Tools Used In This Recipe
With 3+ billion aggregate active users, social media needs to be part of your startup’s overall strategy.In this recipe we’ll list some common considerations for leveraging social media regardless of channel.
Before you begin
There are a few things you should discuss among your leadership team before diving in to social media, because (as you’ve likely experienced personally if you use social media) it can be a significant drain on your time. Understanding your goals as well as your customer will help you maximize the impact of your time spent using social media. Before you start registering accounts and posting content you should do the following:
Understand how social media is best used for your type of business
Is your startup a local business like a shop, restaurant, martial arts studio, or chiropractor? Even if you have an online store, if most of your customers purchase goods or services from a physical store, you’ll want to use social media channels like Facebook that can effectively target based on location.
Does your startup sell directly to consumers, or do you sell to businesses? If your products and services can be purchased directly from a website you manage through a credit card or other instant transaction, you should leverage social media platforms that can drive traffic to your storefront. If your startup sells primarily to businesses, and has a sales process that involves purchase orders and invoices, you will want to leverage channels that help build brand awareness with your potential customers so you can generate Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) to support your sales efforts.
Define your goals & success metrics
One of the first things you should do with your social media strategy is define achievable goals. Every startup wants to boost sales, but trying to force prospects down that path too quickly can backfire. If your startup offers prospects the ability to purchase your service online and the process doesn’t involve a salesperson, you can use sales as a direct goal. Local businesses, B2B sales, and other companies will need to use goals that indirectly support sales, such as:
- Building brand awareness/brand identity
- Increasing your social media follower count
- Driving traffic to your website
You’ll also want to define your success metrics. Social Media Marketing is never ‘done’, so success isn’t an end state for your efforts. As you begin using social media your success metrics can be somewhat arbitrary; get 1,000 followers on your social media page, get 100 sales originating through social media, etc. Once you have at least a month’s worth of data on your social media use, you can start to add growth-based success metrics, like increasing your engagement rate. As with any metric, you should use objectively measurable data to define success, such as:
- Clickthrough rate (the number of visitors to your website, e-commerce storefront, or other online destination that originated from the social media post)
- Reach (number of accounts following yours. This metric is most often reported as net change over a given period)
- Engagement (total comments, likes, and re-shares of your content)
You’ll want to measure these separately for each social media platform you use, and even per-campaign. Given how time-consuming social media marketing can be, it’s important to know which of your efforts are generating the most value to your startup. You can also benchmark your startup against industry averages; Social Insider publishes average engagement for 12 industries on their website.
Define your target audience
Knowing who you are trying to reach on social media will help you define the type of content you’ll want to produce and share. If you decide to advertise on social media you can use characteristics of your audience to target your ads and maximize the value of your spend.
If you have customer personas built (and if not, the Recipe on building personas can help you do so), you can use these to identify your target demographics. Knowing your ideal customer’s age, gender identity, and education level can help you decide which social networks to focus on (and which to not bother with). Use the charts linked below to match your customers with the social media platforms that are most heavily used by them (All statistics based on U.S. users):
Decide which platforms to use, and which not to
Once you’ve matched the characteristics of your target customer with the platforms they’re most likely to frequent you can generate a list of the best social media platforms for your startup to focus on. It may be tempting to try and test them all, but as a startup, unless you have one team member dedicated to marketing efforts it’ll be difficult to manage engagement across too many networks.
Register your accounts
Now it’s time to set up accounts on the platforms you intend to use, if you haven’t done so already. There are Recipes for establishing accounts on several popular social media platforms that can help if you need it:
Even if you’re not going to be active on a particular platform it’s worthwhile to register an account there in case you decide to leverage it as your business grows. For accounts you don’t plan to use, make a single post directing visitors to your website or to your active social media channels.
Define your account’s personality
Social media is built for individual connections - brands and companies are outsiders in this space, and your use of social media needs to acknowledge this fact. Some things to consider:
- What tone will you use on social media; professional or personal? Both paths can be successful, but you need to keep a consistent voice.
- Do your founders or staff have significant social media presence already? Posts and engagements from individual accounts can create more impact and engagement than a similar post from the brand account, but unless the audience can connect the individual account with the company, the impact won’t translate to your startup.
