We’re very lucky at Yarnee. Our founder, Dan Kelly, is a keen user of Twitter and Facebook and so understands the importance of fostering social DNA within a startup. It’s an attitude that has benefitted Yarnee as a company in many ways, both small and profound.
But we’re not special (well, we are kind of special, but not in the ways I’m about to explain), a social media mindset should exist from the top down within any company. Here are five reasons why:
1. Social as a resource
I can’t tell you how many tweets came through my stream from our product guy and social maven, Fraser, who regularly reaches out to his most respected startup entrepreneurs and experts for advice. And, you know what, many of those inquiries are met with responses. In the startup space, there’s an intoxicating atmosphere of helpfulness and teamwork across the social sphere.
There is an understanding that paying it forward by giving advice and help with no expectation of reward is a win win. Those proffering advice get to show off their hard-won expertise and thus further establish their mindshare in their chosen field. Those asking for information and advice get actionable answers from people who have already suffered through the problems they are trying to solve.
In the social media realm, people are accessible. People are willing to ask, people are willing to be wrong, to be discursive and ultimately to help out where they can. This culture of information exchange in the startup community on services like Twitter and LinkedIn creates a powerful network effect for entrepreneurs looking to learn.
We learned what our ideal social media content ratio should be, how much resource we should sink into blogging and how best to put together a real-time marketing plan from scratch, just through conversations we started on Twitter.
2. Social as a window
Being transparent and open via social media is a tired platitude, oft cited but seldom genuinely practiced. It is not to be ignored however, as transparency is a bonus not just for you, but for your customers.
Social media is a place where highly self-censored, editorialised versions of your company’s story are conspicuously bland. It’s also no fun to have to wear your spin-doctor hat as an employee of a startup every time you want to share something.
Readers of your blog don’t want to keep hearing that your company is fun and awesome. Your audience wants to hear exactly how your successes were brought about via highly instructive posts. Equally, they want to know about your boneheaded decisions and missteps and the flawed reasoning that drew you to them, so that they might avoid making the same mistakes.
We fancy ourselves as a charming little team of diverse, passionate, humble, caffeine-powered entrepreneurs at Yarnee. We’re imperfect, we make mistakes and we have moments of inspiration. The more of these we share with our followers and potential users, the more we can learn together.
3. Social as a part of your brand
Your future customers spend more time on Facebook and Twitter than they do watching TV, listing to radio, browsing other websites or having conversations with their family over the dinner table. If you want to establish your company brand by telling the world what you know and why that’s important, the social media realm is where people are listening.
The Yarnee team is constantly curating content or posting our own to our social channels in order to broadcast loudly and clearly what the key values of our brand are. Social media is where you can spell out the contents of your company’s brain-trust – it’s where thought leadership is established and increasingly, it’s where industry experts are born.
4. Social as personality
The best companies are companies that are human and that have a story that can be retold. Dan, who runs a mobile apps company is a very different story than Dan, who runs a mobile app company, has adorable kids, posted a hilarious tweet during the Games of Thrones season finale and is a bit of a wine buff. The latter is human, personal and grounded in experiences people can relate to.
Social media shouldn’t just be about all of the branding stuff mentioned above – it should be about showing who you are, what you find funny, what you endorse and what you care about. Showing who you are as a company from the CEO to the most junior intern makes people care more about why you do what you do.
5. Social as user acquisition
Though the ROI of social media is notoriously hard to measure when it comes to things like app installs and web page views, there is an undeniable link between social engagement and product endorsement. Most people think it works along the lines of, hey, I’ll post a tweet with a link to my product in it and track the clicks. It doesn’t.
The Buffer blog captured this topic brilliantly in their post about social media ROI. The salient point is, conversions via social media from interested readers of your content to actual customers is a long tailed process with no two paths looking exactly alike.
Confidence in the brand is built up gradually and somewhat ambiently. How often have your read something, looked at the author and thought “I’m sure I saw something cool from that guy before, I wonder who they are and what they do”.
That moment of curiosity can lead fairly swiftly to direct product patronage and inspiring that moment of curiosity is the fulcrum of user acquisition via social media.
That’s why the Yarnee team blogs, tweets, shares on Facebook and posts to LinkedIn and Google +. It doesn’t matter that the conversions are nigh on impossible to track – achieving downloads or any sub-level of consumer interest via social media validation is a powerful way of snaffling not just customers for your product, but fans, which are even better.