We live our lives in social media. Almost half of us spend more time socializing online than we do face-to-face. And if you don’t believe me, Yahoo is willing to put its money where my mouth is (to the tune of $1.1B for Tumblr). Evidently, gifs and cats are big business.
In fact, HubSpot found that social media produces almost double the marketing leads of trade shows, telemarketing, direct mail or PPC. And social media leads? Well, they convert at a rate 13% higher than the average.
Pretty impressive, huh? But I don’t have to make the case for hopping on the social media bandwagon; you’ve probably already done that. Now the big question is: Who do you leverage social media to connect with?
The answer is simple, really. Anyone you would take the time to have coffee with is someone you should be engaging with on social media. Just think of social media as the international coffee shop.
But let’s get more specific.
1. Thought Leaders
You have to influence the influencer. Social media is perfectly positioned to help you do that. Where else can you get Gary Vaynerchuk, Neil Patel and Dave McClure in the same room – 365 days of the year?
But don’t stop there. Focus on your audience. Who are they influenced by (online and offline)? Find their favourite talkshow hosts, find their favourite authors, find their favourite celebrities.
Some of them will be influential on social media and some won’t. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that they’re influential to the audience you care about – and you have easy, 24/7 access to them!
If you’re the next Citrus Lane, connect with writers from Babble. And hosts from The Today Show. And celebrity moms. If you’re the next Buffer, connect with the Gary Vaynerchuks, Neil Patels and Dave McClures of the world.
Get in front of the people already influencing your audience. Why? Not because they might retweet you (ok, maybe a little). The point is to create a relationship with them.
2. Potential Customers
Here’s another expression for you: “Fish where the fish are.” Your long-term goal with social media should be to build an engaged community (no vanity metrics). But that won’t happen overnight. In the meantime, start fishing where the fish are.
Where does your audience hangout? You know 27% of time online in the U.S. is spent on social media, but you don’t know which channels are best for your startup. Facebook and Twitter aren’t always a safe bet. For example, if you’re looking to connect with a young audience, you’ll definitely want to be on Tumblr (just ask Yahoo).
Choose the channels that are right for you and then go even further. Is there a particular Tumblr tag your audience uses a lot? Follow it and reach out to those who are using it regularly. If you do decide to go with Twitter, pick out a Twitter chat or two to attend every week.
Insert yourself into existing communities before you start trying to build your own.
3. Brand Advocates
It’s like our friends at Evergage say, “You have super users whether you realize it or not.” Chances are, they’re waiting for you to connect with them. Run searches on social media channels to see who’s already talking about your startup. Give them the heads up that you’re there and ready to engage.
Not turning up much? That’s ok. Link to your social media accounts from your website, from your newsletters, from your email signatures – everywhere. Let everyone know you’re available. Your advocates will turn up. Or, at the very least, potential advocates will.
“Don’t be discouraged by the size of your network. Inspire one person and you are doing good.” ~Guy Kawasaki
Social media is the perfect way to get to know your current customers. You might not be able to call them all or meet them all in person, but you better believe you can engage with them all on social media.
Remember, the best customer is the one you never lose.
Maintaining and improving your current relationships is just as important as, if not more important than, building new relationships. If you play your cards right, you’ll have customers (and a “street team” for life).
Some Final Tips
1. Create a list of specific people for each of those three categories. For Twitter, set them up as HootSuite list streams, follow them and start reaching out. On Facebook, like their pages and start reaching out. On Tumblr, follow them and start reaching out. Know who you want to connect with and why!
2. Be consistent and patient. Tweeting someone once about the weather doesn’t count. You generally don’t befriend a stranger who asks you for the time, right? The same goes for social media.
3. Be authentic and genuine. If you don’t want to develop actual relationships, quit now. You don’t need another contact for your rolodex. Hint: If you have to try to be authentic, you’re not being authentic.
4. Use Little Bird. It’s a cool tool that helps you connect with the right people at the right time.
5. Don’t automatically DM anyone. Ever. But don’t be afraid to DM someone if you have something to say to them privately (that they’d actually be interested in hearing).
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for a sale or an email. Just make sure you’re giving as much as (if not more than) you’re receiving.
The world is your coffee shop! Who should you be engaging with on social media? The people already influencing your audience, the people who will be interested in your startup and the people already interested in your startup.
But, rest assured, the list doesn’t end there. You can also reach out to potential acquirers, potential investors, potential business partners, potential co-founders, potential employees – anyone.
What matters is that you’re strategic and deliberate. Don’t just engage with anyone who will listen, engage with the people worth listening to.