You’ve heard everyone telling you how important it is to get your start-up on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, FourSquare and the latest social media platform of the day. It’s a fantastic way to market yourself without having to spend a single cent — or is it? True, compared to traditional forms of advertising and marketing, social media offers a relatively cheaper way of promoting your start-up. However, it can also have adverse effects on your company if not managed properly. So, how do you make it work for you without alienating your customers?
1. Get yourself organized
Often times, start-ups jump on the social media bandwagon only to realize that they’re not ready to do so yet, meaning that they don’t have enough content to post or worse, they’re not familiar with the platform.
Joanna Lord, social marketing consultant and founder of YourJobStop.com offers the following suggestion: “Start-ups should look at social media and not just jump in asking “How can it help us?” but instead ask, “Do I need it right now?”
Familiarize yourself with your target audience — what websites or blogs do they read? How do they access these sites? Come up with a clear strategy and invest in the time to develop quality content for your blog or Facebook page. Nothing turns readers away faster than a poorly maintained and irregularly updated site. In addition, you might also want to appoint someone to manage the content for you if you’re not comfortable using social media. Don’t do it yourself just to save money.
2. Be prepared to commit yourself for the long haul
Having a blog or a Facebook page is like taking care of a pet. It’s not going to run on its own and it definitely requires more work than it looks. In fact, Niall Harbison, co-founder of Dublin-based social media agency Simply Zesty says that it’ll take at least a year before you actually start seeing results. “Chances are you won’t get much out of it in the first three months. Nobody will read your blog, your Facebook page will have a few friends and family as fans and it’ll feel as if you are talking to yourself on Twitter.” This is why having a clear social media strategy is important—you’ll waste less time and you’ll have a definite idea of what you want to achieve from the get-go.
3. Be original
Many industry experts advise setting up a blog and creating original content for your start-up because it’s the best way to connect with the public. Think of it as a backstage pass to your company. Edward Boches, chief creative officer of Boston-based advertising agency Mullen, believes that “fresh content, the ability to post comments and pages that get linked will add to your online visibility.” And unlike social media platforms, which can lose their popularity and appeal over time, your blog will always be a permanent extension of your website, and the content on it will always be there.
4. Don’t be “kiasu”
Don’t sign up for an account with every platform just because you think it’ll help you maximize your reach. Instead, think about which platform your target audience is most likely to use. It’s better to have just two or even one account than to have four and not do anything productive with it.
Share information that your readers can use—it doesn’t have to be related to a new product or promotion. Remember that social media is not a megaphone for you to “shout out” the latest deals or promotions 24/7. Says Wong Hoong An of Singapore-based online dining website Hungrygowhere.com, “It’s myopic to talk about yourself all the time. People want to know what your neighbors are doing and what’s happening out there. The more interesting your information and the more regular your updates, the more interested the community will be in checking for updates. That’s why we include links to interesting stories and useful tips from other sites on our Facebook page.”
Another advantage that social media offers is the opportunity for start-ups to talk to existing and potential customers and find out what they like. If there are complaints, listen. The feedback you get will help you improve the product and user experience. The worst thing you can do is ignore it because you can be sure that people will talk about it or even create a Facebook page to express their unhappiness with your product.
6. Know its strengths
While social media has the potential to be an excellent communications tool, don’t go into this expecting it to drive sales. Instead, a better idea would be to use it to complement your existing advertising and marketing efforts, and build a community of readers and users.