A complete guide on how to use social media for small business growth

by Maxine Bremner

Published • 29/04/2024 | Updated • 29/04/2024


A complete guide on how to use social media for small business growth

by Maxine Bremner

Published • 29/04/2024 | Updated • 29/04/2024


Learning how to use social media for small business marketing is essential for merchants who want to keep their marketing in-line with competitors.

Social media marketing for small businesses can help propel your brand into greater visibility and ensure your business gets in front of your ideal customers or clients.

In one 2023 Statista survey of 143 companies in the UK, more than 96% of respondents reported that their business “used social media marketing for brand awareness and brand building”.

In this complete guide, we’ll explore what social media marketing is, the nuances of different social platforms, and how to develop and apply your own social media marketing strategy for small business.

How to use social media for small businesses

Social media marketing for a small business revolves around a set of core elements. In order to approach social media in a way that will give you the best possible online engagement and return on investment (ROI), it’s important to develop basic knowledge of these concepts and understand the role they play in your wider marketing strategy. In this section, we’ll look into the 5 core elements of social media marketing:

  • Strategy

  • Publishing

  • Community management

  • Advertising

  • Analytics


When planning how to use social media for small business marketing, it’s essential to start with a robust strategy. This is especially important for smaller merchants who may be working with a limited budget. An effective strategy will help you use your funds more efficiently and help you analyse whether you have achieved ROI for your efforts. When crafting your social media strategy, you’ll need to look for marketing activities that will effectively showcase your brand’s unique selling point (USP) while also serving your overarching marketing goals. For example, if you’re a retail store selling hand-made porcelain goods with an overarching goal of generating more engagement with seasonal promotions, you might want to form a strategy that’s focused on showcasing the unique quality of your products with professional photography.


When asking the question “why do businesses use social media?”, you’re likely to find an answer referencing the large amount of time consumers spend engaging with social media platforms. According to Statista, the number of social media users in the UK is forecast to grow from roughly 61 million users in 2024 to more than 64 million by 2029.

Though there’s huge potential in reaching your audience through social media, simply being present and creating a business profile on popular platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Tiktok isn’t enough. Your social media marketing will need a strategic approach to publishing that caters to the user behaviour on a specific platform, and prioritises quality over quantity to maximise impact. As a small merchant, it’s essential to develop a publishing schedule that covers a mix of content types, caters to your specific target audience, and gradually adapts to spend resources on the platforms and content that have the most impact.

This allows you to continuously improve your social media marketing and see stronger results from it.

Community management

Unlike more traditional forms of marketing, social media marketing requires 2-way communication between the brand and its audience to be most effective.

Effective community management involves showing an active interest in your audience by responding to comments and engaging with public discussions on the various social media platforms where you’re active.

This is especially important for local brick-and-mortar businesses, as participating in discussions around local news and events can help solidify your business as part of the community, and foster greater trust and customer loyalty for your brand.

Increasing brand loyalty has a variety of potential positive impacts for small businesses, including customer retention, more repeat purchases, higher customer lifetime value, and reduced marketing costs in the future.


Well-managed social media accounts can be great for generating free, organic engagement with your brand. However, paid advertising campaigns are another important pillar of small business social media for generating engagement. Paid advertising on social media can help to grow brand awareness with specific demographics of customers that you might not be able to target and reach through traditional marketing practices.

When you’re formalising your social media strategy, it’s a good idea to consider allocating some budget for paid ads on your chosen platforms once you’ve generated some marketing activity through organic means.

The paid advertising platforms offered by social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook provide access to advanced advertising tools allowing you to create detailed audience profiles and rules that only trigger ads when certain conditions are met.

This will allow you to tailor your advertising campaigns to the segmentation and profile of your best customers with the highest intent to convert. It will also make sure that your advertising budget is being spent wisely. Some of the different types of audience segmentation qualifiers you can target through social media advertising include:

  • Location

  • Age range

  • Gender

  • Demographics

  • Interests

  • Behaviours


Using analytics is essential in social media for small business, allowing you to objectively track how effective your marketing efforts are and where you could be making improvements. All major social platforms have in-built analytics which will help you understand variables such as: 

  • How many times your organic posts are being viewed.

  • Where your business is being discovered on social media.

  • Which times of day are most likely to draw the most engagement for new posts.

Many of these analytics tools are free to any business account that spends on the social media platform’s advertising.

When looking into how to use social media for small business, it’s important to consider how data collection and analytics can help you pivot and improve new product launches, new restaurant openings, seasonal campaigns, and other business opportunities.

