Social Media channels like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Google+ can be of great importance to your online startup. It helps to build your brand, to attract awareness, in getting visitors and sometimes to make money directly. It will depend a little bit on your specific startup idea to decide which channels matter, but be sure to take this step serious. Social Media matters.
Which Social Media exist?
There are literally hundreds. So let's proceed to the next question.
Which Social Media are important to me?
A much better question, because in most cases only a few Social Media matter to you. It depends greatly on what your startup idea is, who your potential visitors/customers are and what your goals are. Let's investigate the Social Media networks one by one so you can decide which ones matter to you.
The biggest and most important of them all. This is an important place to build your brand and a potentially great source of traffic.
Claiming your page at Facebook is easy and just takes a few minutes. Getting Facebook fans is the difficult part and you will need to be creative and willing to put a lot of effort in it to grow. If your startup idea can be graphically presented (think nature, photography, cars or simply beautiful things) you will be able to attract a lot of fans simply by posting photos regularly. It will be much more difficult to get fans if this is not the case. Things that work on Facebook are the things people like to share and like.
Turning Facebook fans into website visitors or even into customers can be tricky, because Facebook tries to keep most traffic inside its network. But, if you fan base is large enough, it can be substantial anyway. My experience is that a photo with a thousand likes, provide about 2000-3000 visits to my site.
Facebook offers methods to grow your fan base by paying for it. This can work, but be critical if the investment will be worth it. If you decide to invest in getting fans, make sure you are targeting people that are your potential customers. Getting fans from India is much cheaper than getting fans from the US, but can you monetize fans from India?
Small, much smaller than Facebook, but important to some niches. Besides, Google uses its social network as a ranking factor for their normal search results. If you're big on Google+ that helps your site attract organic traffic from Google's search results as well.
Growing your Google+ page is quite similar to the strategies I suggest for Facebook; Google+ is probably even more centered around graphics/images/movies. Turning your fans into website visitors is relatively straight forward, assuming your website has enough interesting content.
The social network centered around short messages, Twitter is big and important. No matter what your startup idea is, you better be on it because your future customers will use this channel to communicate with (and about) you.
Growing your followers base has a lot to do with being interesting to follow. You will need to share interesting stuff (links to cool articles, posting on events you are visiting, etc) to grow and keep your following up to date. Turning followers into your website visitors is easy and so this Social Network pays off.
The business/corporate network. Depending on your startup idea, this can be super important, or not important at all. I find it hard to get a substantial following on LinkedIn, so if it is important to your idea, be prepared to put quite some effort in this.
Very important if your startup idea has anything to do with design or lifestyle. Instagram is super graphically oriented and a great platform to build your brand on. However, it's almost impossible to turn fans into website visitors; so Instagram is only interesting if you are building a brand or a personal network.
A bit similar to Instagram and mostly of interest when you are into design, lifestyle, decoration or nature. While your efforts on this network will result in limited traffic at best, the network as a whole can be very important for gaining visitors to your site. The good thing is that you don't need to do much for that, because your website visitors can pin your images to their boards and generate traffic for you.
Is it a Social Network? Perhaps not, but for most startup ideas this channel will eventually be important to you. YouTube can be used to grow your brand and to make some money with advertisements, though you will need a lot of views to make a living out of it. Generating traffic from your movies to your site is difficult, as of course YouTube tries to keep the visitors inside their platform. To register your YouTube channel you first need a Google+ account.
I have invested much time in Social Media and my Facebook page has over 100k fans. This has proven to be one of the best investments of my time, as every new article I write, the eBook I published and movies I create are instantly popular and well visited. And my personal network has grown significantly. Social Media turned out to be crucial to my website's success.Oscar, bonsaiempire.com
How do I claim my Social Media urls / pages?
In most cases (Facebook, Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn) you don't need to register new accounts for your startups. Assuming you have a personal account at these Social Media channels already, you can easily start your startup fanpage/channel. You will need to register your Social Media accounts separately for Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.
When claiming these channels, you probably want to use the same urls as your main domain name. The same principles apply here; keep it simple, intuitive and easy to remember. Read more about these criteria at the choosing my domain name page.
Since the registration processes change quite often at the social networks, I suggest you use Google to find out how claiming your urls work for the specific Social Media channels.
Setting up my appearance on Social Media
Once you register your startup at the different Social Media channels, you will be taken through a few steps to set up your appearance there. Use your logo (or a personal image, depending on what your startup idea is) for the profile image and set up your details including your website url. Google+ will require you to proof your website is linked to the page you just registered on Google+, if you registered your site on Google Webmaster this is done automatically.
We discuss in more detail how to benefit from your Social Media efforts in step 3 (attracting visitors: how to turn fans into visitors on Social Media)
Social Media, check!
You have your Social Media all set up.
Congratulations! Time to proceed to Step 2.