How to Get Started Marketing on Social Media When You Don't yet Have Anything to Sell
When your business does not have a tangible product or service ready to sell, it can be difficult to create relevant content without looking like they are phoning it in. The fundamental understanding you need to succeed in social media is how the purpose of these channels will evolve as your business grows. As you begin your journey in social media, your core focus should be one of enlightenment.
"If your audience cannot see the problem, they will not understand your solution."
In the early days of your social media effort, you should dedicate your entire effort to educating the world (and your core audience specifically) about the problem you pose to solve with your product. Since you don't have a ready-to-sell product or service, there is no need at this stage to use your fledgling social accounts to "pitch" anything but information.
Say you are a new housing start-up positioned to help an underserved community access affordable and sustainable housing for the first time.
The first step to creating social content should be two-fold.
First, you should dedicate your pages to exploring the pain point that your core audience is feeling. In our example's case, housing inequality. Every post on your accounts should highlight news, insights, interviews, and historical context to help people understand that this pain point exists and what is being done (or not being done) to rectify it.
By posing the content on your page in this manner, you position your accounts as authorities on the subject. Over time this authority will translate into reader loyalty as individuals and groups seek out and share your insights on the subject.
This is the definition of a long play, so do get frustrated if your posts are not gaining immediate traction or if leads aren't pouring into your funnel on day one. Right now, all your energy should be focused on is positioning yourself as both an authority and an advocate.
What about a Blog?
You may be wondering where all this awareness and authority-building content will come from. The short answer is Curation and creation. The long answer is below.
As a newly minted authority on your audience's pain point, the first skill you must develop is an eye for content curation. That is, seeking out, identifying, and posting relevant, timely, and engaging content from around the web. It's always advisable to become a great curator before beginning to create your own content. This is because by curating and posting other people's content first, you will be able to measure how engaging different angles on your topic are to your core audience.
Let's face it; not everyone was meant to run a blog. The worst thing you can do is try and force yourself or a teammate to commit to a writing schedule when you or they lack the confidence, motivation, or underlying skill it takes to make it a success. Luckily two alternatives may be worth looking into for those not literarily inclined.
Once only a dream shared by dyslexics and lazy people, "Have a robot write your blog" has become a reality with a variety of new tools hitting the market in the past few months. With AI making such incredible leaps over the past year alone, it's no wonder some frustrated business owners like yourself figured out a way to teach them how to write their blogs for them.
While these apps are pretty impressive and can be a great help in overcoming writer's block or helping flesh out your initial outline, having a robot write your blog from beginning to end doesn't always have the best results. For one, they lack humor, so if you're trying to write anything tongue-in-cheek, it won't translate. Next, they don't necessarily understand what they are writing. Since AI is built on the back of machine learning, the tools can only regurgitate what they've already learned. So if you're trying to share new perspectives or ideas that no one else has thought of, AI just isn't able to do that (at least not yet). There are other factors that limit the usefulness of AI in this capacity, but that topic could be its own article, so I'll leave you with this: If you choose to use AI to write your content, don't be surprised if it lacks originality and comes off as a bit mechanical.
Hiring a Human:
Writers come in all shapes, sizes, and price points. As a business owner, you need to be confident that your writer will be able to efficiently capture the voice and tone of your brand while writing with authority. As a writer myself, I know there are going to be some topics I am just not going to be able to hack my way through. Don't be afraid when interviewing writers to ask for examples in the style and content you are looking to have created. If they dodge the question or otherwise refuse to provide examples, they are most likely a very new writer or an experienced writer who hasn't written in your space yet. That doesn't mean you should hire them, but you should ask them to prepare a short spec piece (no more than 500 words) to ensure they can rise to the challenge. While finding a suitable writer can be a challenge, the results are absolutely worth it.
Not only will your blog provide SEO value and a constant stream of content to promote on your social channels it will also give users a reason to visit your site in the first place.
Contrary to popular belief that if you build it, they will come. Simply having a website online will not automatically draw in visitors eager to learn about your new brand. Instead, it's the content you produce and promote that provides the conduit for interested prospects to explore the ideas your company has to offer, thereby giving you the critical opportunity to build their perception of your business's authority.
That is precisely why your blog strategy shouldn't just focus on clickbaity headlines with little to no substance on the page. Not only do articles like that annoy serious buyers, but they also diminish your authority in your field.
Instead, you want to ensure that the blogs you create are of incredibly high value so that you can not only feel confident sharing them on social media but exude authority in sharing them individually with prospects as follow-ups to your conversation.
