The question on the mind of every entrepreneur is how can you do more with less? For many of the startups I have worked for, there is often no shortage of passion or talent, but funds can be scarce for new companies with a low overhead. Being able to operate on a lean budget means that sometimes even the founder will need to be hands-on in every aspect of the business. A good social media strategy can provide startups with a unique way to brand their company with little money, creating real buzz for the product, brand awareness and an increase in sales.
Let’s begin by considering where you want to grow your brand. I suggest starting with LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. If your company has a highly visual appeal, then I would also add Pinterest to this list. I’ve heard it said that Twitter is like a bar, LinkedIn is like your local chamber of commerce and Facebook is like your living room. I couldn’t agree more; use this as your rule of thumb. Here we’ll take a quick look at how to grow your presence in each space in less than 60 minutes a day.
1. Take Your Social Media Heartbeat
As everyone knows, social media ROI can be difficult to measure. I suggest you start with a simple little tool called Social Mention. Social Mention will give you a screenshot of your baseline social presence and will help you understand what’s working and what’s not on a go forward basis.
2. Open up Shop at Your E-Chamber of Commerce
Establish a LinkedIn profile for your company. I adore LinkedIn for business. Don’t underestimate the power of the relationships that you establish online. I’ve made deals online that exceed those I’ve made in real life. You can use LinkedIn for new business development and competitive research. You can participate, and promote, your company in groups and LinkedIn answers. The one area that I would stay away from is LinkedIn ads. I have not seen good results from advertising with small startup budgets and would not recommend it.
3. Swing by Twitter
Setup a Twitter presence by picking a name and handle that reflect your business and logo. Do your research and aggressively increase your following. There are many ways to do this and I could write a whole separate article on how to increase your following on Twitter. Bottom line, unfollow those people that aren’t following you back after approximately 5 days. ManageFlitter is an easy way to follow and unfollow a targeted population enmasse without problems. Tweet regularly and keep your content interesting. I suggest using Hootsuite’s Trendspottr feature to quickly find top content to tweet out to your followers. Hootsuite will allow you to auto schedule your Tweets for peak impact. Remember that Twitter is a great way to find and talk to people that can be difficult to reach otherwise. Want to talk to the head of company or a famous VC? Use Twitter to curate relationships with these people 140-characters at a time.
4. Put Down Your Welcome Mat on Facebook
Facebook is great place for longer, more involved discussions. I love the feel and unique space you can create on Facebook. Tailor your posts and tone to reflect your brand. Post at peak times. Bit.ly suggests links sent between 1 and 4 p.m. get the most views and Wednesday at 3 p.m. is the best time to post. Start with $5/day in Facebook Ads. Tweak your ads until you find one that is drawing people to your page. Once you have over 500 fans, start to promote individual posts for $5 apiece when you have something important to say. This is a new feature on Facebook with a high ROI when used wisely. I recently promoted a startup called GoalShouter during the UEFA Euro2012. With a simple $5 per post ad, I was able to get more than 28,000 views on a specific post with an original fan base of just a little over 2,000. This post drove over 1,000 people to the GoalShouter website, resulting in over 300 downloads of the free soccer game tracking app. These kind of returns are much better than anything I’ve seen on LinkedIn or even Adwords, for that matter.
5. Reassess and tweak as needed
Spend an hour a day refining your online presence. Monitor what your competition is doing and do better. Get creative. Run free trials of your best product or implement the ever-popular freemium model on your basic product. Check your progress using Social Mention. Tweak. Repeat.
One thing is certain, when you are running a startup you will always be short on time and money, but don’t let that stop you. An innovative and well-implemented social media strategy can build your brand and establish a powerful online presence. Building a community takes time, but with a bit of effort, a personal touch and a bit of luck, you can build consumer brand awareness and enhance your brand’s image.