Successful Startup Social Media Examples
Startups have the benefit of shaping their brand identity from scratch, and building up a loyal following across multiple social networks. First, a startup must truly understand its audience and where they spend their time online. Marketers must understanding concerns, hopes, dreams, and worries in supreme detail. Then, it’s about addressing them, and tapping into human emotions; whether it be with humour, controversy, or sheer weirdness.
Social media is an incredible channel for connecting with your audience, and helps to build trust and integrity. By thinking outside the box, marketers can achieve huge exposure for their brand, both in the short-term and long-term.
In this article, I’ve highlighted five brilliant startups that have used social media to build their brand and grow their business. We’ll look at some of the approaches they take, and provide three key lessons to learn from each example.
Five brands that have done good
The global appeal of social media has been instrumental in helping small brands achieve extraordinary things – often on more limited budgets than their counterparts.
Here are five examples of disruptive businesses that win on social. Some have become truly global brands, and others have achieved impressive success from humble beginnings by nurturing their social following.
In 2012, amateur baker Kristian Tapaninaho designed a small, affordable, wood-fired pizza oven. He went on to fund production through a Kickstarter campaign. The goal was to reach £7500 in 30 days. This was achieved in just two weeks, and the total had doubled by the end of the month. A good start, for sure.
The campaign produced an enthusiastic customer base and Kristian quickly developed that relationship through Facebook and Twitter. Feedback, enquiries and complaints were dealt with instantly, and he was also happy to publicly tell the story of the ups-and-downs of starting a business with very little experience.
This honest and open approach made their customers part of the Uuni story. The result is a loyal and rapidly increasing customer base. Uuni now sells to 50 countries through 3 online stores and employs 6 full-time staff – an operation that’s set to get even bigger.
Three lessons to learn:
- Use influencers: Uuni have enlisted the help of many key cooking influencers with large followings. It’s not sales guff if the influencers genuinely love the product!
- Listen to people: Respond, retweet, and highlight those that are using the product and enjoying it.
- Use video: Short clips, longer guides, and creative snippets. Video is a key element.
For more info, check out the Uuni website.
Tribe was started by three long-distance runners in a quest for natural, whole food sports nutrition. Today, they supply subscribers with healthy protein-rich energy snacks. Since August 2015, Tribe’s social media strategy has amassed tens of thousands of followers over the different networks. Their use of Instagram has been particularly compelling; featuring inspiring images of runners in the Tribe community.
Tribe has created a community that supports their members in a healthy lifestyle. Subscribers regularly meet for running events and workshops, and everyone is encouraged to contribute and share their experiences via social media. Tribe members know it isn’t just about buying the same products, but sharing common interests, and that’s what keeps them coming back for more. This growth is based on the sharing of common ground.
Three lessons to learn:
- Combine the two worlds: People live in the real world, and they engage in physical activity. This connection is imperative, especially for a health & fitness brand.
- Be good: Dedicate a proportion of your brand’s time or income to good causes. Help the community, and build a positive image.
- Incentivise: Prizes and competitions fuel the sales-led promotional social media marketing, and increase engagement.
For more information about them, follow Tribe on Twitter.
This subscription service for fresh coffee started on Stephen Rapoport’s kitchen table in 2012, with a grinder bought on eBay. The company has long since moved out of Stephen’s kitchen, which is just as well as they now have 35 employees.
Pact uses a range of Facebook’s business tools to design adverts and reach their target audience. They also actively engage their customers across social media platforms, where they promote initiatives such as their reward scheme, whereby subscribers recommend a friend and both parties receive a discount as a result.
The strategy is clearly working. The business is growing by 20% a month and more than 30000 cups of Pact Coffee are drunk daily in the UK.
Three lessons to learn:
- Be generous: Promote others that support your product or service. Pact regularly feature coffee shops, especially as they’ve now opened a wholesale line.
