Guide to Social Media Marketing for Small Businesses
Social media marketing allows you to engage the exact types of customers you want to reach on the social networks they use most. To get started, choose a platform, define your goals, and develop organic and paid strategies. Then create a social content calendar, set your budget, grow your follower list, and track performance. Keep reading to see which platforms are best for small businesses and discover tips to boost your results.
For small businesses, social media marketing can be a challenge both in terms of learning curve and the time needed to produce results. The experts at Hibu can help with affordable organic and paid social media marketing services, in plans starting around $300.
1. Choose the Right Platform for Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing (SMM) is a must for any business whose target audience spends significant time on social networks. There are different social media platforms businesses can use to reach and connect with their target audience, so knowing which to focus on is important.
In terms of how to get started with social media marketing, invest your time and resources using the top one or two platforms your target audience uses most (as well as where they’re most likely to engage with brands). On your chosen platform, create a business profile by adding your name and profile picture and/or cover image and optimize your profile by completing all the sections available.
Best Social Media Marketing Platforms for Small Businesses at a Glance
# of Users
Avg Cost per Click for Paid Ads
Ages 13-17, 25-34
Learn more about each of the best social media marketing options for small businesses in the drop-downs below:
Primary user intent: Users of all ages, including a large number of users 50-plus years old, looking to keep up with friends and family
Facebook is the leading social networking platform, reaching users of all ages, backgrounds, and interests. Small business social media marketing can be done in various ways on Facebook. For example, you can create a business page that links to your website and provides useful information like hours and reviews, create and participate in private groups, and run targeted ads.
In most cases, users are not there to learn about businesses per se, but will often ask their Facebook connections for recommendations and user experiences. Also, ads can be highly targeted, offering businesses an effective way to establish brand awareness and generate sales using paid ads.
Learn the different marketing strategies for Facebook pages to help market your business page and follow these simple tips for social media marketing on Facebook:
- Post once each day
- Upload high-quality multimedia content
- Create or join Facebook Groups and engage with members
- Boost important or high performing posts via Facebook Ads
- Start a Facebook contest to add followers and increase activity
- List your products on Facebook Marketplace
Primary user intent: Users seeking to watch entertaining or emotional content on specific interests
TikTok is a video-sharing app businesses can use for social media promotion with short-form videos that quickly became popular over the past few years.
Originally, TikTok didn’t compete with other platforms as a small business social media marketing channel. But with its user base skyrocketing, businesses are able to effectively leverage hashtags, contests, and other brand-related content to promote their products.
To improve your TikTok social media marketing campaigns, here are some of the best practices to remember:
- Use hashtags
- Utilize trending video effects and music
- Post often
- Research viral audio and trends
- Write clear text descriptions for your videos
Primary user intent: To keep up with trends and brands through visual media
Instagram is the top social network for photo and video sharing. It reaches a wide audience, and like Facebook, businesses can create business profiles and advertise on the platform. It’s also the social media platform with the highest purchase intent, meaning its users are most ready to buy.
Since Instagram is multimedia-based, it is best for businesses with images and short videos to share. It also allows users to tag businesses geographically, so it’s also great for businesses with a physical location, such as a restaurant, retail store, or salon.
Follow these steps on how to sell on Instagram to boost your sales and keep these best practices in mind:
- Develop a brand aesthetic
- Use community or industry-specific hashtags
- Show products on your stories
- Work with IG influencers
- Run contests or giveaways
Primary user intent: Users seeking quick-hit, entertaining, and news-worthy content
Twitter is the leading text-based social network. While it has evolved to allow users to post photos and videos, it was built to share short streams of text (the current character limit is 280), and this is still its primary use. As such, it’s best for frequent, quick-hit news and updates, such as a small business hosting an event or workshop or a food truck that needs a way to quickly share its current location.
Because of its direct form of communication, Twitter is often used by businesses as a customer service channel. It encourages quick and sincere responses to brand followers. Like Instagram, it’s also highly hashtag-oriented, and users often click on hashtags when following a story or researching a topic.
Learn how to use Twitter for customer service here, and follow these general best practices when using Twitter for social media marketing:
- Post frequently
- Post video content
- Incorporate calls to action (CTAs) in posts with links to your website
- Create polls to increase engagement rates
- Use hashtags, but don’t overdo it—just one or two per post
- Track brand mentions
Primary user intent: To get inspiration on a wide range of topics, from fashion to cooking
Pinterest is a photo-sharing social network used for content discovery. Unlike Instagram, where users primarily view photos from those they follow, users on Pinterest search by category or search terms and are then shown several relevant image-based results. These results, or posts, are generally linked to websites, so it’s a good way for businesses to build awareness of visual products and services and drive traffic to their site.
