Written by Irina Belsky
The simple truth is that if no one knows about your business, your business will fail. Customer acquisition and retention are crucial, whether your business is in its infancy or if it’s grown into a international conglomerate empire. It’s a job that’s never finished.
Unlike large companies, startups obviously have scarce resources and limited funding, which can prevent them from effectively marketing their own brands, growing a customer base and forming a meaningful relationship with those customers.
Startup entrepreneurs face two dilemmas when it comes to marketing their product or service:
- many entrepreneurs are not marketing experts
- they don’t have the money to hire marketing experts
The easiest way to market your business when you have few resources and little understanding of the marketing world is to turn to social media. We all know that it’s everywhere, we’re all (or most of us) are using it and it’s being incorporated as a separate service in many advertising agencies, both digital and traditional.
Social media marketing costs you nothing, except time and if it’s done right, it can benefit the development of your business enormously.
Why? Because social media has grown to be more than just a channel, it is used for customer service, networking, building the very trust and reputation that entrepreneurs crave for their idea and brand.
This article will provide you with simple, clear basics for establishing a social media presence and guidelines for using social media as a marketing tool.
1. Establish a social media presence
Set up Facebook,Twitter and Linkedin profiles, a Youtube stream and a business blog. These are the staples of your online presence. Google Plus is also set to launch brand pages so keep that in mind for the future.
Think carefully about your brand and the words you use to describe it. The description of your service or product must be consistent across all mediums. The same goes for your brand logo.
Link your blog, Linkedin, twitter and Facebook profiles.
- Connecting Twitter and Linkedin will allow you to publish tweets on your business’s Linkedin profile
- You can connect Facebook and twitter so that each Facebook status update will also appear as a tweet (make sure you are confident that you want the same content to appear on both platforms before using this function)
- Wordpress allows you to automatically publish each new blog entry on both Facebook and Twitter, which can also save opening up different accounts, copying and pasting.
On your website include a social media bar that serves as a gateway for visitors. Make it easy for people to share your content and find you on Facebook and twitter.
2. Digital PR
Once you’ve established your social media presence you can work on on promoting your brand digitally. If your aim is to establish brand awareness and an initial customer base you can engage in blogger outreach. It is an emerging public relations tactic and its worth investing in, especially you can target the right blogs.
Reaching out to bloggers
- searching for blogs that are relevant to your product or service and
- contacting bloggers with information about your business.
The important thing is NOT to sell your offering to them. Make it relevant to them. If you’ve created a mobile game app contact bloggers who review apps and ask them if they’d be interested in trying it out.
A good strategy is also offering a blogger a private invite to your service (if it hasn’t launched yet) or giving them a free trial of your service.
Give something without asking for anything in return and let your product do the rest of the work. If it’s good and you’ve chosen the most relevant blogs, the chances are that you’ll have a review to add to your media presence belt.
This is similar to blogger outreach but demands a more active participation from the bloggers. For example you could ask a popular blogger (whose content is relevant to your brand) to create content especially for your blog or website.
Something else you can do for free is hunt down journalists and publications. Send out press releases, try to get in touch with individual journalists and learn to ’sell’ the idea, or rather, why it would make a good story and why it should appear in the publication. Journalists are always looking for stories and you would only be making their job easier by giving them another possibility for an article.
What do you do with your social media once you’ve got it?
Content is really important, especially when you’re trying to entice your target audience to become customers. The best content is valuable, entertaining, visual and engaging. It should be closely related to your brand but at the same time it should be about the viewers.
The same rule of thumb applies: Give without asking anything in return.
The Facebook brand pages offer many opportunities to market your brand. Status updates are the most obvious way to engage your audience, but it’s not as simple as just posting something that seems right. Facebook traffic varies depending on the time and the day of the week and in addition, different target groups use Facebook differently. Some like interacting with brands more, others less, some like a frequent flow of updates, others think of it as spam. You must know your target audience and their needs first and take them into consideration when you are planning how to update your Facebook brand page.
You probably already know that twitter has become a customer service mechanism as well as a social network which means there are more ways to use it to your advantage. Instead of just creating a passive account, follow people who may be interested in your business, connect with other businesses that have the potential to become partners and people who have already discovered your business on twitter. Thank every person that follows you and respond to questions, comments and complaints as swiftly as possible.
In terms of content, share links to interesting articles. The more valuable and memorable your content, the more your brand will stick in people’s minds. If you manage to find a free resource or uncover something not generally known by the public and share it, even better.
Make sure you visit your followers once in a while and check out what they’re sharing. If it’s good, let them know! Sincere appreciation is always appreciated.
Note: twitter is a highly visible place where information is exposed for all to see, so be very careful about the information you share on your own account as well as through the account of your business, especially if your connection to the business is also visible.
If your business is yet to launch, you should definitely create a sandwich video for your business. A sandwich video is basically a promo of your product; here are some examples. This is the time to stop thinking business and tap into your inner creative. The best youtube videos are viral and the viral means engaging, not boring and dull. Make something funny or something interesting or something outrageous, just something that stands out and you’re not embarrassed to show.
It’s just as important to include the right keywords and meta tags for your video because properly optimised videos rank high in the Google search engine.
The business blog gives you the opportunity to provide an insight into the company goings on, be more casual and personal. For a startup business blog you could write anecdotes and personal reflections about how the business is developing. People love to feel like voyeurs, looking in on something that is usually kept private and the blog can provide the opportunity to draw them in. Here is how this online dating business used their blog to create entertaining value for the viewers.
Infographics are also a useful tool for capturing attention and illustrating information which might have been otherwise boring to the viewer. You can generate infographics yourself using online tools.
Finally the blog (as well as your website) can be used to give potential customers extra value,to thank them for visiting your site. Free e-books and white papers work brilliantly and allow you to get personal details of the visitor. Many websites already use this technique and ask for name and email address before providing a link to a free e-book download. Copy blogger uses this technique to recruit newsletter recipients for his blog
4. Managing your social media
Juggling multiple accounts can be painful so if you don’t want to waste away in front of the computer screen, get yourself a Hootsuite account. It’s just one of many social media decks that bring together all your social media accounts into a single platform where you can make any changes or updates that you need.
After you have created your online presence using the steps outlined above you can support your online marketing with offline marketing by including social media links and QR codes leading to your social media profiles on your business cards and fliers.
There is much more to social marketing that could be included above but hopefully this article helps you to take the first steps in creating a comprehensive online presence and encourage you to learn more about marketing through digital channels.