This is a two-part series on social media for small businesses. In Part 1, we looked at why social media is important for businesses, and how you can get started on building a social media strategy. Here in Part 2, we outline which social media platforms you should consider leveraging for your business, with tips and best practices on how you can optimize your presence online.
Ever since Facebook launched in 2004, social media has evolved from simply being a space for personal interaction and expression, to also become a vibrant marketing and direct-to-consumer sales channel. For small businesses, social media is no longer a nice-to-have platform for engaging with customers, but table stakes for competing in an increasingly digital marketplace.
Regardless of whether you’re looking for insights on how to use social media for business for the first time, or if you’re a seasoned pro looking for ways to step up your social media marketing game, we’ve got you covered. Here’s what you need to know about using social media for business in 2023, starting with the basics, followed by a channel-by-channel breakdown below.
We live in a digital age, and one of the most-used aspects of a digitally infiltrated life is social media. As a business, if you’re not building your brand or actively marketing your products on social media, you’re choosing to get left behind. Here’s a few key reasons why using social media should be an essential part of business operations:
Convinced you need social media for your business? While it might be tempting—and certainly fun—to just dive right into content creation, your first step should be to create a social media marketing strategy to help guide what channels you should show up on, what kind of content you should be creating, and how to measure your success. Taking these steps first will help ensure your social strategy aligns with your business strategy—and your bottom line. Here are a few steps to consider to help you get started:
Anyone can create eye-catching content on just about any channel, but if you don’t clearly define goals and objectives to guide how your business shows up on social media and what you want to achieve, you might as well just be shouting into the void. Before worrying about how many people are liking or following your content, we recommend first asking yourself: What is your business goal (or goals) for social media? Do you want your social accounts to generate leads? Drive customers to visit your website? Improve customer engagement? By answering that question, you can provide yourself with a “North Star” to help you stay focused on the purpose behind every post.
Who are the people you feel would engage with your business the most online? What kind of customers are you looking to attract? You need to know who you’re trying to reach first before you can set out to reach them. If you’re an established brick and mortar retail or restaurant business, you no doubt already have a good sense of who your customers are based on existing foot traffic and POS system data. But if you’re just starting out online, you might need to do a little research to identify the demographics of whom you’re likely to reach. Here’s where social analytics, competitive analysis, and a little social listening can give you gold.
Likes and followers aren’t the only success metrics when using social media for business. Before launching your social media marketing strategy, you need to determine what metrics best align with your newly defined goals and your target audiences. Looking to reach new customers? You may want to focus on how many unique users are seeing your content on a monthly basis. Looking to drive customers to your website? Click-throughs may be the best indication of how many people are interacting with your content and brand. The most critical point is to ensure your KPIs (key performance indicators) align with the bottom line of what you are trying to accomplish on social media.
You may not be able to answer these and other questions straight away. A good marketing strategy is one that evolves over time, and there is much more to a good strategy than can be covered here. Here are links to two organizations that have done some of the legwork to get you started:
Not all social media channels are created equal. They each offer their own unique strengths and opportunities for business. And while determining which social media platform is best for your business can feel a bit overwhelming at first, you don’t need to be on every channel to have an effective social media presence. You just need to be on the one (or ones) that best align with your social media goals and the audiences you’re looking to reach.
Here’s a brief primer to help you determine which social media platforms are best for business:
|Monthly active users||2.98 billion|
|About the channel||Facebook has become one of the most popular online destinations since launching in 2004. As a social media channel, Facebook allows users to connect with friends and family, share photos and videos, join groups that align with their interests, and follow the latest news and trends.|
|How consumers use Facebook||Consumers most often use Facebook to connect with friends and family, share photos and videos, and follow the news. People also use it to discover and engage with brands, products, and services.|
|Benefits of using Facebook for small business||Facebook offers small businesses a great way to reach their target audiences at a cost-effective price. It provides businesses with the opportunity to create a professional presence, build relationships with customers, advertise their products and services, and measure the success of their campaigns.|
|Pro tips||Utilize your page’s cover photo: It may sound simple, but make sure you use a high-quality, compelling image that accurately represents your business for your cover photo. Maybe even one that highlights your commitment to your local community! This gives followers a sense of your business and can help make your Facebook page look 10x more professional.|
Post regular, relevant content: Aim to post at least 2-3 times weekly to keep a steady stream of customer engagement, and ensure that your posts are both engaging visually and relevant for your followers.
