Category Archives: Social Media

Posted On April 25th, 2017 by Crowded Ocean

Tweets versus coding: lessons for startups

When we meet with a startup led by technical founders, it’s common for us to discover that the majority of the team have profiles or pages on channels like LinkedIn but they are far from active there. In fact, if they have a Twitter handle, it’s probably dormant. Consequently, we never assume that social media is considered by the team as a channel to engage with customers. And startup teams are typically so busy coding and wooing customers in the early days that social media—even if it’s viewed as important (and many tech startups don’t share that view)—is considered a priority for another time. So, what are the lessons for startup teams about when and how best to employ social media?

Taking a phased approach to building your social media program

There’s a phased approach to building smart social media habits that’s very doable and productive. As we outlined in Chapter 14 of our book, The Ultimate Startup Guide, we recommend that during the early days startup teams appoint a single owner of social media. Just as a startup needs a Chief Content Officer to really “own” (but not necessarily produce) all content, your startup needs someone to own your social presence. Choose someone on your team who already has a natural affinity for communicating and connecting via social channels. That’s the person to tap early on to be a rallying point, teacher and role model across your team in the early days of your startup. Remember that it’s temporary. With growth (and revenue!) can come additional staff, a PR agency resource or a dedicated contractor to staff your social media program as you grow.

Name an owner of your social channels         

After appointing an owner, step two is to determine your goals and your audience. And then, step three, prioritize the social channels that will support your goals. The top three channels for many startups tend to be: Twitter (for connecting with prospects, partners and influencers), Youtube (for sharing rich media content_ and LinkedIn (for recruiting new talent and for connecting with customers.) And, down the road, maybe you’ll want a couple of flat screen TVs – one in the lunchroom and one in your lobby – to display tweets and posts in real time to keep your team connected to your customers.

 

Posted On April 18th, 2017 by Crowded Ocean

Lessons for startups from social media grenades

It’s rare to find a B2B startup founder who is fluent in social media. The nonstop demands of company building diminish the time that can be devoted to social channels, whether that’s Twitter or Facebook or Github or you-name-it. And besides, as the theory goes, that’s a task best delegated to the marketing or customer success team.

For consumer-facing startups, however, it’s a different story, because an unfiltered tweet or video from an unhappy customer can be punishing to a consumer brand’s reputation and market valuation. (Just ask UAL CEO Oscar Munoz.) That’s why those companies have entire teams of employees devoted to staffing and responding to dialogue on the social channels of consumer brands.

Tweets can be brutal

Even so, the move by the new CEO of the company that owns Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s restaurants took social media engagement to another level. One of the new CEO’s first requests, according to this New York Times article, was to install screens at company headquarters to display real-time social media conversations about its brands for all company employees. That’s a bold move, but a pragmatic one in the wake of recent, so-called “social media grenades” hurled at Pepsi and United Airlines.

It used to be that if you wanted new execs to get close to the customer, they could join the call center team staffing customer or tech support and listen in to learn common customer complaints. Today, a single negative comment or tweet by an unhappy customer can quickly spread to thousands, or even millions, of other customers. Rapid detection and response is the name of the game, and that leaves no time for internal deliberation.

Duck and cover

That’s why an early stage startup needs to appoint an owner of your company’s social channels. Choose someone on your team who already has a natural affinity for communicating and connecting via social channels. That’s the person to tap early on to be a rallying point, teacher and role model across your team in the early days of your startup. Remember that it’s a temporary assignment. With growth (and revenue!) can come additional staff, maybe a PR agency resource or a dedicated contractor to staff your social media program as you grow. But appointing a temporary owner means at least you’ve got someone monitoring commentary about your brand and product and, at the very least, someone to yell “duck” if some industry wag lobs a grenade.

Posted On January 12th, 2015 by Crowded Ocean

Why Social Media Fails for Startups

According to the Buddhist proverb:

If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking.

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 8.22.54 AMWhen it comes to social media, that elegant quote rings true. Many of our startup clients that have made the decision to invest in social media, and they have wisely pared their social media targets to a manageable two or three…say LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube.

