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Working with small businesses is kind of my thing, so I want to start this out with a quick story to inspire any small business owners reading this. 

Picture this: I’m in central Canada, where it’s not uncommon for winters to dip below -40 degrees Celsius. It’s beyond freezing, and I land a job marketing a new ice cream company set to open on November 21—the first day of winter.

Why do I tell you this? Because that same ice cream shop, that had zero clout or experience prior to opening, seemed like it would have been doomed from opening day. Instead, it went on to win a western-national award just four months later, gain ample press, and receive upwards of 100 followers per day.

So I know from experience that, when done right, the combination of a great product or service plus using social media marketing software properly can be incredibly powerful for small businesses. Plus, it's often free to try and has the potential to expand your brand awareness for more future opportunities. 

So if you’re a small business looking to harness the power of social media marketing, stay tuned, because this guide will walk you through how to do it.

Understanding The Social Media Landscape

Ready to be shocked? 61.4% of the world's population are social media users, making social media an excellent tool for reaching a large, diverse audience.

The top 10 social media platforms our world spends their time on, in order of most monthly active users, include:

  1. Facebook
  2. YouTube
  3. WhatsApp
  4. Instagram
  5. WeChat
  6. TikTok
  7. Facebook Messenger
  8. Telegram
  9. SnapChat
  10. Douyin

Below, I’ll just be focusing on just a handful of the main platforms most known for creating engaged social networks around social media content.

Major Platforms And Their Algorithms

Generally speaking, a social media algorithm uses user data to filter, rank, and recommend content that the user is most likely to engage with. It plays a major role in dictating the content that appears on your social media feed every day.

There are three things you’ll want to master when refining your social media marketing strategy. Following the below creates the best chances at optimizing your social media presence, no matter what platform you’re working with:

  1. Know your audience. Algorithms need proof that your content appeals to an audience, and it does this by looking at your engagement. To get engagement, your content needs to speak to your audience’s deepest desires, provide solutions to their daily pain points, and relate to them on a level that basically resembles a best friend relationship.

    To do this you’ll need to lean on research, which could include conducting client interviews, doing market and competitor research, digging into your current social media analytics software, and so much more.
  2. Plan your content strategy. Think of social media as a labyrinth — you can go in without a guide, but you’ll find your way a lot faster if you have one.

That guide is your social media marketing strategy, and you need one to maximize your potential ROI, achieve your business goals, and appeal to the right people within each social media post. Part of your content strategy should absolutely be optimizing for social search, to help users discover your posts.

  1. Set specific goals. Starting any social media strategy with goals can also help you tap into the algorithm because it lays out the type of content you need to be posting or scheduling to post, right from the start.

E.g. If you know you want more people to visit your website, you could set a goal to increase your website clicks from posts you share each month. Knowing this, you’ll then alter your messaging and CTAs in each post to ask your audience to “click the link in your bio,” or “comment below to have the website link sent directly to your DMs.”

Now let’s dive into what makes each platform’s algorithm unique.

Facebook / META:

Facebook owns Instagram, so both algorithms focus on three main things:

  1. Who posted the content — users are more likely to see content from people and businesses they already follow and interact with.
  2. Type of content — users will see content that resembles that of which they interact with the most. So, if you watch mostly videos on the app, you’ll be served more video.
  3. Interactions — both apps also prioritize content that gets more interactions because it marks interactions as valuable. that successful content is then served to more people who might also find value in it.

Hard Facts about Facebook:

Primary Demographics: Men in the 18-34 age bracket and women in the 25-34 bracket are the primary users of the platform.

Do not use Facebook if: Your target is Gen Z, as the large majority of them only have Facebook pages to interact with family and use Facebook Marketplace

Other notables: From a social media marketer’s perspective, organic reach is harder to achieve on Facebook than it is on Instagram or TikTok, as the platform tends to favour brands who pay to advertise on it.

