It's Not All About Social Media: Why You Need A More Wholesome Communications Strategy To Grow Your Business
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Social media has done a great job of creating disruption to what was once a money-hungry and egotistical industry: media and public relations. But the dust is finally settling. We’re starting to peel back the layers on the tweets, the engagement, the clicks, and the views, and it’s not the holy grail that many have been touting it as. As someone who’s worked in media for over a decade, I’ve seen the peaks and troughs of countless campaigns, and the resounding success that can come from people talking about your brand and business- if you use communications effectively.
Notice how I used the word communications, and not media? For too long, we’ve relied on this outward approach to connecting with stakeholders through a one-way form of communication, and along the way, we’ve forgotten, especially as entrepreneurs, how much coverage can mean to one individual business. It’s one thing if we tell you we’re great; it’s another if 10 other people validate that on their platform. Entrepreneurs should be great communicators on every platform to get their message and call to action out to their customers- so, where are we missing the mark?
Firstly, the over reliance on just social media needs to stop. It’s one part of your arsenal, but it shouldn’t be your only focus point. Crafting captivating images, witty captions, and cohesive feeds may suit certain brands, but for many startups, it may not be the right choice for you. By now, you should have done your homework to know where your customers are most engaging, and how they want you to be a part of that. If not, go back to square one, and narrow down your customers habits. This should be the beginning of your communications strategy- knowing how to get in front of your customers.
If you’ve spent the time and effort to create a product or service you know people want and need, you should have a fairly good idea of their day-to-day habits, their likes and dislikes, and where they stand demographically, socially, and geographically. Communications strategies take all of these factors into account, and create messages, pieces of information if you will, that specifically speak to your target customer to get them to engage with your product or service. Without these, you have no clear direction to go in, or a way of effectively targeting potential customers for sales.
Secondly, don’t overlook traditional media platforms like print, radio, or television. Established networks allow you to piggyback on their exposure if you have a great story to tell, or a news hook. Your starting up of a company isn’t going to be a headline unless you’ve already exited a previous startup, and your name has already had coverage. However, if the angle or hook is that you’ve just received another round of funding, or that your product has now been used by 1000 people, and you release data to show that your industry trends are changing, that’s something to talk about. Having a good communications strategy in place will allow you to create these types of talking points based on your specific industry.
It’s also worth noting that traditional media outlets have embraced the digital age. You now have print magazines with online editions, radio shows that are recorded and placed online as podcasts, TV shows, etc. on social media platforms. It’s a kill-twobirds- with-one-stone strategy: create a convincing hook to attract attention from producers or editors, get coverage in print or on a live broadcasting show, and you’ll automatically appear on their digital channels. Not only that, but a new study by YouGov shows that “local newspapers are the most trusted source for local news and information, and more than three times more trusted than social media sites.”
Third, it’s important to know that you as a founder are the very first ambassador for your brand, and your employees should be too. It’s a theme emerging from Silicon Valley whereby employees are invested and engaged in the overcall company mission, and by getting that by in from day one, you create loyal brand ambassadors for life. That is well before you even take your product to market. Think of the likes of Uber, Google, or Bumble. These companies have all showcased their employees at tech conferences, industry events, and panel discussions to represent the brand in front of hundreds of thousands of people, and that type of coverage stamps your market on the world stage.
At the end of the day, we’re in the business of making money, and having a return on our investments. Would you rather have 10,000 likes, or US$10,000 in the bank? If the latter is the case, then it’s worthwhile investing in a communications strategy to be able to effectively connect with your customers. If your focus is solely on creating a captivating Instagram feed, then you’re just creating a captivating billboard for your business. It’s time to start thinking about investing your time gaining coverage in other media channels that have a captive audience, and then converting those fans into customers.