What Brands can Learn from How Entrepreneurs Use Social Media

  Business is continous learning about life

The handicap many established brands have is that they have a product or line of products they need to market that's often enough to be wired in thinking about social media as channels, rather than tools. Entrepreneurs don't have those constraints. Because they're often thinking only about a problem.

    Serial entrepreneurs know the drill you become obsessed about a problem because you see a gaping hole in the market. What do you do? As you brainstorm with your co-founder(s)/team, you're talking to everybody. Literally anyone who might have an inkling of some part of the problem.

    Because that's what we do in mature markets and most markets are fairly mature today. We start with the part that is not quite satisfied. The group of people who has to patch together things not designed to do what they want/need. Or not to the degree they need it.

Assess problem maturity

    It's an issue I've experienced in first person with social media. I was so early on it that I brought it inside brands (in house) when most businesses did not even consider it. Early adopter as a user, teaching others to understand the social customer.

   Figuring out how it would be valuable to learn new things around the environment around a product and service was fun. Another early use case was connecting with the large majority of people who never filled out a Net Promoter Score (NPS) or provided feedback the satisfied, but not talking.

    Some companies are looking for innovation. But even making something good better is still an opportunity for many organizations inside and outside the corporate walls. Brand leadership is a thing, because most people value loyalty, trust, and service from businesses, yet few say it explicitly in the form.

    But they say it with their behavior in many forms transactions, and social media use.

Create native familiarity

    Entrepreneurs of any age are native to the use of social to gain insights. They do more that posting updates when they're online. Business is solving someone else's problem at scale. The process of becoming intimately familiar with it goes through experimenting, sharing, and listening to how people do things.

    It's probably a little easier to build a technology product for marketers because they're all online and ready to engage. But building community and an audience around an idea before it's a product ― has become a good method to see if there is a market in the first place.

    The community building part is important in more than one way. It's valuable for feedback, and as initial reach for a potential new product or service. It works well for entrepreneurs because they are one and the same with the company brand. People love to talk with subject matter experts and leaders.

    It's an opportunity you have as an observer, buyer, user of product and services to create a connection with the creators. This is not native to mature organizations.

Build relationships of value

    An entrepreneur who engages in social media is thus the best form of initial advertising for a company. We buy into people and why they do things. Raw experiences have also been making a comeback. The behind-the-scenes experience of engaging with the thinking that informs their choices has value.

    I still remember when Rand Fishkin wrote about his lessons learned raising VC funds. It was an incredibly well-written, thoughtful, and candid report that should be required reading for any startup thinking about raising funds. Rand Fishkin was the CEO & co-founder of Moz, a software startup.

    Now he's working on a new venture (or I should say adventure) to help marketers with influence. @RandFish is someone I hope to meet soon (almost did at Inbound a couple of years ago.) If you're looking for that candid report from a founder, his book Lost and Founder should be a source of inspiration.

    Authorship goes beyond creating value, it also build authority. From there, product development goes hand in hand with audience development ― as you validate your ideas, you map empathy for the goals and motivations of your clients, and learn about what they value. 

    When you see social media as a set of tools everyone uses to get what they want, and not just channels, opportunity opens wide. Because it involves people, business should also be about continuous learning about everyday life.