Startups come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, have varying amounts of starting capital, and generally set out with completely different goals. But there’s one thing all startups have in common regardless of their industry: a 24-hour time limit on each day. The fact of the matter is, if you want to achieve hyper-productivity, you need to start by learning how to properly budget your time.

In a world where the entrepreneurial “grind” is the latest flavor of the day, it’s important to keep in mind that having a razor-sharp work ethic doesn’t always mean you’re operating at full productivity. Working 16 hours a day trying to redesign the logo on your blog is a lot less productive than spending 2 hours trying to generate new leads.

Of course, it’s impossible to talk about productivity without bringing up the age-old concept of multi-tasking. While multi-tasking is a major productivity sap to the majority of people, there’s one exception everyone can take advantage of: Instagram.

Instagram Makes Multitasking Productive for Everyone

The reason Instagram works so well for early stage marketing is that it allows you to kill two birds with one stone. Without a strong brand image, you can’t expect advertising efforts to carry any weight with your targeted audience—and that’s where Instagram starts to truly shine.

Instagram helps you develop your brand’s image by connecting you directly with your audience and allowing you to create extremely targeted ads. In short, Instagram allows you to learn about your audience, cater your content to their interests, measure their response, test new content, and optimize your results.

The Inherent Disconnect Between Brand Image and Advertising

Making the most of your marketing experts starts by understanding the difference between brand image and advertising. These days, most all of the social media giants allow users to create marketing campaigns and boost their exposure through scalable, targeted advertisements. But getting your products in front of a few thousand people doesn’t mean anything unless they take action.

For established companies with large, engaged audiences, successful marketing typically boils down to the content and scope of the ads themselves. On the other hand, when you’re struggling to find your target audience and generate the right engagement, being able to interact with individuals on a user-by-user basis is paramount. Instagram fights the inherent disconnect between your brand’s image and ad content by allowing you to build engagement while simultaneously reaching new users.

Building Up Your Brand with Instagram
Instagram’s unique feature set gives businesses the ability to create natural engagement by reaching out to their audiences directly. Liking and commenting on user-posted content is a great way to increase exposure and make your brand feel significantly more personable.

If you’re struggling to attract followers, reaching out to someone from the long list of famous influencers on Instagram significantly expands your audience, helps you target your niche, and bakes trust directly into your brand. When someone hears about the benefits of your product from someone they know and trust, your product gets a huge boost in authenticity.

Why Instagram Works for Advertising

Everyone knows having an Instagram profile is good for your brand’s image, but can you really expect your ads to break through people’s feeds? The fact of the matter is, advertising on Instagram is getting pretty hard to beat.

From a sheer exposure standpoint, Instagram has a massive amount of daily users and is only continuing to grow. This results in profiles with huge follower counts and increased activity on Instagram’s Explore page. In short, more users means more followers, more followers means more post engagement, and more post engagement results in more opportunities to go viral.

Aside from trying to get your content in the right places naturally, Instagram also allows you to run paid ads and reach a massive amount of users regardless of your follower count (for a relatively affordable price).

Get the Best Metrics Early On

What’s better, advertising to 1,000,000 that don’t care about your product and won’t end up buying it, or advertising to 100 extremely interested users that are likely going to convert into paid customers? The point is, you shouldn’t be over-advertising to people that aren’t going to end up taking action. If you want to be efficient in your advertising efforts, you need to focus on getting the best metrics.

Fortunately, Instagram makes it easy to get in-depth metrics about your posts by allowing anyone to convert their normal profile into a business account—free of charge. Switching your profile over allows you to measure your posts against each other, determine the best posting times, track your calls to action, and better target your marketing efforts.

The Basics of Natural Growth

If you’re ready to start generating natural growth, try converting over to a business profile and experimenting with different posting habits. Successful advertising revolves around creating captivating content for your audience. Frequency of posting doesn’t really matter if nobody wants to engage with your content in the first place. Start by identifying your target audience, figuring out their interests, and crafting content they can identify with.

Always respond to comments on your posts, and never be afraid to reach out to other users. Interacting with other users on Instagram both directly engages potential customers and increases the visibility of your brand.

