Neil Patel

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4 Unusual Ways to Skyrocket Your Startup’s Brand Awareness on Social Media


If you’re just starting a business, you know that social media marketing is a great way to increase your brand awareness.

It’s affordable and effective, and it has a low barrier to entry. There’s no need to hire an expensive ad agency to promote your site on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

It’s so effective, in fact, that 83% of all marketers have already started using social media to boost sales and brand identity, according to ShortStack.

Top Social Media Trends of 2017 Infographic ShortStack

But to truly maximize the impact of your efforts, you need to change the way you approach this form of brand awareness.

These strategies are guaranteed to skyrocket the success of your startup on social media and increase your reach.

Let’s jump in!

Stop wasting time on the wrong platforms

If you’re trying to promote your brand on every single platform, you’re probably spreading yourself too thin and not accomplishing as much as you could with more focus.

The truth is that only a very small portion of your audience will actually be following you on more than one platform.

According to Tracx, 28% of social media users are only active on one site.

Top Social Network Demographics 2017 Infographic Social Media Today

To make the best use of your time, find the one or two networks that will give you the best results, and focus on promoting heavily on those sites.

Choose your best platforms

To get started, you need to look at where your traffic is coming from.

You can do that easily in Google Analytics. All you need to do is click on Acquisition.

Overview Analytics 2

Then choose Social.

Overview Analytics 1

From the drop-down menu, select Overview.

Overview Analytics

Look carefully at your referring sites. Where is your traffic coming from? This should be the first piece of information you use to determine where to focus your efforts.

In addition, you should look at the most valuable social networks depending on your type of business.

LinkedIn is a great choice for B2B, and Facebook works well for B2C. But if you’re in the e-commerce space, you have a secret weapon: Pinterest.

With a mind-boggling 93% of Pinterest users on the platform to plan or make purchases, this is a great place for making sales and promoting physical products.

40 Essential Social Media Marketing Statistics for 2017 WordStream

Test constantly

To increase the impact you have on your most important platforms, start testing the messages you deliver to see which style has the best impact.

I recommend looking at the most popular accounts on your chosen platform. Observe their stylistic preferences and adapt them to your startup’s brand identity.

Even testing simple image variations can lead to an uptick in traffic. That’s what Denise Wakeman did with different images promoting new content on her blog.

postplanner image test.jpgt1502893857883width640namepostplanner image test

You can easily share these both at the same time and track their effectiveness using different UTM parameters.

These will differentiate the traffic on Google Analytics, allowing you to see which style did best.

To apply a unique UTM, you can use the tool UTM For the Win.

Lite UTM For The Win

Flesh out your profiles

If you want to make the greatest impact on your chosen selection of social media platforms, you need to make your presence known.

Just because you’re a startup doesn’t mean you can’t learn from big brands.

Include a clear profile picture, an informative and educational description, and a clear link to your website. Southwest Airlines does a great job on their Twitter profile.

Southwest Airlines SouthwestAir Twitter

They’ve created a reason to follow them, a broader mission, and a specific URL for customer feedback.

Incorporating these strategies will make any social media endeavors more effective and increase your brand awareness.

Craft a compelling message and voice

The first step to an effective social media branding strategy is deciding exactly what your voice will be.

There are plenty of ways to do this, but the important thing is to be loyal to the voice of your startup.

Understand who your target customers are and the culture of your business. Use these in combination with the strategies below to shape a compelling brand message.

Be conversational

Social media users today aren’t interested in corporate-speak, generic stock photos of happy business professionals, or overly promotional messages.

They’re looking for a friendly and conversational tone that engages and entertains while subtly promoting the brand.

To accomplish this, decide on a few ways you can be more conversational in your messaging.

Consider using humor, colloquial terms, slang, or creativity. Whatever you do, make your brand messaging sound more like a conversation with a friend than a corporate poster.

Arby’s does a great job of maintaining a consistently conversational tone in their social media brand-awareness campaigns.

Arby s on Twitter Leads Does machines Cool but rude Party dude https t co vwhSBK9VLY

By using creativity and humor, they’re able to reach an audience with a friendly and engaging tone.

Include the audience voice in your content

The holy grail of copywriting is language that mimics the inner dialogue of your prospect, and this is no different for your social media updates.

Do an analysis of what kinds of posts your customers regularly see on their newsfeeds and try to copy this voice.

Netflix speaks in the language of their audience on Facebook.

1 Netflix Home

They discuss browsing different shows and even promote content from other sources (The New York Times in this example).

They use a casual voice that will remind Netflix fans of the types of posts they see from friends.

