How to Use Social Media for Small Business: 11 Simple Tips

By Christina Newberry

Social

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.

Bonus: Get the step-by-step social media strategy guide with pro tips on how to grow your social media presence.

11 essential social media tips for 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:

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 ecommerce 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.

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. For example, Hootsuite geo-search streams can help you monitor and respond to local conversations about your business and build relationships with other local businesses in your area.

5. Build relationships

The unique benefit of social media marketing for small business 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.

Bonus: Get the step-by-step social media strategy guide with pro tips on how to grow your social media presence.

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.

Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat, in particular, are visual-first networks. If your content doesn’t look good, no one will stop scrolling to read what you have to say. But even tweets benefit from a good graphic. Twitter itself says, “The single simplest thing you can do to get more attention to your Tweets is to add an image or GIF.”

Not sure your brand lends itself to great visuals? If Heinz Ketchup can get in on a photo-based meme, there’s surely no stopping you.

For service businesses in particular, great imagery can be a bit of a challenge. But every business can tell its story through photos and videos. Maybe you can showcase your company culture with images from inside your office.

Deutsche Bank used Snapchat to showcase the experiences of two of its interns. This gave potential employees an inside look at what it might be like to work for the company.

Or maybe you can use photos of your customers to highlight how they use your service.

Another option is to use stock photos. There are plenty of free, high-quality photos online that you can use in your social posts.

We’ve compiled a list of 25 free stock photo sites you can use to find images. Just make sure you stick to using appropriately licenced stock photography (like you’ll find on the sites in our list). Using random images you find online is definitely not okay and can get you in some serious trouble.

If it’s GIFs you’re looking for, check out Giphy.

7. Focus on quality over quantity

The sheer number of social media marketing options for small business might seem overwhelming—but you don’t need to do it all. It’s more important to create quality content on a couple of key channels than it is to have a presence on every single network.

Above all, be sure that your social posts offer value. If all you do is pitch and sell, there’s very little motivation for people to follow you. Remember, social marketing is all about building relationships. Be human. Be honest. Post great content.

This is important, and you can’t fake it. According to a survey from Stackla, 86% of consumers say authenticity influences which brands they like and support.

You can’t do it all, and there’s no reason to try. Reach out to your audience in the places where they’re already spending time online. Focus on using one or two social channels really well, at least to start. Once you’ve got those mastered, you can build from what you’ve learned and expand your efforts.

8. Use the right tools

The secret to using social media effectively is to take advantage of tools that automate or simplify much of the work. There are loads of tools to help boost your productivity. That means you can start using social media for business without having a full-scale social media team.

Here are some of our favorites:

9. Monitor and respond to all relevant social media conversations

We’ve already talked about the importance of responding to people who post comments or questions on your social properties. But there’s more to social engagement than that.

You need to be aware of the conversations that are happening about your business elsewhere online and respond where appropriate. This is known as social listening, and we’ve created a whole guide on how to use social listening for your business.

10. Schedule your content to free up more time for engagement

We talked about creating a social content calendar way back at the beginning of this article. Once you have that calendar in place, you can create your social posts in advance and use scheduling tools to post them automatically at the right time.

This allows you to dedicate one block of time per day or per week to creating your social content. It’s much more effective than letting social posting take you away from other tasks throughout the day.

11. Track and refine your performance

As you implement your social strategy, it’s important to keep track of what works and what doesn’t. You can then fine-tune your efforts and improve results. The analytics tools mentioned above give you a great picture of your social efforts and can help track whichever metrics matter most to you.

Once you have an idea of how your strategy is working, it’s time to start looking for ways to improve. Using A/B testing, you can make small changes that boost your success over time.

No matter the size of your business, social tools can help you better connect with your audience, reach new potential customers, and increase awareness of your brand. If the possibilities seem overwhelming, start small.

Remember: you don’t need to do it all. Take a focused approach. Start with one or two key networks and build your social media marketing efforts over time.

Put the social media marketing tips into practice and grow your business using Hootsuite. From a single dashboard you can publish and schedule messages to all your social channels, engage audience, and monitor relevant conversations. Try it free today.

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