A 101 guide for startups that want to learn how to establish and build their brand using social media.

By Megan Conley (Founder & CEO, Social Tribe)

One of the most common questions I get asked by startup founders and marketers is how to leverage social media as a marketing tool for new businesses.

Social media is a natural marketing tool for startups for two important reasons: one, it’s a direct line to customers, and two, it’s low cost. However, what you save in dollars, you’ll invest in time – that much I can promise you.

This is a 101 guide for startups that want to learn how to establish and build their brand using social media.

Do Your Homework

Behind every great social media campaign is a great strategy. Social media is all about connecting with your audience on an authentic level, to achieve that you have to intimately understand who you’re talking to.

Define your audience profile: paint a clear picture of who your target customers are. Specify individual character profiles by relevant characteristics: age, gender, demographics, interests, profession, etc. Don’t just say it out loud, write down the details and find images that represent your target audience.

Crystallize your message: Walk a mile in your customers’ shoes – what are their key problems or concerns? Under each character profile, define the pain point for each character. Below that, write down three key marketing messages that you want to communicate to that audience.


Find the right social network for you: Not all social media channels are created equally – each channel has a different audience and cadence. It’s important to understand the differences so you can select the channels that are the right fit for your brand.

Here’s a great infographic that breaks down the different audiences and social media channels.

Integration Is Key

If you treat social media as a stand-alone effort, your success will be limited. For social media to thrive, it needs to be integrated into every part of your marketing strategy. Here are a few places to get started:

Website: Your website is “home base” for your brand – the ultimate destination for your customers. Make sure your website is optimized for social media by incorporating these easy tips:

  • Social icons are prominently displayed one homepage and other pages
  • Integrate live social media feeds so visitors can see recent activity
  • Incorporate sharing buttons to make content is share friendly
  • Tool tip: ShareThis provides easy to install share buttons, plugins and analytics for your content

eNewsletter: Leverage your eNewsletter to stay top of mind with current and prospective customers and encourage them to connect with you on social media.

  • Social icons are prominently displayed
  • Invite your audience to join your social media communities
  • Feature social media content, including community members, promotions and contests
  • Tool tip: Click to Tweet is a great way to promote sound bites of your content. It auto populates a tweet with your message, all users have to do is click on the URL and hit send!

Blogs: Your blog is a key platform to establish your brand voice and share information. It’s also a key opportunity to engage and capture more information about your site visitors.

  • Integrate live social media feeds so visitors can see recent activity
  • Incorporate sharing buttons to make content share-friendly
  • Tool tip: Disqus is blog comment hosting service that integrates with readers’ social media accounts to populate their profiles.
  • Bonus tool tip: HelloBar makes it easy to highlight blog content on your site with a customizable bar that appears at the top of every page

Let’s Get This Social Party Started!

Now that you’ve done your research and optimized other marketing touch points, you’re read to start social. Ready, set, GO!

Start Small: This might be the most important advice I have to give – so listen up! Social media takes time and energy – precious resources for a startup. Set yourself up for success by starting with a manageable load, start with 1-2 platforms (selected based on the research you’ve done) and integrate them into your daily routine. Expect to spend about a minimum of 15 minutes a day on your social activities.

Use the right tools: You’ll need a social media management tool to organize and manage your daily social media activities. I recommend Hootsuite – a social media dashboard that offers monitoring, scheduling and analytic services.

Establish a routine: The best way to guarantee consistent participation is by incorporating social media into your daily routine. Block the time on your calendar, turn off all distractions and dedicate time to manage your social media accounts.

Listen First

Social media conversations are happening all around us in real time. Monitoring dashboards are a smart way to tune and listen for feedback, trends, news and insights. Social listening is also an excellent strategy monitor what people are saying about your brand. Be sure to monitor:

  • Competitors
  • Keywords and hashtags
  • Company name / leadership team
  • Tool tip: Mention App monitors the web, including the major social media channels, to keep you informed every time somebody mentions your name, brand or target keywords.

Organize Your Content

If social media is a car, content if your fuel. Unfortunately, combing through Internet for good content can be slow and time consuming. To avoid getting bogged down by content curation, set up a process for organizing and aggregating quality content that will provide value to your audience.

  • Review your key messages (refer to audience profile)
  • Identify relevant topics and themes that reinforce key messages
  • Find high quality content sources, i.e. blogs, magazines, websites
  • Tool tip: Feedly is a magazine style newsreader that aggregates content from different sources and organizes it for you

Look Who’s Talking

With a good steady stream of content in the pipeline, you’re primed to begin posting and engaging on social media. Be intentional about your social activities – success isn’t about chance, it’s about strategy.

  • Participate consistently, everyday!
  • Proactively initiate conversations by asking questions and posting comments
  • Personalize your brand by welcoming new followers, sharing, compliments, and thanking people periodically
  • Join interest groups and communities to target specific communities
  • Tool tip: Download a Free Guide on How to Manage Social Media in 15 Minutes A Day

Rinse, Wash, Repeat

The last step in this process is one of the most critical – measuring and analyzing results. Tracking performance data will help you identify which strategies are working and which aren’t so you can react quickly.

  • Set up social reports on Google Analytics to monitor and track which social media channels are driving the most traffic to your site
  • Use social media tracking tools to track and measure social media performance, most social media account management tools (like Hootsuite) have reporting features that will track growth, engagement, sharing, etc.
  • Commit to reviewing your metric reports regularly (I’d recommend once a week) as well as stepping back once every few months to evaluate the big picture
  • Tools tip: Sprout Social creates easy to understand social media reports that can help you evaluate your social media performance

The most important thing to remember is that social media is a marathon – not a sprint! Follow the steps above and you’ll be position for success.

What other tools/tips have you found to be successful in social media? What challenges are you working to overcome?

MC_profileAbout the guest blogger: Megan Conley (@megconley) is the CEO and Founder of Social Tribe. She was inspired to start Social Tribe to spur authenticity, value, and creativity in the work around her. Since opening in 2009, Social Tribe has landed numerous key accounts, serving clients such as Cisco Systems, SuccessFactors, BREVAGen, and the Canary Foundation.