Over the past few years, an interesting transformation has occurred in the business world. Social media has become less of an optional marketing opportunity and more of a priority. In fact, platforms like Facebook and Twitter have become integral parts of brand awareness, content distribution, lead generation, and customer acquisition strategies for businesses. This is especially true for startups working with smaller budgets and grassroots campaigns. However, despite its importance, very few startups and new ventures understand how to maximize the potential of social media.
Marketing on a Limited Budget
There is an incredible burden on startups to maximize marketing dollars without compromising quality. It's a fine line, and one that not every entrepreneur understands. On one side, you're being told you won't succeed unless consumers know your products and services exist (which takes a heavy marketing and advertising investment). On the other, you understand that you don't have a large budget and spending too much on a launch campaign can doom you from the start. However, somewhere in the middle there is a "sweet spot" that allows you to reach a large audience with a conservative budget.
Over the years, that sweet spot has changed--but the concept has remained the same. Word of mouth marketing has always been a startup's best chance of success when working with a limited budget. Thankfully, the internet has significantly accelerated the pace at which word of mouth marketing takes place. Specifically, social media has made it possible for small startup businesses to reach millions of consumers with the click of a button.
The State of Social Media
If you're looking for concrete proof why social media makes sense for your startup, it can certainly be found in the numbers. Just consider the fact that Facebook is now responsible for a whopping 15.8 percent of total time spent on the internet. You may also want to consider some of these statistics, as curated by Rocketpost.com.
  • Nearly one out of every three Americans receives their news through Facebook.
  • 40 percent of people socialize more via social media sites than they do face-to-face.
  • The average Twitter user spends 170 minutes per month on the site or mobile application.
  • The average social shopper spends an average of $140 when coming from Pinterest and $60 when coming from Facebook.
Clearly social media has a solid foundation and is poised for continued long-term growth. The only question startups should be left asking is, "How can we maximize our potential with social media?"
Start With a Social Media Strategy
As an entrepreneur, you understand the value of strategizing and planning. That's exactly what you need to do before proceeding any further. Even before selecting which channels you'll use, you need a detailed strategy that will drive your focus and keep you on track.
The first step is to figure out what type of brand your company wants to be portrayed as. For best results, align your social media approach with your company culture. Does your company prefer a straightforward, classic approach, or do you take more of an easygoing, relaxed feel? Whichever defines your company, that's the approach you should take when building your social media strategy. Consumers want consistency and can sniff out businesses that aren't true to themselves.
Determine Your Primary Goals
After honing in on your approach, it's necessary to define your social media goals. While many large, established corporations use social media to facilitate growth in all areas of business, it's more likely that a startup will focus on one or two of the following:
  • Brand awareness. Every startup will use social media as a channel for driving brand awareness. It happens organically as you post content, engage with users, and promote your brand.
  • Content distribution. Many brands and businesses use social media as a content distribution and dissemination platform. If your content is engaging and unique enough, it's possible that others could share your posts and advertise your brand for you.
  • Lead generation. Ideally, you would like your social media profiles to be lead generators that drive traffic to your website or blog. This requires a long-term investment and results usually aren't seen for many months.
  • Customer acquisition. Finally, the best case scenario is that your social media profiles raise brand awareness, your content generates leads, and leads turn into customers. If you can use social media as a customer acquisition tool, you've officially maximized its value.
Choose Your Social Media Platforms
Depending on your strategy, approach, and goals, you should be able to determine which social media platforms are right for your startup. Currently, there are five major social media platforms potentially of value to startups like yours:
  • Facebook. By far the largest social media platform on the internet, Facebook boasts more than 700 million active monthly users. If you're looking to reach the masses, this is the best place to start. It's also the most credible platform. Any healthy and established business has a Facebook page, and a lack of one is a warning sign to potential customers.
  • Twitter. Research shows that 68 percent of Twitter users are more likely to make a purchase from the brands they follow. If content distribution and one-on-one customer engagement is important to you, Twitter should be a key part of your social media strategy.
  • LinkedIn. For B2B startups and companies looking to find business partners, LinkedIn is extremely valuable. It's a more professional Facebook and serves the purpose of facilitating global networking.
  • YouTube. If brand awareness is your primary goal, YouTube can be your best friend. This platform gives you the opportunity to distribute engaging videos to millions of eager users. By investing in high-quality videos that are intriguing and engaging, you can begin to facilitate conversation and effectively cross-market your brand by sharing content on other platforms.
  • Google+. While a late addition to the social media game, Google+ has quickly established itself as the second largest network with more than 350 million active monthly users. As a rule of thumb, it's a good idea for businesses to support anything that Google does or encourages.
  • Pinterest. Finally, Pinterest is of supreme value for many businesses. It's the fastest growing social media platform and is particularly conducive to startups with physical products.
General Business Tips for Social Media
While each business is unique and your specific strategy will determine how to best proceed for optimal results, here are a few general tips that apply to just about any startup using social media:
  • Build a community. For long-term growth and success, the best thing you can do is build an online community of ambassadors that give your startup additional exposure and promote brand awareness. While this won't happen overnight, a prolonged investment over many months and years will pay off.
  • Listen instead of talking. The biggest mistake you can make on social media is spending all of your time talking. Your focus should be on listening to your followers and garnering valuable feedback. When used correctly, social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter essentially serve as ongoing focus groups for your startup.
  • Try new things. Don't do what everyone else is doing. It's okay to experiment and try new things. As long as what you're doing doesn't compromise your brand's integrity, it's okay to give it a shot!
Unlock the Power of Social Media
As an entrepreneur, it can be challenging to work with limited resources and capabilities. Thankfully, tools like social media, when properly used, are capable of promoting your brand at very little financial cost. Learn to use social media and discover the key to driving word of mouth marketing and brand awareness.