For many inventors, the prospect of using social media in a business context gives them pause. It feels “salesy,” and their previous experience as a regular user of social media has probably involved getting contacted by overly zealous, if not entirely shady, salespeople and con artists alike.
But, I want to emphasize that using social media as a business doesn’t have to feel shifty. Indeed, it can be very rewarding if you actually have a product you believe in!
Social media is just a tool in your tool belt, and it’s the best kind of tool—a free tool. It allows you to generate exposure, build engagement, and foster community around your product, business, or passion (which, in an inventor’s case, will organically dovetail somehow with their invention).
It’s very easy to fall into a few social media traps or fallacies, though. These pitfalls include toxicity (both giving and receiving), overload leading to burnout from too many accounts, not using social media correctly, or being on the wrong platforms.
My big advice on social media is: don’t be rude, don’t be negative, and don’t be a “calendar account.” That’s my term for folks who only promote themselves on social media, often with posts like “new video,” “new podcast episode,” and “new graphic tee with promo code.”
Instead of using social media that way, like other people’s posts. Comment on them. Say nice things to and about folks you may even see as competition. Social media is a place to be friendly and engaging—that’s how you engage with customers, investors, or licensees! Think of it as work. Put in an hour a day (or hire someone to do just that) to post, comment, like, and share as a business rather than how you likely normally behave on social media as a typical user.
The best way to minimize (you can’t eliminate) toxicity, in addition to being friendly, is to be genuine, sincere, and transparent. People don’t like being engaged by obvious salespeople pretending to be their friends or acquaintances.
If you initiate any conversation with a blatant agenda, people will put up a mental barrier. After all, isn’t that what you would do in their position? Indeed, haven’t you done this numerous times in your life when someone comes across as toxic, shallow, or opportunistic?
Be sincere… you’re selling more than your product; you’re selling yourself as a genuine person.
Without further ado, these are the social media platforms you should consider for your invention or business.
The Best Social Media For Inventors
LinkedIn has 3 kinds of people on it:
- People looking for a job or looking for employees (which could be your only familiarity with it).
- People who are actively trying to sell something in a cold-caller manner (which is the biggest pitfall you can wind up in on this platform).
- People who want to network with other businesses… like a B2B social media platform. THIS is what you’re shooting for.
LinkedIn is ideal if you’re seeking a licensing deal or if your invention falls more into the B2B category.
But jumping right into sending direct messages to businesses you think will take your idea to the next level is an easy way to fall into the overly-salesy, if not downright suspicious, camp. If you are overzealous or don’t put in any effort to cultivate a relationship with these folks, not only will you not close any
agreements or arrange any meetings… You could wind up blacklisted as a very difficult person to deal with.
The key phrase here is “cultivate a relationship.” All social media is about networking—about mutual benefits stemming from mutual respect. Get to know the people you’re interested in working with. Have a service mindset and don’t just jump right into a pitch.
SmartPitch creator Benjamin Harrison has a great book on utilizing LinkedIn with this very goal in mind called Licensing Ideas using LinkedIn. He did not pay me to say that!
Sometimes, a video says everything. And with short attention spans, a very short (e.g., under a minute) video can show a customer everything they need to know to make a decision on whether they’d be happier with a lighter wallet and that product in their possession.
TikTok is great for promoting products where showing, not telling, is the best approach. Instagram used to be picture-oriented like Pinterest (more on that in a minute), but with TikTok’s meteoric rise, short-form video has become the most promoted content on Instagram, and to a lesser extent, Facebook and YouTube as well.
YouTube is unique among platforms because, while they encourage short-form content, you can post in-depth long-form content as well. I personally recommend putting any videos related to your (protected) product on YouTube and putting anything unprotected as a private or unlisted video to potentially share with licensees or investors. If these videos are few or far between, don’t treat it like a social account. Treat it like a garage to store long-form video content!
Does your product benefit from imagery but need a little more verbiage to explain it? Pinterest contains boards that can show more in-depth details with pictures and supplemental text. Pinterest is also very geared towards a female demographic, so if your product is oriented towards girls or women, Pinterest is likely a strong contender for your focus. Their algorithm is very prone to change, so be very aware of what the platform wants you to post in order to maximize exposure.
Facebook has elements of TikTok and Instagram, but also allows groups to collaborate on information. Facebook was originally for college students, but of late, the demographics have dramatically shifted more towards Baby Boomers. If your product demographic is more oriented toward this generation, you should strongly consider posting content on Facebook via both personal and business page accounts and possibly even creating a Facebook group.
There’s a Reddit for everything. And I really mean everything. It’s truly mind-blowing how many communities exist there. Have a product just for people who brew tea from cast-iron teapots? There’s a subreddit for that. If fostering a community is your biggest focus, Reddit can be ideal. Be careful, though. The users treat posts that feel like ads or come across as “astroturfed” with derision and outrage—and with good reason! Like with every other platform, being genuine and transparent while trying to foster relationships is essential.
Twitter is my least-recommended platform for most inventors, as it’s more about sharing ideas via text and the occasional image. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s not very business-oriented. The saving grace of Twitter is that you can really embody and personify a brand if you’re clever with text. Wendy’s has really knocked it out of the park by rebranding their social media as a snarky, clever account that “roasts” other fast-food chains and naysaying customers alike in a sporting, all-in-good-fun manner. That’s a difficult task, and I encourage outsourcing to a professional tweet-creator if you’re not so great at open-mic nights.
Sometimes the smaller platforms are the best. This goes triple if your customer base is strongly conservative, as most alt-tech sites (which I won’t name, but a simple Google search can tell you a lot) tend to curry a lot of favor with politically conservative folks as well as people with an interest in agriculture, firearms, fitness, and supplements (both bodybuilding and medicinal). These sites are to be strongly considered if you have a very patriotic product or anything in the aforementioned categories. Exercise caution, though… having a public account on such sites can carry a stigma among customers who are averse to all these categories.
Forums aren’t really social media, but I feel that they need a special mention. Forums are for in-depth and complicated discussion on topics and concepts in a specific field. They are like Reddit on steroids for certain interests. Which means they can be amazing for all the positives social media carries, but expressly for your invention or idea and with a pre-existing community!
If you have a fish filter invention, get on those aquarium or fish owner forums. If you have a unique composting bin, go to a homestead or gardening forum. Take care not to disclose or divulge protected information, but be well acquainted with these communities, as they may help garner the attention and feedback you need to grow and succeed as an inventor!
In conclusion, social media gives back what you put into it, but with diminishing returns. I recommend two platforms for your business needs, and if you feel comfortable spiraling outward, feel free to do so at your own leisure and risk assessment.