Unlike in the Field of Dreams, “if you build it, they will come” certainly does not apply to building a startup. If anything, the complete opposite is true– you need to work insanely hard just to start acquiring your first few customers or followers, and then work even harder to grow more momentum. The holy grail for all businesses is gaining that initial momentum– but how?
Building a successful business and growing a customer-base cannot be done in a vacuum– while unscalable marketing methods need to be the central part of any early startup’s growth strategy, using social media to spur initial growth can be extremely effective if done correctly. One of the best ways to build that initial momentum online is to be very vocal about yourself and your business in creative, non-spammy, non-annoying ways that actually adds value to those listening.
Some platforms work well for particular businesses and not-so-well for others. Usually the ones that work well will surprise you, so I suggest giving each platform an honest chance. It’s also important to note that each of these platforms has their own norms, so it might take a while to get over the learning curve, which is necessary to truly determine if the platform is useful for your purposes or not. Finally, remember that it takes time to build up a following and reputation on each platform, so once you determine which one works for you, be active and grow your presence. It takes time to build a truly engaging group of followers — and you’ll need engaged followers to accomplish almost anything, such as launch a new product, launch a kickstarter campaign, etc — so the earlier you start growing your following on the appropriate platforms, the better.
Without further ado, these are the eleven social media sites I would urge all business owners and soon-to-be business owners to be active on–
Reddit. Reddit is amazing. It has a rather steep learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, you truly understand why it’s slogan is “The front page of the internet”. If you’re not familiar with Reddit, just imagine how powerful it would be for your business to be on the front page of a major newspaper or publication– that’s the power Reddit holds, but for the internet. I can’t think of any business that wouldn’t benefit from having a presence on Reddit, but be careful to not even come close to spamming– their vote-up/vote-down system will burn you quickly.
Quora. Quora is another amazing platform. It’s basically public Q&A with a long blog post format. While Reddit has the ability to quickly give you a short burst of traffic, Quora has the ability to grow a sustainable traffic flow by building backlinks and credibility. Use Quora to build your expertise and credibility in a certain industry. Unlike Reddit, you can also have an in-depth profile on Quora linking back to your other social media platforms and websites, so the more questions you answer well, the more visibility you will have.
Angel List. Contrary to popular belief, Angel List is not just to help companies raise funds– it also has a robust jobs board, allows you to invest alongside famous angel investors in small startup companies (if you’re an accredited investor), and allows you to build a profile for yourself and your business that contains all relevant business information. If someone is interested in a public company, they check out Yahoo! finance, but if someone is interested in a private startup, they check out Angel List.
Industry-specific forum. It’s tough to build a marketing campaign that has viral potential and far reach, but you can make it easier by being part of your niche community– and forums are a great way to stay engaged with your respective community. Credibility is almost entirely proportional to the number of posts you’ve made and how long you’ve been a member, so don’t even mention your business until you’ve built some credibility with the forum, and when you do, be transparent.
Slideshare. Being on Slideshare has so many benefits– you can add Slideshare presentations to your Linkedin profile to add to your credibility, it provides strong SEO backlinks, and it can drive some native traffic on it’s own.
YouTube. YouTube takes all the benefits of SlideShare, and raises it to the next level– the SEO benefits of YouTube are enormous and often overlooked, it can drive a ton of traffic to your video on it’s own, and provides a great platform to share your videos on other social media networks for viral potential.
Facebook. I almost left this one off because the viral potential of Facebook content is blatantly obvious, but I wanted to also be able to stress the importance here– you personally need to be on Facebook. In fact, if you also own a business, your business needs to be on Facebook as well. One of the main reasons Facebook is so powerful is because it’s hands down the easiest platform to share content, so viral potential is very high. If you post good content on Facebook with a great title or catchy post, it will get shared, and you will get more eyeballs to your business. Social sharing metrics are also now a big part of SEO, so the more your content gets shared, the higher you will rank in the search engines.
Twitter. Another one I almost left off the list because it’s pretty obvious at this point, but you and your business need to have profiles on Twitter. One of the best explanations I’ve heard on how to use Twitter was something along the lines of– “Facebook is the social network you use to keep in touch with people you know, Twitter is the social network you use to get in touch with people you don’t.” It’s amazing how powerful one retweet from an influencer can be. Of course this will only result in a (hopefully huge) uptick in traffic and followers, but a) you need to start somewhere, b) social sharing increases your SEO power, c) you will have more followers so you will have a louder voice when you need it, and d) if you use retargeting ads, you’ve just build yourself a very powerful list.
Linkedin. Finally, the “Professional’s Social Network”. Obviously, it makes sense to be on Linkedin– it also has great SEO power, you can build a personal and a company profile, you can engage in group conversations, and you can be active on job boards. If you publish as a Linkedin Influencer, your audience gets that much bigger and voice that much louder. If someone searched your name in Google, typically your Linkedin profile will be one of the top links, so it’s also a great first-impression tool.
Crunchbase. I like to think of CrunchBase as the wikipedia of startups. It’s a crowdsourced content platform, and it get’s a lot of search engine visibility, so it’s worth setting up a profile even if you leave it dormant and only update when material changes occur to the business itself. It’s also a great place to post links to press your business gets.
About.me You can think of About.me as an aggregator of all your social media profiles, coupled with your backround story and resume, providing what they call a 360-degree perspective of you as an individual. If nothing else, it provides people another way to find you and provides another backlink to your other profiles and websites, and takes no effort to maintain.
There you have it– the eleven social media sites all entrepreneurs and soon-to-be entrepreneurs need to be on. It takes time to learn the ropes of each platform and to build a following, so the sooner you start, the sooner you will reap the benefits.
Follow me on twitter for more random thoughts on startups at @SL_Steinberg.