How to create a social media marketing strategy for your small business
What’s more, the gap between social networks and search engines is narrowing when it comes to where people go to seek information about things they want to buy. And among users aged 16 to 24, social media has already overtaken search engines when it comes to brand research.
With the right social media marketing strategy for your small business, those digital consumers can become your customers, too.
Used strategically, social media marketing can be a cost-effective and dynamic approach to brand marketing. It allows businesses to increase customer engagement and sales while simultaneously attracting new leads and gaining meaningful visibility.
In this post, we’ll show you how to put together a social strategy that establishes your brand on social media, covering everything from goal setting to choosing which content to post and when.
By the end, you’ll have everything you need to engage the right people, on the right channels at the right time.
Here’s an overview of the steps involved:
Table of contents
- Step 1: Decide what you want to get out of social media
- Step 2: Find your target audience
- Step 3: Check out the competition
- Step 4: Find your key social media metrics
- Step 5: Create and curate your social media content
- Step 6: Schedule your content to go out at the best times
- Step 7: Track, measure and improve
- 📹 Masterclass video: How to create a successful small business marketing strategy
- Wrapping up
Step 1: Decide what you want to get out of social media
Creating a social media strategy is just like any other kind of business planning—you need an end goals in mind. That includes deciding exactly what you want to get out of the hard work you’re putting in.
Social scheduling tool Buffer suggests nine different social media marketing goals based on the main reasons businesses use social networks:
- Increasing brand awareness
- Driving traffic to your website
- Generating leads
- Increasing revenue
- Boosting brand engagement
- Providing customer service
- Boosting PR
- Listening to conversations about your brand
You could prioritise one or two of these business goals but given that they all tie in together, it’s worth focussing on several.
For example, if you concentrate on increasing brand awareness, more people will see your brand presence online. This can give you a boost in website traffic that can ultimately lead to more sales. Plus, a wider online reach will most likely generate more conversations about your brand on social, thus expanding influence.
Whatever your goals are, they need to be both relevant and realistic to your business. For instance, aiming for one million Instagram followers in a year is a goal even the most established brands would struggle to meet. Aiming for 1,000 followers, however, is a more realistic starting point.
Also, when it comes to social, the number of followers is often less important than the type of followers that you gain. Quality over quantity is the fastest path boosting meaningful engagement and your ROI.
To keep your goals manageable, follow the SMART framework. SMART being an acronym for:
- Specific. If the goal is to increase revenue, how much do you want to increase it by? If it’s more leads that you want, how many is ‘more’? Give your goal a number.
- Measurable. Every goal you set needs a metric. If you want to boost engagement, likes, shares and comments are good metrics to measure. If you want to increase awareness, you might track post reach or mentions.
- Attainable. Your goals should be a challenge, but they shouldn’t be too far out of reach.
- Relevant. Every goal needs to be worthwhile for your business. If your goal is to get 1000 Instagram followers, for example, understand how this will benefit you. Is it just about getting more eyes on your posts or is it about building a community of loyal fans that eventually become customers?
- Timely. Every goal needs a deadline to motivate your team and keep everyone accountable. Within your overall deadline, set milestones to make sure you’re on track and adjust where needed.
Use the SMART framework for each goal and regularly review to make sure the goal still fits the criteria.
Step 2: Find your target audience
A good social media strategy should focus on people that are interested in what you offer. The audience to go after on social media is the same one you target with other marketing campaigns.
In creating a marketing plan for your business, you may have worked on ideal customer profiles. If not, now’s a great time to start.
Your ideal customer is a fictional version of a real person who would buy your product or service. For example, if you’re a wedding photographer, your ideal customer might be a man or woman between 20 and 40, who earns £25,000 a year and follows wedding pages on Facebook.
Create your ideal customer by answering the following questions:
- How old are they?
- Where do they live?
- What job do they have?
- What is their income?
- What are their interests?
- What are their pain points (problems that your business can solve)?
- Which social media channels do they use?
Top Tip: If you need help answering those questions, we cover customer personas in-depth in our post on how to build a go-to-market strategy ⚡️
For that last question on the list – which social media channels do they use? – there is plenty of data out there to help.
