Ask an expert: Karen Schulman Dupuis

Ask an expert: Karen Schulman Dupuis

In the first instalment of Ask an expert, Angelo Casanas interviews Karen Schulman Dupuis, manager of digital communications at MaRS, who shares her perspective on social media.

Welcome to the very first instalment of Ask an expert, a blog series that seeks to address common mistakes entrepreneurs make in their business ventures. The main purpose of this blog series is to prepare startups for the “major leagues” with the help of the best players in the industry, MaRS advisors. From finance to human resources, each post will tackle a different subject and provide expert advice and profound insights that only MaRS advisors can deliver.

For this inaugural post, Karen Schulman Dupuis was asked to share her views about the use of social media in business ventures. A self-proclaimed cultivator of relationships and curator of dialogue, Karen has a dozen years of experience working in the telecom industry and in digital technology. Served in three parts, here’s what MaRS’ social media guru had to say.

What is a common mistake entrepreneurs make when it comes to the use of social media?

They don’t start! In startups, entrepreneurs have to do all the work, which entails having one person in charge of sales, operations, human resources, et cetera, and adding another skill set is a daunting thing. Because of the scarcity in manpower, business owners simply don’t start [using social media]. Being overwhelmed, entrepreneurs choose to do nothing rather than start something.

What happens when companies don’t use social media?

It is important for companies to have an online presence now that social media has become a part of our social construct in the way we do business. In the past, people would find it obscene if companies didn’t have a phone number. Nowadays people ask, “What do you mean you mean you don’t have a website?” or “What do you mean you don’t have a Facebook page?” [Companies] need to go to the avenues where people are looking for them regardless of whether they’re in a B2B, B2C or C2C market. If you want to reach a broader audience, you need to have a presence on a platform where they’re comfortable finding you.

What should startups do instead?

Startups should choose a platform they’re comfortable with as a start. They should first educate themselves and plan accordingly. Companies don’t have to be on every platform at the same time. Startups can be present on one platform and do it well. Plan it in stages, as you would with any business plan, and set targets to move your business forward. Incorporating other platforms can then come later.

In my opinion, Twitter is the most accessible platform in social media where the learning curve is small. Applications such as HootSuite and TweetDeck are environments where you can share videos and pictures and garner feedback from your audience. I’d highly recommend that startups start with Twitter.

Always remember, however, that you don’t own your message. Once you have your message out there, it becomes a dialogue. Companies have used social media in a traditional push strategy, which you shouldn’t do because it’s not social and you’re just screaming at people! The whole point of being on a social media platform is to provide value for your audience and let them provide you with value as well; it should be a mutual relationship.

For further information about social media and your startup, check out these great MaRS resources: