Right time to start social media marketing

A dilemma that many start-ups face today is the question “When do we start social media marketing outreach? Do we start before the launch of the product or after we are completely ready with our products and service offerings? To answer the question let us consider the analogy of a brick and mortar store. Every entrepreneur knows that in business it is all about location, location and location! Now, if you were to open a store in a mall’s forefront, you might get a modest footfall right on day one. On the other hand, it would be difficult to draw huge customers footfall on day one to a shop located in a corner or for that matter in a small alley on the street.

Similarly, in the virtual world Google can be considered a mall where everyone is trying to get onto the front page results of Google. With hundreds of thousands of websites getting launched each day it isn’t easy and only gets harder. The purpose of social media activities like blogging, developing a community on Facebook, engaging on other social networks is to develop word of mouth reach and visibility: not direct sales or leads as if often presumed. It’s a very organic process which takes a considerable amount of time to drive more awareness, more people talking about you or spreading the word about who you are or what you offer. It’s a brand building exercise, not a sales drive.

That said, for your brick and mortar store would you wait till it has completely opened doors or would you start telling your friends and relatives before that? If you don’t spread the word beforehand and build some excitement for the day you open, who will come to that grand opening and the days that follow? A similar concept applies to start-ups and social media campaigns for outreach. Ideally, you want to get the word out and start building some excitement before you launch so there is some traction as soon as you do go live. At the same time, you may want to hold off on activities like advertising, pay per click campaigns or going all out since you don’t want to spend on these activities until you are actually live. These are sales oriented activities, not brand building or visibility development.

An ideal time to start with social media outreach activities and building initial buzz would be a few (2-3) months in advance to the planned launch of your website/product. Too early and you may end up creating customers with nothing to sell. Too late and you could have a store open with no one that knows about it and a long road ahead to start building that awareness which is slow process in its initial days. Depending on the nature of your start-up, we would say start your outreach and community building activity just ahead of your launch so that you have had enough time to build a little rhythm with those activities so when you do launch, you’re not starting from scratch but looking to move your marketing activities to the next gear.