The world of technology has become the force for change in today’s society. Virtually every process of our daily life is being scrutinised and improved by tech companies around the globe. New platforms are creating market efficiencies and new technology is enabling the human race to do things they’ve never done before. But what role does social media play? Some tech businesses may, in fact, be a new social network or a tool to use on social media platforms, but what about those less directly linked? How can social media be used as a marketing or research tool?
Let’s start with social media for tech businesses just starting out.
Social media for tech start-ups
Social media has two major roles to play for a start-up tech company. One in researching the market; one for informing the marketing strategy. Of course, social media marketing may become the key driver of new users or new business well beyond start-up phase, but we’ll discuss that later.
In the start-up phase, social media is often a good to place to start generating ideas for your product and route to market strategy. Are people discussing issues relating to your business’s solution on forums or social networks? What are people’s pain points when performing the task you’re replacing or in the industry, you’re disrupting?
You may also gather some granular feedback from individuals in your target audience. Try reaching out to people you believe are perfect for your business over Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn. If you target enough people with the right messaging, you’ll be amazed at how many useful responses you’ll receive.
Asking your immediate network for feedback can be very misleading. Selling your product or service to complete strangers is an entirely different challenge to your friends or family. It’s not that they’re not as likely to use your product, but you’re likely to only have a few seconds to convey your concept successfully, not have a sit-down chat for half an hour.
Reaching out to your target audience even before you launch gives you four major benefits:
- Receive feedback from a wide range of people in your target audience; what their existing pain points are, how they currently operate, what the important factors are in their decision-making process.
- Using this feedback to shape the product you’re actually developing, ensuring it tackles the right issues in the way your audience needs.
- It’s a much easier sell. You’re not asking for someone to sign up, buy, or commit themselves in any way, you’re just asking for help.
- When you’ve actually developed your offering, you have a network of people you’ve spoken to who understand what you’ve developed and have been with you on part of that journey.
I think people are sometimes scared to go out and ask prospects what they think. We can be overprotective of our ideas and our ego. What if no one likes my idea? What if they’re using a tool I’ve not heard about and is way better than what I am developing?
Well, guess what? It’s certainly a better time to find out now than after you’ve spent three years and £100,000 on your app.
Marketing channel testing
Whether you’re pre-launch and collecting sign-ups or you actually have a functioning platform, you need to find out where you can most effectively gain traction. And traction is the key word. Whether it’s user numbers, transactions, or other kinds of leads, identifying the best bang for your marketing buck is absolutely crucial.
Knowing which channels represent low cost-per-acquisition (CPA) of users is a vital part of running a start-up tech business. These metrics are especially important when looking for a series A round of funding, for example, when one of the key issues is scalability. Sufficient marketing channel testing gives investors a clear indication of the scale their money is going to provide to the business.
Knowing your CPA through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, especially for consumer-facing businesses is absolutely key. The same goes for LinkedIn but is more applicable to the B2B side of your business. The good news is that this is actually pretty straightforward once you have the social media processes and protocols in place and have a CRM system. This is actually an area of our social media management business that has grown significantly over the past 12 months. Further reading on traction testing can be done in this book.
But there’s more!
Not only does social media marketing give you vital market research and data on user acquisition (or whatever traction looks like for you), but it helps inform other major elements of your marketing strategy…
Marketing messaging and strategy research
No matter how effective your social media activity is in actually generating traction, it will give you fantastic insight into the following key areas:
- Which of your value propositions resonate most with your audience
- The language, messaging and imagery they most engage with
- Which selling points they actually care about
- What are the objections your product or service is likely to face
- What your ‘super-niche’ audience looks like – the core most enthused by your idea
These combine to help you word and structure your website, landing pages, ads (AdWords, display, advertorial etc.), content creation and prospect outreach. You’ll also be better able to target your audience, either by demographic or media outlet. This information is no longer based on what you think will work, it’s based on how your audience actually responds to advertising.
All this can culminate in one other major win – proof of conept. Through market research and testing, social media could be one of the primary methods you actually prove your concept. As any tech entrepreneur knows, proof of concept is a fundamental milestone in their business’s startup and initial growth phases.
But what about, post-startup? What about businesses that have secured seed or series A funding? Let’s look at how social media helps tech companies scale.
Scaling tech businesses with social
For most tech companies, there will be at least one element of social media that helps generate users. For some, users will come from every corner of social media and will play a major role in user acquisition and revenue generation. Of course, if you’ve ascertained which channels represent your best return on investment from a CPA perspective, this is where that funding needs to be placed.
If you’ve got £50,000 allocated to Facebook marketing, you should have a clear idea of the number of users and revenue that spend is going to achieve based on your initial research and market testing. If that was sufficiently thorough, you can be pretty confident your numbers will add up. There may be issues along the way, of course. You may saturate your market.
Aside from being a user acquisition and even sales tool, social media will assist in digital PR (generating links with journalists and blowing up any coverage you land) and search engine optimisation. You’ll also be able to continually test value propositions and your audience’s wants and needs.
Does your target audience look up to influencers? Influencer marketing can represent good value for money for some tech businesses. Uber, for example, employ an influencer marketing strategy to increase brand awareness and affinity in some quarters. More about influencers here.
Community management is likely to be a major element of social media management. This includes customer service, general communication with users and the ability to nurture a community feel about your brand. Social channels can be a great place to keep everyone updated about updates, snags, and milestone as you scale your tech business.
Social media is also the perfect environment to build collaborative relationships. The tech community, in general, is a very friendly and collaborative one and most companies are willing to explore new opportunities, even if they’re just cross-promotional. Social media can be the perfect place to leverage other brand’s user and customer bases through collaboration. This works right from startup to scale phases.
Social media for gaining investment
It almost goes without saying that growing a tech business through social media elevates its value as an investment opportunity. This might be through increasing revenue, traction, and demonstrating cost-per-acquisition of users and/or paying customers.
But the more interesting elements of social media might be the ability for you to go out and profile potential investors. Both on a company/fund-level and at the individual level. Finding out which projects excite an investor and what they’re likely to look for in an opportunity could be the perfect way to get an ‘in’ or shape your approach and pitch deck. Never underestimate the power of information and making something a unique opportunity to an investor.
Don’t forget that LinkedIn is a fantastic place to find and connect with investors and introducers. LinkedIn lead generation can be incredibly effective in expanding your network and setting up meetings.
It should be clear that there’s a host of ways social media can benefit tech businesses of almost all shapes and sizes. What is sometimes less clear is exactly how and which channels are the best place to start. There should always be a clear strategy in place and this is underpinned by the goals of your social activity. Just as your business will develop and pivot, so can your social media strategy and its purpose will evolve as your business does.