AIB Start-up Academy Coach Felicity McCarthy on the advantages of Social Media for Start-Ups

Picture of Felicity McCarthy presnting at an AIB Start-Up Academy event.

In our latest AIB Start-up Academy blog, we spoke to mentor Felicity McCarthy, who draws on her extensive experience in the digital sphere with companies like Facebook, eBay & Dell, to teach the finalists about the importance of social media for Start-ups. Read on for her tips on social media that you can apply to your own business.

Choose your channels wisely

Sometimes as businesses we’re inclined to think of our own products or our services or our own requirement to drive revenue. But the most successful social media marketers are those who put the customers at the start of the decision making. That ranges from deciding which channels to use on social to deciding what type of content you’ll be producing. It comes down to asking “Where are my customers?”. For example if your target audience is younger or you have a product that’s very visual, you should be thinking about Instagram. I would always encourage anyone, particularly in the Start-up space, to be quite focused. You will have limited time and money to devote to this, so I would advise that you pick two channels where you invest most of your efforts from a social media perspective.

Building a community

If you’re setting up a Twitter account or Facebook page today, the first thing I would recommend is to invite your own connections and contacts to like or follow your page. Don’t forget to promote your social presence through other channels. If you’re doing anything in print, include your social media handles, add it to email signatures, or putting on signage in a shop if you have a physical presence.

Then identify key influencers in your industry and try to engage with them. Whether it’s bloggers who are very active on Instagram or media influencers who might be active on Twitter, understand where they are, what topics they’re interested in, and engage with them. Try to add value to their conversations. But keep in mind it’s about doing so in a very authentic and genuine way to build those real relationships, as opposed to simply trying to pitch your product to them because people are fairly savvy and they can see that.

One of the fastest ways to grow a community is through competitions. They can be very effective, although I would always suggest using them with caution. And of course, advertising. Most of the platforms now have good advertising technologies which will allow you to get in front of more people to be able to build your community. But focus on getting the right people and building it over time.

Dealing with negativity

One of the key things I would say is to keep your tone positive. Social media is not the place to have a rant. Some people will be concerned if they get a negative comment, but rather than being terrified of that or shutting it down, it’s about having a measured response to it. Plan the response and do so calmly. For entrepreneurs it can be hard to take it on the chin, because our businesses are often our babies, but you have to be able to handle those comments in the same way you would in the real world. Get to the bottom of it, and solve it as quickly as possible.

3 ways to improve your effectiveness on social media today

1. Have a plan- Don’t think of social media as something to do on the back foot or at the end of the day. Think about it ahead of time. Know what you’re going to publish, what topics and themes you’re going to cover, and what conversations you’re going to start.

2. Go for quality over quantity – Publish the best content you can afford to create. Whether that’s nice imagery or good video content. It’s anything that will help bring your business to life. Showcase your customers. Testimonials will all help tell that story.

3. Test and measure – Sometimes on social media people can post things without thinking about it. You should be mindful and test deliberately. Post at different times of the day, post different types of content or different styles of imagery, and try to be systematic about which people respond to more enthusiastically. Is there a day of the week that your audience seem to be more engaged? Understand the metrics you have in front of you. Most social media channels now offer insights and analytics which you can use to test different strategies and tactics.

Learn More about Growing Your Business

The AIB Start-up Academy sees 11 new companies compete for the chance to win a prize package worth €250,000 to develop their business. Find out more about the AIB Start-up Academy and follow the progress of this year’s Academy participants on @AIBBiz and on The Irish Times.