How To Startup

Social media for startups
60David Nikel

David NikelJanuary 20, 2015

Startup Marketing 101: Social Media

If you’ve decided 2015 is the year you finally launch your startup, I’m sure you will have many marketing questions. What do you focus on? How do you get the word out? How do you find investors? Customers? Can you market your startup without spending a fortune?

Our new Startup Marketing 101 series will help you find the answers. I already discussed publishing to share your startup story, and now it’s time to focus in on that great productivity disaster: social media.

Social media strategy

Before you jump in with both feet and create profiles on every platform out there, stop, breathe, think.

The most important step you can take with social media is nothing to do with a particular platform. Take some time to work out why you are using social media, who you want to reach, and what you want to say. This activity will prioritise your tasks, give focus to a typically unfocused area, and give you the best chance of yielding results.

I will talk about each of the main social networks from a startup perspective, in particular which network(s) is best for what kind of startups. For each network, I’ve listed the number of users in Norway (stats from Ipsos MMI), but remember these numbers are meaningless if you are using social media to reach a global market.

Time is valuable for founders of fledgling startups, so I advise you to pick no more than two networks and do them well, rather than try to cover them all and do them all badly. Nothing gives a worse impression than an empty or inactive social profile, so beware.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn office

Invaluable for making new connections in the business world. Angel investors and VCs yes, but also suppliers, partners, mentors, journalists, accountants, lawyers – the list goes on.

Make the limited space in your profile count, especially the sub-heading directly underneath your name. Which sounds more attractive to you: “John Smith – Startup founder” or “John Smith – Disrupting the personal loan industry”?

Setup a simple company page listing your core benefits (rather than a rambling description of your startup) and importantly, a logo. This logo will then show up on your the profile pages of you and your employees. These little things make a difference, so be sure to do them!

Premium membership allows you to “cold call” prospects with direct messages, while the new “Pulse” publishing platform allows you to share your professional expertise (see our previous post for more on this)

Who uses it? Professionals from all industries, job-seekers, recruiters.

Users in Norway: 1,085,000

Who does it well? Read this old yet still relevant Forbes article for inspiration.

Use it if: you run a B2B startup or are looking to develop your personal professional network.

Facebook

Facebook offices

Once the King of social networks, the Facebook of today is better known as an advertising platform, and a very effective one at that. Facebook is comfortably the most used social network in Norway and therefore it makes sense for nearly all startup businesses to have a presence. Whether that’s for social sharing or for advertising (or both) is up to you.

Facebook’s effectiveness as a social network for business took a massive hit last year as the organic reach of posts (the average number of people who see a status update from your company page) dropped to as low as 5%. But the vast array of targeting options (you do tell Facebook everything about yourself, you know) means the advertising platform offers terrific value to startups who are able to clearly define their target market. Don’t waste money paying for “likes”, pay for clicks to a specific landing page instead.

Who uses it? Anyone and everyone. By far the most popular social network for those over 40 (in Norway).

Users in Norway: 3,127,000

Who does it well? See what Toyota Norway did.

Use it if: you run a B2C startup and/or have a clearly defined audience and want to experiment with a great value advertising platform.

Twitter

Twitter UK office

Perhaps more than any other social network, Twitter is about conversation. The biggest mistake startups can make with Twitter is to use the platform as a glorified RSS feed, pumping out information. The key to success on Twitter is to engage with your audience, connect with influencers in your industry, curate the best content out there (whether authored by you or others), and listen, listen, listen. It lends itself well to a first-level support operation, too.

Twitter connects well with third-party apps such as Hootsuite and Tweetdeck, allowing you to keep track of lists (industry influencers, journalists, brand champions, etc) and respond quickly to comments about your brand by setting up specific search queries.

It’s not so popular in Norway, but if you are targeting a global audience I suggest an active Twitter account is essential.

Who uses it? Most brands. Many startup founders run personal accounts as well as having a company account.

Users in Norway: 849,000

Who does it well? Sharpie (great informal tone matching their brand), British Airways (weather updates and first-line support).

Use it if: you are building a global brand and/or value instant feedback.

Instagram

Instagram logoThe simple photo-sharing app has built an impressive following in Scandinavia, where it was the second most popular network until Snapchat came along.

