Michael Manzur, what are the top reasons for using social media for start-ups?

An effective social media strategy should always be tied to business objectives. So the first top reason is significant return on investment (ROI) for a fraction of a traditional marketing budget.

Social media marketing is a function of the marketing department and should help accomplish their objectives.

Firms must place an emphasis on building profit pools that reflect their growth strategy. Monetization is often viewed as such a confusing aspect of social media marketing that firms often rely upon vanity metrics to quantify their efforts.

A brand can generate one million likes, 5k comments and 12k shares within three week—and have only three sales. My suggestion is to always tie your key metrics to effective CTA (calls to action). This allows for adjustment of current tactics based on what is working and what is not.

Meaningful engagement – second reason for using social media for start-ups

We all know that client interaction is moving from editorial to user-generated. The most effective and efficient way to interact with our consumers is by providing a space for them to connect with us.

" Social media is the linchpin to meaningful connection with your target audience.

It is also a form of leverage that allows small firms to even the playing field with larger firms. When done right, this connection can be a driver of brand growth and recognition.

Enhanced ability of connection is the final reason for using social media

Social media has helped connect the world. This mass globalization provides firms of all sizes with unprecedented access to their target audience. It is a key driver of change. It is a disruptive innovation. Firms would do well to utilize this tool of reciprocity to enhance all of their efforts.

Start-ups have so much to take care of in the first months of business. Should they 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 answer is: It depends. Social media is not an amplifier. It is a magnifier, not a megaphone. It’s a tool of reciprocity.

What this means is that creating value in social media is determined by how well we understand our target audience. However, this becomes a bit tricky when start-ups are still in the crucial, and often iterative, stages of identifying a target audience.

We all know that start-ups are evolving places that often take on a life of their own. Yet for a social media strategy to be truly successful, it must have the target audience firmly identified. What I recommend is balancing the “Why” with the “How”. If we understand why we want our business to become available on social media, then we will adjust and implement our how more effectively. The how informs. The why transforms.

“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”

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?

@SimonSinek author of Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action: Once said: “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” I will choose not to be prescriptive but will mention some important aspects of strategy development for small start-ups.

The key here is understanding that social media strategy should always be tied to business objectives. At the heart of our Why should be a social media strategy that is focused on addressing the needs of our target audience.

" I recommend using a customer persona to accomplish this task. Customer personas are a crucial component of the development of a social media strategy.

Why? Because, people buy our why more than our what. We must ask ourselves, who are our people? Do we have one or multiple, defined customer personas? Are we keeping a pulse on the news of our industry? Is our strategy crafted to provide value for our consumers? All of these aspects of influence guide the effective execution of our social media strategy. Our efforts must ultimately connect to our purpose or our “why”.

Social media for start-ups

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?

This is so true. That is why I love social media marketing. It is a powerful lever that helps to even out the playing field for firms of all sizes. This question takes me back to target audience identification. I suggest having an intense focus on the needs of your target audience. Start-ups should always choose platforms that create connection and build trust for their audience.

For example, if I know that my target audience is young professionals that engage with X products and perform X activity then I should utilize the power of LinkedIn to connect with them. If I am trying to engage with stay-at-home moms then Pinterest and Instagram are my best resources to do so.

All of these prior suggestions are time sensitive due to the changing nature of social media. However, having an intense focus on the needs of your target audience helps avoid brand dissonance, as well as grow trust in meaningful ways.

Identify the best social media platforms

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?

Just ask. One thing that we do for customer research analysis at Siente is to evaluate prior performance. Where are our customers purchasing from? Do they engage with our content? Are they participating in our giveaways? Have we had any giveaways?

These are examples of things that are both simple and quick. Firms of all sizes have ready access to this data and can draw important conclusions from it. Some of this can be done quantitatively through prior purchase attribution from social platforms. Other times it can be done informally, anecdotally and qualitatively.

An example of a qualitative, informal analysis can be an on-site chat (for brick-and-mortar businesses) or a brief survey (online). Once we evaluate how our content performs we can more fully develop a strategy that matches our future content creation process. This iterative loop will allow us to provide quality content that will resonate with our target audience.

Monitor and measure

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?

Some of the big financial ones are ROI, ROMI (return on marketing investment), ROAS (return on ad spend). Many others that are more tied to social media goals are: CAC (customer acquisition cost), Conversion rates, Sign-up and trial rates, customer registration, number of downloads.

This list is by no means exhaustive yet it helps to highlight the importance of metrics in the crafting of actionable social media strategy. For example, Company A spends $2,999 a month for one year on social media marketing.

Company A determines it wants leads from these efforts and the social media agency generates 25 leads per month valued at 300 dollars per lead — total lead value being $7,500. What is the ROI? That would be determined by the number of hours spent on the campaign. However, it is readily apparent that the social media strategy being used is effectively connecting with the firm’s business objectives.

Free tools include Google analytics, Facebook analytics and Twitter analytics. The analytics offered by the platforms are often useful for the measurement of effective call to actions. I still encounter businesses that say the time needed to manage social media does not justify the ROI.

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? 

Social media marketing calls this the 80/20 rule. In essence, the rule states that 80 percent of business interaction is to inform, entertain or otherwise build connection. While 20 percent is to promote and sell products and services. This rule is more of a guideline but it is very helpful in the distribution of quality content. Social media is often thought of as a supplemental component of customer service—and it is that.

Build trust, grow equity

But, our job as social media marketers, among other things, is to build brand trust and grow brand equity. Often the 80/20 rule gets modified based on industry needs. Local police departments, for example, often need public engagement with time sensitive matters of criminal activity. By definition, his type of content would be a mix between information and service promotion. I have found the 80/20 rule to be benchmark for content strategy.

Avoid constant self-promotion

Businesses sometimes fall into constant self-promotion with social media. 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?

The heart of this answer goes back to your “Why”. Having a clear Why will enable you to counteract the currents of information that often distract our attention from our true purpose. 

When we are putting out fires instead of acting off of strategy, we move with the crowd. When this happens we do a disservice to our consumers by giving them things they don’t need. Hence the lack of engagement and brand dissonance that is often seen on social.

There are many resources of curated content, such as Facebook groups relevant to your industry, blogs, LinkedIn articles, and in-person experiences.

" One important myth to dispel about content creation is that if you have quality content, people will engage with you. Oftentimes firms do not lack quality content but quality strategy.

The follow/unfollow dilemma

Loas 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?

The proof is in the pudding. Oftentimes we see various growth strategies that are applied in social media. Many of them, including this one, are forms of increasing reach for the business. Yet when reach is expanded without quality content to back it up, the host brand suffers.

Emphasis should be placed on adequate targeting and growth strategies. But they should all be brought under the scope of an effective social media strategy. No one likes being tricked into engaging with your brand.

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

Some of the more common mistakes we have encountered are lack of social media funnel, one-way monologue vs two-way dialogue and a hyper focus on vanity metrics. All of these can be avoided with these simple suggestions: Know your ‘Why”, sell trust, and build a social media strategy around your business objectives and the needs of your target audience.



Social media pro Michael Manzur

Michael Manzur is the owner of Siente Social Media Consulting, a digital agency offering social media consulting.

Michael has a BA in Social Media Studies from Florida International University and an Associates Degree in Social Media Marketing from Latter Day Saints Business College in Utah. You can find Michael on LinkedIn.