Social Media Marketing for Small Business: The Ultimate Guide

November 1, 2019

Table of Contents


With the increasing popularity of social networking (as of 2018, 69% of U.S. adults regularly use at least one social media site), there’s a good chance that your potential customers are on one or more of the popular sites ready to engage with your brand. Even better, some of these users visit one or more social media sites daily giving you more opportunities to connect with them.

If you need more convincing that social media is a viable option for marketing your small business, consider this:

  • Market research company, eMarketer found that customers spend 20 to 40 percent more on the products/services of companies they interact with on social media.
  • Compared to traditional marketing, social media marketing will give your small business a greater chance of realizing a positive return on investment (ROI) because it’s typically much less expensive.
  • Social media marketing allows you to easily reach and interact with your target audience. This is an effective way to build a brand that people trust.
  • People are more frequently relying on social media to make purchasing decisions.

In this article, we’ll delve into the most popular social networking platforms and provide tips for cost-effectively maximizing your reach.






With over 1.58 billion daily active users, Facebook is the most widely used social platform. If you’re looking to increase brand awareness, website traffic, or online conversions, a presence on Facebook can help you reach those goals. 

The reason for Facebook’s impressive number of daily users? Facebook boasts a wide user base with both genders and most age groups represented in its demographics. 


Facebook Demographics


  • 57% of users are males; 43% are females.
  • 82% of all college graduates 
  • 62% of online users aged 65+
  • 72% of online users aged 50-64
  • 84% of online users aged 30-49 
  • 88% of online users aged 18-29 
  • 72% of online users with income greater than $75K

Most small business owners should be able to find their target market and build a relationship with them on this platform. How do you do that? Post great content. 


What to Post


To keep followers engaged, consistently post inspiring and relevant content at least once per day. For optimal engagement, post one to five times per day and vary the types of content. Post when your target audience is most likely to be active on Facebook; pay attention to when the most likes and comments occur.

The following types of content drive the most engagement on Facebook:

  • Videos
  • Statistics
  • Quotes
  • Images
  • Questions (polls)


Ways to Encourage More Engagement


    • Giveaways (coupons, e-book, etc.) to people who like your business page
    • Boost posts to a custom audience or to followers.
    • Promote an online or offline event. 
    • Facebook Ads  


Facebook Ads

Facebook Ads is by far the most developed advertising medium of all the social media platforms. You can target your ads by age, gender, employment, interests, purchasing behaviors, relationship status, and much more. This allows you to get the most out of your advertising dollars because you can place your ads and content in the newsfeeds of the specific audience you want to reach — those who are most likely to buy your product or service. 

While your target audience is highly likely to be on Facebook, you’ll need an advertising budget to reach them. According to a study by HubSpot, Facebook users are now only seeing 2% of the organic pages they follow in their feeds. The rest are from paid reach: boosted posts or Facebook Ads.

TIP:  Facebook typically charges less for ads that promote pages on Facebook. They prefer to keep people on the site. To stretch your advertising budget, promote a Facebook page and put a call-to-action (CTA) on the page suggesting that people click to your website. 

Unless you have no advertising budget or your product is prohibited from advertising on Facebook (i.e. tobacco or firearms), there’s a good chance that Facebook Ads will work for your business. Be inspired by these Facebook Ads success stories.

Types of Facebook Ads


  • Image Ads – Simple ads that you can create using images from your Facebook page
  • Video Ads Video ads can show your staff or product in action and can use GIF-like graphics instead of video footage.
  • Video Poll Ads Mobile-only ad format that incorporates an interactive component with video polls.
  • Carousel Ads Use up to 10 images or videos to showcase your product or service.
  • Slideshow Ads You can create short video ads from a collection of still photos, text, or existing video clips.
  • Collection Ads Offered only for mobile devices, Collection Ads allow you to showcase five products that customers can click to buy.
  • Instant Experience Ads A full-screen ad format that loads 15x faster than a mobile website outside of Facebook.
  • Lead Ads Great for collecting newsletter subscriptions, signing prospects up for a trial of your product/service, etc.
  • Dynamic Ads Allow you to promote targeted products to the customers most likely to be interested in them.
  • Messenger Ads Allow you to target ads to people who use Facebook Messenger.
  • Stories Ads A full-screen vertical video format that doesn’t require viewers to turn the screen.
  • Stories Augmented Reality Ads Use features like filters and animation to allow people to interact with your brand.
  • Playable Ads You create a game experience to encourage people to interact with your content.





