For Startups, a viral social media strategy is the key to successful community engagement during the initial stages. If you’re feeling anti-social and think it is okay to keep quiet, think again. With the increasing traffic on different social media platforms, it is important for you to have your presence in the virtual world. You no more have a choice whether to actively engage on social media platforms or not, the question is; How well you need to DO it? Here are 11 steps for Start-Ups to consider:
#1 Do a Background check and Stay informed
Start-ups have to keep a close eye on their industry. There are lot of companies that launch and fail everyday, so it’s important to read tech and startup news related to one’s area of business. When you do a detailed research, you’ll come to know exactly what others are doing to get attention (we are not looking to market the product at this stage, just getting attention is enough). You also need to keep a check on unrelated industries as well. You might even find techniques that aren’t yet in use by your competition which you can take leverage of and get ahead in the race. Watch and learn from different brands and businesses, how they use social media and see if you can implement any idea from any of them.
#2 Sign up right now and stay uniform!
Go wherever the people are. Today, the big two are Twitter and Facebook. Don’t have a profile yet? For God’s sake, get on it! These two work well for everybody, but other networks cater best to different types of start-ups.
If your company provides a service for other companies, spend time with LinkedIn. If you have a physical location, get on Foursquare. Consider Youtube and Flickr if you are more visual-centric. Pinterest, if you are directly selling some product to customers. Once your Step #1 is done, you will have a proper idea about what all platforms will be beneficial to your startup.
The important point is, when you sign up on more than 1 platform, make sure the identity of the brand is uniform on each platform (For eg: About, Info, Profile picture, Username). It becomes easier for customer to identify and engage with the brand on different platforms if it is uniform. Start developing small bits of credibility by taking part in discussions that aren’t about you. Don’t bother reaching out on your first day; you’ll look like a n00b.
#3 Be active, but watch what you say
No one likes irrelevant blabbering, so post only when you have something to talk about. Everyone has their own rules on how active they should be, but no one will respond to “what’s up?” unless you’re Amitabh Bachchan. Take part in relevant conversations. You’re working on something you’re passionate about and people will respect that. Finding your balance is an important part of having a social presence online. The more success you find as a company, the more you’ll have to say.
At this point, you will need to start filtering yourself. When people express curiosity in what you do, have your short pitch ready. Leave a little mystery — it can grow quite a buzz. Just remember: what you say is as important as what you don’t.
#4 Don’t spread yourself thin
Be careful not to over-extend yourself. If you end up with more than 5 accounts on different networks, you might not be able to keep up with each one on a regular basis. It is very important for proper community engagement that you keep your profile updated daily. 1-3 highly active accounts will always look better than a bunch of silent ones.
Nothing’s worse than inactive company accounts; It will scare away any chance you have at a community, because no one will trust you as a brand. So, it is advisable to have few but active accounts.
#5 Have the right attitude
Build connections and communicate with users like you would to a new friend. It’s good to be excited, but don’t be excessive or desperate (most of us lose it right here). Like under-doing, over-doing things also creates a wrong impression. If the frequency of the posts increases suddenly, people start treating them as a Spam. No one would like to have their wall/timeline occupied by updates from the same person/brand.
It is important to have the right attitude to attract attention, and then staying calm and collected in all your work will make you look like you know what you’re doing. Also, no bad-mouthing unless you’re trying to stir up a controversy, an interesting marketing technique. If you can manage a properly framed and planned controversy, it can be a great marketing strategy which can create instant traffic and interest among users.
#6 Follow the rules
Social media is a free platform and you have every right to do things your way. For a business, specially startups, it is important to follow some rules. Understand this, social networks don’t actually exist for your business standalone. They exist to help people connect with each other. Company presence is mandatory but don’t think of it as a billboard. Forget about unsolicited messaging — it’s annoying and spammy, and can even get you banned. On Twitter, don’t follow more users than the number of users that follow you (with the exception of your first few days). No one can keep up with 500 tweets at a time, so it looks like a mass adding trick and gives out a wrong impression to people right from the beginning.
On Facebook, try commenting on similar pages about another company’s work. Instead of talking to other companies, talk to their fans. Comment, ask questions and wait for feedback. Larger companies never have quality dialogue with fans. So, while you have time, do what they can’t. Talk.
#7 Build a community (brick by brick)
Don’t just add people to get your numbers up. Besides, the followers or ‘likes’ you will gain through mass-friend-ing/following will never be as worthwhile as the ones you get from genuine interest. Every single person you win over can pay off tenfold, making every positive interaction is important. Keep your community active by asking for feedback and going the extra mile on complaints.
Anywhere you put yourself online, customers will think of it as their personal help desk. Thus, you are bound to have requests, suggestions, complaints, feedback etc. Respond to each to them with proper answers. It creates sense of engagement with the user and even-though their query might not be solved they would at-least appreciate your proper and timely reply.
#8 Offer something
From valuable advice to engaging talk, you don’t have to give away prizes to offer something. However, most people do want some sort of an incentive, something free. Like for example, as a restaurant you can give away discounts or special dishes to your regular customers as a sort of appreciation, which in return will generate publicity from them and loyalty to your brand.
Your gifts don’t have to be costly, but they should have personality just like your company does. If you’re low on funding, send out a few thank-you emails to your most valuable users. Make it personal. The point is to make your users/customers feel special. You can also have Happy Hours and special discounts just for Social Media customers.
#9 Hone your brand
From giveaways to email footers, everything you do impacts your brand. No matter what image you are looking for, make sure your social media presence echoes it in every way. If your start-up revolves around clothes, then talk fashion. Irrespective of whether you are about food, cars, tech or social, always know your users and make sure your image resonates with them. It is important to spend time to develop content that resembles your brand and portrays your brand in right way.
This way, we know that what we do will resonate with all of our users. If you don’t know your audience, that needs to be your #1 priority. Not knowing this can get you into trouble. If you’re an education startup, make sure your students or relevant target group people are served with right information or materials relevant to your field.
#10 Analyze your competitors
If you think you are alone, think again. You need to locate your competition and find out exactly what they’re doing. Be their customer and watch out for what’s working and what’s not. Identifying their weaknesses will help you fill in for what they’re missing and knowing their strength will help you make sure you need to do similar thing. It’s not necessary to copy your competitors strategy but it would not be any harm if you get 1 or 2 ideas from them and implement after some tweaks. Grabbing the right moment is important, if your competitor is silent about certain thing, you can win their customers by addressing them on particular subject. It’s all about timing.
#11 Never give up.
Promoting your startup can be difficult. It’s just one more job to your already packed schedule. Some people live on Twitter and you don’t have to, but try working a few social tools into your daily life. For example, every time you drink coffee, pull out your phone and tweet. Don’t stress about what to say. Running a company is interesting and you can offer an inside view. Talk about upcoming features and share your company’s culture. What do you do to loosen up? We know you already have a jam packed schedule but you can always line up certain content in advance using different tools available.
In the end, you’re being social for your brand, but represent it as yourself. Remember to be human. Companies that do this are able to build the strongest bond and are usually the most successful ones. In the end its all about ‘Connections’. A customer is more likely to return to same brand which he finds more comfortable and feels a personal connect with the brand and the company itself.
This list is just the beginning. Let us know in the comments section below if you have anymore pointers or you want to know more details about how and what to do for your specific start up. Lets get social!
Image Source: Kevin Dooley/www.socialsamosa.com/2012/07/an-interview-with-anaggh-desai-ceo-the-bombay-store/" rel="bookmark" title="An Interview with Anaggh Desai, CEO, The Bombay Store">An Interview with Anaggh Desai, CEO, The Bombay Store