Posted by & filed under Customers, Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Social Media, Startups.

They say social media is amazing for companies, especially startups. A must even. But in your experience, it’s just a waste of time. Usually, the reason is that you post the wrong kinds of posts, but also that you are on the completely wrong channels.

Here is a lesson that could not be simpler and even more obvious. But a lesson I want to share because, in practice, it seems to be nothing but obvious. Startups know they should be on social media, but they waste a lot of their time on wrong things. And surprise surprise they don’t get the results they want. It is about what they post, but many if not most startups get an even more basic step completely wrong. They don’t use the right social media channels, the channels that would really bring in the results. Meaning no matter how amazing posts you are putting out none of it matters if your customers don’t see them.

Only the channels where your customers are matter

What startups usually do is that after deciding they need to be in social media, they think which channels are hot and start creating accounts. The end result is they will have too many accounts and they don’t have time to do them well enough. And most likely they are wasting their precious time on channels that will bring them no results no matter how well they do on them.

The only channels that matter are the channels that bring you results. And usually, that means the channels your customers use. Like everything your startup does, also marketing and social media should all start from your customers. Let’s say you have a fashion brand and your customers are females in their 20s. Then Instagram is probably your best bet, probably also Facebook. Linkedin? Not so much. But if your customers are professional males in their 50s or 60s Linkedin (or nowadays also Facebook) is just the thing. And then Instagram, probably a complete waste of time.

So, creating great content is the number 1 thing that will make or break it whether you will get something out of your social media efforts. But if you are doing it all on wrong channels your effort is 100% waste of time.

How to find the right channels for your startups

Like I said earlier: be where your customers (and other important stakeholders) are. The best-case scenario would be that you know what those are for a fact. If you don’t, you need to start making educated guesses and change accordingly when you get more information. Also, just ask. You are talking to your customers and potential customers anyway, so why not ask about where they are active.

If you have no idea, you can start from thinking about your customers’ demographics. The Internet is full of information about who uses what social media channels. Then you can start using facts like your customers’ gender, age, income level, interests etc. help you make an educated guess. Here is one website to help you out.

 

Social media demographics age

 

These are just some of the most popular channels. …which is why it makes no sense for startups to try to be on all possible channels.

Demographic factors usually help you a lot, but don’t be blinded by them. Let’s say your target group is photographers, male and 35+ years old. Then just by looking at demographic factors alone, you wouldn’t go for Instagram. But that would be a grave mistake! What is Instagram? A photo sharing app. It’s filled with people interested in photography and pro photographers.

Also, remember not to focus only on the buyer, the one who actually makes the decision of buying. Think about the people who have an influence on that buying decision. A clear example is toys. An adult is the one who pays for the toys, but it’s kids who say ”I want that!!! Buy it!”. Then you should be active where the kids are, and of course, not completely neglect the parents either. Or if you are selling something to the government or bigger organizations. The decision makers are important, but so are the assistants who actually scour through the options and present them to the decision maker.

Be realistic about your resources and what even is possible

Think of your resources and what makes sense. Even if your customers use ’all’ social media channels, you probably shouldn’t be in all of them. Unless your startup is strongly tied to social media, you just won’t have time. That’s coming both from personal experience and seeing what happens with startups. It’s better to focus on the most useful channel(s) and do them well than to do poorly on many channels. Doing social media well does require time and effort, so don’t spread yourself too thin.

Another thing to consider is what even is possible for you. For example, let’s say your customers use a lot of Instagram and quite a lot of Twitter. Instagram would then be an obvious choice. But for some companies, it might be harder to create good content on that platform. If you have a fashion brand, it is easy to take good photos that create value, something that makes people want to follow you. If you do IT consulting, not so. Then it is a safer bet to focus on the number 2, Twitter. Though of course, if you can actually figure out how to do Instagram super well, you will reach your customers where they are AND where your competition isn’t.

In short:

  1. Only be on the channels where your customers are
  2. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Start only with the most important channel(s). You can always take over more later.
  3. Create value. Just pushing your products and services will not work.

And that’s it for today! Do you have any learning about choosing the right channels? What worked, what didnät?

 

You might also be interested in: How to talk to your customers and build better products?

 

Posted by & filed under Marketing, Social Media, Startups.

So, you have realized that nowadays being social media is a must for your business. Awesome! But now you’re thinking: what should you post to get those paying customers? Or maybe you are already doing it but it’s not really working out. If so, it’s probably not social media but what you are posting. But fear not: this post is made just for you!

No matter how cool you think the bells and whistles of your product/service are, they are only worth the value they bring to the customer. And the same thing applies to social media marketing. But usually when businesses start doing social media they either just sell, sell and sell, and are the opposite of value. Or if they have realized that is not going to work, they share things like behind the scenes shots, selfies of themselves at a fair and so on. But the thing is: nobody cares. Not even your mother, if she’s really honest. And that’s the opposite of what you want to achieve. The whole point of social media marketing is to get people excited, eager to get their hands on whatever you are selling. So, how do you do that?

