Social Media Guide for Startups & Entrepreneurs

The social media negligence observed by some entrepreneurs and startups even in this digital era is quite incredible. Influencers and social media personalities often complain of how their Twitter or Linkedin is bombarded with spam and irrelevant messages of pleas, asking for retweets, downloads or plays. This desperation by a business does much more harm than good. People have to realise that social media is quite similar to dealing with a variety of people in the real world. It takes time and effort towards reaching out to the right sort of people and forging mutually beneficial relationships that last a long time. It no longer is and never was just enough to be on a social media platform and keep shouting out updates, releases and begs for ‘call to action’. The phenomenon of running a small business involves a variety of roles, improvisation and acting on the moment of crisis towards damage control. Social media can be quite daunting given its vast nature and can be very time consuming and expensive if not done the in the optimal way. You as a small or medium business owner cannot do without social media but at the same time you cannot focus all your attention on it. It comes down to utilising all the resources around you in an optimal and balanced manner so it stays complimentary to other aspects of your entrepreneurial lifestyle. In this article, Huloo presents you a guide on social media which will help you get started on your social media journey, right from getting all the basics and coming with an amazing strategy that’s right for your business.

What is the importance of social media marketing?

According to Salesforce, Generation X (age group 35-49) spends an astounding 32 hours on social media consuming content. While millennials (age group 18-34) spend 27 hours on social media. Gone are the days when social media used to be just about socialising and communication. Keeping this information in mind, it can be deduced that there is a large amount of time spent on social media and marketers are constantly competing to get a piece of that time from the audience. Social media platforms and networks are among the fastest growing industries in the world. The Growth Gurus claim a projected 25% annual progress within the coming 5 years. It is high time you start investing time and resources into social media if you have not started already.

The Clout of social media

The preliminary function of social media is to connect people. This also proves true in a business’ interaction with its audience to get to know information about them and vice versa. Social media enables entrepreneurs to understand and gain insights on how their audience perceives them, including how the audience perceives a business’ competitors. The outcome of this information is to create changes and improvements within your product range or services if required, resolve discrepancies if any and also initiate a conversation with a prospective lead. For example on a platform like Facebook or Twitter, your followers would have an option to send a message on your company page or profile. Imagine just how cumbersome communication can be without the presence of social media platforms? In the role of an entrepreneur, every piece of content you put out on social media would cater to a certain amount of viewership. There is a very good possibility that this would reach your target audience which in turn implies lead generation of sorts. Take for example Twitter, with a good following, a single tweet can result in traffic towards your website implying conversion(s). The implication above is not just a wild conjuration, consider Facebook with about 2 billion monthly active users (MAU), Twitter 328 million MAU, Linkedin with 500 (MAU) and Instagram adds 6 million users every month. Source: Our Social Times. Your business can achieve a huge amount of viewership on social media with the right sort of strategy. It’s also way easier than billboard ads and other forms of traditional advertising (note that traditional marketing is also extremely expensive and cannot have the same precision in terms of targeting audiences). Your brand’s exposure is bound to expand across social media if people are talking about it. The equation is simple, the more people talking about your brand, the more exposure your brand receives. Another factor is that your brand’s name would be remembered throughout the process of branding on social media given the number of times it comes up within comments, shares, likes, feature articles and so on. If nothing else (which is a very hypothetical situation) you will enjoy a stature of high consideration for later times! Lets look at the importance of SEO in your social media strategy. In a nutshell, SEO is a means of optimisation to ensure your content and/or website stay in the top searches of search engines like Google and Yahoo. The ranking is based by what the search engines consider the most relevant content for users within that respective domain. Social signals are calculated in terms of your post’s performance throughout social media platforms. It is important to establish a social media presence in order to enhance your search visibility and ranking on Google. Note: After Google’s acquisition of Linkedin, presence and activity on Linkedin would influence a business’ SEO performance significantly. A website for an entrepreneur or startup is never a standalone magical solution to generate sales. But a website is undisputably one of the most valuable assets for your startup as you would have your products, information and premium services there. Engaging content and an appropriate social media strategy always ensure traffic towards your website, thus creating a potential for sales. Online or not, very rare is the occasion when people buy anything from a source that is untrustworthy. Having a solid social media presence helps ensures there is a line of constant communication to start with and then instill trust within your clientele. It does not end here though, it is a circle of authenticity for which you will have to ensure consistency. The customers who have purchased from you will leave positive reviews on your social media if they like your service. It is pretty standard the more your brand’s name is mentioned in a positive sense your credibility and market value increases. As well, if your product or services aren’t on par with the customer’s expectation, a reversal of everything above will happen.