Once you have collected the data, adopting a SWOT analysis framework will ensure that you’re in a better position to make informed decisions for your business and marketing strategy going forward.

Why do businesses use social media: pros and cons

Social media makes up a significant part of many businesses’ overall marketing strategy. However, this doesn’t mean it’s right for every stage of starting a business, scaling a business or that your marketing resources can’t be better spent on other marketing disciplines.

Pros of social media for small businesses

The popular rise of social media introduced a range of new ways for businesses to interact with their target audience. Social media is flexible and can be applied to a range of different functions as you work to grow your brand, including:

  • Storytelling and brand personality.

  • Promoting new products.

  • Establishing brand awareness.

  • Encourages traffic to your website.

  • Interacting with your audience through engaging 2-way conversations.

  • Building a community of local followers.

  • Managing your reputation.

Now let’s look at some of the pros and cons of social media to help you understand the features that sets social media apart from other marketing channels, and determine what its relationship with your business entity should look like.

High return on investment

One of the benefits of social media for small businesses is that it can offer a consistently high ROI compared to other marketing disciplines. Outside of the time and money spent on creative assets, PPC, and supporting analysis tools, having a brand presence on social media is completely free. This is reflected in the popularity of social media advertising spending in the UK, which stood at £37 billion at the end of 2023.

Because social media marketing gives business owners a highly detailed view of their customers and how they interact with brands online, it’s much easier for you to target paid advertising at people who are most likely to interact with your ads, and continually improve content to increase the chances of engagement. When it’s executed correctly, social media marketing can be an effective way to drive your ideal customers to your store and make sure your marketing budget is being spent on activities that are most likely to get results.

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Better understanding of your industry and customers

If you’re looking to understand how to get clients interested in your small business, social media gives you a way to build a better understanding of your target consumer.

Many popular social media platforms offer businesses a wealth of tools and methods for analysing your audience and developing a more detailed customer profile.

Organic activities like interacting with customers in online discussions or checking the analytics for your posts can be a great way to determine which kinds of content are generating the most engagement.

Social media accounts are also great tools for carrying out competitor analysis, and determining your brand’s share of voice on a certain platform.

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Direct contact with customers

Being active on social media can also improve the level of contact you have with customers. It gives you a user-friendly platform with which to address customer queries through direct messaging and comments on public posts. This can help you resolve questions and issues quickly and develop a closer relationship with already loyal customers and manage client expectations to further build on existing customer retention. Being able to contact audiences directly through their favourite social media platforms will make interactions with your business more convenient for customers, improving their overall customer experience, satisfaction and quality of experience.

Social media contact is much more efficient and direct compared to customers having to email a company. For example, emailing an info@ or hello@ support email address can be less appealing for customers, where they might not feel confident that their query is actually reaching the right individual at the business and will be answered quickly.

Social media marketing can also make managing a brand more convenient for business owners, as you’ll be able to attend to customers quickly and easily from your mobile device wherever you are.

In some platforms, social media can even offer a more fluid and convenient payment experience for customers, for example allowing a brand to receive online payments through QR codes and payment links.

Cons of social media for small businesses

Though social media can be a powerful marketing tool, it’s not perfect, and there are certain potential drawbacks you should be aware of when you’re planning the role it will play in your wider marketing mix. Here’s some of the main cons of social media for small businesses to be aware of.

It can be time-consuming

While social media marketing can be a great way to promote your brand, effectively managing it can also be very time-consuming for small business owners.

When you first start using social media marketing, you’ll have limited data and will need to use it consistently to harness its full potential.

Essential processes like forming an accurate target market definition to use in advertising can require extensive market research before you start to accomplish a healthy ROI, and there may be other marketing activities that could be a more efficient use of your time depending on your industry and niche.

To combat this, you can make use of scheduling tools to plan content in advance, work in sprints, and allocate specific times for social media activity.

Competition for attention

Social media is a popular marketing discipline, merchants who are looking to set-up a side hustle or business for the first time on social media are likely to face some challenging competition from their respective industry.

Many of your competitors will likely already have an active presence on social media. They may also have more resources available and bigger budgets for developing their content and running advertising, making it more challenging for you to attract the attention of your target audience. You can mitigate this issue by concentrating efforts on platforms where your target audience is most active and receptive to compete efficiently for attention. Most social media platforms release annual reports detailing their user base demographics. These insights can help you understand where your target audience is most likely to be active.