Stop being so pushy, it no longer works

Before the companies that put the most money on ads to sell sell sell were the most successful. But that just doesn’t work anymore. Marketing has moved from pushing products to everyone who has eyes & ears to pulling just the right people in with value. On social media, this is even more clear. There people have all the power to decide exactly what they want to see on their feeds. In fact, to see your posts, i.e. your marketing and sales efforts, they have to click follow. They need to decide they want to see you on their feeds. And they are not going to do that if you are just the annoying company who just sells themselves 24/7.

Think about it: what do you do when a commercial break comes between a tv program you are watching? Do you perk up and make sure you hear every word they are saying? Or do you go get snacks, take a toilet break etc – basically do everything you can to avoid seeing the ads? Let me take a wild guess: it’s the latter. So, why would anyone voluntarily want to get ads, something annoying, to their feed? Well, they don’t. Thus you shouldn’t be the commercial break, you should be the most exciting tv show people can’t get enough of. And you definitely should not spend your money and efforts on people that will never buy from you. Value is what brings the right kind of people in.

On social media people get to choose who they follow. Companies can’t just shout to sell anymore. Tweet about it!

How to create value and get customers?

”That sounds all nice and dandy Tiina, but how do you do that then?” you ask. Don’t worry, I got you covered. Value depends on the people you want to reach and also what your business is about. It is different for all companies and their customers.

Step 1: know your customers

While building your business you have already learned a quite much about them (if you haven’t, marketing is not going to be your biggest problem). The more you know the easier creating value and getting them as your customers is going to be. You need to know the basics, their age, gender and so on, but especially their interests, life & family situations, values and so on. Talking to straight your customers and potential customers is, of course, the best way. But also things like the persona exercise can be of great help in creating your customer profiles.

Step 2: Think how your business is related to those interests, worries, interests etc.

Let’s say you provide banking services. Then you shouldn’t give tips about house plants, no matter how interested your potential customers are in them. That would only grow your credibility as a plant expert, which has nothing to do with your business. Instead, you should talk about something that brings value AND is related to what you do. For example, if they want to buy a house someday, giving tips on different saving methods and related ‘how to’s would make sense. That is why it is crucial to know your customers; their interests and pain points. When they feel like not only do you know your stuff but also truly understand them, they are much more likely to actually become your customers.

What to post on social media

Post something that brings your customers value AND is related to your business. Tweet about it!

Should you then never post anything about yourself or sales material? No, as long as about 80% of the things you post are value, the rest can be more sales-y. And probably even should be. After you have grown your audience and your credibility in their eyes, you should give a bit of a push to translate all that into action. And posting customer reviews, interesting articles about yourself, etc. will help with that. Just don’t do it all the time; value first.

Why just buying ads doesn’t work on social media

A common question I get is: ”can’t we just bypass all this by just buying ads?” Of course, you can push your posts to people who don’t want to see them. But the thing is, by doing that you are quite likely just wasting money. The precious money that startups rarely have too much of. On most social media channels ads look just like any other post (the only difference usually is the small ”sponsored” marking). And you still have to create value with them.

But why? Even though advertisers are what bring the social media channels money, it is all about the users. If the users disappear because of annoying ads, the channels are going to die. No matter what the advertisers do. So, social media channels need to do all they can to please the users while getting revenues from the advertisers. And that is no easy task to please both. In fact, that’s often the number one reason new channels die; failing to monetize their business without losing the users.

The solution with many big channels have come up with is this: the more relevant and useful your ads are to the people you have targeted, the cheaper it is for you to advertise. And the more your ads are also shown. But if the users see your ads as irrelevant and annoying, the channels will stop showing them even if it means they won’t get as much revenue from you. The users are the most important thing for them. So again, it’s not so much about money but value.

The more valuable to your potential customers your ads on social media are, the better your money is spent. Tweet about it!

 

But ads do have their purpose, especially when you are trying to get more people to know about you. It is a great way of growing your visibility and using those fantastic targeting features. But you shouldn’t do it before you know what you are doing. Again, you don’t want to waste money on things people don’t care about. First, you need to see what kind of posts your customers are interested in and what really works. Is it videos, pictures, tips, what is it that they are interested in. Only when you have a clue about that, start using your money.

In short: create something that brings the viewer value. It can be useful information, laughter, beauty, whatever matches them and your business. And yes, even those behind-the-scenes photos I slightly mocked earlier, can be that. So, be informed and use your creativity! That’s how you get yourself into the eyes and hearts of your potential customers (i.e. your new customers ;)).

Thanks for reading! If you liked the post, remember to share!

 

You might also be interested in: How to talk to your customers and build better products?

Posted by & filed under Marketing, Product development, Social Media, Startups.

Social media is often recommended as THE thing to do for startups. But they usually forget to say why. Non-social media people often see the different social media channels just as places where people share silly things about their lives and random cat videos. And with that, they fail to understand what an amazing tool social media can be. That’s why I’m going to share with you 7 reasons social media is a must for startups.

One of the harsh truths of being a startup entrepreneur is that no matter how cool your idea is, that alone isn’t enough. Some entrepreneurs believe that as long as their solution is good the customers will just somehow appear. But that’s just not how it works (shocking, I know). It is not just once or twice when the much worse solution has taken over the market (take for example the case of VHS). You need to get your startup in the minds of the buyers, how else would they know that your product/service even exists? And as a startup, you have to do that without having the budget of a commercial giant. That is where social media comes in. But it is not only that! The benefits of social media start even much before you have even launched. Read on to find out how.