|Monthly active users||1.35 billion|
|About the channel||Some social media channels lend themselves more naturally to visuals, and Instagram is certainly one of the most elegant. Owned by Facebook parent Meta, Instagram allows users to share photos and videos, follow other users, and engage with content by commenting and liking posts.|
|How consumers use Instagram||Instagram users spend an average of 29 minutes per day accessing the platform on their mobile devices. Consumers often use Instagram to stay up to date on trends and to find inspiration, and because of this, the channel is a great platform for shopping. In recent years, Instagram has evolved to allow users to find products and purchase items directly from the app.|
|Benefits of using Instagram for small business||For small businesses, Instagram can be a powerful tool to engage with customers, increase brand awareness, and drive direct sales.|
There are various ways to leverage Instagram Shopping for your business, such as shopping tags, product tags, and shoppable posts. Shopping tags are used to link to specific products, product tags are used to link to product pages, and shoppable posts are used to link to product pages with a shopping cart option. This makes it easy for users to find, learn about, and purchase products from your company that they may be interested in.
|Pro tips||Create engaging stories: Using the poll, quiz, and other interactive features provided on Instagram stories are quick and easy ways to engage with your followers and gauge their reactions to your new products or services.|
|Monthly active users||310 million|
|About the channel||LinkedIn is a professional social network designed to help business owners, job seekers, and professionals stay connected and informed about career opportunities, business updates and relevant industry news. Like most social media networks, LinkedIn is free but also offers a paid Premium version that allows you to connect with more people and send messages to people you’re not currently connected to.|
|How consumers use LinkedIn||LinkedIn is a great resource for networking, building relationships, and staying up to date on industry trends. It also provides a platform for individuals and businesses to share their insights and experiences in the industry they work in.|
|Benefits of using LinkedIn for small business||Businesses of all sizes can benefit from using LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a great platform to let potential customers and partners know more about your company, its products, services, culture, and team members. LinkedIn allows you to easily search and connect with industry professionals and potential business partners. These connections can lead to referrals, partnerships, or even new customers.|
|Pro tips||Post regularly, just like any other channel: LinkedIn isn’t just for posting new job openings or company updates. Like any other social channel, posting consistently about your company culture, ways you’re involved in your community, or the latest product launches helps your company stay top-of-mind with consumers and prospective talent.|
|Monthly active users||463 million|
|About the channel||Pinterest is an online pinboard-style social media platform and photo-sharing website that allows users to share and organize images and videos. Pinterest is best for businesses who thrive on visual media. Like YouTube, it’s a visual search engine, but instead of videos it uses “pins.”|
|How consumers use Pinterest||Consumers use Pinterest to discover new products and services, to plan events and trips, to find inspiration for DIY (do-it-yourself) projects, and to save and organize ideas for later. Users can also follow their friends, brands, and influencers to see what they’re pinning and to get ideas. It’s currently the only social platform that offers visual search—and 62% of millennials and Gen Zers say they want to be able to search by image (see this guide on marketing for Pinterest by Hootsuite).|
|Benefits of using Pinterest for small business||For small businesses, Pinterest can be an effective marketing channel to reach and engage with potential customers. Businesses can create visually appealing content to showcase their products, services, and brand values, as well as create boards and pins to promote their products.|
|Pro tips||Utilize keywords like crazy: Make sure to include relevant keywords in your profile, board and pin descriptions that align with the products or services you’re looking to sell. This helps make your content more discoverable to people interested in similar products.|
Advertise your digital products: Because Pinterest users love a good DIY, the channel is the perfect platform to earn passive income on the digital products you sell, like patterns or eBooks.
|Monthly active users||1.05 billion worldwide|
|About the channel||Launched in 2016, TikTok has quickly become one of the most popular social media apps worldwide. The platform allows users to create, share, and discover entertaining, educational, or trending short videos.|
|How consumers use TikTok||TikTok is primarily used by people to share creative videos, participate in online challenges, or follow popular trends. Consumers often use the platform to express their creativity, showcase talent, provide commentary on cultural trends, or educate followers on a topic they’re passionate about. It’s also becoming the default search engine for Gen Z.|
|Benefits of using TikTok for small business||TikTok provides a unique opportunity to connect with audiences in an engaging, authentic way through video content. In addition to being a great platform for collaborating with influencers, TikTok now offers the TikTok Shop feature which enables merchants, brands, and creators to showcase and sell products directly on the platform through in-feed videos, TikTok LIVEs, and the product showcase tab.|
|Pro tips||Share how-to videos: Share tutorials with helpful tips and tricks on how to use your products and services.|
Q&A sessions: Hold a Q&A session with customers to answer their questions and educate them about your brand. Authenticity matters on this channel, so don’t worry about creating something with high production value.
