How Startups (And Everyone Else) Should Handle Social Media

Forget about slow and steady winning the race. Working towards better social media results in sprints is a better tactic when time isn’t on your side.

How Startups (And Everyone Else) Should Handle Social Media
[Image: Flickr user Philo Nordlund]

Most companies treat their social media like a marathon. They have a year-long calendar, they post on the company blog and social media channels regularly, and they monitor brand mentions so that someone can answer questions and engage with customers, day in and day out.


Obviously, that can and does get results in the long haul. However, when you’re starting your company or just need to gain traction quickly, there’s a solid chance you could get better results by working with more of a sprint mindset.

The marathon mentality will keep users and leads engaged once you get them, but the sprint mentality will get you those new users and leads in the first place–with a much faster turnaround time.

What’s a sprint mindset and how do I use it?

If you’ve heard of or worked with Agile methodology, you’re probably familiar with the term “sprint.” The way I’m using it here is similar but not quite the same.

The idea is that instead of working on a day-in-day-out basis, you have an enforced deadline–you create your own deadlines, if necessary, by using an external event. Then, you focus on being incredibly proactive in getting your content/product in people’s hands before that deadline.

When working with client Likter at a local agency, we wanted to amp up downloads before SXSW as much as possible. I’d already featured it in an app round up at Lifehack, but I didn’t want to stop there. I did some research and came up with a list of all the volunteer-run Twitter accounts that curate SXSW related information and events. I used Buffer to schedule out tweets from my account over the course of the weekend. That way, tweets weren’t going out to a million users all at once.

The result? Almost every single tweet got favorited and retweeted, often more than once, and downloads jumped from three to five a day to 89 in one day–and they didn’t return to pre-article levels afterwards (they were still approximately 10 times higher than before the article).


If a post gets shared in the woods and nobody hears it, does it make a noise?

When you’re doing a social media sprint, the idea is that you’re interacting with people in a very proactive way. You’re not just putting something out there and expecting people to find and share it on their own, which is the trap companies can (and usually do) fall into when it comes to social media and content marketing.

But “be more proactive” can’t go on a to-do list (at the very least, it shouldn’t go on a to-do list). The general topic of being more proactive on social media can make for a decent meeting discussion, but below you’ll find less vague, more concrete places for you or your marketing department to start with:

1. Find the busy content curators in your industry

In the above example, the people I reached out to are the people who take it upon themselves to find and share SXSW related content. Their entire following is built around that one thing, and they need good content and relevant news to share with their followers on a regular basis.

People often look for influencers–people with large followings–in general to share news about their product. But by focusing specifically on people who curate and share content related to your industry, you’re narrowing your efforts down to the people likely to be the most interested, which makes it easier to get them to, you know, actually share it.

2. Force yourself to work on an event basis

Stop thinking about what’s going on inside your business and instead, focus on what’s going on around it. A shopping app that isn’t doing some kind of outreach or promotion during New York Fashion Week is missing the boat. A navigation or travel related app? Same thing. Think about it: thousands of new people are in town, lost, not knowing where the cool kids are. A nationwide navigation app could have an entire year of social media sprints based around events in major cities.

This can be especially beneficial because it gives the campaign a natural deadline, after which you can review the results and see if you want to keep creating campaigns around similar events or not. Combining the first takeaway with this one can be especially useful, because the content curators related to the event are also working on a deadline. As the event gets closer, they’re getting busier and more stressed out, which means that a helping hand giving them something they can share with their audience would be greatly appreciated.


3. Use scheduling and automation–but with discretion

We’ve seen time and time again that automated social media can fall flat on its face. But not scheduling at all can lead to missed opportunities and wasted time. And with my example, it actually would have looked far spammier if all the tweets had gone out at once instead of being scheduled out.

When you’re using automation, don’t overdo it. My rule of thumb is not to automate more than half of your social media, and keeping the number closer to 25% is better.

I’d never say that companies should stop doing the day-in-day-out work–that’s what builds an empire in the long term. But, as long as you’re keeping up with the marathon, try adding sprints to your content and social media and track your results–you’d be surprised at what’ll happen.

Michelle Nickolaisen is a freelance writer and content/social media marketer based in Austin, TX. She also writes about productivity, systems, and business savvy at Bombchelle.