Spreading your attention across multiple platforms

For most brands, successful social media marketing requires having active accounts on various platforms where your target audience is most likely to find you. There are social media tools available that can help you manage several different social accounts at once. However, when you’re first figuring out how to use social media for your small business, you may find yourself having to jump between different accounts to schedule posts manually, tend to customer messages, and take care of all the other tasks involved in small business social media management. Investing this amount of time in your social media can be challenging if you’re a new entrepreneur with a busy schedule and responsible for the day-to-day of running your business whilst focusing on other business growth strategies.

To remedy this, you can select 1-2 platforms that align best with your business goals and audience, rather than trying to be everywhere all at once and falling short.

Algorithm changes can affect visibility

The content that social media platforms serve to their users is determined by complex algorithms which are updated often throughout the year. Unlike other channels like email marketing for small business, this makes social media marketing particularly challenging to keep updated on the current state of an algorithm, and adjust your strategy accordingly. This factor of social media marketing means your brand’s visibility can drop without warning based on the changes to social media algorithms, potentially undermining the work you put into planning and promoting your content. To combat this, avoid being overly reliant on one single platform and diversify your content. By regularly updating your strategy to include a mix of content types you’ll be in a better position to adapt to algorithm changes and maintain organic visibility for your small business on social media. 

Social platforms have some control over your content

Unlike the content you post to your online store or distribute through traditional marketing methods, the content you post on social media is owned and controlled by the platform.

When you create a social media profile you agree to a platform's terms and conditions granting them the rights to use your content, often in ways you might not realise or expect. They can modify and share your content, sometimes without your direct consent or without compensating you for the use of your brand content.

Though images and videos you post to social media will be your intellectual property, 

the platform will have a high degree of control over how it’s displayed. This means the social media content you invest in could be unexpectedly removed for not adhering to stringent content policies or shifts in the platform’s management. To ensure total ownership of the content you use, it’s essential to repurpose social media assets for your website. Make your website the content hub and use social media to redirect traffic there, ensuring you retain ownership of your content and benefit from the referral traffic as much as possible.

It may be harder to reach all audience segments

Due to the way social media platforms serve content based on algorithms informed by user behaviour, there’s a chance that your brand’s presence may not reach potential valuable customers. While the specific targeting available through social media can improve your marketing ROI, it does mean that you can’t guarantee reaching all potentially valuable audience segments as you can with traditional print marketing. To combat this, you can leverage platform advertising tools and features to reach specific segments of your audience effectively.

Potential for negative feedback and reputation damage

In the fast-paced discussions that drive social media, negative feedback to a brand can quickly get out of control and reach far more people than it would in other marketing channels. There are many instances of brands experiencing serious damage to their reputation due to incidents on social media, and many that recovered through good use of online reputation management. One famous example of this was Samsung’s recovery from its Galaxy Note 7 safety crisis.

You’ll need to have a robust reputation management strategy to mitigate this risk when investing in social media marketing. This should include regular monitoring of your social media platform, engaging with your audience, and encouraging positive reviews from satisfied customers.

How to decide on the best social media for your small business?

There’s no one answer to the question “which platform offers the best social media for small business?” This is because different brands are better suited to different kinds of social media. It’s important to familiarise yourself with the different audiences and nuances of major platforms, and ensure you’re maximising the potential return on your social media marketing efforts. Here’s a brief look at the audience demographics and distinguishing features of some of the most popular social media platforms.

TikTok for small businesses

TikTok’s main audience demographic is Millennials, Gen Z, and Gen A. With its short-form video format making it an effective platform for visually engaging content. This platform is especially effective for businesses that rely on visual branding, like small clothing retailers or beauty brands that are targeting a younger audience, or visual and creative freelancers like graphic designers and photographers. TikTok's unique algorithm allows content to go viral regardless of the account's follower count so it's perfect for a small business looking to reach a wider audience, grow their brand presence and quickly increase their organic visibility and engagement online.

Facebook for small businesses

Facebook has a vast and diverse audience, but it’s particularly popular among Gen X and millennials. Facebook also has an array of features that are geared towards engagement in the local community, like public event pages and geographically-targeted ads. It also offers small businesses the ability to create Pages and Groups, enabling direct communication with customers and fostering a community around your brand. This makes it an effective platform for any business that relies on sales at brick-and-mortar premises. If you’re wondering how to get more clients to convert on this platform, Facebook has its own Facebook Marketplace selling platform, which can be an effective way to reach new customers through social media. By listing products where your target customers are already browsing, merchants can showcase products within a vast community, enhancing product visibility.

