Should startups be present on every social media platform?

As Twitter rival Threads seems to be unraveling, Kirstie Pickering asks social media experts for their advice on what small businesses should do when there's a new kid on the block.

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In early July, Facebook and Instagram owner Mark Zuckerberg launched a new social media platform called Threads as a competitor to troubled Twitter’s short form format. Threads had over 30M sign-ups in 24 hours – but almost a month later, over half of its users have already abandoned the app.

The fickle nature of new social media platforms like Threads launching creates a strategic dilemma for startups and small businesses – should they join the bandwagon and sign up to new platforms as they launch, or should a more considered approach be taken to a business’ social media presence

Here, six experts share their thoughts on how to best approach social media strategy as a startup or small business.

Grace Duncan, head of audience growth at SCREENSHOT Media

“Gen Z is a powerful demographic for influencing consumer trends and brand popularity, so it’s no surprise that brands followed these much-coveted young users as they took to Threads in droves in the platform’s first few days. 

“But Gen Zers are also exhausted by the present multitude of social media platforms. The initial hype around Threads died incredibly fast as users grew frustrated with a user experience lacking many features they’d become accustomed to and realised that conversations they wanted to be part of were for the most part carrying on elsewhere. 

“Brands might be tempted to chase user numbers, but there’s more they need to take into account: if a new platform is largely replicating another that already exists, what will it do differently to attract and retain users? If it’s doing something new, does it have a clear reason for existing, related to what a given audience actually wants to do online? Will the platform even be accessible in all relevant markets? Threads is not compliant with EU regulatory standards. 

“If the answer is no, and they’re not seeing significant changes to their engagement on existing platforms – and unless their most important audience is actively engaging in huge numbers immediately – there’s probably merit in companies claiming their username to protect their brand, then watching and waiting to see how network effects and user sentiment evolve as the new platform beds in.”

Nick Swan, founder of SEOTesting

“As a startup, social media is an incredibly effective tool to boost brand awareness, reach and visibility – all of which are tied to leads and sales. However, choosing which social media platforms to be present on is more nuanced. 

“As a founder, you need to develop an in-depth understanding of your target audience and demographic. Put yourself in their shoes, research various platforms (including advertising opportunities) and decide which ones are most appropriate for your business. You will also need to consider the varying tone of voice on each platform – repeating the same messaging across multiple platforms is unlikely to produce the desired results.

“The dramatic decline in Threads users serves as a timely warning to businesses – particularly startups – that adopt a wait-and-see mentality, rather than trying to attach to the newest trend as soon as possible, is sometimes a wiser approach. Threads simply hasn’t been around long enough for brands to understand it and some industry heavyweights have ended up with egg on their faces. 

“Startups don’t have the same leeway and margin for error, so I would recommend adopting a patience approach, developing an understanding of the platform and, if suitable, joining the platform at a later date with an effective, precise and proven strategy.”

Sinead Lambe, associate director at Imagen Insights

“As a startup focused on Gen Z, we’ve found it vital to explore all social platforms as and when they launch as you never know how much they are going to explode. 

“You don’t want to be on the back foot when it comes to keeping up with trends and emerging social platforms because ultimately you’ll be left behind. Whether Threads takes off or plummets, we need a presence to ensure we stay in-tune with the industry and with younger demographics.

“If you are a startup brand aimed at a particular age demographic, for example, then make sure you have a presence where your consumers are. When joining new social platforms, it’s vital to stay true to your brand tone of voice. Your style may vary platform to platform, but ultimately your brand should be recognisable on whichever social media you are showing up on.”

Hayley Knight, co-founder of BE YELLOW

“We don’t think that businesses need to be on all platforms. It can dilute messages and it is timely developing content and maintaining multiple platforms. It is more valuable to focus on building a couple of platforms that are going to benefit your business.

“We have chosen LinkedIn and Instagram as they give us the best of both worlds for our business. LinkedIn allows us to create a strong network, and share articles and company updates that appeal to potential clients and investors. LinkedIn also provides businesses with lots of opportunities around exposure and support and it’s great to be able to utilise this in order to grow. Instagram helps us to show the visual and creative side of our business, as well as our personalities.”

Rhea Freeman, PR adviser and social media expert

“It can be really overwhelming when trying to decide which social media platforms to be on, but the key is to focus your energy on where your target customers are. If you know the age of your audience, that’s a huge step, as something like TikTok, for example, is more popular with younger people.

“It’s important, in my opinion, to start with one or two platforms, and then build on these when you feel confident. Each platform has its own quirks, and trying to learn them all at the same time won’t help you. You also need to work out what’s working on each platform and try and test this, and it’s a lot easier to have one or two at a time.

“I really like the new Threads app and I think the way it integrates into Instagram makes it really easy to open an account and start sharing content, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed then it might not be one to start now. 

“That said, if you’re thinking of getting on it at any time, opening and starting to use your account now could give you an early adopter advantage as it’s much easier to grow and engage with key people when the number of monthly active users is still relatively small. If it wasn’t a new platform, I would be saying look at it along with all the others as part of an overall plan – the only difference here is the early adopter advantage.”

Jane Griffin, founder and director at Positive Story

“I set up my business in February 2021 during Covid. Getting my business seen and heard is very important and social media plays a big part in helping me get my messages across to my ideal clients. 

“I think there’s pressure on start-ups to be everywhere at once (which I tried to do at first), but I’ve found that my core audience is on LinkedIn, which is where I now direct most of my efforts. I also have a presence on Twitter, which is useful for staying in touch with journalists and keeping up with the latest stories. Instagram is a nice-to-have for me but hasn’t brought me any work. 

“I did look at Threads, but wasn’t sure it would benefit me without spending a huge amount of time on it. Social media has huge benefits, but my advice is not to get sucked into all the different platforms and just to focus on one or two where your ideal clients hang out.”

Further reading:

Mid shot of Kirstie Pickering freelance journalist.
Kirstie Pickering - business journalist

Kirstie is a freelance journalist writing in the tech, startup and business spaces for publications including Sifted, TNW, UKTN, The Business Magazine and Maddyness UK. She also works closely with agencies such as CEW Communications to develop content for their startup and scaleup clients.

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