Five social media recommendations for startups

Share everything you know: a social media strategy that works brilliantly for Best Buy and OK Cupid

Economically, it may be a tough time to start a business. But from a marketing perspective, it couldn’t be better.  Blogs, Twitter, YouTube, location based platforms, and the willingness, if not determination, of consumers to become followers, fans and even participants presents startups with plethora opportunities to attract, engage and influence.

Recently I was asked to advise a group of young companies on how to market in the age of social media. The easiest approach may have been to make list of books to read, blogs to follow and platforms to use, as it’s not really a topic you can squeeze into 30 or 40 minutes.  But what the hell, I gave it a go anyway.

Here were my thoughts.  I offered five fundamental recommendations and 11 examples of creative approaches.

Stop thinking like a marketer

At least stop thinking like a traditional marketer.  Traditional marketers identify audiences, craft messages, fire those messages at their target, put money into a media plan and hope to penetrate the market.  Social media marketers build community, craft experiences, fire off invitations, put resources into developing an interest plan and look for ways to collaborate with customers. Instead of thinking us and them, think we.

Start by answering the right questions

Signing up for Twitter or launching a Facebook page won’t make you successful. If you believe that gathering, inspiring and mobilizing a community is a valid way to build a business you need a smart strategy. It helps to answer these questions. What do stand for? Who is your community?  What kind of relationship do you want to have with them?  (Partner? Coach? Friend?) Where do they hang out online? What will your content be? How and why will people share it? How can they participate in shaping it?  And, of course, what do you want to get out of the effort?  Learning?  Awareness?  Word-of-mouth?  Feedback?  Answer those questions first and you’ll have the beginning of a plan.

Take time to learn the basics

There are dozens of ways to use social media  — for attention, interaction, generating involvement.  But if you’re in it for the long term you need to get the basics right.

One, figure out where you should make your presence felt. There are dozens of platforms – from Twitter to SCVNGR – but they may not all be right for you.

Two, master conversation strategy. There are still marketers who do nothing but push out information. Polluting the stream will not endear you to very many people. You need to promote others, share content of value and come bearing gifts.

Three, determine the tools that will make your time and effort more efficient and measurable. There are tools for listening, tools for analytics, tools to help leverage existing platforms. If you don’t know what you’re getting out of your efforts, you’re wasting time and money.

Become a media-content company

It doesn’t matter what business you’re in, when it comes to social media, you’re in the content business. You can be useful, entertaining or both.  The best social media marketers are sharing advice, tips, answers, insights and entertainment via every media imaginable – blogs, video, Twitter, apps, and iAds.

First and foremost, be creative

One advantage of social media is that anyone can create content.  One disadvantage of social media is that anyone can create content.  You still need people to pay attention and get engaged.  There are numerous ways to do that. Here are 11.

Ongoing approaches

  • Don’t buy the medium, own the medium.  Gary Vaynerchuk and Tom Dickson are two good examples.
  • Create a direct line of communication to customers.  See Kogi BBQ or Baker’s Tweet.
  • Include fans in the creation of a business.  Thank you Uniform Project.
  • Share everything you know.  Brilliant strategy executed by Best Buy and OK Cupid.
  • Make content one of your product offerings. Justin Bent Rail Boots is just one of many examples.  Gemvara’s blog is another.
  • Create a community that people want to join.  See thenextgreatgeneration.com

Campaign Tactics

  • Hi-jack a news story.  Brammo Motorcycles is among the best I’ve seen yet.
  • Turn an analog event into a digital experience. Brandbowl2010.com was inexpensive and successful.
  • Leverage existing communities.  Simple to do, here’s one example from AJ Bombers.
  • Invite everyone to experience your brand. Antwerp Zoo did a great job.
  • Consider game dynamics. Uniqlo’s tweets to get a better deal taps into the group discovery dynamic.

Anyway, I’m sure you have more thoughts and suggestions to share with your local startup.  If so, please leave them here for everyone.  Thanks for reading.

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