Social media has taken over the world. Nowadays, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who hasn’t created a profile on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or one of the scores of other platforms out there. Because of its cost-effectiveness in reaching thousands of people with just a single post, social media serves as an outstanding marketing tool and a vital part of any brand’s strategy. That’s why businesses the world over are increasing their social media marketing budgets by the month. Startups are notoriously fragile, with a fifth collapsing in their first year. This can happen for a whole host of reasons. But for the businesses that succeed, investing in a solid marketing strategy almost always pays dividends. Effective advertising helps budding startups differentiate themselves from their competition and gives their brand a unique voice. But what can you do to get the most out of your social media strategy? Here are a few pointers for entrepreneurs looking to boost their online presence. Do Your Research Beforehand You may feel tempted to start posting on social media right off the bat. That’s a pretty bad idea; you’ll effectively be taking shots in the dark, hoping something sticks. Instead, you should develop a strategy based on comprehensive market research. The main questions you need to consider are: Who does your product appeal to the most? What social platforms do your target demographics use most? How do they behave there (e.g. how do they interact with advertising)? After you’ve thoroughly analyzed the market, the outlines of your advertising strategy will basically write themselves. Use the Same Handle Across Platforms As straightforward and intuitive as this sounds, it’s surprising how often startups neglect to keep their brand name identical across platforms. Being consistent with your branding makes it significantly easier for your audience to understand what you do. It’s also far easier for them to find your brand online. Don’t Spread Out Too Much At some point, you’ll likely consider branching out to as many platforms as you can think of. After all, the more platforms, the more people you reach, right? While that may hold a grain of truth, you’re better off specializing in only a few channels. If you have your fingers in too many pies, you risk spreading yourself too thin and dealing with too much data. On the other hand, startups that focus effectively on just a few platforms can increase their visibility and improve results. Create Engaging Content The hook is an indispensable weapon in your marketing arsenal. After all, sparking interest in your brand is the first step toward nurturing demand for it. Luckily, social media provides the perfect conditions for reeling people in with engaging content. There’s nothing new or fancy about using attractive images in marketing, but visuals are becoming more and more important in the social media age. If you don’t spice up your marketing with high-quality photos and videos, you’re missing a trick. The most crucial aspect of social media marketing is getting your audience to interact with your posts. There are a number of ways to do this, depending on the platform and the content you publish. Facebook, for example, allows you to publish a diverse array of content, from plain text and photos to videos and live streams. Be as flexible and diverse as the medium allows you to, and publish content that encourages your audience to react. You should also consider trying new things. For example, live streams now outrank blogs and social posts in terms of popularity among audiences. Use that to your benefit by streaming relevant and entertaining content. Ride the Trending Train Trending topics garner massive amounts of attention. They can also help direct huge numbers of potential customers to your business. A smart startup knows how to use this to its advantage. If you’re on, let’s say, Twitter, you can easily track the list of hashtags that are trending right now. See which ones will appeal to your demographic and throw your hat in the ring. Depending on the context, however, hitching a ride on the trending train can be trickier to pull off than you may think. You should always accurately reflect your brand image when approaching trendy topics. It’s also worth remembering that some topics are more sensitive than others. For example, don’t be too quick to associate your brand with any political conversations or tragic events. Post Regularly When it comes to marketing on social media, consistency matters. If you have a stint of frequent activity on your account, only to vanish without warning, you make it extremely difficult for your audience to communicate with your brand in any meaningful way. How will they see your content when you aren’t active? When can they expect you to post? How are they supposed to know when you’ll come back? Contrary to what some people may think, being consistent doesn’t mean posting by the hour. How often you share content depends on the platform. For example, Facebook’s sweet spot is around once per day. The key thing is to establish a regular posting schedule – even if it’s once a week – and stick to it. If you do that, people will know when and where to find your content. That, in turn, will make them far more likely to engage with your brand. Track Your Data In marketing, metrics are everything. The more you know about your audience’s behavior, the better equipped you’ll be to interact with those people meaningfully. You need to take into account a lot of important information to measure how well your marketing campaign is faring or will fare. Consider factors like: when your audience is most active on a given platform; how many clicks, comments, and reactions your content gathers; what kind of sentiments people express toward your content. Insights into such metrics will give you excellent feedback on how to refine your advertising efforts. Once you’ve got these issues figured out, you’ll be ready to post with confidence. Influencers Influencers are masters of creating personal and emotional connections with their followers. They can also provide that kind of valuable connection between their followers and your brand. Getting the right influencer to promote your startup builds trust among that audience. You’ll come across thousands of influencers with potent voices in their fields. They abound on sites like Instagram and Twitter. Indeed, a third of Twitter users follow influencers on the platform. Do your research and find out who has the strongest connection with your target demographic. Allow Your Approach to Evolve Too often, businesses get lazy with their social media approach. They stick with the strategy they’re most comfortable with instead of coming up with new ideas. As a consequence, they risk boring their audience or overstaying their welcome. A good way to escape this trap is to constantly test-drive new tactics. Split testing (a.k.a. A/B testing), for example, helps you calculate how to best interact with your target demographic. If one advertising method falls short, try a similar approach with a few modifications. If the changes improve engagement, take note of them. If not, rinse and repeat until you strike the perfect chord. If nothing works, you’ll know there’s something fundamentally wrong with your overarching strategy. Save Time by Automating Properly managing all of the above takes time and resources. With all the pressures of running a business in such a competitive environment, meticulous management is a top priority. Automation tools are a lifesaver because they take a significant load off your shoulders. These tools segment your audience, indicate when you should post, and help you discover potentially valuable customers. They’re a gift from above; make use of them. With these tips under your belt, you’ll be better placed than ever to reap the benefits of social media marketing. Just remember to remain patient and not get disheartened when you receive lukewarm engagement. Nobody gets it just right the first time around. As long as you learn from your mistakes, you’re well on your way to success!