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How to make social media work for your small business

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Social media can help your business to be seen by millions. Discover the benefits it can bring, which platforms to target and how to boost your marketing efforts.

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How to make social media work for you
Don’t wait for people to find you online, use social media marketing and advertising to take your business to them.

There’s no escaping it: social media digital marketing for small businesses is a crucial component of your overall business strategy. Just ask the 71% of small and medium-sized businesses already using it every day to promote and sell their wares. Read to find out why you should be using it and how to get the best results.

Why use social media to market your business?

The simple reason is that social media helps present your products and services to the largest possible audience. There are 4.2 billion users active on social media worldwide, with 48.9 million people in the UK using at least one social media platform. That’s 84.7% of all British internet users.

What are the benefits of using social media for your small business?

Being on social media isn’t just a case of following the crowd. Social media can help your business in numerous ways, including:

  • Giving you access to a wider audience

  • Increasing awareness of your brand

  • Driving traffic to your website

  • Showcasing your expertise and brand personality

  • Gaining a better understanding of your customers and building long-term relationships with them

  • Getting insight into your competition

  • Selling products through social media platforms

Which social media platforms are best for small businesses?

There’s one social media platform that all businesses should target, and that’s Facebook. It’s by far the most popular platform in the UK with 37.1 million users, and contrary to popular belief, is popular with all age ranges – although nearly 25% of its users are in the 18-24 age bracket. Therefore, creating a Facebook Page is a good step to targeting new potential customers.

While Facebook is a good fit for all businesses, other platforms are tailored to more specific audiences. For example, if you wanted to market t-shirts to a younger audience using short video clips, then TikTok would be a better fit than, for example, Pinterest. The following list summarises the strengths of each major social media platform that you might like to try in addition to Facebook:  

  • Instagram: Best for showcasing products and services using visually appealing photos and videos. Especially suited for business areas like travel, fashion, food and beauty.

  • LinkedIn: Although it started out primarily as a recruitment platform, LinkedIn now specialises in marketing to business and consumer audiences. The site lets you showcase products and services through your business profile and demonstrate industry expertise by posting stories, answering questions and sharing recommendations. 

  • TikTok: TikTok is best used to showcase products and services to a younger audience using short-form video ads. Although videos up to 10 minutes long are allowed, most clips are just 15-30 seconds in length.

  • Pinterest: This site markets itself as a one-stop shop for inspiration and discovery of new products and ideas. Users ‘pin’ photos to their profiles, which contain links to websites, product pages and more. It is particularly popular with the DIY, garden, home, fashion and beauty industries.

  • WhatsApp: This messaging platform offers a dedicated business app that allows you to offer a one-to-one chat-based customer service channel.

  • YouTube: This site lets you create your own dedicated channel for hosting and sharing videos, both long and short. It also supports live broadcasts with messaging channels to speak directly to your audience.

  • X (formerly Twitter), Threads and BlueSky: Businesses primarily use these platforms as alternative customer service channels.

How To Use Social Media Marketing

Start by learning how to use social media marketing. Google offers a free Fundamentals of digital marketing online course, which is accredited by the Open University. This covers everything you need to know about launching an online business and includes a range of modules dedicated to social media.

You should also take time to understand how each social platform works by exploring both its own documentation and external sources.

10 quick ways to make social media work for you

The following business social media tips should help you get your social presence off to a solid start. Learn how to create compelling, shareable content, plus optimise your limited resources effectively:

1. Don’t spread yourself too thin: While it’s tempting to sign up for every social media network to see what works, it’s far better to pair Facebook with one or two other channels. Once you’re up and running with these, you can consider branching out

2. Post regularly: How often should you post? That depends on the platform. The following are recommended minimums – feel free to post more frequently if you can:

  • Facebook/LinkedIn: 1-2 times per day

  • Instagram/TikTok: 3-5 times per week

  • Pinterest: Once a week

3. Know when to post: Try to time your posts for when your audience is most likely to be browsing social media 

4. Create a content calendar: Set up a content calendar to help you plan content in advance. Most spreadsheets – including Excel – offer free content calendars to help you plan

5. Schedule in advance: Some platforms – including Facebook via its Meta Business Suite – allow you to compose posts in advance, and then choose when they go live. This allows you to prepare all your social media at once and still ensure your channels receive a steady stream of fresh content.

6. Avoid being overly sales orientated: Post more than just promotional material – share tips, tutorials and technical support articles to make your channels useful resources, which will encourage your customers to keep checking in

7. Create shareable content: The more your content is shared by others, the greater your chances of growing your customer base. Experiment with different types of content – including photos and videos – to see what appeals

8. Look after your community: Keep an eye on your social media channels for comments and questions, then follow up quickly

9. Re-use content: You don’t need to create fresh content from scratch each time you want to post. Re-use content from each channel as a cross-promotional tool – for example, share clips from a full-length YouTube video on Facebook or Instagram. Also, share links to relevant helpful content from other sources

10. Advertise smartly: Don’t look to advertise specific posts or content straight away. Wait until you’ve posted enough content to get an idea of what’s appealing before paying to put that post in front of more potential leads

Map your customer journey

In addition to the above, it’s also worth mapping your customer journey. A customer journey map is designed to help you better understand how your customers experience your business. By identifying how they connect with your business at different points in their journey from initial awareness through to final purchase and post-sales experience, you can see if there are any areas you can improve. Often, your social media channels can provide easy fixes, such as answering commonly asked questions about a product to providing a quick way to purchase the product directly from their social media feed. You can find plenty of practical advice on how to do this on the internet.

Social media tools

You’ll find a range of tools online to help with your social media efforts. Each social media platform offers a selection of free tools to help you plan, produce and measure the success of your content. 

As your social media presence grows, you might want to consider trying a third-party platform like Hootsuite, Buffer or Sprout Social. These make it easy to manage all your channels from a single dashboard and offer a wider range of tools to help improve your social media results. Look out for:

  • Scheduling tools: Save time by queuing up posts in advance for multiple channels.

  • Analysis tools: See how each post performs, both in isolation and compared to other posts. Get insights into what works and what doesn’t on each platform.

  • Monitoring tools: These tools alert you to mentions of specific keywords, such as your company name or products. Also known as ‘social listening’, monitoring tools allow you to keep tabs on what people are saying about you across social media.

  • Reporting tools: Produces summaries of how your posts and other content are performing across all your social channels.

  • Automation tools: A range of tools that help save you time, from automatically boosting your best content to providing customer service and social media chatbots.

  • Engagement tools: Helps bring together all the tools you need to help engage your audience and receive feedback from them. Engagement tools provide suggestions on when and how often you should post as well as offering easy ways to respond to customers and followers. 

How to measure success in social media

While you could try to measure success by examining each post in your social media timeline for likes, shares and comments, that’s both time-consuming and inaccurate.

Thankfully, each social media platform provides you with the tools you need to see exactly how you’re performing. These tools measure a series of stats known as metrics, which vary from platform to platform. For example, Facebook’s Insights tool measures the following:

  • Reach: How many people have seen each post or your Facebook Page in general

  • Content interactions: The number of comments, likes or shares on a post

  • Followers: The number of people who have signed up to follow your account or page

  • Link clicks: The number of times people have clicked on a link or other element (such as a photo or video) in your post

If time allows, you can dig deeper and get insights into the types of people who are following you. Once you reach 100 followers, for example, Facebook’s Audience tab can provide demographic information about them, including their age, gender and location.

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