Just having a cool startup isn’t enough. Customers won’t just magically appear: you need to let them know you even exist! Tweet about it!

1. Reach the right people

For getting your startups into the eyes and hearts of people, social media is one of the best ways. That is because most social media channels have amazing targeting tools. That means you can get the content you want in front of the people that are most likely to be interested in it. That means you are not wasting your time and effort on people who have zero potential of being your customers.

The reason social media targeting so great is that it goes way beyond just age, gender and other basic things like that. Every now and then there are articles about how social media channels know everything about their users. And I mean everything. That is usually told as a gruesome horror story, but for marketers: that means paradise. The more you know about your customers and potential customers, the more precisely you are able to target them. Be it their interests, the languages they speak, where to go on a holiday and so on and so forth. And the best part is: you can do it all for a very low cost!

 

2. Get most bang for your buck

Social media gives you the most bang for your buck. In fact, you might not even have to spend a dime and can still get amazing results! Though usually, you have to put a little bit of money in, especially at the beginning. What is a little bit of money? Often people think that means thousands of euros, but that’s not true. You can get a lot done with couple hundred or even just tens of euros. Sounds too good to be true, huh?

Almost all social media channels make money on ads. But at the same time, ads are exactly what the users don’t want to see. At least if the ads are not relevant to them. Relevant posts and ads, on the other hand, usually bring value to the user. And happy users makes the social media channels happy and they want to encourage the advertisers to keep making their users happy. In short: the better you target your ads, the cheaper it is going to be. So, in the end it’s not about how much money you have, but how you use it. And thus social media levels the playing field with big corporations with endless marketing budgets.

Social media levels marketing for startups – no need for a big corporation’s marketing budget to reach amazing results. Tweet about it!

3. Differentiate and show how cool you really are

The competition is getting more and more heated pretty much no matter what industry you are in. Social media is a great way to differentiate yourself from your competitors. Show who you truly are. What are your values. And why you’re so cool in general. No matter how much we try to think we make our decisions rationally, it is still emotions that play a big role in it. People like to buy from companies that have authentic personalities, companies that just feel good. Social media is an excellent tool to show them exactly that.

Doing social media is also a great way to get positive news about you to the internet, so you don’t have to really on others’ posts (which by the way, might never come). Not only does it help your startup to get know, but when people actually search for you, there is already something good out there.

4. Bypass people’s mental adblockers

Over time we learn to be more and more suspicious about the information we see in ads. ”Of course they would say so, it’s their product. It just can’t be that good in reality”, we think. But in social media, your ads & other posts can look just like the posts your customers’ friends & the people they follow have posted. That again means their mental adblockers are off, and they are much more receptive to your awesomeness.

Another thing is that people go to social media to have fun. They are looking for something to entertain them, something to help them pass a bit of time. And if you do your social media stuff well, that something can easily be the posts (and even ads!) you make. That means your marketing and sales efforts are not seeing as a nuisance, but something they get value from. And that’s a huge difference to traditional advertising!

5. Provide A++ customer service & increase customer loyalty

Social media is a great way to provide A+ customer service. For example, Twitter & Facebook have become THE way to interact and get help quickly from companies (read this post for inspiration). By interacting with your customers and being social you are shedding the image of a faceless corporation and giving them a good feeling about you. And again: it’s all about the feel. When someone has gotten a good feeling about your company through for example talking with you on Facebook, they are much more likely to choose your product over your competitors.

It also pays off long term. Brands that are active on social media will have more loyal customers. Good feeling about you -> they are much more likely to keep buying from you.

Being active on social media – recipe for customer loyalty! Tweet about it!

Here is another kicker: social media can be an amazing help for you way before you even launch your startup!

6. Get people excited about you before you even launch

Most of the startups I have been working with assume they should start doing social media after they have launched their product/service. But that is completely not true! The best possible problem is having people get excited and ready to buy your product/service before its launch. Take for example Dropbox, who had hundreds of thousands of people on the waiting list (read more here), and thus much smoother start when they finally did launch. So, you should definitely start acing your social media game as soon as you can.

Another bonus is that you learn what works and what doesn’t for your startup and its customers. Especially if you are new in using social media for businesses, starting early gives you time to learn before its too late. Also, the same things don’t necessarily work for all businesses, so you should try and test what are the best ways to use the channels for you.

7. Understand your market better & adjust accordingly

When you engage with your potential customers on social media, you start to understand their needs better. You will see if your idea is really worth pursuing or if you should adjust it a bit, pivot, or just scrap it all together. As people talk about their lives and their interests quite freely on social media, you will also get to see a rare glimpse into their lives. And that again helps see how your solution would fit in there. You can do also a lot of great spy work on your competitors! ;)

 

Any important benefits I missed? There definitely are plenty more! Share in the comments or tweet @TiinaHaapanen or @nestholma. In my next post, I will go more in depth about how to actually rule in social media. See you there! :)