Social media is the most effective marketing tool that has ever existed for small businesses and startups looking to reach new audiences. This opportunity has paved the way for entrepreneurs and new businesses to compete online with larger brands and celebrities for our attention. The key to building a large social media audience from scratch is to engage people with interesting and relevant content.
In the age of viral media, create and share awesome content to get noticed.
What’s in a Name?
The very first thing you need to do is pick a name for your brand or business. A good name can help establish your brand and potentially get more organic traffic from search engines. Choosing a name these days has several considerations in the online world. Come up with a list of 10-50 name ideas that are related to your business. These could be keyword oriented or exploring loose new terms. Use the Google Keyword Tool in Adwords to estimate the potential traffic different keywords could generate. While doing so, you should be checking to see if those site names are available on the web as a .com or .net. The next criteria is to see if those names are also available on Twitter and Facebook.
One quick way of doing that is to check the following web addresses (inserting your target name):
Now you don’t have to have match the names exactly everywhere since so many have already been taken, but it does makes the brand stronger and people always know where to find you. Once you have your final list of potential business names, tap into social media right from the beginning and poll your friends on which names they like best. You can ask it as a question on one of your personal Facebook, Twitter or Google+ accounts. After polling some of my friends on Facebook, I got positive feedback on the name DashBurst. A social media dashboard, evoking an eruption of possibilities and options. And burst referring to a transmission of data or info, hence the term DashBurst. After locking up your name on the web and social media, your journey is now ready to begin!
Choose the right blogging platform for your business
After you’ve picked a name for your company, you need to select a web host and blogging platform to manage the content of your website. There are several options to consider which boil down to free vs. paid hosting, and how much control and ownership you want over your website. Here are a few options to consider:
Tumblr is a free blogging platform and social network community where users can follow other users (or blogs). There are many themes available to customize the style of your blog. By default Tumblr will assign you a subdomain based on your username, for example ours was originally dashburst.tumblr.com. Tumblr will also allow you to use a custom domain name instead which can make your site look more professional, like yoursitename.com. The disadvantage of using Tumblr as the host of your main website is that you don’t have full control and ownership of your site which could be at the whim of Tumblr administrators who reserve the right to remove any of your content and ban your account. Tumblr is a viral social network though beyond being a blogging platform and should be included in your social media strategy one way or another.
WordPress is the largest self-hosted blogging platform in the world and can be used to create beautiful custom websites. WordPress is an open source project built by hundreds of community volunteers with a ton of support and documentation. To use WordPress, you need a web host who meets the minimum requirements and a little time or money to develop the site. Even with no programming knowledge there are tons of free and paid themes available for you to use, plus most web design firms work with WordPress. Using a WordPress hosted site has the advantage of completely owning your content and site, and there are a ton of awesome WordPress plugins available that can enhance your website. Also if you have a self-hosted blog you can use Tumblr as well just like any other social network to share article links, giving you the best of both worlds!
Another option is WordPress.com which lets you quickly get started with a new and free WordPress-based blog, but it has several limitations and is far less flexible than a self-hosted WordPress blog.
Getting Started on Social Media
Now that you’ve selected your website host and content management system, you’re ready to get started on social media! Your website is the final destination for your articles, products and business services where social media provides multiple channel for you to distribute that content. But remember people want to see interesting content first and foremost, you should consider the 90/10 rule of marketing where 90% of your content distributed is value-based information with just 10% being sales-based. But going beyond that, you should make a strategy for each social network that includes answering the following questions:
1) What type of content and media should you post?
This depends on your type of business. Do you have a lot of interesting articles to post in your niche? If not, consider curating content from relevant sources in your industry to help grow your audience. Social media is powered by sharing. This is the first article ever published on DashBurst, yet we’ve been able to amass over 100,000 followers on Twitter and expand our community reach by continually sharing interesting content from other top sources.
2) How often and when should you post?
Each social network has it’s own best practices for timing of posts and frequency that need to be considered separately based on your target audience demographic and topics of interest. For example if your starting a blog about finance, posting during market hours would be most effective. Generally people post more frequently on Twitter than Facebook, but again it really comes down to your type of content. Are you a brand posting promotional (boring) items? Or a media outlet engaging people with breaking news? The type and quality of your content should help determine an optimal posting frequency.
This study by Social Bakers illustrates the average number of posts per day by brands compared to media:
Facebook is the largest social network in the world and you definitely want to build your startup’s presence there with a Facebook business page. Facebook also gives you plenty of ways to promote your posts and advertise on their platform. The greatest challenge for startups on Facebook is building that initial user base of 1000 or so likes. Consider some creative methods to attract a new audience which could include running fan contests, giveaways and other special promotions. Another strategy that works well is to use Facebook as a landing page for posts on other social networks. For example, post an awesome picture on your Facebook page and send a tweet link out to it on Twitter. Yes some people may be annoyed by the cross posting, but you’ll gain more fans than you lose and the true nature of the content will ultimately determine their happiness. Getting your Facebook page to take off can be a challenge as lots of businesses are jockeying for position in Facebook’s tricky Edgerank algorithm which determines what content users see. Facebook is a very visual oriented network too where photos tend to see higher engagement compared to regular article links.
Twitter is a micro-blogging social network that can provide your business a ton of referral traffic! Twitter is open networking environment that doesn’t have the same privacy issues as Facebook where most posts are public and visible to all. Also Twitter is a first in, first out message system where anything you post can be seen by all of your followers (unlike Facebook where you can expect only about 10% of your audience to see a regular, non-promoted post). Use Twitter to follow other interesting people and businesses in your industry, who may in turn follow you back and help jump-start your community.
LinkedIn is a professional social network community that offers you space for your personal profile (which is considered your online resume these days), company pages and groups. Make sure to take full advantage of LinkedIn by posting your content to these different areas, networking with other professionals and finding great groups to join with like-minded individuals. On your company page, you can list out all your products and services with links to your actual site which could increase your sales and product visibility.
Pinterest is another social network similar and online pinboard where you can bookmark websites, photos and videos. Pinterest is also a very visual site where pictures rule so act accordingly to increase the likelihood of your content being shared and repinned.
Google+ is a social network similar to Facebook but also plays a heavy role in search engine optimization (SEO), which is extremely important for your business going forward. What you post on Facebook is not visible to search engines but can generate a lot of traffic to your site. Google+ can give you both traffic and search engine visibility and should be a big part of your initial social media strategy. Also if you use Google Adwords advertising, the number of +1’s your page has accumulated can be visible in your advert, increasing the likelihood of clicks.
Empire Avenue is a social media stock exchange that provides various ways to network with other online influencers, expand your audience, engage with new content and measure your success. It’s pretty much a gold mine for new startups and small businesses to tap into. The virtual currency you’ve built up can be used to directly drive traffic to your websites (and other social media profiles) via missions. Empire Avenue can help you quickly expand your online business and give you the social media rocket fuel boost needed to launch your startup into space!
Social media offers startups and small businesses an unbelievable opportunity to reach new fans and establish a solid online reputation. How are you using social media to gain more exposure for your business?