But for a startup to be successful on social media, you also need ownership and tops-down support directly from the CEO or co-founders. That is a critical step not to be overlooked. Your startup may have a community manager “owning” the channels. Or your startup may have your PR firm temporarily at the social media helm in the very early days. But if the CEO, or your leadership team doesn’t invest time and attention, your social media program doomed.

And it takes time. And that’s the point. We tell clients that to reap the real benefits of social media, you must invest consistently and let time and repetition pay off for you. Instead of thinking in terms of three to six months, think 12 to 18 months.

If your startup has identified the channels that will connect your startup to your key audiences and you can provide relevant content on a regular basis, you’ll collect the followers, friends, fans and connections you value. Over time, that will translate into creating a community that can become an important forum for influencing buying decisions, a sounding board for shaping opinion, a place to seek out feedback on product features that will help build your reputation and, over time, leadership in your market space.

Channels like Twitter can be a valuable source of new business for consumer and enterprise startups. But it won’t work if your leadership doesn’t jump on and stay on the social media bandwagon.

Posted On July 29th, 2013 by Crowded Ocean

Why Social Media Fails for Startups

According to the Buddhist proverb, “if we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking.”

time, insight, strategy, goalsWhen it comes to social media, that elegant quote rings true. Many of our startup clients have made the decision to invest in social media, but they have also wisely pared their social media targets to a manageable two or three…say LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube.

But does your CEO tweet?

But for a startup to be successful on social media, you also need ownership and top-down support directly from the CEO or co-founders. That is a critical step not to be overlooked. Your startup may have a community manager “owning” the channels. Or your startup may have your PR firm temporarily at the social media helm in the very early days. But if the CEO, or your leadership team doesn’t invest time and attention, your social media program is doomed.

Why this on-off history with a tool that could make a true difference in a startup’s success?  Because social media takes time. And that’s the point.  We tell clients that to reap the real benefits of social media, they must invest consistently and let time and repetition pay off. Instead of thinking in terms of three to six months, think 12 to 18 months.

If your startup has identified the channels that will connect your startup to your key audiences and you can provide relevant content on a regular basis, you’ll collect the followers, friends, fans and connections you value.  Over time, that will translate into creating a community that can become an important forum for influencing buying decisions, a sounding board for shaping opinion, a place to seek out feedback on product features that will help build your reputation and, over time, leadership in your market space.

Channels like Twitter can be a valuable source of new business for consumer and enterprise startups.  But it won’t work if your leadership doesn’t jump on and stay on the social media bandwagon.

Posted On September 13th, 2012 by Crowded Ocean

Time to name a new category

There are too many social networks:  Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Flickr, Quora, Tumblr, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Google+ etc.

Some are getting absorbed: Instagram, Yammer. Some just will not die: Ning, Second Life, Friendster, Myspace. In fact, Wikipedia lists about 200 “notable” social networking sites.

We always hear that social networks are all about relationships. According to social scientists, the number of meaningful relationships the average person can maintain maxes out at about 150, or Dunbar’s number.  That’s the human limit, and some would say the business limit, to effective communities.

So what the hell is everyone doing on all of these social networks?

The truly useful, professional social networks where real business gets done – Yammer, LinkedIn and even Yelp – are not really social networks. These are great collections of true comrades, distantly related acquaintances and friends of former co-workers.  And yet they are incredibly valuable.  And judging by the stock prices of YELP and LNKD and their business results, Wall Street thinks so, too.

So it’s time for a new category that reflects that value.

Marketing chiefs at LinkedIn and Yelp, can you get on that!

 

Posted On August 2nd, 2012 by Crowded Ocean

Are You “Authentic”?

The politicos are nicely pointing out for us a common problem with blogs and Twitter streams today. And that’s “authenticity,” the holy-grail quality that every organization, startup, nonprofit or global brand wants for their public persona. In short, it comes down to, is the voice of your organization on social networks consistent with the voice of your lead spokesperson?

