Sonia Simone in a Copyblogger post says “social media — when used strategically over time — is the most powerful form of marketing and market research the world has ever seen.” It can especially be powerful for entrepreneurs. For startup success look to leverage social media in these ways:
1. Peer-to-peer lending, or crowd-sourcing. Think Lending Club, Prosper and Kickstarter. What was a novelty not too long ago is now a viable way to raise capital from people investing directly in promising ideas and creating a new pool of funding. For a list of Top 10 Crowdfunding Websites see this Entrepreneur article.
2. Use forums/groups to engage a community. There are people wanting your products or services in forums right now and they are asking questions that you can answer. Showing your expertise in industry forums can lead to valuable connections. But also get involved in LinkedIn Groups where you can access industry leaders and prove your expertise through dialogue following the 80/20 rule. Spend 80% of your time answering questions and 20% promoting. Interacting with others and being helpful is the best way to establish yourself as an expert.
3. Keep an eye on your competitors. Look at their websites, find their social media channels and sign up to start watching what they do. See what their fans are saying and use that insight to improve your own business. Are they complaining about a missing feature? Can you add that feature to your product? Are they praising something you and your competitor do, but you aren’t promoting? Can you tap into an emotion they are expressing?
4. Earn media (PR) is key. Content that’s emotionally engaging and immersive is what works today – stories. The same is true for content around products and companies, but press releases are no longer the answer. Today PR happens via blog posts, online video, and social network updates. Integrate content strategy into your publicity.
5. Raise awareness of your startup. Social media is a great place to raise awareness with over one billion users worldwide. Channels such a Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and YouTube are cost effective and time efficient. They can quickly drive word-of-mouth to a new venture. See the graphic below for ways to promote on the top channels.