Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Seven Deadly Sins of Startup Social Media Marketing

Yeah, I made mistakes but…life doesn’t come with instructions.

Sure it does not. But that’s not the case with social media - there is certainly some good advice out there to help you avoid blunders on social media. After all, mistakes are meant for learning and not repeating, right?
So what are some of the common mistakes which companies, especially startups, make while defining and executing their social media strategy? Here is what I have found -

#1 Incorrect Platforms

Agreed – Facebook has 1.44 billion monthly active users (as of Mar 31, 2015). But you can’t have the whole universe as your target audience. In today’s time and age, when everyone is spoilt for choice, the most important marketing decision you need to make is defining the target audience. Targeted marketing is the key of the game – and targeted marketing is by definition exclusionary. You need to clearly define your target audience and once that is done, you need to identify the platforms on which YOUR target audience is active. Remember – nobody searches for a job on Facebook or looks for a Hotel review on LinkedIn. Being present on the most popular platform does not make sense if your target audience is not active there. Here is some quick help when it comes to popular platforms:

Facebook – It’s a good platform when

  • You have highly visual content. 
  • You want to leverage the community effect
  • You want to build trust in the minds of the users by leveraging their friends network
  • You are ready to spend on ads – the recent changes in Facebook algorithm have made it very difficult to organically reach out to the fans 

Twitter – It is a good platform to

  • Broadcast your message
  • Join the on-going conversations 
  • Connect with thought leaders and people that matter to you 
  • Build a position for yourself

LinkedIn – Consider using it when

  • You are a B2B company
  • You want to connect with the professional audience and establish your thought leadership within a group of homogeneously targeted audience

Google+ - Good platform to

  • Help you with your SEO efforts
  • Participate in Google communities to connect with like-minded people

Pinterest – You can use it when

  • Your primary target audience include women
  • You have highly visual content to share

These of course are just guidelines. You need to do a more thorough research and brainstorming to finalize the social platforms for your brand.

#2 Doing Too Much or Too Little

Once you choose a social platform, you need to commit to it. Having an inactive presence on any of the platforms creates a bad impression. Having the last tweet date as 2 years back is worse than not having a Twitter handle. You need to show activity on the social platforms and need to have consistency. The opposite is also true – you just can’t do too much. Don’t bombard your LinkedIn company page followers with 10 updates a day just because that will give you more number of impressions!

#3 Ignoring Content Marketing

Content marketing is the gasoline of your social media efforts. You need to have good blog articles to showcase your expertise. You need interesting infographics to share with your audience. eBooks are good to share as a free giveaway. Whitepapers are excellent way of establishing your thought leadership. You need content. Period. Just don’t ignore it from your social media strategy. Not having enough bandwidth to create content cannot be an excuse today.  

#4 Inappropriate Content or Self Promotion

Each platform has different content need. Don’t make the mistake of pushing the same content on all the platforms just because there are tools available which allow you to do so. Each platform requires different tone of messaging and different type of content. More importantly, you also need to mind the timing of your updates. Your audience is not going to be present on all the platforms at the same time. Social media does require some serious time and attention commitment and it demands that. Don’t get away with easy options of auto schedule without giving it a serious thought or having a proper plan in place. Another thing to keep an eye on is the type of content you share. Too much of self-promotion is a big turn-off. Just because you are excited about your product or services does not mean that you can talk about it all day long. Have a good balance of education, industry insights, engagement, and self-promotion in your content sharing. 

#5 No Personal Branding

People relate with people – and this is especially true for startups where people are buying the services from the founders more than from the company. So it is important that startups include the personal branding of their founders in their social media planning and strategy. You need a face for your company.

Photo Courtesy: http://bit.ly/1P0yIp6

#6 Canned Responses to Negative Comments

Lot of companies shy away from social media because of the fear of negative comments. But note that negative comments are in-fact good opportunities for you to build trust in the minds of your readers. Read more about it here. One of the foremost thing you need to remember while handling negative comments on the social platform is that you should NEVER give a canned response to any negative comment. Be personal and show genuine interest in solving the problem. Acknowledge the issue, take genuine actions to resolve it. If the there is a mistake, accept it and take all efforts to resolve it. Check this example here from Zappos – simply brilliant. Isn’t it? 

Photo Courtesy- http://bit.ly/1dNplZm 

#7 Not aligning with the target audience in terms of tone and messaging

Try and align as much as you can with your target audience – if you are targeting the youth, introduce some quirkiness in your overall messaging. If you are targeting CXOs, maintain a professional tone. Just make sure that your marketing tone matches with your company culture. After all, today, marketing is no more the job of marketing department only. It is the job of each and every person representing the company. Here is a latest brilliant example of this –

Do share your experience on what worked and what did not work for you. It’s all about sharing knowledge, isn’t it? 