On a similar note, asking content creators to help you out in exchange for free product is a great way to start building up your brand image. Depending on who you find, there’s a high probability they’re looking to build up their portfolio and would be happy to help you build out great advertising content. Creativity is a collaborative process, and getting your product in the hands of others allows you to take a fresh, unexpected angle on some of your content. If taking photos isn’t your thing, working with creatives on Instagram can help you build an extensive library of content without needing to search for a professional photographer.

Instagram streamlines the process of developing your brand’s image and translating it into a successful marketing campaign. Creating engaging, user-specific content is your ticket to converting followers into customers.

It’s no secret that many companies and corporations operate very inefficiently. And to some extent, they can’t help it. Even if a higher-up figures out how to make one of their operations more efficient, oftentimes they can’t actually implement the solution due to the shear investment it takes to move a huge company over to brand new process.

Fortunately, the startup landscape is very different. The beauty of working at a startup is your ability to transform the workspace with ease. There’s no need to be constrained to the paradigms developed over the past decades by the megacorporation’s of the world – most of the time they aren’t even applicable for what you are trying to accomplish.

You can instead plan out and implement a strategy that will both optimize efficiency and be adaptable as you continue to grow your team.

Learn How to Evaluate Efficiency

The starting point for improving your team’s efficiency is being able to properly evaluate your work output.

The most common shortcoming here is the overreliance on “the hour,” or the notion that work output should be based solely on units of time. The tendency to cling to the idea of “output per hour” is strong because it’s what many people are used to. While this might make sense in a situation like a factory, where workers will be producing a certain number of widgets over a given time span, the work you’ll find yourself doing at a startup will go far beyond that and may not even be quantifiable.

The type of creative work and problem solving required to tackle the many challenges you face daily simply can’t be put into terms of how much you accomplished in an hour. Instead, a good approach is to utilize the principle of a mission.

Using Missions to Establish Achievable Goals

Everyone is already familiar with the idea of a mission statement, and developing one is routine in creating a pitch or business plan. This should encapsulate what your goal is for the startup as a whole. But when it comes to being productive, the idea of having a mission can be slightly adapted.

Instead of relying on the grand mission statement, a mission can be put in place for each separate focus of your startup. Or if you are far enough along to have multiple teams, a mission would be established for each individual team. You can essentially ask yourself, “What do I need this team or group of people to accomplish,” or “What type of output do I want to see from this specific group of people.”

Simply putting in time doesn’t work at a startup. If you want to breed an efficient work environment, it’s a good idea to shift the culture of your startup towards focusing more on what is actually getting accomplished. With an underlying mission in mind, each team member knows what they are supposed to be doing when they start working each day. Every action they do can be put into terms of how much closer they are to accomplishing the goal, and the focus is shifted away from the length of their timecard. Running down the clock may work when employees can hide among a sea of hundreds or thousands, but with a startup, you want your employees’ sole focus to be how their actions are working to accomplish a task.

Iterating on Your Mission

Transitioning to a goal oriented system better allows you to determine which strategies are more effective in bringing your team closer to reaching their desired result. As with any task, there will be strategies that will be successful as well as ones that will fall short. By fostering communication and getting feedback from each team member, you’ll be more equipped to determine which strategies work and which ones don’t. Startup-wide communication is the key to efficient work.

Your goals will most assuredly change over time, and communication is also helpful for formulating future ambitions. If one team was able to accomplish their goal of increasing sales by 50% over a 3 month period, they will probably have some ideas about continuing their successful strategy and further optimizing for even better results. Documenting successful strategies will be helpful down the road and allows you to develop repeatable frameworks that breed success at future teams.

Establishing Your Core Values

At the end of the day, the power of having established core values can’t be understated. If your employees are passionate about the startup, they will be passionate about doing any work that makes it better. After all, ideally everything will be structured in a way that ties into the overarching goal of pushing your startup forward.

If someone is given the task of working with marketing to help increase the adoption of your new technology, the benefit of completing that task for the company as a whole should be immediately apparent. As a result, if the person undertaking that task is passionate about pushing the startup forward, they will also be passionate about doing everything they can to get the job done.

If there are inefficiencies that pop up in the work flow, it’s your responsibility to iron them out. If you want to build an efficient workflow, you and your team members must strive for things like accountability, integrity, and execution. Additionally, remove the possibility for excuses. Asking for help is encouraged, but missing a deadline and coming up with an excuse isn’t.

