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How to Use Social Media for Small Business (Beginner’s Guide)

Social media is an integral part of any small business success strategy. In fact, in today’s day and age, small businesses cannot afford to ignore social media.

According to some recent studies, social media can be a powerful lead generation tool:

When you take into consideration the cost of traditional marketing and compare it to social media marketing, it becomes clear that social media marketing comes out on top. Even a small business with a low marketing budget can afford using Facebook Ads or investing in Promoted Pins.

But even if your budget doesn’t allow for any type of marketing investment, you can still benefit from using social media to develop your small business social media marketing strategy.

Additionally, social media gives you a direct access to your ideal audience, both your current and your future prospects.

Finally, taking advantage of everything social media has to offer will help you to stay on top of your marketing game as well as allow you to keep up with your competition.

If you’re considering how to use social media for your small business, then dig into this beginner’s guide. In this post, we’ll walk you through the steps necessary to create a successful social media marketing strategy.

How to Use Social Media for Small Business
What’s your small business social media strategy? (graphic)

1. Set the Stage

Before developing your actual social media strategy, it’s necessary to first do a bit of prep work and define your target audience as well as your initial goals.

By doing this, you’ll be able to plan the type of content you’re going to use in your social media marketing and ensure your efforts align with your overall business goals.

Step 1. Target Your Ideal Audience

The concept of defining your ideal audience isn’t new. In fact, you probably went through the same process in the beginning stages of setting up your business.

In case you haven’t, now would be a good time to get really clear on your ideal customer. Focus on the type of people you want to help. Why that particular group? How do you want to help them? How old are they? Where do they live? What problems do they have?

If you can answer those questions, you will know exactly their gender, their age, and their struggles. And knowing that will make it a lot easier to come up with the right kind of content to create and share on social media.

Here are a couple in-depth tutorials to help you define and target your ideal customers: 

Step 2. Define Your Goals

Once you know the type of customer you want to attract, it’s time to set some goals.

What do you hope to gain from your small business social media strategy? More clients? More buyers? Find opportunities for collaboration or a partnership? Find an investor? Build customer loyalty and increase retention? All of the above? None of the above?

While the answer is largely subjective, you should know that you can have more than one goal. These goals aren’t mutually exclusive but bear in mind that if you spread yourself too thin, you’re not going to accomplish anything which is why it’s important to establish S.M.A.R.T. goals.

In other words, make sure your goals are:

  • Specific – Avoid goals like “I want to do social media more” or “I want to gain more sales with social media.” Consider who is involved with your goal, why you want to achieve it, and what do you need to do in order to achieve your goal.
  • Measurable – Your social media efforts should accomplish results to ensure you are making progress. Your social media goals should be measured in three areas of activity: How many people did you reach with your specific activity? How many readers and customers did you engage? How many customers did you move toward a purchase as a result of your social media activity?
  • Attainable – Your social media goals need to challenge you but they shouldn’t be impossible to the point of causing burnout and overwhelm.
  • Relevant – Your social media goals should measure the result and not activities. The goal isn’t to send out 20 tweets a day if they don’t result in any type of engagement, rather the goal should be to send out tweets that will increase the awareness of your brand.
  • Time-oriented – Setting a deadline for your social media strategy helps to keep you on track and gives you a practical timeframe to monitor your results.

Learn more about setting and achieving S.M.A.R.T. goals: 

2. Choose Your Platform

Once you’ve defined your target audience and set a S.M.A.R.T. goal, your next step is to choose a social media platform.

Choosing the right platform can be a daunting task, especially when you consider the sheer amount of social media platforms available. More importantly, not every social media network is the right choice for every business. 

Step 1. Narrow Your Focus

You might think that the smartest choice would be to get active on all of them, but that is actually the wrong way to go about it. The objective of your small business social media strategy should be growing an engaged and loyal following and that takes time, effort, and energy.

Think about it for a moment. Is it better to have 30 loyal fans on your Instagram account that visit your website, buy your product or hire you on a regular basis or to have 1000+ followers on Twitter that barely interact with your content?

It’s far more effective to start small and focus on just one or two social media platforms and grow from there.

Step 2. Balance Determining Factors

While you could opt to start on Facebook because it’s the biggest and the most popular social media platform, bear in mind that the size of a particular social media network should not be the only deciding factor.

There are several other things to take into consideration:

  • Do your potential customers spend time on a particular network?
  • Does it make sense for your type of business?
  • Does it work well for the type of content you’ll share?

For example, a restaurant business that relies heavily on local reviews would benefit more from social networks such as FourSquare and Instagram while a technology startup would see better results from Twitter. Whereas, a beauty consultant would benefit more from focusing on Facebook, as in the example below:

Example of Beauty Consultant Performing Well on Facebook
Cosmetics and beauty consultants fair well on Facebook. (source)

Step 3. Apply Basic Market Research

If you are just starting out with no social media presence, the best way to determine which platform to use is to do a little market research and see where your target audience spends their time.

This is where your target audience profile plays a crucial role. Since there are many reports online covering the usage of social media by specific demographic data, it’s easy to determine where your audience likes to engage on.

