Social media for entrepreneurs can be a confusing subject. Which platforms? Where’s your tribe? Are cat videos okay?
When trying to consider your social media strategy as an entrepreneur, you should take inspiration from Virgin founder Richard Branson. He’s been incredibly skilled at leveraging social platforms to promote Virgin’s brand and culture to a widespread and adoring audience. How does he do it? Well, it’s more straightforward than you might suspect.
He acts like a human and thinks like a businessman. What does that mean? He’s honest, funny — and strategic.
When you’re an entrepreneur, it can be impossible to disentangle your personal brand from your company’s. Branson has always been a master at leaning into the two and has managed to transfer this savvy to his social media presence. Branson authors a lot of his own blog posts. He writes not only about Virgin’s business and culture, but about charitable and cultural endeavours that interest him. The blog posts are short and loaded with photos. Branson’s ebullient personality shines through each post. This very likable and approachable persona makes the writing — and Branson himself — interesting. He also underlines the social aspect of social media. He follows thousands of people on Twitter and uses his platforms to respond to questions. He doesn’t always talk about Virgin’s products; frequently he lifts the lid on their culture and the values that fuel that culture.
I enjoy reading through my social media feeds. It’s a great way to get feedback about our goods and services, and a wonderful way to find inspiration for new ideas. Keep the comments and replies coming!
— Richard Branson
He lifted the lid on his own social media policy as well, revealing his top six tips for social media success, including the one that is probably the most important: people respond to stories, not data.
However, it’s not enough to have good content — you have to have a great strategy. This is where Branson’s business sense comes in. He repurposes his content to fit each platform, saving himself time while maximizing his reach. As befits the CEO of a global company, he republishes his content in French and Spanish. He makes use of new tools (he was an early adopter of Storify, amongst others) but limits his social media presence to the platforms where he can make a significant impact.
So, how would you move to make your social media a little more Branson-esque? Here are some ideas.
- Do it yourself. Branson tweets using his own smartphone. This is consistent with his visual leadership style and makes it authentic to the audience. Don’t strive for a corporate feel on your personal Twitter.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously. Branson is relentlessly positive and good-humoured, and the positive energy flows through his social media. He’s opinionated, but never negative. Although you should be authentic with your personality, it’s helpful to be friendly.
- Maximize your reach and update frequently. Don’t overwhelm yourself. If Twitter is the one thing you do well, stick with Twitter. If you blog, use that to fuel other social media sites. Consider Medium — we think that a well-curated and whip-smart Medium publication can be just as useful as a hosted blog. We also think that there is nothing as sad as an infrequently updated newsfeed.
- Remember, this is a conversation. Don’t expect anyone to listen to you if you aren’t listening yourself. Challenge yourself to leave a daily comment or retweet. It’ll improve your own social media.
Branson’s success as a businessman is enviable, and we can’t tell you how to become the next genius entrepreneur. However, his smart yet human social strategy is there for all of us to see.’
Cover photo by Ethan Miller.