This article was originally published at yourstory.com/2015/05/social-media-marketing-deadly-sins/ 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Our Story on Techstory.in

Techstory is a media platform that covers stories of inspiring entrepreneurs and businesses that are challenging the norms and changing the rules of the game - did you hear Midas Touch there? :-)

Well, when TechStory approached us showing their willingness to cover our story on their platform, there was absolutely no reason to say no to it.

Dipti Gore, the wonderful CoFounder and Editor at Techstory.in, interacted with us to understand how we started, our offerings and how we are 'changing the rules of the game'.

And here she wrote a superb story about Midas Touch. We invite you to have a look at http://techstory.in/midastouch/

Monday, February 23, 2015

Personal Branding for Startup Founders – A Practical Guide

Did you know that the “About Us” section is the second most viewed page after the home page for most of the websites? Today, when a lot is being talked about creating the company brand and image, it is equally important to have a strong personal brand of the founders – this is especially true for startups because for many startups, the founders, CEOs and the people behind the company are more known than the company itself.

Think of Apple. Think of Microsoft. Think of Google. Although these are large organizations, there are some strong personalities which come to our mind when we think of these companies – Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. We don’t ‘live’ in a virtual world – we live in a world where we speak with humans, we build relationships with people and we engage with people. So it is very important that founders think of their personal branding very seriously.

But how do I go about it?” – I get it asked many times. So rather than preaching more about why it is important (I am hoping that you are already convinced!), here are some practical ways of leveraging some of the popular social media platforms for building your personal brand.

If you have to choose one platform, choose LinkedIn. It is THE most important professional networking platform. First and foremost, it is crucial that you have a well-developed LinkedIn profile. It should very crisply and clearly list your education, experience, expertise, passions and likings. There are lot of articles available online on how to create a powerful LinkedIn profile, the do’s and don’ts and best practices. Follow the advice there. If you think you don’t have time or expertise to write a killer LinkedIn profile, take external help – but do it. It’s mandatory.

You cannot stop after creating a LinkedIn profile. You should aim for following
-          Post at least one status update every week – this could be about your company, your offerings, an interesting insight, your views about industry updates and so on. This is important for being in front of your connections.
-          Join relevant groups which interest you and start getting active there through participation in ongoing discussions.
-          Occasionally, start ask thought provoking questions and elicit responses.
-          Leverage LinkedIn Publisher platform - It allows you to write long updates or articles. You can use this platform to demonstrate your expertise or knowledge.

No, Twitter is not for kids or for people who don’t have any work. Twitter is gaining popularity and is being used as a prime network, even in B2B segment, for news, updates and information sharing. It’s a myth that Twitter is time consuming. You don’t need to have Twitter app in ‘always on’ mode on your smartphone. There are schedulers such as Bufferapp or Hootsuite which you can use to schedule your tweets. You can choose to share interesting industry updates, your opinions on latest topics, news about your company products or services. You could also appreciate your employees and motivate them. You can join ongoing conversations through hashtags. It is easy to create an image of a curator of interesting information or opinion-maker on Twitter. Don’t hesitate to show your personal side by way of some casual updates about your vacation or personal interests like
photography, poetry or sports.

You obviously have lot of knowledge about your industry and domain or technology. Use blogs to share that knowledge and demonstrate your thought leadership or expertise to the world. Based on my personal experience, finalizing the blog topic is the most difficult task. What I do is, pick up the pain points of my customers and write a purely educational post around that. Try it, and it might work for you as well. Don’t try to sell your product or services through your blogs. Genuinely solve people’s problems or provide answers to their questions. A blog written in a simple language which honestly provides relevant and useful information is always appreciated. If your customers approach you after reading your blog, they will approach you as knowledge partner and not as just another vendor.

Yes! Don’t be surprised to see it listed here. Pinterest can very well be used for personal branding – here is how. Suppose you run an exclusive boutique or a cafe, there is no better place than Pinterest to showcase your passion, products and services.  It’s very visual, the interface is very cool and most likely, and your target audience is already on Pinterest! You could also pin other interesting stuff like your office photos, customer testimonials, the books you like, your favorite vacation spots - flaunt your creative side and pin about your passions. There is no harm in showcasing your personal interest on social networking sites.

