From 0 to 100: How to Grow Social Media Following for Start-ups

From 0 to 100: How to Grow Social Media Following for Start-ups

Entrepreneurs put an unbelievable amount of time and effort into building their startup brand. And, unfortunately, according to Failory startup statistics, 90% of them will fail—around 30% within the first two years. Why? Well, a variety of reasons, but over 50% of those reasons are marketing related.

At EMB, we talk to a lot of startups about how important it is to see marketing as an investment, not an expense. The days of “if you build it they will come” are way over, so marketing is a must, particularly in saturated industries. But brochures, ads, websites and collateral add up. For cash-strapped startup businesses, marketing isn’t even on the brain. And that’s the issue.

Why Startups Should Start With Social Media

Even with a nonexistent marketing budget, there’s still a solution to gaining marketing momentum: social media. With extremely few exceptions, no matter who your audience is, they’re on social media. And, for better or for worse, those social platforms are built at their core to connect users with stories, services and products tailored to their interests. Since the main social media players allow businesses to post organic content for free, all it costs is time.

It takes more than simply publishing posts to grow your online following, though. Here are six tips to get your startup started on its journey to growing an audience on social media before you ever hire a marketing agency or coordinator.

1. Research and Understand Your Audience

Just because you want to reach a big audience—and you want to know how to get social media followers—doesn't mean you should cast a wide net with your content. We call that the “spray and pray” model, and it doesn’t work. You need to know who your audience is.

It is crucial that startups first figure out their target demographic. Once you know the demographics who are most likely to like the brand, you're going to successfully reach people who engage. Knowing your audience is easier said than done, but there are plenty of ways to put together a strategy and a strong hypothesis. There are general guidelines as well. For example, if you want to reach tech professionals, X (aka Twitter) would be a better bet than Facebook. If your intended audience is stay-at-home parents, on the other hand, X would be a big waste of time.

2. Publish Content Tailored to the Platform

No matter who your audience is, you still have to diversify the social media platforms you use and the content you publish on them. You can invest more money or time into certain platforms, but you should still publish content across many different social media networks. 

Make sure you post original content on every social media platform. You don't want to repeat content, because when you do, some people might choose to only follow you on one network as opposed to all of them. You want to have the most follows on every platform you use, so encourage your customers to follow by posting individualized content. On a basic level, people on Instagram probably won’t care about your latest financial report, but those on LinkedIn will.

3. Engage to Increase Shares

Find ways to engage with your employees and customers online. While it is a risk to engage with direct competitors, you should always be looking for ways to include your community in your content, including your close business partners. Here are some tips for engagement:

  • Share employee biographies: When you start your social media accounts, introduce your team via posts or stories. Shoot for highly personalized content that shows your brand values and identity, like fun facts or short stories.
  • Host contests or giveaways: If it makes sense for your business, try hosting a contest to increase engagement. For instance, you could offer a trial of your startup's services to one customer who shares your post on their profile or in a story.
  • Establish content partnerships: Is your startup working with a nonprofit? Are they tabling at a fair or event in town? Publish a post encouraging your customers to give them a visit. By making a connection with that nonprofit, you build trust and establish brand values.
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