Tapping into the power of social media is a must in today’s digital-first world. Social platforms like Instagram and YouTube offer massive reach and marketing tools that can help grow your small business and build brand awareness.
As Wakefield Research and PayPal found, almost 30% of small business owners invest in online advertising or social media during the holiday season.1 But that number can go even higher — especially if you use the right strategies to drive results.
That's where this guide comes in. Here, we'll explain how to promote your business on social media, choose the right platforms and tools, and reach new customers, plus more helpful small business social media tips along the way.
First, let’s recap why social media is critical to small business success.
More than 70% of U.S. adults2 and 4.9 billion people worldwide use social media.3 People also spent an average of 147 minutes per day on social platforms in 2022.4 Going forward, those numbers are only expected to increase, making social media a prime way to grow your business presence and reach new customers.
Small businesses can increase brand awareness on social media, a critical first step in attracting new customers. For example, brand awareness might come in the form of impressions, clicks, comments, and shares. From there, businesses can drive customers further down the marketing funnel with consideration, conversion, and re-engagement campaigns.
Businesses can use social media to gather granular data about their audiences and interact with their customers directly. You might track ad metrics to see which demographics interact most with your content, for instance. Or you might create your own Facebook group or TikTok hashtag, which you can monitor to learn about customer values, interests, behaviors, and pain points.
Social media platforms aren't meant for set-it-and-forget-it strategies. They're full of infinite feeds that are constantly being updated with new content and users. So use these networks to consistently engage with your customers on a weekly, daily, or even hourly basis. This way, you can create an ongoing dialogue with your audience and nurture relationships over time.
Chances are, your competitors are using social media to promote their businesses and engage with customers, too. Visit and analyze their pages to gather ideas.
If one of their strategies is working well, for instance, you can adapt it to your own account. Or if you notice a gap in their approach, you can build that missing tactic into your own strategy and help increase your market share.
There are several popular social media platforms to choose from, each with its own demographics, tools, and benefits.
Get started on the social media platform you feel is the best fit for your business and most workable with your schedule and resources. Focus on building a dedicated audience on one platform first before expanding to others.
Whichever social media platform you choose, it’s good practice to post at least multiple times a week to keep your followers engaged. Small businesses can use Facebook, for example, to generate brand awareness and website traffic, build community, and even drive purchases directly from the social network. They can also launch interactive content like livestreams, polls, and video and carousel ads.
Read on for an overview of each option, so you can see which social media platform is best for your business.
Instagram can be a helpful marketing solution for small businesses in image-focused industries such as fashion, beauty, food, and travel. More than 90% of people on Instagram follow at least one business, and it's been deemed the number-one media platform for building relationships with brands.5
TikTok is one of the fastest-growing social platforms, reaching over one billion monthly users in just five years.6 It's emerged as a hub for millennial and Gen Z content, with 18-24 year olds making up almost 22% of its audience.7
TikTok is also one of the most unique and creative social apps available, offering a range of filters, editing tools, templates, audio clips, and formats for short-form videos. But TikTok users aren't just there to consume interesting content: One in three users bought a product because they saw it on the app.8
According to Pew Research, You Tube is one of the most widely used and fastest-growing online platforms among U.S. adults.9
Small businesses can use YouTube to create their own short- or long-form videos and livestreams, such as for product demos, Q&As, behind-the-scenes content, and entertaining or educational series. Brands can also launch YouTube Ads, which play before or during videos on other channels. Since YouTube is owned by Google, small businesses can further use this social platform to improve their search engine ranking and reach.
Small businesses can use Pinterest to share visuals of their home, culinary, and design products, as well as provide inspiration for Pinners in their target audience. As Pinterest reported, 80% of users have discovered a new brand or product on the social platform.10 And many users create wish lists of their favorite Pins for future reference.
While LinkedIn was built to help working professionals find job opportunities, it's expanded to become a content platform for thought leadership, industry trends, and discussions that move businesses forward.
LinkedIn's audience spans age groups, but a whopping 60% of its users are aged 25-34.11 Companies can also create their own LinkedIn pages, where they can connect with talent, post industry news, and publish their own content.
Twitter is the place to be for real-time conversations about breaking news and hot-topic topics in industries. Businesses, for example, can lead or join conversations with trending hashtags, join audio-based Twitter Spaces, start group chats with Twitter Communities, and, of course, build up their own followings. They can also promote their tweets to reach more people and sell products directly from Twitter.
Now that you understand what each social network offers, you can use these small business social media tips to build your marketing strategy and reach your customers.
Learn how to create a social media calendar, so you can plan when to share content on each platform. Each entry in your calendar should include:
Several of the social media platforms, like Facebook and LinkedIn, offer the ability to pre-schedule content within the platform. Scheduling content can help you adhere to a regular posting cadence, so your channels stay fresh and updated.
Also, try experimenting with different times of day and days of the week to see when your posts drive the most engagement.
What will your brand sound like and look like on social media? Will your copy be informative, casual, professional, witty, flowery, or to-the-point? Which color palette will you use? What will your images, videos, and page headers look like?
Use your answers to create brand guidelines for social media marketing. Then make sure to follow these guidelines with each account and post, creating a comprehensive experience for customers across social platforms.
Streamline your digital marketing with social media tools for small businesses. There are many platforms and resources available to help with social listening, content creation, campaign measurement, and planning.
When time and budget allow, you can also supplement your organic content with paid social ads. The biggest benefits of paid social media advertising include reaching a wider audience, targeting specific types of customers, and creating campaigns for certain goals and KPIs.
For example, you might launch a paid Instagram Story to drive semi-annual sales or create a sponsored Tweet to promote an online event. Just remember to not to be too promotional as you build your following.
Knowing how to track social media performance can help you optimize your campaigns and improve results. It can also help you meet your goals faster and more efficiently. Depending on your social channels, you might track metrics like impressions, clicks, comments, shares, saves, followers, and video views.
Say you launch a Facebook campaign to drive traffic back to your website. You can track impressions and click-through rates to see which ad formats work best among your audience. If carousel ads drive more clicks than video ads, for instance, you can allocate more of your budget to carousel ads and either cut or adjust your video ad strategy accordingly.
Going further, you can use these creative social media best practices to build more engaging content for your audience:
Small businesses can use social media marketing to expand their reach and build direct customer relationships. Whether you want to engage Gen Z-ers on TikTok, professionals on LinkedIn, or millennials on Instagram, you can use the tips outlined there to grow your business.
Visit our Marketing resources page to discover more proven tactics and strategies for success.
In partnership with three expert business owners, the PayPal Bootcamp includes practical checklists and a short video loaded with tips to help take your business to the next level.