If your knowledge of Quora is limited to the email notifications you receive when someone “follows” you there, then it’s time to change it. Quora is a brilliant platform for personal brand building. It is increasingly becoming popular and it seems to be favored by search engines too! Lot of discussions (yes, serious discussions) happen on Quora. Since it is a question and answer format, if you have a point of view about something or have some good pointers to share, there is no better place than Quora. Join interesting conversations and respond to questions. Occasionally, your responses could be supplemented with the blog articles which you have written – I have seen examples where people have seen a steady flow of traffic to their blog coming from Quora.

As we know, Personal Branding is nothing but creating a right kind of emotional response when people hear your name, see you online or meet you in person. Ensure that they find consistency everywhere J Always make sure that your offline persona matches with your online image.

Monday, January 5, 2015

#Startups – Your Social Media Questions are Answered Here!

The Year 2014 has been great for me and my company MidasTouch. We won awards, we got a chance to work with some amazing new companies and we launched some new offerings – especially for startups.

Based on several interactions with startups, I can clearly see that startups not only understand the importance of social media but also want to do something concrete and substantial on social media, which can deliver them definite business outcomes.

There are some common questions which I hear often. Here I have tried to answer those -

1.     There are 700+ social media platforms - which one is right for me?
It is quite natural to feel overwhelmed by the choice of tools and technologies. I see that many founders and startups feel that it is important to “create a presence” on as many platforms as possible. A point to note here is “creating a presence” does not mean creating an account. Having an account which is completely inactive creates a worse impression than having no account. The choice of platform should depend on the answers to these questions – a) Where does your target audience hang out? and b) What do you want to achieve? For example: A B2B software services company, LinkedIn and Twitter become valid choices. Whereas; perhaps for a restaurant, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest will make more sense. 

2.     Is content marketing for me?
Content marketing is for everyone. More than “should I go for it?” you need to start thinking “how well should I do it?”. Lot of companies are not even aware of the vast knowledge bank which exists within the company itself. As a starting point for your content marketing strategy, think about extracting that knowledge and present it in a readable and promotable format. You don’t need to jump to whitepapers and eBooks in the very first month - blog is a great place to start with.

3.     Does social media work for B2B?
Absolutely it does! Have a look at my earlier detailed post on this. More importantly, you can derive ROI from your B2B social media marketing efforts too. The key lies in defining a solid social media strategy – which includes defining the goals you want to achieve, selecting the right platforms, defining the right strategy for social media posts, constantly measuring the results and refining the strategy based on feedback and results.

4.     Will social media help me get 10 customers?
Why not? Let us consider following examples:
-          Example 1: Recently, while browsing my Facebook timeline, I saw a friend of mine had liked a post from a dance class. I immediately dialed the number of the dance class and joined the batch. Technically, the dance class got a new customer through Facebook.
-          Example 2: You are representing a software services company. In one of the groups on LinkedIn, you noticed an interesting conversation and participate in that. You put forward your point of view. Through those interactions, you connect with another member of the group and that leads you to a new customer.
-          Example 3: You have posted an amazing blog which is liked and shared widely across social media channels. The blog convinces one of your prospects about your expertise and that’s how he contacts you.
Do you notice a commonality here? Through social media, you get an opportunity to facilitate or influence the decisions. That’s how you get new customers. Don’t compare it with phone calls based or email-based push mechanism.

5.     Should I spend on ads?
The first question you need to really ask yourself is what do you want to achieve through ads? Ads are available on different platforms such as Facebook, Google or LinkedIn. Based on your objectives and goals, you can choose the right platform and decide on the budget. For quicker conversions, ads are great. Ads also work best for specific things like events, whitepapers or specific time-bound offers.

6.     How important is the personal brand of founders?
Based on my personal experience, I can confidently say that till your startup brand becomes bigger, the brand of the founder is very important – especially for services startups. The value of services is seen only after it is consumed. So to create the comfort level in the minds of the customers, it is important for them to know who are the people behind, their backgrounds, and why they should trust your company.

7.     Can it help me in hiring the best talent?
First, ask yourself this question – why would someone want to work with you? It is the cutting-edge technology, your awesome infrastructure, the people in your company, the learning environment, opportunities or innovation. Once you know that, showcase that on your social media channels. In today’s time and age, candidates make a decision about joining a company not only based on the job description but also based on the overall image of the company on social media channels. Make sure you create the right impression and hiring the best talent should not be a problem for you.

