Everyone knows that social media marketing is a CRITICAL promotion tactic these days. But what a huge corporation does on a social media platform to promote it’s brand is usually dramatically different from a hardware, SaaS or software startup. Mostly this has to due with the vast difference in monetary and personnel resources of Giant Software Corporation vs. Tiny Tim’s SaaS startup. So if you are contemplating a tech startup social media strategy, how do you take advantage of these important marketing platforms – while still getting the product developed and all the other things needed to keep the doors open?
Below is a primer on the do’s and don’ts of social media marketing for early stage tech companies:
Start early on your tech startup social media marketing strategy
It takes quite a while to build up the critical mass for success once you’ve designed your startup social media strategy. For starters, you need some form of proprietary content to be successful in B2B social media marketing in the long run. This often means writing original content on a Blog hosted on your own website. Unfortunately, this is the most labor-intensive aspect of your social media campaign to publicize your company and boost your reputation as a thought leader in your market segment. This is so important that it’s best to start building that catalogue of articles well before your product launch. Building this article catalogue is crucial to start working on, before you can build a substantial following on the major social media platforms. Once you have a deep list of articles, it will then takes some time to develop your following on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. You can get started without a ton of content, but to build a real following AND convert them into customers at some point, proprietary content is critical. So unless there is good reason for being in total stealth mode, start writing those articles and developing your social networks as early as possible. That way you’ll be ready to hit the ground running and already making a real impact with social media when it comes time to introduce your product.
Pick your target platforms carefully – and wisely
Each major Social Media platform has strengths and weaknesses:
- LinkedIn: The premier platform for B2B activities
- Facebook: The best major horizontal platform for B2C, but also the biggest for ANY purpose with over 2 billion accounts
- Google+: Far behind LI and Facebook in users and activity, but plays a sneaky important role in Google SERP results
- Twitter: Smaller the LI and Facebook but the best platform for real-time activities and also ideal for content distribution
- Pinterest: A specialty platform for image-based content, but also plays a nice SEO role for almost any business
- Quora: Another specialty platform focused on expert Q&A, which can be extremely useful for generating thought leadership by answering on-site questions. Although it’s not well-known, Quora also has a Blog function that can be very useful in republishing your Blog content.
- Quibb: Not nearly as well known as the other platforms on this list, but I’ve found it to provide excellent ROI on posting.
- Industry-specific vertical platforms: Most companies focus there efforts on the well-known, major horizontal platforms listed above. But if your market segment has any industry specific platforms where your target audience congregates and interacts, this can easily be your highest return ROI. this is because the concentration of prospects and influencers from you actual target segment may be much higher than the horizontal platforms. Sometimes these gathering places are base on older, unexciting platforms such as a Google or Yahoo Groups, or another form of discussion board. But no matter; it’s the members and discussion content that matters far more that the technology platform. So not only don’t ignore these under-the-radar opportunities – seek them out!
It almost always makes sense to post to every major platform you have a presence on; by using automation tools this shouldn’t be the most time-consuming part of the process. So post to all because it’s relatively easy; but make sure to budget the bulk of your INTERACTION time to the highest ROI platform for your particular target market segment.
Plan the content for your IT startup social media strategy upfront
How are you going to attract attention with your proposed startup social media strategy? There are many content types that can be useful; on many platforms mixing and matching them is the best strategy:
- Posting proprietary articles for thought leadership (always the strongest approach)
- Re-posting other’s best content
- Company press releases
- Famous and Useful Quotes
- Proprietary how-to videos as well as the best videos created by others in your general category
- Product and services special offers
- Commentary on current events in your market segment
Each of the above content types can prove successful in a social media marketing campaign; the common thread to achieve success is always to deal in real QUALITY. Quantity over quality will not only be unsuccessful, but can backfire by having the opposite of the desired effect.
Automate your startup social media strategy – without losing that “human touch”
This is an area that demands a full length article unto itself. But to cover the high points quickly, there are many tools out there that can be a huge help in efficiently executing your social media marketing programs. Probably TOO many, because it can be over-whelming to review and pick the best tools for you. It is a highly competitive area, with a dizzying array of features and price points. I recommend that you do a review of what’s out there, but don’t obsess finding the very best solution. It may make sense to change tools later on as you gain experience with your preferences and needs, so it might make sense to go with monthly plans to start (these are all SaaS-based products). There are two basic categories I suggest you consider automation tools in:
- Automate the building of Twitter followers (Socialquant, Narrow.io, tweetfull and ManageFlitter are four to consider
- Automate postings across many social media platforms once you have enough content (Post Planner, SocialOomph, KUKU.io and RecurPost are some of many offerings)
There are many other types of automation tools available to help implement your startup social media strategy . Use any and all that make you more productive and efficient. But ABOVE ALL, don’t fall into the trap of relying solely on automation. Make sure to spend the time you save with these automation tools on HUMAN communication – it is “social” media, after all! No one ever got a customer by sending out an article via a tweet or profile update – this is just the first step. It takes time to build relationships with influencers and target prospects, so reach out and interact at every reasonable opportunity.
