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Updated Oct 24, 2023

Social Media for Startups: Entrepreneurs Share 5 Key Lessons

Learn by example with these real-life social media marketing and management lessons from entrepreneurs.

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Nicole Fallon, Business Ownership Insider and Senior Analyst
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This guide was reviewed by a Business News Daily editor to ensure it provides comprehensive and accurate information to aid your buying decision.

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The reporting below is based on American Express OPEN’s CEO BootCamp event on Nov. 3, 2014. The article has been lightly updated to continue to bring value to our readers.

More than 500 female entrepreneurs and business leaders from the New York City area gathered at the Sheraton Times Square Hotel on Nov. 3, 2014, for the second annual NYC CEO BootCamp. Hosted by American Express OPEN, this networking and development event was designed to help female entrepreneurs make connections, learn the ropes of entrepreneurship and achieve their business goals.

Business News Daily reported on the “Social Media Power Hour” segment, a panel moderated by Brandi Temple, founder of Lolly Wolly Doodle, 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 of Gen Y women’s online community Levo League, to discuss the role social media plays in their startups’ success. 

Social media lessons for startups

Based on the panel discussion, here are a few of Kerpen’s and Ghosn’s best tips for fellow entrepreneurs to grow and brand their businesses on social media.

Tailor your strategies to the network. 

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, Brinn Sanders, small business marketing manager at Twitter, said during the first part of the panel discussion. Kerpen reiterated this point, noting that her business uses platforms differently based on its objectives for each channel.

“We have a unique, diverse social strategy,” Kerpen said. For example, her company connects with chief marketing officers and other industry influencers through Twitter, shows company culture via Facebook and recruits through Snapchat. 

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 consumer insights 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,” she said. “It’s an easy, inexpensive way 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 more authentic dialogue between businesses and consumers, especially because customers have become much more vocal about their experiences with brands.

Sending text message and SMS surveys to customers can be a great way to get their feedback. To get started, consider our picks for the best text message marketing services.

Test your content.

Your content strategy for social media needs to change constantly — not just because of various platforms’ algorithms but also because of evolving consumer interests. 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 kind of content is the most effective for your audience.

“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].” [Read related article: Social Media for Business: Marketing, Customer Service and More]

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 on every platform 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 tasks to an intern or a random staff member who happens to have the time to take on extra work. Instead, select a person who is very involved with and committed to your brand and truly knows how to articulate your company’s 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.” [Get tips for marketing to millennials.]

Temple, the panel host, noted that one of her company’s most significant errors 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 media has to be top of mind if it’s the only connection you’re going to make with customers, and it “has to be on point,” she said.

Know your brand values.

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

“You need to figure out who you are first, before you share it with someone else,” Ghosn said. For example, think of words and images to describe your business, and look at other brands that have figured out what they want to be.

When you look at a social media 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.”

Did You Know?Did you know
Identifying your business niche is a great way to figure out what your brand stands for and how you can show that on social media.

Making social media work for your business

Mastering your business’s social media presence involves more than just posting on a whim. You also need to develop unique strategies for each platform while considering what your customers want. Expressing your brand values, in your brand voice, is key, as is testing your content. This is why so many business owners hire dedicated social media managers who can take on their company’s voice; lots of work and skill go into maintaining a strong social presence. And with the advice above from entrepreneurs who have seen success in that area, you can be on your way to making social media work for your business.

Max Freedman contributed to the writing in this article.

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Nicole Fallon, Business Ownership Insider and Senior Analyst
Nicole Fallon is a small business owner with nearly a decade of experience overseeing day-to-day business operations. She and her co-founder self-funded their company and now lead a team of employees across multiple disciplines. Fallon's first-hand experience as an entrepreneur running a staffed business has given her unique insight into startup culture, budgeting, employer-employee relationships, sales and marketing, and project management. Fallon's business expertise is evident in her work with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, where she analyzes small business trends. Her writing has been published in Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Newsweek, and she enjoys collaborating with B2B and SaaS companies.
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