The specific values that you strive for, which will make up the culture of your workplace, will obviously differ depending on the type workplace you are trying to create. Regardless of which qualities you prioritize, you should understand that they will have a drastic effect on how the members of your team get work done. With the right culture, it’s easy to have a highly efficient team without having an overbearing and stressful work atmosphere.

If you’ve spent some time searching for hires, you might have yourself convinced that the perfect employee doesn’t exist. It’s understandable —finding a person who is proficient in their role and also clicks with your team can seem impossible at times. But more often than not, it isn’t that perfect hires don’t exist; the reality is that it’s difficult to weave through the vast sea of potential candidates to find them.

To get closer to finding the right hire, and to be able to make the most of your valuable time, you need to tackle the two main obstacles of the hiring process: 1) identifying the many candidates that would be applicable for the position, and 2) filtering those candidates down to those who are more serious considerations.

Due to the sheer number of people who could be applicable to a given role you are searching for, it would be very difficult to beat these two obstacles on your own. However, there are a variety of tools that can make it extremely easy to track down candidates and tell you whether or not they would be a good fit before you waste time sitting down for lengthy interviews.

Tools for Finding Candidates

LinkedIn

Starting with LinkedIn, the biggest source of potential candidates will likely come from using the filtered search tool. You can play around with the filters based on what you looking for, and after your searches start resulting in candidates that might be viable, you can connect directly from their profile. Send messages to the candidates you have handpicked. After some back and forth, you can start to prioritize the people who appear to be most interested in the position and spend more time working with them to move forward with the hiring process.

Indeed

Similar to LinkedIn, Indeed provides a great way to search for potential candidates. It allows you to do a “resume search,” which links you with people based on keywords in their resumes. After you have done your initial keyword search, you can then fine tune it based on additional filters. You can hover over the names of the resulting candidates and get a quick preview of their resume to see if they might be a good fit for your team.

Overall, Indeed makes for a quick and easy way to look at many candidates in a short amount of time. You might even consider doing a few paid campaigns on the site in small increments of ~$20 or so each time. Then, simply adjust when you make paid listings based on how your hiring needs change over time.

Glassdoor

Glassdoor is a bit different than Linkedin and Indeed in that the focus is on allowing applicants to find you. It provides a way for applicants to get a view of what it would look like to work for your company, and if they like what they see, they can go through the motions of trying to get a position.

Due to the focus on applicants finding you, it is important that you prioritize cultivating a positive Glassdoor profile, with a good rating and good reviews. If you stay on top of your profile, it is an easy and effective way to passively get applicants that are interested.

Using each of these websites during the hiring process is standard procedure, and if you’re doing it right, you should get a solid pool of candidates from these three alone. After you have established your presence on each of these three platforms, you can also begin to experiment with the vast number of other recruitment tools available today. One example is Entelo, a tool that takes more of a “big data” approach to helping you find candidates.

Each tool will net you different results, so try different ones, learn how to use them, and figure out which ones work for you and your specific needs.

Narrowing them Down

If you are using the aforementioned tools properly, you should have a decent pool of candidates to work with. At this point, your biggest issue will be dedicating the time to interview each of these candidates and move forward in the hiring process.

While a website like LinkedIn can expose you to many potential candidates, there is also the downside that there can be very few distinguishing factors between each one. For example, a simple search could result in hundreds of people who all claim to be “experts” or “professionals” in a field, with little certification to actually back that up.

Additionally, you’re likely searching for specific qualities and traits that go beyond what can be gleaned from a resume.

In this situation, you should consider using one of the various assessment tools, such as The Predictive IndexEQ-i 2.0, or Strengthsfinder. These tools take the form of tests that can be given to your candidates to tell you more about their behavior, skills, and talents to better inform you if they would do well in the position.

You can match up their results generated by the test to which qualities you are looking for in a hire, which will allow you to immediately discard the candidates that wouldn’t be a good fit and pursue the ones with the qualities you desire. The ability to weed out many candidates quickly makes these tools a great way to save your time and sanity.

There are also a variety of tools that help you manage all aspects of the hiring pipeline, further improving your efficiency, and making it easier to keep track of different candidates. One example is Workable, which handles various aspects related to the hiring process. You can use it to process applications, manage interview scheduling, and even onboard new hires. Alternatively, you can use tools like Trello to keep track of where each prospect is in the hiring process. Either option will keep your team more organized and make juggling numerous candidates much easier.

