Stay in the know. Subscribe to Currents

Cracking the Code to Social Media Marketing for Small Businesses

6 Mins read

If you’re a small business owner, it’s likely that you’re a skilled craftsperson, a gifted manager or a natural in sales. But let’s face it: Chances are you haven’t been trained as a marketer, advertiser or social media specialist. Perhaps you’re the person in charge of running a social media account for a small business. It could be that you already have some knowledge or experience in wooing a digital audience. Still, you might be surprised by how quickly the landscape changes on social platforms, where the recipe for virality requires constant tweaking with new tactics and tools. The internet, like business, never sleeps.

Time to wake up. Although there is a learning curve, social media marketing promises tremendous benefits for small businesses that are willing to put in the effort to crack the code. First and foremost: It’s free! Posting a video to Instagram, YouTube, TikTok and other platforms costs nothing, and anyone with a bit of know-how can do it. Second, social media marketing works as an excellent community-builder – one with lasting effects. Altogether, it offers an option that encompasses everything a small business typically seeks in a marketing strategy – a cost-effective way to create and grow an engaged consumer audience.

And so I’d like to share some of my own insights – discovered through patient trial and error, plus careful observance and diligent data tracking – about the current clearest path to connecting with a social media audience and building brand awareness, recognition and loyalty for a small business. It doesn’t have to be a difficult, all-consuming task. In fact, it can be quite a bit of fun – a quality that can shine through in your content and further add to the appeal of your brand.

Simple Hacks for Building Your Social Media Campaign

Honestly, getting your social media campaign off the ground doesn’t have to be any harder than you make it. But by keeping in mind a few essentials throughout the process, you’ll set yourself up to achieve the best results.

Be creative: No need to pay for a fancy videographer or special editing service. Social platforms now all have built-in video editors, and some offer added incentive to try them out. (TikTok and Instagram algorithms love it when you use and film in their native video editors.) Besides, consumers are delighted by raw, relatable footage, which is why small businesses of all kinds – tree trimmers, car cleaners, powerwashers, pizza shops and movers – go viral every day by posting about their work on the job. I produced one of the top-10 most-viewed marketing videos on TikTok (nearly 5 million views), and I did it on my phone, without a microphone and after first creating only 100 or so other videos. Unleash your imagination and see where it takes you.

Be consistent: Your first few videos probably won’t go viral. Maybe your first few dozen – or more. That’s OK. Keep posting content, day after day, and don’t be too discouraged if the results don’t blow you away. My first videos were awful, and they took forever to make because I didn’t know what I was doing. But if you stick to it and learn this skill yourself – especially if you’re a business owner, who is in a position to create a deeper connection with their audience – you can build an exceptionally useful new skill and save a few bucks that you otherwise would have handed over to a social media agency. I was able to grow 500,000 new followers on TikTok with just my phone and a $19 mic (which I didn’t purchase until hitting 100,000 followers) by challenging myself to post every day for a year. It worked because I kept getting better and continuously delivered value.

Build community. Try not to think of it as marketing to a consumer base but more like engaging, entertaining and informing your friends and neighbors. Indulge your inner attention-seeker. Only 10 percent of your audience is actually in the market to buy a product at any given time, but by posting regularly and slowly building a community, you’ll earn credibility and a front-of-mind spot for when the moment strikes and a customer is ready to buy. Organic, relatable social media posts create word of mouth. And if you stick to the goal of helping people, consumers will gravitate to your products and services on their own.

Which Social Media Platforms Are Best for Marketing?

Trick question. They’re all valuable marketing tools for small businesses, and because of their versatility, ease of use and cost (remember: free!), you should do what you can to leverage each of them. That said, a key development for marketers is the ability to create and post content within an app and then post that same content across all other social channels. TikTok deserves credit for pushing the vertical short-form video format, and now you can use options like SaveTik to download your TikTok video without the proprietary watermark and post it elsewhere. Titles, hashtags and descriptions options and optimization may vary, but beginners can ask ChatGPT to help craft appropriate copy to get off and running immediately.

Only ready to start with one platform, or trying to make the most of your marketing efforts on each channel? Here’s a quick overview:

For general reach and getting started: TikTok. With green screen effects, a hold-and-release recording button and other nifty editor features, TikTok allows users to maintain audience engagement, pull off clean stop cuts, easily trim video and add text overlays. Cut your teeth as a videographer and editor here.

For branding and community connection: Instagram. Before taking a deep dive down the content rabbit hole, just re-post your TikTok videos to Instagram. Reels has significant audience penetration, so don’t spend too much time fiddling with other format types right away. You can always start posting photos, stories and more after your account gains traction,

For educational content: YouTube. You can (and should) re-post your TikTok videos here, too. YouTube used to be thought of as a platform strictly for long-form video, but Shorts have become an effective marketing tool. It’s a competitive medium, and you may get fewer views than on TikTok and Instagram, but YouTube is probably the best platform for driving sales. It just takes time.

Targeting Customers and Creating Engaging Social Content

Some marketers would have you believe that there’s a one-size-fits all social media map that was retrieved and placed in their hands by Nic Cage himself. Don’t buy it. Just think about the things you purchase, and where and how you look for them. Now deconstruct the process and rebuild it for your small business social strategy.

Let’s say you wanted to build a patio. To start, you hopped on the internet, typed “How to Install a Paver Patio” into your browser search and found this video from Lowe’s Home Improvement store. You followed it step by step, put together a beautiful backyard feature and dazzled your friends and family. So where did you buy your materials? A wild guess: Lowe’s. And when your next-door neighbor Chet, who has been thinking about his own DIY project, asks how you pulled it off, what’s your answer? Lowe’s. It’s simple: service over salesmanship. By being of service to a community, your customers will come to you.

As for the content itself, here are a few tips:

  • Film and edit in app, rather than uploading from a camera roll or gallery
  • Test and take advantage of in-app video effects to stand out
  • Don’t worry about run time – engaging content is more important
  • Find interesting backdrops, ideally with good lighting and softer colors
  • Choose upbeat, trending music that matches your brand and content
  • Use three tags related to your video, and test one unrelated, trending hashtag
  • Engage with the content of similar brands and businesses – share and comment
  • Post daily to engage and grow your audience and build your skills
  • Pick a niche, be yourself and stick with it

Finally, when one of the organic videos related to your business stands out above the others in terms of views or engagement, convert it to your ad content. Hey, you already know it works! Just repurpose it to make it work even harder. The image or video in an ad will always be its most important element, and if that visual performed well in an organic post, chances are it’ll be a hit in your advertisement, too.

Logan Welbaum is the founder of Plai, an AI-driven advertising platform empowering businesses to launch impactful ad campaigns in minutes. Before founding Plai, Logan worked at tech giants Google and Meta, which provided him with unparalleled expertise in digital advertising effectiveness. Logan is passionate about helping small businesses and agencies level the playing field to achieve their advertising goals.

Social media marketing stock image by Gorgev/Shutterstock

Related posts

How to Detect Deception From a Former CIA Officer

5 Mins read
As a former CIA Officer, one of the most useful skills I still use to this day is the ability to detect…

How to Improve Public Speaking Skills, and Why It Helps Your Business

4 Mins read
Public speaking is an essential skill in any small-business owner’s arsenal. Articulation is helpful when speaking with clients, addressing your team during…

Answering the FAQ About Tax Form 941

3 Mins read
Running payroll for businesses is quite complex, and employers must have a huge responsibility to withhold taxes from employees. One of the…