Learn how to use Pinterest for business to gain more clicks to your website or online shop, and follow these best practices:
- Include a link to your website in the pin descriptions
- Schedule your pins
- Apply for rich Pins
- Optimize your image specifically for Pinterest
- Keep pin descriptions under 100 characters
Did you know?
Rich Pins are a free Pinterest feature that adds context to your posts. It works by drawing metadata from your website.
Primary user intent: To share intimate yet trivial visual content directly with friends; primarily a Millennial and younger user base
Like Instagram, Snapchat is a photo- and video-sharing social network. However, it differs with its ephemeral content model—photos, texts, and videos sent directly to users disappear after they have been seen.
Businesses can use the platform by adding branded filters customers and brand advocates can use on their photos as well as sharing content. Plus, small businesses using Snapchat for social media marketing can feature short video ads in their Snapchat stories. Authentic storytelling does best on this platform, so even Snapchat ads should offer personal, raw content.
Here are some of the practices proven to be effective in Snapchat marketing:
- Use both photos and videos
- Encourage viewers to screenshot and share your Snaps
- Create and promote Geofilters
- Post Q&As
- Hold giveaways
Primary user intent: Professionals looking to network with others in their industry
LinkedIn is the leading social network for professional networking. Unlike social networks like Facebook and Instagram, users visit LinkedIn for professional and career-related purposes. Like Pinterest, user posts often link back to website and blog content, making it an effective way to build brand awareness and drive web traffic for lead generation, nurturing, and sales.
Small businesses have both organic and paid social media marketing opportunities with LinkedIn. Like Facebook Ads, paid ads on LinkedIn can be highly targeted as a cost-effective way to reach your intended audience. Given LinkedIn’s audience and professional networking focus, it’s best for recruiting, software-as-a-service (SaaS), business-to-business (B2B) marketing, and educational topics.
Here are some best practices for small business social media marketing on LinkedIn:
- Write original content for LinkedIn that links back to your website content as part of your overall content marketing plan and strategy
- Share your blog content in posts to drive web traffic
- Create and join groups for targeted networking
- Increase engagement using short-form video
- Get a paid plan to access direct message marketing on LinkedIn
2. Define Your Goals
Next, set measurable goals for your small business’ social media marketing efforts. This will ensure that you are getting a sufficient return on the investment of your time and other resources. Based on these goals, in the next step, you’ll determine which strategies would be best to pursue as part of your social media plan.
Below are some of the most common goals for social media marketing for small businesses.
- Increasing brand awareness: Brand awareness is about making members of your target audience aware of your brand and its position in the marketplace. On social media, you’ll measure this through your number of followers, post reach, and engagement, as well as clicks and web traffic generated through paid social.
- Generating engagement: Encourage followers and viewers to interact with your brand to generate community engagement. Measure your progress through engagement per post and page mentions.
- Sales and lead generation: Effective social media marketing should enable you to increase sales and gather information on potential clients. Measure this through lead conversion, the number of leads generated from social media, and prospect engagement in the form of ad clicks, direct messages, comments, likes, shares, and so on.
- Improving customer support: Social media marketing offers an effective way to establish client relationships and improve customer satisfaction. Measure your success with response time and customer satisfaction scores.
- Driving website traffic: Done effectively, paid and organic social should direct potential customers to your website. You can measure this through organic and paid profile analytics, tracked links, social media share of overall traffic, and post clicks.
3. Develop Social Media Marketing Strategies
To maximize your marketing efforts and set your brand apart, align your social media marketing strategies directly to your goals. For example, holding contests and giveaways can help increase brand awareness, while posting educational videos can promote lead generation or help customers who are looking for support.
Both organic and paid posts can drive traffic back to your website, and you can post content for free on social media platforms for organic outreach. However, most also have paid social advertising options to help you grow your following more quickly, drive traffic to your site, or produce sales, email subscriptions, and other conversions.
Organic vs Paid Social Media Marketing
There are two primary types of social media marketing for small businesses to consider: organic and paid. Organic tactics are free, whereas paid social is a form of advertising. Organic marketing is also generally a more time-consuming way to build an engaged following. On the other hand, paid social posts—which come at an average cost of around $1 to $2 per click—increase target audience impressions and engagement quickly.
