Thoughts on startups by investors that
fund them & entrepreneurs that run them

Startups: A Verbal Wave at Social Media Means Diddly

Startups: Investors expect new marketing. The fundamentals still apply but tools and realities are different now. If you don’t understand the broader implications of social media, content marketing, curation, engagement, and relationships, then you desperately need a great reason why not. And don’t think you can just wave your hands at it.  You have to really know it.

Here’s are some things I think every startup founder needs to keep in mind:

  • You still need to deal with marketing. Investors will expect marketing to show up in your pitch, and if they like your pitch they’ll want your business plan and marketing better be there too. Be sure to include credible target market focus, matching and synchronized product-market focus. The fundamentals still apply.
  • However, your marketing better make it clear that you really know what century and what decade we’re in; that you understand how much your customers, contacts, reviews, and relationships control your brand; that advertising is changing as quickly as anything; and that content is everywhere and curation the real power.
  • There are exceptions of course. I’ve seen startups whose product is their marketing, and that’s hugely powerful. If that’s your case, own it. If your startup is an exception to the rule, make it clear that you understand the rule(s) you’re breaking.
  • Don’t think for a second that a verbal wave at “social media” means anything anymore. I’ve seen startup founder annoy entire rooms of investors, instantly, by saying “we’re going to use social media to market this” as if that were enough. Knowing tools isn’t enough. Know why, when, and how they work, what they can do, and what they can’t do. Have strategy, tactics, and specific activities. And time and money to match.

To make this less abstract: Imagine a startup founder, standing up in a meeting room, surrounded by a couple dozen potential investors, with slides projected on the wall. When investors drill down into marketing, a wave of the hand and the simple phrase “social media” doesn’t work the way it might have five years ago. Saying “SEO” or “banner advertising” or “pay-per-click” isn’t enough, not even all these terms together. It takes a combination of focus, strategy, and tactics; a real plan.

Also: Just for the record, these various points I’m presenting here as fact, they’re really just my opinion, and I want you to know that I do know the difference. But I also know a lot of angel investors, most of those in my group, who would agree with what I’m saying.


Written by Tim Berry

user Tim Berry

Tim is the founder of Palo Alto Software and, the co-founder of Borland International, and the official business planning coach at He has been called the "Obi-wan Kenobe of business planning" and "The Father of Business Planning." He is a serial author of books and software on business planning.

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