Social media is a powerful tool for finding new customers and moving them through the sales funnel. While all businesses should have a social media presence, the value of social media for small business cannot be understated.

Here are some effective strategies to use social media for small business marketing to stand out in the local market.

1. Choose the Right Platforms

Success with social media starts with choosing the right platforms for your business. Experts used to advise that businesses reserve their name on every platform, using them all as much as possible. However, that advice has evolved over the years. It’s better to choose the platform your customers use rather than spreading your marketing resources too thin.

For example, if you work with corporate professionals or service B2B clients, it’s sensible to invest time in LinkedIn. However, if you own a local pizzeria, LinkedIn likely isn’t the right fit for your business.

Determining which platform is right for your business ultimately leads back to understanding your ideal customer. Consider their demographics and behaviors to determine the best way to reach them. Start with two platforms that are in alignment with your customer base, then scale as you become more comfortable in planning and executing social media campaigns.

2. Develop a Simple Content Calendar

A content calendar is a guideline that helps you map out a posting schedule for the months ahead with minimal effort. This document doesn’t have to be too fancy or over-the-top to be effective. You can create a content calendar in Excel or Google spreadsheets by listing the platforms and dates, then filling in whether you’ll have curated or custom content. Social media scheduling programs like HootSuite also have convenient planning options.

Start by outlining which days you’ll be sharing promotional content, links, or graphics. You can also use a list of day-specific hashtags to guide the planning process. For example, your small business could use #TipTuesday or #WednesdayWisdom to share a small piece of advice or a fact that’s relevant to your business. The Socially Sorted blog by Donna Moritz also features a ton of content ideas by month.

By creating consistency in your content calendar, you make it easier to get into a posting routine that doesn’t eat up your time and energy. According to a case study by Coschedule, Disney Parks has a rigid content calendar that includes up to five tweets and two Facebook posts per day. Their goal is to create content that initiates a sense of FOMO — fear of missing out.

Source: Disney Parks

3. Showcase Your People

The best social media for small business marketing is that which allows you to connect with your audience on a personal level. Fortunately, small businesses have the benefit when appealing to a local market as they can add a face to the name. This consideration is especially important in small towns, where personal connections are essential.

Rather than presenting an entirely polished content calendar that’s reminiscent of the more prominent brands, let your company culture shine through. Hootsuite is an industry leader in showcasing their employees on social media, dedicating the #hootsuitelife hashtag to their content.

Let your audience know that they aren’t talking to a robot; they’re talking to Darren from their local bakery.

Don’t just share posed photos of your goods and offerings; show those candid moments of employees working late to plan for the holiday rush.

In other words, show the humanity of your business.

This approach to local social media for small business owners ties into a growing appreciation for authenticity in marketing. In a recent survey, 90% of consumers indicated that authenticity is an important factor when deciding where they spend their money.

Small businesses have a unique opportunity to resonate with the audience and create a personal connection so that when a customer walks through the door for the first time, they already recognize the people inside. A little transparency and humanity go a long way in building brand trust.

Source: Hootsuite

4. Become a Storyteller

Another important consideration when creating a local social media strategy is your company story. Creating a connection that resonates with a local audience is why small businesses need social media. Storytelling creates an emotional response and a deeper connection than active selling. This consideration is especially important for businesses targeting Gen Z as they come into the consumer age, as traditional marketing is less effective with them.

Consider the intention behind your non-promotional posts and content. The best social media content creators use business goals and values as a guide to developing relevant content. Dive into the past and use nostalgia and memory to resonate with a local audience. Consider how your business came to be and what matters.

Becoming a storyteller on social media is effective for two core reasons. First, it creates an emotional connection with your audience and builds brand trust. Secondly, social media algorithms are fueled by engagement. The longer someone reads your post, the wider your reach will become.

IKEA Canada’s designer series is a fantastic example of storytelling in social media. They leverage expert advice to solve problems for consumers, with sequential graphics that boost engagement and offer practical guidance.

Source: IKEA Canada

5. Ask Engaging Questions

Another aspect of engagement in regards to the social media algorithm is the number of comments on a single post. One effective strategy for increasing the number of comments on a post is to ask engaging questions.

