Social media for start-ups on a budget – part one

social media for start ups
content marketing
Ivana Taylor

Start-ups have so much to take care of in the first months of business. Where does social media fit? Does it require immediate attention, or should it wait until the fundamentals are in place and the business is on sound footing?

We speak to two social media consultants to give readers valuable advice and actionable tips on optimizing use of social media. These interviews are aimed primarily at start-ups, but any organization will find something of value in them.

The first is with Ivana Taylor, Small Business Influencer with DIY Marketers. In two weeks we’ll published Michael Manzur‘s answers to the very same questions. Michael is a Social Media Marketing Professional with Flood Me Social, in Florida, U.S.

Social media: All about relationships

Should businesses start using social media from day one, or is it best to wait until a business is up and running for a few months?
The short answer is YES! Social media is a human-to-human activity and any business will be more successful if they start building those relationships on a personal level. My tip is to create two social accounts; a branded account and a personal account. Make it a point to use both accounts to build engagement with your audience.

Almost all social media pros call for the development of a social media strategy. What are some of the key elements of a solid social media strategy for small start-ups?
The key to EVERY social media strategy is carefully select what your primary social platforms will be. The best platform for you will be where your customers are AND where you feel most comfortable. Also consider how many social profiles you will have; a personal profile, a business profile, a customer support profile. Also be sure to include guidelines for what you will post, how often, etc.

Don’t forget to treat social media as a top-of-the funnel-relationship building activity. Be sure to set your goals and how you will nurture those relationships to achieve them.

It’s tempting for new businesses to jump in and use every major social media platform. For companies with limited staff and time, this approach can soon overwhelm. How many channels should start-ups be using, and how should they select them?
You don’t have to be everywhere, but you do have to be engaged on the platforms that you choose. I typically recommend no more than three channels. Facebook should be one of them, as should Linkedin. After that, you can choose Instagram or Pinterest if you have a business where you have to see to experience via photos or videos.

Related to the question above, obviously businesses need to target their potential customers and discover where they hangout. What are some of the best simple and quick customer research methods to identify the best social media platforms for a business?
You can use Google Analytics to find out where most of your customers are. Also check where your competitors are playing. Then you can decide whether you want to be there or do you want to choose another platform where your competition isn’t as strong.

Selling, engagement, or brand recognition?

There’s an ongoing discussion about using social media to sell vs using social media to engage, develop brand presence, and then grow loyalty. What’s your take on this discussion? Is the best use of social media somewhere in the middle, such as creating dialogues and, for example, helping customers with purchase decisions?
Think of social media as a way to make friends and build relationships. It’s like real life – only more efficient. In the same way you wouldn’t try to sell someone the minute you opened your mouth, you shouldn’t sell someone the first time you engage with them on social. Use the power of building relationships from the comfort of your home to build relationships. Use social to help people, contribute to them, make them smile, solve a problem and the sales will follow.

Businesses sometimes fall into constant self-promotion with social media, partly because they’re not sure what they should be talking about or they lack ideas for content. This is a two-part question. 1) Where can businesses find relevant and interesting content to share? 2) How can businesses, including start-ups, develop engaging conversations so that their target audience becomes responsive?
Content is EVERYWHERE! Here’s a sneaky tip, re-share other people’s content! Another great tip is to visit sites like BuzzSumo.com, RightRelevance.com, use Feedly or try Zest.is as a tab in your Chrome browser. I like to take the first hour of my day; over coffee; and go through my news feeds and see what’s interesting that I can share. I schedule those out using Buffer. But mostly, I like to share other people’s content.

The first place to start with engagement is talking to people ABOUT the content they are sharing. I always advocate joining Tweet Chats in your area of interest. I actually have a calendar of the best Small Business Tweet Chats that I add to all the time. If you are on Linkedin, make it a point to click on articles you are interested in and leave a comment or question to the person who shared it.

The follow/unfollow dilemma

A high number of followers can mean that a brand or individual can be seen as influential. As such, there are some accounts, particularly on Twitter and Instagram, that will follow and then unfollow in an attempt to push their own numbers even higher. This can be off-putting for new account holders. Any thoughts on how businesses should handle or respond to this tactic?
Following and unfollowing isn’t as important as most people think. Focus on engagement and conversation. Most people don’t realize that you don’t have to have a follow relationship to have a conversation on Twitter. You can simply respond and mention that person and they will talk to you. I actually have close friends who aren’t following and I’m sure I have close friends who I don’t follow and yet we still talk on Twitter all the time.

What are the top three or four mistakes small businesses should avoid with social media?

The number one mistake I see is ignoring social media. Simply not having a profile. The next biggest mistake is having profiles, but not engaging with people. At the very least, have a personal profile on LinkedIn and Facebook. Stay in conversations and build relationships.

The next biggest problem I see is businesses pushing and selling on social media. Social media is a relationship platform. You wouldn’t say “hello” to someone and then ask them to marry you – so why would you push people to follow you, download something or watch a video. Have a conversation first.

Finally, I notice small businesses being businesses instead of people. This is why I recommend starting with a personal profile, engaging with people you know and simply helping people on social media; answer questions, give recommendations. Create an impression and a reputation for being helpful and friendly.

Let’s touch on metrics. What are they key things that businesses should be monitoring and measuring with social media. Do you recommend any tools – free or otherwise – they can use to extract useful, actionable information?
The number one thing businesses need to monitor is their mentions – conversations that are going on that mention their brand, their products and service. But don’t stop there. Watch and monitor all mentions of your product categories.

Consider monitoring phrases where people are seeking help and advice in your product or service area – then jump into the conversation and offer help. Don’t sell – offer help. Right now, my favorite monitoring tool is Brand24, it tracks mentions for keywords as well as brand names, hashtags and phrases. I love the reporting because it tells me when there is a “storm” or influx of mentions.

Small business marketing expert Ivana Taylor

Ivana Taylor is a publisher and influencer with DIY Marketers. She helps small businesses on a budget simplify marketing with the best tools, tips and strategies. Ivana is based in Cleveland, Ohio, and believes that most businesses should be doing less (but more focused) marketing. You can find Ivana on Linkedin and Twitter.

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Sheelagh Caygill

Sheelagh Caygill is a journalist and content marketer. She has worked for newspapers, news organizations and in the corporate and non-profit sector in Canada and the U.K. She is a Director at Gocontentmarketing.com and is available for freelance assignments. Contact her via the contact form or Linkedin.

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