Social Media for Startups: A Complete Guide to Getting Started

social media for startups

Social media can feel like a black hole for startup founders and marketers.

You hear success stories of brands growing using social media, but no one ever shares the actionable steps, tools, and best practices to follow.

That’s why we wrote this guide.

We’re going to show you why your startup should consider using social media, the best types of content to post, how to plan a content calendar, and tools you can use to automate and measure your social media activity.

By the end, you’ll be able to start testing social media and integrate it into your broader marketing strategy with confidence.

Let’s dive in.

Is Social Media Still Relevant for Startups?

Social media platforms get a bad reputation among marketers. Often, it can feel like any effort that isn’t paid ads is going to waste.

But, it’s a great way to build your brand awareness and build loyalty among your existing customers, and it’s hard to put a price on that.

It’s also good leverage.

With social media, your audiences are already using social media. You don’t need to invent anything, you just need to encourage them to follow you.

89% of people visit a brand’s website or app after following them on social, so it’s a great way to drive qualified traffic to your website too.

Why do People Follow Startups on Social Media?

When it comes to kickstarting your social media strategy, it helps to understand why your audience uses it in the first place.

If you’re focused on the wrong things and don’t create content your audience will find interesting or useful, you won’t see results.

Here are some data-backed reasons people follow brands on social media:

Hear About Product Updates and Company News

People want to hear about your product updates and launches.

Not every customer will open your emails, but most will browse Facebook or Twitter a few times a day.

Assuming you have an established customer base (even if it’s small), they’ll be looking out for product updates.

One startup you can take inspiration from is Notion.

They regularly publish product update news on Twitter, and every post gets high engagement from their followers.

Product and company update posts will lead to people jumping straight back into your product to test out the new features, so it’s a great way to improve product use and retention.

As well as that, your followers will be happy to retweet and share their excitement with their followers.

You’ll get free promotion. In Notion’s post above, they got 58 Retweets and 21 Quote Tweets, as well as 100s of likes. They will have had thousands of impressions on that from people who aren’t customers, and it’ll help boost brand awareness without having to pay for ads targeting cold audiences.

Stay Entertained and Engage with Brands

48% of people say they follow brands to be entertained.

If your team has a sense of humor and knows what your audience enjoys, it’s a great way to build brand affinity.

One startup doing this well on Twitter is Fast.

They regularly post quizzes, challenges, and even run giveaways.

For example, in the Tweet above, they encourage their followers to engage with them by running simple giveaways.

The more replies they get, the more engagement their account gets, and the more people discover their company.

You can’t just use social media to post links to blog posts and your landing page.

You need to engage with your audience in real-time in a human way.

Tweets like these may not abide by common ‘best practices’ but they’re natural and people are more likely to engage with a conversational post that sounds like it was written by a real person, rather than a faceless company account. 

Find Answers to Their Problems

Another way to use social media is to answer the questions your customers have.

People will often turn to social media to ask these questions rather than going through your customer support portal because of accessibility.

It’s easier to send a message on Facebook or Twitter than jump through hoops to file a support ticket. And, over one-third of customers say they prefer using social media for support than traditional channels like phone and email.

Encourage customers to ask questions on social media, and make sure you always respond as quickly as you can.

A great example of this is how Buffer uses Twitter to respond quickly to people having trouble with their accounts. They’re responsive, professional, and personal.

Social media tools like Social Bakers let you manage social media comments and mentions across platforms in one inbox, so you don’t have to waste time scrolling through your posts to identify questions.

You’ll be able to stay on top of customer questions and provide a high-touch experience without having to scroll through your notification feed every few hours.

What Social Media Channels Should Startups Focus On?

The biggest social media channels right now are:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • YouTube
  • LinkedIn
  • TikTok
  • Snapchat
  • Pinterest

Depending on your audience and goals, the best one to focus your energy on will vary.

If you have a small marketing team and don’t have the capacity to effectively run social media campaigns across all of them, pick one or two.

Focus your energy on them, and measure the results. 

Find which channels and content types perform best, and use that knowledge to expand into the other channels.

At the end of the day, the single most important factor is you need to find a channel where your customers are.

If you’re posting 50 Tweets per day, but your audience aren’t using Twitter, you’re wasting your time.

To add on to that, don’t just focus on the ‘popular’ channels. Ask your customers and audience where they want to engage with you most in your email newsletter, or even during your product onboarding.

It could even mean starting your own Facebook group, or hosting your own community on tools like Circle or Slack.

Every platform lets you run paid ads alongside your organic content. However, it’s usually best to balance these. If you focus too much on one, you’re going to miss growth opportunities.

Benefits of Paid Social

There are a variety of benefits to paid campaigns on social media.

Highly targeted: With granular ad targeting across every platform being so simple, paid ads on social are a great way to find your audience and promote to them. For example, Facebook Ads let you target people by interests, demographics, and you can add a pixel to your website to easily retarget your existing website traffic.

Instant Traction: It takes time to build a strong social media presence. With paid ads, you can get instantly noticed by potential customers, even if they’ve never heard of your startup before. The only downside is that non-followers won’t see your content again when you turn your ads off.

Benefits of Organic Social

Build loyalty: We all have a natural filter for advertising, even though ads do work. Building an organic social media following will help you build a loyal following with your target audience, and you won’t have to pay every single time you want to promote your content.

