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13 Social Media Tips from Brilliant Founders and Growth Marketers

There are two big challenges in social media marketing today. The first is that channels like Twitter and Facebook are very crowded — if you’re running a new business or entering the social media landscape for the first time, the thought of competing against big brands seems intimidating. The second is that there are dozens of social media channels from which to choose — it’s difficult to know, before jumping in, whether you’re pursuing the right opportunity.

In the marketing, small business, and startup communities, the best way is to learn is from one another. That’s why we created this roundup to uncover social media tips from 13 of the most creative founders and growth marketers out there.

Here are their lessons for how you can stand out in a crowded landscape and uncover opportunities that are ideal for you.

1 – Choose social channels that resonate most with your brand vision and value

Ryan BabenzienTip by Ryan Babenzien, founder and CEO at Greats

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“All social media isn’t created equal.” – via @ryanbbabenzien. More on the HootSuite blog:

Greats, a high-quality mens’ footwear brand, relies heavily on visual storytelling to articulate the company’s mission, vision, and value. While the marketing team invests heavily in multiple social media channels, there is one platform that stands out in its ability to generate engagement — Instagram.

“Our Instagram following has grown to 61,000 followers in just under two years,” says Babenzien. “While all of our social channels are growing rapidly, nothing comes close to what we see on Instagram.”

Babenzien’s advice? Know your social channels, how they’re different, and who they’re reaching. Focus on what each of them do well, and create a relevant, experience for each of them.

2 – Be appreciative

Sujan PatelTip by Sujan Patel, VP of marketing at When I Work

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“The best advice for social media? Thank your supporters.” – via @sujanpatel. More on the HootSuite blog:

Social media, at heart, is designed to help people connect with their communities. It’s important that social media managers maintain the same levels of empathy, warmth, and gratitude that they already maintain in their day to day lives.

“My best social media tip is simple,” says Patel. “Appreciate and compliment anyone who shares, favorites, or interacts with you or your business.”

As Patel puts it, a simple ‘thank you’ can suffice.

3 – Use social as a data collection opportunity

Heather MorganTip by Heather Morgan, founder at Salesfolk

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“The best advice for social media? Collect data to use for other marketing.” – via @heatherreyhan:

Social media isn’t just a tool for broadcasting information. It’s also an opportunity to understand the language patterns and needs of your target audience. That’s why marketer Heather Morgan uses Twitter as a research tool when piecing together some of her copywriting projects.

“I’ve gotten 71% response rates on personalized cold email campaigns that include custom inserts using information from their twitter handle and recent Tweets,” says Morgan. “Alternating between cold email, cold Tweeting, and cold adding people on Linkedin is a very effective strategy for building a rapport with someone you’ve never met.”

“You’ve got to be persistent, and be sure to add value, but it’s highly effective.”

4 – Join existing Twitter conversations

Orun BhuiyanTip by Orun Bhuiyan, marketing technologist at SEOcial

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“Best social media tip? Join more Twitter conversations!” – via @orvn. More on the HootSuite blog:

At any given time on Twitter, there are countless conversations happening. Don’t feel shy about interjecting yourself — that’s what Twitter is all about.

“Use’s advanced operators to data mine for conversations you can contribute to and just participate,” says Bhuiyan. “The wonderful part about Twitter is that everyone understands that their content is publicly accessible, so this is perfectly in line with etiquette-most users even find it flattering.”

Bhuiyan elaborates that if you don’t need to spend hours a day to gain results from this strategy.

“If you find 10 conversations per day to participate in for 60 days, your Twitter following can grow by 1,000 active users,” Bhuiyan says.

5 – Use humor

Daniel ButlerTip by Daniel Butler, executive director of BAALS Music Festival

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“Best social media tip? Experiment with humor!” – via @danielbutler33. More on the HootSuite blog:

One of the strongest ways to stand out from the hundreds of social media messages that your audience sees each day is to be funny.

“Yes, you can always throw a Tweet or status update with information in it, but why not throw up a funny meme that gives you the same information?” says Butler. “Give your followers and customers a chuckle and that information will stick a lot better than when someone skims over a Tweet or Facebook post.”

For tips on funnier writing, check out FunnyBizz.

6 – Ensure that your marketing pieces fit together

Sonia LakhanyTip by Sonia Lakhany, owner at Lakhany Law

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“Best social media tip? Connect your marketing dots” – via @LadyLanhamEsq. More on the HootSuite blog:

Social media isn’t a Tweet or Facebook status update. It’s a strategy. That’s why consistency is key.

“This extends to not only posting and updating regularly, but also being mindful that the content of your post is consistent with your brand, theme, and overall business concept,” says Lakhany.

For instance, Lakhany’s law practice focuses on trademark and copyright. While intellectual property law includes patents and well, she seldom posts patent updates since they don’t pertain to her law practice.

“While my followers may consist of other patent attorneys or enthusiasts who would enjoy that information, it doesn’t fit my area of expertise or the services I offer so I don’t include it,” says Lakhany.

7 – Add your own spin to what you’re curating

Matthew DooleyTip by Matthew Dooley, co-founder at Kapture

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“Best social media tip? Give curated content your own spin” – via @dooleymr. More on the HootSuite blog:

Social media gives anyone the power to become a curator. Even if you’re not producing your own content, you can build a community by sharing others’ insights. No matter what you’re sharing, you need to make sure that you’re interjecting your own voice.