President Obama has an active Twitter account run by his campaign staff. As this New York Times article points out, it can be a challenge to synchronize what the president’s staff tweets under his name with what President Obama actually says from the campaign trail. (Note that direct tweets from the president himself carry the “bo” byline.)

Similarly, a startup CEO will often rely upon his staff to tweet from the organization’s official Twitter handle. But will that point-of-view line up with what the CEO says? Does the CEO shape your organization’s online voice or is he so busy that he has to read and internalize the company point-of-view or partyline from the blog?

It used to be that disconnects of message started most often during live commentary or off-the-cuff remarks by the CEO (quarterly earnings conference calls anyone?) In early July, we had the CEO of Twitter himself proclaiming that the company has “a truckload” of money in the bank and would therefore not be going public any time soon (Twitter’s lawyers probably weren’t too keen to hear that one).

But these days, gaffes can also start online, and these missteps highlight the lack of authenticity or inconsistency with company commentary. To solve this, we see successful organizations elevating responsibility for social networks in order to ensure authenticity and consistency of voice. And, we also see CEOs taking ownership of their own Twitter handle. Maybe if President Obama were able to personally tweet every one of his own tweets he’d be perceived as more authentic.

What do you think?

Posted On July 26th, 2012 by Crowded Ocean

Startup Marketing: How To Leverage Resources and When To Hire

Most emerging companies start with a lean in-house startup marketing team: a Director or VP of Marketing with external contractors, or agencies and in-house resources that have been drafted into a marketing role. We are often asked to advise on how to sequence and plan the transition from outsourced to dedicated resources in-house. Below is our rule-of-thumb of what to outsource and when to hire across three broad phases of startup marketing:

Phase 1 – Stealth

OUTSOURCING

  • Logo: crowdsource or hire a solo designer
  • Designer: First website to support hiring and fundraising
  • Marketing pro:  go-to-market plan for messaging and a blueprint/timeline for launch

INHOUSE RESOURCE

  • PPT

Phase 2 – Customer Discovery/pre-launch

OUTSOURCING

  • PR Agency
  • SEO agency or contractor
  • Marketing Ops pro
  • Content developer: writer, videographer

RECRUIT INHOUSE RESOURCES:

  • Engineers for web development
  • Bloggers
  • PPT developers
  • Social media

Phase 3 – Launch and scaling the company

OUTSOURCING

  • PR agency

HIRE STAFF TO INHOUSE RESOURCES

  • Online Marketing Director for demand gen and measurement
  • Community Manager for social media
  • Content developers
  • Marketing Ops Manager

Posted On June 26th, 2012 by Crowded Ocean

Hiring for Startups– Making That First (Online) Impression

The adage “it’s not what you say, but how you say it” shows the importance of non-verbal communication and presentation. In the age of social media, that adage could not be more accurate.

Probably like you, we spend a lot of time on social networks. Particularly on LinkedIn– connecting with influencers in our ecosystem, vetting potential hires, and increasingly, looking to LinkedIn as a target for lead gen programs. We are often mystified by what we see when we search LinkedIn user profiles, so please allow us a moment to rant…

Rant #1: Users don’t include a portrait photo. Surveys of talent recruiters and human resources professionals consistently indicate that the absence of a photo decreases your chances of getting hired. It leaves some wondering, “what are you hiding?” Or is it that you could just not be bothered?

Rant #2: Use of provocative photos. Women who want to get hired — Do not include a portrait photo with a “come hither” pose. If you want to be taken seriously for your track record, include a traditional portrait photo that shows us what a capable, friendly, approachable person you are.

Rant #3: Profile photo includes another person. Women and men who want to get hired — Do not include a portrait photo of yourself with your significant other.  If you want me to hire you or do business with you, show me you.  Including your significant other makes you look insecure or immature. Don’t detract from your CV.

Rant #4: Profile photo is someone/something else besides… you. Do not use a picture of your pet or child or favorite cartoon character as your portrait. Do we need to explain this one? Maybe someone on the Forbes 400 list can use something else besides a photo. But even Barack Obama uses a portrait photo of himself in his LinkedIn profile.

