Social media remains one of the most accessible and affordable digital marketing tools for small businesses. Yet nearly 40% of them don’t use it. Being on the right platforms can boost brand awareness and engagement. It can also be good for ROI with 77% of consumers more likely to buy from a brand they follow on social media over one they do not.

When I started my agency Contentworks 3 years ago, we grew our channels to a combined 40k+ followers with minimal advertising spend. In this article, I’m going to share my insights with you.

Social Media Growth for Small Businesses – The Stats You Need to Know

  • 50 million small businesses use Facebook to connect with customers.
  • 90% of small business marketers say social media has increased their brand exposure.
  • 40% of small businesses rely on social media ads for revenue generation.
  • 65% of people feel more connected to brands they follow on social media.
  • 1/3 internet users research a brand or service on social media.
  • 67% of consumers are more likely to increase spending with a brand they follow on social media.
  • Facebook influences buying decisions 7 times more than other social media platforms combined.
  • 71% of customers who get a good social media service experience are likely to recommend the brand to their peers.
  • 80% of consumers say thought leadership builds trust making social media a great way to form a closer brand-consumer bond when used correctly.

Mistakes to avoid when using social media

  • While it’s clear that having a social media strategy for your small business makes perfect sense, here are some common mistakes to avoid.
  • Not having a social media marketing plan. If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s really hard to create meaningful campaigns that you can monitor.
  • Failing to set Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) or using analytics to track campaigns. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all have analytics tools that’ll help you to understand how the content you share grows your business. But, in order for these to make sense, you must understand why you’re using social media and the goals you’re working towards. Again, this all comes back to strategy.
  • Failing to have a unique approach for each social platform. While TikTok is a Gen Z’s paradise, Instagram is most popular with Millennials and you need to tailor content appropriately in order to boost engagement.
  • Poor engagement. Automation can be great. But physical replies that match the tone of your brand can improve interaction and consumer confidence.
  • Dismissing social media as ineffective. It can take up to 6 months to see any traction.

Example of a good small business social media strategy

Lloyd Taco is a New York-based food truck and restaurant company that leveraged its Facebook, Insta and Twitter pages to connect with customers.

In what has become the brand’s norm, Lloyd Food uses its Facebook Page to broadcast its route through the streets of Buffalo and people engage with the brand in search of information on the scheduled stops.

Lloyd Food Facebook

This small business uses Facebook scheduling to achieve greater content publishing flexibility and promotes happenings with Facebook Events. Lloyd food has activated reviews on its page and maintains 2-way communication through Messenger, personally replying to all messages. 

Their Instagram snaps shots of the trucks, customers and food to really create a visual community:

Lloyd Food Instagram

While their Twitter uses fun gifs and memes in their messaging:

Lloyd Food Twitter

The results:

  • 37% of new customers learn about Lloyd Food from Facebook
  • The business reaches an average of 42,000 people each week
  • The business saves 15 hours a week by prescheduling its posts
  • The brand has 18.9k Instagram followers and a whopping 37k on Twitter!

Proof that the right strategy and unique content across your social media channels is a winner.

How to market your business on social media

Effective social media usage can result in effective business growth. Here are some useful ways to use social channels to your advantage.

#1 Find your own style

60% of American millennials expect consistent experiences when engaging with brands online, in-store, or by phone. What’s more, brands with consistency earn 23% more annual revenue than the brands that are inconsistent. Therefore, it’s crucial to find your own social media voice and stick to it.

One brand that has a strong identity and communicates well with consumers is Wendy’s. The brand frequently jumps into debates with fans, tags other brands and joins trending hashtags. All of this gives the brand a strong personality which resonates with followers.

Wendy's Twitter 1

While their posts are often snarky and cheeky, their tone is consistent and their commitment to communication is clear to see.

Wendy's Twitter 2

Why this works:

  • Wendy’s maintains a consistent tone of voice that’s on brand.
  • They respond directly to consumers helping to create a personalised experience.
  • They maintain their brand identity throughout all communication.

#2 Provide a personalised customer journey

Speaking of personalisation, consumers love attention. Indeed, 53% of them want to shop at small businesses because of the personalised services they get. Social media doesn’t need to be you on a podium shouting down to your audience. Instead, speak directly to your fans. Brands like ASOS do this well by shining the spotlight on fan purchases via social media!

