How can startups save time and resources?

What can startups expect when using social media?

Startups may not be able to expect quick growth without a lot of effort. Before we get to gaining followers, let’s not forget fundamentals and how social media can help. The main priorities should be your proof of concept and conversion paths.There are 3 must-dos that all startups should prioritize before gaining a large social media following.

#1: Test your concept.

Become familiar with your minimum viable product. Begin with a lean startup before crossing the chasm. To do this on a budget, use social media tactics such as Facebook ads and landing pages. Before you build out infrastructure, take the most honest test by going on Shark Tank.

#2 Prove your concept.

This step is crucial towards ensuring that your great idea is viable. Ideas are cheap and you are NOT your target audience. As your business grows and you learn more you become more detached from your target audiences, which we will jump into in more detail later.

#3 Set up your conversion paths

Make your Landing page /  website clear: what should the visitor do? Guide them! Before hiring developers, user-experience and user-interface experts, save your lean startup and your sanity with a straightforward landing page. Cloud services like UnBounce and LeadPages are far more affordable.

If you’re attracting attention on social media, you need to have a pipeline setup. You want to gain email addresses — dirty little secret of social media — email still converts better.

Why?

There are two very important reasons.  The user opts-in to seeing your message and it’s a comfortable medium. The user will almost positively see it, whereas on Twitter or Facebook you are battling a complex algorithm in order to get your message seen.

Then what? Well, what do you have to offer? What’s your bait? An eBook? Beta-testing for early adopters?

Before you aim to gain a large social media following — and this is true for SEO, too, align your conversion path to capture email addresses. Just following you on Facebook or Twitter is typically not enough. There’s a lot of noise out there. What’s your bait? Something truly meaningful to your target audience.

Number three  isn’t strictly social but is not to-be-ignored. Before you aim to gain a large social media following, prioritize SEO, search engine optimization, search marketing — basically getting found on Google. These days, as another expert in the networking group I founded likes to say, “Google is your first customer.”

We’ll dive into SEO deeper but I thought it important to mention this NOW, before you invest in a site that doesn’t convert. A multimillion dollar firm we didn’t work with spent $100,000 on a website and asked me why it wasn’t converting.

Let’s say you’re attracting all kinds of great traffic to your site with that heartwarming, amazing kitten video you posted. If your kitten video doesn’t deliver as promised when folks click through to your site, visitors will “bounce.” One and done and get the heck off your site. Or they will try to hunt around your site, aka “pogo sticking.” Google thinks: wow, these guys are not delivering the goods and we don’t care if the traffic is from social channels, these guys are up to no good. And woosh, rankings down the drain.

Recapping priority #3 before you aim to gain a large social media following: be sure your site guides users into a clear conversion. Typically for early startups this is capturing  an email address. This is also key for SEO.

Bonus tip: think of how you’ll scale. When meeting with your website team, ask what tools you can use so these great leads don’t get lost or forgotten. Think Social CRM (with much more on social CRM to come).

Which social media & online channels should a startup tackle first?

It all depends on who your customer is. Do you know? How can you be sure? Let’s see how social media and online marketing can help.

A worthy read, although it’s nearly 4 decades old, is “Positioning” by Al Ries and Jack Trout. Back in the day, launching a product cost millions (in 1980’s dollars). Travel back in the way-way-back-machine, enjoy a cup of Sanka coffee and consider you’d advertise in magazines, on billboards, and pay whatever the yellow pages wanted to charge.

But today, thankfully, we don’t have to guess! Today, we can be much more scientific. This is what I have my students do: develop a hypothesis about their customers. In the case of a nonprofit we’re working with, we needed to have a solid understanding of who we wanted to engage via email newsletters, blog posts, and specific social media channels. Chances are, startups and nonprofits are not wielding a Sanka coffee marketing budget, so we have to be strategic.

The other great asset of marketing today? We can test our hypothesis.

So let’s do it. You make an assumption about who your target audience is. In the case of nonprofits I’ve worked with, one target audience is people who shop at farmers markets.

How can we engage with them? We need to know what they care about. How can we find out?

Tool tip #1 for testing your target audience/customer hypothesis: Survey Monkey.

Your best bet is to have a list of emails already. A helpful read on how to go about learning more about your target audiences — “Ask” by Ryan Levesque. Ryan recommends asking via survey: what is your biggest challenge?

From those long-form answers, you now have: voila!

#1 What the target audience cares about, what keeps them up at night, and what they may be willing to spend hard-earned money on.

#2 Keywords. I keep coming back to SEO / search engine optimization / search marketing because it’s today’s equivalent to a phone-book listing. How else will people find you, especially new people? You want to be sure you are using the vocabulary of your target audience/ customer. Google relies on artificial intelligence and you want to make it as easy as possible for the machines to match you up correctly. That’s the underlying truth about SEO. There’s a lot more to it, of course but starting there will get you far.

Don’t forget to tie it altogether in your communications: write about what people care about.

But back to social media and how it can help. Let’s say you have many different target audiences and hypotheses.

Tool Tip: Use Facebook ads to see how big and lucrative your target audiences may be.

Another tool tip: use Google keyword tools to see how competitive the keywords are and where there may be gaps.

So now you can use those keywords and understanding to really target and hone in your hypothesis.

Two great books to help guide your process are, “Made to Stick” by Chip & Dan Heath, who suggest that you ask ‘why’ three times, and, “Contagious” by Jonah Berger who advises “write for 1 unique person.”

And if you find targeting that audience doesn’t convert (you’re not getting email addresses when you direct folks to your landing page, even though you have a great offer for bait), rinse, recycle, repeat. Test different headlines and values value propositions each time around.

While all this is not easy, it’s considerably easier and cheaper than wasting a year of your life to discover not enough people think your idea is very good.

So which social media channels should you tackle first? Pinterest, Slideshare, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter?

When you know your target audiences you’ll know.
For more insights on all these topics as well as lasting tips and tools, check out my other videos and thanks for connecting with us here at Business Town.