With 139 million daily active users, Twitter is one of the older social media platforms. You can post photos and videos along with 280-character-limited copy. 

Twitter is also great for engaging potential customers through its use of hashtags. You can search a hashtag and find posts from both consumers and businesses that include that hashtag. This means you can find potential customers who are searching for something your company offers and they can find you.  For example, if you sell vintage fascinators, you can find tweets posted by brides-to-be looking for vintage fascinators if you search for a hashtag like #vintagefascinators or #fascinatorhat. You can then tweet them and include a link to your website. 

Twitter Demographics


  • 34% of users are females; 66% are males. 
  • 22% of U.S. adults use Twitter.  
  • 24% of all male online users; 21% of all female online users  
  • 37% of all users are aged 18-29; 25% are aged 30-49.  
  • 56% of users earn $50K+ per year.  
  • 80% of users are affluent millennials.   


What to Post


Of course, you always want to post high-quality content on Twitter, but these content types receive heavy engagement and retweets:


  • 80% of retweeted content is news related.
  • Instructional/how-to content and tweets containing images get lots of retweets.
  • Keep tweets short for optimal engagement and to increase the chance of them being retweeted. 
  • Use high-quality images and videos. Blurry or pixelated photos and grainy videos are a no-no. 


Ways to Engage and Interact


  • Follow people who are related to your business in some way: potential customers, people who tweet on related topics. Find candidates to follow by using Twitter search. Input a keyword or hashtag.
  • Offer praise or gratitude – Tell someone you liked their tweet, blog post, books, etc.
  • Send a tweet with a mention of someone and ask a question to start dialogue.
  • Provide valuable input – For example, two people are exchanging tweets on a topic related to your business and you interject with advice.
  • Ask followers to retweet posts.
  • Send a private message to another user – Use the Direct message (DM) feature. 


Advanced Techniques


  • Use Lists to organize followers (within Twitter). Choose Lists from the Profile drop-down menu.
  • Use Moments to attract followers. A Moment is a group of tweets created and shared around a specific topic. Gather your tweets and combine them with tweets from other experts and share them with your followers. Choose Moments from the Profile drop-down menu.
  • Automate tweets – Use automation tools to roll out tweets you’ve written in advance.
  • Twitter Ads


Twitter Ads

With hundreds of millions of tweets sent per day, getting your brand’s message across can be quite the challenge. Twitter Ads can put your message in front of users who are most likely to be interested in your products. According to Twitter’s data, ad engagements increased 50% over the last year, and cost per ad engagement dropped by 14%.  

Add to that the platform’s new simple ad formats, and Twitter can be an efficient, effective, and cost-effective method of reaching your target audience. Twitter offers a number of targeting options to help you choose the right audience for your ad and maximize your budget. You can define your audience by gender, age, location, language, interests, behaviors, and technology. You can also upload your own list of people (i.e. your email list), or target people who are similar to your follower base.

Types of Twitter Ads


  • Promoted Tweets – Promoted Tweets are tweets that an advertiser pays to have displayed to people who aren’t already following them on Twitter. Like regular tweets, they can be retweeted, liked, etc. They look just like regular tweets, except that they’re labeled as “Promoted.”  Promoted tweets appear in the timelines and profiles of targeted users as well as at the top of search results. 
  • Promoted Accounts – Promoted Accounts allow you to promote your Twitter account to targeted Twitter users who don’t yet follow you but who might be interested in your content. Promoted Accounts appear in the timelines of potential followers, in the Who to Follow suggestions, and search results. They include a Follow button and are clearly labeled as “Promoted”.
  • Promoted Trends – Trending topics on Twitter are those most talked about on the platform. They appear in users’ timelines and on the Explore tab. Promoted Trends allow you to promote a hashtag at the top of the list of trending topics. When users click on your Promoted Trend, they see an organic list of search results for the topic, with your Promoted tweet at the top of the list. As people start using your hashtag themselves, you gain additional organic exposure that increases the reach of your campaign.
  • Twitter Promote Mode – Twitter Promote Mode is an automated option for advertisers who are new to social media marketing or don’t have the resources to manage a campaign. For a flat rate of $99 USD per month (plus tax), your first 10 tweets each day (excluding retweets, quotes, and replies) are automatically promoted to your targeted audience. Twitter estimates that you can reach an average of 30,000 additional users and gain 30 additional followers per month.