ASOS Facebook 1

Useful tip: Create relevant and thought-provoking questions and ask your audience for responses. Asking questions triggers a natural answering reflex which will help you generate engagement. This is now easy to do using Instagram stickers, Twitter votes and topical Facebook polls.

ASOS Facebook 2

Instagram poll

#3 Capture attention

The average human attention span is 8 seconds. That’s less than a goldfish. Infobesity is a huge problem. Therefore, you need to create exciting content with instant appeal. For instance, Facebook updates with 40 characters or less get 86% more engagement, so avoid the temptation to waffle.

Coconut Bliss leverages short Facebook updates that are typically under 60 characters to boost engagement. This is usually 36% more than that of longer posts.

Coconut Bliss Facebook

Tip 1: Social media can help you gain attention but post your content at optimal times to reach and engage the most people.

Tip 2: Make the most of visuals. Instagram is the perfect platform to capture attention with a simple image. GoPro is a brand that uses beautiful imagery to create a buzz around their brand without being overly wordy or salesy. It’s not unusual for their posts and post videos to receive hundreds of thousands of likes and hundreds of comments. As a small business, making your posts as attractive as possible will help your audience grow. Take inspiration from big brands to see what works.

GrPro Instagram

Tip 3: Offer incentives. Competitions are a great way to garner attention and boost followers for your small business. Take a look at the below example from Krispy Kreme UK. This is clever as it encourages followers to ‘tag a mate’ helping to spread brand awareness. The image and ‘Win A Dozen’ sticker is also an example of clear and enticing marketing. Try to keep your marketing messages simple and to-the-point.

Krispy Kreme Instagram

#4 Drive growth through collaborations

Collaborating with other small businesses (not direct competitors) can help you increase traffic and brand awareness, and social media makes for an excellent collaborative platform.

For example, The Chocolate Smiths, a handmade chocolate business, regularly collaborates with other businesses in the handmade food niche, encouraging customers to buy from both businesses, helping to build brand awareness for the other brands, and driving traffic to their pages.

The Chocolate Smiths Instagram 1

The Chocolate Smiths Instagram 2

In return, The Chocolate Smiths enjoys the same benefits from the partnerships.

The Chocolate Smiths Instagram 3

Useful tip: Use your collaborations to give back to your community and build brand loyalty. The Chocolate Smiths keeps people engaged, anticipating future products and deals by offering regular incentives.

The Chocolate Smiths Instagram 3

#5 Know your audience

Always analyse data and understand your audience before deciding which social media platforms to target. For example, Instagram is great if your audience comprises millennials and Gen Z because 71% of the platform’s 1 billion monthly active users are under 35 years. For Baby Boomers, the platforms of choice are Facebook and YouTube with 69% and 73% of Boomers using each platform respectively.

Top Tip: Organic marketing will save you money. But if you’re paying for ads, be sure to focus on channels that suit your audience.

You must also go beyond the basic demographics and learn your audience’s goals, challenges and interests. Fintechs such as Monzo target millennials who often struggle to save. As a result, they’ve fine-tuned their offering to appeal to this demographic.

Monzo Twitter

Top tips:

  • Create campaigns that are useful for the reader. Offer advice and information relevant to your audience.
  • Forget overly promotional content. Instead, be more creative and provide solutions to problems.
  • Write long-form content that you can post to your social accounts.

#6 Build relationships with engagement

A positive experience on social media drives over 70% of consumers to make a purchase. It’s critical to engage with your audience, and to do this you need to be readily available with relevant solutions. Be sure to use versatile communication tools like Facebook Messenger which is used by 1.3 billion people daily.

Create a conversational chatbot for Messenger using Many Chat, a platform that is built with small business owners in mind. This can help supplement a support team as you are starting out and still hiring. Later it will boost their efforts as you grow.

#7 Analyse your competition

Watching your competition is a big part of any social media strategy. You shouldn’t copy your competitions’ every move but being mindful of competitor actions can highlight where your target audience hangs out and the type of content they consume, thereby allowing you to create an effective course of action.

