It may seem like a no-brainer but social media has emerged as a powerful tool to reach out to your customers. Startup founders should consider leveraging its power to establish thought leadership, engage with their consumers, and strengthen their own brands.
Sharing his insights in a masterclass on ‘How startup founders can create an intentional social media presence’ during TechSparks 2022, Gaurav Mishra, Director – Digital, Adfactors PR advised a packed audience that apart from working on the obvious goals – product market fit, unit economics, growth, and profitability – they should consider building credibility of the startup founder in the market. This can be achieved by focussing on reputation, risk, and relevance.
Typically, startup founders consider working on landing page optimisation, social search performance, targeting and search engine optimisation. As a second step, they start setting up company social media pages and then consider influencer marketing etc. However, Gaurav notes that both humans and algorithms look at personal profiles and company pages very differently. In fact, the return engagement for brand pages across all social media platforms has been coming down very sharply in the last few years.
“As human beings, we tend to trust people more than sometimes we tend to trust brand pages now. Therefore, the impact, which can potentially be created by a personal page, from a founder or a CXO, can be very, very powerful,” he said.
Preferred social media platforms
According to Gaurav, LinkedIn is perhaps the first social media platform that comes to mind in terms of building a CXO presence. It has a strong professional context and a strong intention to learn and connect; organic growth and engagement is possible. It has more sticky, long form content. And it has direct linkages to recruitment in B2B sales tools.
“When they think of how to build an intentional social media presence, many startup founders consider LinkedIn. And then there is Twitter, which can create an equal impact, but it has a different flavour since it is more about hot takes on news. Therefore, it is a little risky. YouTube comes next if you’re the sort of person who’s going to stand in front of a camera, and create videos. Finally, Instagram, which used to be about visual inspiration has become all about entertainment and commerce right now. But there are some use cases where that can also be a good platform,” he explained.
Roles of startup founders in social media
Gaurav believes that founders’ social media profiles have the potential to play some roles more powerfully than the company pages. Founders can play five of these roles – as a spokesperson, chief cheerleader, a visionary, an expert, and as a connector.
Gaurav went ahead to detail out each role. The spokesperson role is the most obvious role where the founder can talk about all that the company has to say. A founder speaking on behalf of the company adds a human element to the conversation. “The founder can play a very powerful role in shaping public opinion about the startup because very often, the startup is very strongly associated with the founder. The founder can share personal context behind what and why the startup is doing what it’s doing. The founder can do much better on the personal profile, than from the startup brand pages,” he said.
The cheerleader role is, in his opinion, the most important role any founder or any CXO can play on social media platforms. This is because their employees are most likely already talking about the things they’re learning and doing, and without even thinking about it, they will be contributing to what the company is trying to achieve. So, one of the most important things the founder can do is to take the cheerleader role and highlight and reshare what the employees are doing and how it connects to the startup’s larger purpose.
As a visionary, the founder can talk about the purpose behind the company and what it is trying to achieve. If the founder can connect specific things happening in the company to this broader purpose, it will help everybody else understand every small thing you do.
“As founders, some of you are experts, some of you have a very strong understanding of what problem exists, which you’re trying to solve. If you can talk about why that problem is an important problem to work on, what was the thinking behind you arriving at the solution, and why your solution might be a good solution – if you can convene public dialogue around that, it may also be a very interesting way to use your voice as a founder,” he added.
Finally, explaining the role of a connector, Gaurav stated that startup founders are not alone in their journey. There are investors, partners, potential and current employees, sometimes policymakers and even competitors – all of them treading the same path. “How can you connect with them? How can you recruit them, as fellow travellers on the same journey? I think if you’re able to do that, that can be also very powerful,” he shared.
Be kind and thoughtful
To conclude the session, Gaurav said, “Try to learn over time by trial and error. Creating an image in public can be very inspirational for everybody around you. And very transformational for you. Show your work, share your process, iterate in public. That’s a great way of living a life. That’s a great way of building a company. Be kind, thoughtful and intentional as you do it.”