Instagram for small businesses

Though Instagram also has a diverse user base, its audience tends to be younger than active Facebook users, with more than 65% being Gen Z and millennials.

All content posted on Instagram must include either an image or a video, making it especially well-suited to brands that have largely visual branding and products, such as clothing retailers, cake makers or beauty brands. Instagram’s Stories and Reels can help brands creatively showcase their physical products, share behind-the-scenes content, or reshare existing customers using their products on social media through the use of hashtags. One of Instagram’s unique features is Broadcast Channels, launched in 2023. This gives brands a real-time platform for content distribution and engagement. 

Gaining direct access to an engaged community through Broadcast Channels offers the ability to: 

  • Share exclusive access to subscribers about upcoming content, competitions, new product launches.

  • Improve customer experience with feedback polls.

  • An organic and direct way to ask customers for reviews.

The opportunity for real-time engagement with potential customers makes Instagram a particularly good channel for craft-based businesses who create custom and personalised products.

LinkedIn for small businesses

LinkedIn is unique in that it’s a social media platform specifically for content about work, careers and entrepreneurship. Due to this, LinkedIn’s core audience demographic tends to be Gen X and Millennials who are either career-oriented or run their own businesses. LinkedIn is best suited for B2B businesses, such as business coaches, commercial retailers, freelance writers and graphic designers. Offering a unique platform to establish your brand as an authority in your respective industry. The organic reach potential on LinkedIn is often understated. By sharing first-hand experiences and participating in conversations relevant to your product or offering, you’ll be able to position yourself as a thought leader and attract new business opportunities for your brand.

X (formerly Twitter) for small businesses

X is another platform with a large and diverse user base. The short, text-based content on X makes it a powerful marketing tool for any business that needs to give real-time updates to their audience, e.g for special promotions that are time-limited.

As a tool for business promotion, you can maximise the value of X by using hashtags to improve your organic reach, using the platform’s paid advertising platform, and using analytics tools to track engagement over time. You can also use X Lists to track your competitors’ online activity and keep updated on industry trends.

Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, also has their own microblogging platform called Threads. This social media platform is designed for more in-depth and cohesive sequences of posts. This may be useful for brands that want to convey more complex thoughts through short-form social media content.

YouTube for small businesses

Though not strictly a social media platform, YouTube is one of the most popular online platforms for sharing video content. Making it a great place for brands to share or repurpose video content like product demonstrations and tutorials. For example, if you’re a personal trainer, you might want to engage your audience with deep massage roller exercise videos. Though YouTube has a diverse audience, it’s especially popular among the millennial demographic, with more than 38% of users being between the ages of 25 and 44.

Creators can build a community around their brand through channel subscriptions, and engage with users directly through comments sections. It’s also possible to schedule live stream events for more direct interaction with your audience and a chance to build loyalty. You also can communicate your branding a bit more on YouTube using banner images and featured videos. Business owners can also add video cards and end their videos with CTAs and promotions to encourage their users to take action.

Snapchat for small businesses

Snapchat is popular with a Gen A, Gen Z, and millennial audience, reaching 90% of the 13-24 year old population and 75% of the 13-34 year old population in 25+ countries

The platform focuses on short-term visual content that expires after a predetermined length of time and creates a sense of urgency. This makes it well-suited for flash sales and similar limited-time promotions by small e-commerce retailers. The unique nature of Snapchat as a platform is that the snaps are designed to be temporary and not stored on the app or device for an extended period of time. This creates a sense of urgency and exclusivity for consumers interacting with brands, as they know that the content they are viewing will not be available for long.

Pinterest for small businesses

Pinterest is an image-based social media platform that has a particular emphasis on fashion, home decor, and recipes. Its audience is predominantly (more than 75%) women, and though its user base represents a variety of ages, Pinterest is particularly popular with the millennial generation. Pinterest’s unique features include catalogues which allow you to upload shoppable products or travel listings, which could be a helpful feature for hotels or bed and breakfasts. Business users can also use Shopping ads to reach people who have high-intent and are ready to buy. The platform’s emphasis on product discovery and inspiration from visual content makes it a great platform for apparel brands and food-related businesses like home bakeries.

Google Business Profile for small businesses

While not technically a social media platform, Google Business Profile (GBP) gives brands a platform to post quality images and share essential information about their business, such as its opening hours and location. Google Business Profile is a useful platform for any business with a focus on a local audience, such as trade service providers like plumbers and electricians, independent coffee shops, or restaurants.