Product and travel related businesses can see benefits from building a following by sharing images of product development or snow conditions at a ski resort, for example.

It’s a simple tool with just one opportunity to send people to your website, so make the most of your profile text with a call to action and specific landing page. Hashtags drive traffic to your image, so learn the most relevant ones for your industry.

Who uses it? B2C brands, products, designers, travel companies.

Users in Norway: 1,138,000

Who does it well? Nike (over 11m followers), Sophia Amoruso (founder of fashion store Nastygal).

Use it if: you make something, or you can describe and amplify your brand using images.

Pinterest

PinterestDefinitely the most niche social network on this list, Pinterest is a visual pinboard allowing users to curate their own and other people’s images into collections.

Over two-thirds of Pinterest users are female, and it’s popular among fashion, food and lifestyle bloggers. In a similar way to Instagram, if you are building a brand in one of these areas, Pinterest is worth exploring.

Who uses it? predominantly female, popular with lifestyle bloggers.

Users in Norway: 209,000

Who does it well? Caribou Coffee (great case study).

Use it if: you have a visual product or are building a lifestyle brand.

Snapchat

Snapchat logoTo many, Snapchat is the new kid on the block. But would you believe it’s already the second most-popular social network in Norway, thanks to its spectacular popularity amongst 18-29 year-olds.

The premise of the “visual conversation” app is simple – users can share pictures with their friends but the images self-destruct after a few seconds.

Snapchat is experimenting with advertising options and youth-oriented brands are queuing up to see if Snapchat could work for them.

Who uses it? under 30s.

Users in Norway: 1,218,000

Who does it well? watch this space.

Use it if: watch this space.

Bring it all together

There are others, notably Google+ and YouTube, although I’d say the latter is a place to share your startup story rather than a social network per se. But like I said at the top of this article, focus on just one or two of these networks and do them well.

Here at Technoport, we’ve focused on building our Facebook and Twitter presence, and let our student volunteers try out the other networks. We use Facebook to build our domestic network and share our blog posts within Norway and the Nordics. You’ll see more Trondheim-specific and conference-specific items on our Facebook feed, whereas we use Twitter to connect with the world: to innovators in global corporations, VCs in Silicon Valley, entrepreneurs in Africa, potential speakers for our conference, and so on. 90% of what we share on Twitter is other people’s content, positioning the Technoport brand as a global curator of innovation.

Or at least, that’s the plan. The point is, we have a plan, we are working to the plan, and we are seeing measurable results.

What’s your social media plan?

Talk startup strategy in person

Join us in Trondheim, Norway, on 18 & 19 March as we seek to awaken the entrepreneurial mindset at Technoport 2015.

Photo credits: Adam CohnMartin GyslerTwitter, pshabThomas HawkUGL_UIUC

Living together
60David Nikel

David NikelJanuary 9, 2015

Startup Marketing 101: Make Your Voice Heard

If you’ve decided 2015 is the year you finally launch your startup, I’m sure you will have many marketing questions. What do you focus on? How do you get the word out? How do you find investors? Customers? Can you market your startup without spending a fortune?

Our new Startup Marketing 101 series will help you find the answers. First up: a guide to publishing in the digital era, why do it, and how to use it to your advantage.

Content marketing

Content marketing is more than a trendy buzzword: it isn’t going anywhere. In 2015, content marketing is all about establishing authority, whether that’s to attract investment, partners or customers.

Working on a startup in silence is pointless: share your story.

Publishing thought-leadership articles, detailed tutorials, educational infographics, and solving people’s problems will get you and your startup noticed not just in your city, but around the world too.

Content marketing is often misunderstood and like any form of marketing, it requires a strategic plan to see any benefit. Spending hours toiling over a blog that noone reads, sending press releases to journalists that remain unopened, creating white papers without a clear idea of your target audience: if you’re doing these things then stop!

Here’s how to do it properly.

Blogging

Once the domain of lolcats and food pictures, blogs of today are powerful business tools. Used correctly, they can build a killer brand, inspire viral sharing of your stories, generate new customers and destroy the competition. Used incorrectly, they are a simple time-suck.

As a professional blogger, I advise most startups to start a blog. But do it as part of a clear strategy, knowing your purpose and intent. Is it to build your brand or is it to generate leads? Stick to just one of those aims and your chances of success will improve.

