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Ooma Business Blog

The essential guide to which social media platforms are best for your small business.

By Husain Sumra|Wednesday March 3, 2021

As a small business, you have many options to gain new customers. Even if you focus on digital marketing, the sheer variety of options can be overwhelming. Use this guide to social media platforms to discover ways to reach your target audience, build brand awareness, and get better results from your marketing efforts.

Start with a social media marketing strategy.

Social networks are designed to be highly engaging. That is why it is easy to put an hour or two on social media platforms each day without much effort. As a small business owner, you cannot afford to spend hours on marketing efforts or social media platforms each day. Use the following questions to focus your marketing efforts and make the most of your time on these networks.

  • How would you describe your ideal customer in terms of age, income and needs? For example, a home cleaning service might decide to focus on homeowners over the age of 35 with a household income of over $100,000 and very demanding careers.
  • Which social media platforms are likely to have your ideal customers? For example, TikTok currently has a relatively young demographic. In contrast, the largest social networks (e.g., Facebook and YouTube) have larger audiences. Social media with broader audiences mean more diversity in terms of age, race, income and interests, so you have more options to market your business and find customers.
  • How much time can you dedicate to social media marketing each week? For example, you commit to scheduling three hours per week: one hour posting content, one hour reaching out to customers, and one hour engaging with existing companies. Keep in mind the time you are already putting into other marketing efforts like local SEO
  • Do you have skills (or access to specialists) to create content like photos and videos? Photos and videos can help you to reach your target audience.
  • Do you have a budget assigned for your social media marketing strategy? Gaining customers from social media platforms has a cost. If you put your own time into social media, you have less time for other activities. If you hire an employee or outside specialist for social media marketing, you have a cost. Social media marketing might be cheaper than creating a TV ad, but it is not free. Using paid advertising (e.g., Facebook ads) can increase the number of people who see your content. If you post content without paying (i.e., organic social), some people will still see it. Keep in mind that building an organic following on social media (i.e., avoiding any advertising) generally takes more time and effort.

For more guidance on developing a simple marketing plan for your small business, consider reading “The One-Page Marketing Plan: Get New Customers, Make More Money, And Stand Out From The Crowd” by Allan Dib. This book is a helpful resource because it guides you through the entire marketing process step by step, including ways to use digital marketing. There’s a reason it has an average 4.7-star rating and more than 3,000 reviews on Amazon.com.

How to use this guide to social media platforms.

When using social media for business, there are many different options. There is no “ideal” social network for every business. Instead, review these options and ask yourself, “Are my current and potential customers going to be on this network?” If you’re not sure where to begin, Facebook is a good place to start because it is one of the largest social media sites.

Facebook

  • Active Users: According to the Pew Center, 69% of U.S. adults use Facebook as of 2019. 
  • Paid Advertising Options: There are several ways to use Facebook, Ads, including videos. The cost of Facebook, Ads varies on your target audience. According to Wordstream, the average cost per click for Facebook ads is $1.72, but your Facebook ad costs will probably be different.
  • Organic Social: You can post organic social updates to your company page. In addition, you can also post business content on your personal Facebook account to encourage people to follow and like your business page.

As a small business, there are several ways to get customers from Facebook. If you have limited time, consider focusing on your company’s Facebook page first. Post content like photos of your products, staff and company events. If you have special sales promotions like Black Friday or Small Business Saturday, announce those sales on Facebook. As you get more followers on your Facebook Page, you may start to receive your potential customers’ comments. Think of these comments like phone calls to your business and make it a priority to respond on a timely basis.

While Facebook is a global social media network, it is also highly localized. That means it is easy to find groups, fundraisers, events and businesses that are nearby. From a paid advertising point of view, you can pay to show Facebook Ads to people in your local area for example. You can also use free marketing methods such as posting in Facebook Groups dedicated to local interests (e.g., you might consider posting about a new customer discount in a local triathlon training Facebook Group).

Instagram

  • Active Users: 37% of U.S. adults have an Instagram account, according to the Pew Center.
  • Paid Advertising Options: Instagram ad costs vary depending on your goals. According to Wordstream, “$5 a CPM (cost per thousand impressions) on Instagram” is possible. 
  • Organic Social: You can post organic social updates to your company page. In addition, you can also post business content on your personal Facebook account to encourage people to follow and like your business page.

Acquired by Facebook in 2012, Instagram is a popular place to post photos and videos. Popular Instagram accounts tend to have a mix of photo and video content.

There are a few common patterns among the most popular content on Instagram. First, viral content often uses popular hashtags (e.g., #restaurant or #foodie might be good hashtags for a restaurant or food company). You can consider asking an influencer to post about your business and negotiate a reasonable fee. Some influencers are open to making a post to promote your business.

Instagram video options change regularly. As of November 2020, your Instagram video options include: 

  • Uploading a pre-recorded video. This option is a good choice if your business has already recorded videos for other purposes.
  • Instagram Live. You can post live video streams to Instagram. This approach may be helpful if you are hosting a question and answer session for customers.
  • Reels. Launched in 2020, Instagram Reels let you record 15-second videos and share them quickly. You can also add different audio like music to the video clip.

Keep in mind that social media platforms like Instagram and others mentioned in this guide often change over time.

