Startups. It’s the latest craze these days. Most college students understand what a startup is. Most people in this country probably know what a startup is, or at least some examples of startups. Do you use Uber? How about Dropbox? If so, you’ve definitely experienced the value-add of startups. It’s just so in nowadays. I mean, who doesn’t want to be the next Mark Zuckerberg? While you may be familiar with startups, have you wondered how startups actually successfully start up?
HOW exactly do you become the next Mark Zuckerberg? There are currently tens of thousands of startups in the United States, and most of them are destined to fail. In fact, around 80-90% of startups fail! There are many reasons why this percentage is so unbelievably high. According to CB Insights, the some top reasons that startups fail are related to the disconnection of some startups from the market and its customers. There is either no market need, or startups do a poor marketing job or blatantly ignore customer needs.
The success of startups is attributed to how well these companies can identify the current needs of consumers. This requires lots and LOTS of communication with target consumers. And what better way to communicate than with social media? In the digital age that we are living in, some of the most direct ways to communicate with customers and to get public opinion is through social media platforms. Startups need to find a way to reach consumers, and that amazing bridge just happens to be pretty much available and free to all.
“No matter how creative a startup’s business model is, it needs to send across the right message to the targeted audience.”Entrepreneur.com
Okay. So to be the next Mark Zuckerberg, all you need is a Facebook page and Twitter account?
Unfortunately, no. That’s why there’s only a handful of Mark Zuckerberg-like figures walking around today. A startup can’t just use social media and expect success and tons of positive consumer reaction. It has to take advantage of social media through establishing an effective, targeted digital marketing strategy. Startups need to follow a series of steps to achieve their goals through social media.
Startups need to:
- Identify a company-wide social media strategy: A company’s overall strategy must align with the company culture. This will lead to consistent messages, which consumers prefer.
- Establish primary goals: What do you want to accomplish through your social media efforts? Startups oftentimes have limited funding, so they need to be careful and specific in identifying their main objectives. Some primary goals may include:
- Brand awareness
- Content distribution
- Lead generation
- Customer acquisition
- Choose your social media platform: The options are limitless! Facebook? Twitter? LinkedIn? Getting customer opinions can be done through outreach on one of the many social media platforms.
- Track campaigns, measure success using metrics, and PIVOT if necessary: Many social media campaigns fail because startups do not track how well the campaign is doing. If a campaign is not producing the results that you were expecting, then it is crucial that startups pivot quickly and adopt a different tactic.
One social media campaign that startups can adopt is to share quality content. This can include infographics, blogs, videos, and many more. While original content is necessary at times to increase credibility, many startups take advantage of sharing content created by other reputable companies.
Let’s look at an example.
To see how startups use social media to their advantage, let’s look more closely at VizEat, the social dining platform that I presented on this week. This European startup has used social media to increase its presence in the sharing economy. Like I mentioned in class, VizEat uses social media platforms such as Twitter and YouTube to gain traction and new users. VizEat uses a multi-faceted social media strategy.
VizEat’s main social media goals seem to be brand awareness and customer acquisition. To increase brand awareness, VizEat has encouraged users to tweet with the hashtag #vizeat in order to share with others their unique experiences. VizEat uses social media to achieve their goal of customer acquisition by creating content that advertises their value proposition. By posting YouTube videos of examples of unique culinary experiences, they communicate with the viewers their value proposition of delivering an unique service for those who want to experience authentic dining in new cities.
VizEat uses social media to advertise their value proposition, which is delivering a service that allows people to experience unique culinary experiences. By posting YouTube videos of examples of experiences, they are able to appeal to potential customers who are curious about what they would experience as a user.
VizEat also participates in a mutually beneficial social media strategy with social media influencers. VizEat encourages food bloggers and Instagrammers to sign up as hosts. For example, Alla Driksne, a VizEat host, promotes herself online and offline. The VizEat app “combines her social media profiles and food vlogs, resulting in more shares, “likes” and exposure for her.” She says that, “[VizEat] allows me to connect with a new, wider audience – outside of my networks. It is a means of advertising a service that I offer as well as helping me to boost my public profile – hopefully leading to me being able to do what I love full time.” While social media influencers can use VizEat to their advantage, VizEat also reaps some of the benefits. They get their name out there to the followers of influencers, which increases brand awareness and their chances of acquiring new customers.
If you ever want to create a new startup, make sure you capitalize on social media platforms. Social media marketing strategies are cheap, relatively easy to understand, and effective, if used properly! However, as seen in the case of VizEat, social media marketing might not be enough to achieve success. Most of VizEat’s YouTube videos have around less than 500 views, which goes to show that while some of these strategies sound good in theory, they are sometimes not effective in practice. The key to success, however, is for startups to track their performance and realize where they are seeing success and where they are not. If a particular campaign is not working for a startup, the company needs to pivot and explore other options.
So, what do you think of these strategies? Are they enough for startups looking to become the next Facebook?