As a small business owner, you know you need to be on social media to bring in new customers and keep your current ones informed. But which social platform do you choose, how often should you post, and what on earth are you going to say?
Our guide has you covered. From picking the right platform for your business to the importance of creating a schedule, which tools to use, and how on earth to use hashtags, we’ve taken your top questions on getting started with social media for your small business and answered them all here in one place.
Are you ready to get started? Let’s go!
Do I Need Social Media Marketing for My Small Business?
Maybe you’ve run your business successfully for years without needing social media marketing, but the fact is if your competitors are out there doing it, then it’s time to get up to speed.
Social media is one of the best marketing tools you have for bringing in new customers and keeping your current customers updated with all the great stuff you’ve got going on. And the best part is, social media is free! You can create compelling marketing campaigns without spending a cent, providing you have a little time to invest in creating content.
These days, consumers expect to be able to check out businesses on social media before they buy. According to research from Global WebIndex, 50% of internet users aged 16 – 64 will research a product or service before they decide to buy.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a roofer, a barber, or a dentist. If your people can’t find you – or if they find someone else instead – that’s a lead you’ve missed out on. But if they click through to see you talking about what you do, showcasing your services, and featuring happy customers, they’ll start to get to know you, trust you, and ultimately buy from you.
So how is that any different from having a website? Well, social media is a conversation that keeps going over time. It’s interactive (hey, it’s not called social media for nothing!), so you can also use it to get to know your customers better, answer their queries, and ultimately provide better service quality.
All sounds great. But where to start when there are so many platforms out there to choose from?
Which Social Platforms Are Best for Small Businesses?
Tiktok, Facebook, YouTube… oh my. There are a lot of social media platforms out there, and the list keeps on growing. But if you’re a small business, you don’t have to be on every single one. It’s far more effective to do one or two well than to do five or six — or more! — badly. But which one to go for?
Some things to consider when choosing the right social media platforms for your small business:
What Are You Hoping To Achieve?
Decide what your desired outcomes are before you start. For example, suppose you’re a café wanting to increase footfall. In that case, you’ll want to focus on platforms set up for local businesses (e.g., Facebook and Instagram have maps and location tagging to help customers find where you are). If you want to show people how pretty your holiday cottage is in the fall, so they’ll book an out-of-season break, you’ll need a highly visual platform that focuses on pictures or video.
Which Platform Are Your Customers Using?
There’s no point putting your heart and soul into TikTok if all your customers are on Facebook. Look at your customer demographic and where they might be. If you’re not sure – ask them!
What Type of Content Are You Going To Be Putting Out?
Visual social platforms like Instagram will work well if you have many great pictures of your business to share. If you are a B2B company and you have many opinions on your industry, LinkedIn is an excellent choice for business chat. On the other hand, if you’re thinking of sharing how-to videos to educate your audience, YouTube might work for you.
Where Do You Enjoy Being?
There’s no doubt about it; social media can be a time suck. So if you’re creating and posting content yourself, it’s worth choosing a platform you enjoy being on. For example, if you love Instagram, that passion will show in your posts, and you’ll build a community of engaged followers much more quickly. And you’ll have fun doing it – bonus!
Still not sure where to start? Here’s a whistle-stop tour of the biggest social platforms for marketing.
Which Social Media Platform Should I Choose?
It’s still the biggest social media platform, with over 2 billion monthly active users – that’s a third of the world’s population! Even if your audience isn’t stereotypical social media geeks, you’ll probably still find them on Facebook.
Twitter posts, or tweets, are short and sweet and can include any combination of text, image, and video. This platform is recommended if your brand has a strong personality or sense of humor and likes to chat. The platform’s casual vibe means it works well for customer service if your company is on the larger side or trawl for people asking questions about your industry and pop up with a helpful response to get your brand noticed.
More than just pretty pictures, Instagram now has Stories, IGTV, Guides, and Reels to stretch your creative content-making muscles. If you enjoy finding lots of different ways to tell your brand story, Instagram is a great way to showcase images, videos, and written content in many inventive ways.
The second most popular platform after Facebook, YouTube, is a video channel popular across all age categories. It might not be the first channel you think of when building a marketing plan. Still, if you can make engaging, informative videos that connect with your business offering, it can work well.
Though it’s best known for being a virtual scrapbook for anything from planning a wedding to decorating your home, Pinterest can be a great driver for the right small business. Beautiful product shots, inspirational quotes, and helpful how-to guides can all get potential customers clicking through to your website.
How Often Should a Small Business Post on Social Media?
