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Grow Your Business Social Media

Social Media for Startups: Entrepreneurs Share 5 Key Lessons

Social Media for Startups: Entrepreneurs Share 5 Key Lessons
Credit: Bloomua / Shutterstock.com

NEW YORK — More than 500 female entrepreneurs and business leaders from the New York City area gathered at the Sheraton Times Square Hotel yesterday (Nov. 3) for the second annual NYC CEO BootCamp. Hosted by American Express OPEN, this networking and development event is designed to help women entrepreneurs make connections, learn the ropes of entrepreneurship and achieve their business goals.

This morning, Business News Daily reported on the "Social Media Power Hour" event, a panel moderated by Lolly Wolly Doodle founder Brandi Temple that explored best practices and general advice for businesses on social media. The first half of the panel featured representatives from Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, who shared some insider secrets about their sites. For the second half, Temple switched gears and invited Carrie Kerpen, president and CEO of brand communications firm Likeable Media, and Caroline Ghosn, founder and CEO of Gen Y women's online community Levo League, to discuss the role social media plays in their startups' success.

Based on the panel discussion, here are a few of Kerpen and Ghosn's best tips for their fellow entrepreneurs on growing and branding a business on social media. [For a side-by-side comparison of the best social media marketing services, visit our sister site Top Ten Reviews.]

Tailor your strategies to the network. During the first portion of the panel, Brinn Sanders (small business marketing manager, Twitter) said that one of the biggest social media mistakes a business can make is to think that it can use the same content strategy for all social networks. Kerpen reiterated this point, noting that her business uses networks differently based on its objectives for each.

"We have a unique, diverse social strategy," Kerpen said. "We connect with CMOs [chief marketing officers] and [other industry influencers] in the digital space through Twitter. There's no better access point. [To show] company culture, we use Facebook. We recruit through Snapchat. We're showing how we're innovators [by] being in every new network."

Ask your customers what they want. Years ago, collecting feedback from thousands of consumers was a massive undertaking that required a professional market research firm and a big budget. Today, small business owners can get results that are just as valuable but far less expensive by using social media.

"Social media is a way to quantify [what customers want]," Ghosn said. "We ask questions and solicit responses through social [channels], and launch full-fledged surveys and user focus groups. It's an easy, inexpensive ways for business owners to leverage [data] that's now become available to them."

Ghosn noted that the conversational nature of social media can allow for a more authentic dialogue between businesses and consumers, especially since customers are now much more vocal about their experiences with brands.

Test your content. Your content strategy for social media will change constantly — not just because of various networks' algorithms, but because of changing consumer interests, too. What worked in the past may not work for you now, or vice versa. Kerpen recommended using a trial-and-error approach to learn what content is the most effective.

"The best way to use social media for feedback is to test your content," Kerpen said. "Look at what's getting liked and shared, and what's not. Try two different messages, to see what works best. Throw it out there, and be unafraid to play [with different strategies]."

Have a uniform brand voice — and a person who knows it well. While the specific content you craft may be different across networks, the one element that should remain consistent is your brand voice. In many cases, social media is your first line of communication with customers, and the voice you use there is a big part of their impression of your brand.

For this reason, Ghosn strongly advised against assigning social media to an intern or a staff member who happens to have the time to take on the extra work. Instead, select a person who is very involved with and committed to your brand, and truly knows how to articulate the brand voice well on every social network you use.

"[Social media] is not an afterthought," Ghosn said. "It's a central part of your voice, especially with millennials. Millennials expect authenticity and real-time feedback, and there's no better way [to give that] than through using the right social networks. Even Gen X is increasingly more literate around social media and expect you to be more polished."

Temple noted that one of her company's biggest mistakes early on was utilizing a social media manager who hadn't mastered the brand voice.

"We hired someone who didn't have my voice, and didn't have the [same] connection with customers," Temple said. "It was our biggest mistake. [Social] truly has to be top of mind. If that's the only connection your business is going to have [to its customers], it has to be on point."

Know your brand values. Like your brand voice, your brand values need to come across clearly and consistently across all the areas that make up your online presence. Your first step to articulating your brand values is to determine what they are.

"You need to figure out who you are first, before you share it with someone else," Ghosn said. "[Think of] words to describe your business, imagery, etc. [Look at] other brands who have figured out what [you] want to be. Take that and learn from it."

When you look at a profile, "you should know right away what a brand stands for and what it's all about," Kerpen added. "Coca-Cola stands for happiness. GE stands for innovation. Think about what you stand for and how to express that on different networks."

Originally published on Business News Daily.

Nicole Fallon
Nicole Fallon

Nicole Fallon received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. She currently serves as the assistant editor. Reach her by email, or follow her on Twitter.