As much as we’d like to believe that all companies are created equal, have similar infrastructures supporting their operations, and have the same marketing objectives and marketing budgets, this is far from being the case in the real world. Similarly, the size of a company does matter when it comes to Social Media strategies. It doesn’t take a business genius to surmise that a small business will have a smaller marketing budget than a ten-thousand employee enterprise. Although overall budgets are part of what we’ll discuss, our interest here is on how particular social media strategies are more pertinent for some companies than others, mainly affected by the mere size of the company.
The inspiration for this blog comes from the hundreds of companies that our social media agency have spoken to over the years that reached out to inquire about our social media marketing services. We receive inquiries from the entire spectrum of business sizes from a myriad of industries. Surprisingly, many of these companies, regardless of size, still lack the fundamental understanding of social media marketing, content marketing or business storytelling. A social media marketing strategy is more than just making sure “posts are going out” on a brand’s business pages. Once the size and scale of a company are considered, social media strategies must adjust to best accommodate marketing objectives that are realistic for the company in question. Size does matter. Social media solutions are never one size fits all.
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Social Media Strategies for Bootstrapped Startups
Bootstrapped startups are built by entrepreneurs that have dumped in their hard-earned saving accounts to finance the beginning of their American dream. At one point in time, Jeff Bezos started Amazon as a bootstrapped startup in his Seattle area garage. Look at Amazon now. Bootstrapped startups are gritty, resourceful and understand the value of a hard-earned dollar. Most of these businesses might be able to afford up to $1K per month for ALL their marketing efforts. There are small marketing companies out there that will gladly take that money from them. Unfortunately, as with most things in this world, you certainly get what you pay for. Most of these marketing companies have only a superficial knowledge of business social media and limited technical and creative capabilities for creating the content these startups really need to launch their brand. Their version of social media marketing is pushing out posts using whatever content you already have, and even worse, flood your social media streams with content curated from other sources. This form of social media will not hurt the business, but it will not help grow this business.
Nine times out of ten, we recommend that these businesses seek out more cost-effective social media strategies that will result in similar if not better results than any local marketing company willing to work for their budget range. Bootstrapped startups have become accustomed to wearing every hat of their business. Multitasking is an understatement of what they do each and every day. The most appropriate social media strategies for bootstrapped startups are those that the owners themselves can handle. Adding one more daily duty to their list will not overwhelm them. However, the caveat being the limited amount of time these owners can spend on their social efforts. These bootstrapped startups should simply roll-up their sleeves and do their homework on managing Facebook only. If their company has a selection of physical consumer products, then doing their due diligence on Instagram would also be advisable. They should not add any more social media channels after that. Focus on being great at one or two social channels. It makes no sense to spread yourselves too thin and become terrible at four or five social media channels. Stay off of Twitter. It’s a time-suck that bootstrapped startups don’t have the time to transform that channel into a viable B2B resource.
The next obstacle is creating just enough brand storytelling to make social media worth the time and effort. Video storytelling and engaging brand photography are needed. We recommend staying clear from traditional video production companies or photography studios. That route will quickly drain your budget with very few actual delivered content assets. Take the time to interview some aspiring filmmakers and photographers fresh out of school. They are eager and willing to work fairly cheap on a project-by-project basis to bolster their portfolio. It may be mutually beneficial for this type of partnership. One must temper their expectations of course. Keep in mind that freelance creatives are not marketers and they’ll need lots of direction from the owners of the company. The final results will not be perfect marketing assets, but a much better spend of the limited marketing budget.
Social Media Strategies for Investor-Funded Startups
Social media strategies for startups with investment from an angel investor, venture capital or a private equity firm differ greatly from strategies for bootstrapped startups. While the bootstrapped startup hopefully has monthly revenue supplying their marketing spend, most early stage, investor-funded startups are simply burning cash to develop business ideas that will one day in the near future convert into a viable business model. Most investor-funded startups will pivot its business model several times. Continual iterations of its product, target market, and the development team are expected before the startup is ready for its ultimate revenue-generating stages. These initial three to four years are where the company makes its mistakes, learns and grows from these experiences. Therefore, are there specific social media strategies for investor-funded startups? Most definitely. However, it truly depends on where the company exists in the typical investor life cycle.
Regardless if the startup raised $1 million or $20 million in early seed rounds, investor-funded startups should focus on product development and less on marketing hype. Marketing has its time and place in the investor lifecycle, but should not be adding to the burn rate early on. The onus of social media communications falls on startup leadership. At early stages, the content being published on social media doesn’t have to be as polished and professional as one would expect being produced and managed by a credible social media agency. Instead, the content can be more raw and transparent, communicating the vision and weekly status of the company. This can be as simple as a weekly Facebook Live, an informative blog post or a conversation on Twitter. This is an opportune time for leadership to begin building the foundation of a community to support themselves and the direction of the company. This is where leadership can start building one-on-one relationships with key partners and influencers in their industry.
