I lack inspiration today so please don’t mind me if I am going to copy paste a series of the paragraphs in this article from other articles that I have written. I admit I haven’t researched much about who you are, Inc. Arabia reader, but you seem to be similar to the readers of other business publications I contributed to so I might as well go for it.
As I said, I lack inspiration today. Plus, I am always in a hurry as an entrepreneur, and the silver lines between communication channels that I use for promoting my startup are becoming blurrier.
If you reached this far (or this short) in the article, you probably decided to give the (self) irony in the first paragraph a pass and figure out what mysterious copy paste I am referring to.
It’s rather simple.
I am talking about the external pressure on startups to communicate more and more on what they do on social media channels. An external pressure that is—in 99% of the cases—ending in a burnout of imagination and, implicitly, in a continuous stream of duplicated content and recycled news (along, of course, with photos of cute puppies in the office in your LinkedIn feed) coming from the cool startups of 2017.
I’ve seen countless startups—in the enthusiasm of their launch phase—just going berserk with creating their Facebook page, Twitter profile, LinkedIn account, Snapchat feed, Pinterest board, Youtube channel, Medium blog, even Google+ account!.
This, without even researching if the social media channels they set to use have a reasonable user representation in the MENA region or not even listing them on their website afterward.
More than that, the majority of startups don’t have a clear purpose (tied to their business strategy) for social media, and they don’t have a distinct communication style that can be replicated across the channels they are using.
Last but not least, because they don’t have the manpower to handle so many communication channels (on top of social media channels, you have classical media, communities, events, etc.).
They eventually get to the point where they install a series of smart little apps that are sharing on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn what they shared on Facebook or any other way around.
Or even more automated: Smart little apps that are creating posts for them, with startup teams realizing their Twitter account is promoting articles about news or trends they haven’t even been aware of.
There are a slew of studies done in the recent years (the one done by the Pew Research Center is one of the most comprehensive ones) about the critical differences between the audiences of the major social media channels.
What they fail to explain, though, are two crucial aspects for startups: the conversion potential for each of the channels and when in the lifecycle of a startup is important to tackle each of the social media channels (and, potentially, in what combination).
Let’s address conversion. It’s one thing for a communication agency to say that Facebook is efficient for brand awareness and that it caters to people who want to see the team members of a startup, a day in the life of that company or the crazy interior design of the office.
It’s another thing to explain that those people are users who are part of a long conversion funnel that can go through Facebook ads, Facebook games, Facebook Live Feeds and up to Facebook events.
And a similar funnel thinking applies to each channel separately as well as, holistically, to the entire group of channels that a startup decides to use for engaging their potential users (to be read, customers).
Answering the ‘When’ question is even trickier.
From the cases I have seen in the region, startups perceive social media and the digital advertising tools attached to it as the Holy Grail of customer acquisition and they burn words, time, imagination and bootstrap budgets on creating as many (they believe) megaphones as possible for their business.
But even though we are in this accelerated digital era, what startups are forgetting is that people still trust people before trusting ethical brands.
On the other hand, people will believe brands trusted by other people.
So this gold rush of believing that thousands of users will come to a new app, platform, service just because the team used social media and social media advertising is becoming more and more of a short circuit type of thinking.
There is no short circuit to a critical mass of relevant users/customers. There is attention to details, there is understanding of behaviors, and there is communication that feels real.
There, you have it: the ultimate secrets of the digital PR industry.
If you look closer, you will see that these are (to be read, became) secrets because people got so hung up on burning stages in the evolution of their companies.
Exponential growth is possible, and the digital environment nowadays is the most suitable for nurturing exponential growth. But to reach the moment when that is possible, startups still need to build brick by brick, word by word, channel by channel in the online space.