Social Media Marketing is theoretically “free”, but plan to invest
While belonging to most Social Media platforms is free, you won’t get the most out of our engaging on them if you don’t invest. For a tech startup, first of all, in the very beginning it needs to be a “all hands on deck” approach – an investment of TIME. Everyone with a LinkedIn or Twitter account needs to be posting the company’s content; yes, even the engineers and developers! There is strength in numbers here. If everyone just spends a couple of minutes a day posting, there is a multiplicative effect on ROI from your posted content. But of course even a couple of minutes a day is an investment, and this time is a precious commodity in a software or hardware startup company. So plan for it and accept that it may stretch a few other things out, but it is worth it.
Second, do invest in the social automation tools that make sense, as spelled out above. They are generally quite inexpensive, but they aren’t free. Yet ANY startup should be able to fit these very modest costs into their budget. Don’t be “penny-wise, pound-foolish here.” These tools can dramatically increase the efficiency of your social media marketing efforts for next to nothing – IF you are doing everything else right.
Lastly but most importantly, DO create proprietary content. Usually this means a blog, but it could also mean videos, answers to relevant Quora questions, etc. This is by FAR the most time consuming – but also the most critical aspect – of a successful social media marketing strategy in the tech world. This is the type of content that will work best in driving targeted prospects to your website. But past the fact of lead generation, if created with care it, will take your prospects much farther below the top of the funnel by positioning the company and its key personnel as THOUGHT LEADERS in your market segment. This credibility created in the prospect’s mind is invaluable in turning a warm lead into hot prospect and ultimately a customer. Hire someone to create content if you absolutely can’t do it: because you can’t write, hate to write or just CAN’T find the time. But it’s much better, early on, if you can do the writing yourself.
Reevaluate your IT startup’s Social Media Marketing strategy regularly
Social media changes rapidly. At one point in time MySpace was a dominant social media platform and shortly thereafter became like an empty city. Facebook and LinkedIn grew rapidly, from practically nowhere to dominant in what seemed like overnight. Two years ago I was getting huge number of leads from content posted on LinkedIn’s groups. Since LI essentially “beheaded” their groups (they still exist, but really as “walking dead”). LinkedIn is still an important platform for me as I have a fair number of connections and content there. But I’ve since shifted more of my attention to Twitter and building my following and distributing content there. Facebook also recently improved their “Groups” function (maybe to take advantage of LinkedIn’s move?), so I’ve been cautiously moving some resources there as well.
Even though Facebook is viewed as a B2C platform and my business is B2B, hey, there are supposedly 2 billion Facebook accounts in existence today. That’s billion with a B. So most people that I’m targeting also probably have a Facebook account, even if they don’t primarily think of its use for business. One of the rules I constantly preach for marketing programs is that the channels that are the least clogged (not considered mainstream for a particular business) often yield the best results in terms of ROI. When everyone else is zigging, it often pays to zag. So be flexible with you startup social media strategy, reevaluate frequently and don’t be afraid to go against the grain and try something different.
Post frequently, time posts, include images and mention influencers
As discussed above, by FAR the most important thing you can do to support your startup social media strategy is create great content that offers real value to the audience you are targeting. The second most important activity is to be “human” as discussed above. Be available and helpful when those in your network reach out to interact with you. If you do these two things well, you can overcome most other execution hiccups. But to maximize the fruits of your content creation labor, there are some best-practices to follow in executing your social media content distribution. Incremental effectiveness can be gained by timing your posting properly for you target audience, posting more often than you think you should (people are busy and attention is fleeting), including images when posting on most platforms and mention and engage other influencers to build social signal credibility in your category.
There you have my recommendations on how to design a successful startup social media strategy within the limited confines of a technology company. This is a rich and complex area for discussion – please ad your own thoughts! Post a comment below to enrich the discussion.
If you liked this post please share it with you colleagues using the “share” buttons below: