By Alexandra Reid
So many startups fail because they adopt a “build it and they will come” mentality and neglect to define the market opportunity for their products. Indeed, the findings of two studies into the factors that contributed to the demise of 50 startups ranked high issues related to market research and customer engagement among the reasons for startup failure.
As a community manager, I can’t help but draw parallels between these reasons for startup failure and the reasons they also fail at social media. I’ve seen and read about many startups that build social media accounts and then sit back and wait for their communities to build themselves. Sure, this method may work for well-established brands like Coca Cola and Disney that have developed loyal communities outside their online accounts. But for developing startups, waiting for a community to build itself is, quite frankly, wishful thinking and a waste of valuable time and opportunity.
Through social media, startups can engage existing and prospective customers, build credibility by establishing thought leadership, boost their online presence, research their markets, build SEO and even court the interest of Angel investors. However, like the process of bringing technology to market, social media requires research and engagement. And this is no short-term, passive task to be thrown on some unsuspecting intern. You can pave a path to your social media account and line it with bright lights and people still won’t follow unless they know they will receive something valuable when they arrive.
Building value with social media: what you need to give
When you bring a product to market, you are directly competing with the other businesses in your space that produce products that solve comparable needs. What you build is either an improvement of an existing product or something that solves a need in a whole new way. In either case, you are bringing something outstanding to the table that outshines the competition. The same is true on social media. Instead of joining the chorus of businesses shouting about themselves, provide your community with something more valuable and win the social media market share.
Social media beats out call centres for customer service because of its amplification. You can share a solution with everyone who has the same question on a platform instead of addressing each individual separately. It is, therefore, also much more cost effective for a startup budget. Social media enables instant communications with customers and prospects so that issues can be addressed as soon as they occur. I suggest you read this post, written by Dave Fleet, on the subject of social media crisis communications for more information.
Helpful information about your marketplace
Promising startups keep on top of the daily happenings in their marketplace. Reading articles on major news sites, trade publications and blogs each morning is a good way to stay informed. In addition, social media acts as a deep resource for current and relevant information in your industry, with commentary to boot! Instead of hoarding all this information for yourself, share content that indirectly adds value to your market with your community through your social media accounts. This will attract a community and maintain their engagement for the long haul.
Constantly monitor your social networks for people in need of help. TweetDeck and Hootsuite make this easy by allowing you to create streams that follow keywords. Spend a little time in the mornings reading through your streams and advising people in need. Reaching out to people with free support shows your community that you are listening and care. You are also communicating directly with prospects, which subtly nudges them to engage in business with you. This need not take a lot of time — perhaps only 30 minutes to an hour each day — and the payoff will make it all worthwhile.
What you get
Engaging a community through social media is a great opportunity for startups that should not be underestimated. As in any relationship, you get back what you give. The more time you spend reaching out and engaging prospects, the bigger your community grows, which enables more businesses opportunities to present themselves. Business opportunities are not limited to prospects but also include relationships with angel investors and other businesses that could take interest in your product or service. Lots of startups are able to engage through social media themselves, but many also require assistance. If you are one of those that needs guidance and support through this process, we’re here for you. We welcome you to ask your questions here, or contact us directly through whatever channel you prefer, whether that’s social media, email, telephone or Skype.
That being said, have you any questions about engaging a community through social media? How are you currently fairing through this process? It’s a tough grind, but let me assure you, it’s most certainly worth it.
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