If you've just started a new business, then your marketing campaign is going to be absolutely vital to getting it off the ground. If you can't market your startup effectively, you're going to have an extremely difficult time growing your business, much less keeping it afloat. That being said, one of the most essential components of every marketing campaign is the use of social media.
As a new business, you likely don't have much brand awareness. If you leverage social media to your advantage, this can change. A presence on social media can help you to connect with your customers, spread awareness of your brand and strengthen your brand identity. Starting from scratch can be pretty overwhelming; after all, simply setting up a social media business page simply isn't going to cut it. You're going to have to pour a lot of work into establishing a social media presence. To help make the process seem less overwhelming, the following guide provides a structured step-by-step process for establishing a social media presence for your startup business:
1. Identify which social media platforms to use.
There are hundreds of social media networks that you can join. Some have millions of users, some only have thousands. There's a fine line to figuring out how many social platforms you should use. If you attempt to create a presence on too many social channels, you'll end up spreading yourself thin and your ability to engage with your followers will diminish. However, you won't want to just limit yourself to one or two social platforms either as you won't get enough exposure this way.
There are a few social media sites that you can't ignore - like Twitter and Facebook. These are two of the biggest social media sites in the world and boast hundreds of millions of users. Other big players to consider include Google+ and LinkedIn. How exactly do you decide which channels to use? You need to figure out who your target audience is, which can take a bit of research. If you're a B2B company, then LinkedIn is an absolute must as it is aimed at professionals and businesses. If your audience consists of families, Facebook is more appropriate. If you are selling products aimed at teens and young adults, Twitter is where you want to be.
But just because the major social media sites have millions of users doesn't mean that you should ignore some of the niche social media channels out there. For example, if you are running a real estate agency, then you might want to look at Active Rain, which is a social media platform that targets the real estate industry. There are over 280,000 members - which isn't nearly as many as something like Facebook, but the difference is that they are all a part of your audience, making them easier to target.
2. Begin building a follower base.
Start with friends, family and employees. Ask them to follow your business and to share your content with their own social circles. This is a good way to create a solid foundation of followers. Then begin asking your customers to follow you as well. You can even provide incentives for doing so, such as a coupon off one of your products or services. You'll need to have a decent base of followers in order to attract other followers naturally or else you won't be taken seriously.
Whatever you do, don't buy followers. This won't help you with establishing a social media presence. If anything, it will make it difficult to track your social media engagement properly.
3. Determine how often you should post and when.
In order to establish a strong presence on social media, you need to be consistent. This means that you need to post content on a regular basis in order to keep followers engaged. Not only do you need to figure out how often to post, but you need to determine the exact times to post at. You will need to post at the same times on the same days in order to establish a routine that followers can get to know. This way they know exactly when to check your social media page for new content.
When exactly you should post is going to take a little research and trial and error. You can find general information concerning various social media platforms on when engagement rates are highest. For example, on Facebook, a majority of posts are published during the work week - with engagement peaking on Thursdays and Fridays. Posts get the most shares around 1:00 PM - which is around lunch time for most people. Posts get the most clicks around 3:00 PM, which is when many people have probably begun finishing their work and are looking towards the end of their work day.
This general information is very helpful and can be easily obtained. But you should also consider your specific audience. Besides experimenting with the times of the day that you post and using analytics tools to measure the engagement of your posts at various times, you should also take a gander at some of your competitors' habits. You can learn a lot from checking out the competition - like the times and days that they post on social media and which posts get the most engagement.
4. Find your industry's thought leaders.
Thought leaders have a lot of sway within your industry. Their followers are most likely a part of your target audience, which means finding a way to connect with thought leaders can help to increase brand awareness. Don't follow every thought leader you can find right away - focus on following 10 to 15 thought leaders a day if possible. If you try to follow everyone at the same time, you may be mistaken for a bot, which is not a good thing.
Begin engaging with these thought leaders by sharing and liking the content that they post so that your followers will have high quality content to read and comment on. Make an effort to engage with the followers of these thought leaders by commenting on their content and posts. Not only will this engagement attract the attention of the thought leader's followers, but it will attract their attention as well, which can lead to an extremely fruitful relationship in which they may even share your content with their followers, boosting your brand exposure to whole new levels.
5. Begin sharing content.
Since you're just starting up, you're not going to have much original content to share. That's okay, you can still curate conversation with your followers. Re-post comments and tweets from your thought leaders and your followers that you believe are relevant to your brand. Post industry news and articles that you think will be informative. Make sure that you add your own opinions or insights to add value to these re-posts. You can also ask your followers questions or ask them to share stories in order to get them to engage and to incite discussions.
6. Track your progress.
Most social media sites, at least the major ones, provide free analytics tools that allow you to track things like audience growth, reach and engagement. Not only does this information provide valuable insight to how you are doing, but it can help you figure out what you need to adjust in order to strengthen your social presence even more.
All of this may seem like a lot of work, but that's what it takes in order to create a strong social media presence. The fact is, social media marketing can be an extremely cost-effective way to build your brand, and it's something that every startup business has to focus on as part of their initial marketing strategy.