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Intro to Social Media Marketing: A Guide for Small Business Owners

Want to market your small business on social media but aren't sure how to get started?

With the deluge of information about social media strategies for businesses, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Not to worry: We’ve built a straightforward guide to help you understand the basic concepts and take some solid first steps. This in-depth guide will help you set goals for your social media efforts, identify your ideal social media audience, understand which platforms to focus on, and engage your customer leads with relevant and shareable content.

Currently, 9 out of 10 businesses maintain a social media presence.

Even if you’re starting from scratch, by putting a few basic structural pieces in place and building upon those, you’ll be far ahead of most businesses.

In this guide, we’ll explore three critical tactics of successful social media marketing:

  • Set clear, achievable goals
  • Know your audience
  • Remember the golden rule of content marketing: “help not hype”

Why Social Media Works

In case you need a compelling reason to get started, take a look at the stats on social media use. According to the global agency, We Are Social, over 2.7 billion people now actively use social media. And that number is expected to grow by around 25% annually. Currently, 9 out of 10 businesses maintain a social media presence.

And, we know that members of these platforms are using them, not just to socialize, but to actively search for products and services. We also know that, according to Nielsen, a whopping 92% of younger consumers will seek recommendations from friends when considering a purchase.

Evidence has shown again and again that social media can work for small businesses to drive traffic, generate leads, and build community.

sample facebook business page

Social Media Calls For Experimentation

The very best social media gurus and strategists will tell you the truth: There is no out-of-the-box formula for your unique business. To make this form of marketing work and work well, you must be willing to experiment. Start slowly by testing one strategy at a time. When you hit on one that works, funnel resources into it and make the most of it.

The determining factor will always be your customers: Who they are, where they are, what they want, and what problems you can solve for them through your online activity.

For that reason, the most successful strategies are grounded in a bit of advanced planning and a lot of research.

Twitter homepage -- feed

Set Clear Goals

Don’t set out on your social media course blazing full speed ahead with no real destination in mind. This tack will get you nowhere fast and waste valuable time. Set clear goals from the beginning and be sure that those goals tick all the boxes of SMART goal-setting (specific, measurable, achievable, results-oriented, time-bound).

Becoming a household name is not a SMART goal -- but increasing the number of qualified leads obtained online by 30% over the next 6 months is. Start small and choose realistic goals that will allow you to achieve success quickly and build momentum.

Instagram Business Profile

Use Data to Focus on A Niche

A key concept when starting out in social turns out to be a simple one: focus. Don’t try to be all things to all people. Understand your specific audience and focus on meeting their needs or solving their problems, not your own. And to help you focus your social media, ask yourself a few key questions:

Who are your existing customers?

Who are your most valuable customers?

We also know that, according to Nielsen, a whopping 92% of younger consumers will seek recommendations from friends when considering a purchase.

Fortunately, questions like these no longer rely on guesswork for answers. Your sales data and existing client data will be a gold mine of information for planning a social media strategy. When your business raises its voice on a social platform like Twitter or Facebook, be sure this voice speaks, not to the entire internet, but to a targeted, specific audience of potential and current customers.

Organize and analyze the data you have on your best customers, and use that data to build profiles (also called “buyer personas”) of specific, segmented portions of the market you want to reach. Then craft your message to fit the likes and dislikes, wants and needs, of those profiles.

Brainrider has a great tool to help you create effective customer profiles. Once you’ve clearly delineated the characteristics of your best (or ideal) customers, then you can determine which platforms are most likely to help you reach them.

LinkedIn Business Page

Social Platforms By The Numbers

Let’s look briefly at the 5 top social media platforms and some data about them from the Pew Research Center.


79% of online Americans use Facebook. 76% of those who use it, visit the site daily. The gist of these numbers is this: Everyone is on Facebook. Every age, at every level of education, income, and region. While many will say that the users are older, that’s not true. The age group with the (slightly) highest percentage of users is the 18-29 demographic. But it is true that the numbers remain high across virtually all age groups.