It’s easy to be optimistic when deciding how often you’re going to post on social. Especially when your competitors seem to be posting all the time, and you’re feeling the pressure! But if you’re running your own business, you already have your hands full. When things get busy, it’s easy for posting to get bumped lower and lower down the list of jobs that need doing.
That’s why you need to find a schedule that’s realistic for you, not anyone else. The most important thing to be is consistent.
Most social media platforms will reward regular posting, whether you’re posting twice a day or twice a week. And if you spend more time making quality content that brings value to your audience, you’ll be rewarded for that too. Posting for the sake of posting just so you can tick it off the list won’t bring you any traction —in fact, your platform will quickly pick up on uninspiring content and penalize you, so you get seen by fewer people.
Consider the resources you have: how much time? How much energy? Then aim for a consistent balance of quality and quantity.
What Should I Post on Social Media?
The great thing about using social media for marketing on a small budget is that you can be just as good as the big brands if you do it well. But starting can feel a little overwhelming. What can I say that hasn’t already been said? And why would anyone listen anyway?
Here are our best tips for keeping a steady stream of great content ideas that work.
1. Get To Know Your Customers
The best place to start is with the people you want to attract. Learn about your customer’s social media habits by setting up a survey or chatting with them. What do they want to know about your business? Also, ensure you ask what information related to your business would be helpful to learn and the content format they might enjoy best.
2. Pick Some Key Themes
Dividing your content up into types, or ‘content pillars’ as marketers sometimes call them, is a helpful way to start thinking about your social media marketing strategy and building consistency across your brand.
Maybe you want to put out educational content, general customer information like opening hours and product availability, and also a little behind-the-scenes content so your customers get a glimpse into your working day. Ensuring you put out posts that fit each of those categories every month will help your followers know what to expect from you, and it will help you come up with ideas too.
3. Make a Schedule
Once you’ve picked your themes and come up with a few ideas for each, it’s time to plug it into a schedule. Planning doesn’t have to be restrictive. You can always move things if you need to, and having a content calendar will keep your output focused and on track.
There are lots of free planning tools available online (more on that below!) but honestly? If you’re a pen and paper person, then that will work just fine too. You need to track what you’re planning to post and when you’re planning to post it.
4. Give Value
Social media should not be used as a billboard for your services, so hold off the hard sell! A small business with an effective social media presence will generally be giving a value of some kind —informing, educating, or entertaining its audience somehow. You’ll generally notice an increase in engagements on the posts that get it right. And when you give incredible value consistently for an extended period, you should see a steady increase in engagement and followers over time.
5. Keep it Authentic
Didn’t do so well in English class at school? Don’t worry! This is not a writing test, and there’s nobody here to grade you. The most powerful way to do social is to be authentic — and as you’re a small business owner, often that’s just being yourself and doing the same things online that bring your customers to you in real life. So if your customers love you for your chatty cheer, make sure you get that across in your posts, and you’ll bring more of those people to your door.
6. Look for Ways To Interact With Your Audience
Post and run if you have to, but if you want to make the most of the platform you’re on, then you’ll gain ground by getting to know your followers and interacting with other accounts. Got another business you work with that you admire? Give them a shout-out! If a customer tags you to say how excellent your service is? Share it! And always respond to customer comments on your posts as quickly as you’re able – don’t leave ’em hanging.
7. Don’t Be Afraid To Experiment!
The quickest way to shake yourself out of a social media rut is to try something new. Platforms often give increased visibility to users who try out their new functions, so be brave and give it a go! Remember that for most people, you are just one voice in a sea of thousands. If your post or video doesn’t do so well, there’s always the next one. And if it goes great, you’ve just discovered a powerful new tool for marketing your business.
8. Tell Your Story
When you’re building brand awareness on social, the ultimate goal is to tell stories about your business that resonate with your customers. Whether it’s through written content, video, or images, you’re slowly building a picture in your audience’s mind that brings to life everything you do. Look for the little moments in your professional working day that you can share – the things you’d tell people over a coffee – and you’ll start to build those connections.
How Do I Build My Following on Social Media?
So you’ve done the planning, you’ve started posting, it’s ticking along and feeling good. But you’ve still got that feeling there’s more you could be doing to grow your following and get your content out to a bigger audience.
Is there anything else you can do to boost your engagement and get those follower numbers up?
Here are some ideas:
1. Get Conversational
Most platforms are designed as social networks first and foremost, so they reward interactivity. Are you inviting your audience to respond to your posts by asking questions? Or, are you chatting to people in the comments and DMs? Are you following other accounts and engaging with them? The more you can get your followers to interact with you; the more your work will get seen.