Start a caption with a question about someone’s preferences or experiences before diving into a story or description. Add a strong call-to-action (CTA) inviting people to share their answers in the comments. This strategy improves engagement triggers and also builds trust and loyalty by giving the platform to your followers. In other words, you’re facilitating a conversation rather than speaking at people.

You can also boost engagement by asking your audience to choose between various options and share their opinion. For example, sharing a picture of tacos beside a photo of pizza and asking the audience which is better is sure to spark a conversation.

Incorporating question-based posts is also a smart strategy leading into a promotional post. Schedule an organic promotional post to follow a high-engagement post and expand your reach organically. Social media consultant Sophia Parra uses this strategy both in her branded media and with clients. Adding a simple “do you agree?” to a quote post is a fantastic way to boost engagement by encouraging people to interact with your post.

Source: Sophia Parra

6. Curate Complementary Content

Curating content is equally as important as creating original content. In some ways, it’s more important, as it requires fewer resources while still connecting with your audience.

The key thing to remember when curating content is not to share something from competitors. While this consideration seems intuitive, many businesses mistakenly do so.

When curating content, look for articles and videos that are relevant to your business. For example, a small grocer could share high-traffic recipe videos that feature the ingredients that are on sale this week at the store. This approach elicits more engagement than a text post outlining what’s on sale and also solves a common problem that many consumers face: lack of inspiration in the kitchen.

Another important consideration when curating content is to add context when sharing. Don’t share a post without telling people why or adding a compelling question to the caption. Every social media post should have intention and context when trying to connect with an audience.

Precision Nutrition will often curate content from other industry leaders with similar values. This helps fill their content calendar while reiterating its brand mission.

Source: Precision Nutrition

7. Partner with Other Local Businesses

Another effective way to approach social media for small business is to partner with other local businesses. Again, it’s important to partner with complementary businesses rather than competition. For example, a gym and spa could cross-promote one another’s posts as they operate in the same overarching industry without detracting from each others’ business.

Networking and forging connections with other small businesses is crucial when taking a local approach to social media.

World-famous brands Airbnb and Flipboard successfully campaigned together to generate 39 million impressions. Each business saw an opportunity to help each other out, and the partnership yielded incredible results.

Source: Flipboard

8. Host Engagement-Based Contests

Social media contests are nothing new. However, many small businesses erroneously focus on likes and shares that extend beyond their target audience. While these contests temporarily increase reach and engagement, they rarely convert into conversions or loyalty.

Rather than focusing on likes and shares, post a contest that requires intentional engagement from your audience. For example, a restaurant can post a local heroes contest that asks followers to tag someone they believe deserves a gift card and explain why.

While your business could still require likes and shares to fulfill the contest requirements, promoting active engagement ensures that your audience has to intentionally interact with your brand.

It’s also integral to follow the contest guidelines for each social media platform, as they vary from one to the next.

Flipboard and Airbnb’s strategic partnership was also an engagement-based contest, in which participants were asked to “heart” posts that resonated with them. One lucky participant won a trip to the experience they had interacted with.

9. Develop an 80:20 Blend

If your followers feel like they’re constantly being sold to, they won’t be your followers for long. One of the secrets of social media for small business is the prioritization of giving rather than asking. In social media, giving refers to sharing engaging content that is relevant and keeps people around. Asking is promoting sales and prioritizing conversions.

When you develop your content calendar, aim for an 80:20 blend of engaging versus promotional content. The 80:20 rule is nothing new in marketing— it’s just evolved for new outreach methods.

The same theory applies to various marketing activities, from email marketing to in-person networking. The goal is to build engaged relationships and customer trust so that when a customer is ready to spend, your business is the first one they consider.

GRRRL Clothing is a brand that has mastered its blend of engaging to sales-oriented content, with one in every six Instagram posts being conversion-driven. The rest highlight user-generated content and information about their core mission: female empowerment.

Source: @grrrl_clothing Instagram Feed

10. Respond and Interact

Don’t let your customers speak into a vacuum. Every comment deserves a response. As mentioned before, the modern consumer wants to know that there’s a human behind the brand and that their time and interaction is valued.

