Developing a Targeted Social Media Strategy for Your Small Business
By Hillary Lacouture | VP of Marketing, BECO

Published March 23, 2023

Social media marketing can be a great way for small business owners to connect, engage, and solve problems for customers and prospects. A targeted social media strategy can produce substantial sales growth. But it’s crucial to have a well-thought-out plan and consistent execution to avoid these common mistakes:

      • Posting inconsistently in both content and timing
      • Underachieving with inauthentic or stale posts
      • Not engaging your target audience
      • Having no strategy or demographic information to guide you
      • Failing to tailor content to platform–in other words, not realizing you may need different approaches on Twitter vs. Instagram vs. Facebook

The bottom line? You’ve got to be the man, the Fran, the Diane, or the Stan with the plan!

Quick tip: As you build your plan, don’t forget to make sure your social media goals fit within your budget.
STEP 1: Learn Everything You Can About Your Target Audience

From the start, you need to get to know your followers and customers as real people with wants and needs. You should know many things about your ideal customer, such as:

      • Age/race/religion
      • Location
      • Socio-economic status/employment and average income
      • Values
      • Interests/hobbies
      • Relationship status, etc.

Here’s a simple guide and template from the social media management software company Hootsuite for creating audience/buyer personas.

Remember that with every target audience, you should not think about just age or gender, but what your ideal customers look like, what kind of cars they drive, how many children they have, etc. You can’t narrow it down to just one ideal client profile, but even if you have multiple markets/audiences, always remember to target the person doing the purchasing.

STEP 2: Set SMART Social Media Goals

A social media goal is a statement about a specific result you want from your marketing efforts. It may be a small, short-term objective such as a single ad buy. Or it could have a broader objective like a goal for your overall social media campaign.

We recommend developing your social media goals according to the SMART framework. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

Specific: Your goal should be as precise as possible. For example, instead of a vague goal such as “improve our Instagram account,” you might set your goal to “build Instagram engagement by 500%.”

Measurable: Instead of saying “We want to increase brand awareness,” perhaps you could set this measurable goal: “We want a 5% increase in our total number of social media followers.” That’s something you can track and validate.

Attainable: Let’s say your goal specifies driving more traffic to your website by increasing the number of referrals from social media sites. But what gain is possible? If you know your followers increased by 2% last month when you began posting content more frequently, that track record gives you an idea of what to shoot for. “Wishful” goals not based in reality set you up for failure.

Relevant: Here’s another possible goal: “Create more engagement by increasing our total number of followers on Facebook.” You know that goal is relevant because increasing brand awareness helps drive more interest in products and services, which benefits your big-picture brand strategy.

Time-bound: Having a deadline is key. Set a time to reach each goal (one to six months) depending on the goal’s complexity and your past experience.

STEP 3: Get to Know Your Competition

A competitive analysis allows you to understand who your competition is and what they’re doing well, see what’s expected in your industry, set your own social media targets, and spot opportunities. Maybe one of your competitors is dominant on Facebook, but hasn’t used Twitter or Instagram much if at all. Knowing that gives you an idea of where your audience is not already being saturated with content.

You can also use social “listening” to evaluate competitors’ social media strategy. Search for competing company names, account handles, and other relevant keywords on social media. What are they sharing? What are other people are saying about them? Is their use of influencer marketing gaining them a lot of engagement?

Pay particular attention to shifts in how competitors and industry leaders are using social media and taking advantage of trends. Try to spot specific social content or a campaign that soars or misses the mark. Rule of thumb: A monthly check of your competitors’ social media activity is enough.

STEP 4: Decide Which Networks to Use

There are over 20 social media platforms you could be on, but you definitely don’t want or need to cover all of them. Use the information you learned in Step 1 to determine what platforms people in your target audience are on. And don’t forget to figure in what you uncovered in your Step 3 competitive analysis about opportunities. It makes sense to start by choosing three of the top social media platforms:

Facebook— In terms of brand awareness, Facebook still the biggest dog out there. But remember that kids/younger people simply are not on it, with the majority of users being 25 or older. (source)

Instagram – Think visual! Instagram is a photo/video sharing app where high-quality visual content will perform best. Instagram’s user-base leans younger than Facebook, with over half of those using it being under 35. (source)

YouTube – YouTube has a nice spread of users from various age groups and is the second most-used platform in the world. It’s a great place to provide long-form video content to people who are interested in taking a deeper dive into your company’s products or services.

TikTok – This platform used to share short videos is a powerful tool for direct-to-consumer brands with a younger target audience to consider. However, keep in mind that the U.S. government has repeatedly threatened to ban the app. TikTok users are 57% female, and 63% of people on the platform are between 10 and 29 years old (source).

