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Make social media work for your start up

10 Apr 2012

You’ve set up a Facebook page, you can tweet with the best of them, and you’ve circled and linked to all your colleagues, clients, and competitors. 

But you’re still not sure if social media is helping your business - or your sanity.  

According to international author and trainer, Pam Moore, you’re not alone. It’s not easy becoming a ‘social business’. It takes time and effort and because social media is still evolving and new platforms are popping up like proverbial mushrooms, it can be a challenge. So stop worrying about your sanity, you're not alone.

It’s not, however, impossible.  All you need is a little clarity around what you want to achieve and a few tips on how to get there. 

1.  Know your audience

As obvious as it sounds, it’s amazing how many businesses (and not just Start Ups) forget this basic piece of advice. Do some homework and find out where your audience is online. Younger audiences tend to use Facebook, professionals generally congregate on LinkedIn. 

Find out where your audience is. How? Ask - ask your colleagues, your employees, your clients. It really is that simple.

Once you know where they are - figure out what they want. The better you know them, the better you can fill that need.

2.  Engage with your audience

It’s not enough to simply post links to your website, products, or services. Social media is about connecting people with people, so you need to engage.  

Twitter is a great spot for responding to bouquets and bricks; being publicly responsible and accountable on Twitter has proved very successful for many companies. 

If your clients prefer Facebook, you need to be proactive, consistent and visible. Facebook is great for competitions and giveaways - but be sure to follow the Facebook guidelines or you will find your account shut down smartly. 

LinkedIn is ideal for getting some dialogue between like minded professionals going - and for judging what others in your field might be doing. 

If your business is able to offer an interactive experience, such as chatting with an expert, why not try a live hang out on Google+.

Most importantly though, remember you can’t control the conversation, nor should you. But you can be part of that conversation and the best way to make that work for you is to be authentic and sincere.

3.  Focus on value

Social media should be seen as a value add - for your business and your clients. 

Clients should be able to visit your pages, profiles, or circles and come away with a good experience. They won’t share, like, or link if there was nothing of value for them in it. Value does not always have to be in the form of prizes either. It can be as simple as answering a question or offering advice. 

Since you want to grow your profile and your business with social media, you also need to get value. If your social media campaign is not providing what you wanted, revisit it. 

4.  It's not a magic bullet

For most companies, social media makes up part of a wider marketing mix. As such you need to be looking closely at your business and being realistic about it. Do not expect any social media platform to deliver overnight results that will cure problems caused by a lack of business plan, poor budgeting or a poorly performing team. 

Be realistic and prepare a consistent and long term plan for social media success that is part of your wider business plans and goals.

5.  The best social media plan is the one that works for your business.

Pam Moore repeats this on almost every page of her website -and she’s right. 

While there are guidelines for social media, the truth is there is no one size fits all solution. What works for one company may not work for another. If a campaign isn’t working, try something new. Look at your audience, look at your business, look at your goals and build your social media plan around those things and not around what everyone else thinks you should do. 

By all means, get some social media support from a specialist but be sure they understand your business and your goals before you sign them up.