Over the past few years, an interesting transformation has occurred in the business world. Social media has become less of an optional marketing opportunity and more of a priority. In fact, platforms like Facebook and Twitter have become integral parts of brand awareness, content distribution, lead generation, and customer acquisition strategies for businesses. This is especially true for startups working with smaller budgets and grassroots campaigns. However, despite its importance, very few startups and new ventures understand how to maximize the potential of social media.

Marketing on a limited budget.

There is an incredible burden on startups to maximize marketing dollars without compromising quality. It's a fine line, and one that not every entrepreneur understands. On one side, you're being told you won't succeed unless consumers know your products and services exist (which takes a heavy marketing and advertising investment). On the other, you understand that you don't have a large budget and spending too much on a launch campaign can doom you from the start. However, somewhere in the middle there is a sweet spot that should allow you to reach a large audience with a conservative budget.

Over the years, that sweet spot has changed--but the concept has remained the same. Word-of-mouth marketing has always been a startup's best chance of success when working with a limited budget. Thankfully, the internet has significantly accelerated the pace at which word-of-mouth marketing takes place. Specifically, social media has made it possible for small startup businesses to reach millions of consumers with the click of a button.

The state of social media.

If you're looking for concrete proof why social media makes sense for your startup, it can certainly be found in the numbers. Just consider the fact that Facebook is now responsible for a whopping 15.8 percent of total time spent on the internet. You may also want to consider some of these statistics, as curated by Rocketpost.com.

Clearly, social media has a solid foundation and is poised for continued long-term growth. The question startups should be left asking is, "How can we maximize our potential with social media?"

Start with a social media strategy.

As an entrepreneur, you understand the value of strategizing and planning. That's exactly what you need to do before proceeding any further. Even before selecting which channels you'll use, you need a detailed strategy that will drive your focus and keep you on track.

The first step is to figure out what type of brand your company wants to be portrayed as. For best results, align your social media approach with your company culture. Does your company prefer a straightforward, classic approach, or do you take more of an easygoing, relaxed feel? Whichever defines your company, that's the approach you should take when building your social media strategy. Consumers want consistency and can sniff out businesses that aren't true to themselves.

Determine your primary goals.

After honing in on your approach, it's necessary to define your social media goals. While many large, established corporations use social media to facilitate growth in all areas of business, it's more likely that a startup will focus on one or two of the following:

Brand awareness.
Content distribution.
Lead generation.
Customer acquisition.

Choose your social media platforms.

Depending on your strategy, approach, and goals, you should be able to determine which social media platforms are right for your startup. Currently, there are five major social media platforms potentially of value to startups like yours:

Facebook.
Twitter.
LinkedIn.
YouTube.
Google.
Pinterest.

General business tips for social media.

While each business is unique and your specific strategy will determine how to best proceed for optimal results, here are a few general tips that apply to just about any startup using social media:

Build a community.
Listen instead of talking.
Try new things.

Unlock the power of social media.

As an entrepreneur, it can be challenging to work with limited resources and capabilities. Thankfully, tools like social media, when properly used, are capable of promoting your brand at very little financial cost. Learn to use social media and discover the key to driving word-of-mouth marketing and brand awareness.

Published on: Feb 17, 2015