Social media is free and ubiquitous, and offers entrepreneurs an unprecedented marketing opportunity. Guy Kawasaki, in his new book The Art of the Start 2.0, calls it the best thing that ever happened to entrepreneurs, and offers practical insights on using it effectively.
Here is a summary of his tips from Chapter 9, The Art of Socializing:
- Draft a Plan and Use an Editorial Calendar: A months-long planning project is a waste of time and agencies are a waste of money (for most startups), but you should have some kind of battle plan before you begin. Write down who you’re trying to influence and what kind of things that audience might want to read about, and then share posts that fit these criteria. Creating an editorial calendar can help you keep an eye on the long game by planning seasonal posts/content that works with the yearly cycle of your industry (such as tax season for accountants or back to school months for industries that sell to students or teachers).
- Your plan and calendar should guide your posts, not script them. Part of a successful social media campaign is spontaneity and authenticity, both of which will be compromised if your approach is too contrived.
Check out the Channels and Perfect Your Profiles: You may already have a sense of who and what to expect on the main social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, but a quick Google search will give you demographics details on each channel (and probably introduce you to a few you hadn’t heard of). Kawasaki recommends posting regularly to Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube. Daunting as that may sound, there are a number of platforms that can help you cross-channel post in less time than you might think
- Optimize your social media profiles so that people get the gist of your company and a positive first impression with only a cursory scan. No one studies social media profiles in detail so you only have a few moments to show potential followers something that piques their interest and makes them want to click “follow.” Include your company logo as the avatar (the small picture) and a dazzling, moving, or otherwise engaging photo for your banner or cover image (the larger one). In the tagline section, craft a brief mantra, and also complete any profile sections with company info without droning on about mission statements.
- Create Shareable Content; Share it Like a Pro: Sharing is the most important action a follower can take with your social media content. Likes are great, but shares show that you’ve hit a deeper nerve – so deep that the follower wants to essentially recommend you and your content to their own followers. Sharable content adds value to people’s lives. They want to share it with others because it’s done something for them; usually, it falls within the categories of Information, Analysis, Assistance, or Entertainment.
- With every piece of content, draft an accompanying post that is brief, timely, and easy to follow/read. Every post you share should contain some kind of visual, even if it’s just a stock image, and include one or two #hashtags that are germane to the topic. Most importantly, track metrics for every post across every channel to help you spot trends and improve the relevance of your posts.
- Feed the Content Machine: Your social channels need daily posts. Some, like Twitter, work best if you post multiple times daily. Feeding your channels with fresh content is the most challenging part of social media, but you can make it a little easier by curating content. Kawasaki suggests finding sharable content by using curation and aggregation services; sharing content that’s already trending; finding good content in your lists, groups, or circles; and sharing user-generated content.
- Respond to Negative Comments: Social media can be a wonderful and fulfilling way to connect with fans of your brand, but it is also a forum for airing complaints and criticism. Keep an eye open for mentions of your brand so you can respond quickly. Be sure to consider the audience and forum when writing your response. As is often the case when you encounter challenging people, it behooves you to take the high road. Stay positive, assume the best (unless/until you’re proven wrong), and if you can’t get on the same page, agree to disagree. Don’t let yourself become embroiled in a circular and senseless debate, and don’t be afraid to delete, block, and/or report trolls and spammers when necessary.
Like so many other aspects of entrepreneurship, social media is really mastered through trial and error. Keep track of your metrics to see what’s resonating with your audience, and don’t be afraid to be authentic or to take a few risks. Most companies too narrowly define the kind of content they think will pique their audience’s interest.