A Series on Social Media & the Entrepreneur: #2 — Get Your Startup Some Followers

By Kaitlyn Setter, Business Development Intern, MSU Hatch & Spartan Innovations

You’re back! Happy to see you again.

For the newbies, read the first installment about social media and startups before diving into this one. It’s a crash course on the seven most prominent social media channels — Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, and LinkedIn — their characteristics, and how to determine whether they’re appropriate for your startup.

For the veterans, this blog will outline fundamentals, content strategies, and the art of engagement and interaction to drive up your social media following.

The Foundation

If you’re just getting started, there are a few simple and easy steps you can take that will help validate your business on social media.

1. Ensure Your Profile is in Tip-Top Shape

Do you trust a website that presents out-of-date information? Exactly. And the same is true for a social media profile.

Social media allows you to display your brand’s background and goals. But, if you don’t have an accurate profile, why would people want to follow your startup? Here are four actions you can take to create a stellar profile:

1. Write a complete, compelling bio description

2. Upload a distinct, eye-catching profile photo (and cover photo)

3. Include correct links to your website and other channels

4. List up-to-date contact information (address, email, phone number, etc.)

2. Utilize the Full Potential of Your Website

Your website is often the first thing people will explore when learning about your company online, so take advantage of this opportunity. Include social media badges on the footer of your site. You can also promote blogs, media, articles, and more original content by placing widgets on these individual posts that allow readers to share them on their social media accounts.

Another way you can direct people to your social channels via your website is to place links on your “About Us” or “Contact Us” pages.

3. Take Advantage of Your Personal Network

You have friends, at least I’m betting you do! So, ask them to help you.

Post on your own social media accounts about your company’s new page and ask your friends to Like/follow it. You can also invite specific friends to Like your page on Facebook. This second option is the most effective as they will get a personalized notification from you.

You can continue to use your personal network by sharing content that’s originally posted on your startup’s page. If the content is something you think your followers will enjoy, share it. If it’s an announcement about an accomplishment, share it! Your family and friends will love seeing updates about your company.

Content is King

Now, you might be thinking to yourself, “Okay, Kaitlyn, I’ve done all that. Now what?” Well, you need to offer some kick a** content.

1. Produce Quality Content

You want your page to reflect your company in a professional manner. Meaning, the content needs to be high quality and interesting. Don’t spread fake news, and make sure whatever you’re posting is relevant to your brand’s mission. Also, when you’re deciding on art (the visual aspect of a post), you want it to reflect an attitude that’s similar to the personality of your brand.

Looking for ideas? Here are five brands that share killer content. And, since you can never have too many examples, here are 17 more brands that have a celebrated social media presence. Focus on the Takeaways and apply them to your startup’s strategy.

2. Satisfy the Audience

Your audience is composed of customers and fans, so your number one focus should be to keep them happy. Give them content that’s captivating and exciting. You want them to engage with you and stay connected throughout your brand’s journey. But, if they become bored and aren’t excited about what you’re posting, they may unfollow.

Additionally, don’t overwhelm your audience. Follow these general rules for when to post and how often:

This is only a brief glimpse, so visit this blog from SproutSocial to learn more.

3. Keep Things Unique

When people are using social media, they don’t want to see the same things over and over again. With this in mind, try to mix it up. Make your followers smile, laugh, think, or empathize in some unique manner. You can accomplish this task using a few different tactics:

1. Applying different art to your posts

2. Brainstorming new, clever copy

3. Switching between short and long copy in posts

4. Including various phrases and keywords

5. Creating awesome videos and sharing real-life images

A fun twist on number five is to post user-generated content, one of my personal favorites. I could write about this tactic all day, but I’ll let SproutSocial do the explaining with some exceptional examples right here.

4. #RememberToHashtag

The hashtag (“#”) is a powerful aspect of social media because it can help introduce your brand to new consumers both inside and outside of your main audience. Using popular hashtags will increase the likelihood that your posts will be found by those interested in similar topics. Hashtags are also great to promote events or advertising campaigns because you can easily see when and how users are talking about your startup.

However, to fully capitalize on the possibilities surrounding hashtags, you need to do some research. Discover what subjects are popular and what’s trending, and play along (if it fits into your strategy). #TBT to when Denny’s capitalized on this technique and scored loads of engagement.