TikTok

  • Active Users: As of August 2020, TikTok has approximately 100 million U.S. users.
  • Paid Advertising Options: Paid advertising on TikTok makes it easy to create brand awareness at an attractive price. One industry estimate found that TikTok ads start at $10 per CPM (cost per 1,000 views).
  • Organic Social. TikTok is focused on short video content. You can post videos to your TikTok account and gain free exposure.

TikTok is a relatively new social media platform that has grown quickly since it launched in 2016. Some companies, like Elf Cosmetics, have had success on TikTok by generating over four billion views. The Elf Cosmetics approach focused on creating a video challenge for people interested in makeup. Several companies like Chipotle, which had a GuacDance challenge on the platform, have had success with creating challenges on TikTok. Creating challenges is one way you can engage users.

If you are already creating videos for YouTube, Facebook and Snapchat, it is worth taking a closer look at TikTok. Keep in mind that TikTok is different from some of the other platforms covered here. It emphasizes collaboration, challenges and offers a unique video creation tool. 

Snapchat

  • Active Users: Snapchat has approximately 83 million users in the U.S.
  • Paid Advertising Options: Compared to other platforms, Snapchat has a higher paid advertising cost. One industry source suggests that Snap Ads campaigns start at $3,000 per month. 
  • Organic Social: Similar to TikTok and YouTube, Snapchat is focused on video content. You can post videos and gain some attention if users like your content.

While it has fewer users than TikTok, Facebook and other social media platforms, Snapchat still has over 200 million users, which means possible customers for your business. If your small business is already creating short video content for TikTok, consider reusing some or all of that on Snapchat to build further brand awareness.

Goodreads

  • Active Users. The website has an estimated 90 million members.
  • Paid Advertising Options. Advertising options include giveaways (i.e., give away copies of a book as a promotion), an author promotion program and targeted advertising. 
  • Organic Social. Readers and authors can post status updates, reviews and like content posted by other users. Small companies may find it helpful to create groups to promote books around shared interests.

Goodreads is a specialized social network specifically aimed at book lovers. If you run a book store or publish books related to your business, then Goodreads is worth using. In addition, if you know your customers’ reading interests, advertising on Goodreads may be relevant.

Spotify Playlists

  • Active Users: 286 million monthly active users.
  • Paid Advertising Options. There are a few ways to create ads using Spotify Advertising. You can create ads yourself using the company’s Ad Studio, which includes some free audio. For additional options such as running display ads, video ads and other options, contact Spotify directly.
  • Organic Social. Consider creating a playlist related to your company. For example, a restaurant or cafe could create a playlist of music to highlight the music they play each day.

Best known as a music-playing platform, Spotify is a popular way to discover music. From a small business perspective, Spotify may be a good choice for companies that regularly use music. You can create a playlist of music that matches your business and share that via another social network. Companies that sell music, music equipment and music services (e.g., lessons or production services) may find reaching Spotify’s user base especially valuable. In addition, cafes and restaurants that play music for their customers may find value with Spotify.

Twitter

  • Active Users. The social platform has approximately 353 million users as of mid-2020.
  • Paid Advertising Options. Twitter advertising comes in more than 20 formats. You can run campaigns to get people to visit your website, install your app, engage with your Tweet, or become a follower of your Twitter account.
  • Organic Social. Building your list of Twitter followers over time is the main organic way to use Twitter. As with other social platforms, growing an organic following takes consistent effort over a long time period such as posting new content regularly and responding to people who send Tweets to you.

Established in 2006, Twitter has 186 million daily active users. A key difference for Twitter is the character limit for status updates (i.e., Tweets). Formerly, Tweets were limited to 140 characters. In 2018, the character limit was increased to 240 characters. You can use Twitter to make quick announcements, such as a daily special at a restaurant. Some companies also use Twitter as a customer service tool to answer questions from customers.

Yelp

  • Active Users. 32 million monthly users.
  • Paid Advertising Options. Yelp advertising is open to many different kinds of companies. However, five types of businesses tend to advertise most frequently on the platform: home & local services (45%), restaurants (11%), beauty and fitness (8%), and shopping (8%).
  • Organic Social. The main organic way to use Yelp is to create a profile for your business and encourage happy customers to leave reviews.

Yelp is similar in concept to Yellow Pages—it is meant to be a directory of businesses. Users can also search for businesses by keyword in an area (e.g., plumbers in Chicago). If you serve customers in a specific local area like a restaurant or home repair, Yelp may be a good fit for your business.

YouTube

  • Active Users. Estimated at two billion monthly active users.
  • Paid Advertising Options. YouTube, owned by Google, offers several advertising options. According to YouTube, “You only pay when someone chooses to watch at least 30 seconds or clicks on your TrueView ad.”
  • Organic Social. The organic approach on YouTube would involve creating a channel for your businesses, posting videos and engaging with fans. This method can work, but it may take months or years to build up a large following.

YouTube may be one of the world’s most popular websites for viewing and sharing video. If your business is at all interested in creating videos or working with an outside professional to create videos, YouTube is an excellent platform to promote your business. YouTube is widely used by many U.S. adults. More than 90% of Americans between the age of 18 to 44 use YouTube. 

Where to go from here.

Choosing the right social media platforms for your small business is not an exact science. Use this guide to social media platforms to inspire you in developing marketing ideas. If you’re unfamiliar with one of these platforms, consider exploring it for an hour or two with a personal account to see how users and other companies use it to understand the platform better.

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