When you first start developing your product, the million-dollar question is how you’ll manage to build a community around it. Sure, community managers are great, but not every startup can afford to hire one at the earliest stage.
At the very beginning, awareness strategies are usually focused on social media. The way you present your brand directly affects the number of new users, the quality of feedback, and above all, the reputation you will start building.
Social media strategy for startups - Expert opinions
We asked 36 experts to tell us their tips and advice when it comes to building a social media strategy for startups. In no particular order to importance or priority, here is what they had to say.
1. Consider micro and macro promotion
When it comes to building a Social Media strategy for startups with a limited budget, the ideal way of approach is two-pronged:
- a mix of collaborations with similar-size accounts
- promotions from larger influencers (paid option)
Such a combination allows the business to use a cost-effective and efficient method as collaborations with other similar-size accounts in order to engage the audience which is ready to see something new. On top of that, if you select correct influences for your niche, the rate of engagement in the advertisement is very large due to an established trust in the source of information (influencer). Lastly, if you are interacting and engaging with the audience of an influencer, you are already communicating your message to an established community which is a perfect way to slowly start developing your own community. In other words, you “rent” their audience.
2. Value, Creativity & Consistency
Social media can be an extremely effective tool to help you increase your visibility, develop brand recognition, and stimulate business if it is used properly. Some may view platforms such as Facebook as an app where people post random pictures or argue about politics, but there is a business aspect that involves a strategic plan and creative thinking. To develop this strategy, you need to think about three key areas.
Value: Before you post, ask yourself, what value am I providing to the viewer on the other end? Place yourself in their shoes and think if you were the viewer, would you find this post to be worthy of a share and a follow? The whole point of posting on social media is to stimulate engagement from potential customers.
Creativity: The most popular pages on social media all have something in common, they are creative and constantly thinking of new boundaries to push to get the attention of viewers. They don’t just follow trends, they create them. This is your opportunity to have fun and show your business in a different light.
Consistency: It is extremely important to remain consistent. Because of platform algorithms and the importance of page engagement, it is imperative that you come up with a posting schedule and post consistently.
3. Create a content strategy
The first step is to create a content strategy before you start posting on your company’s social media account. Use the suitable content format for each social media channel. For example, Instagram, Reddit, and instant messaging media generally warm up to ultra-casual formattings, such as text blocks, slang, and emojis. Facebook and LinkedIn users will take you seriously if you can maintain decent prose and normal paragraph formatting. Keep your vocabulary lite and your tone “business-casual”. On Twitter, it’ll depend on your target audience’s taste, mostly.
Second, tailor content to match the platform. Examples? Share long-form posts on Twitter (threads), LinkedIn, Quora, Reddit, and Indie Hackers. Self-promotion will have you lynched on Slack and Facebook groups. Go with subtly branded visual content on Pinterest.
Overall, mix text, image, and video posts as much as you can.
4. Focus on a small audience and ramp up the value
The best social media strategy startups with a limited budget is to focus on their smallest viable audience; their struggles and dreams, and how you can help them achieve those dreams.
Going after a small, targeted group of people you understand the goals of will allow you to produce content that is actively being sought after in your niche. And when your content is helping people, finding your audience and building your community on social media becomes that much easier. Content that provides real value to your audience is going to be more effective long-term than any algorithm hack out there.
5. Choose the right influencers
The key with social media, especially the community is to start slow and steady and don't reach out to the main influencers in your niche or even the descendents from that.
Mini and micro influencer/thought leaders is your entry into getting known, getting involved in conversations and getting a feel for your community and target audience.
The big social media companies are BRANDS and they get automatic followings and high interactions as they have 20-30-40 years of history as a company. Startups should stick to what they know and don't jump on bandwagons and get involved in conversations and topics around your brands.
6. Increase your authority in the niche and barter where possible
For early-stage startups I would suggest to focus on opinion leaders and influencers in your market. Try to negotiate a barter deal where you give them access to the premium of your product and in return they provide content about your product. Raise brand awareness from their social media and add social proof of your product and to your startup.
Another great strategy would be to take part in all kinds of webinars, events and free PR. Write articles on medium, offer free expert opinion on your market etc.
7. Don’t neglect TikTok
I think the lowest cost social media strategy with the highest ROI potential at the moment is definitely TikTok. At our startup, Collabstr, we've used TikTok to accumulate nearly 1 million video views under our hashtag #collabstr, we've also gained 9.3k followers and hundreds of sign ups on our website just by posting content.
