- Make sure you know what you want to achieve
- Find out what your target audience uses and tailor your social media output accordingly
- Get on social media
- Social media can be a cheap promotional tool for lean startups, but getting real value inevitably costs money
Some startup businesses may feel the pressure to use social media, partly out of fear of being left behind while their competitors reap the advantages of Facebook or Twitter. But merely having a social media presence without thinking carefully about what you want to do with it can do more harm than good. Hiscox spoke to Jed Hallam, Communities Director at brand consultancy VCCP, about how an entrepreneur can make social media work for them.
Someone might feel that his or her business has to use social media. Is that true?
Everyone has a fear of being left behind, which is what drives people to get out there without thinking things through. You wouldn’t start a direct marketing campaign without thinking about what you want to say, and social media’s the same.
So how would a small business come up with a social media strategy?
It’s important to understand where your audience’s conversations are taking place. If you’re working with other small businesses, then that might be on forums or LinkedIn, whereas consumers are more likely to use Facebook or Twitter. If you’re not in the right place, it’s hard to get value from your social media.
Strategies need research behind them. If you’re an IT company, for example, there’s a good chance that people have tech issues that they turn to Twitter for answers to, which is a bit like a human search engine. There’s a company called Blendtech that makes industrial-strength blenders. They posted product demonstrations on YouTube, where they blended mobile phones or golf balls – it’s entertaining and shows what the product does. There’s nothing stopping small IT companies posting how-to guides or videos online.
Are there common mistakes that businesses make?
It’s not unusual for me to go into a meeting and ask the client why they want a Facebook account, only to hear ‘because everybody else has one’. People tend to get too focused on the technology and what it can do, but social media is about understanding human behaviour, not technology.
Can a business benefit from outsourcing its social media?
Working with an agency gives you access to its expertise in a particular area but, at the same time, no one understands your business quite like you do. It ends up being a balance between the two. An agency can help you get a great strategy, but is less helpful if, for example, you’re a tech startup and they can’t answer the IT questions you’re receiving from your audience.
Should businesses look at social media as a form of free advertising?
The idea that social media is cheap or free is something of a myth. The tools might be free, but the understanding behind them isn’t. Understanding audiences can only come through experts – lean startups will initially get a decent ROI, but social media will cost money at some point if you want to get the most out of it.