Try performing competitive analysis which helps you understand competitor performance and track metrics across several social media channels. You can do this on social media using tools like Crowdfire or simply by Facebook Page Watch to name a few.

The point of this is not to become jealous or to criticise your own efforts. It’s to see what’s working for your competitors and to see if it would work for you too.

Competitors

Top tip: Carry out a content audit of your competitors across all social media channels. Make a note of what posts are attracting the most attention and think about how you can apply the positives to your own business while avoiding the negatives.

#8 Encourage user-generated content (UGC)

UGC is one of the best and cheapest forms of content you can leverage for your small business social media strategy. It’s a great way to increase followers, and ultimately, turn followers into customers. UGC is directly correlated with consumers’ buying decisions and consumers find it 9.8x more impactful than influencer content.  

Parakeet Café, a local San Diego café, has built its social media presence around UGC, allowing the business to increase brand awareness and brand loyalty among customers who engage with the brand consistently.

Parakeet Cafe Instagram 1

Parakeet Café has an impressive 13.5k followers and offers ethically sourced healthy eats. By promoting UGC, the brand is able to advertise their treats without looking overly promotional. By tagging relevant micro-influencers who match the stylish, laid-back ethos of the brand, they’re also able to increase brand awareness and tap into new audiences.

UGC also gives the brand a more human feel and ensures their Instagram page is full of personality, which helps to tell a brand story.

Parakeet Cafe Instagram 2

Tip: Influencer marketing is one of the biggest methods for customer acquisition in the digital world. 93% of marketers report that it has helped them improve their visibility. You should consider partnering with micro-influencers to increase brand awareness and product credibility. This is an effective strategy because on average, micro-influencers generate 7x more engagement compared to macro-influencers. Consider searching for social influencers in your area or look for advocates among your audience.

Tip: Use imagery that’s relatable and not overly flashy or staged as this will look to synthetic and prevent people from forming a connection.

#9 Create video content

Video is the king of social media content, so be sure to incorporate it into your strategy.

  •     It gets the most engagement compared to other content types on Instagram.
  •     Video posts get almost double the average engagement on Facebook.
  •     Tweets with video get 10x more engagement.
  •     LinkedIn users are 20x more likely to share video than other content types.

Missoma, an online jewellery brand gets on average, 6.8x more engagement with video compared to images.

Missoma Instagram 1

Missoma Instagram 2

How to use video content as a start-up:

Videos are excellent for boosting engagement but creating them can be intimidating. Things to consider include:

The message you want to convey through the content and imagery.

The platform you’ll promote on. In-post Insta videos can be up to 15-seconds long

Call to action – what do you want viewers to do next?

There are some good inexpensive video making tools to use including Powtoon which helps to create animated presentations and explainer videos. PosterMyWall also makes it easy for start-ups to create beautiful graphics and videos without having to be experts in graphic design. Biteable is another do-it-yourself video production tool helping you to save money and stick to your budget.

Top tip: Spend time creating a strong video script. This should include short impactful sentences, a strong message with a call to action and on-brand language.

#10 Repurpose content

Quality content is hard to create taking time and effort. You can repurpose your content to get the most engagement and interaction out of your efforts. For example, you can repost evergreen content, repost old images, or turn your content into infographics or videos.

There are many quick and easy ways to repurpose content. Here are some examples:

Blog to Twitter

The WordPress plugin ClicktoTweet allows you to create tweetable content for your readers. This means content can be repurposed through user interaction for an authentic vibe. It’ll also drive more traffic back to your blog.

Blog to Twitter

Video to blog

People process information in different ways. So why not repurpose a video into a blog. This is exactly what Moz do with their Whiteboard Friday series being a brand staple. Every time they publish a video, they also provide a blog complete with video transcriptions.

Moz Whiteboard Friday

You can convert a blog to a nice infographic image or turn it into a podcast. Why not also reshare content according to your followers’ different time zones?

Use a tool like AgoraPulse for your content scheduling and easily schedule, queue and repurpose content across your channels. Here’s one I made earlier!

AgoraPulse

Social media growth for small businesses is totally achievable. Not only that, it’s achievable with minimal spend. Start with a good strategy, audience knowledge and tons of cross channel creativity and you’ll soon see results.

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