Since all you need to create content on TikTok is a smartphone, it's easily accessible to startups. If you post valuable content, TikTok's algorithm will push your content out to hundreds of thousands, or even millions of people. This platform is especially good for community building, you can funnel those followers into other channels and make them loyal to your product.
All in all, I truly believe that there is no better social platform to go all-in on right now other than TikTok.
8. Focus on personalized social media stories
In our industry, you have to build a brand that is representative of our consumer’s needs. We always take our satisfied customer’s stories into account when creating our social posts.
The most effective way to tie personalized stories into marketing is to utilize social media. Instagram has been a great way for us to maintain contact with our dedicated customers all while showing off the beautiful diamonds they have bought. We like to add the extra “personal touch” by tagging the customers in our posts. This increases our engagement as well as encourages them to share the post. At the end of the day, it’s really all about making each and every one of your patrons feel special.
9. Video grabs attention
We have utilized video marketing quite a bit for our business. Using video is a more attractive way to market, and it gives you free rein to give your company any sort of image you want. One thing I’ve learned about it— it is a more “shareable” (or “retweetable”) way to advertise your brand. Consumers are more likely to pause scrolling for an interesting or visually appealing video.
We also have a Youtube channel where we share testimonials, podcast videos, and show off our recipes and product. We have also created a challenge on our website that has encouraged our consumers to participate via posting on Youtube called the “Toast Cleanse”. We’ve had consumers who have participated in the challenge on our podcast as well. Using video in your business, especially in our industry, is unequivocally beneficial.
10. The best Social Media Strategy for startups is real engagement
Startups with limited cash reserves need to spend time building their brand story online. To get the most out of their efforts they need to engage with other people's posts by commenting real answers, not just automated responses.
Hitting like is also not enough. Search for potential clients and ask a question about the story they posted to get more information about who they are and what they do. As you connect with them, they will connect with you and you will be able to request a face to face or Zoom call to connect in the real world. The more time you engage with others, the more engaging of social media following you will have.
11. Identify the audience, define your voice, and execute!
Startups with a limited budget can take a three-step social media approach.
First, identify where your ideal audience gathers online. Don't waste a small marketing budget on Instagram if your target users are on TikTok.
Second, define your voice and stick to it. Make your voice clear and distinct. Users should be able to immediately recognize one of your posts, and they should feel continuity in your messaging.
Third, <>test - track - repeat! In the early stages, try new strategies and types of posts. Post at different times and on different days. Use polls and questions to engage people. Be sure to keep track of how your posts perform. This early stage is the opportunity to cast a wide net before focusing on your most effective tactics.
12. Focus on the right platforms
One of the key things to consider when building a social media strategy for startups is to make sure you are choosing the right social platforms to engage with. You want to consider the demographic of the social network.
Once you have figured out where your target audience already hangs out online, then you can start engaging with different hashtags and groups on that platform. If you aren’t quite sure where your target audience hangs out online, consider doing some competitive research and see which platforms your closest competitors are most active on, what sort of things they post, what hashtags they use, what types of posts garner them the most interaction, etc.
When you have determined the platforms you want to utilize, you also need to determine what your goals are so you can then create content that will help you reach them.
For example: If you are a company that has built a WordPress plugin that helps companies keep track of donations for non-profits, your goal might be to sell more subscriptions to your plugin.
You have already determined where your audience hangs out. A white paper that goes into use-cases and real-world data would be a good content fit for both the platform and the audience. You can take it one step further and put your white paper behind an email wall, so in order for someone to view it they have to provide you an email address, growing your email list as well as your LinkedIn community.
The final step is to post consistently and post thoughtfully. Have a schedule for when you post; this helps your community know when they can expect content from you and will help to build trust for your brand over time.
13. Offer value without expecting anything in return
Content is King, especially in the early stages of a social media strategy for startups. I feel creating content that benefits the consumer without expecting anything in return is the best way to build a community and trustworthiness. Some of the questions I ask myself when creating content is:
1. Are our posts helpful and informative?
2. Are they interesting, even for someone who has never heard of us before?
3. Is there anything the viewer/reader could actually apply to their lives after seeing it?
14. Focus on the big platforms; Test the smaller ones
We suggest startups to be fairly broad at first and test what platforms, and content works. Business presence on the major platforms Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube is necessary. But, it's also beneficial for businesses to be on LinkedIn, Tik Tok, Pinterest, and so on. Creating content that is both specific to your brand, but fits the platforms medium is crucial. No, your business may not want to use Tik Tok because it is dominated by a younger audience, but business usage comes down to more than the audience.
