Social Media Marketing for Small Businesses: Your First Steps

Welcome to Social Media Marketing 101, a series of step-by-step guides written specifically for small business owners who are new to social media. This is Part 1: Your First Steps.

Social media is the marketing buzzword of the decade. As a small business owner, you have probably heard many people, experts and regular folk alike, touting the importance of being on social media. You may not be on social media, but you may already be convinced your business should be.

Should it?

The short answer is: yes, it probably should. If you have the means, you need to take advantage of this great marketing channel that can be very effective if used right. Any business can benefit from building a better connection with its customers and establishing authority in its market by mingling with industry peers online.

Even if you are not aiming that high (yet), you need some basic skills and understanding of how social media works to start carving your own piece of this enormous pie.

All this tweeting, posting and snapping may look daunting. It will take some time to get a hang of it if you have never tried Facebook or Twitter before. But trust us: you will learn quicker than you think. Your small business stands to benefit, so you will give it your best shot.

Welcome to Social Media Marketing 101!

Let’s begin by covering the first, and the most crucial, step on your marketing journey: the overarching strategy of all your future marketing efforts.

Your Marketing Strategy on Social Media

Before you dive head first into learning to plan, post, schedule and engage on social media, you need to settle on the big picture. Namely, you have to answer these two questions: Why? For Whom?

  • What is the reason behind you wanting to get on social media for your business?
  • Who will be your target audience?

Then and only then may you confront the big question of How. If you do not think about the strategy and do not define your audience and your goals right now, your efforts are bound to be haphazard. Choosing the social networks will be tough and your content schedule will likely lack structure.

No one wants that! Your time as a business owner is extremely valuable! If you are choosing to learn to do social media marketing by yourself, it is doubly important to stay laser-focused. Strategy first, tactics second!



  • Why do you want to be on social media?
  • What are you hoping to achieve? What are your goals?

Ultimately, a presence on social media has to be valuable to you. It has to contribute to your bottom line, even if indirectly. It has to play a part in reaching your business goals. Even if you are doing it just because everyone else does, you need to think critically about what you could achieve with your online presence.

Social media may help you grow your audience and convert leads into buying customers. You could start taking the first steps towards that by:

  • Regularly publishing often-changing details of your business like the location of your food truck, your business hours, table availability for dinner reservations. Social media is a perfect tool for this.
  • Communicating with customers in real-time about their experiences or issues. Nothing is more real-time than social media, except possibly phone calls!
  • Sharing behind-the-scenes of your business and just plain getting social with your fans, customers, and prospective clients to build trust and credibility.

Whatever your goals for being on social media are, outline them clearly. There may be one and there may be twenty. Keeping them in mind will help you answer the next question, namely…

For Whom?

  • Who is your target audience on social media?
  • Whom are you hoping to reach and with whom to interact?

If you are sitting here thinking,  “Pfft, my customers, of course!”, that’s a great start! However, you may want to reach other people on social media too. How about:

  • prospective clients,
  • potential business partners or investors,
  • suppliers,
  • your employees,
  • fellow business owners,
  • and maybe even your competitors?

The type of content you put out there will really depend on whom you are trying to reach. Yes, it is unlikely you’d want to focus on impressing your competitors (you shouldn’t anyway), but you may well want to post information that would be valuable both for your customers and suppliers, for example.

Keep in mind also, that being active on social media puts your business into the public eye. All your posts, regardless of social network, may be seen by all of the people we outlined above. This is not a bad thing, but rather a reminder to always be professional and sticking to your brand voice.

Why + For Whom = Goals

Now that you have answered the Why and For Whom, put the two together to form one or a few clear social media goals.

How do your goals and reasons for social media presence connect with your desired target audience?

Think about the answer and write it down.

  • “I need my craft brewery business to increase walk-ins and grow weekday sales.”
  • “It is time for my accounting firm to build brand visibility and attract investors to scale my business.”
  • “I would like my coffee shop to grow the number of loyal customers.”
  • “We want to generate buzz for our new eCommerce business before launch and connect with potential suppliers in the process.”
  • “As a professional writer, I want to seek networking opportunities and project leads.”

Etc, etc, etc!

Look at the statement you came up with. This is your strategy. You will be trying to achieve exactly this on social media. This is what will inform the choices of social networks to be on. This is what you need to keep in mind when coming up with tactics, with posts, with calls-to-action. It may change in future! But for now, this is what you came here to do.

Congrats on taking the first step on your social media marketing journey as a small business owner!

Read Part 2: Choosing Your Social Networks

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