In today’s digital marketing world, social media is table stakes. It is used because everyone else is apparently using it. Truth be told, the decision to leverage social media often has little to do with achieving goals.
The enthusiastic embrace of social media includes early stage startups that believe a social media presence is important. As a default, startups embrace Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube. Often, they are also using Pinterest, Tumblr and Slideshare.
But does it really make sense for startups to use social media given the valuable resources consumed?
It’s a question startups need to explore because resources are scarce. Can social media drive enough growth when time and money could be invested in product, sales or other marketing activities?
Many startups use social media because not using it seems wrong. But I think going against the grain makes sense because startups have so many competing priorities, which includes attracting customers. In the scheme of things, social media ranks down the list compared with other sales and marketing activities.
So what should early stage startups do about social media? Use it anyway? Ignore it? In many ways, it comes down to some basics:
1. Marketplace. Who are your customers? Where do they get information and content?
2. Priorities: What are your most important sales and marketing goals?
3. Resources: How many people, money and time do you have?
4. Goals: What do you want to achieve? What would symbolize success?
A startup must explore each question when creating a plan for social media. It needs to surface realistic answers to make the right decisions. It is difficult given social media’s popularity, but it is an important process. Putting time, money and people into social media is a startup killer if other areas don’t get enough attention.
Don’t get me wrong, social media provides benefits and value for startups that are well positioned to capitalize on it. There are many reasons why social media makes sense.
At the same time, there are probably lots of startups that are better off having a minimal social media presence (e.g. Twitter or Facebook), or not using social media other than a static presence to protect their digital real estate.
Whether a startup has a minimal or vibrant social media presence, they should do it as well as possible rather than going through the motions. Being bad on social media damages a startup’s credibility and prospects.
As important is deciding how to drive social media. Someone internally can do it if they have the interest and cycles, or someone can be hired on a part-time or contract basis. This is an option until there is enough work and a budget to justify hiring a community manager on a full-time basis.
Bottom line: Before jumping on the social media bandwagon, it is important for startups to scrutinize why they want to use social media and their goals. It is a process that takes time and effort but it is a healthy process to make the right decision.
For startups looking to jump-start their marketing, I provide strategic and tactical services – core messaging, brand positioning, marketing strategies and content creation.