Leverage real-time opportunities: With organic it’s much easier to react in real-time to what’s going on in the world. A good social media manager will have their eyes on the news and be ready to jump in and react to trends as they happen. With paid social, that’s harder. You’ll need to set up campaigns, budgets, and targeting for every post you want to promote.

Social Media Best Practices for Startups

Consistent Design and Handle Across Platforms

Fast-moving startups often forget the importance of branding. But, taking the time to create a consistent visual appearance, as well as using the same social media handle across every platform, will pay dividends (even if you can’t always directly track the results).

You can use a design tool like Canva to quickly create high-quality graphic design to use on cover photos or images you share.

Alternatively, if you have an in-house design team, they’ll be able to handle it.

While design can feel hard to measure, if you’ve ever tried searching for a brand’s social media accounts, you’ll know that maintaining consistency is key if you want people to follow and trust your brand.

Patience and Consistency

Social media isn’t a channel where quick wins are easy. You’ll need to be patient when growing your follower count and engagement.

It’s tempting to buy Likes or engagement on Facebook, but that’s not a strategy that’s going to deliver results.

Paid ads are useful for promoting your content like blog posts, or improving reach on important posts, but they’re not a shortcut to building a real following.

Finding your ideal customers and creating content they find genuinely useful will deliver a far higher ROI in the long run than looking for quick and easy wins.

Create a Variety of Content Types

There are various content types you can use on social media, but it’s easy to get lazy and end up just reposting the same links to the same blog posts over-and-over.

Keep your followers engaged by posting a variety of content, such as:

  • Questions
  • Product updates
  • How-to videos
  • Links to your podcast
  • Links to industry news
  • Links to your blog posts
  • Interesting quotes

If you see one type of content is regularly outperforming the others, aim to find and share more similar content.

You can even ask your followers and customers what type of content they want to see from you.

From a single Tweet, HubSpot got multiple new ideas for content they can create and that they already know their audience wants to see.

Even if you have a smaller audience than an established brand like them, you’ll still be able to get ideas from your audience that will help inform your content strategy.

Plan Ahead with a Content Calendar

Don’t be a startup that posts three updates on Monday but doesn’t post anything else for the rest of the week.

Create a social media content calendar that you can use to plan out the content you’ll be posting on each social channel you use.

You can plan ahead for days where you’re shipping product updates, or plan unique content for important days in the calendar such as holidays with ease.

Image: Content Calendar SocialBee.png

If you use a tool like SocialBee, Hootsuite, or Buffer, your posts will be automatically sent out and you won’t need to lift a finger.

Define Your Goals and KPIs

To help you stay on track, set goals and KPIs for your team to hit.

These will ensure social media stays as a focal point and doesn’t get pushed aside or forgotten.

A few KPIs you can focus on are:

Clicks: If people are clicking your content, you know they find it interesting. When you’re analyzing your results, use your best-performing content to optimize the type of content you create going forwards. If you know your followers prefer to click on video links than blog post links, focus on those (or vice versa).

Comments/Replies: As the name suggests, social media is about being social. Comments and replies are key indicators that you’re doing something right (as long as they’re positive). Sharing content that sparks a conversation is a great way to grow your engagement and boost brand loyalty.

Image: Ask questions.png

Traffic to Site: While it’s not always the main goal, eventually, you want social media engagement to lead to real website visits and conversions. Track your social visits in Google Analytics, and you can use UTM tags in your links to easily track how traffic from different content types perform on your site.

Social Media Tools for Startups

Schedule Posts and Measure Performance with SocialBee

No marketer has time to post multiple times a day manually. To improve your productivity, use a social media management tool like SocialBee to schedule posts in advance. You’ll be able to designate a few hours every week to come up with new post ideas and schedule them.

Once they’re set, you just need to sit back, relax, and measure the results.

One key benefit of scheduling posts in advance is that it frees up your time to jump into the comments or reply to your followers, rather than having to worry about when you’ll have time to write the next post.

SocialBee lets you easily post to all major social networks (FB, Twitter, IG, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and more), categorize posts, repost popular content, and track how every post performs. It’s available on the onetool app store and you can start a free trial to test it out.

Track Link Performance with Rebrandly

Rebrandly is a helpful tool to track how individual links perform and improve your branding.

You can use it to shorten URLs (even to external sites) into shortened branded links. This is useful as you won’t waste characters in Tweets posting long links, and it’ll add cohesiveness to your branding as all links you share can have the same structure and format.

You can even add your tracking pixels to your links, so you can retarget anyone who clicks them using ads on Facebook, Google, or LinkedIn.

Create Visual Content with Canva

Even if you have an in-house design team, they won’t have time to create bespoke graphics for every social media post you share.

Canva is a powerful and affordable way to enable anyone on your marketing team to create high-quality graphics that will make your posts more engaging and stand out on your followers’ timelines.

There are pre-set design templates to ensure you get the image size right for every social media platform, and you can use and repurpose existing graphics you have.

It’s perfect if you need to quickly create a cover photo for a blog post, competition, or even for your cover photos.

Social Media for Startups: Worth It?

Social media is a tough channel to succeed with. You’ll need patience and be willing to test multiple types of content and find which platforms your audience is most engaged on.

But, once you’re starting to see good engagement, social media marketing is an amazing way to grow awareness for your startup and establish your company as an expert in your market.

Even if you’re already seeing great results using SEO, advertising, or cold emailing, establishing a social media presence is a powerful way to build your brand, and engage with customers who have questions or feedback on your product.

Finally, remember to track your results. If you don’t, you’ll never truly know if social media works for your brand.