Which sounds better:
Nice speaking with you today. As I mentioned, we just published a blog sharing how algorithm-based planning tools can help hospitals like yours cut down on material waste.
Nice speaking with you today, as I mentioned, we just published a blog sharing the top ten worst hospital foods and why we hate them YUCK!
Yes, the second article will undoubtedly get more clicks on social media, but sharing that content as a follow-up feels unprofessional and childish.
Now that you have started your content engine, let's talk about social.
The do's and do not's of start-up social media.
Below are some 60-second strategies for each of the most popular platforms we recommend for this strategy.
Tik Tok (& Instagram):
Find influential people from your audience who post regularly about your cause. If the cause or pain point is not very well known, try to find influencers you believe could personally connect and promote the message. Once you identify 10-20 potential influencer partners, begin systematically reaching out and scheduling conversations with them. During your first conversation, only discuss the topic and your goal in broad strokes, and avoid being too specific in what kind of content you want to see them create. At the end of the day, they are the creatives, so as long as they understand the goals of your strategy, you should give them the leeway to interpret that direction in a way that makes the most sense to them. Once you feel they could be a fit for your brand, you can spend future calls hammering out specifics and deliverables. Pro-tip: Ensure that during your discussions, you come to an understanding that will allow you to use the content they create for your own purposes later down the line. These content buyout agreements can be very advantageous when it comes time to begin advertising your core offering.
The core reason to seek out influencers to create this type of content is twofold.
As a new company, you most likely do not have the resources to develop this asset internally, so you will likely have to hire a freelance content creator to take on this responsibility.
Another limitation faced by new companies is a lack of a built-in audience. Even if your internal team (with or without the help of a freelancer) were to take on the content creation role, you would still be starting from zero and spending your first several months "shouting into the void."
Teaming up with a relevant influencer solves both problems. They will take on the bulk of the work of creating the content while exposing you to a highly targeted and engaged audience.
LinkedIn & Facebook
Whether we like it or not, these three platforms have replaced the RSS feeds, blog rolls, and various homepages where the large majority of the world gets their news. The strategy for both of these channels is to get your content into as many relevant users feeds as possible. We can do this both via organic and paid means.
The key to broadening your reach on these two channels is through the use of groups. While posting relevant content on your personal and business pages is advisable as well, organic reach will be significantly limited. However, inside the hundreds of thousands of public groups on these platforms live millions of users who have already coalesced around the topics relevant to your business. Since your core strategy at this point is to build awareness and authority, you will have no problem posting inside these groups once you're approved for membership. While most groups will not approve or allow self-promotional content, they will not have a problem with you posting relevant content, even if it's from your own blog.
When beginning a paid media campaign to build awareness, deciding which success metrics are most meaningful for your business can be challenging. Thus, it can be difficult to determine whether or not your money is being well spent.
When running awareness campaigns, the three core metrics we track as success is to click, likes, comments/shares, and follows (form conversions are another element we like to track, but more on that later.)
Likes demonstrate the content we are presenting is relevant and that the audience we are targeting has at least a minor or passing interest in the topic.
Clicks demonstrate to us that the content we are presenting is both relevant and of at least moderate interest to the audience we are targeting.
Comments and shares demonstrate a desire in your audience to continue the conversation on the topics you are presenting. This type of engagement shows a high level of interest in a given topic and the desire to share what they've learned from you with other like-minded people.
Follows demonstrate both the relevance of the content as well as a sincere interest in the content and a desire to learn more as information becomes available.
With our three KPIs in hand, we can now compare the ratio of clicks to likes to follows for each post to determine how we can optimize our content strategy moving forward.
Twitter, Gab, Minds, Pinterest, etc.
Third-tier social channels pose a challenge due to their smaller size and/or more niche audience. While we don't recommend starting with these channels, they may prove helpful to you depending on the audience you are trying to target
Twitter has a liberal and urbanite core audience.
Gab has a conservative and Rural core audience.
Minds has a libertarian, privacy-minded, and crypto-punk core audience.
Pinterest has a predominantly female core audience.
Do followers and subscribers even matter?
Yes and no, when it comes to how social media algorithm works, none of us on the outside can really speak with any certainty as to the impact following or subscribing to our favorite pages has on the content we are fed regularly by these platforms.
