An entrepreneur’s guide to social media marketing

Jonathan Yabut
An entrepreneur’s guide to social media marketing
Building a new business but have little or zero budget to market your product? The Apprentice Asia Winner, Jonathan Yabut, gives a social media 101 to kickstart your “business” at practically zero cost

The most buzzing trend in the corporate world these days is entrepreneurship. With so many success stories of the young and old, we have not seen a period in time when everything seemed possible (and can be monetized!). Start-ups, which allow you to book the nearest taxi, or invite the person nearest to you for a date, now pop up like mushrooms left and right. Many food and clothing stores, which were previously limited to brick-and-mortar stores are now flourishing thanks to e-commerce. 

Selling is not only easier – advertising and promotions have become more convenient and cheaper too. Entrepreneurs, who will usually find themselves scavenging for money for next month’s payroll of their employees (I’m sure you’re nodding your head now if you are one!), celebrate this with the widest smile that reach up to their ears. Promoting your product or service through Facebook or Twitter is practically free, but the catch is to use it smartly and strategically.

If you’re a budding entrepreneur who only discovered the wonders of social media for your business recently, here are 5 crash course tips for you:

1. Create the basics, and commit to a content plan

Create Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts for starters. Ensure you use the same company or brand name (this may sound so simple, but many miss out on this), the same logo (always use high resolution please), and same company description for consistency and easy recall of customers. Once you’re done, connect to the lowest hanging fruit – your own personal network (friends, relatives, loved ones, including that old neighbor of yours you’ve been ignoring on Facebook but now is your potential customer). Require or beg them (asking once won’t do the trick) to share, retweet, and repost about your site to the universe you will never have access to: their own personal networks. This is where you start growing your network.

Keeping your social media accounts alive and active may be tedious but it’s all about content planning. Your product and the industry you belong to should give you an idea on what kind of posts you should be focusing on. Content usually come in 3 types:

  • A promotion (example: Retweet this message and get a chance to win free tickets to a concert!)
  • A shareable third-party information (example: if you’re a travel agency, repost an article shared by Trip Advisor about the Top 10 Countries to visit in 2014)
  • Your own, organic information (example: if you’re a reseller of concert tickets, remind your customers about other means of contacting you: “Got queries or suggestions? We’re also on twitter @ticketplanet!”)

Stay committed to a content plan like you have been married to someone. Trust me, it may be exciting to post on the first few weeks, but it can get dragging after a while. Create a calendar if you must, and follow it. This is not a diet plan, so please don’t cheat.

2. Post smart, not hard

It’s not the volume, but the quality of posts that will keep your customers engaged. Posting 10 times on Facebook or Instagram may turn away your followers as you’ll be as irritating like other advertisements so keep it to a maximum of two or 3. Be smart with your timing. Post during the most strategic times when customers are checking online. Based on studies, we check our social media accounts in the morning before work (8-10 AM), after work (5-7 PM) and before we sleep (9-11 PM).  Posting during dead times will only bury your post to the bottom of the stack!

Some users schedule a dedicated category of posts on specific days. For example, try executing a “Monday Madness Sale” that offers discount vouchers only on Mondays (and redeemable on the same night or within the week). This will effectively make your customers look forward to discounts every Monday announced via Facebook or Twitter – and yes, it might just make your customers spend more on a Tuesday or Wednesday which are usually the off-peak periods. Be careful not to raise free-riders though, you don’t want customers who just love you purely for discounts!

Now, let’s say you’ve successfully made a Facebook fanpage for your cupcake business. If you want your customers to see your posts more often, you need to make them “like” or “comment” on your posts more often too. Here’s why: Facebook’s newsfeed intelligence works on a basic rule: higher interaction = higher visibility. Popularity begets more popularity and a trend begets a stronger trend.  The more popular your post is (ex. more “likes”, more “comments”), the more likely it will be displayed again and again on your followers’ newsfeeds. Conversely, a customer will likely see a post from your Fanpage if he keeps on engaging your fanpage (she comments on your posts, she “likes” your posts, or even chats with you on Facebook Messenger for customer concerns). If you’re wondering why you’re rarely seeing the posts of a friend, this is one of those reasons – you’re likely not interacting on Facebook. Keep your customers engaged on Facebook and they will surely see you on their newsfeeds.

