Marcus Ho is a social media strategist to best-in-class businesses in Asia. He has helped over 200 corporations ranging from MNCs to fast-emerging startups to increase sales through social and digital campaigns. He’s also the author of Social Payoff.
As a startup, chances are the best way to reach out to your target market will be through online marketing. And while email marketing and direct response marketing may be effective, it is also wise for your startup to take a look at social media as a viable marketing platform too (if you haven’t already done so.)
Now, we all know how pervasive social media is among any group of consumers, but many fail to see the potential in social media marketing. Some firms perceive that social media ROI, such as likes, shares, and comments, are not actually beneficial to a company.
Are you thinking along those lines? If you are, here are three reasons why social media marketing can work for your startup:
1. Listen to your audience
Social media marketing offers one unique aspect of research that any other form of marketing research cannot achieve: access to wide-range market feedback at an extremely low cost. Social media listening tools come at only a fraction of the cost you will incur for traditional research.
Another reason social media listening is the way to go is the ability to measure how your audience is feeling about your product or service and its industry. Here’s a portion of a social media listening report:
This part of the report shows the tally of an online conversation (in this case, blood donation), and also includes the overall sentiment of the conversations. Social media enables marketers to not only measure conversations but also measure the sentiment behind the conversations. That is a very important asset for marketers and can make or break a potential social media campaign depending on its tone and execution.
And that’s not even your best reason for using this channel. Social media listening tools are not just cost-effective, they’re also more specific. So many people are on social media now and one cannot even begin to fathom how much data exists on the internet. Social media listening can give you access to a wider range of factors from which you can gather info, as well as the ability to better customize your demographical research.
So here’s a recap of what social media listening can offer: a much wider sample size and more customizing options, for a lower cost.
2. Build your own community of passionate fans
Here’s the inevitable truth: the cost of running a startup has been rising steadily over the past few years, and advertising is getting more and more expensive in order to secure leads and a profitable sales margin. The solution for any startup owner, right now, is to reduce your marketing and advertising cost while increasing its effectiveness.
Using social media is your answer.
How so? Let’s take this one step at a time. Everyone is on social media. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, allow us to say this: in this day and age, your best option to reach a wide and relevant audience is through social media.
And with a targeted social media campaign, backed by a powerful social media listening tool, you can steadily increase and fill your fan base with relevant fans with a high potential for conversion.
With a large fan base you can achieve two things: your advertising will become more effective, thus allowing you to reduce your ad spend, and once you’ve cultivated your fans into passionate advocates of your startup, you can continue to sell to them, or even depend on their contacts to bring in even more fans.
It’s a vicious(ly profitable) cycle.
There are many ways for you to increase your fan base online, which we will also be talking about in subsequent articles. But no matter what you do in order to grow your online fan community, it is very important to ensure that your activities revolve around your brand values.
There’s no point in giving away iPads as free gifts when your startup’s product has nothing to do with tech or you don’t even have an iPad-optimized app or website.
3. Generate leads
The ability to listen to and monitor your target audience naturally allows you to take control of conversations and, ultimately, generate leads.
So how do you take control of online conversations? Build relationships with your audience. Educate and provide solutions to the problems they are facing. Through time, you will establish authority within your community, and your status as an industry expert will increase.
A good example comes from Xiaomi’s success in China. It first launched a phone in 2011, and now the startup phone-maker is selling more phones in China than Apple. Xiaomi uses a brilliant strategy to cultivate and ultimately turn fans into customers – and into loyal advocates.
Before the phones even launched, Xiaomi created a forum for its MIUI OS (which is built on Android), and turned their pioneer users into what they term “Mi fans.”
These users, who participated in trying the operating systems on various Android phones and giving feedback, often posted on the forums. The number of users started to grow in the forum as more people participated in discussions.
Soon, the forum grew to a point where they had several major sections that discussed various topics, such as the download center, rookies using the system, and the Xiaomi College. Xiaomi fans started to gather in an offline capacity too, meeting at gatherings every two weeks or so. These cover over 30 cities in China, where users get the opportunity to speak to and interact with Xiaomi engineers. A number of “Mi fans” even get invited to product launches.
There is a pervasive culture of creating a common identity within Xiaomi’s social media strategy. A lot of effort is being put into ensuring that users gain this value-added experience from being a fan, and that matters a lot when you’re trying to get them to purchase your products – particularly when most sales are done online. In one case, Xiaomi sold over 200,000 smartphones in under three minutes during China’s Cyber Monday equivalent sales event last year.
It is important to note that social media can increase your fan base with qualified leads and potential customers, but it is more important to note that social media can be directly responsible for generating leads and sales.
And isn’t that the ultimate aim for any startup business?