32% of online Americans use Instagram. About half of its users access the site daily. Among the users are an especially high number of young adults, and members are more likely to be women than men.


24% of online Americans use Twitter, and about 42% of those visit daily. Again, the users are more likely to be in the 18-29 range.


29% of online Americans use the site. 50% of all online adults with college degrees are members. And, 45% of all online adults with a household income of $75k or more are members. The number of users who visit daily is less than that of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


31% of online Americans use Pinterest. A large majority of members of this site are women. As with LinkedIn, daily usage is much lower than that of the top 3.

The demographics of each social platform should be taken into consideration in order to align with the key customer profiles you’ve identified.

Choosing the Right Social Platform

Each social platform brings a distinct set of best practices, trends, and user preferences. Much like fishing in the right waters with the right bait, understanding the nuances of each platform will set you up for success.

Once you choose one or two sites to focus on, stay on top of the changes that occur regularly, as every platform continues to evolve.


Facebook offers your business the opportunity to build authentic relationships with people based on trust and connection. Here you will create a Facebook page for your business, a social headquarters of sorts, that allows users to discover you through Facebook search and connect with you one on one.

Your business page can include a wide variety of tabs and apps. These are located just below the cover photo and might link to content such as videos, contests, a storefront, or landing pages.

79% of online Americans use Facebook. 76% of those who use it, visit the site daily. The gist of these numbers is this: Everyone is on Facebook. Every age, at every level of education, income, and region.

Benefits of Facebook Marketing
The versatility of your marketing capabilities on Facebook combined with powerful analytics allows you to measure results and target your audience, make it a truly outstanding tool. The abilities to broadcast live video or to host a Facebook user group for your community are a huge bonus.


Twitter allows your business to join the discussion and stay at the forefront of news and cultural trends. Those who choose to follow you on Twitter are interested in engaging with your brand and appreciate your influence and input.

What to Share
This platform allows you to engage in relevant and persuasive interactions with your audience. You can use hashtags to add your thoughts to a trending topic and can link back to your content on other sites.

Expert Twitter Tips:

  • Keep tweets to 100 characters or less and encourage followers to retweet with the addition of their own thoughts.
  • Use hashtags and even create your own for company events and campaigns. Hashtags make your content more searchable.
  • Keep content current and tweet often. Twitter feeds are crowded and tend to move at lightning speed.


Instagram is a visual playground, fueled by passionate interests, and owned by Facebook. Instagram users tend to be very receptive to promotions and offers, and have set the bar high for the visual appeal of posts. Professionally designed visuals will do best.

What to Share
Products showcase well here, and as with Twitter, hashtags are a powerful tool. Use two to three hashtags per post. Add a location tag to further increase engagement.

Expert Instagram Tips

  • Create games and hold contests to increase engagement.
  • Use branded hashtags in every post.
  • Use Instagram stories to increase content without overwhelming your audience.


This platform, often called “the world’s largest professional network,” allows you to reach a professional audience looking for business-oriented content. Known as a mecca for thought leadership, LinkedIn allows you to publish articles and create a business profile.

What to Share:
The content sharing capacity of LinkedIn is extensive, and content should lean to the educational side here. By publishing on LinkedIn Pulse, you have the possibility to be promoted directly by the platform and have your name and links broadcast to millions.


Pinterest is best thought of as a visual search engine. Users pin image and video posts to scrap boards. As with Instagram, everything shared here must spur visual interest.

What to Share:
Infographics and how-to visuals are popular, and users go to Pinterest to make buying decisions. One major benefit of Pinterest is the fact that every image post automatically links to an external site. It can be a terrific way to drive traffic and promote products with visual appeal.

Dive In

Once you set a clear goal and fully research and understand your target audience, it’s time to jump into the social media waters. But don’t try to be everywhere at once! Remember to focus first, then experiment. Choose one or two platforms that resonate best with your ideal buyers and develop a robust presence there. Once you feel confident, you’ll be ready to take on more.