At their best, social media channels, such as Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, can be great tools for start-ups, helping you generate buzz about your products and build relationships with new customers. But in the wrong hands it can be used clumsily and even have disastrous effects – as frequently documented in the media. Many people – from business people to celebrities and even MPs – have been caught off-guard, particularly when using Twitter. So, how can you ensure that you use it effectively and get the best out of it for your business? Here are some handy tips and things to think about when using social media to promote your company.
1. Think about what are you trying to achieve
There are lots of reasons to get your start-up on social media. Maybe you want to:
• build awareness of the brand
• generate sales and leads
• stay in touch with customers
• keep an eye on your competitors
• drive traffic to your website
• build relationships with others in the industry.
It’s not going to happen overnight. So put a plan together outlining your goals for the short term and what you’ll do once your social media presence is fully established.
2. Check out the competition
Have a good nose about to see what others are doing. How are your competitors and influential people in the industry using social media?
Look at competitors’ social media profiles to see how they run them Some will be doing a brilliant job at building and engaging their audience. Others will be doing it really badly. Take notes and make sure you don’t repeat their mistakes.
• What issues interest their audience?
• What’s the tone of the conversation?
• Which updates get the most response?
• How do they deal with negative comments?
3. Who are you talking to?
Think about who’s going to be reading your updates. Some people will be passionate about your product and others won’t have any prior knowledge.
Take a start-up like Raspberry Pi, for example. Some people follow them because they are crazy about this new innovation. Some followers like to keep up with the latest trends in tech. But others have no idea what it’s all about – they just like the name.
How much information will be taken as read and how much do you need to explain? Also, take a moment to consider the best time to post for your audience. Got lots of customers in the US? Post after 2pm when they’re actually awake.
Teens will be around after school and at weekends. Sports fans will be highly engaged during and just after the match. New coffee shops should post first thing in the morning when people need their caffeine fix.
4. Strike the right tone
Some Twitter followers may just like your company’s name Thinking about your audience will help you get the tone right. Are you going to be friendly and conversational, or an authority on a subject who keeps things strictly professional?
Whoever you’re talking to, if you want to encourage engagement on social media, it’s a good idea to:
• use lots of punctuation. This breaks sentences up and increases readability
• check before publishing to spot typos, broken links and awkward phrasing
• stay positive – no one wants to hear you banging on about how it’s taken all week to fix your internet connection.
5. Which social media platforms should you use? You need to go where the customers are. Pinterest may be fun but is it going to draw the right visitors to your site? If you’re a food, fashion or lifestyle start-up it could work wonders. But maybe you’ll get best results on LinkedIn, Twitter or Google+.It’s better to focus on a small group of social channels rather than spread yourself too thinly, putting out rushed or low-quality content.
Do you need to be on all social media channels or just a few? 6. How will you measure success?
Get a measuring tool in place from the outset so you can see what’s working and what’s not, and adapt your social strategy to suit.
There are plenty of free and easy-to-use tools out there, like Facebook Insights or Google Analytics. You can also pay for more in-depth reporting tools that suit your budget and the size of your community.
7. Polish up that profile If you’re a new business trying to stand Look at other Twitter profiles to get ideas of how to present yoursout in a crowded marketplace, it’s really important that people understand at a glance who you are and what you do.So often start-ups make the mistake of putting a pithy, throwaway description in their profile like, “Hear us roar!”
This is fine if you’re a global brand which has spent millions over the years making sure everyone knows who you are – Nike’s Twitter profile simply says “Just do it” for example – but when you’re new, you need to offer some basic facts.
Take a look at Stereogum, My Fitness Pal and Seedrs for ideas on simple-but-effective profile descriptions.
8. Pick an eye-catching image for your profile
A strong cover image will help new followers ‘get’ you straight away.You can use them to show your product in action, or to show the people behind the business. And if you add a good cover image to your LinkedIn and Google+ pages, you will instantly stand out from the competition – so many businesses don’t bother.
Grazebox, Claire Gaudion and Buzzfeed offer good examples of strong cover images in action.
Use an eye-catching picture or photo on your Twitter profile 9. What are you going to talk about?
This is a really big question for start-ups. How are you going to fill your new social media channels with interesting content? Here are some ideas:
• Start a company blog so you have original content to share
• Use an RSS feed reader like Netvibes or Feedly to gather on-topic content to share about industry developments
• Spend a moment planning content for the coming week
• Get handy with scheduling tools to help you fit it around everything else!