Also, you may want to use daily hashtags: #MondayMotivation, #TransformationTuesday, #WisdomWednesday, #TBT, and #FollowFriday. These are relatively common, but spend some time discovering other intriguing #’s and those that are more industry-specific.

5. Implement Promotions

Fair warning: Promotions can be highly effective in driving up your followers, but they can also attract followers who aren’t really interested. These folks are unloyal and may unfollow after the promotion ends, or become disengaged.

Avoid these unwanted followers by offering discounts or free products to your target audience. Encourage them to share your content or tag their friends in the comments for a chance to win something cool. Friends of your current followers can possess similar interests, so it’s likely they’ll be genuinely interested in following and engaging with your company.

Another tactic to gain followers is to take your promotions offline. Hold a raffle or giveaway at an event or store, and require participants to Like your pages to enter. This brings their interest online and gets you connected.

6. Analytics are Everything

Last but certainly not least, you need to take time to dissect your social media analytics. This data will provide incredible insight about the kind of content that is truly appealing to your followers and driving engagement.

Some important metrics to look at are impressions, followers, profile views, and engagement (Likes, Shares, Retweets, Comments, and Link Clicks). What is most important to you depends on the goals you set for your social media strategy…and that may change from week to week.

Interact with Your Follower Community

To finish, I want to share a critical key to building a strong social following — interaction. You need to be highly engaged with both present and potential followers in your community because if you aren’t engaged with them, why should they be with you?

The social media landscape is a somewhat, “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours,” kind of environment. Liking, commenting, and sharing your followers’ content will go a long way in creating a positive relationship. Plus, it helps spur awareness about your brand. Facebook is one example of an ideal platform to interact on because if a follower Likes or comments on your content, their friends will see, and that results in more exposure.

Another one Twitter. Have you heard of Carter Wilkerson? He did this:

By replying to this one Tweet, Wendy’s started a movement. Carter’s Tweet became the most retweeted of all time, countless brands jumped in including Microsoft, United Airlines, T-Mobile, Google, Amazon, and Ellen, it went viral on other channels, and countless spin-off content was created including #NuggsForCarter.

P.S. As of this blog’s creation, Carter has 3,655,543 Retweets and it’s still pinned on his profile. Oh, and Wendy’s gave him his much deserved Nuggs.

Getting this level of engagement is nearly impossible, but here are some tried and true methods of interaction that will help build relationships.

1. Team Follow Back

If someone follows your startup’s account, don’t be afraid to be follow them back. In addition, you should be proactive with following others. Make the first move and follow:

1. Business partners, industry leaders, and successful individuals in your field

2. Media sources and other organizations involved with your industry

3. Startups and businesses with similar values

4. Popular influencers among your target audience

5. People you meet who display interest in your company

2. Lead Followers Through Other Channels

Since you probably operate more than one social media account for your startup, use one to enhance another. For example, if you want more people to follow your Twitter account, post your handle on Instagram and tell those followers to follow your Twitter. This tactic is especially useful if you’re starting a new account.

Email marketing is a powerful tool, too. You can use email campaigns to engage readers and gain social media interest by simply including a short section within your emails that contains links to your channels.

3. Respond… Fast

If someone is privately messaging you on social media, they expect a quick and appropriate answer, so it’s important to not let them down. Respond to direct messages quickly, friendly, and professionally. This is especially important on Facebook because it prominently displays your typical response time at the top of your profile page.

This also applies to post comments. Whether the comment is positive, negative, direct, or indirect, it doesn’t hurt to at least acknowledge it or give it a Like.

That’s a wrap on the second installment. Keep in mind that social media success doesn’t happen overnight. But if you use these ideas as a guideline and remain consistent and persistent, you’ll undoubtedly witness the growth of your startup’s social following.

On deck is the third series where I’ll go more in-depth into developing content and managing your social media accounts. Catch you on the next blog!

Kaitlyn Setter is a senior at Michigan State University studying marketing, international business, and German. She has been working with The MSU Hatch for two and a half years and will be graduating in spring 2018. Upon graduation, she will begin working full-time at Whirlpool Corporation. View her LinkedIn profile here.

To read more from Voices of The MSU Hatch, click here.

Edited by Gerard Smith