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The Google Maps listing and public customer reviews can help to instil trust and credibility in your brand among a localised audience. There’s also a Popular Questions and Answers feature which can make it easier for potential customers to research and learn more about your business.

Reddit for small businesses

Reddit’s variety of subreddits catering to a range of niche interests has given it a broad user base, though the demographics are skewed slightly towards men, representing 63% of users.

Each separate subreddit has its own rules and conventions, but Reddit is particularly well-suited to taking part in communities focused on a specific city or region for local branding drives. One of the best things about Reddit is that it really doesn't matter how niche your business or product is, there will be a community presence on Reddit with people who are equally passionate and want to learn about a new product or service. 

How much does it cost to advertise on social media?

Your small business social media marketing budget will depend on a number of variables:

  • The goals you’ve set with your social media marketing and the budget allocation you’ll need to make to achieve these.

  • Your sales funnel (the stages members of your audience will go through before becoming a client or customer) and the stages of this process your social media marketing will focus on to effectively capture their intent.

The current state of your competitors’ social media marketing and what you’ll need to do to match or surpass this.

The different platforms you’re planning to use for your social media marketing will also be an influencing factor on the budget you’ll need to set to meet your marketing goals.

To help you make accurate projections for your paid social media advertising budget, here’s the average cost-per-mille (the cost of 1,000 views of an ad) for popular social media platforms according to Statista:

  • Pinterest - £23.44

  • YouTube - £7.56

  • Instagram - £6.18

  • Facebook - £5.62

  • LinkedIn - £5.15

  • X (formerly Twitter) - £5.05

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Social media for different businesses: 22 tips on what to post

The best practices for social media marketing can vary considerably from one industry to the next. If you’re wondering how to improve social media for your small business, here’s a brief introduction to social media advertising, and some effective post ideas for 4 different small merchant types to help you get inspired:

  • Barber shops

  • Restaurants and cafes

  • Bookstores

  • Retailers

What is social media advertising?

Social media advertising refers to any marketing activities that use the tools and features available on a given social media platform to publish promotional content. Depending on the platform and your brand, forms of social media advertising can include:

  • How-to videos that appeal to your target audience.

  • Customer spotlights sharing content from your satisfied customers.

  • Industry trends and updates, framed to focus on how they might affect your audience.

  • Behind the scenes content showing you and your staff.

  • Product highlights and showcases.

  • Q and As answering common queries about your products, services, or industry.

Social media for barber shops

Barber shops can benefit from social media marketing that showcases your skills and the kind of environment and service customers can expect from visiting your shop. Here are some ideas for posts to feature on your barber shop’s social media:

  • Before-and-after transition videos showing a haircut for one of your customers.

  • “A day in the life” time lapse videos showing the day-to-day running of your business.

  • Educational content focusing on styling, grooming, and seasonal styles.

  • Behind-the-scenes videos introducing your team and giving your audience a feel for the environment at your barber shop.

  • “Where to find us” videos or images citing nearby landmarks and helping to establish yourself in the local area.

Social media for restaurants and cafes

Food and beverage businesses have a breadth of opportunities to publish content that showcases their menu and products to help connect to their local community. Some effective social media content for restaurants and cafes can include:

  • Food showcasing with high-quality photography of your most popular dishes.

  • Behind-the-scenes videos introducing your staff and showing how dishes are prepared.

  • Themed menu showcases for public holidays or local events.

  • Interactive content that allows customers to vote on new menu items or share their opinions in another way.

  • Culinary tips and tricks so customers can try making your dishes from home.

  • Promotions for new online reservation or takeaway services that offer a more convenient customer experience.

  • Video content showcasing your premises, new dishes, 

  • Podcast content featuring other chefs.

Social media for a bookstore

There are many online communities of book lovers. If you run a bookstore, there are a range of ways you can tap into active discussions and effectively engage with your target audience. Some of these include:

  • Author spotlight videos focusing on local authors, discussing their profile, careers, and upcoming or popular releases.

  • Virtual book club discussions over video calls.

  • Posts featuring themed in-store book displays focused on seasonal reads, particular authors, or genres.

  • Posts promoting in-store or virtual events like book signings, midnight releases, author readings, or book club discussions.

Social media for retailers

Whether you’re running a brick-and-mortar retail store, an e-commerce website, or both, there’s many ways you can promote your products and offers using social media as a retailer. Some effective post formats for retailers on social media include:

  • Product showcases displaying sets of complementary items, featured “new in” products, and other products you want to promote.

  • Promotions and discounts, especially updates to time-limited offers to create a sense of urgency.