Ideally, you will use organic and paid tactics in conjunction with one another to maximize results. For example, on Facebook, you can boost a high-performing post to extend its reach among your target audience even further. You can also supplement advertising efforts with organic posts. Consider posting about a product’s features and benefits in organic posts relative to the products you’re advertising through paid social.
Here are the main differences between organic and paid social media marketing for small businesses:
Organic Social Media Marketing
Paid Social Media Marketing
Paid social is a form of pay-per-click (PPC) social media advertising for displaying ads on social media networks like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Businesses create ads and choose who their ads will be displayed to using ad and audience targeting, and often include a call to action like “Buy now” to encourage instant engagement. Given these characteristics, paid social is a good short-term strategy to build a following and promote customer action.
Other strategies to explore include influencer marketing and social listening (e.g., tracking mentions and conversations about your brand). If you’re not sure where to start, read Semrush’s article on the fundamentals of social media marketing and adjust it to your business. Or, take your social media marketing to the next level by studying and getting certified on social media strategy with HubSpot’s free course on social media marketing.
4. Create a Content Calendar
Next, create a posting schedule that defines how often and what type of content you’ll post, and when. Now you’re ready to begin outreach efforts to build a following and engage with your audience on social networks using organic and paid social media marketing tactics.
Your content calendar should answer the following questions:
- When will you post your content?
- What is the best time of day to post your content?
- What days of the week are best for posting content?
- What platform(s) will you use?
- What type of content will you post?
- What copy, photos, or videos will be included?
- What links or tags will be mentioned?
There are three general methods for creating a content calendar: by hand, using a spreadsheet, or through a content software service. Some people prefer organizing their content on paper, while using a spreadsheet is cost-effective and straightforward. For a more professional and time-saving option, use a trusted content planning software like Sprout Social or a small business budget-friendly platform like Buffer.
Knowing what type of content to post can be challenging, especially if you’re publishing a new post each day. You can use platforms like BuzzSumo to discover trends in content, allowing you to post relevant content that interests your followers. It also lets you see and manage where users mention them on social media. Get 10 free searches per month in the free version or pay as little as $79 per month for a paid plan.
5. Set a Budget
While it’s technically free to use most social platforms, there are expenses involved in social media marketing you’ll need to budget for. The average small business spends anywhere from $200 to over $2,000 per month on social marketing efforts. This covers everything from labor costs and management fees to design costs, paid collaborations with influencers, and social media marketing tools.
Here are five aspects of social media marketing you may need to budget for:
- Social media management: For the best results, small businesses often hire a social marketing manager or outsource social marketing to agencies like Hibu. The average cost to outsource social media marketing ranges from about $300 to $500 (or more) per month. But it could depend on a number of factors, including the type and extent of services rendered (e.g., posts per week, organic plus paid social, and so on).
- Paid social advertising: Social media advertising is a form of digital advertising where businesses pay on a per-click or impressions basis, with costs-per-click averaging around $1.50 to $2.
- Influencer marketing: Collaborating with online influencers with a large social following can help you build brand awareness and grow your own following. Paying an influencer to mention your brand in posts or review products can cost anywhere from $1,000 to more than $10,000 per post, review, or mention.
- Content creation: Producing quality content often requires professional copywriting, photography, videography, and graphic design. Professional copywriting, photography, or videography ranges from a couple of hundred dollars to upward of a thousand dollars, depending on the artist and scope of the project. There may also be costs incurred from using design tools and platforms such VistaCreate or Canva(free), or software like Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop (around $20 per month). Alternatively, you can get custom artwork or copywriting from a Fiverr professional for as little as $5 per project. You can also download unlimited high-quality images and social media templates with a $16.50 per month Envato Elements subscription.
- Social media marketing tools: There are several social media marketing tools for small businesses that make social media posting and content creation easy to manage, such as SproutSocial. Some (like Buffer) start for free, while others come on a subscription basis and cost $10 to $100 per month, depending on the platform.
Social media marketing is generally considered a low-cost marketing method. But depending on how aggressively you want to use it, it could consume a large portion of your overall marketing budget, especially if you use paid social. During small business social media marketing, be sure to keep the potential costs in mind and compare them against your return on investment.