3. Take advantage of online influencers

You will never build a massive base of followers on social media alone. No matter how much you tweet or post, you can still end up with 10 followers for months. You need the “powers” of the online gods and goddesses to rub off on you. Try getting popular bloggers, online gurus, and Youtube celebrities who can endorse your brand.

My bestfriend Gie owns House of Sunnies (HOS), a start-up company with 2 employees (she and an assistant) which sells high-end sunglasses. As she needed more publicity, she approached Lolita Perez, a famous fashion Instagrammmer to post photos of herself (with Gie’s sunnies). Gie gave Lolita a free pair of Gucci in exchange. Lolita also posted a link to HOS’s instagram account. In three days, HOS acquired 300 new followers and a dozen of inquiries. Bartering is the name of the game for most online influencers. In exchange for a tweet or a post, offer them your product or service: food, clothing, fashion accessories, skin or dental services, transportation, and maybe even anti-termite services! And how do you contact them? You don’t need to go to their manager (most of these guys manage themselves!) – a simple tweet, e-mail or direct message won’t hurt. If they like what you offer, they will surely negotiate next!

Online influencers aren’t just people – they can be brands too. Partner up with established companies and convince them to do a Twitter or Facebook promo with your product as a prize (demand for your logo to be largely visible on the Facebook post…and ask that your Facebook page be also linked). They will likely do this to refresh and engage their followers (people will always bite on anything that’s free). Are you that start-up company selling luxury organic baby lotion? Pitch it to baby product companies that aren’t your competitors but talk to the same audience – diaper companies, baby food companies, milk companies. Be clear with that you are proposing and offering (if you give this to them, then say that you expect this in return) before you invite the brand managers for a meeting. Give them samples of your product too.

4. Keep your enemies closer

Everyone is on social media, including your competitors. This is good news for you as you get free spying service. How many followers on Instagram does your competitor have? Does your competitor get a lot of customer complaints on Twitter? Then it’s time that you highlight you have better customer service on social media. Did Larry’s Laundromat down the block just announce that they will close next week due to store renovations? Then maybe next week too is the right time for you to offer customers free trial service (and steal Larry’s clients). From time to time, check the Facebook or Twitter accounts of your competitor (better yet, follow their accounts) and get notifications on what they’re doing – everyday.

5. Understand your customers better

In my opinion, the most beautiful thing about online channels is that they are measurable. You can measure your visitors’ age, gender, location, time of visit, etc. instantly! In contrast, you can’t measure your customers easily if you’re selling clothes and accessories in a mall. Take advantage of this feature because it can lead you to where more money is.

If you’ve managed a Facebook fanpage before, you will notice that the site gives you a breakdown of how many people “liked” or commented on a post. This gives you an idea which information are popular. For example, digital natives prefer seeing photos and videos to text. If you have a text post, accompany that text with an image and you’ll see a dramatic difference. Don’t write a novel in your posts, keep it short and sweet – something that we can finish reading while doing other tasks (like cooking or doing number two in the washroom). Remember, you’re just one of the hundreds or thousands of people they’re seeing everyday on Facebook and Twitter so work hard to get through that clutter! You need to stand out!

You will also see which type of people visit your site the most. Did you notice that you’re getting a lot of comments and posts from City X? Maybe you should sell more in that city. Confused why there are more males versus females commenting on your posts? Maybe that female perfume you’re selling is becoming a bestseller gift among males – you should talk to them more. Always keep score. Check the numbers, smell where the money is coming from, and follow where it goes. You will start realizing that marketing is also a science, not just art.

These are just the basics and we are barely scratching the surface. There are so many things to learn (and take advantage of) with social media. Repeat what works, and avoid what doesn’t. Shamelessly steal best practices from other people, and customize them for your business. Commitment will be taxing, but is surely worth the effort. Good luck and may you be the next Pinoy entrepreneur who will make it big! –


Jonathan Yabut is the winner of the hit reality business TV show, The Apprentice Asia, and was popularly known in the show for his people skills, leadership and passionate speeches in the “boardroom.” He is currently based in Kuala Lumpur as the Chief of Staff of AirAsia reporting to Malaysian business mogul, Tony Fernandes. Apart from work, he engages in motivational talks about youth, leadership and entrepreneurship across Southeast Asia and is represented by the London Speaker Bureau. Jonathan is the author of the book, From Grit to Great. You may order your copy via

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