How to Use Social Media for Your Small Business: 11 Simple Tips
Author: Christina Newberry
Nearly three-quarters of American adults use social media—making it a critical part of any business strategy.
Indeed, social media is one of the best ways to connect with people who already love your brand. It’s also important for reaching those who haven’t heard of your business yet.
Getting started with social doesn’t have to be scary or expensive. With these 11 simple social media marketing tips, businesses of any size can reach new markets, build brand awareness, and drive sales.
11 essential social media tips for your business
1. Start with a plan
Social tools are easy to use and you can get started with organic posts for free. That might make it tempting to dive in and just start posting. But like every good business strategy, using social media for small business success needs to start with a good plan.
Without a plan, you have no clear goal for what you’re trying to achieve. That means there’s no way to measure your results. Take the time to create a social media plan right upfront. This ensures that all your social efforts support specific business goals.
Here are some strategic social media tips from our guide to creating a social media marketing plan:
Set social media goals and objectives.
Create goals that follow the SMART framework. They should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. Base your goals on metrics that will have a real impact on your business. For example, aim to acquire customers or raise your conversion rate, rather than simply racking up likes.
Research the competition.
How are your competitors using social media? While you don’t want to copy them, learning from what others have done is a great way to reduce your learning curve. Competitive analysis can help you learn what’s working and what’s not for other businesses like yours.
Conduct a social media audit.
If you’re already using social media, now’s the time to take a step back and evaluate your existing efforts. As part of your audit, look for impostor accounts that may be stealing your online thunder.
You’ve looked at what your competitors are doing online, but what about other businesses? Take inspiration from the success of businesses in all industries. Where can you find these success stories? Head to the business section of most social networks and you’ll find useful case studies. It’s also a great idea to ask existing followers what they want to see more of, then give them exactly what they ask for.
Create a social media calendar.
A social media calendar helps you post the right content to the right social channels at the right time. It should include a plan for your content mix. Try starting with the 80-20 rule. Use 80% of your content to inform, educate, or entertain your audience. Use the other 20% to promote your brand or sell your products.
2. Decide which platforms are right for you
Don’t make assumptions about where your audience spends their time online. Your instinct might tell you that if you’re targeting millennials, you should skip Facebook and focus on Instagram and Snapchat. But the data shows that 84% of millennials still use Facebook.
We’ve compiled demographics information for all of the major social networks. Use it to help gauge where your audience spends their time online. But remember that these demographics are just an overview.
To make sure you’re using social media for business effectively, you’ll need to conduct some research of your own. This will help you to understand how your specific audience spends their time online.
Keep in mind that this doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing approach. You can use different social channels to reach different audiences or to meet different business goals.
eMarketer found that more brands use Facebook for customer acquisition, but Instagram for social commerce.
For example, take a look at these two posts from Prada, one on Facebook, and one on Instagram:
On the surface, the posts look identical. But they use different types of social media marketing e-commerce strategies. While the Facebook post links to a campaign page, the Instagram post uses Instagram shopping to allow people to purchase the featured bag with just a couple of clicks.
3. Know your audience
One reason using social media for business is so effective is that you can micro-target your audience. But first, you need to understand who your audience is.
Start by compiling data on your current customers. Then, dig deeper with social media analytics. You’ll start to develop a solid picture of who’s buying from and interacting with you online.
Imperfect Foods gained important audience insights with Pinterest’s interest targeting. The company sells produce boxes filled with “ugly” fruits and vegetables. This food is perfectly good for eating, but it doesn’t meet the visual standards required for sale in grocery stores. Without these produce boxes, the food would be wasted.
When they first started using Pinterest ads, Imperfect Foods targeted obvious keywords like “sustainability” and “healthy eating.” Then, they discovered that their target audience was also interested in finance.
They used that insight to drive new creative concepts. They started to talk about the money-saving side of reducing food waste, rather than just the environmental benefits.
“ SaveHow to Buy Less: Make it at Home. we’re here to introduce you to things you’re probably buying at the store that are secretly super-easy to make at home. Making more things at home is a great way to save money, learn something new, and create treats that you can share with your friends and family! Click for our tips! #mealprep #cookingathome #foodwaste “ – Published by Imperfect Foods
4. Expand your audience
Once you have a clear picture of who your audience is, you can revisit your social media plan. It’s time to look for ways to reach more people just like them.
The UK clothing brand Never Fully Dressed was selling successfully in its home market. They already had a good sense of who their customers were in the UK.
When the brand was ready to expand internationally, they used lookalike audiences based on their top customers to reach new potential customers in Europe, North America, Asia, and South Africa.
They tested ads on Facebook and Instagram, including both News Feed and Stories. They found that the ads that had performed best in the UK also performed best internationally. Their audience understanding meant their creative remained effective when they expanded beyond their original target group.
You can also use social media to drive new customers to your local business and build relationships with other local businesses in your area.
5. Build relationships
The unique benefit of social media marketing for small businesses is that it allows you to talk directly to customers and followers. You can build relationships over time, rather than asking for a sale upfront.
More than 40% of digital consumers use social networks to research new brands or products. Part of that discovery is getting to know who you are as a brand and what you stand for.
When people engage with your organic content or ads, it’s a great idea to engage back. This helps to build trust and form a loyal following. As fans share and like your content, you rise in the social algorithms and gain new, free, exposure. You also nurture relationships that can develop into sales over time.
For example, Erin Barrett (aka Sunwoven) has a dedicated fan base of 111,000 on Instagram. The South Carolina-based weaver is very interactive with her followers, responding to every compliment and question.
Engaging with this maker on Instagram allows people to feel like they know and trust her before they invest in one of her pieces. And when she launches mini-pieces at highly attainable price points, they sell out in a flash.
Facebook Groups are another great way to build community and brand loyalty.
For example, the New York Times Podcast Club Facebook Group is “a book club for podcasts.” With more than 31,000 members, the group establishes the NYT as a go-to source for information beyond breaking news. It also motivates members to listen to the selected podcasts each week, helping to prevent listener drop-off.
You can also build relationships with other entrepreneurs and influencers in your niche. Think your business is too small to work with influencers? Micro-influencers (starting with 10,000 followers) can be effective for establishing brand trust. As a bonus, they are often well within the budget range of smaller brands.
6. Share compelling visuals whenever you can
People have come to expect social posts to include a visual component.
The images shared on social drive real-world action. More than half of Millenials and Gen Z internet users said their most recent fashion buys were based on images they saw on social media.