By Katie Leimkuehler
A big challenge startups face is proving to investors the impact and influence of their products or services; this is where social media comes in. Social media serves as a set of tools to promote your new business and generate interest from the public. The next step is understanding where your core audience is located, whether that’s Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, or a number of other social networks. Developing a solid social media strategy early on (and for cheap) can be challenging, but having an actual plan in place with measurable goals will also help you see where you are succeeding and where you need to improve. Not sure where to start? Answer these seven questions before launching your social media plan.
2. Spread the word faster
Just a few short years ago, social media didn’t exist—and now it’s the primary way people receive and share news. You can reach a much wider audience with your message, and faster than ever before. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to create a strong social media platform for your business. This includes sharing great content, joining in on topical conversations, and constantly engaging with your fans and followers. Looking for a quick way to connect with possible fans? Join a Twitter Chat, a fast-paced conversation at a certain time with specific topics. Here’s a list of 25 Twitter Chats every entrepreneur should know about.
The days of traditional marketing, such as running ads, commercials, and other one-way forms of promotion are rapidly fading because the rise of relationship marketing is taking a front seat. Relationship marketing means reaching out to your customer base and keeping them engaged not only with your products and services, but through your online content and community.
Most people believe that they can create a huge network of Facebook or Twitter followers overnight, but the truth is it takes time. Cultivating relationships with fans, early adopters, companies, promoters, and key influencers in your industry is the first step in generating buzz about your new startup, and this needs to happen on daily basis. And this isn’t just about tweeting out links when you have a new blog post up; more than that, it’s all about engagement. This means promoting other startups, new products, and interesting articles that would be relevant to your followers. If you’re not sure just what “engagement” means or how to do it, check out this article by Matt Turner on ProBlogger called The 10 Rules of Social Media Engagement.
A huge part of relationship marketing is listening and monitoring your social media channels and responding accordingly. What are your customers saying? What do they want? There is no better way to get someone to test a beta version of your product than with a quick tweet to a member of your core audience. Not only will they offer invaluable feedback, but they will be flattered that you chose them. It’s a great way to get fans and followers involved early on.
4. Crisis control
Social media has changed the way people interact with companies and the days of solving customer’s problems behind closed doors are long gone. What makes most companies with extraordinary social media presence stand out is how they continually interact online, as well as the way they respond and address customer complaints.
A great example of a social media crisis that could have been avoided was when United passenger Dave Carroll’s guitar broke when baggage handlers tossed it carelessly onto the baggage cart. Carroll repeatedly contacted United customer service for a year to no avail. United refused to pay or replace the guitar. So, Dave did what any aspiring musician would do—he made a YouTube video called “United Breaks Guitars.” The video went viral and now has been viewed over 12 million times. And just how did United react? They didn’t. Responses on Twitter were barely recognizable apologies, and the company’s stock plummeted. They had no crisis strategy in place and didn’t react quickly enough to solve the problem. But unlike United, Taylor Guitars took a proactive social media approach not only by giving Carroll a free replacement guitar, but also by creating a video on tips for traveling with a guitar.
In the startup phase, it’s absolutely essential to keep generating buzz about your company and finding the people who’ll be your biggest supporters. Developing and implementing a social media strategy is the key to connecting and building those relationships.
Katie Leimkuehler is a social media marketing strategist, speaker and trainer who helps launch and grow professional brands by creating online relationships through social media engagement. She coaches companies and individuals on the best practices in social media. She is also contributing writer for Social Media Today.