  • Competitions and giveaways.

  • Live videos of product unboxings or demos.

  • Customer spotlights sharing customer content that features your products in  a positive light.

  • Comparisons and reviews focusing on the unique selling points (USPs) that make your product superior to your competitors’.

  • Educational content like videos and infographics that help customers get the most out of your products.

Remember that these suggestions are only based on what brands have done successfully in the past. To maximise your success with social media content, it’s best to get creative and try to stand out from the crowd, while tailoring content focus and form to your unique audience.

6 steps to creating a social media strategy for your business

Now that you’re familiar with the various factors and platforms that can contribute to successful social media marketing for small businesses, you’re ready to begin building your own social media strategy. Here are the 6 steps to creating a robust strategy that will help direct how to use social media for small business.

Step 1: Audit your current social media

If you’ve already registered a business profile on social media and have been running for some time, the first step to building an effective strategy is to audit your current approach to social media. This will help you determine what’s worked for you in the past and what needs to be optimised for better success in the future. The key steps of a small business social media audit include:

  • Organising a list of all the social media accounts you currently have.

  • Checking that your branding is consistent across all your current social media accounts in terms of brand name, visual elements like your logo and colour pallet, and the language you use.

  • Identifying all of your highest-performing social media content across different platforms.

  • Identifying content that doesn’t get high engagement compared to your other posts, e.g doesn’t have as many shares, likes or comments.

  • Comparing the performance of each platform based on their contribution to your marketing goals.

  • Researching your social media audience and determining how it differs from one platform to the next. 

Using an ideal buyer persona can be useful here, as it will help to understand any clear overlap of target audiences or highlight discrepancies that don't align with your marketing goals.

Common social media auditing mistakes to avoid

When carrying out a social media audit, some merchants can make the mistake of spreading their resources too thin and auditing social media accounts that don’t have any potential as a marketing asset. Remember that not every business is well-suited to every social media platform, and it’s better to focus your time and budget on platforms that are more likely to generate results for your brand.

Step 2: Research and planning

When looking into how to use social media for small business, it’s essential to thoroughly research the state of marketing on your chosen platforms, and your competitors’ marketing before launching any social media marketing activities. Using the data you’ve already gathered from your audit, carry out thorough research on your social media target audience, their preferences and behaviour patterns, and the social media activities of your competitors. Similar to a SWOT analysis of a business, gathering this research early on will give you an organised set of data you can refer back to as you build your strategy in detail.

Common social media marketing research and planning mistakes to avoid

Misunderstanding your target audience in the research phase is one of the biggest mistakes small business owners can make. Be sure to take proactive steps to identify your target market such as engaging in discussions or inviting people to take part in polls to form a customer profile that’s as detailed and reliable as possible.

Step 3: Define your goals

Not having clear and measurable goals for your social media can put you at risk of spending your time, budget and resources on activities that won’t generate any value. Some of the goals you might want to set out for your social media strategy might include:

  • 10-15% increase in website traffic from social media channels within a 6-month period.

  • 5-10% rise in sales attributed to social media promotions over 6 months.

  • 10-20% growth in new followers per month.

Common social media marketing goal-setting mistakes to avoid

When it comes to defining goals, one of the most common mistakes to avoid is making marketing goals too vague. Whatever you’re trying to achieve with your social media marketing, we recommend using the Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound (SMART) framework to ensure you can track the effectiveness of your strategy when you roll it out.

Step 4: Set your budget

The next step is to allocate a reasonable budget that you’ll spend on your social media marketing strategy. This should be based on the goals you’ve set for your marketing efforts, and the benchmarks we listed in the previous section: How much does it cost to advertise on social media? Be sure to consider cash flow when allocating your social media spend, it’s best to start small and then increase once you have proven your strategy or campaign. With a small business budget in place, you’ll ensure that the social media activities in your strategy are sustainable, and more likely to yield a consistently positive ROI.

Common social media marketing budgeting mistakes to avoid

When setting your social media marketing budget, it’s essential to avoid the common mistake of underestimating the budget you need to achieve any given goal. Launching a social media marketing drive without a sufficient budget can limit the impact of your social media marketing, so make sure you prioritise your social media budget as much as possible.

Step 5: Plan your content

Equipped with specific, measurable goals, and a detailed view of the audience you’re going to be targeting on social media, your next step is to plan your content. Schedule content in a social media content calendar that’s likely to resonate with your target audience based on all the data you’ve gathered on them, and will feed into the goals you’re trying to achieve with your social media marketing.

