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Here is how startups can approach social media with practicality

Shakthi Vadakkepat
25th May 2016
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The current buzz around startups has given a much-needed boost to the use of social media as a means to get into the mind of the buyer. Social media is being hailed as a tool that gets the conversation truly and really going. Any founder worth his salt is swearing by social media as the next best thing. But in all this noise the real point is somehow getting lost. Many a startup is approaching social media the wrong way.

We need to first understand how we got to social media over time to understand how to approach this wonderful medium the right way. Let’s go back in time a bit. How did we buy and sell things in the old days? Let’s see. There used to be local markets in each village or town where people got together. The whole process was simple and very personal. It was one person selling/buying to/from another person. Communication was direct and one to one. Negotiations were on the spot. Deals were closed instantly. Feedback about the product or service was also very direct and immediately available.

Social-Media-Approach_2.1

Image : Freepik

We, then, had the written word change social interaction radically. It became easy to print out newspapers, brochures and flyers. Business owners went all gung ho over this new method. Everyone had some sort an ad in the papers. The personal factor in transactions was soon lost. In no time, communication from brands moved more into the broadcast mode. The result was that the end user or the buyer had close to zero stakes in the whole deal now. The same thing continued when radio and TV became the rage. The printed word became spoken and then enacted.

Then came along the internet and brought with it social media. According to Mark W. Schaefer in ‘Social Media Explained’, this is where things took a turn and we went back into a granular and personal mode.

With social media, the days of the local market are back, though, the venue is now online. With social media, the person-to-person angle has returned, just that at one end is the brand with a personality of its own and at the other the buyer. By definition, much like the local markets, online social interaction is instantaneous and offers fast feedback.

So it is now clear that social media is a combination of the old and the new in the right proportions. So where are startups missing the message? Very simple! Despite the fact that the medium extends itself to extreme personalisation and granular targeting, most brands are sticking to broadcasting about themselves and constantly trying too hard to get people to their website/app/product.

As a result of this, we are seeing that most of the messaging from brands is largely classified as spam or noise and gets nowhere near the impact that was initially planned. This, in turn, affects a significant part of the buzz that has become an important part of any brand communication.

So what’s the solution? The approach to social media needs to work on answering two questions first:

  1. Who are you trying to connect to?
  2. What is the “personality” of your brand?

These two are vital questions. As a brand, you need to get the targeting right and figure out who are the people who will connect with your message and be and stay interested in what you have to say. With that out of the way, the next issue comes up.

As a brand, what do you want to be seen as? The answer is simple, it is how you want to be seen as a person. This may sound like an easy task, but believe me, this is where most brands have the toughest time. The answer to the second question is linked to the answer to the first one. You cannot keep sending irrelevant messages to your target group. It has to interest and engage them.

After you get these two written down, you need to remember that your social media account is not meant to be a copy of your brochure or your website. You need to spread the engagement and brand messaging in the right proportions to remain interesting and on the top of current trends.

Now that you have the base work done, you need to look inward, find the right people within the team and sometimes externally, too, who already have a significant presence online in the domain that you operate in. They will become primary carriers of the message and, hence, your social ambassadors. Next, you can begin executing and measuring outcomes, optimising on the go.

So effectively, here is the sequence that emerges

  1. Talk to the right people online.
  2. Take the right personality.
  3. Get the right people to talk online.
  4. Talk more to interact and less to sell, the selling will happen eventually, don’t force it.
  5. Analyse regularly and course-correct based on data.
  6. Last, but not the least, always remember to use the right social platforms. Don’t spread yourself too thin.
  7. Go back to Step 1.

These are not hard and fast rules. This is just an outline which yields better results when you add your learning, improvisations, skills and experience to it.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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