Social Media – Start-up Businesses’ Secret WeaponKenneth Nel
The UK is a great place to start a business. And I’m not just saying that because I live here and am therefore possibly a tad biased. Both of which, are, of course, true! But this time, my bias is actually backed up by hard and fast research! Forbes recently rated the UK the fifth best country in the entire world to start a business. (And the entire world, at the most recent count, was sitting at 195 countries, so fifth place is pretty awesome!) Here’s another fantastic little factoid for you: The UK has 42 million active social media users. That’s nearly three-quarters of our population! Do you see where I’m going with this? Imagine the possibilities of combining the UK’s 660 000 annual start-up businesses with the virtually limitless power of social media? Start-ups, you might be small, but it’s time to think big!
Yes, it’s almost the end of the year, and the main focus of your thoughts may well be on how on earth you’re going to survive the festive season with the entire fam. Including, of course, strange Uncle Tony, who isn’t really anyone’s uncle but nevertheless still pitches up for Christmas lunch every year, having somehow adopted your family 10 years previously.
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I get that this is a problem worthy of a significant amount of brainpower. However, if you have a start-up, you should really be focusing your attention on how you’re going to make the voice of your humble business heard amid the shouting of all the industry giants. With their ooh-look-at-me-I’m-so-awesome marketing budgets, and their intimidating 42-page e-commerce websites.
Never fear, social media is here!! It’s the great playing-field leveller of the digital marketing world, and your start-up business should be grabbing it with both hands. Social Media + Start-Up = 100%!
Social Media: Start Up Marketing’s Life-Saver!
Over 95% of all private sector companies in the UK are defined as “micro” businesses. This means they are small businesses with a maximum of nine employees. So, it’s obvious that this is a great place to start a business. Sadly, however, we don’t have the best track record when it comes to those companies’ long-term survival. In fact, more than half of all new businesses in the UK fail within the first five years.
A recent article in The Guardian cited of the reasons for this high failure rate as “lack of action,” saying that “creative avoidance” is a common trait in entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs do tend to be fantastic at turning good ideas into actual companies, but actually getting to know their potential customers and building their business isn’t always one of their strong suits.
Sometimes, the hardest part of starting a new company isn’t actually creating the product or service, it’s telling people about it! What is it? What does it do? And why should anyone care?
So many start-ups struggle with how to create a brand identity, and they have no idea how to properly market their product or service. This is a key contributing factor to why so many of them fail.
This is where social media comes to the rescue!
The Importance Of Social Media Marketing For Start-Ups
Before diving head first into this, it’s important to have a bit of an understanding of the importance of marketing in general. So, please bear with me a moment while I delve into the inner recesses of my brain to bring you A Brief History of Marketing. But do not be alarmed, dear reader! Unlike Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time,” which spanned 256 pages, this brief history really will be brief!
You see, marketing in some form or other has actually been around pretty much as long as we have. The very walls of Pompeii, for example, boast such gems of ancient marketing wisdom as “Scaurus’s best garum, mackerel-based, from Scaurus’s manufacturers.” Although obviously not in English! That was just a handy translation for all your folks who don’t speak Latin!
My point is this:
Even in 79AD, those canny ancient Romans knew the importance of drawing people’s attention to something in the hope that they’d buy it. Although, garum was actually a type of fermented fish stew, so they really had their work cut out for them!
Be that as it may, marketing’s roots go deep.
A Victim Of Its Own Success
Fast forward just a tad to the 15th Century (I told you this really is a brief history!) and Johannes Gutenberg invents the printing press. All of a sudden, it was possible to produce printed commercial ads in large numbers for widespread distribution. But even in those early days, when everyone was all googly-eyed at ol’ Jo’s nifty new invention, having advertising continually shoved in your face got very old, very quickly.
Well-known English writer Samuel Jonson said, way back in 1759, “Whatever is common is despised. Advertisements are now so numerous that they are very negligently perused, and it has therefore become necessary to gain attention by magnificence of promises.”