Common social media marketing content planning mistakes to avoid

A common mistake when planning social media content is letting your posts become too repetitive or monotonous, which can quickly lead to disengagement. Be sure to review your content calendar carefully and create several drafts before finalising it to make sure you’re keeping content fresh and interesting. All the posts you publish should be working towards the wider company mission, growing your brand, and engaging audiences, and not necessarily just selling your product or service.

One way to avoid a repetitive or monotonous social media calendar is to use placeholders for content focusing on local news or industry developments. This will ensure your profiles maintain a mix of posts that are focused on your products and business, and new, fresh content that capitalises on emerging news or trends.

Step 6: Post, analyse, and repeat

As you begin to execute your social media strategy, it’s essential to continuously analyse the performance of various pieces of organic content, your paid advertising, and other social media activities. Over time, this will show you what kind of marketing initiatives perform the best for your brand, helping you invest in these kinds of activities instead of wasting time on ineffective strategies. Some of the key metrics to look at when analysing your social media include:

  • Impressions, meaning the number of times users view your content in their feed.

  • Click-through-rate (CTR), meaning the percentage of people who see one of your posts who click on the content’s call to action, leading to another piece of content such as your website or social media profile.

  • Conversion rate from traffic generated from your social media activities.

  • Audience growth, measured by the increase in your social media followers over a given period of time.

What are some common social media marketing mistakes to avoid?

When analysing your social media marketing, it can be easy to see a data trend beginning to emerge, rush to conclusions, and take action before you’re sure that your analysis is correct. Remember that spikes and troughs in engagement with a certain post doesn’t necessarily mean that these should inform your future strategy. It’s essential to be mindful, thorough and objective whenever you’re making decisions based on social media analysis by taking into account external factors, seasonal periods, and changes in algorithms.

Social media tips for small businesses

Navigating social media and refining your small business strategy takes time, both to familiarise yourself with your targeted platforms and the user behaviour of your audience. However, there are still certain habits and best practices you can use to maximise your chances of success from the start. Here are 5 social media tips to bear in mind as you launch your strategy.

Be consistent

It’s better to have fewer, high-quality posts than an abundance of lower-quality content. However, being consistent with posting on social media helps keep users engaged and show that your brand is active on your customers’ favourite platforms.

This doesn’t mean you have to stay constantly active across all the platforms where you have an account. It’s better to focus on making 1-2 well-thought-out posts per week rather than sporadically posting across too many accounts to manage.

Post with authenticity, personality and humour 

As the name suggests, social media is a marketing space where social connections and the humanisation of brands is more effective than content that’s overly flat or lacking in personality. When you’re drafting your posts, make an effort to write in your brand’s unique tone of voice, keeping your content authentic, personable, and where appropriate, humorous.

Experiment, test and learn

Social media platforms change frequently, and are one of the best ways to observe your industry and audience change in real-time. To make sure your strategy remains as effective as possible, it’s important to get into a habit of constantly experimenting with content, testing hypotheses about your social media presence, and applying the lessons you’ve learned.

Team up with influencers and collaborate with other businesses

One of the best things about social media as a marketing channel is that it’s very conducive to partnerships with influencers and other businesses. Examples of this might include an arcade owner collaborating with gaming influencers, local entertainment venues, or retro culture enthusiasts and collectors. These kinds of partnerships can help you reach a larger audience, and lend your brand greater credibility by making it a more visible part of communities within different platforms.

Plan your content in advance

Trying to keep up with a consistent posting schedule as a small merchant can be difficult, especially if you need to come up with content ideas close to the date when you’re intending to post. Setting aside time to plan out your content calendar in advance will help you maintain a consistent posting schedule, and help you avoid posting rushed, lower-quality content that could hurt your online engagement. 

The best social media management tools for small business

The basic interfaces that many social media platforms provide for business accounts can be useful for strategy and analytics. Supporting your strategy with additional social media management tools will help you optimise your presence across all platforms and make sure you’re getting the most out of your marketing efforts. Here’s a brief look at some of the best social media management tools for small businesses to help you support your social media marketing.


Planable focuses on planning content across long-term calendars and analysing the impact of your posts across major social media platforms.

  • Price: Start at £11 per month.

  • Free Trial Available: Yes.

  • Pros: Intuitive calendar-type interface and content approval workflow for easy collaboration with your staff.

  • Cons: Limited reporting compared to other popular tools.


