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On Small Business
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Posted at 05:30 AM ET, 06/04/2012

Social media advice: Who to target when building an online following

Every other week, On Small Business reaches out to a panel of young entrepreneurs for answers to some of the most pressing social media questions facing small business owners. The following responses are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of young entrepreneurs.

Q: When building awareness on social media, should you target a select few “influencers” or go after as many people as possible?
(MARIO ANZUONI - REUTERS)

Joe Cassara, founder and chief executive of You Need My Guy in Rochester, N.Y.:

Brand Managers need to be wary of believing their product has a mass appeal. After lots of market research and focus groups, you should have a good idea of who your market is, how they buy, and what factors influence their decision. In some cases, a celebrity or super-user endorsement is very important, but in others, it matters more that customers feel like they’re part of something recognizable and popular.

Take your pitch to influencers off of social media and give them personal attention (yes, your iPhone can also make phone calls!]. If they like your product — and you as well — they’ll choose to engage because of their positive experience, rather than because of your request. The reason that we all initially choose to test and buy new products is that we’re surrounded by that product and brand, metaphorically anyway. Find your potential user base, and get as many of them to get on board quickly. People talk about what is improving their lives, so strive to make a big splash.

Slava Rubin, founder and chief executive of Indiegogo in New York, N.Y.:

My approach is to listen and engage with people, regardless of how ‘influential’ they appear to be. Focusing on your customer (or your potential customer) and providing them the best experience should be the priority.

A year ago, I saw a tweet from someone who was rejected from another crowdfunding platform and felt very discouraged. I engaged with this person, who didn’t have much of a Twitter following, and she ended up creating a campaign on Indiegogo. The ‘Help the Haley’s have a baby’ campaign was to raise money for IVF treatment. They not only reached their funding goal and were featured in national press, but they also inspired hundred of people to create similar campaigns — and recently celebrated the birth of their son, Landon William Haley.

Karen Moon, co-founder and chief executive of StyleMusée in New York, N.Y.:

When building awareness on social media, being focused on the target market with respect to interests, demographic and even geographic clusters can be important to virality. However, it makes sense to target both influencers and their audiences. People who are already actively following complementary or competitive brands are already engaged in your category.

Twitter can be an incredible direct marketing tool for early customer development. One way to connect with your potential target audience is to make them feel special by following them and starting a conversation. People who are not influencers love to be followed and are more likely to remember you for reaching out.

Before we had a product, we started to follow ‘regular’ people that were following other brands that we also admired. The benefit is that you are essentially direct marketing to new users without an e-mail. For example, users who you follow will get an e-mail message with your 140 character brand message. If your value proposition resonates with them, they will follow you. It was great way to form a community for even our earliest product releases.

Follow J.D. Harrison and On Small Business on Twitter.

By  |  05:30 AM ET, 06/04/2012

Tags:  small business, social media

 
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