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Instagram

As we just covered, Instagram and Facebook have similar algorithms, but here's a more specific approach for Instagram should you add it to your strategy:

  1. When it comes to the Reels algorithm, Later Media says to avoid posting videos that are low-resolution or blurry, have already been on Instagram, are visibly recycled from another app, or are not sized to fit the full screen.
  2. Optimize all posts with keywords, ensure the media is high quality, that visuals are free from watermarks, and abide by the app’s guidelines.

Hard Facts about Instagram:

Primary Demographics: 18-34 year old men also lead the charts for users on Instagram with women in the same age group just 3% behind them.

Do not use Instagram if: creating original, trendy content consistently and engaging with your audience daily is too big an ask. Instagram thrives off of engaging creators who start trends and jump on the newest platform features, so you need to be up to the task if you want to attract potential customers.

Other notables: 

Twitter (X)

Content that sparks conversation on a consistent posting schedule is the way to the Twitter algorithm’s heart. The eight things Twitter looks for in a post worth prioritizing in their algorithm include:

  1. Lots of Retweets
  2. High engagement - including likes and replies
  3. Media - including photos and video
  4. New follows as a result of a tweet
  5. Tweets that aren’t spammy and haven’t been reported
  6. One relevant hashtag
  7. No external links 
  8. Solid reputation

Hard Facts About Twitter

Primary Demographics: The group using Twitter the most is 25–34 years old men, with women 12.8% behind them.

Do not use Twitter if: Teens are your target audience, as it is the least popular platform among that age group.

Other notables: 

  • Twitter is the only major social platform to allow cannabis advertising, so if that fits into your digital marketing strategy, this might be for you.
  • The best times to post on Twitter are Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 9 a.m.
  • The average brand engagement rate is 0.04%.
  • Ideally, you’ll want to post 2-3 times per day.

LinkedIn 

For B2B-focused small businesses and entrepreneurs, LinkedIn is an invaluable platform to attract new customers. With over 774 million members, it has become the go-to space for professional networking, lead generation, and industry insights.

According to LinkedIn's own data, 97% of B2B marketers use the platform for content marketing purposes, recognizing its effectiveness in reaching decision-makers and professionals. So how can you tap into their algorithm?

  1. Use eye-catching visuals — the app has been moving away from full text posts for a couple years.
  2. Engagement is key: Follow the 4-1-1 Rule, keep text to 150 characters or less, respond to comments, and use hashtags strategically.
  3. Take advantage of all features on the platform. The more you utilize all the platform has to offer, the more it will want to push your account to new audiences.

Hard Facts About LinkedIn 

Primary Demographics: 60% of LinkedIn users are between 25 and 34 years old, with the majority identifying as men.

Do not use LinkedIn if: you are a B2C business. LinkedIn is primarily a B2B platform, so you’ll find it much harder to reach and drive sales through this social media channel.

Other notables: 

  • 53% of U.S. LinkedIn users make over $75,000 annually.
  • Ideally you want to post 1-2 times per day

TikTok

TikTok has taken the world by storm with its short-form video content. Boasting over 1 billion monthly active users, TikTok provides an engaging platform for small businesses to showcase their creativity and connect with a younger audience.

Hard Facts About TikTok 

Primary Demographics: Women in the 16-24 age bracket use this platform the most, coming in just 0.2% above men.

Do not use TikTok if: you are not willing to create videos, as they are the primary post format on the platform.

Other notables: 

Social Media Marketing Tips For Small Business

This next part is juicy, so buckle up and get ready to plan your social media future, starting with an often overlooked element in the planning stage:

1. Set SMART Goals

Defining your goals is the only way to track whether or not your social media marketing efforts are worthwhile. Here’s an example that hits all SMART points:

“I want to increase engagement rate on my Instagram Reels by x% by x date”

  • Specific: “increase the engagement rate on my Instagram Reels”
  • Measurable: “by x%”
  • Achievable: Ensure your “x%” isn’t too high. It’s always better to start small and increase the goal as you see data. 
  • Relevant: “on Instagram Reels” can be anything else, just make sure it’s relevant to your big picture goals.
  • Time-bound: “by x date” 

Use social media analytics to track how well you're achieving these goals.

