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How Can Startups Leverage Social Media for Brand Building?

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In the fast-paced world of startups, mastering social media can be a game changer for brand building. We've gathered insights from brand managers and creative directors to bring you 15 expert strategies. From planning consistent, high-quality posts to leveraging user-generated content campaigns, discover how to make social media work for your startup's brand narrative

Plan Consistent, High-Quality Posts

We paved our way from a small startup to an international company with clients in over 150 countries. A huge part of it has always been social media. Before we started our blog and began appearing on webinars, we built our brand awareness on LinkedIn and Twitter.

The most effective way of building your brand on social media is through a simple strategy: Plan out when and how you want to post. Consistency is the most important part of creating a reliable image. So, think about how much time you can actually devote each week to each platform. Don't plan out too many posts per week if the tempo will be too high for you and you will have to eventually resign. It's better to post once or twice a week, but ensure that what you post is consistent with your brand, your color identification, and your needs.

Just because you're working on your own doesn't mean you can't create high-quality content. High-quality content is rich in information; it's engaging and memorable. So, each time you create a post, create a small checklist in your head: Is this content quality?

It's good to focus on building a very strong base audience when you're starting. You are going to achieve that by holding Q&A sessions and creating engaging posts and stories where you explain some concepts or ask questions to the viewers. You can quiz them on matters connected to your field of work. We used to ask our audience what were indicators of a strong brand in their opinion, answer some of the top comments, and then post research on the topic the following week. This way, our audience started to rely on us as thought leaders in the field. They would share the research with their colleagues, and suddenly, our following would grow more and more.

Waleria Pagowska, Product Marketing Specialist, Brand24

Showcase Behind-the-Scenes Content

One highly effective way for startups to leverage video marketing on social media is through the creation of "behind-the-scenes" content. This approach humanizes your brand, allowing your audience to connect on a more personal level. Showcasing the faces behind your products or services, your workspace, and even the process of how your goods are made, or services are executed can significantly enhance brand loyalty and trust. This type of content doesn't always require high production values, making it a cost-effective strategy that can yield high engagement rates. By giving your audience a peek into your brand's world, you're not just selling a product or service; you're inviting them into a story they'll want to be a part of.

Mike Vannelli, Creative Director, Envy Creative

Engage in Relevant Facebook Groups

A proven method of leveraging social media for brand building is to have members of your team join and engage in relevant Facebook groups. For example, if you sell cheese, you could join recipe groups, moms' groups, and, wait for it... cheese groups! Engage with the posts and group members through posts and comments, and try to elevate your profile to moderator status when possible to give you a bit more leeway with self-promotion. From there, start funneling people to your brand page and consider making a group for your brand once you have momentum.

Dennis Consorte, Digital Marketing & Leadership Consultant for Startups, Snackable Solutions

Be Creative and Take Risks

Honestly, the mistake most startups—and businesses in general—make on social media is taking it too seriously without being willing to take a risk. Be creative and have fun with it. Which brands do you actually remember for their social media posts? For me, it's brands that have fun with it, like Wendy's, or sports teams like the Chargers, who do cool stuff like turning their schedule reveal into an anime video instead of just dropping a screenshot of a list of dates, times, and opponents.

If all you're doing on social media is posting 'Here's our mandatory post celebrating (insert holiday here),' interspersed with sharing a blog post from your website because you read somewhere that you need to post on social media, you're not going to get anywhere.

Your brand on social media doesn't have to mesh perfectly with how you are perceived elsewhere. Just because Wendy's social media is sarcastic and witty doesn't mean I expect the cashier to make a quip about how my diet is going because I ordered a Diet Coke with my four Baconators.

So, if you're just starting out and don't already have a healthy number of followers, you need to actually get some attention somewhere. Start out trying to engage in a fun, funny, or creative way wherever and whenever you can in replies or trending topics. No one is going to find you if you're just posting generic content to your timeline or story every day with no followers, so you have to insert yourself where people are already engaged.

Travis Schreiber, Director of Operations, Erase Technologies

Tailor Strategy to Startup Nature

Social media offers a cost-effective way to not only increase brand awareness but also reach a global audience, thanks to the large user base of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The key to successfully using social media is to tailor the approach to the specific nature of the startup—be it a product (B2C) or a business-to-business (B2B) solution. This differentiation is critical because it dictates the strategy that should be used.

For B2C, direct interaction with the target audience is of paramount importance. One effective method is to use influencers. Depending on your available budget, initiating collaborations with micro-influencers can be a smart strategy. They can reinforce a brand's message by reaching potential customers in a way that is both authentic and engaging.

And for B2B, the most suitable platform is LinkedIn. The emphasis should be on demonstrating expertise and clearly articulating the startup's unique value proposition. Partnering with influencers who are respected experts in the field can also be beneficial, as their endorsement can increase trust.

Olga Natalchenko, pr manager, Wiserbrand

Integrate Channels into Unified Strategy

Reusing everything and integrating all channels into a single strategy, then adapting them to different channels, is what works best for us—and it's the most cost-effective approach.

Here's an example from my workplace: SEO is our most crucial customer acquisition channel, which is why it is the centerpiece of our strategy. Now, when we create an article on a certain topic, we ensure to also create an infographic that we share on social networks on that topic, make posts on X and LinkedIn, and produce a YouTube video.

This way, we cover the topic comprehensively and ensure we reach our audience, no matter which channel they prefer.