Showcase reviews: TikTok is a great place for your business to showcase customer reviews and testimonials in order to build trust with potential customers. Feature those great comments in your next video!
|Monthly active users||2.68 billion|
|About the channel||You might think of YouTube as the haven for prank videos, fail compilations, and alternate universes of teenage gamers, but that’s not the only side of this quietly powerful platform. YouTube is the third largest search engine in the world, and more than half of all marketers use YouTube as part of their strategy, according to HubSpot.|
|How consumers use YouTube||Consumers most often use YouTube to watch entertainment content, such as music videos, movie trailers, and short clips. It is also popular for watching educational content, such as tutorials and video lectures from universities. YouTube has become a major source of information for many people, providing news, product reviews, and other educational content.|
|Benefits of using YouTube for small business||For small businesses, YouTube provides an effective platform for reaching a wide audience. YouTube videos can be used to promote a product or service, demonstrate how to use a product, or provide educational content. YouTube also provides businesses with the ability to access analytics and create targeted marketing campaigns.|
|Pro tips||Great thumbnails are key: When you upload your videos, make sure to select the right thumbnail (the reduced-size image that represents your video in search results, suggestions, and other lists), and to add your logo to it. Thumbnails are what people see when they’re browsing through videos to watch—and the last thing you want representing you in an ocean of videos is a random frame from yours. And why the logo? Even if people don’t click on your video to watch it, they’ll have seen your brand. The next time they see your video, they might just remember that logo, and click on your video as opposed to someone else’s.|
Now that you’ve gotten this far, how does it feel? It’s a lot to take in, especially if you’re just starting out on social. This is where social media management tools can help. By enabling you to set up and schedule posts on multiple platforms, determine optimal times for posting, and let you see how your posts are performing, these tools can really turn your social media headaches into an enjoyable part of doing business. Here’s a few key tools for you to consider:
Pricing: Three plans to choose from ranging from $0 to $12 per channel per month
Buffer is an easy-to-use social media management tool that helps you manage multiple accounts, schedule posts across multiple channels, and drill down into analytics. Its calendar view feature gives you a good overview of your posting schedule, and it has intuitive, efficient drag-and-drop publishing capabilities.
Buffer can get expensive as you add user accounts, and its scheduling, reporting, and analytics functions cannot, in the words of one review, “compare to those of Hootsuite.” But if you’re looking for a reasonably priced, clean, easy-to-use centralized interface for social media publishing, Buffer is a great option.
Pricing: Four plans to choose from starting at $99 per month to over $700; for more than 50 social accounts, clients need to call for pricing
One of the most recognizable names in the social media management space, Hootsuite is a powerful, highly customizable dashboard that allows multiple users (teams) to monitor social analytics, post content, schedule future posts, and even manage social advertising.
On the downside (for some), Hootsuite’s most powerful features are available only in the higher-tier enterprise plans, and more advanced users may find the analytics not deep enough.
Overall however, Hootsuite is one of the most open, comprehensive, and integrated social media management tools on the market. It has a wide range of solutions for SMBs (small to midsize businesses), ranging from curation and posting to collaboration and scheduling. It works with over 250 apps and platforms (such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft business apps, and others). PC Mag calls Hootsuite “the Swiss-knife of social media management solutions.”
Pricing: Four plans to choose from starting at $249 per month to $499; Enterprise clients need to call for pricing
Sprout Social is a full-service mix of publishing, scheduling, and analytics. It offers strong CRM (customer relationship management, oriented specifically to social media) and reporting functionality, help desk features, as well as social listening and influencer identification.
As one of the first social media management solutions, Sprout has accumulated a deep well of data points and insights from over 30,000 clients, which in turn helps you as a small business user. The only drawback is that the social listening and keyword monitoring options are fairly limited in the Basic tier, which is already the most expensive of the three tools listed here.
Note that these are just three of the tools available to you. PC Mag has done an extensive comparison of social media management tools that you might want to check out.
Clover integrates with a number of social media marketing tools. To learn more, check out the Clover App Market or talk to a Clover Business Consultant today.TALK TO AN EXPERT
This information is being presented for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, financial, or tax advice. Readers should contact their attorneys, financial advisors, or tax professionals to obtain advice with respect to any particular matter. Clover assumes no responsibility for any information contained on any third-party website.
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