As a startup, what comes first: the money or the marketing?
If you dig into this chicken-and-egg dilemma (or if you have been struggling to grow your startup on a shoestring budget), you’ll quickly realize there is no easy answer.
Startups need customers to make money, and they need money to get customers. Without great marketing, customers won’t know your startup exists, let alone make a purchase or recommend it to their friends. But without customers – or generous investors – there won’t be any money for a splashy marketing campaign.
And that’s where social media comes into play.
Huge spending isn’t necessary for startups to run successful social media marketing campaigns. Social media is perceived as one of the most effective marketing tools among business leaders, and startups looking to grow should sit up and take notice.
The four tactics outlined below don’t require anything more than a little elbow grease, some creative thinking, and follow-through. Whether you have a round of funding under your belt or you’re just starting out, you can implement these tactics today.
Unleash Your Inner Type-A Personality
All marketing comes back to the plan. First, is there a plan? If not, now’s the time to create one. Next, is the plan working? If not, let’s fix it.
2016 Social Marketing Planning Guide
A marketing plan can be a hefty, multi-phase document that contains everything from brand assets to reams of metrics. Or, it can be a more informal document that outlines the high-level thinking behind your marketing efforts. Regardless of the format, you should, at minimum, have some sort of documentation to guide your marketing efforts.
Here are some elements that make up a great social media plan:
- SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely) goals. The more specific, the better.
- An editorial calendar. Organize your upcoming blog and social content.
- Buy-in from the whole team.
- A short- and long-term vision.
- A clear idea of the channels you will focus on. It’s better to do one channel well than a dozen channels poorly.
- An understanding of your brand’s voice.
- Audience personas.
- Which metrics you will use to determine success.
Along with these items, any good plan should have some flexibility. If a 24-hour flash Twitter sale gets no traction, learn to pivot quickly and try a different tactic.
Startups without a marketing plan will find that their social media activity falls flat: without goals, strategy, and metrics you won’t be able to assess whether or not what you’re doing is successful.
Take content marketing, for instance. A full 88 percent of B2B marketers say they engage in some form of content marketing, but 36 percent say that it’s not effective. And why is that? Seventy percent of those surveyed say they either have no strategy or an undocumented one.
Long story short, spend some time making a plan of attack before you send your first Tweet.
Use Everyone’s Brainpower
As a startup, you are in a unique position to empower all of your employees to contribute to your marketing efforts on social. Your smaller size makes it easier to get everyone on board, and it helps that you probably (hopefully) know everyone’s name!
How to Build a Better Social Media Team
Not only can your employees contribute their ideas for blog posts, tweets, and status updates, they can also be leveraged as advocates on your company’s behalf. Since 70 percent of customer brand perception is determined by experiences with people, those startups that encourage their employees to engage customers publicly on social media will be well ahead of the competition in terms of reputation-building.
Your sales team (who might also moonlight as your marketing team, depending on your size) is also a potential source for social media marketing insights. Ask them to pay attention to the questions and objections that customers have about your product, and address these in your marketing material.
Lastly, startups can run their customer service on social media. This can save you money, as your marketing team can double as your customer service team, and it can also act as social proof that your company listens and responds to its customers.
Word of Mouth Is Your Best Friend
Far and away, the form of advertising that consumers trust most is word of mouth. Recommendations from people in a consumer’s social circle are trusted significantly more than any other advertisements they see.
Your startup can harness the power of consumer-to-consumer recommendations on social channels in a number of ways:
- Offer an incentive for referrals, such as a percentage discount, a gift card or reward points.
- Directly ask your most satisfied customers to send you referrals.
- Go above-and-beyond on every customer service ticket.
- Build a highly visible, engaged community through activities like Twitter chats, webinars and crowdsourced content.
Social media makes it possible not only to encourage your customers’ word of mouth, but that of influencers as well. And the good news is, you don’t need Bieber in order to raise celebrity-level awareness – you just need a handful of mini-Biebers who are influential among your target audience.
Influencer marketing can be an extremely cost-effective tactic for startups. By reaching out to notable thought-leaders in your niche, you can amplify your marketing message well beyond your own audience. Journalists, prominent public figures, bloggers, authors, speakers and more all make great influencers.
It doesn’t cost anything to develop relationships with your fans and influencers on social media, and the payoff can be massive.
Try Something New
Lastly, don’t be afraid of experimentation. Breaking the mold or taking a leap outside your comfort zone doesn’t require a huge budget. It just requires a little courage.
Take a look at the #6SecondScienceFair viral Vine campaign for GE. The campaign encouraged fans to film their own science experiments, in order to build GE’s reputation as an innovator. It generated over 600 user submissions, 345 percent follower growth and 253,800 engagements. In a single week.
Or what about Burberry’s live, behind-the-scenes Snapchat and Periscope campaigns? By adding streaming and short-form content into their marketing mix, the company soared past 100 million impressions and generated record customer engagements.
Sure, these campaigns were created by high-powered ad agencies for high-powered brands. But their basic foundations – crowdsourced content and behind-the-scenes sneak peeks – can be used by even the most bootstrapped of startups.
Be creative with your social media marketing, and you’ll make a splash. Your audience craves newness and excitement, and if you can give it to them, they will reward you with engagement, loyalty, and maybe even some cold hard cash.
In the End…
Money shouldn’t limit your marketing efforts, especially since growth in the early stages of startup life is so essential. There are lots of organic, effective, and cheap (or free) methods of reaching your audience on social media that you can turn to to accelerate your growth.