How Start-Ups Can Benefit from Social Networking

by The Online Project, September 21, 2010

Every startup has its own set of unique challenges, but one thing that most have in common is the difficulty of reaching out to a community and letting people know that they’re here and what they offer or do. 

social media

This article was contributed by The Online Project, Wamda team member. (http://www.theonlineproject.me)


According to the Small Business Opinion Poll:

– 52% believe having a social media presence is important for a company

– 59% of small businesses with a social media presence say it has provided value

– 16% of those polled have a business account (representing 4,752,000 based on SBA data)

– 49% say that their social media presence has produced advocates for their business

– 65% with a social media presence say they actively use it for promotion

Social media, as many companies have already discovered, can be a powerful marketing and enhancing your company when used correctly, specifically social networks can provide all the tools for getting started. More than simply tagging friends and gaining followers, Facebook, Twitter and just about every other social network can be used for keeping clients updated with news, offers, developments and just about every little detail you want them to know about. Realistically, the internet is still as huge as ever, but in theory, especially for social media and networking, it’s becoming smaller and smaller. We are all connected somehow; and these days, the potential of social networking is too huge to ignore. If you are focusing on starting a start up, social media and networking is a great tool for you. It’ll help you promote your name and market your brand, and an excellent way to reach millions of people on the same platform.

The first thing you have to keep in mind is that social networking is, essentially, a person-to-person interaction. Remember that you’re speaking as a person, not a company. It is important to find a “personal” voice and utilize it. For a new and maturing start up, this will be a great way to get that ‘one on one’, personal touch connection with your clients; as the new kid on the block, you want to make sure that your clients/customers know that you are listening and that you’re trying to, literally, befriend them. 

That personal voice will also help you in becoming a good listener; some companies require a little customer service when it comes to feedback from their clients – make sure you actually listen to them and take their comments seriously. It may be difficult to reply to each single comment or suggestion, but it’s well worth it. Remember to never leave automated or programmed responses. You’ll lose that initial one on one factor and the good listener status.

Another important consideration is the need to allow your social media policy time to evolve. Be flexible: if one thing doesn't work, don’t just shut the door on the idea – figure out why it didn’t work and think of an alternative instead. It won’t be easy to figure out what you want from the first try, so be prepared to make a few changes, listen to those you’re trying to engage, and figure out how you can make things work better.

Understanding your demographic audience is very crucial. It will vary from one company to the other of course, but you must get to know the needs, demands and styles of the people you’re interacting with. A sports goods store will have an entirely different demographic than that of an art gallery, for example. Getting to know the wants and needs of your audience will make it much easier for smooth and easy interactions and conversations. And remember that your followers/friends/connectors always have a choice – if they are a consumer in your target market, what’s in it for them? Why should they follow/connect/friend you? You have to remember to offer them something interesting, exciting and valuable.

It’s vital you monitor and measure the traffic on your social media platforms; social media ROI (return on investment) will be very helpful when it comes to measuring traffic and gauging what worked and what needs tweaking. Research suggests that the conversation (comments on your content) is the best measure of a level of engagement.

In a nutshell, it’s all about customer development. When you figure out who needs your product, what they need it for and why, and what defines a satisfying use of that product or service, social networking can be a powerful tool to get your message across. And when you seed a core audience that is passionate about what you’re doing, they can help grow the community for you at virtually no cost, it is a great medium for budgeting and start ups on a shoestring.

What can be better than free marketing and advertising? Another added plus that social networking provides for star ups is the use of work of mouth marketing. You will depend on many of your trusted online network of contacts. These contacts, in turn, will share their views, ideas, views and opinions about your start up. And again, this equals free marketing and advertising. Social networking enables you to expand your personal networks into businesses ones, and serves as a broadcaster for those who are interested.

 
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