Tech Bound #48: Getting social media right as a startup

8 min read

Welcome to everybody who just signed up and hello to everyone who’s a regular reader. This week’s edition is full of goodness, but before we start I want to share two pieces of content with you:

One is an article I wrote for OpenView ventures about taking your SEO strategy beyond Google. Even though SEO is becoming more and more important, it’s risky to forget that competition is increasing, SEO is getting harder, and the next wave of technology is disrupting the game. Read the article to learn how to react to that.

The second thing is a presentation I gave at DigitalOlympus, an online conference, about using a problem-driven approach to Content Marketing (slidesarticle).

How Pete Haas, PCMag’s specialist, does social

Pete Haas, Digital and Social Content Manager at, was so kind to answer a couple of questions around social for Tech Bound. Enjoy!

What would you say is the role of Social Media for businesses nowadays? How should businesses use it?
My main advice for any business using social media is to become an enthusiastic user. A lot of businesses consider social media to be a place where you lure customers to your website. They post some links and call it a day. If that’s your attitude, though, you’re only using these platforms to a fraction of their potential. You can accomplish so much more by being on those platforms as much as the users you’re trying to attract.

Don’t just think about the 100 people on Twitter that clicked on your link. Think about the millions of people that didn’t click on the link or don’t even know who you are. They’re still on Twitter. The people who clicked on the link in your tweet are going right back to Twitter once they’re done reading your link, too. So, you need to engage  right there with them on Twitter. Find ways to reach these people, help them, entertain them, and listen to them. Operate under the assumption that they’ll never come to your website or subscribe to your newsletter or whatever. What can you do on their social network of choice to build a connection with them anyway?

How do you build a connection with users?
You build a connection with users by demonstrating your value to them. Think about why you follow who you follow on social platforms. It’s because they’re funny, informative, inspirational, fascinating, and so on. Why do you deserve a spot in your followers’ already-crowded feed? Are you a net-positive for them or just more noise?

There are a lot of ways to build these bonds but one thing that almost every brand can do is LISTEN. You’re not up there doing stand-up comedy or a sales pitch. People aren’t just on social media to passively enjoy your content. They want to be heard, too. Respond to follower questions, ask them questions in kind, or just tell them you appreciate their feedback. Show an interest in them and they’ll keep showing an interest in you.

How do you create a social media strategy?
If you want a coherent social media strategy, you need to first answer these questions:

  • What are my businesses’ goals for social media?
  • What platforms can deliver those goals to us?
  • What makes a brand/person successful on those platforms?
  • Do we have the time and resources to be successful on those platforms?

I think FOMO drives a lot of “strategy” in social media, unfortunately. We see our competitors doing cool things in our feed and we feel pressure to follow suit. We have to be on that new platform or create a trendy type of content because everyone’s doing it. We must be doing something wrong if we’re not following the herd, right?

While I love the endless opportunities of social media, it’s easy to get distracted and overextended. I think of every new platform as a new puppy – someone’s going to have to walk it and feed it every day now. Making an Instagram account is easy, but maintaining a unique, consistent and quality presence isn’t. Eventually, your daily routine will be too packed that you won’t have time to experiment and innovate.

You have to figure out what networks you have the bandwidth for. You have to know when to say “no” or “enough.” It’s better to be great on two platforms than half-ass four. Being there isn’t enough. You need to be excellent there.

How can startups figure out which the platforms are for them?
Big fan of bulleted lists so let’s do that again. When you’re picking between platforms, keep these things in mind:

  • What are my strengths? If you’re a great photographer and/or your brand is very visual, Instagram could be a great fit. If you’re a witty writer, Twitter might be for you.
  • What platforms am I passionate about? This goes back to what I said about being an enthusiastic user. If you genuinely enjoy being on Instagram, you’re going to be more creative and successful there. That passion gives you the extra push you need to do well.
  • Do I have partners on an existing platform that I can leverage to get a foothold? Having an influencer, or being an influencer in your own right, on a given platform can make it dramatically easier to get a foothold and see actual results for your startup.
  • What platforms are my competitors using and is it working? Again, FOMO is real and you need to avoid just following the pack out of insecurity. But it’s always good to get a little inspiration from competitors’ successful social strategies or education from unsuccessful ones.

Again, everything depends on time and resources. The right tools can help you be efficient in delivering on these platforms but ultimately you have to be realistic about your schedule.

What does social media at PC Mag look like?
PCMag’s social media presence flows from our publication’s main mission: to be your guide to technology. While our website is the main hub of our advice, the social strategy extends beyond just bringing users there. We also leverage our staff’s expertise to create original social content. These efforts include live Facebook product demos, how-to videos on YouTube, Twitch streams, mini-reviews on Instagram, Twitter memes and more.

PCMag isn’t just a website anymore; we live on these other platforms as much as we live on our own site. We’re proud of our ability to provide these self-contained experiences on these networks. If this leads people to start checking our website every day, that’s great. Even if they just follow us on YouTube, though, that’s still a win.That’s someone who loves what we do and will advocate for us. A fan is valuable even if they’re not a pageview or a sale.

Can you say something about the tools you use at PCMag?
We use Sprout Social for most of our scheduling/monitoring, along with Tailwind for Pinterest and Later for Instagram. Adobe Spark is my go-to tool for creating custom images for Pinterest. Crowdtangle, meanwhile, is a great way to monitor competitors on social media and seeing what stories/content is really blowing up for them so I can share it with our team.
While I’m satisfied with all of the tools I use, I’d also admit that there are a lot of other options offering equivalent features so it pays to shop around. A lot of social media tools offer free plans that could give you all you need when you’re building a social media presence from the ground up. If you need a specific suggestion, hit me up!

Your weekly dose of awesome content

Usabilityhub: “Designing your UI for feature discovery with user research data

Ahrefs: “How Many New Backlinks Do Top‐ranking Pages Get Over Time [New Data by Ahrefs]
The basic idea behind this article and study is that the higher you rank, the more backlinks you get, which helps you to stay on top. That makes it harder to get to the top but easier to stay there. “A crash course in Pinduoduo
Fascinating stuff from China… Within 3 years, Pinduoduo made it start to IPO ($15B valuation). Reading through the presentation, I had to pick up my jaw from the floor several times.

Crunchbase: “The Definition Of A Startup In 2018 (By The Numbers)
What is a startup? Not an easy question to answer but this article provides some hard facts.

Sonniesedge: “Dear Developer, The Web Isn’t About You
Written form of a talk about how the web evolved, its dark and sunny periods, and how it became unrobust. Very entertaining and informative.

Venturebeat: “NYC library turns Instagram into ebook reader for ‘Alice in Wonderland’
The NYC library publishes free books as Instagram story. Not only do I love that idea from an educational POV, but I think it’s a genius way to keep young people engaged with literature and libraries!