Lauren MacewenLauren MacEwen of SM Cubed Consulting is the leading Social Media Strategist for start-ups seeking to engage an audience and educate consumers quickly. Ms. MacEwen has built brands from the bottom up with grass roots campaigns and explains to Hot Started readers why it works so much better than traditional top down advertising for most start-ups.



Grass Roots or Top Down… and Why?

Grass roots engagement is definitely the way to go for start-ups or anyone seeking to educate consumers about a new idea they may not find familiar. If you are running an established brand like Ford or Toyota there isn’t a whole lot you need to teach your potential customers and in basic terms all you are really trying to do is remind them of where they can find you and why they should choose you over other well know competitors. For that sort of marketing Top Down works very well because it can be paid for and tracked very efficiently. They know the ad spend of their television commercials, radio ads and media buys online along with the response rate being generated so it’s mostly an accounting issue to determine what’s working and where to spend next. The difference comes when you are trying to break into a market or create a new market, as is the case with most start-ups. A car maker like Tesla is gaining a lot of traction in the marketplace… and you won’t see a bunch of billboards or Superbowl commercials coming from them at this stage of their development. That comes later.

In the start-up phases of development, a brand needs to engage the consumers who are already predisposed to buying products from the existing brands they already know. Every person who buys a Tesla today is someone who would have bought a car from another large automaker if Tesla hadn’t earned their trust and convinced them to change their loyalties. That simply doesn’t happen with a 30 second spot or static full page magazine buy. Instead, thanks to social media, you can accelerate the kind of word-of-mouth campaigns that used to take years to cultivate when direct mailing and cold calling were the only tools available.

Grass roots is a great term because it is so visually accurate. Your social media campaign can be thought of as the whole lawn at once, but it’s more useful to think of each blade of grass working together to grow the territory the grass field covers. Finding cue givers and the right set of signals needed to motivate or inspire them to become evangelists for your brand is the key to quality social media marketing… and when done effectively it is exactly the right tool to bring your start-up out of the shade and into the spotlight.

 Is There One Social Media Platform That Works Best?

That’s a matter of test marketing more than anything else. Whether your customers will come from Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Weibo or wherever else is something you can only determine by approaching each user base and tracking the impact. At first your campaigns will be broad based and seek to use the various platforms to push your presence on each to the maximum number of prospective new customers. Getting beyond that initial run, once you have data you can work with, the focus of your campaigns will start shifting and tilt toward the channels that are bringing you the best ROI, but be alert because those channels change and your marketing message needs to adapt conversationally to maintain any real efficacy.

Can You Clarify What You Mean by “Adapt Conversationally”?

In social media, unlike virtually every other form of marketing, the message has to be experienced in both directions like a conversation. It’s not like a press release or radio spot where you fire it off and wait to see if it hits the target. When you engage people directly via message boards, tweets, posts and other forms of social media you need to initiate a conversation, really listen to what comes back and adapt your message to hit the sweet spot where it feels genuine to each participant and delivers your sales pitch without becoming too diluted to be effective or too ham handed to be accepted. That’s what separates the pretenders from the real social marketing mavens – it’s not the initial message, it’s the way the conversation evolves to amplify that initial message and broaden the reach of it through each participant to the people who take cues from them.


Lauren MacEwen is the President of SM Cubed Consulting and has an extensive track-record bringing new brands to market in ways that make them feel familiar, as if they have been part of your buying plans for generations. Her work has earned her a number of awards and her firm is sought after by many start-ups seeking to earn recognition quickly in crowded fields of competitors.