Q: How important is it for founders (not the company itself) at startups to have a social media presence of their own?
A: When starting a new company, communications often begins with the founder and that means establishing his or her own presence. This is essentially table stakes in almost every new venture today. The benefits of building a founder’s personal brand online include:
- Visibility into a founder’s track record at prior companies, education and experience can help establish early credibility for their new company’s vision and cast a warm glow over its potential success.
- Online brand awareness can be an efficient way to help attract other possible business partners, financiers, employees, recruiters, and accountants to get the founder’s business off the ground.
- Personal awareness can be the platform for other future communications initiatives such as a thought leadership campaign, speaking engagements and marketing programs.
So how can you begin this process? Here are a few pointers:
Devise a social-media strategy. Where are the people you need to reach? LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and other social-media platforms can appeal to different audiences and can serve different objectives. They often work best when used at the same time as they create the echo chamber for information about you.
Create a content strategy. What information will you post on and through these channels? What is the unique value proposition of your company? What problem do you solve? Start to write several articles or opinion posts you can put on these channels.
Research. Look at what others founders and executives of companies in your space are doing to get an idea of how your content can be different or complementary. What visual elements can you add to make your content come to life?
Go beyond social. Outside of social channels, consider your local newspaper or other print outlets. Many have reporters who write entrepreneur profiles, cover startups or are looking for round ups about current trends.
But before you jump all in, make sure you consider these things.
Are you ready? If you are in stealth mode, carefully consider what you DON’T want to put out in the universe so as not to unnecessarily alert your competitors to what you are doing. Sometimes a simple profile on LinkedIn will suffice until the timing is right to launch a broader communications program.
Understand how each social channel works. How long is too long? When is the best time to post new content? What features of each approach can you leverage? Understand how to be informative and authentic. Avoid being overly sales-oriented and long winded – it’s a huge turn-off.
Be prepared to feed the beast. Once you start, you shouldn’t stop. Your audience will get used to seeing fresh content from you. A lull in information means interested parties may get disenchanted and turn away.