Entrepreneurship 101: Is it essential for startup founders to have a strong social media presence?

Entrepreneurship 101 is a series on the ‘human’ aspects of entrepreneurship. Through this series, YourStory will share ideas, suggestions, references, and examples to help you reflect and tread the entrepreneurial path smoothly.
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The purpose behind the launch of a social media platform was to connect people with their friends and families living across the globe. However, over the years, the use and purpose of social media platforms have evolved. 

Social media platforms have now become an outlet for brands and startups to spread awareness about their products and services, and thus, grow their business. Companies like Zomato, Dunzo and CRED heavily leverage the power of social media to keep their customers engaged and coming back for more. 

According to social media marketing and management dashboard Hootsuite, one in every two users on Instagram uses the platform to discover new brands, and another 44 percent of users use it to shop weekly.

To put this into context, as of January this year, Instagram had 1.386 billion users on its platform. Thus, the platform provides an incredible opportunity to small and medium businesses (SMBs) to create a buzz and connect with their users in a more personal manner. 

While startups rely on social media to increase engagement with their customers, when it comes to the founders, there are two different schools of thought. Some startup entrepreneurs believe that social media has lost its essence and leads to nothing but a mere waste of time and energy, while others believe that if leveraged right, social media holds a lot of power. 

For this week’s article on Entrepreneurship 101, we focus on the latter – a team of entrepreneurs who believe that it is essential to have a strong social media presence. 

Which platform to select? 

With a number of options available today, selecting the right channel and platform may get overwhelming for entrepreneurs. While LinkedIn can be great for networking and hiring new talent, Instagram and Twitter are great channels to connect with customers on a more personal level. However, being equally active on all social media platforms can be a challenging and time consuming task. To bring an end to this dilemma, YourStory asked startup founders about their preferred platform. 

For Alok Mittal, Founder of online lending platform Indifi Technologies, LinkedIn has proved to be an important funnel to hire some of the top talents at Indifi Technologies. 

“Over the years, we have been able to cultivate powerful networks for both Indifi and its leaders on LinkedIn through meaningful and sustained cadence of content. It provides a layer of personalisation while interacting with potential talent,” he says. As a startup founder, Alok has used the platform to on-board what he calls, “Some of the best recruits.”

Additionally, Alok suggests that LinkedIn is an important touchpoint for stakeholders to discover his brand and content, “Which is tailored to translate our vision, mission, and ambitions to potential talent, partners and our peers from the fraternity,” he says. 

Irrespective of how challenging it might get, Aditya Kumar, Co-founder and CEO of fintech startup Niro, and Sandipan Mitra, Co-founder and CEO of institutional foodtech startup Hungerbox, are active on all the four major social media platforms – LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. 

Using social media for work 

Social media is a powerful marketing tool for businesses. In H1 2021, in-app spending on social apps jumped by 50 percent to reach $3.2 billion. A report by App Annie suggests that there has been a 50 percent year-on-year increase in in-app purchases. These statistics clearly suggest that entrepreneurs can use social media to increase their brand reach and loyalty. 

However, besides these direct advantages, social media offers other hidden benefits to startups and entrepreneurs – keeping up with industry trends, networking, reaching out to investors, and hiring talent. For instance, Sandipan primarily uses social media to track conversations and topics that are important to him, share key updates regarding his startup, and to share his thoughts on entrepreneurship and the food and beverage industry in general. 

In fact, Alok has rather been lucky with his social media usage. “I have found social media to be a really effective networking tool throughout my professional journey,” he says. Alok met his co-founder Siddharth Mahanot through a social media post that he made seven-years ago on Facebook. That chance social encounter led to the inception of the startup.  

Image Source: ShutterStock

LinkedIn has proved to be an important funnel for some of the top talents at Indifi Technologies. “Over the years, we have been able to cultivate powerful networks for both Indifi and its leaders on LinkedIn through meaningful and sustained cadence of content. It provides a layer of personalisation while interacting with potential talent. As a founder, I have used the platform to onboard some of the best recruits personally.”

For B2B2C financial services startup Niro, Instagram and Facebook form tools to reach out to end customers and build trust, awareness, and brand recall. On the other hand, founder Aditya finds LinkedIn and Twitter more gratifying and can be found using more frequently.

As an early-stage startup, these two platforms provide great avenues for brand research, cultivating early adopters, and advocating the startup’s mission. 

“I have been active on LinkedIn the longest. It is incredible for networking, recruitment, and thought leadership,” he says. Aditya uses Twitter as a community resource pool. He says, “It's a great platform for exchanging and consuming ideas, insights, trends, and developments across ecosystems and consumer groups.” 

Summing up 

With the COVID-19 pandemic bringing all one-on-one meetings and physical meet-ups to a standstill, platforms like LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter proved significant for the Indian startup community for not just networking, but also for collaborations. “There is an immense merit in cultivating social media presence for startup founders and startups alike, keeping in mind where their relevant audience is,” says Alok. 

While Aditya himself is active across social media platforms and believes there is merit in having an active social media presence as a founder, he is of the opinion that it is not ‘essential’ for founders to be on social media. 

“As founders, each one of us has a different journey and persona. Depending on what one's goals are, stakeholders are, and the stage the business is – there are multiple routes to actualising founder ambitions with or without social media. I have personally known successful entrepreneurs and thought leaders without any social media presence and vice versa,” he says. 

To read the previous articles on Entrepreneurship 101, click here

Edited by Megha Reddy

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