HubSpot recently compiled social demographics data for each of the biggest platforms. Here are some key stats:
- Over 2.74 billion users (Facebook Insights)
- Users are 43% female and 57% male (Statista)
- The most popular age range of users is 25-34 at 13.1% (female) and 19.3% (male) (Statista)
- The median income of most users is between $30,000-$49,000 (£23,000-£37,500) (The Rainmaker Blog)
- 48.5% of B2B decision makers use Facebook for B2B research (Hootsuite)
- Facebook reports that 2.14 billion people can be reached with ads on its platform (Hootsuite)
- 186 million Monetizable Daily Active Users (Twitter)
- Over 330 million monthly active users (Statista)
- Users are 70% male and 30% female (Statista)
- 27% of users are between 30-49 (The Rainmaker Blog)
- The highest percentage of users (28.9%) are between 25-35 years old, with the second highest percentage (28.2%) being 35-49 years old (Hootsuite/We Are Social)
- 31% of users have a median income of $75,000+ (£57,500+) (Pew Research Center)
- Over 1 billion monthly active users (Instagram)
- Instagram reports that 1.16 billion people can be reached with ads on its platform (Hootsuite)
- 200 million+ people using Instagram will visit at least one business profile daily (Instagram)
- 1/3 of the most viewed stories are from businesses (Instagram)
- 33.1% of global Instagram audiences are aged between 25 and 34 years (Statista)
- 60% of users say they discover new products on Instagram (Instagram)
- 500 million active users interact with Instagram Stories (Instagram)
- YouTube is the second most visited site in the world (Alexa)
- 2 billion monthly active users (Statista)
- 73% of adults watch YouTube videos (Pew Research Center)
- The most popular age range of users is 18-29 (Sprout Social)
- Each visitor spends 11 minutes 24 seconds a day on average on YouTube (Alexa)
- Around 31.7 million adults in the UK use YouTube (Avocado Social)
- LinkedIn has 722+ million members in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide (LinkedIn)
- Over 206 million people in Europe use the platform (Influencer Marketing Hub)
- The largest audience demographic (59.9%) are 25-34 years old
- LinkedIn reports that 702 million people can be reached with advertisements on its platform (Hootsuite)
With user rates in the hundreds of millions (or billions in the case of Facebook and Instagram), there’s a good chance your audience will use one or more of these platforms. But these may not be the only places they hang out.
Don’t discount other social channels like Reddit, which has over 1.5 billion monthly visits and a largely male audience. Or Pinterest, which has over 442 million monthly users worldwide and is particularly popular with women under 50. Then there’s the new kid on the block, TikTok, which has 1 billion active monthly users, 41% of whom are teenagers.
Use the data to point you in the right direction. From there, you’ll learn from the metrics (we’ll get onto those soon) which platforms are worth sticking with.
Step 3: Check out the competition
Checking out the competition’s social presence is important for two reasons:
- Their performance on specific channels can be an indicator as to a platform is worth using for your business
- Their content can help to influence your own ideas
The goal here is not to look at a competitor’s content strategy and copy it. Instead, it’s to see what types of content work and what doesn’t. This helps you to understand their strengths and weaknesses and what consumers expect, and also don’t respond well to, from a brand in your similar space.
For example, by researching a competitor you might find that they perform well on Instagram but not so well on Facebook, despite Facebook being popular with your target market. You might then place more focus on Facebook to capture the audience they are missing out on.
During your research, you might also find that competitor video posts perform better than plain text. So it might make sense to focus more on the former.
Top Tip: Video is a popular way to attract leads and can even help to significantly boost your conversion rate. To learn more about creating quality videos for your social media marketing strategy, read our guide on how to grow your small business using video marketing 📹.
An easy way to find competitors is to take your most popular keywords and type them into Google.
For example, if you run an accountancy firm for small businesses, you might search for “sole trader accountant”.
From the search results, you can visit competitor websites to find out which social channels they’re using, gauge their social presence (i.e. how often they post), and the type of content they’re posting.
Before long, you’ll see a pattern developing of which social media networks are most popular and which type of content performs best.
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Being #human is one of our core values and supporting our #community is one of the secrets to our success. Our CEO Steve Vamos said it best at #Xerocon San Diego: “Communities like ours are more important than ever because of the intensity of change in our world.” Communities come together for all sorts of reasons, and to solve all sorts of problems. We’re committed to highlighting each and every community in and around Xero to show the power people have when they come together to create change for small businesses. We’re starting this with the voices of our partners, check it out in our latest IGTV post.
Top Tip: The best way to ensure that each post achieves its purpose is to follow a digital marketing strategy that aligns with your objectives and goals. To learn more about how to boost online engagement, read our guide to how to create a complete digital marketing strategy for small businesses 🔥.
Step 4: Find your key social media metrics
Now that you’ve established your goals and have an idea of where to post, you can work on determining your most important metrics.
You’ll want to measure the metrics that align with your specific goals. Here are some metrics that you can scope:
- Engagement. Measure shares, comments and likes, in that order of importance. Likes are a vanity metric and a bit throwaway, but a share or a comment takes time and commitment from the user.