A different approach would be to take a look at your competitors’ profiles and see where they get the most engagement, but bear in mind that you might not get the same results as them. Dig into analyzing your competitors, in this comprehensive tutorial: 

3. Consider What and When to Post?

Not only do you need to figure out what to post on social, but to do so regularly, so the audience you’re building can come to trust you and expect your updates.

Step 1. Update Consistently

The most important part of a successful social media strategy is consistency. In a nutshell, this means showing up and interacting every day with your followers.

Once you establish a routine, you’ll see an increase in traffic and a better relationship with them.

Step 2. Deliver Value

After you set expectations with consistent updates, the second most important part of a successful social media strategy is delivering value. It’s really simple—the more value you deliver, the faster you’ll grow your presence.

The easiest way to deliver value to your followers is to build up a content bank filled with ideas that your audience will love. It could include any of the following:

  • blog posts
  • infographics
  • pictures and photos
  • humorous posts
  • quotes
  • quick tips
  • behind the scenes photos
  • questions
  • fill-in-the-blank questions
  • polls
  • promotional material
  • short videos

Step 3. Decide on the Type of Content to Share

Choosing the type of content you’re going to share depends on the amount of time available to create it. If your time is limited, choose status updates that don’t require a lot of time to create. It’s a lot easier to create a list of questions or quick tips than it is to create custom graphics and complex infographics every day.

If, on the other hand, you rely on presenting data to your target audience consider posting infographics once a week.

Similarly, if you choose to include your own graphics with every social media update, set a time and a day in your schedule when you’ll create all of your graphics for the week in order to save time, or work with a freelancer that can help you with your custom graphics.

Note how inviting the Twitter page below feels, with all the unique graphics in-use, and custom images that help drive engagement: 

Social Global Grind Driving Social Engagement
Creating custom images for your posts can help drive engagement. (source)

Using a free image editing software like Canva allows you to save templates so you can quickly replace the text and re-use the graphic styles. You can also use professional social graphics and infographic templates from our Envato Marketplace (Graphic River) to quickly create a range of graphics with compelling styles: 

Step 4. Keep in Mind Other Peoples Content

Aside from sharing your own content, your social media content should include other relevant resources, such as any type of content that is relevant to your industry as well as your target audience. For example, if you’re in the business of selling printer ink cartridges, your social media updates can include other computer related tips.

The golden rule is to apply the 80/20 principle. Essentially this means sharing other people’s content more than your own. While this may seem counter-intuitive, it’s actually quite effective for building your expertise and establishing yourself as an authority in your niche.

To make this process easier, consider creating an account with Pocket to save anything you might want to share with your target audience, or create a note in Evernote, and either clip the article or simply copy and paste the link to it. 

Step 5. Track Engagement and Refine Your Strategy

You can take this a step further by signing up for a bit.ly account and use it create short, trackable links so you can track the engagement. You’ll quickly find out which links generate the most clicks. In the long run, this will help you refine the content you share, as well as help you zero in on what kind of content you should focus on creating.

The frequency of your social media updates depends on the social network you chose to focus on. Even though you might notice a boost in the engagement rate if you post more often, you have to be careful here. It’s easy to fall into the trap of over-posting because you think that will bring more engagement.

As a general rule of thumb here’s the recommended number of updates:

  • Twitter – Twitter is one of the fastest moving networks around. It might seem impossible for your followers to catch your message. Because of that, posting more than once is almost a requirement and recommended practice is to aim for at least 10 tweets/day.
  • Facebook – Aim for at least two posts/day on Facebook – one in the morning and one in the afternoon/early evening.
  • Pinterest – Pinterest has been emerging as the most popular social media network recently and according to some, it’s the biggest referrer when it comes to website traffic. Similarly to Twitter, the more you pin, the more chances you have of getting your pins seen. Aside from pinning your own content, you should re-pin other pins and add pins from other sources. However, avoid adding a lot of pins at once. It’s better to spread it out over the course of the day. Aim for at least 50 pins/day.
  • Google+ – Google+ follows pretty much the same logic as Facebook and posting once or twice per day is sufficient.
  • LinkedIn – LinkedIn pretty much took out the guesswork in their own marketing guide and revealed that the ideal frequency to post is about 20 times per month, or once per day.
  • Instagram – Although Instagram is a visual platform like Pinterest, the same strategy of posting more doesn’t apply here. It’s actually better if you stick to one or two status updates per day.

Finally, remember to stay on brand and stay consistent. Take the suggestions above as a general guideline and a starting point. Remember, you don’t need to be on every social media platform to be successful. Start with just one or two before going broader. Also, don’t be afraid to test and tweak to get the optimal posting frequency for your social media strategy.

Kickstart Your Social Media Strategy Now

Creating a successful small business social media strategy can feel overwhelming when you’re starting from scratch. By following the steps and the tips outlined in this article, you will be well on your way to creating a successful social media strategy for your business. Take your first planning steps today and work to start implementing your strategy in the next week.