Starting a company nowadays and building a brand name is much easier than it was in pre-Internet or social media era. Imagine how difficult must have been for an aspiring entrepreneur to promote her business, raise awareness and build brand recognition in the 1970s or 1980s. Conventional marketing we practically don’t think of or care about was the only way to promote a business and raise market awareness. Considering that conventional marketing means shitload of money and hard to quantify ROI, it was a luxury most early entrepreneurs couldn’t afford.
Luckily for us, starting a business in this time and age is relatively easy. Truth be told, despite various alternatives to conventional marketing that came into being since 70s and 80s, promoting a business and building a brand recognition continues to be a challenge. The reason is simple, the world has become extremely noisy place where standing out and attracting attention requires ingenuity, creativity and some serious growth hacking skills.
Growth hacking is up and coming phenomenon entrepreneurs are adopting quite keenly and using it to achieve the scale and grab much needed attention of their niche audience. Growth hacking in simplest terms means exploring unconventional marketing methods and channels in promoting a business, usually very inexpensively.
With advancement and proliferation of social media i.e., Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. coupled with growth hacking, a conventional marketing has taken the back seat and is seldom primary choice to promote a business nowadays. Instead, today’s entrepreneurs try to leverage existing social media and growth hacking techniques to achieve the overall business objectives.
While everyone talks about leveraging social media for the attainment of business goals, not everyone does it the right way. There’s a certain science to it that needs to be followed if it is to truly yield expected results. Posting randomly promotional posts on your Facebook or LinkedIn page isn’t going to cut it, in fact it could have quite the opposite effect and repel the target audience.
So what can you do and how to go about it?
1. Set up your social media hubs
Set up your social media hubs, ideally 12 to 18 months ahead of your expected or planned launch date. Social media hubs are essentially your standalone yet interconnected social media communities of people who are passionate about or interested in the same topics e.g. freelancing, entrepreneurship, startups etc.
Start off small and grow each community as big as you possibly can by sharing valuable and relevant content on regular basis. Keep in mind that all your social media hubs should be linking back to your main page e.g. social media platform, e-commerce website, e-learning portal etc. whatever it is that you are trying to promote and raise awareness of.
Engage your audience – each community member – by responding to their posts/comments and offering viable solution to their issues and queries. Be supportive, valuable, positive and consistent – also, whatever you do, don’t over do it or be salesy as it could lead to resentment, for people hate insincerity and spamming.
Selecting the most adequate social media outlets for your hubs is of utmost importance and greatly dependent on your business industry and target audience you’re trying to reach and cater to. Below are some of the most common social media outlets to consider for your hubs.
Start a blog that’s focused on your industry. Write and share valuable content on regular basis and entice your audience to engage via comments or direct email messages. Over time, do whatever necessary to become an expert and authority in your chosen industry, someone whom others would look up to and ultimately follow. Building enviable number of followers through blog is something that takes time, months if not years but in the end it is well worth it, so stay focused and consistent.
Set up your company Facebook page and make it as compelling as possible. Invite your friends to like your newly created company page and start posting valuable and relevant content daily. While Facebook is one of the main go-to social media sources for building a qualified pipeline of prospects, it’s not necessarily the most organic so to speak. In other words, to attract truly qualified prospects to like your page and ultimately visit your website in hope to sign up for your service or a product, you’ll have to spend a little bit of money via Facebook’s paid advertising campaigns.
What’s good about Facebook paid advertising campaigns is that you can have a great return on investment (ROI) if you’ve done your due diligence and truly know your target audience. You can design each of your Facebook campaigns to target certain countries, cities, demographics etc. all of which gives you a tremendous flexibility and control.
What’s really annoying about Facebook is that once you’ve managed to attract several thousands of followers/likes, Facebook deploys its vicious algorithms which prevents your free posts from being visible by north of 85% of your total followers. Such algorithms at play are most notable when your posts include a URL link to another website or a blog.
If you want to build a serious social media presence for your business, you’ve got to have the Twitter account, more importantly you ought to know how to master it and use it to your advantage.
Perhaps you fall in the group of people who don’t think much – if anything – of Twitter. I too am guilty of if for until last year, I thought of Twitter to be one of the most narcissistic, dumbest and useless social media platforms. Needless to say, my opinion has since changed and I’ve started taking Twitter much more seriously.
So, to avoid my mistake and of many others, setup your personal and business Twitter account respectively. Ideally, as a startup founder, co-founder, etc. you’ll have to have both accounts and build followers on both simultaneously over a long period of time. Twitter is one of the most demanding and hardest platforms to grow followers organically, so be persistent and patient.
Assuming you already have LinkedIn account with hundreds if not thousands of connections attached to it, as a Co-Founder you’ll have to create company page and invite all of your existing connections to follow it. The idea behind LinkedIn company page is to raise awareness of your business by sharing valuable and relevant content which your followers can digest and benefit from. Again, similar to other social media platforms, don’t be spamming your followers and never come across as salesy for it could backfire.
6. Partner Ecosystem
Build a strategic partner ecosystem comprising bloggers, journalists, reporters and business owners from your industry. Remember, for partnership of any kind – let along strategic – to work, all parties involved must benefit hence, no party should be on the losing end. So before you reach out to potential partners, make sure you figure out the win-win business model that’s compelling enough for them to team up.
The importance of partner ecosystem can’t be overemphasized as in addition to being one of the best ways to promote a business and raise awareness, it’s also economically most viable, if approached the right way.