It can be tempting to draw inspiration from the biggest names in your field, but when it comes to marketing you need a completely different playbook for start-up social media.

There is no rulebook when it comes to promoting a business on social media, for good reason. Every organisation has different needs and a diverse audience, so hard-and-fast rules wouldn’t work for the vast majority of companies. However, that doesn’t stop many small businesses drawing inspiration from the major firms in their sector.

While this might seem like a good idea – big businesses wouldn’t be where they are if they didn’t know how to market themselves, after all – it can actually be a huge mistake. You will struggle to grow a social media audience using these methods, and might even end up losing followers. But why is this?

A lot of humour depends on pre-existing brand identity

You’ll have seen plenty of occasions where big brands have used humour on their social media accounts, some of which can be fairly antagonistic. US fast-food chain Wendy’s, for example, is well-known for “roasting” people on Twitter with humorous insults. However, this isn’t something small businesses can get away with.

While poking fun at yourself can be a good tactic to win followers, roasting people online only works for Wendy’s because it’s so well-known as a family institution. A large part of the humour comes from the fact that it has built its brand identity around this, so you wouldn’t expect it to opt for funny insults. Without this identity, you’ll just come across as mean.

Big business and start-up social media have different objectives

Even if you opt for less controversial tactics, it’s still not a great idea to copy big businesses on social media for the simple reason that their objectives are so different to yours. For example, when you first start out you’ll probably want to focus on growing a following. But industry behemoths like IBM or Microsoft don’t have to worry about that; who hasn’t heard of them at this stage?

Instead, their online marketing will focus on growing advocacy, promoting specific products and building a community of users. These are great long-term tactics once you’ve established your presence, but not when you’re growing and still need to get your name out there.

Paid ads form the backbone of many big business campaigns

The advantage of being an industry leader is that you have plenty of money to throw around. On social media, this usually translates to promoted posts and paid ads, which can be great uses of your money. However, if you’re just starting out it’s not going to be the best financial option for you, especially when there are so many ways of growing a following organically.

For Start-up social media, posting regularly on social networks and sharing your opinion on relevant trending topics can do more to grow your following than paid adverts can, and at no cost besides your time. You can switch your focus to paid tactics when you have a significant audience already.

Found these suggestions helpful? Check out our blog for a range of useful hints and tips to improve your social media marketing campaigns!