Once the startup is getting close to entering the revenue stages of the investor life-cycle, this is when it is recommended that they seek out a content marketing strategy and professional social media management. It is at this time where business storytelling on social media is vitally important for revenue growth. Investors need the startup to begin collecting evidence in the form of revenue to show proof of concept with a market. If the startup wants to attract serious Series A and B funding from a venture capital firm, they had better show signs of success in the market. The right social media marketing strategy at the right time can quickly shift startup losses to profits by building both a B2B and B2C social media community. Investor-funded startups can also have social media strategies developed to defend its investment from new competitors in their space. Social media can also be used to discover new markets for the company.
Social Media Strategies for Established Small Businesses
Companies with fewer than 500 employees are how the SBA classifies a small business compared to a middle market or large enterprise business. Small businesses are the cornerstone of our economy. At one point in time, small businesses were more than likely bootstrapped startups struggling to make enough revenue to survive into the following year. Now after years to decades of slowly developing their loyal base of customers, these small businesses are well established and impact their industry as local brick and mortars, manufacturers or e-commerce juggernauts.
While the SBA uses employment size as their key metric, we like to use the annual revenue to differentiate small businesses from other entities. Over the years, we’ve had our share of companies that have filled out one of our online forms. Based on our conversations with them, we’ve found our own trend when it comes to companies seeking a social media marketing strategy. Close to 70% of these companies generate less than $30 million per year. Granted, any small business generating more than $1 million per year is a highly successful small business. Nonetheless, the social media strategies that these small businesses need to take their social presence to that next level usually cost more than they can comfortably invest.
This is the quandary of small business social media marketing. After paying for their overhead, inventory, assets and operating expenses, many small businesses have very little left over for marketing. Running a small business is costly, especially those pesky human resources. A typical small business might have an annual marketing budget ranging from $20K to $80K per year. Unfortunately, most lean towards the lower end of that range which poses challenges for credible social media agencies which produce high-quality content to support their clients. In those cases, we recommend that these clients seek out an independent marketing consultant that will be able to train the owners and key employees to manage the most important social media channels for their business and make more affordable social media content. For local brick and mortar businesses, we highly recommend that they bolster their Google My Business page with good photography and video content. This is so important for businesses relying on local consumers doing Google searches for options near their location. This content is also important to brand your company in the best light possible to hopefully solicit positive reviews.
Small businesses on the higher end of this annual budget range have more agency options. They might not be able to afford all the bells and whistles of our social media management services, but at least they are investing enough to warrant a good blend of media to be created for fewer social media channels managed. Sometimes this is all they will ever need to maximize their social presence. Regardless of which from a selection of social media strategies they choose, the marketing objective is usually always focused on social sales. While ROI (aka Return on Investment) is always thrown around as the main objective, we like to call it RFI for small business (aka Revenue for Investment). A sales-focused social media strategy is not entirely a bad thing when developed correctly. This does not mean we would ever suggest a strategy for pushing and pushing sales materials on your customers. Just the opposite. When we work with small businesses, it’s all about building a B2C content marketing strategy that is all about capturing a volume of targeted leads but is hidden well by thoughtful content which educates and entertains.
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Social Media Strategies for Middle Market Brands
If most small businesses we encounter make under $30 million per year, what is the typical annual revenue for the middle market brands that reach out to us? One might assume our answer is above $30 million per year. Not exactly. In our experience, there is this strange revenue gap that seems to exist in-between $30 million per year and under $50 million per year. Most mid-market companies reaching out to us have somehow leap-frogged well over this gap and generate well over $50 million per year upwards to nearly $500 million per year. There is probably a good explanation for this revenue gap or why companies with annual revenue in this gap aren’t reaching out for social media management. We just haven’t figured it out yet. Some mysteries are better left unsolved.
Many of the mid-market companies that reach out to us are some of the most successful companies that we knew very little about. Many operate in a dual B2B and B2C space. Many have been successful for decades, and in some case, a century. Many are manufacturers of products being sold directly to the consumer and/or sold through their channel partners in a co-branding partnership. Many have niche product offerings in sometimes the most obscure of industries. With most having annual revenues in the $100-$200 million range, these mid-market companies are usually one the leaders in their niche markets, if not the market leader. However, the impetus for them reaching out to our social media agency is the noise their direct competitors or new entrants have been making on social media. These mid-market companies are the laggards, those which stood by and watched the early adopters of social media marketing embrace the opportunity. Now, these mid-market companies see how their competitors have developed a stronger online brand, posing a potential threat to their long-standing position as an industry leader.
