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The Essential Guide to Social Media for Small Businesses

Looking for a complete guide on how to navigate and manage social media strategy for small businesses? Look no further.

GUIDEThe Essential Guide to Social Media for Small Businesses

Where to begin when you want to grow your brand’s social media presence?

Social media is hustling and bustling nowadays — and is the place to be if you want your small business to reach for the stars.

But how can you carve your niche in the chaotic world of social media? If you’re running a one-person marketing show or have a small social media team, this task can be a mouthful on top of everything else. 

Instead of growing your business on social media, you may end up feeling frustrated and overburdened simply because there’s so much to think about. Strategy, channels, content, posting times, analytics: it all blends into a swirl of tasks to keep up with. 

What should be on your mind if you’re the social media manager of a small business? In short: plenty.

But there’s good news, too — if you approach your social media efforts in an organized way, you’ll put yourself on the path to success. The key is to learn the drill, plan, and focus only on what’s truly important.

This guide will take you through the social media essentials you need for pushing your small business ahead.

Why invest in social media?

… or the never-ending Hamletian dilemma for small businesses: “To be or not to be… on social media.”

The straightforward answer to this is: because you simply can’t afford not to be on social media.

More than half of the world’s population — people of all ages and social backgrounds — uses social media. When you consider that fact, it becomes clear that online channels are of particular importance for your business development. They allow you to shape up your brand and connect with the right audiences — which can turn them into your customers.

A significant share of businesses worldwide has entered the new decade in crisis mode. For many, it was social media and ecommerce that kept them afloat. That’s why it’s even more important to use the business opportunities available online to the fullest.

It’s clear how the new millennium pushed the digital agenda — and it’s bound to keep going. That’s why it’s even more important to use the business opportunities available online to the fullest. 

You want to be on social media because it can help you:

1. Build up your brand

Your social media presence is a reflection of your brand’s personality — its voice and style.

With online channels, you can:

  • Build the profile of your brand’s persona
  • Create a distinct style of communication — both written and visually

The purpose of all these efforts is to make your small business recognizable for people out there, so they choose your products or services. This directly affects your bottom line: just consider that 77% of customers make buying decisions because they like what a brand stands for.

2. Reach the right people

Social media is the place to be not only because the majority of people are using them. You can target your content precisely to the groups that matter the most to your business.

You can use audience segmentation factors to target your social media outreach, such as:

  • Socio-demographic
  • Geographic
  • Behavioral
  • Psychographic

3. Delight your customers

Embracing social channels changes the way you can handle customer relations.

How? It just makes it so much better because you’re in the right place — where people are already spending their time socializing and getting information.

You can interact with people on your profiles or in different groups and forums to improve your visibility with prospects. This makes it easy to create genuine relationships with your existing and potential customers.

What’s more, reliable online support is a must these days when it comes to customer service. People want to know they can count on you to resolve their issues quickly and in a friendly way. For example, Facebook reports that 76% of survey respondents wrote to a business to seek customer support.

Figure out the right channels for your business

… or how to make sense of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and the whole overwhelming bunch.

Start with a social media audit

If you’re already running a few social media channels, your first step is to check your performance. That’s how you’ll know how to design a social strategy that will match your business goals.

Your social media audit can be simplistic or comprehensive, but it should always include:

  • Publishing data
  • Follower information
  • Engagement stats
  • Content results

Pinpoint your brand style and positioning

How you present your brand is essential — and that covers everything from the posts you write to the visuals you share to how you engage with followers when they reach out. To make the most of your social media efforts, you need to start with a clear idea of your brand’s style and how you want to position it online.

You can start by analyzing your branding approach until now:

  • What works for your brand and what doesn’t?
  • How are you different from your immediate competitors?
  • Which initiatives do you want to keep doing?

Combine the answers with new ideas about your brand’s voice, tailored to each social channel.

Keep in mind that it’s important to stick to a consistent approach to your imagery and wording so that people can recognize you with ease.

Choose the channels that match your brand and goals

Not all online media are a match for your business, and you won’t necessarily need to be present on all of them.

Your choice of channels will depend on your:

  • Industry and niche
  • Target audience
  • Branding style and tone

You first must understand your audiences for each platform and think about how far you can expand them. Then you need to consider the goals for your social efforts and how you can achieve them through each channel.

Some channels may naturally drop out because they’re not allowing you to reach the right people or achieve your targets.

It’s all about strategy, strategy, and…strategy

… or why having a solid plan with clear goals is essential for your social media efforts.

Know your sales funnel

The first step in crafting a winning social media strategy is to go back to your marketing plan and revisit your sales funnel. It’s important you know the stages a person goes through from seeing your brand for the first time to becoming an actual customer.

Who can you talk to about this in your organization?

Maybe your company doesn’t have full-fledged marketing, sales and customer support teams yet, but we’re betting there’s someone who can talk you through the most important touch points. Even if it’s the company’s founder or CEO.

When you’re aware of people’s needs at each stage of interaction with your brand, you can build strong relationships with them. You would know how to speak to potential customers in the right way at the right time.

Set goals that will put you ahead of the competition

The more focused your social media goals are, the better. They are the backbone of your strategy that you can always go back to as a frame of reference.

To inform your goal setting process, make sure to:

  • Figure out which types of content have worked best for you until now (and plan ahead — see Making the most of content below)
  • Check the metrics that truly matter to set your benchmarks 
  • Explore audience analytics to get to know more about the people you’re targeting (more on that in the Nitty-Gritty tactics section, again, below) 
  • Analyze what your competitors are up to for inspiration and to keep up to date

Create your strategy with quality in mind

Knowing your sales funnel well and creating goals that make sense for your business help you set up a wholesome strategy. When writing down your plans, keep in mind that even though social media is flooded with content, quality still wins over quantity.

