In Depth-Guide to Winning on Social Media for Small Businesses

Social Media for BusinessBe honest, how much knowledge about social media did you have before you started promoting your small business there?

My experience shows that many small businesses start promoting their business on social media, based on a hunch, thinking “I can do this, it’s easy”, and I understand their reasoning.

If you think about it, we all started using social media driven by nothing than a feeling. We spent a lot of time observing before we started posting ourselves. We learned by watching others and then we slowly started with liking, commenting, sharing.

However, maintaining your personal and corporate social media profiles is not the same. Your goals are different, your audience is different and the tools you use are different. Most importantly, companies are not people, even though some companies are a one-man-show. People don’t treat a company the same way they treat other people. Not everybody is your friend.

But you have to start somewhere, so the question becomes, where do you start? Or if you are already on social media and you want to do better, how do you do that? How do you evaluate if what you are doing is good in the first place?

Strategy Always Comes First

Me being me, I always start with strategy and determine these three things:

  1. who is your target market and “everybody” is not an answer,
  2. what is the message you are trying to send, and this is not about the salesy message, it’s about the style you use and the values you represent,
  3. which (marketing) distribution channels (which social media) are you going to use.

If you just go with social media and don’t think about these three things you might as well throw your money away. Even though ads may not be expensive, the time you spend on doing social media is also money. Small business usually means small marketing budget. So spend smartly.

Who Are You Trying to Reach?

Everybody is not an answer. Never. Ever. The idea with targeting is to actually target.

Start with identifying 3-5 different types of customers, “personas” in marketing speak, who will gain the most from the value of your product.

Don’t focus on their age, gender and locality. You should have all these information, but that should not be the primary description of your target market. Focus on their habits, behavior and needs instead.

Give them names (we use celebrity names) and talk to them (like to a good friend) though your social media channels. After some time, check your list of followers and try to find your personas there. If they are not there, think again about your target market. Start all over again. Knowing your customer is a learning process.

Refine Your Message

Now that you know who you are talking to, think about what are you saying. You have to think about the style, the tone and the meaning of your message.

Forget the salesy messages about how your product is the best thing ever. Speak about your values, solve a problem to your customer, give them advice on how to use your product, give some knowledge from your industry away for free. Think about how you are going to solve her problems, and fulfill his needs.

Let others say (testimonials) how good you are.

That’s what you do on social media. Create believers, create friends, create community. Provide support. The product will sell itself.

Choose the Right Distribution Channels

Distribution channel is actually a channel that you would use to send your message. This depends firstly on who is your target market, and where they are.

For example, if they are between 15-25 think about doing Snapchat. Create a filter for your locality. If they are following tech news, use Twitter and then post 5-10 times a day.

If you are a bakery, show your sugary goods on Instagram that favors enchanting graphics.

But Remember, Your Website Is Your Online Home, Not Social Media

What the most important thing if you’re going to create content for your social media is – that content has to have a base, a home.

Many small companies say that they are too small for a website. I always, always disagree. While I do respect you don’t want to start with that, and you want to start with social media, I always hope that after a while you’ll have a website, a home.

Think about it as the online version of your brick and mortar store. Once you have your base, you can create your message on your website and distribute it through social media. You can do promoted posts, do ads, drive traffic to your home through SEO. In fact, many of the companies use SEO as their main driving force of traffic to their website.

Sometimes I find that people are saying “no presence is better than bad presence”. I tend to agree. But we are not all born with expertise. Sometimes we make mistakes.

Doing social media is learning. It’s about measuring all your content and comparing results, it’s reading comments and understanding shares, it’s knowing when the audience reacts good and when the audience ignores. That takes time.

Social media is not something you start doing and expect sold products after a week. Social media is used for brand awareness and for community building. The community itself should be your goal. Sales will come naturally after that. Just be patient and learn. Measure and learn.


  1. 1

    Hi Natasa,

    Some excellent advice here for any small business who needs help to get more results from Social Media.

    I think that point that you make about your website being your online ‘home’ is so important (and not just because we’re a hosting company 🙂 ). The thing is that if you are creating content for social media like the examples you give with a bakery, then you can easily re-purpose that content for your blog with some great photos, hints and tips, videos, etc..

    I always say that your blog is like the centre of your online universe and your social media profiles gravitate around it – how poetic!

    Thanks again, some really brilliant advice.

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        Definitely agree. In fact I had that conversation with someone just this morning.

        I understand that it is tempting for someone on a small budget to dismiss having their own website whether for reasons of cost or complexity. However that point you make about owning your own content is so important. Your website is your online real estate – no one can take that from you or change how it is presented, etc..

        CMS like WordPress have a pretty gentle learning curve and there are so many tutorials and support out there.

  2. 4

    Hi Natasa,

    I like that you called out the folks who claim “everybody” is their target market.

    This is sometimes a painful conversation with new or prospective clients, and often a red flag… there are more than 1 billion Facebook users — we can’t target them all!

    Nice post.


    • 5

      Hi Brent,

      That’s an important point to get across. Even when you narrow it down you still have to ask – are these the right clients for us? Will they need excessive hand holding or support? Are they likely to have issues using the product/service?

      This exercise is really useful for developing a content plan to attract the right people and invite them into the top end of the funnel.

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    This is certainly a good starting guide for social media. I do also agree that at some point it can be ideal for small business to have a home online in a website. You can only do so much on social media and for the most part it is about brand awareness. By having a website it brings that brand awareness to the next level in creating leads.

    Of course all is dependent on your type of business. Social media can only do so much, a website, for example, can be there right when someone needs it through search. Typically people do not search social media first to fix a need the look for a website.

    • 8

      Hi Anthony,

      You are spot on there in terms of your website being central in terms of search. It gives you plenty of space to express yourself and include loads of great content where you can demonstrate your expertise. Social Media is great for inviting people in but your aim should be to draw them to your website as the ultimate destination.

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