Social media marketing vs traditional marketing

We have mentioned briefly about how marketing online is more cost effective and results orientated compared to traditional marketing. Let’s take the example of one generation in particular. Millennials are a slightly challenging market compared to other age groups, having grown in close proximity to smartphones, laptops and tablets as a generation. They are one of the largest living generations in several countries according to Catalyst. So how do millennials react to advertising? Their efficiency of communication is unparalleled in comparison to a traditional ad campaign. According to Forbes, traditional marketing doesn't not work effectively anymore. This does not mean people have ceased to purchase but their purchasing decisions have changed. Millennials are a generation with specific interests and a decent purchasing capacity and they communicate their ideas and concerns over social media platforms. These habits can provide great insights for marketers to design ads over social media that really work. Let us look in detail as to why social media marketing is a better option for your small business than traditional advertising: - The cost reduction is quite steep. Newspaper ads, television, billboards and the likes of these are extremely expensive. Young students and budding entrepreneurs alike can easily afford social media marketing right out of their savings. The digital phenomenon has truly erased boundaries limiting to age and capital towards marketing efforts. - There is visibility of real time results on a social media ad campaign. This includes, visits per day, time slots of active users, rate of conversion and bounce rates as well. And not to forget positive and negative responses, which include hiding posts and reporting them. All this instantaneous data can help you take a fast decision. - The brand space offered on social media marketing are great. You no longer need to squeeze your content in a narrow column of a newspaper or restrict your audio to a couple of seconds on radio. A website, blog or page give you a lot more space for an array of content assets and promotion where the visibility is also huge. - The advertising over social media platforms to the most part has been tailored to be non-interruptive amidst the user activity. Afterall, a newspaper or a magazine is not purchased for the ads within it so much as people listen to the radio for music and news. Traditional adverts for the most part are ignored. The video ads across many video sharing social media platforms can be skipped unlike TV ads. - The exposure is truly worldwide and it does not cost so much as traditional advertising which is limited to a locality. - Analytics are another handy tool for measuring and re-thinking social media ad campaigns. Tools like Google Analytics and Facebook insights give you consolidated data of user response and activity to your web and social media efforts. We will look at this in-depth further on within the article.

Huloo Twitter & Instagram

Choosing the right social media channel

Facebook Facebook is the world’s largest social media platform be its active users (2 billion MAU) or global recognition. It has been 13 years since its humble beginnings as a college website for students to keep in touch to a multi faceted networking, marketing and multimedia content sharing platform. The social media platform is one of the most common first destinations and is pretty mandatory for startups and entrepreneurs. With a plethora of options of sharing content, company updates and events, Facebook at first glance can initially be a very low maintenance endeavor given you do not have to be aggressive in the starting days. Targeting a specific audience is highly customised and efficient on Facebook compared to any other social media platform given the diverse and heterogenous online denizens of Facebook. Facebook also has tons of data on its user’s activity, purchases, searches and engagement which it leverages when you purchase ads on it. It is mandatory to have a business page on Facebook. Facebook provides analytics for you to gauge the performance of your posts and ad campaigns and change strategies on the go. Twitter It is the world’s noisiest social media and news platform. It has 328 million MAU. The platform allows you to share short messages called Tweets with a character limitation of 140. Alongside Tweets, videos, links, images, GIFs and polls are some other content assets that can be shared on Twitter. The ability to easily interact with people across the world by just mentioning their name in your post allows you to forge communication links with ease. Hashtags are another feature on Twitter that allow a user to tag a word or a phrase with the suffix ‘#’ and combining hundreds (maybe thousands) of identifying tweets together. The best way to use Twitter is to: - Inform customers about business updates, product launches, events and sales.- Network with influencers pertaining to your industry and obtain latest insights and news.- Deliver messages which are concise to your audience, retweet customer appreciations, establish brand loyalty and deliver customer service. The live updating feed on Twitter is a very fast paced environment, there are 500 million tweets every day. This means you will have to invest most of your efforts towards being active on Twitter compared to any other social media channel. Linkedin Linkedin is the world’s largest social media and networking platform for professionals. It has half a billion users. The functional utility of Linkedin is quite comparable to that of Facebook, though it’s best to consider Linkedin as the Facebook for professionals given professional networking and talent acquisition are the main features of Linkedin. It also leans more toward B2B compared to any other channel. The goal is to reach potential clients or employers/employees. Linkedin’s platform allows you to publish blogs with an opportunity for your content asset to be viewed by thousands of professionals. It is important to participate within the groups pertaining to your industry as the professionals within the group who interact with you might be interested in your business. The environment in Linkedin is synonymous to a traditional networking event where you go in person and meet someone, tell them about yourself and then exchange business cards. Only, in Linkedin you have connections (like friend requests on Facebook), you communicate using messages and you have your accomplishments and your education showcased as a well organised profile for people to see. This social media platform is for entrepreneurs and startups that want to take their professionalism seriously and grow their opportunities. Instagram Instagram is one of the world’s leading visual social media platforms on mobile. With more than 700 million MAU posting about food, travel and art in the form of photographs and videos. A distinguishing feature of Instagram is the options to pre-edit photographs and videos before posting them. Although it is a platform with a slightly artistic niche to it, there are ways in which your business can use this platform to its advantage. Several businesses have used Instagram to tell their story, give a sneak peak into their behind the scenes, humanise their business to show brand personality and exhibit products in a creative manner so as to engage and obtain followers. Hashtags are very useful here and you can use a lot of them if your relevance is in check with your business. They are a way of sharing images to a collective subject and its audience. Instagram definitely does require attention to the resolution and detail of photographs. The person managing your Instagram should have some basic photography skills so as to ensure quality photographs on your profile. YouTube It is the world’s largest video sharing platform. It is the 2 biggest social media platform with a over a billion users. It is owned by Google and is a go-to place for news, entertainment and infotainment. The actions people can take over visual content are view, upload, rate, like, dislike, comment, share and subscribe to a channel. Channels are home pages for user accounts on YouTube. Users can open business accounts on YouTube, it’s called a Brand Account. Businesses on YouTube usually have an educational, visual and creative component aimed at showcasing culture, products, new releases, webinars, interviews or just communicating directly to their audiences. Often businesses partner with popular YouTubers for product placement to share the enormous reach and engaged audiences, that these stars have already. Pinterest Pinterest is an social media pinboard platform for accumulating multimedia content ideas, inspirations and designs. Images are the most shared content asset on Pinterest. It has 150 million MAU. It has been acclaimed as the “the world’s catalog of ideas” as it is possible to create numerous digital pin boards say for example food and then pin images or videos of recipes and so forth across several topics. There is a feature called ‘Rich Pin’ which businesses can use to give extra information about product details and locations. Sometimes these boards are organised in a manner where you can arrange content to serve as inspiration for DIY projects. Pinterest is a low maintenance platform given you do not need to post aggressively. But it is a rather niche social media platform which cannot cater to the business requirement and marketability of all industries. If you are a startup or an entrepreneur in the fields of food, travel, fashion, interior design, DIY projects and health and fitness, Pinterest can work extremely well for you.