Engage customers with special content

If a user has followed your social media account, they’ve indicated that they like your brand, the content you produce, and the products you sell.

With such a well-defined group of fans, you should make them feel special! Announce upcoming products and services to your social media following first.

As a startup, you can also provide interesting behind-the-scenes photos and videos of your work processes.

McDonald’s announced its upcoming McDelivery on Instagram, letting followers know they could get some of the gear used as a promotion.

McDonald s mcdonalds Instagram photos and videos

This kind of “special information” post rewards your followers for being fans of your brand.

Create a personality

Even if you have a conversational voice, you should have a personality behind it. The type of personality you use depends on your target customers and the image you want to portray.

This interaction between Jimmy John’s and Wendy’s shows the cheeky character behind both brands.

Wendy s on Twitter jimmyjohns Not sure how we feel about kissing someone with two first names KissAGingerDay

Since it’s your own startup, you can choose the best personality to represent your company.

Understand what your customers will be looking for and use this as the basis for your personality.

Should you be classy, friendly, or raunchy? Don’t be afraid to choose an honest personality that represents your brand and customers, even if it might be unappealing to others.

Target your posts to specific fans

You’ve seen targeted information before, even if you didn’t notice. The most widely-known version of this is the Google homepage.

Depending on the version of the site you visit, you’ll be presented with different versions of the logo that are particularly relevant to that location or demographic.

For example, the Google US homepage today has a plain logo and simple interface.

Google 1

Meanwhile, Google Indonesia has a special doodle celebrating Indonesian Independence Day.

Google 2

This allows different customers to interact differently with Google’s product. It’s a technique you can apply to your social media marketing.

To change who sees your Facebook posts, go to your page’s settings. Click on General, then look forAudience Optimization for Posts. Click Edit.

2 Thoughtful Growth Settings 1

From the options that open, click the check box and select Save Changes.

2 Thoughtful Growth Settings

You’ll now have a new target icon on your Facebook posting form. When you write a new post, click this icon.

2 Thoughtful Growth Home 1

You’ll be presented with a window where you can specify your audience. If your post is specific to a US holiday, for example, you can only show it to fans in the United States.

2 Thoughtful Growth Home

Surprise and delight your subscribers

Most followers on social media are used to brand accounts entertaining them or advertising to them. But sometimes, those brand accounts just ignore their feedback.

But you can include interactions with your subscribers in a creative and funny way and draw attention to your startup’s brand.

When a social media firestorm erupted after Chick-Fil-A retired its old BBQ sauce for a new flavor, the company apologized in a humorous way.

Chick-Fil-A posted a mock “mean tweets” video after customers complained. They announced they had made a mistake and would be bringing back the old recipe.

The Universe Has Spoken and It Said BringBackTheBBQ YouTube

Look for a bigger cause to support

Chances are, your users are more interested in promoting your brand if you have a bigger message to share.

Rather than just promoting traditional beauty like most cosmetic companies, Dove focuses on what it calls Real Beauty, promoting an image of different types of attractiveness.

Dove US YouTube

The campaign has become a hit on social media. People are promoting the brand for the precise reason that Dove didn’t focus on the brand.

Instead, Dove chose a bigger message to share. To increase the brand awareness of your startup, choose a bigger message you’d like to promote.

Mention this cause and build an association that helps the common good and promotes your brand at the same time.

Promote the right way

Let’s face it: Even if you have the best content on social media, you won’t get any traction if you’re not promoting it correctly.

To solve that problem, you need to increase the effectiveness of your promotional strategies.

How you work to drive traffic to your startup’s content can be the difference between an effective campaign and one that struggles to find a foothold.

Here are a few of the best ways to promote your content and increase your brand awareness like crazy.

Use targeted advertising

If you haven’t started using targeted ads yet, it’s time to begin.

While they aren’t free, targeted ads can be one of the best ways to reach tens of thousands of people and increase awareness of your brand.

Buffer wanted to promote their brand identity on social media and used targeted advertising.

They selected a few parameters, like people interested in social media, and excluded people who liked their own Facebook page.

Screen Shot 2015 05 13 at 11.06.38 AM 800x409

For $5 a day, they bought 9 page-likes and 1 click to the Buffer home page. Plus, they reached 787 new people.

Facebook Ads benchmarks and examples 800x444

If you want to reach people quickly and cheaply, this is a great way to promote your startup.

Connect with influencers

Influencer marketing is becoming one of the most popular forms of marketing.

Research shows that a stunning 84% of marketers are planning on using at least one influencer marketing campaign in the next year.

Top Social Media Trends of 2017 Infographic ShortStack 1

It’s no wonder this form of marketing is becoming popular. It’s a highly effective way to reach out to others and share your branded message.

