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David Dunlap

Content Flow: Flexible and Creative Strategic Thinking For Startup Success

David Dunlap
Content Flow: Flexible and Creative Strategic Thinking For Startup Success

At this point the word “startup” could be the most prolific buzzword of our time, something that the hit HBO series “Silicon Valley” is capitalizing on currently. The show’s protagonists are struggling to get their compression algorithm company, Pied Piper, off the ground. Their latest roadblock was being blacklisted by Hooli and denied service from their cloud hosting partners (something, for the record, SingleHop would never do!). Running a business – especially a bootstrapped startup with an eccentric investor/partner – is a challenge that requires many swift changes in both judgement and direction, which is why we believe in explaining the importance of flexibility to every customer.

The call for flexibility in the startup game is one of the reasons we give users both the ability to scale their cloud resources rapidly in the event that their new cat video goes viral, or their compression algorithm wins TechCrunch Disrupt, or even if both happen in the same day. Customers also have the capability to scale down quickly if they need to save on costs. Flexibility in all aspects of business can be an entrepreneur’s greatest asset, and may one day keep your startup afloat. In the digital age, startups must remain agile and be able to do everything at once, whether or not that is a realistic expectation. This includes building a cohesive and authentic brand identity that can actively engage customers in fluid and fast moving online conversations.

Create Brand Presence

The first step to creating an effective brand presence is determining your target audience, followed closely by strategizing how best to reach them. If you create a hard marketing push on Twitter but your audience uses Google+ (some people do!), you’re going to be spending a lot of time and resources spinning your wheels. Using Google and tools like SEMrush and BuzzSumo, you can quickly and effectively locate where your target audience lives online, along with what topics have been catching their interest and sparking engaging discussions. Being flexible about meeting your customers where they are puts you on the fast track to joining the conversation and positioning yourself as a thought leader in your industry.

Once you have found your audience and know how to connect with them, the real work begins. Engaging your audience can be challenging, requiring multiple strategies that demand you to change and grow with the community. Using a mix of social media to promote original and genuinely insightful blog content can be a winning strategy. Monitor the trends of conversations in your communities and be flexible enough to deviate from a proposed course of action if the opportunity arises. A perfect example of a company displaying lightning fast reflexes and content flexibility is Oreo, with their “Dunk in the Dark” Super Bowl tweet. The Oreo team used a simple, unscheduled tweet to capitalize on what their community was discussing at the time, effectively redirecting the conversation back onto the Oreo brand. Utilizing unconventional and constantly evolving content strategies allows you to stay on top of current conversations and positions you to shape those conversations to achieve your marketing goals.

About Thought Leaders

Every brand wants to become, and thinks of themselves as, thought leaders. To actually earn thought leadership in a community you have to be willing to grow and learn with the community, and that includes admitting that you don’t know everything. Utilizing the unorthodox strategy of promoting external content, even competing content, can be a challenging strategy for a business to comprehend.

Sharing content that will actually inform, educate and improve your target community will position you as a broker of knowledge, a trusted source who can see past immediate marketing benefits and share great content with the people whose trust you want to earn. One of the best ways to earn trust in a community is to build others up as thought leaders by sharing their content. The benefit here is twofold: you are viewed as a trusted mouthpiece for excellent insights and the influencer you helped create is now hopefully a loyal supporter of your brand. A good way to test the waters with this strategy is to share external content through the more short-lived social channels.

Tweets have a very short shelf-life and can gain enough traction to prove that sharing external content can be leveraged to gain trust in the marketplace.

While acknowledging that excellent content can be created by other parties is of strategic importance, it is also necessary to create internal content that can provide new data and insights into your industry. Once you convince your target audience to trust your expert eye for content, you want to be able to back that up with some knockout pieces of your own. That’s why we have been tapping some the best and brightest minds at SingleHop to write posts about everything from our cloud server architecture to our workplace culture, complete with office yoga.

We have a lot of experts across multiple fields and we want to share their knowledge to help grow our online community. Looking to your team and positioning them as experts on your company blog is perhaps the best way to humanize your brand and give your target audience a glimpse behind the curtain at the extraordinary men and women who make your team and product exceptional.

Learning how to find your brand’s voice is as much art as it is science. No matter what channels you use to communicate with your audience, your voice should reflect the culture that your company has built.

If you are an agile startup, play to your strengths and talk about how rapid prototyping has helped you to solve design challenges in record time. If you are a giant corporation, highlight outstanding individuals as your best asset to help show the human side of your brand. Keeping an eye on community discussions and bringing flexibility to everything you do is an important part of making sure you stay at the top of your game, whether you are creating a compression algorithm that received a Weissman Score of 5.2, or coding the world’s best new to-do list. Crafting a brand voice through blogging and social media interaction is often challenging, but you can be rewarded with amazing exposure and an army of vocal brand loyalists shouting your praises.

Do you have any additional advice about branding a startup online? Please share it in the comments!

David Dunlap serves as the Director of Marketing at SingleHop, a cloud hosting provider based in Chicago, IL. He manages the day-to-day operations of SingleHop's media pushes and content publications including the SingleHop Think IT blog. David is an outspoken champion of cloud computing and the opportunity it presents web hosts in the constantly evolving world of digital infrastructure.

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