“When you share/curate other people’s content, you have to add your own spin so that people who receive your update will associate its value with you,” says Dooley.

Dooley recommends that when you’re reading an article that you find interesting, you should highlight a piece of text that stands out to you.

“That way, when you share it using a browser extension or ‘bookmarklet,’ that piece of text will be automatically inserted as your status update,” says Dooley.

8 – Experiment with headline styles

Jeff KaerTip by Jeff Kaer, founder at Planning Pod

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“Best social media tip? Test your headline styles and formats” – via @planpod. More on the HootSuite blog:

When it comes to driving traffic and engagement, subtleties can make a world of difference. That’s why Jeff Kaer encourages founders and marketers to try different writing styles.

“When we use ‘initial’ caps with our posts on LinkedIn and Twitter, our retweet and share rates are much higher,” says Kaer. “We have also tested posts that we have formed as questions. We came to this idea because when we send out emails with questions in the subject line, they perform better than anything else, and we see a similar effect with posts to social media.”

The moral of the story is to keep testing to see what resonates with your unique audience. Find the right style for you.

9 – Use social media to build a network of relationships

Mark AselstineTip by Mark Aselstine, founder at Uncorked Ventures

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“Best social media tip? Use it for more than marketing” – via @MarkAselstine. More on the HootSuite blog:

Finding customers on social media can be hard — it takes time for audiences to get to know your brand well enough to make a purchase. That’s why Mark Aselstine uses social media to build a web of relationships.

“At one point I was definitely frustrated that finding customers on social media can be hard, then I realized that Twitter is a goldmine to keep in contact with suppliers, members of the media and of course, bloggers,” says Aselstine.

Social media helps Aselstine build relationships at scale.

“We travel to wine country weekly for our online wine club, but we can’t realistically spend an inordinate amount of time in the 10-15 regions we cover every few months,” Aselstine says. “Using social media allows us to stay in touch in a way that email and an occasional phone call simply cannot.”

10 – Pay attention to your private messages inboxes

Brittany IrvineTip by Brittany Irvine, marketing director at Spondulic

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“Best social media tip? Pay attention to your private message inboxes” – via @doyouspondu:

Social media managers, marketers, and founders will often devote the most attention to their public timelines and feeds. But don’t forget — leads can also come in through private messages.

“At times, leads come in through private messaging that can often be missed, overlooked or ignored,” says Irvine. “Also, a networking or marketing opportunity to partner with another company that can help you and them at the same time may come along. You don’t want to miss those.”

Direct relationships can be invaluable to your marketing. Make sure to keep a close watch over potential opportunities that come your way.

11 – Incorporate user generated content with  your product pages

Ben HeinkelTip by Ben Heinkel, founder at Photoslurp

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“Best social media tip? Make it a part of your product” – via @photoslurp. More on the HootSuite blog:

If there’s one thing that ecommerce shoppers want, it’s realistic photos that feature your product. This trend is a definite win for small business owners who are looking for high-quality photography on a low budget — user generated images trump glossy, professional photos.

“There’s a ton of research that shows Instagram style photos on ecommerce product pages convert significantly higher than traditional glossy photos,” says Heinkel. “We have also seen this ourselves with our own clients.”

“An example is a Spanish multi-brand retailer whose customers were 4.3x more likely to buy when interacting with user generated content on their website than the ones who did not. Ultimately close to 15% of their sales came from these interactions.

Find ways to uncover what your customers are sharing — integrate these images with your own product.

“There are tools such as Photoslurp that are affordable even to small and medium sized brands,” says Heinkel. “These tools automate the entire process of collecting photos across different social networks.”

12 – Treat social media as a dinner party

Marilyn HeywoodTip by Marilyn Heywood, principal at Paige Integrated Marketing

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“Best social media tip? Treat it like a dinner party” – via @PaigeIntegrated. More on the HootSuite blog:

Social media is a marketing channel that is entirely relationship driven.

“Just as you wouldn’t walk into a friend’s soiree and start shouting about the great 30% off deal you’re running right now, you shouldn’t clamor into social media that way either,” says Heywood.

Start by listening to your audience. Take note of what they’re discussing.

“Listen for what interests them and which topics create a flurry of responses,” says Heywood. “Speak once you have a temperature of the ‘room’ — and still, not about yourself.”

13 – Don’t waste your traffic

Tip by A.J. Ghergich, founder at Ghergich & co.

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“Best social media tip? Optimize momentary traffic spikes by capturing audience data” – via @seo:

For many brands, social media traffic is a complete waste because they don’t have mechanisms in place for retargeting and follow-up campaigns.

“For instance, they produce an infographic that goes viral, which results in a huge traffic spike,” says Ghergich. “However, only a fraction of those visitors will take immediate action to subscribe or become customers. The majority will forget about you in about an hour, even if they enjoyed your content.”

As Ghergich puts it, a blog isn’t a lead generator — it’s a trust-builder.

“Retargeting allows you to continue to reach your new audiences with additional content to gain more trust,” says Ghergich. “Once you have someone’s trust they are much more likely to become a fan, subscribe to your posts, or watch a product demo.”

Final thoughts

The most valuable thing that you can do with social media is to make it your own. Pick the channels that resonate most with your audience, and learn as much as you can. There’s no ‘cookie-cutter’ way to do social media. The more exploring you do, the better positioned you’ll be.