Top Tip: Even though likes don’t necessarily equate to a meaningful engagement rate, they are an important metric on Instagram. That’s because the more likes you get, the more chance you’ll have of boosting your brand’s visibility, which in turn increases the number of people that interact with your business. To learn more, read our 10-step guide to getting more likes and engagement on Instagram 📸.
- Reach. This shows you how many people saw your post and how far your content is spreading across social media. By dividing engagement metrics by reach you’ll get an engagement percentage that tells you how many of your audience participated in your post.
- Click-Through Rate (CTR). This is the number of clicks on your content, links or business name and can give you an insight into what people are curious about.
- Conversion rate. This measures the number of people who, after clicking on your link on social media, took action (e.g. bought a product, downloaded a resource or signed up to your newsletter), against the total visits on a page. The higher the conversion rate, the more relevant the content.
- Sentiment. This covers people’s reactions to your content. Were they positive, nonplussed, offended? The results will help steer your content strategy in the right direction.
Each social media platform has its own insights and analytics tools to help you measure these metrics. However, there are also several companies that consolidate your social metrics into one unified platform to simplify the process of analysing data. We’ll discuss all of these options in detail in a later section.
Step 5: Create and curate your social media content
Before we get into what to share on social platforms, there’s the important step of setting up your profiles.
Tide member and owner of Vera Beauty, Sinmi Adekola, talks about this in her post on using social media to grow your business.
Sinmi’s advice on choosing a social media handle is simple:
The KISS principle is a good one to live by when thinking about this.
I – It
There is no need to overcomplicate things, so keep it simple! Let’s use my own handle as an example, which is easier to find & remember?
Choose a handle that is simple and keep it consistent across all the platforms you use.
For your bio, Sinmi recommends being as descriptive as possible:
This is the ‘first impression’ space in your profile, where you can let people know your name, location, what you do & more. You have a limited amount of characters so make good use of them!
Another example, which sounds better for a business coach?
Consultations in London
13 Years’ experience’
[Followed by an email]
‘For 13 years I’ve helped business owners go from struggling to thriving! Email to book a free consultation in the heart of London! Click the link to visit my website.’
See the difference? Which one would you be more likely to engage with? Make that initial impact one to remember!
Deciding what content to share
Success on social media is about being social. That seems like an obvious statement to make, but many businesses fall into the trap of posting sales or promotional content.
The best ratio for engaging content vs. sales content is 80/20.
Only 20% of your content across social media accounts should include any kind of sales pitch or link to a product or service. The rest of the time (80%) should focus on content that engages, informs and educates.
What should that 80% be?
According to Sprout Social’s consumer sentiment analysis, sharing videos, responding to questions and joining conversations are high on the agenda.
Looking at the data, you can see why social media users favour this type of content above all else.
- Social video content generates 1200% more shares than text and image content combined, while posts with videos have 48% more views.
- 80% of consumers use social to engage with brands. On Twitter, customers that receive responses from brands are willing to spend up to 20% more with that brand. They’re also 30% more likely to recommend it to others.
- Joining in with conversations on your social media posts lets you show your personality, which social audiences love. According to Sprout Social, 79% of Millennials and 84% of other generations prefer brands to let their personalities shine on Facebook, while 51% of Millennials and 35% of other generations like it on Twitter. Wendy’s and Netflix are great examples of brands having fun with conversations. And Specsavers got 1.1K retweets for this reply to a tweet:
You know our thoughts on this….👀
— Specsavers UK (@Specsavers) May 16, 2019
For further inspiration, here are seven social content ideas to try as part of your social media marketing plan:
- Share your favourite content from other businesses. If you read an article, spot an event or see a social post that you enjoy and think your audience will like, share it with them.
- Show what’s happening behind the scenes in your business. Regardless of whether you’re B2B or B2C, business is people interacting with other people. Posting team-building content, progress content, funny videos or personal stories can help strengthen the bond between you and your customers.
- Run polls or post questions to invite audience participation. Polls can be on anything from what content you should write about on your blog, what product or service you should introduce, or general things for fun:
— Tatooine Sons Loves #TheRiseOfSkywalker (@TatooineSons) March 5, 2020
- Run contests or competitions that encourage people to take part by liking or leaving a comment. These are an easy way to get people to interact with your brand.
The prize this week is a Stress Relief Collection. You can enter through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Follow us and retweet for your chance to win.
— MysticMomentsUK (@MysticMomentsUK) March 3, 2020
- Shout about your successes. If you’ve won an award or an employee has done something great, tell your audience. It shows that your business is doing well.
- Share your latest blog posts. 95.9% of bloggers promote their posts on social media, which tells you it’s a tactic that works. Share your blogs everywhere, but particularly on LinkedIn. According to OptinMonster, LinkedIn is the most effective social media platform for delivering content and securing audience engagement.
