As the founder of APPCityLife, a civic tech company, part of my role is to serve as a technology evangelist. To do that, I've had to learn to engage on a variety of social media platforms. Here are a few things I've learned that might help other entrepreneurs who want to use social media to help build their brand.
Engagement and Authenticity
Even if you are using one of the many tools available to schedule social media posts, make sure you are interacting, not just posting. Not only will it allow you to grow your network organically, the interactions can lead to excellent contacts offline. Whatever you do, don't buy followers. It's far better to have fewer followers who actually care about you and your brand than a faked-up large number next to your name.
And when it comes to content, be sure you know the difference between timely, edgy and funny and where it crosses into inappropriate.
Cheerios scored big with this tweet posted immediately after an interception during Super Bowl:
But when someone at the International House of Pancakes took edgy right on over the edge, it did not gain the company any love:
Social media is also the front line of customer service when users make comments about your product or company, so make sure someone on your team is in charge of responding quickly to comments about your brand.
You Are Your Brand
While it is important to create separate social media accounts for yourself and for your company, it is also important to understand that if you are an entrepreneur or business owner, you and your team also represent your brand through your personal accounts.
This doesn't just apply for startups; some of the most followed accounts on social media are the personal profiles of leaders of some of today's largest companies.
Elon Musk, the visionary behind Tesla, SolarCity, and SpaceX, is a perfect example of why it is so important to maintain your own personal presence on social media - and to remember that you are your brand.
With almost 5 million followers on Twitter, his personal account's audience is more than double the number of followers combined for his three companies.
In part, Musk's popularity is due to his followers knowing that the posts on his account are authentic and because he is willing to share the evolution and journey of his companies, both the ups and downs.
When a test of the Falcon 9 rocket didn't go as hoped, the crash was broadcast by Musk via live video. Moments after, he shared the following tweet:
RUD = Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly :)-- Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 15, 2016
Sharing openly what many might have perceived to be a failure didn't cause his audience to doubt his ability to lead or the technology of his company; it simply made him human.
I was among the many who celebrated while watching his live tweets when a later test of the Falcon 9 was completed successfully.
Out on LZ-1. We just completed the post-landing inspection and all systems look good. Ready to fly again. pic.twitter.com/1OfA8h7Vrf-- Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 18, 2016
Find the Right Culture Fit
Social media as a communication tool for your company requires that you identify the platforms whose demographics best match those of your industry - whether or not you would use them personally.
I certainly didn't "get" Reddit the first few times I visited, but because their demographic is largely young males interested in digital technologies, I knew it was an important platform for our industry.
My first few attempts on Reddit resulted in my account being banned due to not understanding the rules/culture, but I was determined to learn the culture. I shared a link of a video of my father, fully expecting it to once again be rejected.
Instead, the video went viral. There were stories and phone calls from Good Morning America, PBS, and other news agencies and websites across the globe. To date, the video has been viewed over 6.6 million times, and the experience helped me learn more about the culture of Reddit - I've since become a daily visitor.