This article was contributed by Sierra Smith as part of the Aspen Fellowship. Sierra will be receiving her Bachelor of Business Administration from Loyola Marymount University in 2023.

Social Media is one of the most popular ways to stay interconnected all over the world. It allows us to connect with people who share similar interests, hobbies, and mindsets. Social media also helps us develop relationships, network job opportunities, and promote businesses. In today’s society, it is almost impossible for one to have a business and not use some form of social media marketing as a component of business strategy. Now most of us know how social media helps with brand awareness, advertisement, and reaching larger demographics, but social media can also be used to effectively market your small business. However, many business owners don’t know how.

After surveying a group of 25 small business owners I noticed a commonality between the challenges they were having. The most common challenges were, “engagement amongst followers through social media platforms”, “what content would be most effective”, and “how to effectively use the different social media platforms.” After listening and discussing with the business owners I decided to solve one problem, to answer the question: “How do small businesses effectively use different social media platforms to market their business?” This is a loaded question, so we’re going to focus on three of the most popular platforms in social media today, Instagram, Facebook, and Tiktok, to help you find which platform and which content works best for you.

Instagram

There are a few key points to successfully market your small business on Instagram. The first thing to do is to create an Instagram post. Your Instagram post should include a picture of your product or description of the service you’re offering, the product being used by a consumer, quotes, employees, or anything that relates to your business. Your post should always include your location, a caption (longer caption to educate or short caption to drive traffic to things such as business websites). You can also use hashtags on posts, but many business owners did not find that hashtags were useful for driving consumer traffic. Your Instagram should also have a theme such as using the same filter on each post and creating a color scheme (typically the business’s colors).

The Instagram Profile

Your profile should be converted to a Business account as well to see your analytics, such as when your followers are most active online. A profile must include a bio that tells a future consumer what your page is all about. Your bio should include the business owner (you), website, and 3 short facts about your business. This will grab your target market’s attention to want to learn more about your business.

Other Instagram Features: Stores, Live and Ads

It is also important to use the other features Instagram offers such as Instagram Stories, Instagram Live, and Instagram Ads. Instagram Stories let users post pictures and videos for 24 hours. Through Instagram stories, you can create polls, highlights, repost customers using your product/service, demonstrate your product in a short video, or promote an upcoming event.

The next feature that every business owner should use is Instagram Live. On Instagram live you can reach the audience in real-time, put a face to the company that allows your consumers to get to know you, and answer people’s burning questions. Lastly, the use of Instagram ads helps advertise your business and micro-targets users of different demographics to direct them to your page hopefully ending in a sale. Instagram advertisements will show up on consumer’s pages as “sponsored” and do have a slight cost, but they include a “call-to-action” button that encourages traffic.

Increasing Engagement on Instagram

Now using all of these features previously mentioned creates a great profile for your business, but engagement is a key factor in growing your business. Engagement measures the public “shares, likes, and comments for an online business’s social media efforts.” (BigCommerce) First things first, you should convert your profile to a business account to review your analytics. Your analytics help you observe demographics, behaviors, and patterns. This is the best way to create an effective digital marketing strategy.

Also, to improve engagement you must create an open and honest dialogue between you and your potential customers. Always engage with your comment section whether it is to say, “thank you for your purchase,” or answer a question or complaint about a product/service. Consumers also come to your page to complain, so it is important to respond to solve their problem. This is a great stepping-stone to build a relationship with your followers.

To further enhance this relationship with your customers, it is important to answer all of your Direct Messages or “DMs”. This allows your followers to deepen that relationship and connection with your business. Be careful when you respond to customers because it is very easy to tell if you are being genuine or you think of them as another sale. DMs also help you network with influencers in your industry to expand your brand. Social media influencers, especially Instagram influencers prompt their followers to direct their attention to your Instagram page to ensure your brand gets noticed.

Facebook 

Facebook is one of the most popular social media platforms, especially for businesses. About 90 million small businesses use Facebook according to Asset Digital Communications.

Create Your Facebook Business Page

The first step to digital marketing your business on Facebook is to create a business page. Same with Instagram you want to add contact information such as website, phone number, email, and location. Facebook has a unique feature to its app that quickly boosts your engagement. Facebook allows you to “add a button” such as “book service,” “get in touch,” “learn more,” “make a purchase or donation,” or “download an app.” For a product, you should add the “make a purchase or donation” and for a service “book a service”. After selecting the option that best works for your business you will be able to add your URL. This will directly lead the consumer to make a purchase or make an appointment directly from your Facebook page. This generation has little patience and appreciates simple technology, so this is the best way to grow your brand and customers.

Next, when making a general Facebook post include your product/service, picture of you or your employees, events, or anything you want the public to know about your business. Your caption can be between 1-5 sentences, use capital letters to grab attention, emojis, etc. If people comment under your post, make sure to respond to every comment. If you respond to followers’ comments it will increase your engagement and will build a relationship with customers as it is putting a person to the company.

Use Facebook Groups to Engage with Customers

Facebook groups are also another way to use this platform and are unique to Facebook specifically. According to Asset Digital, about 4 million people are involved in some form of group. You can create groups to help market your business like one for current customers or prospective customers that have similar interests. You can also use Facebook groups to find brand ambassadors. Brand ambassadors can communicate to their following why your product/service stands out from the competition.