One of our favorite comedians, Eddie Izzard, famously joked that you’re judged, “70% on how you look, 20% on how you sound and 10% on what you say.”  If that’s true, be sure to include your portrait photo in your online profiles and make it professional.

Posted On May 3rd, 2012 by Crowded Ocean

Does Size Matter?


It’s the age-old question, “does size matter?” The answer is yes… when it comes to your blog posts and tweets.

For Blog Posts:  In startup marketing, there are a lot of elements that go into making a blog post effective. Ideally, the checklist includes your keywords, voice, vivid language, provocative ideas to stimulate the reader, and a strong supporting visual (not necessarily in that order). Perhaps you’ve read the same studies (thank you, Hubspot) about which are the best days and times of the week to post your blog for maximum reach. But what our clients seem to worry the most about is the length of their blog posts – as if each post has to have a prescribed length to be valuable to the reader.

This concern reminds us of the comedy routine by the late George Carlin who famously reduced the Ten Commandments to just two. Or, there’s journalist, book author and celebrated food activist Michael Pollan who summed up his food advice to Americans:  “eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” Both of those examples are pithy, to-the-point, wonderfully memorable and brief. If only every blog post were similarly short and sweet.

When it comes to blog posts, we sometimes find that the value is in reverse relationship to the length. Our advice to startups is to think about distilling your commentary into a single key takeway—two, max. Focusing on that takeaway and how to best to support it will ensure a brief, tight, valuable post.

For Tweets:  How can size matter for a tweet that has a built-in limit of 140 characters? It can matter a lot if you follow a best practice we often hear about that dictates that you have to include “the three” in every tweet: a link, an @ mention and a #hashtag (and today’s hashtags seem to be getting longer and longer). In reality, including “the three” leaves you with very little room to communicate your own unique thought.

The point of tweeting is to be timely, current, and responsive – again, all in 140 characters.  Saddling your tweet with “the three” will weigh you and your followers down and significantly constrain the spontaneity of tweeting. As Twitter continues to evolve, we already see the length of a tweet becoming the length of the new elevator pitch. Twitter is already becoming the successor to traditional wire services like AP and Reuters for breaking news coverage. So, our advice is to let the size of your tweet support your message, and that means not trying to squeeze “the three” into every tweet.

Posted On April 23rd, 2012 by Crowded Ocean

3 Lies Your VC Told You About Startup Marketing

Just launch and they will come. After years of building your company and customer validation, you finally launch your startup. After about two weeks of heady press coverage, buzz in social media and impressive numbers of visitors to your site, page views and downloads, the noise and fanfare dies down. The Twittersphere has moved on to the next shiny thing and you are faced with finding a way to sustain and build upon the success of launch to stay top of mind with your key constituencies. Before launch, do you have a definition of success? Do you have a content marketing plan that maps needed content (blogs, news, articles, speaking, white papers, video, etc.) to the phases of your sales cycle from awareness to consideration, engagement, purchase and advocacy? Is conversion driving your content plan?

Social Media – Just delegate it. Yes, startup CEOs should—and do—tweet. The most successful companies have a point-of-view that is articulated and amplified directly by the founders. That’s the CEO and/or CTO. We believe that founders need to take ownership of their commentary to the press, bloggers and key voices that shape opinion in their market. That includes a blog and a Twitter handle. The best ones realize that a Twitter channel is a direct link to their key audiences. Why wouldn’t you reach out and talk to them? That’s what leaders do.

SEO – Just set and forget it. Building your rank on Google and the other search engines, Yahoo and Bing, requires a detailed strategic plan and an owner to work the plan. As the results of your SEO investments begin to bear fruit, it’s the most vigilant who will see the payoff. As your story evolves, and your product offerings expand, you’ll need to ensure that your SEO strategy evolves. SEO is not a transaction. It’s an on-going strategy as vital to your success as your content plan.