Pinterest has over 300 million monthly active users. If your business is centered around creativity or has a predominantly female customer base, Pinterest is a social media platform you want to consider. Pinterest is based on creating boards and adding Pins to those boards. The objective is to acquire followers who will repin your Pins. 

The number of keywords in a Pin and their relevance to a user’s search term determines the Pin’s organic reach. Businesses can use this information to ensure that their content contains words that are searched often on Pinterest. 

Pinterest Demographics


  • 70% of Pinterest users are females.
  • 40% of new signups are men; 60% are women.
  • 34% of online users aged 18-29
  • 80% of U.S. mothers who are online use Pinterest.
  • Millennials use Pinterest as much as Instagram.
  • The median user age is 40.
  • The majority of active Pinners are under the age of 40.
  • 50% of users earn $50K+ per year.
  • 28% of U.S. social media users use Pinterest.
  • 93% of active Pinners use Pinterest to plan for purchases.
  • 87% of active Pinners purchased something they saw on Pinterest.


What to Pin

These are among the most searched topics on Pinterest. If your business is related to any of these topics, Pinterest should be part of your social media marketing strategy: 

  • Recipes
  • Lifestyle how-to-articles
  • Wedding inspiration
  • Outfit ideas

General content types you’ll often find on Pinterest:

  • Images of a Pinner’s work (products)
  • Images with words
  • Infographics
  • Instructographics
  • Quotes
  • Videos


Pinterest Ads

Pinterest’s advertising platform isn’t as robust as Facebook’s, but you can still expand your reach by paying to boost your Pins.  

Types of Pinterest Ads


  • Promoted Pins Other than the “Promoted” label on the Pin, they look and behave the same as other Pins. Users can pin them to boards, share them, and comment on them. Promoted Pins appear in the home feed and search results like a regular Pin except they’re boosted and targeted to deliver greater reach. Once they’re shared, the “Promoted” label disappears and subsequent repins are considered to be free exposure. When a user clicks on your ad, they’re directed to your landing page.
  • Promoted Video Pins – Just like Promoted Pins except the static image is replaced with a video. Videos are ideal for awareness campaigns and for telling a brand or product story. Promoted videos are found to be four times more memorable than basic Promoted Pins and 67% of Pinners feel that video inspires them to take action.    
  • Promoted Carousels – Feature up to five images that Pinners can swipe through. These ads appear wherever Pins do and behave the same except for the dots beneath the carousel that let Pinners know they can swipe through images. Each card in the carousel can have a different image, title, description, and landing page which makes this format great for showcasing multiple products.
  • Promoted App Pins – Let Pinners download your mobile app directly from Pinterest. Promoted App Pins look and behave just like Promoted Pins, except they link to an iTunes or Google Play app store URL.
  • Buyable Pins – These “shop the look” Pins allow users to purchase a product from you without leaving Pinterest. Buyable Pins appear wherever Promoted Pins do. 





With over 500 million daily active users, Instagram is owned by the same person who owns Facebook. This gives advertisers access to the same extensive user base and robust advertising platform as Facebook. Instagram also has its own organic benefits which makes it a great option for businesses with and without an advertising budget. On Instagram, you can acquire followers organically and expand the reach of your profile and posts organically.

You can only post photos and videos (or copy in visual creative format) on Instagram. This is to your advantage since people tend to respond to and remember what they see more than what they read. 

Instagram Demographics


  • 52% of users are females; 42% are males.
  • 37% of U.S. adults use Instagram.
  • 32% of all online users 
  • 31% of online users aged 18-24; 32% aged 25-34 
  • 72% of teens use Instagram. 35% say it’s their preferred social media platform.
  • 130 million users click on a shopping post to learn more about products every month.


What to Post

If you plan to use Instagram to promote your business, you need to consider what will appeal to your target audience. These post types are used by some of the top brands on Instagram:

  • Styled product photos
  • Interesting ways to use your products
  • Sale announcements
  • Inspirational images
  • Milestone celebrations
  • Customer photos
  • Contest/giveaway announcements
  • Behind the scenes shots/employee appreciation posts


Instagram Ads

Instagram’s advertising platform allows businesses to tell visual stories using various ad formats. Using Instagram ads, a small business can target the right people, at the right time.