8.     How do I define the frequency of the posts or updates
Very basic but very important question. Should I post 3 tweets or 10 tweets? How many Facebook updates should go every day? How many times should I post a company page update on LinkedIn? Should I write 2 blogs a week or 1 blog a day? Well, well – again, it depends. You are on social media to engage with your customers and prospects so you will need to define the frequency and tone of your communication based on that. If your customers are based in the US, no point in tweeting 10 times during India time. You need to be aware of all such nuances. As a thumb-rule, I would say start small but be consistent. If you decide to post 3 tweets per day- do it every day! Consistency is more important.

9.     Is it okay to schedule posts?  
Why not? As a startup, it is quite natural that you are constrained on bandwidth and it is also obvious that you can’t be omnipresent. So you can certainly use tools like HootSuite or Bufferapp to schedule your posts. Just be careful that any time-sensitive posts should not appear irrelevant because of being posted at a wrong time. There have been instances when a social media intern posted a scheduled tweet about a conference happening in full swing when the conference had to be cancelled at the last moment. Make sure that such things don’t happen with you. Follow sensitivity on social media.

10.In house or agency?
Nobody knows your business better than you. Do know that you need to be closely involved with the social media efforts for your startup. It is not something which you can just hand over to someone and forget about it. To make it effective, you need to be as much involved in it. If you have the bandwidth and skills to do it in-house, would recommend going with that option. But don’t call me biased if I tell the advantages of an agency such as - expert skills, experience and continuity to the efforts. Just like our body needs a specialist doctor, probably your startup also needs a specialist to take care of the crucial aspect of social media initially and once you get a hang of it, you can take it over in-house.

In case any more questions come to your mind, don’t hesitate to drop me an email.


This article was originally published on YourStory

Monday, August 18, 2014

Did You (also) Believe these Myths about Content Marketing?

Content marketing allows businesses to connect with prospects and customers. Content marketing is hot and buzzing in the marketing world. Everyone is talking about content marketing. Content marketing is the gasoline for your social media marketing efforts ----Arrrrghh…you have heard all of this but still we all do know that it’s a fairly new phenomenon and it’s quite natural that there are quite a few misconceptions around content marketing – how to do it, what makes it more effective and what are the best practices.

At our agency, Midas Touch, we work with several businesses, in various industry verticals, and assist them with their content marketing efforts. Through our learning of last few years, we thought of listing some common myths about Content Marketing and also provide some rational explanation around those.

Myth 1: Blogs are the only ‘valid’ form of content
Undoubtedly, blogs are important. They can definitely serve as backbone to your content marketing strategy. Blogs are also excellent medium to communicate with your target audience. But don’t commit the mistake of thinking of blogs as only valid form of content. 

Don’t forget to incorporate other equally important forms of content in your strategy. These could include – eNewsletters, videos, case studies, eBooks, whitepapers, infographics, podcasts, webinar recordings or even memes! Such nuggets of content can be very effective in reaching out to your target audience through various social media platforms.

Myth 2: Anyone can write, so anybody can handle content marketing
Finding good writers is key to your content marketing strategy. Don’t go for the lowest
bidder because low cost can have a serious impact on quality. Good quality content writing requires not only language skills but also business senses, creativity and domain understanding.

Myth 3: Content marketing is same as SEO or Social Media
SEO used to be heavily dependent on the content aka keywords. But not anymore. Now search engines have started giving heavy importance to answers to specific questions and therefore the quality and depth of the content is more important than keyword stuffing. Undoubtedly, high quality content will definitely help in the organic searches for your website but don’t base your content marketing strategy based on SEO requirements. Similarly, social media should be used as a tool to disseminate the content to right target audience and remember, if you don’t have content, you won’t be able to share anything on social media. 

Myth 4: Content Marketing does not have any direct RoI
Depends on your definition of RoI. Good quality content is a very effective way to engage with your target audience. Conversations are also valid Return on the Investment of sharing the content. You get more brand awareness, customer connection, customer retention, and customer loyalty. And these, and more such factors, are not quantifiable in numbers and therefore can be construed as “no ROI”.  Every piece of content is different and based on the intent. The content which is written for sharing and commenting cannot be used for lead generation – that’s a grossly wrong use of content.

Myth 5: Content marketing is about Your Products/ Services
In fact, it is NOT about your products and services. Your brochure and other collateral is not content marketing. Well, content marketing has to be about and related to your business but it cannot be 100% about your business – then you are doing injustice in the name of content marketing. Today, people are searching for solutions to their problems. If your content offers them that, then you have a winner in hand. Try to provide educational and thought leadership content which will establish you as expert in your field and establish your image of a trusted partner.

Did I miss any? Drop a comment and I will include it in this article – with credits to you! :-)