Today's buzz word, "social media", can be a powerful and cost effective tool for current and prospect entrepreneurs to create a community, build new connections and grow their brands.
But yet I find this new channel of inbound communication is still highly under-utilized.
Many entrepreneurs want to be more active on social media, but they tend to struggle with how to get started and define a voice of their own. They also often ask me "What should I talk about?"
Here are some actionable tips to help you build momentum no matter where you are in the social media spectrum. But to get results, your strategy will need to be focused and consistent, just like your new business.
1) Define your brand's voice: Your start-up will become an extension of your professional brand, which defines who you are. Unless your brand is you (e.g. athlete, consultant etc.), I recommend setting up separate social media channels for yourself and your company. That way, as you get involved in other projects, you can keep the conversation relevant. And, multiple co-founders can share the same company account while leveraging their respective networks. Write down three traits that define you; for instance, friendly, positive, and persistent. These characteristics will form your uniqueness, and while you need to remain human and real, make a conscious effort to remember who you are and how you come across. Being consistent also means keeping these traits alive when you meet someone, in person.
2) Don't spread your channels too thin: You may feel overwhelmed by the growing number of social networks - which one(s) should you be on? Should you be on all of them? Definitely not. It's best to have one or two primary channels you can manage and grow, than many you cannot keep up with. Assuming you already have a LinkedIn account (if not, this is your first step!) then make sure it is up to date and reflects your latest projects. Every social network has a slightly different use. While LinkedIn may be good to build credibility and generate leads, Twitter is great for conversations. In other words, you need to think about what social network makes sense for your purpose. To make it easier for people to recognize you, use the same (recent) photo as your avatar across your social networks.
3) Populate your ecosystem circles: The figure below can help you think about your ecosystem; i.e., people you should be talking to. Then, use your entrepreneurial talent to find them and add to your online circles, like on Google+. On LinkedIn, join industry groups; follow companies, and key influencers. On Twitter, organize your following by lists. Keep on updating your lists and circles.
4) Listen, and then post content your ecosystem will care about
I am a big fan of the 80:20 rule - in social media, this means listening in and engaging 80% of the time, and being self promotional in the last 20%. If you're starting up and unsure of what to post; you can simply re-share and interact with your ecosystem's content. For instance, if one of your influencers posts a question, you can respond to it. You can also share industry news. When you are ready to broadcast your own, make it count - there is just too much noise out there!
5) Set realistic goals for every channel and re-assess
This can include growth in followers, interactions (e.g. likes) etc. Not sure what is 'realistic' for you? Take a look at how others are doing (over a set period) and use as a benchmark. What matters here is that you are learning and growing. But remember, you need to put in the time to see results.
By having a good online presence as a founder, you will not only help to promote your business, but also build valuable knowledge for its future growth.
Now, it's your turn - what techniques have you used as an entrepreneur to build your online presence? How did it help your business?