Mid-market companies are usually the best suited for our social media marketing strategies. Unlike startups and small businesses that have a tendency to want a sales-driven social strategy, mid-market companies typically need to approach social media differently. They aren’t looking to sell products one at a time. In many cases, the revenue at these companies reached a plateau several years back and are possibly witnessing a slight decline in recent years. Mid-market companies are motivated to take their brand to that next level. They need social media to extend the reach of their brand storytelling to show existing and new potential channel partners that their brand is as strong and in-demand as ever. Product manufacturers which respect the end consumer through social media branding are indirectly helping their bottom line. Consumer awareness will be at an all-time new high for their channel partners, which as a result, strengthens the business relationships with and the orders from these partners.
Mid-market companies make great candidates for outsourcing their social media management to an agency. They might employ a couple hundred employees, but none of them specialize in social media marketing or producing creative content. It rarely makes sense for these companies to build an internal social media department and a creative team to produce the annual volume of brand videos, photography, and graphics necessary for building and sustaining their social media channels. Fortunately for mid-market companies, most have social media marketing budgets well north of $100K, making them more conducive to building an authentic and engaged social media community using just the right amount of professional video and photography storytelling
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Social Media Strategies for Large Enterprise Brands
At our agency, we like to classify companies generating more than $500 million per year as a large enterprise brand. However, fewer large enterprise brands make great candidates for outsourcing their social media management. We receive somewhere in the neighborhood of a dozen inquiries per year from executives at large enterprise brands. The majority of these companies are globally recognizable brands with revenues over several billion dollars per year. They certainly have the budget for an integrated social media marketing strategy, but their lack of corporate agility becomes a major obstacle.
Large enterprise companies are just plain large. Conference room meetings have more divisional VPs and directors than you’d see in your typical middle market company. This means that company buy-in to change doesn’t come easily, especially when it comes to introducing new marketing initiatives. Every division of the company has their opinion about business social media. In fact, the introduction of social media initiatives in large enterprises can be somewhat divisive amongst the leadership. Some divisions of the company are huge advocates for bringing on a social media agency. The marketing, sales and corporate communications departments are usually pushing for more engaging brand storytelling, a stronger social media presence and better oversight of the messaging on their social channels. Other departments such as operations and finance are usually playing the role of devil’s advocate. These departments feel more comfortable keeping social media managed from inside the walls of the organization, claiming savings and operational efficiency. This usually leads to months and months of interviews by the HR department tasked with uncovering knowledgeable social media strategists that can handle the size and scope of their brand. Most of the time, leadership is underwhelmed by the lack of trustworthy experience out there. They also realize that finding talented social media marketers is one thing, but finding the talent to produce creative social media content is quite another. They eventually come to the conclusion that they’d be best off seeking the help of professionals that specialize in both social media and content marketing. This company learning cycle usually takes a year before the initiative changes from building an internal social team to hiring a social media agency. At this time, we highly recommend the first engagement between the agency and brand to be a social media audit. The audit process is essential for a brand of this size and scale. The strongest social media strategies are derived from discoveries made during the audit process.
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It is also important to note that, as one would expect, the objectives for social media at the large enterprise level differ greatly than the objectives held by mid-market and small businesses. Globally recognized brands have already developed a huge amount of brand equity in the market. These brands have no shortage of fans and followers. At this level, social media is rarely used for revenue generation. Their main objective is to feed a community hungry for content and attention from the brand. Social media is more about controlling the brand narrative and maintaining their brand reputation with positive perceptions surrounding the brand. Social media is about appeasing their brand partners and providing them opportunities to tap into their community.
Size of Brand Greatly Impacts the Social Media Strategy
Social media strategies depend greatly on the size and scale of the company. That is why there is never a one solution fits all approach to social media marketing. Run like the wind if any agency attempts to sell you this approach. What a bootstrapped startup needs from social media are completely different than the needs of a middle market brand. The social media content an agency creates for a large enterprise is vastly different in strategy from the content that an established small business needs to be created.
No matter how much we’d like to believe differently, company size impacts the budget for social media. Larger companies have the benefits that come with deeper pockets. They can afford just more of everything, whether it be further brand reach or more sophisticated content. This doesn’t mean that smaller companies are at a disadvantage. Smaller companies can achieve great long-term results with a focused channel strategy with just enough content that helps build their business. In conclusion, there are social media strategies for companies of all sizes in any industry. It’s ultimately up to each individual company to decide whether or not they are ready strategically and financially to start the process towards building a social media community that makes sense for the present and future of the brand.
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