7 steps to create a small business social media marketing strategy | Tide

97% of digital consumers have used social media in the past month and more than half of those people have used it to research products.

With the right social media marketing strategy for your small business, those digital consumers can become your customers, too.

But making a foray into social media marketing can be overwhelming, especially without a clear cut strategy and an understanding of its importance. Posting on social has the potential to be so much more than simply a space to boost online relevance. 

If used correctly, social media marketing can be a cost-effective and dynamic approach to brand marketing. It allows businesses to increase customer engagement and sales while simultaneously attracting new leads and gaining meaningful visibility.

In this post, we’ll show you how to put together a strategy that establishes your brand on social media, covering everything from goal setting to choosing which content to post and when.

By the end, you’ll have everything you need to engage the right people, on the right channels at the right time.

Here’s an overview of the steps involved:

Step 1: Decide what you want to get out of social media

Creating a social media strategy is just like any other kind of business planning—you need an end goal in mind. That includes deciding exactly what you want to get out of the hard work you’re putting in.

Social scheduling tool Buffer suggests nine different goals based on the main reasons businesses use social media:

You could prioritise one or two of these goals but given that they all tie in together, it’s worth focussing on several.

For example, if you concentrate on increasing brand awareness, more people will see your brand presence online. This can give you a boost in website traffic that can ultimately lead to more sales. Plus, a wider online reach will most likely generate more conversations about your brand on social, thus expanding influence. 

Whatever your goals are, they need to be both relevant and realistic to your business. For instance, aiming for one million Instagram followers in a year is a goal even the most established brands would struggle to meet. Aiming for 1,000 followers, however, is a more realistic starting point.

Also, when it comes to social, the number of followers if often less important than the type of followers that you gain. Quality over quantity is the fastest path boosting meaningful engagement and your ROI. 

To keep your goals manageable, follow the SMART framework. SMART being an acronym for:

Use the SMART framework for each goal and regularly review to make sure the goal still fits the criteria.

Step 2: Find your target audience

A good social media strategy should focus on people that are interested in what you offer. The audience to go after on social media is the same one you target with other marketing campaigns. 

In creating a marketing plan for your business, you may have worked on ideal customer profiles. If not, now’s a great time to start.

Your ideal customer is a fictional version of a real person who would buy your product or service. For example, if you’re a wedding photographer, your ideal customer might be a man or woman between 20 and 40, who earns £25,000 a year and follows wedding pages on Facebook. 

Create your ideal customer by answering the following questions:

Quick-tip: If you need help answering those questions, we cover customer personas in-depth in our post on how to build a go-to-market strategy.

For that last question on the list – which social media channels do they use? – there is plenty of data out there to help. 

HubSpot recently compiled social demographics data for each of the biggest platforms. Here are some of the key stats:

With user rates in the hundreds of millions (or billions in the case of Facebook), there’s a good chance your audience will use one or more of these platforms. But these may not be the only places they hang out. 

Don’t discount other social channels like Reddit, which has over 1.2 billion monthly visits and a largely male audience. Or Pinterest, which has over 300 million monthly users worldwide and is particularly popular with women under 50. Then there’s the new kid on the block, TikTok, which has 500 million active monthly users, 41% of whom are teenagers.  

Use the data to point you in the right direction. From there, you’ll learn from the metrics (we’ll get onto those soon) which platforms are worth sticking with.

Step 3: Check out the competition

Checking out the competition is important for two reasons: 

The goal here is not to look at a competitor’s content and copy it. Instead, it’s to see what works and what doesn’t. This helps you to understand their strengths and weaknesses and what consumers expect, and also don’t respond well to, from a brand in your similar space. 

For example, by researching a competitor you might find that they perform well on Instagram but not so well on Facebook, despite Facebook being popular with your target market. You might then place more focus on Facebook to capture the audience they are missing out on. 

During your research, you might also find that competitor video posts perform better than plain text. So it might make sense to focus more on the former. 

Quick-tip: Video is a popular way to attract leads and can even help to significantly boost your conversion rate. To learn more about creating quality videos for your social media marketing strategy, read our guide on how to grow your business with video (on a budget).

An easy way to find competitors is to take your most popular keywords and type them into Google. 

For example, if you run an accountancy firm for small businesses, you might search for “sole trader accountant”. 

From the search results, you can visit competitor websites to find out which social channels they’re using and the type of content they’re posting. 

Before long, you’ll see a pattern developing of which channels are most popular and which type of content performs best.

A post shared by XERO (@xero) on

Step 4: Find your key social media metrics

Now that you’ve established your goals and have an idea of where to post, you can work on determining your most important metrics.

