Social media is a powerful—and low-cost—way for a new business to engage an audience and even attract its earliest customers. But with so many businesses now using social media, how do you stand out? 


From creating snappy videos on TikTok to provocative Instagram posts, what it takes to engage and stand out has evolved as social media has gotten more sophisticated, says Neal Schaffer, president of PDCA Social, a digital marketing consultancy based in Irvine, California. No longer can a business just post basic updates and expect to reel in new followers. The most successful small businesses on social media spend some time thinking about their strategy and creating compelling content for it, he says. 


So how can you make social media a great marketing tool for your new business? Here are three tips:


  1. Find the right platform


Building an engaged audience on social media requires posting high-quality content regularly, Schaffer says. That means you have to put some time and energy into social media on top of everything else you’re doing to build your new business.


To pull this off, start by focusing on the one or two social media platforms where your target customer base spends their time. For example, if your target audience is teenagers or young adults, Instagram or TikTok might be right for you. If your business offers a lot of visually stimulating products or experiences—such as a restaurant serving food or even a gym with members getting fit—Instagram or Pinterest may be a great pairing.


If you’re in the business-to-business space, LinkedIn can be the right choice, while Facebook is still a go-to site for many Gen Xers.


  1. Create compelling, unique content


Once you’ve found the right platforms for engaging your audience, the next, much-bigger hurdle is creating unique content that will stand out amid the flood of online content today. Social media content needs to have personality—whether that’s producing funny videos or useful content that will add value to your audience’s lives, Schaffer says.


You should aim to post new content at least a few times a week, as people want to follow businesses that post regularly and consistently.


Social media sites have been rolling out new features to give businesses more opportunities to engage using video and other tools. Instagram, for example, offers live streaming tools and lets businesses sell gift cards through their profiles, while Twitter has been rolling out new shopping-focused tools for merchants.


Jeff Giagnocavo, co-owner of Gardner’s Mattress & More in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, uses the live-streaming features within Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube to host a weekly podcast called Lancaster Connects. The podcast showcases local charities and businesses that give back to the local community.


“Hosting the show has been very successful for us, because typically the people running the charities and those involved on the boards that govern them, as well as local business owners, are often part of our core target market,” Giagnocavo says, “They decide to do business with us because of our support for their efforts. And they are quick to refer us and support the show.”


  1. Focus on building an audience


Social media is only as valuable as how well you engage and build a following through it. So focus on finding new and intriguing ways to generate followers.


You should include links to your most important social media pages on your website, but also consider adding them to your email signature and on other customer communications. You can compel people to follow you on social media by offering special promotions or contests available only on that platform—meaning people have to follow you to access those. 


Working with influencers can also help you generate new social media followers by using people who already have sizable followings on social media to get the word out about your business.


At the end of the day, every business needs to develop a social media strategy that is best-suited for it. Sylvia Fountaine, a chef and recipe developer in Spokane, Washington, pivoted her Feasting at Home catering business to an entirely blog-based recipe business a couple of years ago. 


“I shifted from making roast chicken for 300 people to developing recipes for an audience of over 75,000 on Instagram and 9.6M monthly views on Pinterest,” she says.


Having a blog—even if it’s not core to the business like hers is—gives a small business an easy way to create valuable content that lives on its website and can be shared on social media and help engage people interested in what the business does.


 “Creating valuable content that demonstrates how to use your products, or how you can be part of your audience’s ‘lifestyle,’ will allow your social media audience to grow,” Fountaine says.  “Social media helps you bolster your brand identity by providing a real face for your brand for customers to engage with.”

Print this article