Big brands with decades of experience are at an advantage on social networks, right? Wrong. In many ways, social media actually plays into startups’ hands. This is partly because their size makes them more agile. But it’s also because they need to put themselves on the map and, as a result, are prepared to take risks and use more attention-grabbing communication strategies. In this post we explore how when it comes to social media, there’s a lot the corporates can learn from the little guys.
1 – Rules? There Are No Rules
If there’s one thing companies need to be in order to stand out on social media, it’s bold. And many startups do this successfully because they recognize that anything goes. On social networks, the advantage lies not with those companies with the largest capital, the longest history or the highest market rank, but rather with those that seize opportunities and express themselves. Startups are good at this (see the below example from Uber) because they’re hungry for success and open to taking risks. The challenge facing larger, more established companies is creating the impetus to break the mold; to shake up the existing communication strategy and do something a little bit different.
2 – Reputation and Personality Are Not the Same Thing
The brands that stand out on social media have one thing in common: they’re unique. They use humor and creativity to create a personality and capture audiences’ imagination. This often comes naturally to startups – not only because their brand identity is still in the process of being sculpted, but also because the smaller you are, the easier it is to create a “human” voice; to involve everyone in communication in order to make the brand itself more relatable. What the big guys need to note is that reputation and personality are not the same thing; no matter how familiar audiences are with your name, they need to be able to engage with your brand on social media. This post from HSBC is a great example of how major companies in “dry” industries are achieving this.
3 – It’s OK to Eat Humble Pie Every Once in a While
A characteristic that often sets startups apart from other companies is humility. Their relative youth means that they appreciate their customer base and go to particular efforts to maintain it. On social media, this translates as high response rates, thanking users for engaging, and sharing user-generated content. The lesson for the big guys? Having thousands, or even millions, of followers doesn’t mean your work is done; social media is all about engaging and exchanging with your audience. Here’s a good example from ING, which shows that engaging customers goes far beyond getting them to like content, and can even stretch to website development…
4 – Everyone’s on Show
Startups need people to know who they are and, as such, are on a mission to demonstrate just that. From sales to customer service, finance to recruitment, everybody plays a role in content that is shared on social media. Here are some examples from Airbnb and BlaBlaCar.
No matter how big your company, or how well known your brand is offline, audiences won’t engage on social media if you don’t do certain things. Humor, humility and transparency are all key qualities. But one of the best ways to humanize your brand on social networks is to empower all employees to make a contribution. This is something startups do well, not least because their size makes them suited to transversal involvement. Nevertheless, a number of big names, including Microsoft and Sage, are also putting the focus on individuals, and using advocacy to allow their employees to lead the way on social media.