- Share user-generated content (UGC). Content created by your customers and shared by you is authentic and trusted by followers. 48% of consumers say that user-generated content is a great way to discover new products and 93% say it’s helpful for making purchasing decisions.
For more inspiration, check out the Shorty Awards, which recognises the best campaigns in social media and digital.
Step 6: Schedule content to go out at the best times
Social media doesn’t stop when you leave the office. For your content calendar to be a success, you need to post content when your audience is most likely to see it.
According to SproutSocial, who crunched the data from 25 different studies, these are the best times to post on the biggest platforms:
- Best times to post: Wednesday, 11 a.m. and 1–2 p.m.
- Best days to post: Wednesday
- Worst day to post: Sunday
- Most consistent time for engagement: Tuesday through Thursday, 8 a.m.–3 p.m.
- Worst time for engagement: Every day either before 7 a.m. or after 5 p.m.
- Best times to post: Wednesday and Friday at 9 a.m.
- Best days to post: Wednesday and Friday
- Worst day to post: Saturday
- Most consistent time for engagement: Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.–4 p.m.
- Worst time for engagement: Every day before 4 a.m. and after 10 p.m.
- Best times to post: Wednesday at 11 a.m. and Friday from 10 a.m.–11 a.m.
- Best day to post: Wednesday
- Worst day to post: Sunday
- Most consistent time for engagement: Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.–4 p.m.
- Worst time for engagement: Every day before 6 a.m. and after 9 p.m.
Top Tip: To learn more tips and tricks about how to boost engagement on Instagram, read our guide to the best time to post on Instagram in the UK ⏰
- Best times to post: Wednesday from 8–10 a.m. and noon, Thursday at 9 a.m. and 1–2 p.m., and Friday at 9 a.m.
- Best day to post: Wednesday and Thursday
- Worst day to post: Sunday
- Most consistent time for engagement: Tuesday through Friday, 8 a.m.–2 p.m.
- Worst time for engagement: Every day before 4 a.m. and after 8 p.m.
Of course, there’s no way you can be on social media from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m. every day covering every social media channel. But your content can be.
A social media scheduling tool will let you select the day and time to post content and share it automatically.
Some are better and easier to use than others, and they also vary in cost. As for which is the right tool for you, Blogging Wizard recently published this great breakdown of the leading players.
Step 7: Track, measure and improve
All the goal setting, competitor analysis and content research will have you on the right path to success, but there will always be an element of trial and error.
As you start to roll out your content, keep a close eye on performance. Track key metrics against your goals across each platform. You might find that some accounts aren’t performing as well as expected while others are doing better than planned.
Where performance is below par, you can make tweaks. Use polls and surveys to find out what your audience wants to see and use the results to guide your strategy. Then measure again a few months down the line. If performance continues to disappoint over 12 to 18 months, you might decide that the platform is not for you.
Where performance is good, you might want to double down to increase output. You can also see if what works on one platform works on another.
You can track your data for free using the analytics tools within each platform:
- Facebook Insights
- Twitter Analytics
- Instagram Insights (only accessible via the Instagram app)
- LinkedIn Page Analytics
- YouTube Analytics
You can also track accounts for all platforms in one place using a social media management tool like Hootsuite, Sprout Social or Hubspot Social Media. However, it’s important to note that these are subscription platforms, so you’ll need to factor them into your marketing budget.
📹 Masterclass video: How to create a successful small business marketing strategy
Knowing the steps you need to take to grow your business is a critical skill for small business owners and startup founders. Which is exactly why we put together this webinar to help you create and build upon your own marketing strategy.
During this session, our panel of experts will share their knowledge and insight on how to plan, implement and evolve a solid marketing strategy.
- Sally Hawkesford
Director at Social Circle
- Kirstie Smith
Marketing Director at Social Circle
- Malcolm Palmer
Managing Partner at A4G Chartered Accountants
- Elin Roberts
Co-founder and Head of Marketing at Better Nature Foods
You’ll hear our speakers discuss:
📱 How to use social media for marketing
📩 CRM – how to create good leads and build your leads list
✅ How to create an authentic brand
🌎 How to make sure your campaigns are diverse and inclusive
Regardless of your industry, product or service, there’s an audience for your business on social media. Following the steps in this post will help you create a market strategy that engages them.
Remember, set achievable goals, post the right content to the right people at the right time and measure performance at every step. Social media is a long-term investment, but getting it right can mean long-term benefits for your brand’s bottom line.
Learn all about growing your business in our marketing series:
3.1 How to create a social media marketing strategy in 2020
3.2 The small business guide to Instagram marketing
3.3 How to build brand loyalty with relationship marketing
3.4 How to master business storytelling
3.5 How to grow your business with video (on a budget)
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