And there’s the rub:
Our noble Pound may be the strongest currency in the world, but when it comes to effectively promoting your product or service, attention is the only currency that matters.
Which is exactly why social media marketing is such a winner!
How Social Media Can Scale Up Your Start-up
As marketers in modern times, we find ourselves in a unique historical position: We have countless tools at our fingertips to help us work out the best approach for our clients’ brands, based on their profiles. We can use this information to build marketing campaigns that pack a powerful punch! And when it comes to start-ups, social media packs the biggest punch of all!
Social media acts as an interactive platform between your product or service and your customers. A report by LinkedIn says 93% of shoppers’ buying decisions are influenced by social media, because 90% trust peer recommendations. But only 14% trust advertisements. Yet only 26% of companies integrate social media fully into their business strategies! What, I ask you, with tears in my baby blues, is that all about? With 93% of buying decisions influenced by social media, why are 100% of businesses not using it to promote themselves? Social media marketing not only produces fantastic results, but it also costs considerably less per conversion than traditional marketing methods. So, even as a fledgling start-up, social media lets you compete with the big scary giants.
Social media lets you connect with your customers on an intimate level, spreading brand awareness of your brand and building brand authority. It lets you create valuable and, more importantly, unique concepts that come specifically from you – NOT your competitors. This apparent exclusivity is like a magnet to your audience – especially if you’re giving away insights and useful information for free.
Choosing Your Channel
Of course, there are a lot of social media channels out there. But it’s simply not practical, feasible or actually even necessary, to try and market yourself through all of them. So, when it comes to choosing your channels, it’s important to define who you’re trying to engage with. Different groups have different demographics and, therefore, different social media habits and preferences.
Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are huge. They have a large chunk of the whole world’s active internet users sewn up, so it’s definitely worth having a presence there. But it’s also worth investigating other, more up and coming channels. Instagram, for example, is gaining huge popularity amongst start-ups and SME’s. This is largely because of its visual emphasis, and many opportunities for engagement.
However, the overriding problem for many entrepreneurs and start-ups is finding the time for social media. Start-ups often only have one or two employees, and the myriad tasks associated with running a small business take up much of their day. Trying to then tackle social media marketing for their business just seems like one job too many.
Ryan Holmes, CEO of social media management platform Hootsuite, says, “It’s amazing how many senior executives, CEOs and decision makers still remain confused about what social media does and how it can contribute to a business. Not incorporating Twitter, Facebook and other social channels into your strategy is roughly the equivalent of insisting the web was just a fad a decade or so ago: backward-looking, blinkered and above all, a serious business liability.”
Key Benefits of Social Media For Your Start-Up
- Cheap and Cheerful – Social media is cost-effective, and there’s no real risk or commitment. You can spend £10 a day for a couple of weeks and see what kinds of results you get. If you get it right, you have the potential to reach thousands or millions of a highly targeted audience cheaply, and within a short space of time.
- Educate and Empower – sharing educational, informational posts help enhance your brand identity among your online community. Useful, relevant and free information shared regularly and willingly build credibility and trust.
- Engage and Entertain – social media is the perfect platform for encouraging two-way communication with your customers. Ask questions, conduct surveys and respond to queries, complaints and compliments.
- Facilitate Feedback – social media gives you a number of ways to reach your customers. It also, as importantly, gives them a way to reach you back. They can, for example, leave a review on your business’ Facebook page as soon as they’ve finished dealing with your company. This gives you invaluable information and insight into how you could improve. It also validates those initiatives that are proving successful.
How Would You Like To Be A Facebook Rock Star ?
Facebook has over two billion active users, making it the world’s largest social media platform. And it’s getting bigger all the time, with an additional 20 million users signing up every month! So, when it comes to using social media for your start-up, it’s safe to say you can’t afford to ignore this particular channel!
Off course, knowing that you need to use it is very different from knowing how to use it.
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