6. Grow Your Follower List
First and foremost, to attract and maintain followers on any social media marketing platform, you need to publish relevant, entertaining, high-quality content that engages your target audience. Without this, you may find that you lose followers as quickly as you gain them, and you aren’t able to generate any user engagement on the platform to extend your brand’s reach.
To start building your following on social media networks, reach out to existing customers, vendors, professional colleagues, and employees and invite them to follow your profile. Invite email subscribers to like and follow your social profiles. Promote your social media accounts through links and social feeds on your website.
Incentivize people to follow your social profiles by offering special discounts and promos to followers. Collaborate with others to gain awareness, and engage with your target audience by liking and commenting on their profiles or joining and actively participating in private groups.
Keep in mind that regardless of the promises of any paid follower tactic, it’s generally never a good idea to pay for followers. Platforms like Instagram will even penalize your social profile (or ban you from the platform) if they detect that you’re paying for followers. Although it takes more time, follow the best practices of each platform for building your follower base.
Social media marketing is time-consuming, as evidenced by the steps above. For this reason, many small businesses instead outsource social marketing and advertising to top social media agencies like Lyfe Marketing or Hibu. Both offer a free consultation, making it risk-free to see if their services would be the right fit for your business.
7. Track Results & Improve Your Strategies
The sad fact is that a lot of small businesses spend a considerable amount of time and even money promoting their brand and products on social media with little to show for it. Others have some success but don’t have measures in place to show what is working and identify ways to improve their efforts.
Consequently, it’s important for you to have a plan in place to measure results and look for opportunities to improve your results. Some of the key social media marketing success metrics to measure include:
- Number of followers
- Profile and post views
- Organic post engagement (clicks, shares, comments)
- Ad impressions, click-through-rate, cost-per-click, and cost-per-engagement
You can easily track results manually in a simple spreadsheet with insights or analytics provided by the social network. However, tools like Unbox Social allow you to measure performance with audience engagement insights, connect with social media influencers, and better understand your buyers and competition. Affordable plans start for as little as $9 per month, and there’s a free trial you can use to test out the platform.
As you begin to collect data on the performance of your social media marketing efforts, use what you learn to improve future campaigns. With ads, you can see which types and formats (e.g., video, image, image carousel, and so on) are generating the most clicks. For more guidance, read our guide to social media advertising for small businesses.
When it comes to organic posts, is there a specific topic that tends to get users to weigh in with comments or increase the visibility of your post by liking or sharing it? This could be a topic type to repeat frequently. You can also test engagement with organic posts by using questions to spark comments, adding polls, and experimenting with different types of image formats (single image vs carousel or grid style, for example), as well as videos.
If the thought of managing all the various aspects of social media marketing for your business is overwhelming, leave it to the experts. Top digital marketing agency Hibu offers affordable social media marketing and advertising services, including no-management-fee paid social. Book your free consultation to see if Hibu is the best social media marketing solution for your business.
Small Business Social Media Marketing Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are the best social media marketing agencies?
The best social media marketing agencies provide targeted insight and guidance on maximizing engagement on social media channels with posts and ads. Given this baseline, we recommend you consider Lyfe Marketing or Hibu as your all-in-one solution for social media marketing and advertising. For more options, get the complete breakdown of the best social media agencies for small businesses.
Is social media marketing free?
It’s free to promote your business on social media through organic tactics, but you may still need to spend money to promote your small business effectively. For example, you may need to hire a social media manager, use paid social ads, or outsource to a professional agency for a better return on investment. Copywriting, media (e.g., graphics, photos, or videos), and the cost of social media ads can also impact how much you’ll spend on social media marketing.
How much does Facebook advertising cost?
Facebook advertising is a type of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising where businesses are charged based on when users interact with an ad. The average cost-per-click to advertise your business on Facebook is $1.86. Facebook currently has a minimum daily ad spend of $5 for ads based on clicks, likes, video views, and post engagements and $1 for impression-based ads. Get more details in our breakdown of Facebook advertising costs.
For small businesses, social media offers an effective, affordable digital marketing strategy for building brand awareness and connecting with a target audience. To effectively market on social media, determine which platforms your audience is on, set up accounts, and engage your audience to build brand awareness and sales.
Using social media effectively is time-consuming and requires a good deal of expertise. Leave your social media to the experts at a social media marketing agency, such as Hibu. Hibu’s social media experts will build and grow your social presence and maximize your return on investment. Request your free Hibu quote and consultation today.