Making Social Media Work for Your Startup

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Social media has become an attractive marketing option for startups because it offers a wide range of free opportunities — but what many entrepreneurs forget is that executing a social media marketing plan is far from foolproof. It’s one thing to create accounts for your startup on Facebook and Twitter, but unless you carefully leverage the power of these sites, you can end up burning a lot of precious time without any real benefit.

Social media marketing is successful when it turns strangers into followers and followers into customers. Here are some creative marketing strategies that can help you make social media work for your startup:

Virtual giveaways have become staples on Facebook and other social media sites, allowing brands to connect with potential customers. You can provide a limited-time discount coupon for people who like your Facebook page or become your Twitter follower. You can also sponsor contests that award larger prizes to a small number of followers. Your marketing campaign has viral potential when your coupon or contest announcement appears in your followers’ feeds.

Demo videos that provide valuable information are another great way to connect with potential customers. You can post videos on YouTube or Facebook and include a link back to your product website. Attract viewers by focusing your videos on education and entertainment rather than using them solely to market your brand. Useful “How To” videos are great for engaging viewers and raising their awareness of your business.

Valuable content is still one of the best tools for attracting potential customers. Whether you post articles on your product website or create guest posts on other websites, content will bring you search engine recognition. Focus your content on topics that are related to your startup and use your social media accounts to share it. You can also share valuable content from other websites, adding a useful or entertaining comment.

A friendly persona is a social media must. If you want to use social media marketing to create buzz about your product or services, you must put a human face on your campaign. Establish a social media persona that uses elements of your own personality in a genuine way but at the same time only exposes aspects of your life that are relevant to your startup. Before you come up with a persona that will work for your customers, you’ll need to figure out exactly who your potential customers are; once you know that, you can decide if they’ll respond to the guy or girl next door — or something a little edgier.

Novice social media marketers often make the mistake of spreading themselves too thin. If you’re just getting started with social media marketing, focus on a single social media platform. Decide in advance exactly how much time you’ll spend each day on your primary social platform and stick to it. As important as marketing your startup is, you need to channel most of your energy into actually running your startup. Once you begin to see some results from your primary platform, you can decide if you want to branch out to other social platforms.

Melissa Woodson is the community manager for @WashULaw, a premierMastersinLaw for foreign attorneys offered through Washington University in St. Louis. In her spare time, she enjoys running, cooking, and making half-baked attempts at training her dog.

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