Types of Instagram Ads


  • Image Feed Ads These single image ads are the most standard format, and don’t feel like ads if designed well.
  • Image Story Ads Similar to Image Feed Ads but used for Instagram stories.
  • Video Feed Ads This ad format will bring your ad to life with a quality video.
  • Video Story Ads Image Story Ads in video format
  • Carousel Feed Ads Show a series of scrollable images instead of just a single image. Great for visual brands.
  • Canvas Story Ads Advertisers can create a 360 virtual reality experience within their stories.





Similar to Pinterest and Instagram, YouTube features visual content. This platform allows its 30+ million daily active users to watch videos and/or upload them. Because YouTube is owned by Google, advertisers have access to Google’s advertising platform. Like its parent company, YouTube places importance on keywords when ranking video ads in search results.  Without having to increase your advertising budget, you can include keywords in your title and video description to make your videos have higher search rankings.

YouTube Demographics


  • 62% of users are males. 
  • 78% of U.S. adult males use YouTube; 68% of adult females.
  • 62% of businesses use YouTube.
  • 9% of U.S. small businesses are on YouTube.
  • Males primarily watch soccer or strategy games.
  • Females primarily watch beauty videos.
  • 51% of users visit the site daily.
  • Age 35-54 and 55+ are the fastest-growing demographic groups.


YouTube Ads

As the second-largest search engine after Google, YouTube offers both video and non-video ad formats. 


Types of YouTube Ads


  • TrueView Ads TrueView ads are the skippable ads that appear at the beginning of YouTube videos. You only pay when the ad plays for 30 seconds or longer, ends, or is clicked on.
  • Non-skippable Ads If your message requires a bit of build-up, non-skippable ads may work for you.
  • Bumper Ads Bumper ads are the shorter version of non-skippable ads. They appear at the end of videos and last no more than six seconds. Ideal for targeting mobile users.
  • Display Ads – Display ads appear above the video suggestions list. 
  • Overlay Ads Overlay ads are banner advertisements that you’ll often see running along the bottom of a video.
  • Cards & Sponsored Cards – Cards are small pop-ups that appear within the YouTube player.  They only expand to full size when clicked. They’re an unobtrusive way to advertise. 





If you have a B2B business model or target customers based on job title, LinkedIn offers 303 million monthly active users for you to market to. 

LinkedIn Demographics


  • 57% of users are male; 43% are female.
  • 49% of users earn $75K+ per year.
  • 51% of U.S. college graduates use LinkedIn.
  • 40 million students and recent college graduates use LinkedIn.
  • 90 million users are senior-level influencers.
  • 87 million millennials are on LinkedIn; 11 million are in decision-making positions.


LinkedIn Ads

LinkedIn Ads can help you attract more prospects in the world’s largest business arena. 

Types of LinkedIn Ads


  • Sponsored Content A way to promote existing content from your Company Page.
  • Text Ads – Similar to Google search ads, they’re a way to drive traffic to your LinkedIn Company Page or external website.
  • Sponsored InMail Personalized messages are delivered to users’ LinkedIn inboxes the same as regular messages.
  • Video Ads – Visual version of text ads
  • Display Ads – Allow you to create more interactive ads using text, audio, video, and images.
  • Dynamic Ads – Build relationships by delivering personalized messages to the most influential people.
  • Marketing Partner Ads – If you don’t want to personally create ads or manage your campaigns, you can work with a LinkedIn marketing partner.




If you’re considering one or more of the social media platforms above, don’t forget that Google remains a viable advertising method. With 75% of search engine market share and 3.5 billion searches performed on the platform every day, Google provides a lot of opportunities to get your brand in front of people. A successful campaign using Google Ads (formerly Google Adwords) will increase your website traffic, leads, conversions, and sales.

Types of Google Ads

Google gives you a variety of campaign types to choose from when creating your ads. All ads are shown in these two areas: 

  1. Search Network – Ads appear within Google search results.
  2. Display Network – Ads appear on the different websites of Google’s partners.  


Search Network


Ads in the Search Network appear as a text ad on the results page when a user searches for a particular keyword or keyword phrase. They appear above, below or to the right of organic results with a green “Ad” label on them.

