Startup Marketing: Establishing A Customer Base Through Social Media

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In the realm of social media marketing, there is good news and there is great news. First the good news.

Startups can leverage social networks to establish brand recognition, engage customers and increase sales. Social networks can also be used to penetrate markets that are otherwise unavailable.

The millions of potential customers that gather on social networks each day can be reached at literally no cost.

Now for the great news. Facebook is losing millions of customers each month. Twitter users ignore the vast majority of tweets sent each day. And as General Motors has recently found out, social media followers do not purchase anything through social networks.

How can that be great news?

Because it means that social networks are transitioning from general to niche markets which is great for markets and an important factor in implementing your social media campaign.

The General Network Problem

The problem with Facebook and Twitter is that they are general social networks, they don’t have a niche to cater to.

They attract everyone and accept absolutely anybody into their networks. Since they are general networks, they have one major problem.

Social media users are tired of the poor quality content pushed through general social networks.

According to the UK Guardian, Facebook users in the USA, UK, Canada, Spain, France, Germany and Japan are logging out of Facebook and not coming back.

In the UK, Facebook lost 4.5% of it’s users in March alone. The reason? Other Facebook users.

In 2009, CNN published a list of the twelve most annoying types of users that actively hang out on Facebook and since then the problem has only gotten worse. Stop and think about it for a minute.

This list isn’t just poking fun at people that don’t know how to mind their own business or are searching for their fifteen minutes of fame.

These are people who post hundreds of pictures of their kids with food on their faces, these are people who sensationalize the national news, these who use Facebook as a political microphone, these are people that are consistently annoying your potential customers on Facebook, And millions of your potential customers are leaving Facebook every month.

Twitter has become the mouthpiece for social activism, everyone thinks they have something to say and they are using Twitter to say it.

Whether it’s a celebrity, a politician or your next door neighbor, millions of tweets are flying through cyberspace with no purpose other than to vocalize someone’s opinion. Salon magazine has recently called Twitter the “underground railroad of social activism.”

As a result, Twitter followers are simply ignoring approximately 71% of the tweets they receive.

Unfortunately for businesses, marketing tweets are frequently among that 71%.

The Niche Network Solution

When the UK Guardian began to investigate Facebook’s user retention problems, it found something very promising for marketers.

When Facebook began to rapidly lose users, it was assumed that people were moving away from social networks.

The so-called experts thought that social media had run its course and would soon be listed as yet another Internet fad.

However, the Guardian discovered that smaller niche networks are growing at exponential rates.

They discovered that people are not tired of social media, but are instead tired of the noise generated by annoying users on general social networks and are opting for smaller niche networks with more targeted users.

That’s right, this new wave of small, niche social networks are targeting their members just like every other business targets customers. That is, every other business except the general social networks.

Your Social Media Marketing Campaign Part 1

Don’t get me wrong. The general social networks are far from dead. That being said, the lessons learned from Facebook and Twitter are even more powerful when used on smaller niche networks.

We are going to use Ford and General Motors as our examples as we work through the most effective techniques for quickly building a solid customer base using social media marketing.

  • Don’t Sell Anything - The biggest mistake that marketers make with social media followers is trying to sell. Last year, the New York Times reported that General Motors left Facebook. GM had been spending $10 million every year on Facebook marketing and had very little to show for it. Why? Because the company ran ads that were very similar to those you would see on television.They were highly targeted to new car buyers and designed to increase direct sales. The problem is that nobody on Facebook, or any other network, is buying. At least they are not buying from the network’s platform.
  • Provide Useful Information - What was Ford’s response to GM’s departure from Facebook? According to ZDNet, Ford laughed all the way to the bank. Instead of blasting Facebook users with ads designed to increase direct sales, Ford provides useful information to potential customers through targeted ads. The company does not sell cars on Facebook. Instead, focuses on brand awareness and customer concerns. Ford uses Facebook to disseminate valuable information about the company and its cars instead of trying to directly sell to customers.
  • Long-term Strategy - While your goal is to build a solid customer base as quickly as possible, those customers are not going to accept your brand if they feel that you are not going to be there for the long haul. It doesn’t take long to build a solid customer base using social media but you must focus on a long-term relationship with your customers when you develop your marketing campaign. General Motors had no long-term relationship-building strategy and it cost the company millions of dollars and gave Ford the competitive edge in social media.
  • Listen - Once you have presented a piece of useful information, stop. Don’t talk. Don’t give a commentary. Just listen. Listen to what your customers are saying about that information. Listen to what potential customers are saying about that information. And most importantly, listen to what current customers are saying to potential customers about your brand and your company.
  • Be Accessible - While you want to listen without adding necessary commentary, you must answer questions and address concerns or your will lose customers. Don’t post something and then disappear. Actively monitor the conversation and interject only when asked to or to correct something that has been misinterpreted. Social media followers can be fickle and will quickly replace your brand if you don’t address their concerns.

Your Social Media Marketing Campaign Part 2

Facebook and Twitter are still good places to start but they are becoming less reliable every year.

Smart marketers are actively building followers on small niche networks.

The best part about these networks is that user demographics are usually narrow and easily to target.

This means that you can access to potential customers that are closer to your key demographic and get more targeted traffic for your website at the same time.

Here are some niche networks to consider.

  • Instagram - Leading SEO and social media blog Search Engine Watch lists Instagram of one of the two must-have social networks for markets. Instagram is a mobile-only network for sharing photos and videos. While it is not a true niche network, such as is for the video game market, Instagram has a highly targeted user base and targets primarily the millennial generation. That’s right. Everyone’s favorite demographic, 18 to 21 year old mobile users, and 70 million of them login everyday to share photos and upload videos on Instagram. Since Instagram is a photo and video platform, it is perfect for creating a virtual catalogue for your products and services.
  • Pinterest - This is the other must-have social network. Like Instagram, Pinterest isn’t a true niche network but a demographic one. 83% of Pinterest’s 90 million member user base are 35-44 year old professional women. Search Engine Watch includes Pinterest and Instagram with niche networks because their users are very narrowly defined. Combined, these two networks will allow you to access 160 million potential customers.
  • True Niche Networks - There are too many to list but true niche networks are growing at an exponential pace. You will need to do some Internet research to find the networks that serve your niche. Sign up for them and follow the techniques listed in part one above. Just so you know what to look for, a few examples of a niche networks are Food Spotting, Badoo, and Sum Zero. These niche networks aren’t anything like Facebook or Twitter but they are the future of social media.

Your Social Media Marketing Campaign Part 3

As mentioned earlier, GM found out the hard way that social media followers do not buy from the network’s platform. Then what do they do? They sign up for mailing lists.

That’s right.

Good old-fashioned email marketing should be the natural progression for your social media campaigns. Wired magazine recently reported that social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter, are the worst while email marketing is the best active campaign method for driving direct sales.

Wired found that social media followers don’t buy because they are in a hurry to get to the next post or picture.

They want to hear what you have to say and then quickly move on. There is just too much content on social networks for users to make an informed buying decision so most don’t even think about buying at all.

According to Wired, the only thing that tops email marketing for direct sales is organic search results.

While social media followers do not buy, they are fascinated with email lists. Social media is proving to be one of the most effective methods for rapidly growing an email list.

Social media marketing compliments email marketing because social networks can be used for brand awareness and brand recognition while email can be used to hard sell subscribers.

Using an email list to sell to social media followers also helps weed out those who really aren’t interested in buying but want to participate in the conversation on the social network.