There’s no denying that social media and online marketing has turned the business world upside down.
Business models like Group on and Living Social have radically redefined how well-known brands can leverage online advertising to drive real growth, but these opportunities are fleeting; businesses must adapt quickly or risk losing market share.
Given this reality, we invited six industry experts from both the startup and established worlds to speak at our panel — “Mastering Social Media: The Next Phase of Marketing”– at LAUNCH Festival 2012.
Here’s a recap of their best tips for success in this brave new digital world.
1. Make your product in a way that’s not dependent on customers
This is an idea called the “flywheel” by Eric Rise in his book “The Lean Startup.” It’s also something I call, for lack of a better name, the “Skunk works model,” and it comes from working at companies like Apple and HP: When you create products using this methodology, there is no reliance on outside affirmation. By creating these products internally and bringing them out to market faster than anticipated, your company can learn what consumers want before anyone else can. This helps break down barriers between marketing and engineering/product development which often lead to miscommunication.
2. A startup needs speed just as much as it needs funding
Most of the top Facebook pages are run by just a few people. If you’re passionate, talented, and hard working it doesn’t matter if you have $100 or $10 million dollars to work with.
3. The best time to start building an audience is always now
This doesn’t mean that your site isn’t important – far from it. You need infrastructure, but each day spent working on your server setup is another day where someone else could be building their audience. Start immediately – do whatever it takes to get your first 1000 fans/followers/etc… They will become the foundation of who you are as a company.
4. A startup needs 2 different business models
1) Make sure there’s some way for the company to make money on the front end – a subscription, a one-time purchase, an advertising model. That way there’s a direct way for you to figure out how to monetize your audience
2) A startup always needs an innovative idea about making money off of their users. I call this “affiliate marketing” but it can be anything from converting ads into real estate (The Daily), getting people to pay you directly (Flip board, Digg), or even something as simple as selling data back to advertisers (Mixpanel). The important thing is that whatever business model you choose it needs to be something that will help give you the most leverage and bring in revenue for years and years and years.
5. Make sure you’re solving a problem that needs to be solved
We’re in the business of “want” generation – not many people are willing to spend money on things they don’t want. So make sure you are always digging deeper into what your users really want, and developing products around their interests.
6. Now is not the time for an incubator program
As Jeff Clavier said, this is the age of individual entrepreneurs building businesses from scratch. It’s happening all over our industry from Pinterest to Uber to Air Bnb — it’s happening everywhere! This isn’t a bubble or a fad – startups can finally do amazing things with minimal initial investment.
7. Make sure you’re doing something different from everyone else
With dozens of social media networks out there it’s important to be clear about what niche you’re filling. You can’t just be another social network – that’s too hard. You need to find a different way of approaching the market that sets you apart from everyone else.
8. Brands are becoming publishers
People used to hate brands, because they were just things who would spend money trying to convince us to buy their products (i.e.: beer commercials). Now consumers love brands who give them something for free (i.e.: Red Bull) and it’s opening up an entirely new sector for marketing — making people fall in love with your brand so much that they tell all their friends about it even if it costs them nothing!
9. Collaboration is key
Working together is much easier than going at it alone. Whether you’re a startup, a freelancer, or a major corporation, there’s no reason why we can’t all help each other out and feed off of one another’s successes rather than trying to compete in a mess of market fragmentation. Let’s build this world together!
10. Everything is a distribution channel
This means that even the most unlikely applications can be turned into a way to reach a mass audience, and this is especially true for apps on mobile devices. Download numbers are no longer an indication of quality – what matters is how well you’re able to leverage your user base across all other forms of media.
The most important thing to take away from all of this- Everything is changing. You can count on the fact that what you know today will be different next year. If we had told people who use Snap chat now how it will change in 5 years they would have laughed at us, but here in 2014 we already see a glimpse of how brands and users are using the platform in new and innovative ways. It’s going to be a blast watching all these companies grow and change over time, and I hope that everyone reading this has a chance to help build something great!