It’s particularly effective on social media.

Since influencers tend to have a broad reach and access to hundreds of thousands — or even millions — of followers, it’s a great way to promote your content without a huge expense.

Get happy customers advocating for your brand

What if you could get your customers to promote your content for you?

Most marketers would consider it a dream come true, but it doesn’t have to be difficult.

To make it happen, you need to actively promote your product to engaged customers who appreciate it. Make it easy for them to share with their followers.

Eyeglass company Warby Parker sends customers five pairs of glasses to try on before they make a final choice on the frames they’ll use.

To promote this feature, the startup created the hashtag #WarbyHomeTryOn, encouraging customers to post pictures of themselves with the different glasses they receive.

warbyhometryon Instagram photos and videos

To date, there are over 20,000 Instagram posts using that hashtag, reaching potentially millions of prospective customers.

To make this work for your brand, find something your customers would be excited to share on social media.

Craft a specific way this can be branded to your content and promote it to your happiest customers.

Since users trust recommendations from their friends more than they’ll trust your endorsement of your own product, it’s a great way to spread your brand naturally.

Consider a referral program

If you’re struggling to get customers to share your brand with their followers, consider offering them an incentive.

One of the most famous startups to use this strategy was Dropbox. By offering customers free storage space for getting a friend to sign up, Dropbox increased signups by 60%.

Of course, this form of marketing may not work depending on your brand message since some users might interpret this as bribing.

But if it fits with your brand’s core messaging, it can be a great way to promote your startup on social media.

A great way to create this viral referral marketing is the app Talkable.

Talkable Referral Marketing Made Easy Refer A Friend programs Referral Platform

It will allow you to provide customers with a specific referral code they can use to earn a profit off of friends who purchase from your startup.

Use chatbots

One of the newest trends in social media marketing is the use of chat bots. These are messaging apps that you program to respond in a variety of preset ways.

The most common platform for these bots is Facebook Messenger, where you can interact with a huge number of fans without worrying about overloading your employees’ capacity.

To see a chat bot in action, you can try out the bot And Chill.

You mention a movie you enjoyed, tell the app why you enjoyed it, and it’ll recommend a few new movies you might find interesting.


While this technology isn’t well-suited to make sales (yet), it’s a great way to add novelty to your startup’s brand and help customers along the way.

Consider creating a basic framework that will help customers solve a specific problem.

By using the app, you can build more awareness of your brand, and you might even encourage a few sales as followers spread the news of your brand message by word of mouth.

Create great content

The best social media tool for streamlining your marketing isn’t an app or software.

Instead, it’s the content you create and promote through social media.

By using a few strategies to increase the effectiveness of the content you share, you can increase awareness for your startup’s brand.

Soon, you’ll start reaping the huge rewards that come with an effective social media campaign.

I’ll give some specific pointers for content strategies you should try, but remember to test and refine everything.

Use mobile-ready video

It’s no secret that the content on social media is quickly becoming visual. But what you might not realize is the massive effect that mobile viewing is having on that video.

According to Ooyala, mobile video has been rising dramatically for the past few years.

Ooyala Global Video Index Q1 2017 pdf

To make sure you take full advantage of this trend, include mobile-ready video in your social media campaigns.

It helps to maximize the format used on most social media channels.

Typically, this is square (as used on Facebook and Instagram), but can be different depending on the social media platform you’re using.

Whatever the format, be sure to include captions on the videos you distribute.

Since Facebook videos start playing without audio, this ensures the viewers will still understand the main brand message you want to distribute for your startup.

Include live video

With the relatively recent proliferation of smartphones with data plans with the capacity for live streaming, live video has taken off.

According to Periscope, one of the first sites to grow the live-video phenomenon, 110 years of live video are watched every day.

pasted image 0 1197

This is a huge opportunity for you to take advantage of with your social media brand awareness campaign.

The important thing is to get started.

You’ll need to decide a time and place to do your first live stream. While you can focus on Q&A, you need to have backup content in case there aren’t any questions.

Use live streaming for announcements, promotions, or just behind-the-scenes tours of new products and features.

Cross-post the smart way

There are a number of apps that allow you to quickly and easily distribute your posts across all your social media channels.

The problem with this is that each platform is different, and requires different formatting and focus to truly succeed.

To make cross-posting work effectively, find the main brand image behind the posts or content you want to share.

Instead of sending the same update across all your channels, look to create a slightly modified version for the most important sites to your startup.

Construction management software Procore used the hashtag #HardHatHero on Twitter to promote their construction professional nomination campaign.