Your businesses ability to create content to fit new and growing platforms (Tik Tok), and mediums (short form video) is key. Tik Tok is also great for organic growth. Once content is then made for all platforms, a business then needs to analyze the data and make informed decisions. By analyzing consumer demographics, followers time on platform, and engagement, a business can tell who they need to gear the post towards, when they should post, and what platforms they should post it on.
All in all, a business needs to be very present on the big social media platforms, but also they need to continually test and analyze new platforms, content pieces, and overall strategies.
15. Focus on the one platform that your audience prefers
Find out where your audience is: When you are starting out, your budget is tight. Many businesses make the mistake of trying to have a presence *everywhere* and find out quickly how time-consuming that is.
You're better off focusing on the one social media channel where you are most likely to connect with your target audience. Look at the demographics of the various networks you are considering.
You can still post content on the other major social media channels -- it's easy with the help of a social media scheduling tool, so why not? But *focus* on the one social network that's the best fit for you.
16. Create a community through killer content
Killer Content - It is no longer a good idea to just do content production per se. These days, the content you need to be giving out needs to be top-of-the-line killer content. This is ironic since many publishing barriers have vanished and there has been an exponential increase in the amount of available content. People now want to spend their time, energy, and money on ‘only the best.’ It takes talent and works to produce great affiliate marketing content and a lot of planning and this is something you will need to keep in mind if you are serious about online content marketing.
Create a Community - Successful content marketing is the result of many hands doing the work and with this, in mind, you may want to seriously consider building a network or community for producing your content. For instance, instead of just website blogging, you can create an industry site providing platforms for others to be able to contribute to the conversation. Through this community of content providers, a great referral traffic source is created and you get opportunities to become a magnet to an audience that is much bigger.
17. The 10x2 Instagram strategy
1. Find 10 niche accounts who are crushing it in your industry
These accounts who are crushing have TONS of followers who could be YOUR followers too if you provide enough value to them. Choose wisely.
2. Find 10 niche hashtags that you want to be associated with
Hashtags are actually slightly a dying feature on Instagram but are still used by millions of companies just to try and categorize their audience a little more. The catch? you just have to get specific with them. That means no “ForYouPage” or “Marketing”, those are too broad. Get specific with them.
3. Engage daily with these 20
Go to each one of the 10 accounts and 10 hashtags and leave a genuine comment, a like, a share, and aim for providing value to your community by sharing. I even go a little overboard with it and find more than 10 accounts and go through the niche hashtags for hours as a way to really build engagement with that community.
4. Repeat daily
Do this for 30, 60, or 90 days and adjust along the way.
18. Create platform-specific content strategies
Early-stage startups shouldn’t try to do everything. There are so many phenomenal social media platforms out there that can really impact your business and grow your community, but these platforms can be a deterrent to your business if you aren’t focused on optimizing them. It’s important to have a strong digital presence, but just having a profile on every platform and posting the same content won’t help build your community. Instead, pick two or three platforms that make the most sense for your company and focus your energy there. This will allow you to create platform-specific content strategies that better communicate with consumers, and ultimately lead to a stronger online community.
19. Vlog your journey
When resources are tight, the best bang for your buck in social media is YouTube. Yes, it is more difficult to launch and manage a YouTube channel than a Facebook page or Instagram account, but the rewards are greater as well. And although money might be scarce as a startup, you do have your work ethic. So put that sweat equity into YouTube and build a thriving community.
People crave authentic, insightful videos with engaging content. So if your company or project is just starting out, tell that story through a series of engaging vlog-style videos. The production value doesn't have to be amazing and you don't need a bunch of graphics. Let your followers share in the journey through genuine, simple videos. Finally,, encourage them to like the videos and drop comments as you film. This is much more appealing than generic Instagram posts or Facebook banners.
20. Focus on micro-influencers
Working with micro-influencers can be a key component for growing your social media platform into a community. Influencer culture has skyrocketed in popularity which has been instrumental in creating the mega brands we see today. With the rise of influencer marketing, small-time influencers are budding on various platforms but their access to large and already established brands is limited. This creates a win-win opportunity for start-ups breaking ground and building their foundation to work with content creators with small followings.
