Most small businesses use social media to some degree. But just having, say, a business Facebook page isn’t enough anymore. You have to be bolder and more strategic about your company’s social media to really stand out from the crowd.


“Social media was once a shiny new toy, but now it’s an overcrowded space,” says Sam Shepler, CEO of Testimonial Hero in Somerville, Massachusetts. “In order to be noticed, you need to be doing something completely original—and you have to get it right.”


So, what can businesses do to take their social media marketing to new heights? Here are five tips:


1. Identify the right platform and content types

First, make sure you’re on the right platforms. Rather than trying to manage lots of different social media presences, time is better spent maximizing the one or two platforms that your target customers spend the most time on, says Jackie Kossoff, a marketing strategist in Culver City, California. You can do that by researching the demographic data of users.


For example, data shows that Gen Z consumers spend a lot of time on TikTok, but if you’re trying to reach Gen X professionals, you might want to focus on LinkedIn.


Once your business is using the right platform, you can optimize further by understanding what type of content your ideal customers engage with most. “It’s critical to learn how your ideal customers engage with the brands they support,” Kossoff says. “Do they enjoy Instagram Reels or Stories more? Are they more likely to engage with an Instagram feed post or watch a live video?”


She adds: “The answers to these questions will inform your strategy so you know where to invest time, energy and money.”


“It’s critical to learn how your ideal customers engage with the brands they support.”


2. Build a social media content plan

You’ll need to post regularly to build a large audience on social media, so you’ll want great topics—and a plan. Identify your company’s 10 or so “social talking points”—which might include your products, services, origin story, team and mission—and recycle them each month with new content, recommends Allie Martin, founder of Fame and Fortune, a Kentucky-based public relations and social media firm serving small businesses.


Most posts should have a “call to action.” “You need to give the follower something to do, whether it’s to watch a video, send a message, leave a comment, download a free guide, go to a website or drop an emoji,” Martin says. “This encourages an interactive response and an emotional connection.”


3. Get out of your comfort zone

A lot of business owners simply mimic the social media strategies of their successful competitors. But a better idea is to look at how businesses in other industries are using social media effectively for inspiration, says Jeff Mains, CEO of Dallas-based Champion Leadership Group.


“So many business leaders are siloed in their own industry,” he says. “They meet the same people and go to the same trade shows instead of getting outside their bubble. If you copy your rivals’ plans, it will be difficult to distinguish yourself from the competition.”


4. Get personal

Small business owners should “show their face” and include behind-the-scenes stories about how they’ve built their business to emotionally engage their audience, says Bonnie Azoulay, owner of Word of Mouth in New York City.


“For example, on Instagram Stories, show what your workspace looks like and what it’s like to step into your shoes,” Azoulay recommends. “On Instagram Reels, share advice that followers can implement.”


She adds: “Sometimes you’ll want to offer valuable advice, and other times you’ll want to share inspiring photos—and in between all that you’ll want to sell your product. Just make sure you’re giving before you’re selling. Once users see you offer free valuable content, they may be more likely to buy something from you.”


5. Try new ways to engage

Much of success on social media comes from trial and error: What works, and what doesn’t? Testing out new ways to engage can help you identify those that really connect with your customers and broader audience.


Here are some ideas:

  • Live stream a special event. You can raise brand awareness and get more eyes on your social media by live streaming a special event or a tutorial related to your products or services.
  • Create short-form videos. From TikTok to Instagram Reels, videos are hot on social media right now. “I have one client, a rug maker, who sold out her entire collection after posting a couple of inspiring videos on TikTok,” Martin says.
  • Connect with influencers. Finding people who use and love your products (influencers)—and ideally have a large following on social media—can help you market your products or services in a more authentic way.


Keep in mind that the businesses with the most success on social media didn’t find that success overnight. They have spent time figuring out what type of posts and formats resonate with their audience and fine-tuned their approach.

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