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Social Media Toolbox for Start-Ups

Online tools entrepreneurs can use to reach out to their target audiences and improve their chances of success.

Over the last several years, a huge transformation has happened throughout the global business community. Social media and other online tools have created unprecedented opportunities for businesses to connect directly with billions of Internet users across the world. These new platforms have become essential for entrepreneurs and start-ups to streamline their communications and create smarter consumer engagement strategies. The traditional approaches to branding, content distribution, advertising and customer service have all changed in this digital age, where start-ups can use powerful social media marketing tools on any budget size. Here are a few online tools that entrepreneurs can use to maximize the power of social media.


The original online video forum
Video content is now more popular than ever, with adults in the United States spending an average of one hour and 39 minutes every day watching videos on digital devices. In India, according to a 2014 Assocham-Deloitte joint study, the share of videos in the country’s data traffic is expected to rise to 64 percent in the fiscal year 2017.

Google’s YouTube has been the pioneering forum for shared online videos since its launch in 2005. It is a vital tool for entrepreneurs who want to engage online audiences.

Having a YouTube channel allows start-ups and entrepreneurs to establish a landing page on the biggest video-sharing platform, which boasts of over a billion users who watch hundreds of millions of hours of content every day. As the second most popular search engine and the third most visited webpage, YouTube is simply too big a platform for any start-up to ignore.


Live video streaming
As of 2015, there were over 7.9 billion mobile devices and connections in the world, reports Cisco. And by January 2016, India had crossed the milestone of having a subscriber base of one billion. This means people are consuming media content anywhere and anytime. Now, with new tools like Facebook Live and Twitter’s Periscope, users have the power to create and share in-the-moment, or livestream, videos directly from their mobile phones or webcams, while simultaneously inviting viewers’ comments and reactions in real time.

Livestreamed videos have gained immense popularity, largely because of their unscripted authenticity, engaging immediacy and interactivity. For start-ups and entrepreneurs, livestreaming means a free tool to broadcast company announcements and events, answer public queries, conduct tours or share any other information with the public in video form.


Video snippets
While Facebook Live and Periscope are popular platforms for sharing long-form live broadcasts, Instagram and Snapchat Stories offer a creative way for brands to share quick-hitting video vignettes. These snippets are just 10 seconds long and are viewable for only a 24-hour window, giving them a more playful and spontaneous appeal. Both of these platforms are crucial for attracting younger audiences. Snapchat’s largest user group is 18- to 24-year-old and over 90 percent of Instagram users are under the age of 35. In India, Snapchat is “popular among the age group of 15 to 25 years,” says Rajiv Dingra, founder and chief executive officer at WATConsult, a digital and social media agency. And, 90 percent of Instagram users in the country are below the age of 30.

For start-ups and entrepreneurs, Instagram and Snapchat Stories are fantastic opportunities to curate an inside look at a start-up’s unique personality. By sharing a series of 10-second videos to their daily “story,” upstart brands can give consumers a unique glimpse into their operations and organizational culture.


Branded location tags
Over the past year, Snapchat has reached over 100 million users, who view over 10 billion “Snaps” per day. Despite its meteoric rise, the platform caters to more than just big-budget advertisers. With its latest tool, Geofilters, small businesses and individuals alike can design photo or video filters that distinctively promote their event or business.

With Geofilters, users submit their own design for a branded overlay that appears when a Snapchat user is in proximity of their event or business’ global positioning system location. The users can then decorate their image or video with the brand’s Geofilter before sharing it with their network. At just $5 (Rs. 340 approximately), it is a fun and cost-effective way for entrepreneurs and start-ups to promote themselves.


E-commerce goes social
Last, but not least, is Buyable Pins, Pinterest’s newest e-commerce tool. Pinterest has described itself as “the world’s catalog of ideas,” where over 110 million active users, of which 71 percent are female, contribute to collections of searchable images. Research has shown that 93 percent of Pinterest users have used the site to research a planned purchase, making it a valuable hub that inspires ideas and even shopping.

With Buyable Pins, Pinterest now has the ability to directly connect social networks with e-commerce vendors. For entrepreneurs and start-ups offering physical goods to consumers, this new tool is a game-changer for finally connecting the dots between online inspiration, social media and the direct point-of-sale.


Jason Chiang is a freelance writer based in Silver Lake, Los Angeles.


Toolbox for India


By Suparna Mukherji


Pratik Dholakiya is the founder of The 20 Media, an SEO and content marketing agency. With offices in Ahmedabad, Bengaluru and Singapore, the company’s client list includes international brands, business-to-business companies and emerging start-ups.

Excerpts from an interview.


What role does social media play in supporting entrepreneurs and start-ups in their endeavors?
Social media helps level the playing field for small businesses and start-ups by providing effective, low-cost crowdsourcing opportunities. Campaign creativity, combined with communication of brand culture and lifestyle benefits, provides measurable gains for [small and midsize businesses].

How can social media help increase engagement, and build and maintain relationships with target audiences?
Responsiveness is critical to creating an engaged community. Social media has evolved and it is no longer exclusively about sharing content; consumers expect relationships. Be responsive or talk to your customers when they follow, retweet or share your post, and be appreciative of their feedback in comments. Customers who care, leave comments; brands which respond, convert customers.

What are some of the most innovative tools entrepreneurs can use to streamline their online communications?
There are a variety of different tools that can be used to optimize response with notifications. Here are some, in no particular order: Google Alerts, Social Mention, Talkwalker, Sprout Social, Followerwonk, BuzzSumo, Commun.it and SocialPilot.

What are the most popular social media tools used by Indian entrepreneurs?
Buffer, Hootsuite, SocialOomph and Brandwatch are some of the most heavily used social media tools in India. Also, watch out for some improvements to WhatsApp, as it moves from a messaging service to a social network format.

Do you have any tips for young entrepreneurs and start-ups?
Don’t quit. I believe that entrepreneurial drive is a genetic thing and that growing your own business provides a rewarding career path. Seek mentors within your industry and ask them for advice. Stay humble and maintain a results- and service-oriented relationship with your customers for retention, referrals and business growth.


Details about Pratik Dholakiya’s work were updated in September 2018.