A group can create an open dialogue between you and your customers. Groups are a way to build a community as you can propose a question to your customers, gather answers and then propose a solution (what you can do and how your business can help). You can also post motivational quotes, different ways to use your product/service, current events, or upcoming events and launches.

Facebook Ads

If your growth is not happening organically, using Facebook ads can help you target and reach more people. To market your business through Facebook, Facebook ads are a unique feature to successfully grow your business. Facebook ads are similar to regular posts, but you can target specific demographics such as location, age, or interests. Facebook ads include analytics which is important for your business to know which ads are most successful at finding who is interested.

If you are more advanced after following all these steps to grow your business, you can use Facebook Pixel. This is one of the most useful tools on Facebook, as it allows you to analyze the outcome of your Facebook Ads. Facebook Pixel allows you to track the number of conversions, such as purchases, website clicks, etc. This feature also allows you to see the return revenue on the ad based on the customer’s purchase. Another important feature is you can build custom audiences. These custom audiences are used to retarget the ad to people who viewed similar interests. Pixel also allows you to create custom ads based on the products the customer’s viewed on your website or purchased. You’ve probably seen ads from companies using Facebook Pixel. It happens when you visit a website to view a product. Then your Facebook feed and other sites you visit start showing you an ad for the same product to remind you to make the purchase.

Tiktok

With over 800 million users, Tiktok is a newer and smaller social media platform compared to Instagram and Facebook but should not be ignored if you are trying to market your small business. Generation Z and millennials are amongst the largest group of users, but almost every age group is growing on the platform.

The first step to marketing your company on Tiktok is to create a profile for your business. Include your name, username, a short bio that describes your business, add other social media accounts and your website URL. The next step is to make content. Your content should include tutorials on how to use your product/service, a description of your business, and information on why the customer needs it. Also, you should follow current Tiktok trends whether it’s a dance or challenge while incorporating something that relates to your business.

Your content should be fun, creative, and unique to your page. Encourage your followers to engage in the comments whether its asking questions or complimenting the video. It’s important to always engage with your followers. If your followers feel ignored, they will most likely unfollow and won’t recommend your page to others. Also, using popular sounds to promote your business is found to be very effective.

Using Hashtags to Get Recommended

Hashtags are the most useful on this app for a few reasons. In particular, the hashtags group together videos with similar content and show it to users For You page. The For You page is unique to Tiktok. It is where TikTok creates a personalized feed in which Tiktok recommends videos based on the videos the user interacts with. The For You page is the most important factor while growing your business on TikTok. TikTok will recommend your video to users who behave similarly. For example, if you are selling make-up, Tiktok will recommend your video to those who use make-up, watch tutorials, and engage with beauty related content. This will increase followers, shares, and direct people to your business.

Creating Challenges

Another way to market your business is to create a personal hashtag challenge. As a smaller business, you can ask people to use your custom hashtag and make a video that relates to what your business is about. This is free advertising and allows traffic to direct to your page. As your business grows, you can purchase a sponsored hashtag challenge and it will be shown on the Discover page. When users select the hashtag, they can see a few videos that your company creates explaining the challenge and promotes your brand. Another form of marketing on this platform is ads that will play between users’ content on their For You page. These ads have different features such as buttons that direct them to your profile, website, etc.

Engaging with Influencers

Similar to Facebook and Instagram, influencers on the app can be used to expand your reach on finding customers. It is best to find influencers that fit your personalities and values that you want your brand to promote. Most influencers expect some form of payment whether it is money, a discount on a product/service, free product/service, etc. When connecting with an influencer, you want them to talk about the product, review the product, or make a tutorial using the product. Make sure the influencer includes the brand name on the screen or in the description. Influencers on Tiktok are the biggest marketing strategy on this particular platform. Engaging with them will help drive their audience to your page, increase followers, engagement, and eventually purchase.

 

Final Thoughts

Whether you decide that Instagram, Facebook, Tiktok or all three are right for your small business, there are certain objectives that every small business owner should know when running your business. Following the tips listed above, these three platforms will help you grow your engagement and convert followers into customers.

Be Authentic. Be Patient. Be Fearless.

When building your small business, you should always be authentic. You want to create an honest relationship with your customers. How you portray yourself will reflect in your business. I also encourage you to be patient as you grow your small business, especially on social media. It takes time for you to grow followers, increase engagement, build a consumer base, and make a profit. The last piece of advice I have is to be fearless. Stop letting fear and other’s opinions stop you from doing what you want to do. Don’t be afraid to stand out from your competition. Do not be afraid to fail, because failure is how you learn.

 

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Specialists, AdEspresso Ads. “How to Master the Facebook Pixel Like a Pro (in 2020 and beyond).” AdEspresso, 12 Dec. 2019, adespresso.com/blog/facebook-pixel/.

“TikTok Marketing for Beginners – A Marketer’s Guide to Advertising on Tiktok.” Influencer Marketing Hub, 14 Apr. 2020, influencermarketinghub.com/tiktok-marketing-guide/.

Turner, Marcia Layton. “Using TikTok To Build Your Business.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 1 Apr. 2020, www.forbes.com/sites/marciaturner/2020/03/31/using-tiktok-to-build-your-business/

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How to Effectively Use Social Media to Market Your Small Business

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