21. Choose a Social Media platform based on your strengths
There are multiple social media platforms businesses can use, but when growing a social media presence it is best to only focus on building a following on one or two optimal platforms. Companies with informational content, resource links, and even witty product commentary should focus on a platform that allows for sharable written content like Twitter. On the contrary, Instagram is a useful tool for businesses to highlight their services, such as event vendors or architecture firms.
22. Build one-on-one relationships with your audience
The best social media strategy for startups with a limited budget who are focused on community-building is to spend time focused on one-to-one relationships. This means replying to every single comment, every single DM, liking photos from people who like yours, starting and replying to all conversations you can, and making your followers and even acquaintances feel valued like true friends. Once you start doing this, you will find yourself building a small community of loyal, dedicated followers who will want to support you and buy from you long-term.
23. Set a goal, create a style guide, and find the right platform
Creating a social media strategy for startups starts by identifying your goals. After determining what those goals are, how are they achievable? On what platforms are they achievable?
After answering these questions, create a style guide for your social media channels. The style guide can include but is not limited to a color palette, specific logos, and variations of them. After establishing the style guide, begin to update all social media profiles so that the style becomes recognizable to users.
Next, create a content strategy. Who is your target audience to achieve your goals? What kind of content will you post, and how often will it be shared? Next, begin creating and sharing content.
Finally, engage with users who engage with your content. Utilize Instagram and Facebook Stories and Twitter Fleets. Use Twitter polls and surveys on Instagram Stories. Livestream on Instagram and Facebook. In short, look to use any new tool on social media to promote your business page and content whenever possible.
24. Give more to learn more
Have something to offer your target audience right away, such as a free trial, limited access to your product or service, or explainer guides or videos. Give something useful to them that encourages them to interact with you or your service.
Doing this on social media adds the benefit that people are inclined to leave feedback and discuss the product with each other, which is information you can use to know what's working and what you can improve.
25. Start small
The biggest piece of advice I can give is to not overwhelm yourselves with all kinds of nuanced strategy. You need to actively use social media. End of story. Sometimes people can get overwhelmed with having to learn effective strategy and that can paralyze you into inaction.
Sure their are plenty of strategies out their that work wonders but the most important thing is to just put yourself out there consistently, everyday. The nuanced strategy can come later. Get used to just being an active participate on social media in whichever ways you are able. There is no need to plan a huge strategy when starting out.
26. Case studies and user-generated content
Startups with a limited budget need to focus on quality over quantity. By quality, I'm talking unbelievable case studies and transformations by their users.
For example, John was living paycheck to paycheck until using the startup's app and now has $10,000 saved.
A customer testimonial video will do much more than 50 quotes by famous people. Secondly, you can run a contest and publish user-generated content. This works both ways. First, you're receiving free content to publish, which saves your team time and money. Secondly, you're building rapport with your audience by engaging them and giving their pictures or videos more publicity. This is the way to go for your social strategy when you're just getting started.
27. Find the platforms that offer asymmetric returns
Advertise a few of your most clickbait articles. Consumer businesses should use Pinterest and B2B businesses should use Outbrain or Taboola. On Pinterest, I've seen as low as $0.01 cents per click cost to view the landing page. That is ridiculously cheap to get a user in the USA to land on your website.
Well, so what if they're not going to buy?
Early stage startups should have their Facebook pixel on their website. Take all that cheap but unqualified traffic and remarket to them on Facebook. Drive them deeper into your funnel using highly relevant and targeted ads to product pages. You can increase your remarketing pools by 500% for a fraction of the cost using Pinterest ads, Taboola, Outbrain, etc. So if you're struggling to find that next level of growth with a tight budget, give this a shot!
28. Start running giveaways
The best social media strategy for startups with a limited budget focused on community building is to scale back on paid ads and instead focus on more cost-effective directed engagement.
Directed engagement is how startups can meaningfully connect with their audience by engaging them where they are, in ways they love. The most common form of directed engagement is giveaways. Instagram giveaways are typically the best since Instagram has higher engagement than any other social media platform by a wide margin.
Giveaways work well because startups can specify how they want their audience to engage with them, which simultaneously drives meaningful engagement. They are also great because the only cost is what you give away, which doesn't have to be expensive.
29. Research your competition first
As a founder, I always believe that to win a battle, you must have the correct weapon. Researching your competition will enable you to create a more effective strategy, especially when you are just starting and don't have enough budget. It will prevent you from funding strategies that aren't effective, making you save more money to use for more important projects that will work. You will also automatically get their attention and interest when you start executing to gain a positive ROI. And with that, no time, money, and effort will go to waste.