The purpose of your social presence is not to drown your followers — and potential customers — in branded content. Instead, the idea is to offer people targeted written and visual content that addresses their current needs. You can achieve this with a few tailored posts rather than with hundreds of promotional ones. Consider this: businesses with less than 10,000 followers on Facebook that post more than 60 times per month got 60% fewer clicks than those that post 5 times per month.

Learn the nitty-gritty tactics for success on social media

… or what you need to embed in your approach to make people love your brand.

Get to know your audiences — and how to grow them

We can’t stress enough how important it is to know who you’re talking to. That’s why exploring your audiences is essential. The data you collect also serves as the starting point for crafting (or updating) your buyer personas.

Social media analytics come in handy here because they allow you to delve into the details. You can dig into demographics and a variety of other factors to better tailor your messaging.

For example, suppose you know that a large chunk of your existing customers are 25-34 years and mostly iOS users. Stuff like that is pure gold for social media managers as you start writing, testing, and publishing your content.

Talk to people and create relationships

The key social media tactic to keep in mind is simple: be proactive. Just creating social profiles and expecting people to flock to them might work for a few companies, but it’s rare.

The best approach is to put yourself — your brand — out there and interact with your potential customers. Each aspect of your communication with prospects has to be:

  • Well-thought-out and targeted
  • Authentic and tailored to the specific audience
  • Designed to create lasting relationships that inspire trust in your brand

Deliver great customer service

Talking about relationships with customers, you just can’t go without good customer service. Social media allows you to ace customer interactions. 

Naturally, excellent customer service requires time and effort because you need to monitor incoming messages and address them quickly and adequately. But the payoff is substantial: you earn people’s trust. When customers know they can rely on your services, they’re bound to stay with your brand — and recommend it in their networks.

Make the most of content

… or figuring out what’s original and curated content and how the heck to make it work for you.

Decide on the type of content

Content is at the heart of every social media strategy. You need to have ample assets to share — because otherwise, you’re not using the full potential of your online channels.

It’s perfectly fine to use a mix of original and curated content.

All you need to decide is the ratio to which you’ll push the different categories of content:

  • Informative, educational content
  • Entertaining content
  • Brand-focused content
  • Product or service-focused content
  • Curated content

Pro tip: When it comes to content there are three key rules:

  1. (Get to) Know your industry and share only the best content
  2. Share curated content to add value, not to fill up the schedule
  3. Give credit where credit’s due with clear links to the original content

As for the types of content to create, there are plenty to choose from:

  • Blog posts
  • eBooks
  • Expert guides
  • Infographics
  • Webinars
  • Videos
  • Memes
  • And much more

Written content will never lose its power, but visuals and videos are already a must in the social media space.

Set your style and tone of voice

How you craft your content has to be directly linked to your overall branding approach. Every blog post and visual that you share on social media has to reflect your brand’s personality.

Sticking to a coherent style and tone of voice is essential. You want people to recognize your brand materials in a split second. This means choosing a distinct writing style and keeping to it — and this applies to colors, visuals, and all other branding elements. 

Create a content calendar

Sharing a blog post or two now and then will take you only that far. If you want to make content truly work for you, you need a rigorous approach. It all starts with a content calendar.

The calendar is where you schedule which type of content you need to produce or curate and when it’s going live. Yeah, it takes rigorous planning. But the payoff is substantial because your social channels become rich, engaging, and predictable for the audience (in a good way).

Use social media tools to streamline your efforts

… or how not to drown in that ocean of social media software out there.

A great social media tool will allow you to easily...

1. Publish on different channels and profiles

Creating and curating great content is essential, but it needs to be completed by effective distribution. Social media tools like ours allow you to optimize and simplify your publishing process. 

Instead of posting on each platform — which takes a lot of time and switching of tabs — you can publish on your different channels from one place. Your social media solution turns into your command center, where you have all your profiles connected. This makes it easy to manage both organic and paid posts and keep a full overview of your social presence. 

2. Combine your social content calendars into one

A powerhouse social intelligence solutions like ours would allow you to merge the content calendars of all your social profiles in a single dashboard. You can quickly review what’s going on on each channel.

A solid social media solution would also empower you to collaborate better with your team on campaigns. You can set custom workflows for content approval and publishing, so you never miss a detail. (And we know the devil is in the details.)

3. Measure performance across platforms

Your social media strategy is always a work-in-progress. That’s why it’s essential to measure your ROI on different channels. While you can use each social media platform’s analytics, having all data in one place is a lifesaver.

Social intelligence solutions like ours give you that — and much more.

Such a platform allows you to:

  • Figure out which metrics matter for you, so you focus on improving the right ones
  • Provide you with in-depth analyses and reports from which you can identify what works — and what doesn’t
  • Get first-hand data to tweak your strategy for success

4. Perfect your customer service

Using a good social media tool is essential to delivering outstanding customer service. You can improve your customer support, engagement with prospects and customers, and community management. You can also use social listening to get to know your audiences.

When you have one social inbox with messages from all your channels, you can handle your communication like a pro. This can be complemented by profile cards with customer data, which help you tailor your messaging to the specifics of each prospect or customer.

What now?

Way to go! You’ve made it through this extensive guide!

Now you’re ready to make the right steps to perfecting your social media marketing strategy. Just stay focused on your goals and create bulletproof plans for action: your small business will seamlessly reap the benefits of online channels. 

We have two more free and helpful guides you should check out:


Just get started with our Social Media Management solution. It will help you stay on top of all your planning and performance, so your marketing work will become a breeze.

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Brandwatch acquired Paladin in March 2022. It's now called Influence, which is part of Brandwatch's Social Media Management solution.Want to access your Paladin account?Use the login menu at the top right corner.