You aren’t limited to text ads; your ads can also appear in Google Shopping. Google Shopping ads appear as images on the search results page and may result in more qualified leads because they show a picture of your product along with the price.

Display Network


If, while setting up your ad campaign, you opt to have your ads show in the Display Network, the ads will appear on the websites of Google’s third-party partners in different ways:


  • Display Ads – Ads that frame content on third-party websites
  • Video Ads –  Play before YouTube videos
  • Gmail Ads – Ads appear on Google’s email platform, Gmail.
  • Third-party App Ads Ads appear in apps on Google’s app network. 

Ads on the Display Network have the advantage of reaching more than 90% of all Internet users since Google partners with more than two million websites.  You’ll need to be careful, however, about where your ads are placed as they may be placed on sites that you find disagreeable.




Social Media Automation

To run efficient social media marketing campaigns, use automation tools to streamline some of your social media tasks. 

Automation Tools Can Help You:


  • Post to multiple social media platforms at one time
  • Share a post from one platform to another automatically
  • Schedule a post to appear at a later date on one or more platforms. Schedule them in one sitting and let automation software sprinkle the posts throughout the day.
  • Set up a centralized dashboard that can display all of your posts and replies to those posts in one view
  • Track and monitor your social media effectiveness – Keep tabs on which posts get a response and drive engagement. Try to post more like them.


When Not to Automate

To avoid having your accounts suspended, make sure you refer to the Terms of Service for each platform before putting any automation into place. It’s good practice to use tools that are commonly used within the platform. If in doubt, ask the platform’s support if something you’re considering violates their Terms of Service. 

In general, avoid automation that:

  • Sends bulk messages (spam)
  • Posts too frequently
  • Mass follows and unfollows other users
  • Creates posts for you
  • Takes the human element out of interacting with followers


Types of Automation Tools


  • Multi-platform dashboards Allow you to post, comment, and reply to more than one platform. You can also follow others and monitor conversations. Offered by:Hootsuite, Sprout Social
  • Platform-specific tools Automation tools designed to be used with a specific social media platform (i.e. Tweet-Deck for Twitter, Viral Woot for Pinterest).
  • Posting tools Allow you to make and schedule posts to one or more of the most popular platforms. Offered by:  Meet Edgar, Buffer App
  • Platform connectors Enable you to connect one social media platform to another. Offered by:  If This Then That, Zapier, Buffer App
  • Content curation tools Systems that help you find and save content that’s relevant to your audience. Offered by:  Pocket, Post Planner,
  • Monitoring and metrics Tools that allow you to track, monitor, and measure social media activities. Offered by:  Social Oomph, Social Mention




Building a Social Media Team

To free you to manage other aspects of your business, here are social media tasks that you can delegate or outsource:

  • Finding and adding followers
  • Responding to friend requests
  • Posting content
  • Monitoring posts and responding to comments  
  • Monitoring and engaging with members of groups you’ve created

When delegating, share your overall social media strategy and objectives. Create a checklist of tasks and how frequently they should be performed.  Always keep some duties for yourself so that you stay current and engaged. 


Finding Qualified Candidates

You can find social media specialists on Freelancer, Upwork, Fiverr, Craigslist, and at your local university career center (let them know you’re looking for an unpaid intern in exchange for college credit). You can also find interns on

Look at the platforms of candidates to see how they’ve handled their own social media presence. Use a trial period to see how the person works out.


Measuring Social Media Performance


What will you measure? These are the three main objectives of social media for business:

  1. Increased awareness
  2. Increased engagement
  3. Increased sales


Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

To know if you’re hitting one or more of the main objectives, here are the KPIs you should monitor.



Community size (# of followers or group members) to measure increase in awareness.



  • Number of times posts are shared by followers
  • Likes per post
  • Comments per post
  • Sentiment (people talking about your business in a positive or negative light)



  • Referral traffic from platform to website
  • Conversion rate
  • Revenue generated from social media referrals

Gather KPI information on a regular basis, ideally weekly. Use the analytics features built into many platforms or Google Analytics.


Final Thoughts


No matter how small your business, proper planning can help you realize social media marketing success. A capable team and the right tools should also be part of your arsenal. When you have these things working for you, you’ll be able to better connect with your existing audience, reach potential customers and increase your brand awareness. 




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