Set aside time to respond to each comment on your social media posts, even if it’s just to share an emoji or gif. If possible, use this exercise as an opportunity to boost your engagement by starting a conversation. Ask someone a compelling question based on their comment to elicit more comments and build a rapport.

Celebrity coach Christie Miller takes time to respond to every comment on her business’s social media pages. Why? To continue building a trusting relationship that leads to sales while working the algorithms.

Source: Coach Christie Miller

11. Ask for Reviews

Gathering business reviews has long been a passive activity for small businesses. Rather than asking for reviews and testimonials, many small businesses leave it up to the customer to take the initiative. There are various reasons why this is no longer enough.

While Google My Business isn’t a social media platform, it plays a vital role in Google rankings and business management at a local level. This platform ties into Google Maps, which is developing a social media interface. Claiming your GMB page and optimizing for Google Maps ensures that your local business shows up when someone searches a restaurant, grocery store, car repair shop, etc. in their area.

Reviews play an integral role in how a business is ranked on Google Maps. Furthermore, reviews on Facebook tie into the overall digital marketing ecosystem. Thus, asking for reviews on social media can help improve your small business visibility at a local level.

Additionally, reviews are an important part of social proof. They show qualified leads that other customers have taken the leap with your business and had no regrets.

Finally, you can use testimonials and reviews to fill your content calendar. Drop these into a simple graphic template or use a screenshot to create simple-yet-effective social media posts that drive traffic.

The key to asking for customer reviews is to make the process as simple as possible. Provide the link and simple instructions so that they don’t feel overwhelmed by the request. Create a follow-up process that ensures every satisfied customer gets asked to share their experience.

Fly Guys Construction is a small business that implemented a review follow-up process to enhance their visibility on Google, Yelp, and Facebook. By using a quick response, they validate the review and showcase their responsiveness to new leads.

Source: Fly Guys Construction Google Reviews

12. Use Eye-Catching Visuals

Some platforms are more visually-driven than others. Instagram, in particular, is built around compelling visuals with links largely taken out of the equation.

However, using eye-catching visuals can make an impact on any social media platform. It’s these clear, stunning images that stop people from scrolling and pique their curiosity.

Use crisp, clear photos when posting about your business. Keep in mind that stock photos are readily available to showcase your intentions when an original photo isn’t feasible. For example, a local grocer can use a stock photo of pineapple when promoting a sale. A legal office can use stock photos of desks and people conversing when providing business updates.

Having clear, visually-appealing imagery tends to stand out more than text-heavy posts. Images also trigger a different cognitive response that leads to better information retention.

In one study, one group of consumers were presented with information via text, and another received the same information with a relevant image. Only 10% of the group with no image remembered the information three days later. Conversely, 65% of the image group retained the information.

Lush Cosmetics is the cream of the crop when it comes to using compelling visuals. Their bold colors and consistent themes make their social media pages a work of art.

Source: Lush Cosmetics

13. Focus on Quality and Consistency

Many small businesses get overwhelmed when putting together a content calendar as they know more posts means more engagement. When it comes to crafting a small business social media strategy, quality, and consistency trump frequency every time. It’s more effective to have one post per day than to have a week of solid posting followed by a week of radio silence.

Start by committing to one well-crafted post per platform per day. Keep in mind that you can cross-post with minimal fanfare by adjusting the image settings and ensuring your word count is acceptable.

During the first few weeks of execution, focus solely on building that posting habit rather than concerning yourself with engagement levels. It’s all about building a strong foundation for growth.

The Fabulous App— a subscription-based wellness business— checks all the boxes when it comes to social media marketing to drive more customers. Rather than posting multiple times per day, they share a single post daily and focus on consistency in timing and branding.

Source: @thefabstory Instagram Feed

Final Thoughts

The key to developing a strong social media strategy for small businesses that appeal to local customers is knowing what your customer wants and needs, then fulfilling those opportunities.

Set goals for your social media growth and consider what steps you must take to get there. When you picture your social media platforms a year from now, what do you want them to look like? Now, what will you do to make your vision a reality?

Interested in learning more about social media? Check out one of our social media strategy conferences.

Other resources you might enjoy:

Find this content useful? Share it with your friends!