A peek into the future of this impact may be seen in TikTok's unique downplaying of the importance of subscriptions. When you first open their app, instead of seeing content for which you've subscribed, you're instead brought to the "for you page ."An algorithmically created feed based on the post content that you have engaged with and creators you have followed. What is truly unique about the TikTok algorithm is its ability to push relevant content from outside our established social bubble allowing users to be constantly exposed to new and engaging content.
As of now, this is a unique feature only seen on TikTok, but it would not be a surprise to see this AI-tailored feed approach coming to most major platforms in the near future. (Editors Note: On the day of this writing, a memo from inside Meta (parent company of Facebook and Instagram) was leaked stating their intention to modify the Facebook and Instagram algorithm to mirror TikTok's as suggested above. You can read the full story here.
"How does that help me though?"
When it comes to followers and subscribers, the real value is both in vanity and cost savings. Having a massive base of followers is an excellent form of social proof and credibility. To a user who has stumbled upon your page, a high follower count demonstrates that what you promote on this page is trusted by a wide variety of users who find your page valuable and want to hear more from you. This social Klout is as powerful a marketing element as a well-appointment showroom, branded apparel for your team, or a professionally designed website.
So while it is a vanity metric, it is certainly one you should consider investing in.
The other benefit followers and subscribers have on your channel is the cost to advertise to them. Followers, much like retargeted and even look-alike traffic, are often discounted compared to wholly cold traffic generated purely off interests or demographics.
The reasoning for this is simple. Social media companies trade in screen time. The longer they can keep users engaged in their app, the more ad impressions they can serve. But in order to keep users engaged, social media companies need to strike a balance between advertising and non-advertising content.
Let's face it, no all ads are created equal, and not all campaigns are targeted as effectively as they could be, so to combat that (and pad their bankroll simultaneously), Social media companies increase CPMs when they feel the ads you're pushing are less relevant to the audience your targeting, and lower CPMs on ads that they believe are relevant and on target.
While nothing beats an email list that you own and can market to at will, You have to start building that list somewhere. Leveraging the discounted CPMs from followers, retargeted web traffic, and look-a-likes is a great place to start.
Building your army with conversions
Even though your store, product, or service may not be ready for show time, you should still focus your core efforts on capturing contact details from those in your audience once they arrive on your site.
Whether they arrived from a search engine, social media post, or a referral link from another site, it's critical to make the most of the limited time you'll have with your prospect once they land on your site.
We prefer a three-touch system for converting content traffic into leads. For this example, let's pretend your prospect has landed on your blog from a social media asset.
After arriving on the site, we want to give the prospect a little time to get acquainted with the page before trying to interrupt your experience. The average blog takes about 1-2 minutes to scan through so let's give the prospect 15 seconds before we open up a small chat window near the bottom of the screen. Your initial message should be as unique as possible without being overly creepy. For example, if the page they are reading is about the best types of picnic baskets, your message could be
"Hey, would you mind if I showed you my favorite picnic basket?
Following the first touch point, we want to wait until either the prospect scrolls to the bottom or attempts to leave the page.
If they make it to the end of the article, toss them a pop-up that offers a higher-value piece of relevant content that requires email submission to access. This could be anything from a webinar, eBook, infographic, or free course. Just make sure you avoid free consultations and newsletters, as those offers can come off as wholly self-serving.
If your prospect didn't make it to the end of the page (at least 75% scroll) and attempts to leave the page, present an exit pop that provides them with a simple question.
"Seems like you didn't find what you were looking for, would you mind telling us what you had hoped to find on this page?"
Allow the prospect to enter their query in a free text field. After clicking submit, you should then prompt them for their email saying
We strive to be the authority in "INSERT MARKETPLACE," and we review every comment and request we receive. Once we review your comment, we'd love the opportunity to follow up with you and provide you with the answers you're seeking. Simply enter your email below, and we'll reach out to you shortly."
This strategy works incredibly well to help you understand what information may be missing from your website or blog that prospects are looking for during their journey. Knowing so can help guide future content creation efforts down avenues that may have been overlooked as you were determining your initial content strategy and focus.
It also allows you to create an immediate personal relationship with a prospect by following up with their query and providing the answers they need, building trust, authority, and familiarity, and helping your prospect along in their buyer's journey.
So now what?
With your prospect's information captured, you can now begin the nurture and scoring process that will take that lead down the path from being a mere prospect to a loyal customer.
If you'd like more information on lead scoring, you can see our recent article on the topic here.
Or, if you like to schedule a call with us to discuss how we can help you build a strong marketing foundation for your business, click here to schedule a free coaching session with GroHaus CEO Drew Donaldson.