How to grow your small business through social media


Reaching new customers and keeping them engaged is a challenge for any small business, but the right social media strategy can light a fire under your business and give it the personality it needs to set it apart from competitors.

A report by consumer insights platform Meltwater found 81% of Australians engage with social media.

Along with keeping up with friends and family and catching up on the latest news, close to one in four uses social media to find inspiration for things to do and buy. In other words, social media can put you in touch with consumers who are willing and ready to spend.

three birds renovations social media strategies

Paid or unpaid promotion?

The size of your marketing budget is less important than you might think.

Paid social media advertising doesn't always pay off as there's no guarantee of hitting the mark with customers.

Algorithm changes make it harder than it used to be to reach potential new customers organically, but when you strike the right chord with your audience it can be a low-cost way to promote your brand and build a loyal following - and the time spent creating content that connects can be well worth your while.

Success tends to build on success.

The more engaging your content, the more new customers your posts, reels and stories reach. Then, it's all about being consistent.

Which platform is best?

Maintaining a social media presence can be time consuming, and it may make sense to focus on one or two areas, rather than thinly spreading resources over every platform.

That means deciding which one best suits your business, product and customer profile. In terms of most-used platforms, Facebook dominates the social media market with 73.8% usage in Australia, followed by Instagram (55.5%) and TikTok (41.5%).

It's not just about market share, though.

If your business lends itself to visual images, Instagram may be your preferred platform.

If your enterprise is better suited to marketing through words rather than images, Facebook can be the ideal conversation starter. TikTok, on the other hand, lends itself to video marketing and appeals to a younger crowd.

Almost 70% of TikTok users are under the age of 24. Plus, 37% of users say they have discovered something new on TikTok and immediately bought it, according to customer engagement platform Khoros.

Thinking laterally

The best social media marketing strategies don't simply push a product or service, but they generate additional income streams through entertaining or informative content.

The videos Tim the Lawnmower Man creates for his two-million-strong audience on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, for example, do far more than enhance his reputation as a competent lawnmower man.

The videos, in which Tim knocks on random doors and offers to mow people's lawn for free, bring in substantial advertising revenue.

Three Birds Renovations is another success story.

The trio's videos and posts provide before-and-after renovation inspiration and serve to showcase the suppliers they use (for which they earn a fee).

Having a large and engaged social media following allows them to promote the Three Birds Reno School, another source of income.

Giveaways and highlights

Once small businesses see what they get back from giving away something for free, it often becomes a key component of their social media strategy.

Competitions and giveaways generate engagement and spread the word to people genuinely interested in what a business sells or offers.

Want to draw special attention to content you've created for your Facebook audience?

Adding @highlight in the comments makes a post more visible on people's feeds and keeps it near the top of their feed for longer.

Adding @followers in the post's text box is another useful trick because it sends every member of a Facebook group a notification that they've been tagged in a post.

When things go wrong

Social media can turn a negative comment into a very public dressing down. It may never happen to you, but the best way to handle negative comments is with the '3-P' approach: be prompt, be public and prevent further fallout.

Acknowledge the failing with an apology, explain why it happened and invite the poster to speak to you privately via direct message to put a cap on any further damage to your brand.

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Anthony O'Brien is a small business and personal finance writer with 20-plus years' experience in the communication industry. He has a Master of Arts from Macquarie University, and has written for Money since 2001.