Procore Technologies on Twitter It s time to stop and honor the construction professionals on your jobsite Nominate your HardHatHero today https t co wXDbecowlM https t co svV9TGvjtC

But they didn’t stop there. They adapted the image and text to promote on perhaps the most important channel for B2B businesses: LinkedIn.

16 Procore Technologies Overview LinkedIn

Use trends and pop culture to your advantage

If you’re carefully attuned to pop culture fads and trends, you can use this knowledge to promote your startup in a creative way.

Look at common trends and references that you can incorporate into your brand.

It’s a good idea to stay away from serious events, social-justice issues, and anything political.

But if you can gently poke fun at pop culture in a natural way, do it!

After being the butt of many of Jon Stewart’s jokes, Arby’s sent a job invite to Jon Stewart when he announced he was leaving The Daily Show.

Arby s on Twitter Jon feel free to reach out to us at careers arbys com

Your startup probably won’t be constantly mocked on national television, but you can incorporate the same self-deprecating, pop-influenced humor in your updates.

This is a great way to increase your brand awareness by piggybacking on something that’s already proven to be popular.

Create a content schedule

While you should have a plan for the social media posts you’d like to deliver, it’s a good idea to also have a plan for the content you’d like to publish on your website.

This is a great way to have additional long-form content that wouldn’t be able to stand on social media on its own.

To get this started, you’ll need to create a basic content schedule. Each one of the pieces of content will follow a few different stages in the process, so you should plan in advance.

Decide exactly what steps you’d like to use. These are the ones recommended by Curata.

Content Marketing Calednar Infogrpahic1 jpg 1250 7292

Once you have the stages, you’ll need a place to store the content as it travels from one bucket of tasks to another.

This is easy to set up with Trello.

Screen Shot 2015 01 20 at 10 44 09 AM 1024x199.pngt1502922726429width584height113nameScreen Shot 2015 01 20 at 10 44 09 AM 1024x199

Each of your content stages can be a separate Trello list, and you can create a separate item for each of the pieces of content you’d like to publish.

One of the advantages of this is that you can assign the projects to different teammates, allowing you to effectively manage all content production in the same system.

Include diverse content

If you’re only appealing to one type of user, you’re making a mistake.

To expand the reach of your startup’s brand on social media, create a variety of diverse content types.

A great example of a brand that includes diversity in its content types is NPR on Instagram. Their images include illustrations of cultural icons like Chance the Rapper.

NPR npr Instagram photos and videos 2

They also have photos of projects closer to home, like an exercise class for moms in San Francisco.

NPR npr Instagram photos and videos 1

And they even include more variety in their storytelling style, such as a fairy-tale phrasing of sugar regulations.

NPR npr Instagram photos and videos

All told, NPR has created a style of brand awareness that appeals to the large range of listeners that would want to hear what they have to say.

Create a social media calendar (and follow it consistently)

If you don’t already have a calendar with scheduled posts, it’s time to get started! You can do this in a variety of ways, but the most important thing is to plan in advance.

The hardest part of social media posts is having images and videos prepared ahead of time, so you want to prepare and schedule this type of content.

Create a basic social media calendar, like this example provided by CoSchedule.

social media calendar screencap

To make sure that the content is ready to go and easy to access when you need it, save the files in Google Drive. As CoSchedule uses in its example, grab the link from Google Drive.

get shareable link markup

You’ll then include that link in the document. This allows anyone who’s working on the social media campaign to easily access the videos and images needed when it’s time to post the content.

paste image link

Create shareable content

Perhaps the biggest secret to a social media strategy that drives social traffic and brand awareness is creating shareable content.

Unfortunately, “shareable content” is one of those terms like “good articles” that’s rather hard to define.

However, shareable pieces of content do have a few characteristics in common. According to marketing professor Jonah Berger, these elements are:

  • Social currency. Does the sharer look good by distributing this content?
  • Triggers. What will remind someone of the content?
  • Emotion. Does the content invoke an action-based emotion, like anger or humor?
  • Public. Is the message easily branded and clear?
  • Practical value. Is the content useful to someone discovering it?
  • Stories. Does the content tell a compelling and memorable story?

Sonic the Hedgehog uses many of these characteristics as it pokes fun at the ever-popular “X out of X people can’t tell the difference” quiz that’s become so prevalent on social media.

Their post received a massive amount of shares!

Sonic the Hedgehog on Twitter It s true you know Good luck https t co Xp0JM5QF0R

The post made sharers look clever (social currency), any social media quiz brought it to mind (triggers), it invoked humor (emotion), and Sonic is clearly the focus (public).