- Respond actively: Pact’s Facebook is highly active, and the social team responds to every comment, whether it’s good or bad.
- Quotes: Quirky relevant quotes will always be shareable, but only if they’re designed to be sharp and modern. Just make sure they’re not lame or offensive!
One of most disruptive businesses in decades, Airbnb has sent shockwaves through the hotel industry. The brand grew from very small beginnings, but shot to global success.
In 2008, two students rented out airbeds at their flat, for lack of funds. This spawned an idea. Spotting an opportunity at the Democratic National Convention that summer, they took advantage of the hotel shortage, and created customised cereal boxes for PR and to raise funds. This worked, and put them on the map for investors.
Rapid expansion followed and by 2011 they were dealing with rentals in 33000 cities across 192 countries and the company was valued at $1.3 billion. Since then, Airbnb has gone from strength to strength, and is now worth an approximate $25 billion.
Once again, their approach isn’t just about selling their services. The core message is supporting the community and building trust. The One Less Stranger campaign encouraged participants to do a good deed, and when forest fires destroyed local homes, Airbnb urged their followers to offer shelter to those in need.
A liberal and open message communicates with Airbnb’s target audience, but more importantly it reflects the free and welcoming aspect of its brand. This is consistent across the board in Airbnb’s online and offline comms. Social media has allowed Airbnb to get their audience involved in worthwhile projects that make the news.
This is a powerful approach, as it enables so many others to benefit. It also helps to build a positive brand image in the face of criticism from more established players in the hospitality industry.
Three lessons to learn:
- Imagery is essential: Airbnb’s photography is second-to-none. It’s artistic, creative, and reflective of emotions and human behaviour.
- Build champions: Their focus on host’s identity and character generates a feeling of warmth, familiarity, and interest in the experiences Airbnb offers.
- Sell the experience: Their audience wants to ‘live’ experiences to the full, rather than just sampling it. Sell this dream!
These folks started off in a very simple way, by selling smoothies at a music festival. The venture was a success and by the end of the festival the founders had decided to leave their day jobs and focus on building a smoothie brand. In 2013, the brand was bought by Coca-Cola after a previous investment in a smaller percentage.
Their approach is deceptively simple, with quirky and informative blog posts and tweets. They’re always funny, eccentric, and creative. They post regularly, but don’t bombard their followers. They respond to those “that need responses” but don’t pressure their team to respond to every message. A case study by Link Humans on Innocent’s strategy says;
“Firstly, they know their audience – by testing the waters previously and ensuring that all content is innocent, child-friendly and relatable. Secondly, they know how to use the various networks and what works best for each… Finally, they know what will get them the best ROI – on Twitter, they’re funny, on trend and quirky; Facebook is kept simple with a cut-down version of their Twitter feed and their LinkedIn page is used for what’s needed.”
Three lessons to learn:
- Show personality: Social media is a superb avenue for highlighting the character of a business and those that make it a success.
- Be current: Innocent regularly offer quirky perspectives on current events, showing the lighter more positive side of news.
- Adapt: One size doesn’t fit all networks. And all networks don’t fit one brand. For example, Innocent’s use of LinkedIn is limited, because their audience doesn’t spend their time there.
All of the examples featured in this article have used an open and honest social media presence to build their integrity and spread their message, without resorting to hard sales tactics. Many successful brands align themselves with good causes, and this doesn’t have to be a cold and calculated marketing tactic. Make it part of your identity; a positive and thoughtful element of your business that represents the character of those within it.
Social media isn’t for stuffiness, although to entertain followers whilst maintaining professionalism can prove to be a fine line. This is particularly important for B2B organisations. However, remember that even for B2B your audience is people; humans with emotions, which you can tap into whether it’s to make them laugh, cry, or think differently.
Above all, it’s about consistency of message and the identity that lies behind it. Social media should be part of a wider business strategy, and must support the brand in positive ways. By embracing these principles, marketers can grow a dedicated community.