The Social Startup
What is a startup if not a race to social legitimacy. An idea in one or two people’s heads has grown to a point where it will make magic or not. Since life and startups are rarely all or nothing startups need to be competent content marketers and social media marketing wizards.
Why competent at one and wizards at the other? Becoming great at creating something, content marketing and social media marketing all simultaneously is a bridge too far for anyone. Startups should focus on developing their widget and adding a social layer to their process.
Reach is the other reason a social layer is important for startups. Content marketing takes time. Developing a consistent following can take years, but the right tweet can lap around the world twice before breakfast. Would I prefer to have BOTH consistently great content and a powerful social layer? Of course, but startups are about priorities.
The Problem With Priorities
Most startups are so widget focused they don’t see the need for social or content marketing. Inattention to the creation and cultivation of a following could be a costly mistake.
How Social Media Helps Startups
- Feedback is oxygen for startups.
- More feedback NOW makes better products later.
- Many social media pros are attracted to early stage ideas.
- Deal flow favors the known.
Years ago in a land far, far away I co-founded a specialty gift distribution business called FoundObjects.com (now RIP). The magic formula to many naïve startup gift companies was to have Oprah feature their gift followed by instant fame and riches.
Life is rarely as easy as we dream. Oprah doesn’t work that way. FoundObjects.com would eventually have several items featured by Oprah’s magazine and one amazing offer to give away one of our gifts to Oprah audience (another long story for another time).
Oprah, I learned quickly, isn’t interested in the obscure unproven gift (for the most part). Oprah knows her power. She knew the limits of that power too. Going far out on a limb too often could tarnish even Oprah’s power, so she rarely went out on a limb.
Oprah preferred to amplify an existing success. She looked hard at products that were small but capable of becoming big and then gigantic. VC’s evaluate business teams and ideas in much the same way.
Chris Heivly, one of the founders along with Dave Neal of Triangle Startup Factory, explained startup team focus several years ago. Sitting in a coffee shop speaking about one of his favorite things, how to create successful businesses, Chris told me he and other investors don’t bet on ideas.
Ideas change. Instead of ideas, the thing most startups are hung up on a rock about, Chris evaluates teams. How deep is the team in the core competencies of any business: tech, finance, marketing and sales?
Startup Social Media – Fastest Way To Learn The Most
I suggest your startup write blog posts at least every third day, but Tweet and use GooglePlus daily.
Startup Social Media Content Sources
- Startups own blog posts.
- Responding to social notes about the startup.
- Thanking followers who mention, comment or share.
- Sharing content from followers and industry experts.
- Commenting on content from followers and industry experts.
- Sharing process and progress.
Twitter is Internet radio. Use Twitter for what is happening NOW or what just happened or what might happen. Use GooglePlus to have conversations, pose questions and get multi-thread feedback.
Creating content is only hard until you create content. Once you are in a consistent content creation rhythm it comes like riding a bicycle. No matter how long you are away from riding a bicycle you remember how to do it AND riding a bicycle more means you get better at it.
Same dynamic is true for startup content marketing. “We don’t have the time,” is a common objection. The irony of startups that spend huge amounts of time creating dog and pony shows to pitch potential investors cold while saying they have no time to warm up their reception hasn’t escaped me.
What DIY Means For Startups
We live in a Do-It-Yourself time. One of the implications of DIY is your startup’s online presence will be checked out HARD. Assume potential investors are going to read your copy AND any copy written about your startup (from any source).
If your content is present, consistent and well received you’ve effectively spread the table. “Spread the table,” means creating many little impressions instead of banking it all one big one.
Follow The Money
Let’s talk about one of the most consuming aspects of most startups – money. I heard another VC explain how his evaluation of a company comes from a single perspective – the art of reducing risks.
We uninitiated think of Venture Capitalists as high-flying risk takers. Not so much this VC explained. Being a VC is nothing if not Darwinian. The way you get to be an “old” VC (this gentleman was retired in his forties) was to apply systematic thinking to risk elimination.
Some risks can be reduced by having the right team, others by creative financing and still other risk can be limited by the right partnerships so VC evaluate RISKS and then apply their address book and network to lessen the risk and so increase chances for profit.
Let’s apply the same thinking to the creation of your startup. Executing the social media strategy I’ve suggested will cost about a day a week or about 400 yours a year about 20% of the 2080 hours in a full year.
I realize no startup only works 40 hour as week, but stay with the model for a moment. If someone asked most startups if they would trade 20% of their sweat equity to double or triple their valuation most would say an immediate YES.
How about if we ask if an investment of 20% of time could lower costs by half if they would do that trade. Again most would say YES. Following the content ideas here could help reduce recruitment costs, launch marketing costs and new customer acquisition costs so once again our 20% investment provides solid startup return.
There Are No Secrets
Many startups are scared their ideas will be stolen. Your ideas will be stolen. The key to survival is not caring when your ideas are stolen because you own the keys to a much more valuable and hard to steal thing such as a competent content marketing engine matched to some real social media wizardry.
Unless you are working in some highly technical medial field worry that your ideas will be stolen shouldn’t eliminate benefits associated with fast feedback loops created from social media. Think back to Chris Heivly’s lessons. Chris evaluates TEAMS not ideas because he fully expects ideas to change.
The extension of Chris Heivly’s statement is your startup should risk sharing because the OVER (what you stand to gain) far out weighs the UNDER (what you stand to lose). This statement is true for developing a competent content marketing strategy strapped to a great social strategy too. The OVER, what your startup stands to gain, far outweighs the UNDER, what any startup stands to lose.