Your new startup may not have the same nationwide reach as a major brand like American Apparel or Kraft Foods, but that doesn’t mean your social media presence is any less important than theirs.

If anything, social media is even more critical for you, and startups deserve tools and techniques tailored to their particular size and needs. With the right social media tools, you can leverage the platforms to make your startup’s value known to your community and beyond.

Why social media matters

In August 2015, Facebook surpassed 1 billion registered accounts, while Twitter had more than 316 million monthly active users and Tumblr had more than 230 million monthly active users.

Simply put, social media is no small thing.

And social media isn’t like traditional advertising, where you send content out into the world and hope someone buys in. Instead, it’s about making connections and building community, and some brands are doing this expertly.

Let’s take a look at a few startup social media stories so you can get inspiration on how to start building your own startup’s social presence.

Want to learn how to maximize your brand engagement? Download our free ebook.

Ask for feedback like The Harp

One of social media’s best qualities is the interactivity. It used to be hard to reach your whole audience at once to ask for feedback. Social media makes the process both efficient and inexpensive – there’s no excuse not to.

If you have a physical location that customers visit, you can claim your location on review sites like Foursquare and Yelp. When a customer checks in, they come directly to your startup’s page – an invitation to engage.

You can monitor reviews and check-ins, and reply where appropriate. Whether or not you reach out, the content will still give you great info on what customers think of your business.

Take a look at how The Harp, a Boston-based restaurant and entertainment venue, uses Twitter interaction to get feedback after a customer checked in on Foursquare.

Simple and straightforward, this interaction is a great example of smart social media marketing.

In a lot of cases though, your customers aren’t visiting you at a physical location and posting feedback straight to your profile. Instead, you’ll need to find customers talking about their experiences.

That’s when it becomes more important to go out and find conversations to join.

Use media monitoring to track what people are saying, because this feedback is important data that will help you improve your social media strategy.

Build community like Sprinkles Cupcakes

What’s better than a special offer from your favorite brand?

Special sales promotions spice up your normal social media routine and receive high engagement. They entice prospective customers to buy in and existing customers to come back and buy again.

Specials are easy enough to offer offline. When brick-and-mortar stores offer free samples or create a “Buy 10, Get 1 Free” punch card, you put something tangible in customers’ hands. As a result, they can see and touch – and in some cases, taste – your commitment to value and your customers.

While social media promotions don’t have this same palpability, they can be much more fun – and just as attractive to consumers.

Sprinkles Cupcakes uses its Facebook page to provide a sense of exclusivity to its audience. When fans of the bakery whisper the key phrase from the page at the counter, they receive a special discount or freebie.  

Friendsgiving starts early this year! Today buy one cupcake, cookie or scoop get one free when you whisper “besties!”

Posted by Sprinkles Cupcakes on Monday, November 16, 2015

The relationship between Sprinkles and its Facebook followers extends beyond promotions. These users are part of an online community of cupcake lovers. For fans of this brand, it’s like being in a secret club.

Use a branded hashtag like All Paws Pet Wash

It doesn’t happen to everyone, and it’s impossible to force, so stop specifically trying to make your content go viral.

Let’s dial it back and stick with making sharable content. A branded hashtag is a great way to start a conversation. Social media users have fun with them, it curates user-generated content for you, and gives people a specific reason and call-to-action to talk about you to their online friends.

Here’s a fun example. All Paws Pet Wash, a company that manufactures and delivers self-serve pet wash stations, actually uses offline marketing to grow their social media presence.

They’ve blurred the lines between online and off. As a result, anyone who gets stuck in traffic behind an All Paws Pet Wash delivery vehicle will have the time and the venue to check out what it’s all about.

If you do create a branded hashtag, the next step will be to connect with people using it. Use a hashtag tracking tool to find and reply to anyone that shares about your startup.

Make your profile come alive

Think of your social media presence as a living, breathing entity. Start conversations and listen closely to what users have to say.

You only get as much from your fan base as you put in, so it’s up to you to make it happen. With a great social media strategy in place, you’ll be able to design ways for customers to talk about your startup, and find all the conversations they start and can engage with them yourself.

Learn how to increase engagement with our free ebook.

Ebook How to maximize your brand engagement on social media

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Guest Blogger @Mention

Kayla Matthews is a writer and blogger who enjoys inspiring others at her blog, Productivity Theory. You can follow Kayla on Google+ and Twitter to read more of her latest posts.