Does anyone have experience building up social media presences prior to the launch of a product/service? We know our target customer and target user (different in this case) and want to build an audience to inform upon launch.
It can certainly be tough to build up a substantial follower base, starting from nothing or very little, especially if you haven't launched your product yet. But here are a few tactics to help you get in front of more people pre-launch:
1) Start sharing tons of useful content. Before you bother sending people to your Twitter feed or Facebook page, you want to make sure they'll find something valuable once they get there. If you have the time, create original content that ties into your industry, your product, or your company in some way (without directly promoting yourself, though). If you don't have the bandwidth to create your own content, find other articles from bloggers you admire or experts in your industry, and share their content. Just make sure you're putting out information that's highly relevant and valuable to the audience you're trying to attract so you can engage them once they find you.
2) Create conversation. The people who aren't following you yet aren't seeing your tweets, so how do you show them value and get them to discover you? Start a conversation! At Change Collective, we're rolling out our first course on Becoming an Early Riser. So I'll do a Twitter search for "need to wake up earlier" and find a bunch of people who are tweeting about the exact problem we're setting out to solve. By favoriting their tweets or replying with -- "That's great! We think we can help - check out our newest course & let us know what you think!" -- I'm getting our product on their radar and simultaneously providing value to them.
3) Ask for help. Start with your fellow team members, and ask them to share the company's Facebook posts or retweet some of your tweets. You can even create lazy tweets for them to share. What about your board members? Advisors? VCs? They all have a stake in helping your company grow awareness and adoption, so find an easy and appropriate way for them to help by leveraging their networks. And if you have friends and family who are excited about your business and supportive of what you're doing, they probably won't mind a friendly request to help spread the news every once in a while.
Hope this helps! I just joined an early-stage startup and I'm currently building up our marketing from scratch. Happy to jump on a call and offer some tips from the trenches if you'd like. Best of luck!
I've had quite a bit of success running Twitter ad campaigns for @socialharvest actually. The product (free software) isn't done yet, but jumping on social media early is important.
You should build a presence as early as possible for any product. You can't just be done, go live, and say, "Hey world! Here you go!" ... You'll then say, "Wait, world? Where are you?"
You don't need to spend a lot of money to be frank. You'll want to run a campaign targeted at getting newsletter sign ups or something. This is probably one of your goals anyway before product launch (and still should be after!).
Those types of campaigns (lead generation campaigns) cost a lot less on Twitter when you target them very narrowly. You also get a much higher engagement rate AND they bring you new followers too (without cost). Whereas a followers campaign on Twitter is far too broad and will burn through your ad budget FAST...For followers who are unqualified (could even be spammers) or who unfollow you anyway.
Then you'll want to do the same old grooming techniques blogged about a million times out there. Follow a few people and unfollow those who don't follow you back. Though I'd add to that, follow relevant people and it's ok if you don't unfollow some just because they don't follow you back. If they are relevant...Well? Why not?
This brings me to the last point:
Use social media! That's how you build a presence.
There's no quick trick really. It takes constant time and attention. However, I think you can truly spend a few minutes a day sharing relevant/related links/content, following people, retweeting/favoriting, and be just fine. You should see your followers build nice and steady. Without coming off like spam.
This strategy is great for Twitter. For other social networks it's similar, but different and there may be one network that works better for your product too.
Before you can initiate an active visibility campaign, there are some foundational elements you must have in place. By building the foundation, you have a way to create relationships and encourage people to sign up for your email list as you build your social audience.
Blog – this is a no-brainer. You absolutely must have a piece of digital real estate you own and control. This is where all traffic is directed as you build your audience. This where you post the search-engine friendly content that helps you get found by those searching for the solution you and you book offer.
Email management service – this is also non-negotiable. Without an email list of qualified prospects and customers, you will always struggle to sell your product. The people who give you their email address are telling you they value what you offer and want to hear from you. Do your research and find the best email service that meets your needs and your budget. The most widely used are Aweber, Mailchimp, Constant Contact, InfusionSoft and 1ShoppingCart.
Optin/Landing page – you need a blogsite (#1) and an email service (#2) to set this up. Create a simple page inviting people to get free updates about your product and when it's going to launch, something like a "first to know" list. Offer a gift like a free report in exchange for their email address. This is list building 101.
Where does your ideal reader hangout? Use Quantcast to check out demographics on the sites your audience frequents. Use your Facebook Page Insights to learn more about the demographics of your followers. Use Google Analytics to find out how your blog readers are finding you.
Set up and complete your social profiles. Make sure you are using the social networks your ideal audience is using. If they are on Twitter, you better be using Twitter as well. It should go without saying, but I see this mistake all the time… make sure your social profiles are COMPLETE. Include your headshot, cover image, bio, and links to your site and other social networks. Your social networks are where you will be posting microcontent to entice your readers back to your blog.
Now you're ready to build your audience on social networks with targeted content you create and curate to support the benefits of your product.
It takes consistent, constant publication of content that engages and educates your prospective customers.
If you have questions about creating a strategic social marketing plan for your launch, please schedule a call.
One more suggestion, though all the below are excellent. Use it to target potential investors and journalists. Think big, but start small.
Echoing Zack, I'd say target specific users if you can -- influential individuals you might write about you, share your content or otherwise support you when you launch.
To catch their attention, though, you have to first figure out *who* they are -- and drilling down like this can be challenging and time-consuming at the beginning. It's worth it to have that bang at launch!
One other tip -- consider guest posting on blogs that cater to your target market, and send readers back to an opt-in. Piggy-backing off other brands' already-established communities is often a quicker and smarter way than trying to grow your own from zero.
Be genuine! The biggest mistake new companies with their social media marketing is that they get way too excited about themselves and forget to care about their followers. Engage in honest and open conversations without flogging your product or website in every tweet or post. Show your followers that you care by encouraging them and thanking them. They will be much more likely to share and retweet and that means your targeted market grows more quickly too. Show a genuine interest in knowing, sharing and learning as much as possible about your product or service. You want people to think about you every time they think about your field of expertise. Have fun, show your branding's personality but also remain professional at all times. Good luck!
Sharing. Sharing. Sharing.
As Gary Vaynerchuck is always saying: nowadays every company is a media company. And I believe this to be true. No difference if you are a clothing brand. A software company. Or you are building wood shelves. Every single one of these has the potential to share the process of starting the business. Building the product. And then eventually unveiling it.
Sometimes the target audience of who you promote the content to and who the product is actually for might be different. But that should not stop you.
Maybe you are developing a new software and while doing so, you document the way you develop it. This is especially interesting to other coders. But the end product may be more interesting to people who are actually using Twitter for example. Well - there is a certain amount of people who do both. And then there is the reach you gain by having the following in one field.
So start sharing more of the process. Or articles around the subject matter. That way building an audience in advance.
Alternative: Curating Content
I have heard very good things about this especially on Instagram and Facebook. Building an account specifically to be geared towards one specific group of people. For example "hotel lovers". Resharing all kinds of amazing looking hotels. Interacting with people there. Building the account. And eventually, you can start sharing your own product there as well.
But one thing is for sure: all these approaches are a lot of work. And often they distract from the process of producing the product it self. So be careful and know what you are building. And where your priorities are.