The only question arguably more common in the startup world than, "How much funding do you have?" is, "What's your social media strategy?" These days everyone from investors to journalists want to know how you are going to use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and whatever hot new platform is on the horizon to build an audience around your product.

According to John Ortega, Director and Founder of the new travel technology company Vidpal, focusing exclusively on social media when promoting a new product can seriously hold back your chances at a successful launch.

Vidpal, whose full Beta web version goes live on April 6, is an online video platform that lets travelers, tourists, and curious people of all stripes request customized videos of anything they want to see from anywhere across the globe. The platform acts as a real time video marketplace, though which users can requests videos from anyone willing to provide them within minutes in exchange for pay and perks.

At first, Ortega and his team assumed the best way to promote their innovative product would be by reaching out to both users and sellers of videos through paid Facebook ads. During initial tests, however, Vidpal's marketing team noticed that they were having difficulty cutting through all the social media noise to ensure their messages got real traction.

To combat this problem, Ortega and co. shifted their approach. They decided on a strategy that included traditional advertisements in travel and dining magazines, radio stations, and newspapers. The aim of the ads would be to drive members of their upwardly mobile target demographic to additional online and offline talks and forums, which would then, in turn, lead to a positive call to action.

"What Facebook and Google tries to get you to do," says Ortega, "is go to their platforms and waste your money before making connections. That's an artificial audience." In other words, while social media and online tools can be helpful, they are just that:tools. When you decide to focus all your promotion efforts on social media, you are effectively making the choice to overlook the many other places members of your target market congregate--online and off.

Before diving in and amassing digital friends and followers, spend some time analyzing how the people with whom you want to have a conversation prefer to interact. While social media is helpful for many new companies in getting the word out, using it without first thinking about the people behind the profiles can kill your chances of success before you even really get started.

Published on: Mar 24, 2015