You’ll want to measure the metrics that align with your specific goals. Here are some metrics that you can scope:

Each social media platform has its own insights and analytics tools to help you measure these metrics. However, there are also several companies that consolidate your social metrics into one unified platform to simplify the process of analysing data. We’ll discuss all of these options in detail in a later section.

Step 5: Create and curate your social media content

Before we get into what to share on social media, there’s the important step of setting up your profiles.

Tide member and owner of Vera Beauty, Sinmi Adekola, talks about this in her post on using social media to grow your business. 

Sinmi’s advice on choosing a social media handle is simple:

The KISS principle is a good one to live by when thinking about this.

There is no need to overcomplicate things, so keep it simple! Let’s use my own handle as an example, which is easier to find & remember?


Choose a handle that is simple and keep it consistent across all the platforms you use.

For your bio, Sinmi recommends being as descriptive as possible:

This is the ‘first impression’ space in your profile, where you can let people know your name, location, what you do & more. You have a limited amount of characters so make good use of them!

Another example, which sounds better for a business coach?

‘Business Coach

[Followed by an email]

‘For 13 years I’ve helped business owners go from struggling to thriving! Email to book a free consultation in the heart of London! Click the link to visit my website.’ 

See the difference? Which one would you be more likely to engage with? Make that initial impact one to remember!

Deciding what content to share

Success on social media is about being social. That seems like an obvious statement to make, but many businesses fall into the trap of posting sales or promotional content. 

The best ratio for engaging content vs. sales content is 80/20

Only 20% of your content should include any kind of sales pitch or link to a product or service. The rest of the time (80%) should focus on content that engages, informs and educates. 

What should that 80% be? 

According to Sprout Social’s consumer sentiment analysis, sharing videos, responding to questions and joining conversations are high on the agenda.

Looking at the data, you can see why social media users favour this type of content above all else.

You know our thoughts on this….👀

— Specsavers UK (@Specsavers) May 16, 2019

For further inspiration, here are seven social content ideas to try:

Who’s YOUR favorite “non Force user” in #StarWars? #podcast #poll #vote

— Tatooine Sons Loves #TheRiseOfSkywalker (@TatooineSons) March 5, 2020

The prize this week is a Stress Relief Collection. You can enter through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Follow us and retweet for your chance to win.

Closes 10/03/20 at Noon. Winner to be chosen randomly across our social media platforms.#MMG #Competition #Win pic.twitter.com/60ThaIfUHq

For more inspiration, check out the Shorty Awards, which recognises the best campaigns in social media and digital.

Step 6: Schedule content to go out at the best times

Social media doesn’t stop when you leave the office. For your strategy to be a success, you need to post content when your audience is most likely to see it. 

According to CoSchedule, who crunched the data from 25 different studies, these are the best times to post on the biggest platforms:

Of course, there’s no way you can be on social media from 8 am until 9 pm every day covering every social media channel. But your content can be. 

A social media scheduling tool will let you select the day and time to post content and share it automatically. 

Some are better and easier to use than others, and they also vary in cost. As for which is the right tool for you, Blogging Wizard recently published this great breakdown of the leading players.

Step 7: Track, measure and improve

All of the goal setting, competitor analysis and content research will have you on the right path to success, but there will always be an element of trial and error. 

As you start to roll out your content, keep a close eye on performance. Track key metrics against your goals across each platform. You might find that some accounts aren’t performing as well as expected while others are doing better than planned.

Where performance is below par, you can make tweaks. Use polls and surveys to find out what your audience wants to see and use the results to guide your strategy. Then measure again a few months down the line. If performance continues to disappoint over 12 to 18 months, you might decide that the platform is not for you.

Where performance is good, you might want to double down to increase output. You can also see if what works on one platform works on another. 

You can track your data for free using the analytics tools within each platform:

You can also track accounts for all platforms in one place using a social media management tool like Hootsuite, Sprout Social or Hubspot Social Media. However, it’s important to note that these are subscription platforms, so you’ll need to factor them into your marketing budget. 

Wrapping up

Over 3.8 billion people worldwide use social media. That’s around half of the world’s population. And more than a million people join that number every day. 

Regardless of your industry, product or service, there’s an audience for your business on social media. Following the steps in this post will help you create a market strategy that engages them. 

Remember, set achievable goals, post the right content to the right people at the right time and measure performance at every step. Social media is a long-term investment, but getting it right can mean long-term benefits for your brand’s bottom line.

Photo by kaboompics.com, published on Pexels

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