By using these strategies in your posts, you can create content that users want to share over and over again.

Don’t focus on sales — build relationships

While marketing is typically focused on driving sales, brand awareness on social media is different.

Instead of constantly selling more products, relationships are how you build social shares for your content.

To facilitate this, work to create a social media strategy for your startup that includes a variety of content completely unrelated to sales.

Here’s how.

Don’t always include your product

If you’re going to include a variety of social media content in your marketing, you can afford to diversify and promote things other than your main product or service.

A company that does this effectively is coworking space company WeWork.

Rather than constantly promote their workspaces, they work to incorporate other elements into their social media brand-awareness campaigns.

A perfect example is their #dogsofwework series. These are massively popular posts with only a small reference to the company brand.

dogsofwework Instagram photos and videos

Instead, each one focuses on a dog in the coworking space.

Respond to fan messages quickly

No matter how well you follow the best times to post on social media, there will always be followers who miss your most important content.

To effectively build relationships with users and followers, promptly respond to their questions and opinions.

This establishes you as a credible and caring brand and can help build relationships with potential customers of your startup.

On some social websites, like Facebook, your quick communication will be rewarded with a badge indicating the speed at which you reply to fans and customers.

Zappos has earned a badge for their quick replies to messages.

2 Zappos com Home

Give away a lot for free

The days of charging for everything you offer are dead.

Instead, provide tons of value to your subscribers for free. Provide training, documents, guides, tools, and case studies without requiring money or email addresses.

HubSpot does a great job of this on their social media campaigns. For example, they provide free training on how to film quality videos on their Google+ page.

HubSpot Google

By offering this kind of free content, they encourage users to interact with the brand. This builds relationships that encourage brand awareness.

Host a discussion

To bring your startup to the forefront in your industry, host a Twitter chat or other social media discussion.

This is a great way to show your authority and make a larger name for yourself. To set up a Twitter chat, you’ll need to create a custom hashtag.

It’s a good idea to use a hashtag that includes some version of your brand so that all discussions will be labeled with your branding.

Hootsuite’s #HootChat is a great example of a startup that has used its brand name to promote awareness of the services it offers.

HootChat hashtag on Twitter 1

If you haven’t considered running your own Twitter chat, it can be a valuable tool for your social media efforts.

Consider creating your own community

It’s no secret that a strong community of loyal fans means more brand awareness for you.

Those loyal “true fans” are more likely to share your content, recommend it to their friends, and become ambassadors for your startup.

To create a sense of community around these individuals, consider using a Facebook Group.

A few years ago, it was easy to confuse a Facebook Page with a Facebook Group. New companies often weren’t sure which to create, and they muddled the image they portrayed.

But in July 2017, chief product officer at Facebook Chris Cox announced that Groups would be available for Pages.

2 Chris Cox We re making Groups for Pages available around the

The example he included was the Washington Post’s group Post This.

2 PostThis from The Washington Post

If you want to further the sense of identity of your core customers, you should consider creating a private Facebook group to reach them.

Host contests and other forms of direct engagement

To skyrocket your brand’s awareness on Facebook, consider running a contest or giveaway.

If you’re going to try this, you need to understand the specific regulations on this kind of event in your locality.

Most states and regions have specific regulations for what’s allowed and what isn’t, so make sure you follow the laws that apply where you live.

To get started, choose an item that relates to your brand. If you sell a product or service, consider giving this away.

Bed, Bath and Beyond hosted a giveaway on Instagram, providing the winner with a bedroom refresh.

Bed Bath Beyond bedbathandbeyond Instagram photos and videos

This was a great way to offer something for users that’s exciting and also increases the awareness of your brand name.

Respond to every fan comment within a day

While it’s important to respond to fans’ private messages, as I mentioned earlier, it’s also a good idea to publicly show that you’re interested and engaged with your followers.

There are lots of ways to do this, but the best way is to write a custom response to each person who writes to your company.

For example, SpaghettiOs sent a related image in response to a fan tweet.

SpaghettiOs on Twitter Sam Swire https t co jUUX0sMYd6

This kind of interaction shows that the customer is more valuable than just a simple one-word response (or none at all).

Even better, it shows publicly that the company cares about the fans that follow the page. The entire SpaghettiOs profile is filled with interactions with followers.

As a startup, you should make it a priority to have personalized interactions with as many followers as you can.


If you want to boost the identity of your startup, social media is the perfect place to start.

To get massive results, however, you need to approach things a little differently from the rest of the crowd.

These unusual tactics will skyrocket your business’s presence on whatever social platforms you’re interested in using.

How will you increase your startup’s brand awareness on social media?

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