My own experience has taught me how vital social media can be to an entrepreneur today. Vital may not even be a strong enough word, as social media has had such an amazing impact with my own venture.
Let’s walk through my own entrepreneurial journey.
From the very beginning of only having an idea, through eventually having a fruitful, profitable business.
While working on growing my previous business, an iPhone and iPad apps publisher, I realized how hard it was to cultivate an audience. Building out a sizable, high-quality audience takes a great deal of time and effort; or money. The trouble is that time and money are both in short supply when starting a bootstrapped business. Eventually I came to the realization that while some people get lucky to have their apps go viral (or have the marketing budget to hack popularity), the large majority of app publishers struggle to achieve even meager earnings. Spending months of blood, sweat, and tears developing an app, only to have people complain about having to pay $2.99 for it, is absolutely soul crushing.
While flailing along in the apps business, along the way I grew a great affinity for Twitter. I realized how amazing powerful it was as a marketing and networking tool. You can find and connect with any kind of person you need to, easily and quickly.
I discovered that for tech-savvy audiences, Twitter was a great place to be
But building an audience was still a struggle. I discovered tools that were supposed to help make this less time consuming, but all of these tools had serious or even dangerous flaws.
Vetting Your Ideas
I had an idea that creating a Twitter audience growth service may have some potential. Was I right? I decided to find out. I needed to find people to connect with and get some conversations flowing. I focused on Twitter because it was a great place for my particular audience. Other social media platforms may make more sense than Twitter for you. It all depends on your market and where most of your potential audience is. For instance, if you are selling fashion accessories to young girls, you probably should look to Instragram and Snapchat instead.
Finding Your Initial Customers
Within a few days of starting conversations on Twitter — I had my first customers. This was an immediate validation of my idea. People were willing to pay for this as a service. Always take this step first before spending money and time on developing your product or service.
The total cost of finding my first customers was zilch. Keeping in mind that this was for a brand new business, offering a service that was the first of its kind, makes this fact even more profound. I was not simply lucky to connect with these first customers. If you find the right people, and are offering to fix a problem they have — people will be interested in speaking with you. It is as simple as that.
Once you have your first customers in place, you can learn at a much greater pace than strictly doing internal testing. Customers have needs and situations that you often never anticipate. These first customers, while not only giving you confidence and cash flow; give you much needed feedback and direction.
Content Marketing + Social Media Audience = Success
Your idea has been validated and you have discovered that there are people who will pay you money for it. This is a great first step, but there is more work to be done. You now need to grow the business to a point where hopefully you can quit your day job. At least that was my goal.
But how can you do this with such limited time? Once again social media is your best friend.
Being a B2B business, I have always focused on Twitter and LinkedIn. With limited time, I could not be active, engaged, and human on every social networking platform. With LinkedIn, it is easy to join relevant groups to your offering. I joined several groups related to social media marketing and B2B marketing. Once you join groups, you can easily elicit connections with other group members via LinkedIn invites.
This allowed me to easily grow my LinkedIn base from around 200 people to nearly 1000. Keep in mind that these were not random people, but social media marketers, content marketers, B2B marketers, and growth hackers. Most of whom were already connected to at least a few people I already knew. LinkedIn has been helpful and has led to a few great connections, but Twitter has been my true power driver.
Twitter at this point is the main source of traffic to TribeBoost.com — outpacing Google referrals at a 5 to 1 rate (along with outpacing all other social networks by a greater degree). Looking back on it, the formula to this success is amazingly simple. Create good, targeted content and build a quality audience at the same time. They go together like peanut butter and jelly. The bigger and better your social audience — the more retweets, shares, and mentions you receive for your content. These all lead to more traffic and more traffic leads to more business.
For the first 18 months of TribeBoost we have done nothing but social media marketing. No paid advertising, no Google Adwords, or anything of that kind. We have jettisoned from zero to several thousand dollars per month of revenue — and are growing at a thousands of dollars per month pace.
When I talk with new TribeBoost clients they are always interested in targeting potential customers. This is surely something you can and should do, but amplifiers and not customers may be the most important connection of all.
Amplifiers are not customers, but are people who find your story engaging and share it with their own audience. This in turn exponentially grows your reach. Think of the impact when someone with a large audience says something great about your business — or shares your content. Work daily on finding new amplifiers and it will pay fruitful dividends.
Thought Leaders and Like Minds
Another great aspect of connecting with people on social media is for your own education.
I aggressively seek connections with like-minded individuals, other entrepreneurs, social media marketers, and growth hackers. Following these people has been invaluable to learn about new tools, new techniques, new people, new communities, new websites, and new ideas for my business. Being an entrepreneur requires you to constantly grow from within, if you are not growing you are dying.
Yes, You Can Get Customers Directly from Twitter
This is a common question I get from new clients. Can Twitter really help me find new customers? Yes it can, as I have found most of my new customers via Twitter.
I cannot tell you have many times I talk with a new client and they say, “You followed us on Twitter, so we checked you out and here we are.” We also have connected with new partners and other very valuable assets as well via Twitter.
Don’t Get Left Behind with the Other Dinosaurs
The fact that there are entrepreneurs not using social media is astounding to me. I credit the harnessing of social media for the growth and success of my business. Goals that only a year ago seemed dreamlike and out of my reach, are already here. I managed to quit that stifling day job, am able to work with people that interest and excite me, set my own daily schedule, and am growing at a pace that I am having trouble believing is actually happening.
This is all due to the amazing power of social media networking.