Marco Genaro Palma, Chief Marketing Officer, PRLab

Host Live Virtual Events

Start by doing live virtual events on social media! These days, social media platforms allow startups to easily go live. Startups can host AMAs on their social media channels to directly connect and speak with their community members on social media.

Brian Wong, founder, Spectrum

Build CEO/Founder's Personal Brand

The social media strategy used for your startup is critical to its success, and leveraging the right outlets is key. However, one often overlooked marketing tool is building the CEO/Founder's personal brand.

Leveraging the expertise of the leaders in the organization, showcasing their passion for the brand, and building their sphere of influence can take your startup to the next level. The human-to-human factor builds the 'know, like, and trust' factor that is nearly impossible for a faceless startup to reproduce on its own.

Also, for startups that are seeking funding, the saying is 'VCs fund the founder,' thus adding to the importance of building the CEO/Founder's personal brand.

Claire Bahn, CEO and Co-Founder, Claire Bahn Group

Create Engaging, Shareable Content

One effective way for startups to leverage social media for brand-building is by creating engaging and shareable content that resonates with their target audience. This could include behind-the-scenes glimpses, user-generated content, and interactive posts. From my experience, this approach helps foster a sense of community around the brand and encourages users to become brand advocates, ultimately leading to increased brand visibility and loyalty.

Jayen Ashar, CTO, Scaleup Consulting

Weave a Relatable Brand Narrative

Use storytelling. Storytelling on social media isn't just about sharing what your product or service does; it's about weaving a narrative that connects your brand's values, mission, and vision with your audience on a personal level. This method goes beyond traditional advertising by engaging potential customers in a narrative they find relatable, inspiring, or compelling.

For instance, a startup can share stories about the challenges it faced in the early stages of its business, the inspiration behind its products, or how its services are making a difference in customers' lives. This approach enhances brand visibility. It's about creating content that resonates on a human level, making its brand memorable and distinct in a crowded market.

When done effectively, storytelling can boost engagement rates, increase followers, and drive conversion rates, as people are more likely to support and purchase from brands they feel emotionally connected to. Additionally, leveraging user-generated content as part of your storytelling strategy can amplify your brand's reach and authenticity.

Encouraging your audience to share their stories about your brand or how your product has impacted their lives expands your brand's presence and credibility through genuine, customer-driven narratives. This approach enriches your brand's storytelling and builds a community that feels valued and connected to your startup's journey.

Kristin Kimberly Marquet, Founder and Creative Director, Marquet Media

Proactively Manage Online Communities

One effective way for startups to leverage social media for brand building is through proactive community management. This involves actively engaging with the audience on social media platforms by initiating conversations, responding to comments, and participating in relevant discussions. Proactive community management helps in creating a relatable and approachable brand image, fostering a sense of connection and loyalty among followers.

Engaging with the community doesn't just mean addressing queries or concerns; it also involves sharing valuable content, asking for feedback, and showing appreciation for customer interaction. By doing so, startups can build a strong, engaged community that feels valued and heard. This active engagement not only increases brand visibility but also provides invaluable insights into customer preferences and behaviors, which can guide future marketing strategies and product development.

Steven Picanza, Co Founder, ANEWBrand

Integrate SEO Keywords in Posts

Searching for products/services within social media is gaining popularity, especially with younger audiences. Startups can integrate SEO keywords into their social media content to make their posts searchable within the app and search engines. The brand should add keywords within their video content (spoken out loud and/or included within overlay text), captions, alt text, and image file names. This strategy can be effective for noting the products/services that the brand offers, where the business is based, and the core mission of the company.

Megan Gersch, Owner + CEO, Megan Gersch

Share Stories and Nurture Community

I think the best use of social media for effective brand building is, one, sharing storytelling content and, two, nurturing your community. Creating engaging content that tells a story and feels true to your brand and voice will resonate with (and attract) the right people.

Social media is a great way to have one-on-one conversations with your community and to build loyalty. Your community and brand will be shaped by their (customers') feedback. Nurture these relationships!

Ally Case, Founder + CEO, Uppercase Media

Analyze Competitors for Content Strategy

Startups leveraging social media for brand-building should rely heavily on a data-led approach. This means analyzing the performance of content published by their competitors and understanding what kind of content is working best with different audiences on different social channels.

In the ever-changing landscape of social media marketing, this kind of intel helps brand managers tweak and pivot their content strategy because what worked last month isn't necessarily going to work next month—trends move quickly!

Furthermore, utilizing competitor analytics on your target social media channels will de-risk your social content strategy overall. Doing so essentially shortcuts the test-and-learn process and enables you to execute content ideas based on competitive data insight. Why not utilize the communication techniques and media types that you know are already cutting through in the News Feed and use these to inform your next best posts?

Tim Hill, Co-Founder and CEO, Social Status

Leverage User-Generated Content Campaigns

Use UGC campaigns to build up customer relationships and leverage their recommendations to promote your new product. By releasing a product beta to unique customers and testers, you can begin to build buzz with their reviews, ratings, and video content before launch.

Customer videos using your product and similar UGC can become the marketing material to run in your social media campaigns, landing pages, and other content. UGC strategies are also easy to gamify to pump up engagement rates, or in hashtag marketing to encourage more views and interactions.

Feature users' content as your promotional material to inspire new customers, pique their interest, and get involved. Authenticity and social proof drive better purchase conversions, making UGC the natural route to onboarding customers and building new rapport.

Joanne Demeireles, CXO, Oula Health