How to create a social media marketing strategy for your small business

social media marketing header image by Kaboompics.com

97% of digital consumers have used social media in the past month and more than half of those people have used it to research products.

With the right social media marketing strategy for your small business, those digital consumers can become your customers, too.

But making a foray into social media marketing can be overwhelming, especially without a clear cut strategy and an understanding of its importance. Posting on social has the potential to be so much more than simply a space to boost online relevance. 

If used correctly, 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 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

Creating a social media strategy is just like any other kind of business planning—you need an end goal 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 goals based on the main reasons businesses use social media:

  1. Increasing brand awareness
  2. Driving traffic to your website
  3. Generating leads
  4. Increasing revenue
  5. Boosting brand engagement
  6. Providing customer service
  7. Boosting PR
  8. Listening to conversations about your brand

You could prioritise one or two of these 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 if 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.

Infographic outlining SMART goals

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?

Quick 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:

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

  • Over 1 billion monthly active users (Instagram)
  • The most popular age range of Instagrammers is 13-17, at 72% (The Rainmaker Blog)
  • Most of Instagram’s users are located in urban areas, at 42% (The Rainmaker Blog)
  • 60% of users say they discover new products on Instagram (Instagram)
  • 500 million active users interact with Instagram Stories (Instagram)

YouTube

  • Two billion monthly logged-in videos (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

  • LinkedIn has 660 million members (We Are Social)
  • The website is available in 24 different languages (We Are Social)
  • Over 206 million people in Europe use the platform (We Are Social)
  • LinkedIn has the fastest growing membership rate among 18-24-year-olds (We Are Social)

With user rates in the hundreds of millions (or billions in the case of Facebook), 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 1.2 billion monthly visits and a largely male audience. Or Pinterest, which has over 300 million monthly users worldwide and is particularly popular with women under 50. Then there’s the new kid on the block, TikTok, which has 500 million 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 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 and copy it. Instead, it’s to see what works 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. 

Quick 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 business with video (on a budget).

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”. 

Screenshot of Google search result

From the search results, you can visit competitor websites to find out which social channels they’re using and the type of content they’re posting. 

Before long, you’ll see a pattern developing of which channels are most popular and which type of content performs best.


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. 

  • 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 media, 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.

K– Keep

I – It

S– Simple

S– Stupid

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?

 @vvera.beauty__bromley.uk

Or

 @verabeautyuk ? 

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?

‘Business Coach

Consultations in London

13 Years’ experience’

[Followed by an email]

VS

‘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 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.

Infographic outlining Sprout Social's consumer sentiment analysis

Looking at the data, you can see why social media users favour this type of content above all else.

  • 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 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:


For further inspiration, here are seven social content ideas to try:

  1. 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.

  1. 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. 

  1. 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:


  1. 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.


  1. 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. 

  1. 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. 

  1. 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 strategy to be a success, you need to post content when your audience is most likely to see it. 

According to CoSchedule, who crunched the data from 25 different studies, these are the best times to post on the biggest platforms:

Facebook

  • Best times to post: 9 am, 11 am to 12 pm and 3 pm to 4 pm
  • Best days to post: Thursday to Sunday

Twitter

  • Best times to post: 8 am to 10 am and 6 pm to 9 pm, as well as 8 am to 10 am, 12 pm and 7 pm to 9 pm for B2C companies
  • Best days to post: For B2B companies, weekdays are best. For B2C companies, weekends are best

Instagram

  • Best times to post: 1 pm and 5 pm. For B2B companies, 12 pm to 1 pm, 5 pm to 6 pm and 8 pm to 9 pm are best.
  • Best day to post: Friday

LinkedIn

  • Best times to post: 10 am to 12 pm. For B2C companies, 12 pm, 8 am and 10 am are best. 
  • Best day to post: Wednesday

Of course, there’s no way you can be on social media from 8 am until 9 pm 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:

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. 

Wrapping up

Over 3.8 billion people worldwide use social media. That’s around half of the world’s population. And more than a million people join that number every day. 

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.

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Photo by kaboompics.com, published on Pexels

Kerstin Reichert

SEO Manager and small business marketing expert

Tide Team

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