for a single message. This, simply put, is ridiculous, yet so many companies do it. An online butcher, for example, only posting about meat, or a tech company only tweeting about issues in their own particular field misses so much in terms of engagement. Those companies need to show a human side and go off topic once in a while to make the most of their social media presence and increase virility, an incredibly useful tool on the road to critical mass. This is very important in sites like Facebook, which uses edge rank to determine what is shown in the user feed.
It’s common, and understandable, for startups to see their social media base not as a demographic, but as a demographic within a demographic. If you can identify your demographic, post off topic with messages that fit the demographic. The online butcher might post about prestige cars, as they know their social media community is largely 30-45-year-old males with high disposable income, while the tech company might post about video games, as they understand that tech and gaming are closely linked.
Know Your Strategy Before You Start Building Buzz
Much like anything you do as a business, your customers need to have a full, working product to get the best impression of your brand and business. Don’t relegate your social media base to “almost consumers” by not giving them full access to your business. This often means a solid blogging regime, regular and interesting social media updates and a coherent marketing plan that shows them you are interested in them.
There’s little worse for building social buzz than an incoherent or ad-hoc strategy to marketing, especially at launch. Don’t leave your users with a ‘coming soon’ message as the first thing they see of your business. Is it reasonable to assume they’ll come back if that’s the first impression they have? Unlikely. It’s even less likely they’ll be advocating your brand in any way if they’re given that message to start with.
Advocates and Evangelists
One of the most powerful tools available for any social media manager is the power of advocates. However, building relationships with thought leaders on Twitter, Facebook, Quora and LinkedIn can be tricky, as the more influential they are, the more conversations they have and the less time they have to listen to you.
These advocates can be incredibly powerful in creating buzz, especially startups, as everyone – including the big hitters – wants to be the one who said “first”, first. Rand Fishkin, CEO of SEOmoz tells the story of a tech company that responded to a tweet he posted about his WP site getting hacked. That company receive a mention in almost every video he makes, as in well as numerous tweets. To get regular mentions from a Twitter user with over 70,000 followers is incredibly useful in creating buzz.
The recent release of AWS diagramming tool of Creately is another good example of the power of evangelists. It helps that they were one of the very first to offer such a tool, but the tweets by the evangelists must have definitely helped to get an authority link from the Amazon AWS icons page.
There are so many ways to utilize your fan base (social media or otherwise), depending on your product, but getting the big guys to do the work for you often simply means building relationships over time and offering them exclusive insight into your product, whether it’s a pre-release trial of a service, or a complementary gift of one of your products.
Social buzz is often so difficult to generate, as it’s somewhat difficult to measure until after the fact. As long as you’re sensible, prepared, persistent and constantly analyzing your data you’ll get results. There are no hard and fast rules to creating social buzz, but hopefully, following a few of these tips will see you avoid the major pitfalls that startups often encounter. Especially in the early stages it can be a bit difficult to build the buzz but you can use these websites to get some initial traction for your start-up.
David Ingram leads the Digital Marketing team at MySocialAgency.com, one of the UK’s leading social marketing agencies. He is an avid blogger with a passion for technology and social media.