Twitter – Keep micro-blogging platform Twitter in mind for PR and customer support efforts, but be cautious. Many brands are taking their ad dollars elsewhere since Elon Musk’s takeover of the company last year and the chaos that has followed. Twitter users tend to be older with 76% being over 25 (source) and 63% are male (source). Educational content threads often find traction on Twitter, where there are more college-educated users than on Meta’s platforms (Instagram and Facebook). (source)

LinkedIn – LinkedIn is the place to be for B2B companies. Members use the platform to further their career goals by growing their networks and making new connections with people and brands. This is where you’ll find users with the most education out of any social media platform, and like Twitter it leans more male (57%) than female (43%). (source)

Start the process of elimination by determining where your ideal client is spending most of their time. Then dive in.

Never forget that it’s better to use fewer social media channels, and use them well, rather than stretching yourself thin trying to maintain a presence on too many.

STEP 5: Craft Your Message

Now the fun part starts. What are you going to say to your target audience to showcase your brand and establish a relationship? People come to social media to engage in conversation and learn about new ideas. While they are receptive to hearing about new products and services, they won’t tolerate a barrage of repetitive salesy messaging begging them to spend money.

So what should you post? Lots of things. Posts can be polls, questions, quotes, memes, user-generated content, stories, livestreams, infographics, competitions, personal or stock photos, product posts, news/trending posts, or promotion of blog posts. Some of the best posts may use workplace behind-the-scenes glimpses that celebrate your employees. This type of content lends authenticity to your brand and allows your team share personal wins. And never neglect to tailor your posts to different social media channels. You don’t want to do the same thing on all of your platforms.

Use these thought-starters for inspiration:

      • Promise a specific benefit
      • Use numbers and percentages
      • Ask a question
      • Trigger curiosity or emotion
      • Create urgency
      • Use a call-to-action

If you’re still stumped about what to post, here’s a long list of social media content ideas to get you started.

STEP 6: Create a Social Media Calendar

Your social media content calendar lists the dates and times when you will publish content on each channel. It’s the perfect place to plan all of your social media activities—from images, link sharing, and re-shares of user-generated content (UGC) to blog posts and videos.

Your calendar ensures that you won’t only post content whenever you have time and feel like it. Here are the best times to post/tweet/pin on specific social media channels. But knowing that each social network sees its engagement increase at specific hours and days of the week, isn’t enough. You still need to tailor your approach to your audience. You can plan your whole content calendar and incorporate recommended best times to post on every network based on your past engagement rates, impressions, or click data.

STEP 7: Determine the Right Content Mix

Post strategically, and resist the urge to jump on every meme! Make sure your content mix and calendar reflect the strategy and goals you’ve assigned to each social channel.

If you’re starting from scratch and you’re not sure what types of content to post, try the 80-20 rule:

      • 80% of your posts should inform, educate, or entertain your audience
      • 20% can directly promote your brand


You could also try the social media content marketing rule of thirds:

      • One-third of your content promotes your business, converts readers, and generates profit.
      • One-third of your content shares ideas and stories from thought leaders in your industry or like-minded businesses.
      • One-third of your content is personal interactions with your audience
STEP 8: Be Consistent

On social media, consistency is about being reliable and building momentum with your content. No matter what type of content you’re publishing, it’s vital that your brand’s voice and style shine through. Having a consistent schedule with fresh content that’s relevant and interesting to your target audience will help foster your brand’s trustworthiness, credibility, and recognition. The goal is to have your audience see a post from your brand and immediately know that it’s from you.

When you’re starting out on social, it may take some trial and error to figure out what works best for your audience. You can play with posting at various times to determine when engagement is highest and test different types of content to see what resonates most. Once you have these insights though, get your schedule in place and stick to it!

STEP 9: Track Meaningful Metrics

Vanity metrics, like number of followers and likes, are easy to track, but their real value is hard to prove. Instead, focus on things like engagement, click-through, and conversion rates. For example, if you use LinkedIn to drive traffic to your website, you would measure click-throughs. If Instagram is for brand awareness, you might track the number of Instagram Story views. And if you advertise on Facebook, cost-per-click (CPC) is a common success metric.

Social media goals should always align with your overall marketing objectives. This correlation makes it easier to show the value of your work and offer proof to other stakeholders.

“It’s easy to get overwhelmed by deciding what to post and which metrics to track, but you need to focus on what you want to get out of social media to begin with,” says Amanda Wood, Hootsuite’s Senior Manager of Social Marketing. “Don’t just start posting and tracking everything: match your goals to your business, and your metrics to your goals.”

Overwhelmed by social media yet? Don’t be. Even business owners who hate social media have discovered being strategic in their approach makes them confident in its effectiveness and pays big dividends over time. A few additional resources that can help include:

One more thought: DON’T try to do it yourself. As a small business owner, your time is limited, so DO delegate social media work to someone (or a team) in your company, or bring in an outside expert for advice. Then add the cost of your social media strategy to your budget.

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