Examples:

  • Buffer Blog – the blog of the social media scheduling tool attracts new clients by tackling common pain points of its target audience: social media power users
  • The Cleanest Line – the blog of the online adventure travel store Patagonia builds the company brand by telling compelling adventure travel stories with barely a mention of their products
  • Crunch Blog – the blog of this online accountancy firm generates leads by offering hands-on business advice to its target market: small UK businesses, contractors and freelancers.

Evergreen content

Churning out blog post after blog post is exhausting work (I should know, I’ve been doing it since 2007!) but there’s also another downside: blog posts disappear off the radar after a week or two. Develop some high value, evergreen content alongside the regular posts and your startup can really make an impact.

Evergreen means content that will always be fresh and useful. Something that your target market can refer back to again and again.

White papers demonstrate in-depth knowledge and expertise on a topic and are considered a valuable marketing tool despite the lack of sales language. They should inform a reader about a specific problem and a specific solution from a technical perspective. They are common in large ICT companies but there is no reason why startups can’t utilise the format to great effect. Infographics are a visual way of representing data, while instructional videos also use a visual medium to explain: really important in these days of short attention spans and especially for explaining a new technology or process.

Examples:

Video and audio

Audio podcasts are growing in popularity, although it remains to be seen whether video-podcasts will move beyond the realm of attention-seeking teenagers. If you are developing a product, or simply prefer to talk rather than write, telling your story via video or audio could be best for you. New media and social networks are becoming more focused on video and audio, so it could be a smart move to start now.

Don’t invest in expensive equipment if you’re just trying it out. The newest smartphones and a white wall in a well-lit room will give you a “good enough” video quality, while a quality podcast microphone can be had for under $100. Also, keep them short: 2-4 minute updates should hold people’s attention, any longer, and they will switch off.

Examples:

If you have the energy, publishing a mix of all of the above is a great, albeit time-consuming, strategy to pursue.

But if you can’t justify the time investment that quality publishing requires – and as a new startup that’s a fair call – there is another emerging option: publishing on other people’s platforms. Content marketers will tell you it’s important to own your publishing platform, but if you approach this with specific aims in mind, publishing on other platforms can be incredibly effective at demonstrating authority and building your network.

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular.

LinkedIn Pulse

No longer just a social network for professionals. Just like Facebook has moved from social network to advertising platform, LinkedIn has morphed into a publishing platform. Do you receive those emails from “LinkedIn Pulse” or “LinkedIn Influencers” with content targeted towards your professional interests? Your knowledge and experience can be in those emails, targeted directly at potential customers, partners and investors. As LinkedIn’s publishing platform is still new, you can strike while the iron is hot and potentially make a big impact.

Examples:

Medium

The storytelling platform Medium is gaining popularity as an alternative to business blogging. Unlike with your own platform, you don’t control much of the look and feel of the published posts, but there is an in-built audience and the best posts will “rise to the top” and reach a much wider audience than you could hope for with your own fledgling blog. Here in the Nordics, Neil Murray closed his The Nordic Web blog and went all-in on Medium last year. He explains why here.

I don’t think Medium is a viable long-term strategy, but it could provide a real boost to your startup just when you need it most.

Examples:

Guest articles

If you operate in a defined niche, your best option could be to submit articles to online media covering that niche. Media giants like the Huffington Post accept guest articles but if you’re not a known name and lack a published portfolio, start smaller. If your startup is working on a new widget for the energy industry, consider articles for energy publications. If your aim is to build credibility in a specific niche, writing guest articles could be a winner for you.

Per Harald Borgen of Disco Fingers published a guest post here on Technoport about his experiences pivoting from one idea to another, an issue faced by many entrepreneurs but rarely discussed in the media. In sharing his story, he raised the profile of his new startup.

Examples:

Share your story

If you are a startup founder, student of entrepreneurship, or working on innovation within a company and you have a story to share, there could be a place for it here on the Technoport blog. To find out more details, get in touch with us at hello (at) technoport (dot) no

I firmly believe telling your story and sharing everything is the path to success. Good luck!

Next up in Startup Marketing 101: social media.

Share your startup story in person

Join us in Trondheim, Norway, on 18 & 19 March as we seek to awaken the entrepreneurial mindset at Technoport 2015.

Photo credit: Living together by Sergio Alvarez