- Will you only engage in content related to your own business, or do you engage in trending content? Will you only reply to content directed at you, or will you engage with other content?
- Will you engage with posts from your competitors, or where your account and your competitors are tagged by a third party post?
How you present on social media will become a big part of your brand perception, so it’s important to have a plan to shape that perception.
Evaluate your competitors’ social media presence
Understanding your social media differentiation is just as important as understanding your product differentiation, and studying your competitors’ social media use can help guide your own strategy. Some things to consider:
- What channels do your competitors use, and which ones are they most active on? If you are struggling to decide which platforms to focus on for your startup, using the same ones your competitors use is a fine tactic.
- What is their brand personality on social media?
- Can you determine their goals from reviewing their posts; are they seeking more reach or are they looking to drive traffic through a sales process?
Considerations for creating content
While this Recipe can’t tell you exactly what content to use for your startup’s social media posts, there are a few things that are good practices regardless of which platforms you use:
- Posts with images and videos receive significantly higher engagement. You can use a tool like Social Share Preview to see what your post will look like on different platforms.
- Follow these best practices for visual content.
- Although social media platforms don’t specifically include headline or caption sections, your posts that are designed to boost sales and clickthroughs should use a headline to capture the user’s attention quickly.
- Emoji do boost engagement, but should be used sparingly. Using the pointing emoji to highlight your call-to-action link is an example of an emoji used purposefully. Likewise, checkboxes can be used to spur actions by users.
To effectively use social media you will need a significant library of visual content; product images, action photos, video clips, and the like. You can use two Recipes to help you generate this content:
Best practices for posting
There’s a reason why social media marketing is a full-time role for established companies - trends are established and fade in a matter of hours, and users expect responses quickly.
If your goal is to increase sales/conversions or to drive traffic to your website, you need an analytics tool and you need to use it consistently. Google Analytics and Buffer are tools to consider for this. You’ll want to use their campaign tools to generate unique identifiers for each social network you plan to use. As a startup you likely have a few different ideas for messages that will resonate, so try them all and attach different campaign identifiers to them. Startup marketing is all about experimentation and finding out what works. Analytics is a key part of that process.
When should I post?
Because social media moves quickly, you’ll want to time your posts so that they coincide with the platform’s peak usage. This guide showing the best times to post per social network can help.
Other tips for posting
Follow the ‘Rule of Thirds’:
- 1/3 of your posts should be designed to promote your startup and drive sales
- 1/3 should be shares of posts from people in your industry or influencers. These will help you demonstrate your connection to your customers and can also improve your reach.
- 1/3 should be personal. As a startup you can share your origin story, interesting facts about your business, things you are proud of, and even stories about challenges you face. These types of posts can be powerful, especially on business-related networks like LinkedIn, because people generally want startups to be successful.
Can I outsource this work?
Depending on your budget, it’s possible to hire a fractional digital marketer to manage your social media accounts. As with any key activity in an early-stage company, it can waste money to try and hire a contractor or firm to fully manage your marketing until you have clear evidence of product-market fit, because the person or team running your marketing won’t have the passion and knowledge of your product that you do. Also you’ll want to continue to be involved in your marketing to some extent to provide the personal perspective and story
If you don’t have a recommendation for an individual or firm, you can source digital marketing talent on Upwork (best for hiring an individual on contract) or Clutch (best for hiring an agency). If you aren’t sure how to leverage these sites to find talent, you can review the Recipe on using Clutch to a hire outsourced software development firm, but substitute digital marketing during the category selection process.
It doesn’t matter how good your startup’s product is if potential customers don’t know about it. Effective marketing is the only way to make sure your prospects know about your product, and social media is the marketing channel with the best combination of low cost and broad reach. It needs to be part of your startup’s core activities. Once you’ve reviewed the material in this Recipe you can check out the Recipes for specific social media platforms to help you grow your business.
The contents of this Recipe are © Innovation Works, Inc. and are licensed under CC-BY-SA 4.0 . Contact us with questions or feedback, or to learn more about our structured program in Entrepreneurism based on Startup Recipes.