30. Use Social Media to generate new business ideas
While a social media strategy for startups is largely used for advertising and sales, a greater part of it can also be used to bring in new business ideas. Here’s how:
Survey: With endless features on social media, one can conduct surveys, polls and queries to bring in business ideas to brainstorm about. Some of the prominent examples are the Survey/Poll on facebook, Polls & Questions stickers on Instagram and Subreddits on Reddit.
Engagement: One of the prime features of social media is that it gives a platform for a dialogue with the audience. Interestingly, this key feature makes all the difference.
Market Study: With image-based social media, like Instagram and Pinterest, getting popular, people have ease and motivation to showcase their ideas on social platforms. Surfing for new ideas to meet the market gap is thus made easy.
Trend Study: For a contemporary understanding, Social Media can be taken as a synonym for the trend. Every big and small trend gets reflected on social media, the second it breaks out.
31. Focus on honest updates instead of promotional content
Actually, the most effective and the cheapest social media strategy for startups is simply telling what is happening. Right after founders decide to develop a startup, they should create profiles in socials and post updates. It may be simply updates on what the team did. Be it, for instance, hired a developer, carried out market research, visited a startup conference, found a mentor or investor, decided to pivot, presentation of team-members, founders sharing thoughts and insights etc.
This simple approach lets a startup build an audience around the project as early as possible. It will simplify, in the future, the search for customers, investors, or simply those who are interested. To sum up, first of all a startup should become a media company.
32. Take part in groups and communities on Facebook and Linkedin
Organic won’t get you far and paid social is getting extremely expensive these days. If you want to drive engagement and get leads from social media in 2021, I would strongly suggest taking part in expert groups and communities on Facebook and LinkedIn.
Start new discussions, help solve people’s problems and in general, try to be as useful as possible without being too pushy about selling your product. Over time, you’ll see massive ROI from this approach and you’ll make quite a few friends and associates along the way. This is the ideal social media strategy for startups at an early stage.
33. Use SM automation tools
The best social media strategy for startups, at least in my opinion, is using automated software to properly manage your social network's accounts. There's nothing more valuable for an early-stage startup than time and money, and tools like Buffer (which is the one I used for my own startup) are meant to help you precisely with that matter.
An social media automation software allows you to build a community while spending the least time possible on your socials and saves you a lot of money you could be spending on employees dedicated entirely to these tasks. Design, schedule, and post content in all major social networks with the help of one single tool that will also provide you with in-depth results analyses and community engagement.
34. Repurpose blog content
Each social media campaign is based on media — visuals, reads, etc. Ideally, you want to create valuable content for your community for them to share and engage with. There's a quick to-do list for early-stage startups:
1. Analyze the most engaging pages of your website (using GA or similar analytical tool);
2. Create a summary (quick post) depends on the type of content — for a help article it could be a link with an appealing image, for video — use the content itself;
3. Re-use created content, it doesn't harm to post some important information once in a while.
35. Utilize Facebook groups, Slack or Discord
It seems to me that in the early days of a start-up you're much more concerned with engagement than with branding. Vaguely engaged people with positive associations with your brand will not help you move toward profitability or stability, whichever you're after, and they won't even necessarily do much for growth, unless you have a truly enormous brand, which being a start-up you probably do not.
What you need is high levels of engagement from a loyal core following. With social media, there are a few ways of doing that. One of the more obvious is building out a semi-private forum that invites users to join your launch process or early iterations of your product. This could be a Facebook group, if you're going more conventional social media, or a Discord or Slack group. But what you're hopefully getting from it is commitment and strong connection with your followers. That can be the foundation for whatever you do next.
36. Don’t sponsor influencers; collaborate with them
Be Useful and Be Helped: There are a lot of influencers who are new to the gig. They may not have hundreds of thousands of followers, but they have built a substantial following. They’re also looking for more companies to hire them.
While the big-time influencers have their set clients, those who are at the beginning stages are more eager for new clients and have a lower cost. This is a great way to go as a startup if you’re trying to spread the word of your new company, but don’t have a large budget for marketing needs.
It’s a strategy that Hayden Girls has applied to our own marketing strategy for a while now and have received the fruit of those partnerships. Once you get more established and develop a larger budget, you can shift towards better-known influencers. But why not help someone else who’s starting out as you do the same?