Everyone is talking about how social media can help you jumpstart your business at no cost, and experts are springing up on all sides to help you do it at a high cost. So who do you believe, and what are the keys to success for your startup?
I’ll put my money on one of the originals in the social media marketing game, my friend Lon Safko, who just published his Second Edition of the bestselling book, “The Social Media Bible.” In the book, and in his popular lecture series, he says you can do it yourself, and outlines five steps to success, which I have adapted a bit for startups as follows:
- Analyze existing media, social media, and your demographics. Before you start, analyze existing media, demographics, and new social media alternatives for a fit to your rollout campaign requirements. Factor in the fundamental shift to ‘pull’ marketing taking place across the world in media and advertising. Then set your goals.
- Understand the basic tools – the social media trinity. Blogging (Wordpress), micro-blogging (Twitter), and social networks are the trinity. Key social networks are Facebook (500 million consumers) and LinkedIn (60 million professionals). Get to know the five W’s of these and others – who, what, where, when, and why. Pick your fit.
- Integrate your strategy into the trinity. Social media does not stand alone; it must be integrated into a balanced marketing strategy. Content is still king, so do the proper homework on what you blog, and the quality of the messages you deliver via social media. Put your social network links on your stationery, business cards, and email.
- Assess and commit the resources required. At this point you need executive buy-in, decide what you do personally, assess your staffing and out-sourcing requirements, and commit the budget. This is the time to get creative, run pilot projects to look at ROI, and educate the whole team on objectives and activities.
- Implement metrics and analytics. You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Determine the proper measurement tools and set up the measurement process. Only then can you determine your ROI. Manage your expectations, and analyze every marketing channel. Lather, rinse, repeat.
The best attribute of social media tools is that most of them are free. The down side is that many of them are limited, or have poor quality, and they come and go each day. You need to allocate a few minutes a day, or every week, to researching via blogs and websites like Tech News World the latest recommendations and reviews. This is not something you can learn once and forget about.
With social media, a key element of success is focus on the message. Never “sell” or push out your message like conventional advertising. The trick is to listen first, add something of value to the conversation, and pull the customers to you because they trust you and want more. According to Lon, the keywords to remember are to be “sincere, authentic, and transparent.”
Now is the time to capitalize on this fundamental shift in power to the customer, who now has real control over your brand message. Companies now have to communicate, rather than just pontificate. Customers see what their peers are saying about you in blogs and product reviews, and how you respond to these, and this impacts their decision more than any advertisement.
But above all, don’t forget to observe your competition and their social media activity. Luckily, you can see and measure online most of the things they can, and see which things work, and which ones don’t.
Finally, remember that it takes time to establish and optimize your presence on social media sites. Use the five steps listed here to leverage your time effectively, stay one step ahead of your competitors, and enjoy the success that social media can bring your startup.