2. Niche Down Your Target Audience

One thing all marketers hear at least once in their career is “everyone is my target audience, the more people who buy from me the better.”

Incorrect. This simply will not serve you.

Overcome this thought by looking at your target audience as an “ideal customer”—one specific customer you would love to deal with again and again. Once you have that ideal person in mind, their demographics, psychographics and general behaviors become the map for your target audience:

  • Demographics: What is your ideal customer’s age, race, and sex?
  • Psychographics: What do they value? What are their interests or lifestyle?
  • Geographics: Where do they live or spend most of their time?

3. Plan & Create High Quality Content 

This tip is mission critical. Here are 5 types of content to grow your brand:

  1. Short-form video: Arguably the best kind of content to focus on heading into 2024. All social media users are looking for immediate gratification nowadays, and videos that serve value in under 1 minute accomplish that and then some. Many of the top Reels are actually only 7-15 seconds
  2. Images: Strong visuals and images are pure gold, but you have to make sure they’re high quality. Content is just too easy to scroll past on social media, so your business needs its imagery to stand out if it’s going to stop users.
  1. Live video: This is an excellent way to capture in-the-moment attention from people who may not have spent much time on your page before. On pages like Instagram, a banner pops up in real time at the top of your Instagram screen if someone you follow goes live, making it a quick way for new viewers to tap into exciting company announcements or launches.
  2. Memes: Trust me, they’re only getting better, and it’s because of their profound relatability. If you’re posting original memes, the key is to know your audience like a best friend so the message lands and inspires shares.
  3. User-generated content (UGC): This is a great way to brag about yourself without saying a word. UGC allows you to take customer posts, reviews, and testimonials and turn their words into social proof that backs up what you sell. Tip: as a common courtesy, ask permission before reposting content.

4. Utilize a Content Calendar

Optimizing your campaigns for maximum impact involves meticulous content planning. A content marketing calendar is a crucial asset to attain structure and efficiency, while allowing you to harmonize content across social media channels with specific business objectives in mind.

Ideally a content calendar would include:

  • The time and date you plan to publish
  • The social media platform and account you will share it on
  • Post format (in-feed post, Reel, Story, etc.)
  • Content materials (e.g., copy, photos, or video)
  • Hashtags and links 

Naturally, there are tools available to help with this. Here's our list of the best marketing calendar software, so you don’t have to do the research yourself.

5. Track Success With Key Performance Indicators

Marketing KPIs you’ll want to track across your social media accounts include:

  • Engagement rate: The higher your engagement rates, the more interested the audience. Look at likes, shares, comments and post saves to gauge overall interest on your content.
  • Sentiment Analysis: Pay attention to how your brand comes across in online conversations. Social listening tools can show you whether digital conversations lean towards the positive, negative, or neutral spectrum. Using this information, you can take appropriate action to further refine your social media strategy.
  • Conversion rate: If your objective is to drive sign-ups or purchases, you need to utilize external tracking software like Google Analytics, Facebook Pixel, Twitter Conversion Tracking, and LinkedIn Conversion Tracking. These provide insights into how effectively your social media efforts translate into tangible results.

There are also these five ways to improve ROI on social media.

Now You’re Ready For Social Success

As witnessed through the journey of a local ice cream shop, the key to small business success lies in the balance between a quality offer and strategic marketing.

Be sure you set strategic goals, implement a strategy before you post, and stick to your marketing plan consistently enough to tap into the algorithms. Don’t be afraid to make adjustments to your plan based on tracked metrics—sometimes even the most minor adjustments can help drive sales!

Eager for more tips? Be sure to subscribe to The CMO newsletter for more coverage on marketing topics, trend reports, expert insights and best tools.

Kristi Nikkel
By Kristi Nikkel

Kristi (KJ) is the founder of KJ Social Inc. She is a social media manager and coach, whose clients work with her because of her “breath of fresh air,” non-overwhelming approach to Instagram marketing. Whether she’s streamlining her own business practices or teaching clients how to drive results with less overwhelm, SaaS is always playing a role in her success, and now she’s passing her experience and knowledge on to you.