Young female smiling

Tips and tricks for making the most out of social media

What are your startup’s social media objectives? This is the most important and critical question. All the social media channels mentioned above cater to particular sorts of users and deliver distinct results. Some can initiate direct sales, while some inform and create awareness about your products or business. Tip: If you want to increase your brand awareness and also generate leads, Facebook is the best option. In case you have to connect to professionals and influencers to gain critical insights into your business, Linkedin or Twitter are appropriate choices. Which social media platform is your target audience on? This is a question which helps ease troubles and makes decisions a breeze. It’s pretty wasteful to devote time and efforts on a platform where your target audience aren’t present. Tip: A good place to find out about the demographics and psychographics of social media platform users would be Pew Research Centre. Which social media platforms are your competitors using? This is synonymous to the knowledge of knowing where your audience are active. An active monitoring of your competitor’s activity on a social media platform will give you rich insights into what strategy works and what doesn’t. Tip: Great tools to monitor your competitor’s activities are Buzzsumo and Huloo. What content assets would you like to create? To make this decision you will have to think about the content your target audience would resonate with the most and what sort of content you are comfortable creating. If you are in for drafting white paper articles, Linkedin is your go to destination while visual and multimedia content assets are best shared across YouTube, Instagram or Pinterest. Tip: Read the description and follow trending articles about social media platforms and the best thing to do is to experiment. There is no rule of thumb to say so and so audience would like so and so content. How many social media channels can you manage? If you are a startup or an entrepreneur, you should just stick to one or two social media channel at one time. That is again not a rule of thumb but you can avoid spreading yourself too thin and invest more time into your business. For example, if you are managing multiple channels at once, there is also the possibility that a content asset you made consuming loads of time, say an infographic cannot effectively be surfaced across all social media platforms. It can only cater to some. You should keep these parameters in mind before and after the creation of content assets for social media. Tip: Scheduling posts in advance is a great way to post at peak times and also takes the everyday social media heat off a little. Social media marketing is here to stay for a long time until another innovative phenomenon takes over the world. Most of the entrepreneurs have actively started taking advantage of social media and also started gaining results. The funny thing is, most of these entrepreneurs or startups may be your competitors! A small business that is just starting up cannot really keep up with multi-channel management and analytics for social media because the efforts are best invested in the operations and logistics of the business. Huloo can perform all the above mentioned details and more for a very affordable price. Sign up with Huloo so you can concentrate on your business and not your next post. Feel free to ask questions or exclaim thoughts you have about this article in the comments section below.

Further reading

Further Reading Here are some links to social media platforms and their descriptions of their functionality and utility. Facebook YouTube Twitter LinkedIn Instagram Pinterest Snapchat