2. Build a Loyal Following
If you have an engaged follower base and post great content, your audience is likely to share your posts, which will naturally grow your reach. Always encourage your customers to share their experience on their chosen platform and tag you so you can see and share it too! And if someone shares your post, a like and a thank, you will make them feel seen and appreciated — and more likely to share again.
3. Run Contests
It’s worth checking with your platform on the current rules around running giveaways and contests. Still, these can be an excellent way to attract more followers and grow your audience.
Offering discounts or freebies exclusively for your social media followers can also be an excellent way to get existing customers to add your social accounts.
4. Use Hashtags
We get continuously asked: what are hashtags, and how do you use them for business? On a basic level, hashtags are a tagging system for organizing content, so other users can easily find it on a social media platform.
Each platform will have slightly different recommendations on how many, when, and where to use. It’s generally best to use a mix of popular hashtags and less popular but still relevant ones, so you have a better chance of visibility.
Get hashtag inspiration by checking what’s trending in your sector, plus what tags your competitors and target audience are currently using.
5. Promote Your Social Accounts Elsewhere
If you’re putting out great content on social, your customer won’t know unless you tell them!
Make sure your account handles are on all your publicity materials, your website —if you have physical products, then stick them on your product packaging! If you talk to your customers, get them to add you while they’re on the line/in-store (incentives like discounts can work well here).
Your loyal customers will tag you, share your content, and ultimately help you grow your reach amongst their followers.
6. Keep Your Social Media Profile up To Date
It’s easy to forget about your profile when you’re focusing on creating content, but it’s the first thing potential followers will see, and it needs to make an impact. Check your profiles on each platform regularly to ensure they’re up to date, relevant, and engaging — can customers see what your business does and who it’s for? Are there any current promotions you can shout about to draw them in?
7. Don’t Rush It!
You may get messages from other businesses asking you to join comment pods or even buy followers. Resist! Most platforms are hot on this stuff and will penalize you for doing it.
Remember: having a smaller number of engaged followers is so much more powerful than having thousands who don’t engage or would never buy from you anyway.
The end goal is brand awareness and sales within your specific customer base, so take your time and bring the right people in.
Should I Use Paid Advertisements to Promote My Small Business on Social Media?
OK, so we said social media is free —and organic social media generally is —but you also have the option to use paid advertising. Using paid ads can give you an edge because it allows you to market directly to your target audience, which is great if you know who your ideal customer is and where they hang out online.
Sounds kind of expensive, right? Well, it might work out cheaper than you think. Most platforms use the “pay per click” (PPC) model, which means the amount you pay corresponds to the number of people who click through. So, providing you’re not Nike, you’re not going to be looking at spending thousands or even hundreds on a campaign.
Each platform uses ads in a slightly different way, so if you’re keen to give it a go, then it’s worth reading up on the different approaches and thinking about how to include paid ads into your social media strategy as a whole.
Want to give paid ads a go but not sure where to start? If you’re running an event or special offer that can be signed up for online, that could be an excellent opportunity to dip your toe into the water and see if you can boost your sign-ups with a paid ad or two.
What Are the Best Social Media Tools for Small Businesses?
There are countless tools available online to help small business owners create, schedule, and publish social media content and measure the impact it’s having.
If you’re smart about the tools you choose and how you use them, you can save time, streamline your processes, and ultimately hit your business goals more quickly.
If you’re short on time or have your hands full with work at the times you’d like to be posting; a social media management tool is a good choice. Many prominent providers like Hootsuite and Buffer offer free plans for a basic package (generally based on a single user managing up to three platforms). Once set up, you can batch write your content for the week, then set it up to post out whenever you like. These tools will also monitor your accounts and alert you if you have a response or a query, meaning you don’t have to keep endlessly checking multiple apps.
Some social media management platforms, like Sprout Social, are known for having excellent reporting functions. So if you have a board or owner you need to provide precise analytics for, it might be worth considering investing a little more.
Of course, if you want to keep an eye on how your engagement is doing on an individual social media platform, say Instagram, you can also track metrics using the app’s built-in analytics tool.
Finally, if you want to turbo-charge your social media presence, it might be time to get the professionals in! Hiring a social media manager to oversee your accounts can take the pressure off completely, freeing you up to run your business.
If you found this article helpful, check out some of our other great articles on digital marketing for small businesses here.
And if you need a little more help with managing social media or digital marketing for your small business, contact our friendly team at Olly Olly today.
Article by Penny Brazier
Olly Olly is a resource for business owners who could use the occasional hint and helping hand in their digital marketing.
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