One of the most popular social media management tools on the market, Hootsuite is a comprehensive tool that allows you to schedule posts, monitor mentions, and analyse performance across a number of popular platforms.

  • Price: Starts at £89 per month.

  • Free Trial Available: Yes.

  • Pros: Comprehensive platform compatibility, and detailed analytics dashboards.

  • Cons: Expensive compared to other analytics tools and a steep learning curve to use the tool to its full potential.


Buffer is focused on organic social media audience growth, and allows you to plan content and track engagement across several platforms.

  • Price: Starts at approximately £4.70 per month.

  • Free Trial Available: Yes.

  • Pros: User-friendly analytics dashboard and unique landing page tool.

  • Cons: Limited features for paid advertising.


SocialPilot is a cost-effective social media management tool offering scheduling, analytics, and engagement features, with plans that allow for steady business growth.

  • Price: Starts at £19.50 per month.

  • Free Trial Available: Yes.

  • Pros: Great value with a diverse array of features for a relatively low price.

  • Cons: Some users report issues with the interface that makes it difficult to master.


Though Sendible is mainly designed for social media marketing agencies, its wealth of features makes it a great choice for small businesses with ambitious goals, providing comprehensive content scheduling, monitoring, and reporting features.

  • Price: Starts at £21 per month.

  • Free Trial Available: Yes.

  • Pros: Agency-standard marketing features with social listening tools to help you monitor the audience sentiment of your brand.

  • Cons: Reporting isn’t as detailed as some comparable tools.


Iconosquare specialises in Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook analytics, though it does allow you to integrate other platforms. This analytics tool offers insights into performance, audience demographics, and content trends.

  • Price: Starts at £39 per month.

  • Free Trial Available: Yes.

  • Pros: In-depth Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook analytics, including competitor tracking and hashtag analysis.

  • Cons: Features for non-specialism platforms are limited compared to some other tools.


CoSchedule is a collaborative content calendar tool designed to make it easier to schedule your social media posts, either online or as part of a collaborative team.

  • Price: Starts at approximately £15 per month.

  • Free trial available: Yes.

  • Pros: Unlimited content publishing through an intuitive content calendar setting and helpful automation features.

  • Cons: Less social profiles for lower-tier plan compared to other scheduling tools.


Loomly is a social media calendar tool that helps you plan, schedule, and optimise content, with features for collaboration and post ideas.

  • Price: Starts at approximately £25 per month.

  • Free trial available? Yes.

  • Pros: Intuitive calendar interface and automated post optimization suggestions.

  • Cons: A simple yet limited analytics dashboard.

Later for Instagram

Later is a visual content scheduling platform designed primarily for Instagram, allowing you to schedule posts and automate captioning through an AI-powered helper.

  • Price: Starts at approximately £13 per month.

  • Free trial available? Yes.

  • Pros: User-friendly interface and visual content planning ideal for businesses that are heavily invested in Instagram strategy.

  • Cons: Limited support for non-Instagram platforms.

Sprout Social

Sprout Social is an advanced comprehensive social media management and analytics tool, offering a wealth of features for scheduling and monitoring, along with detailed analytics tools.

  • Price: Starts at approximately £195 per month

  • Free trial available? Yes.

  • Pros: Highly advanced, social listening, and collaboration tools.

  • Cons: Higher pricing for advanced features which you may not need.

Zoho Social

Zoho Social is a multi-purpose social media management tool that allows you to schedule posts across different platforms, view analytics, and track audience engagement.

  • Price: Starts at £8 per month.

  • Free trial available? Yes.

  • Pros: Comprehensive multi-channel management, collaboration features, and social media listening.

  • Cons: Limited features at entry-level plans and the potential to become expensive with  optional add-ons.

While the following aren’t strictly social media tools, we also recommend considering them for assistance with streamlining and quality control for your social media content.


An online graphic design tool that allows you to take advantage of professional, user-friendly templates. With a diverse array of features for its free version and reasonably-priced premium features, Canva is a fantastic tool for small business owners who want to publish high-quality social media content on a low budget.


An AI-powered writing assistant that enhances written communication by checking spelling, clarity, grammar, and tone. Once installed, Grammarly can be integrated with a variety of writing platforms, including all major social media platforms.


A large library of royalty-free images, many of which come from professional photographers. Similar to Canva, Unsplash is a great tool to get familiar with if you’re scheduling a lot of visual content but don’t have the resources to pay for photography or graphic design.

Disclaimer: The contents of this page are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional advice. For matters requiring legal or financial expertise, it’s recommended to seek guidance from qualified professionals.

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