Save Time and See Results

Becoming more efficient in all aspects of your hiring process will allow you to spend more time doing your actual job, all the while improving the quality of the candidates that come through the door and increasing your chances of finding the elusive perfect hire.

Even if you have an amazing product, it won’t necessarily be received well if you have done nothing to build the image of your business. On the flipside, taking the time to develop a strong brand image can be huge for your company. Tech-giants like Facebook have managed to create a business image that is ubiquitous, making it nearly impossible to not interact with or be aware of their services in some capacity.

While it is obviously impossible to shoot for such worldwide recognition, taking the steps to craft a well-thought-out business image and implementation strategy will have wonderful results and isn’t something you should skimp out on.

Developing an Image that Reflects Your Company

A common misconception is that branding is only affects the visual components of your company. While the end user may only interact with the visual components, branding is really the reflection of both the mission and atmosphere of your company as you want it to be presented to the world.

Your brand image is a combination of everything from the culture you have cultivated within the company to why you are passionate about your mission.

Before you actually worry about how to convey your brand’s message, you should spend time developing what you’re actually trying to say. There are many reasons why you are passionate about the company, but what are the key components that you want to share with your users? What ideas do you want to inspire in the minds of people when they think of your company?

The answers to these questions will become the general form that your business’s image will be based on, and is the footing you need before you can move forward. Through design and good PR strategies, your brand image will become solidified, but if you are unclear about what you want your brand image to be like in the first place, it will be hard to find success.

Doing it Right the First Time

Oftentimes, you only have one shot to leave an impression on a user. Because of this, you need to leverage every aspect of your design to convey what you can about your image. Powerful design is where your business’s image meets the consumer.

Due to the importance of design and the first impression, hiring a professional is never a bad idea. You already have an idea of what you want to convey about your business, but you might be lacking any idea as to how that can be accomplished. A good designer will understand how to use the right color combinations and layouts to make a strong impression.

Additionally, you might consider hiring marketing specialists that will also help carry out the task of developing a strong business image. There are a variety of strategies involving PR campaigns that will expose your products or services to the right people, making them more aware of your company and in turn causing them to identify more with your brand.

Regardless of which paths you take, it is extremely important to get this stage right the first time. Rebranding takes considerable effort and should be avoided at all costs.

Consistency is Key

The power of consistency in solidifying your brand’s image can’t be overstated. Creating a consistent and cohesive brand image makes it stronger overall, and makes it easier for users to identify with your brand. Once you have brand elements that you feel adequately represent your business, use those same elements for every aspect of your company’s presence both online and offline.

There are many ways that consistency can be achieved within your brand. The starting point, which should be a given, is your website. All of the elements and visual assets utilized across your website should be cohesive and together convey a feeling about your brand that’s greater than the sum of its parts.

The next step is striving for consistency across all of your online platforms. If your company is on social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook, each of these should not only have the same handle (it is amazing how many companies fail to even do this), but should also incorporate all of the visuals that represent your brand’s identity.

This can also be taken beyond the digital world if your company uses any physical mediums. Anything from fliers to business cards should all point back to the same brand. Additionally, things such as presentations can use the same general style sets, borrowing from the assets you have designed for your website and other media.

Having consistency in design significantly strengthens your company’s brand identity, and instills a stronger impression of your company in the mind of consumers.

Avoid Over-innovating

In the world of startups, constant innovation and iteration is the norm. However, when it comes to branding, it’s important that you don’t try to “over-innovate.”

Although it may be tempting, try to avoid slightly tweaking your logos and other smaller visual aspects of your brand. Think back to major re-brandings such as Google’s transition to Alphabet or Instagram ditching the retro camera logo. Both Google and Instagram felt that the way they were branding themselves no longer adequately reflected their actual identities, and each went on to fix it in one fell swoop.

Modifying minute details of your brand like logos might be tempting, but keep in mind that every change requires a solid investment of time and almost always confuses your users. Unless there is a very clear difference between the image that you are conveying versus the image that you want to convey, stick with what you have.

Ultimately, how well you have developed your business’s brand or image dictates how well the work you do is perceived by consumers. Using these tips will put you well on your way to creating a strong brand image that will help in all aspects of running your business, from favorable customer interaction to making sales.