Leveraging Social Media for Small Business Growth

Christopher Villari is a communications professional with over a decade of experience as a marketing and social media consultant and manager. Pursuit asked Christopher to share his tips on how to use social media to accomplish your small business marketing goals.

Small business owners have many options when it comes to marketing their business. Each channel can reach a wide variety of audiences, but most come with a cost. Social media is an inexpensive option that gives you a direct line to current and prospective clients.

What will you need to get started, what platforms should you use and how much money should you invest in these campaigns? These tips and insights will answer these questions to help you leverage social media for small business growth.

Determine what platform is best for your business

There are no clear pros and cons to any particular social media platform. They’re all tools and, like any tool, they’re as useful and powerful as the person using them.

What’s most important is to have social media literacy and understand what the various outlets specialize in communicating and who the target audiences are for those outlets. Understand what you want to promote and where it’s most appropriate to promote it.

Let’s go over a few of the more well-known social media channels:


YouTube is a social media platform that also acts as a tool to feed your other social media platforms. As the second largest search engine in the world, YouTube is a good resource for small business owners.

What’s really great about YouTube is its range of content: there are successful videos that brands paid thousands of dollars for and there are successful videos that brands made using one or two cellphone cameras. What matters most is the creativity of the video and how informative, relatable and enjoyable it is.


Instagram, which has had a meteoric rise in the last five years, is a platform focused purely on the visual stories of the users. The look of the content drives interest rather than the dialogue that comes with it.

Engagement is extremely easy—users see something and decide instantly if they like it or not. Instagram presents a natural opportunity for industries like fashion, fine art, furniture and home décor, cosmetics, and other visually-driven products.  

Even though Instagram’s user base is largely made up of teens (72 %), the platform appeals to a wide range of ages with 59% of internet users between the ages of 18 and 29 and 33% of internet users between the ages of 30 and 49 using the platform.

If your business is service-based, like a public accountant, cleaning service or an attorney, it can be more challenging to create compelling visual content in the same way that a fashion brand would. Some better options for these types of businesses may be platforms like LinkedIn or Pinterest, which have a user base that’s more likely to engage.

LinkedIn and Pinterest

Since 2016, Pinterest has grown its user base to over 500 million, positioning it to be the next network to really drive lead generation and conversion rates. The potential for tapping into the buying power of LinkedIn and Pinterest may be due to their user demographics.

Forty percent of Pinterest users have a household income of $100,000 or more, while 61% of LinkedIn users fall into the 30 to 64 age group.  If you have a small budget to pursue sponsored posts on LinkedIn, this may be your best option! 

Facebook and Twitter

Facebook and Twitter are the most well-known platforms and also the most crowded networks. Facebook, in particular, is a highly competitive platform, and recent changes in news feed algorithms have made it more difficult for companies to be seen. A marketing campaign with a small budget will have a hard time standing out among bigger, more established companies.

Because of the wide net that these networks cast, there is one demographic they do effectively capture well and that’s “baby boomers.” Currently, 40% of people 65 and older in the U.S. use Facebook and this sector continues to grow. Targeted campaigns for this generation will have much greater chances of successful engagement over other platforms.     

Types of campaigns that can be used for lead generation or increased sales on social media

All the major platforms have three basic advertising options: ad placement on news feeds, ad placement on a sidebar, and ad placement via in-network direct mail. You can use various communication tactics in social media ads, from well-produced videos to high-quality photos and strategic messaging.  Experiment with all advertising options your social networks to determine what performs best.

Though it may seem like a lot to manage, there are opportunities to double up and accomplish more in less time. For example, try advertising on both Instagram and Facebook. With shared ownership between the networks, users have the opportunity to manage one campaign across both platforms. Ad campaigns are easy to start and business owners can seamlessly track engagement across both platforms from one account.

LinkedIn offers campaigns for sponsored content, sponsored InMail, text ad campaigns, and more. Business owners can promote content downloads, sign-ups for newsletters and events, as well as purchases all through LinkedIn’s advertising platform.  Try some A/B testing on LinkedIn by focusing each campaign on a different message to see what performs best for your business.

Metrics to track to measure ROI on social media campaigns

Most social media platforms offer tools to measure your campaign impressions, click-throughs and durations, which help measure the effectiveness of your campaign. If you’re new to this kind of marketing, here are a few terms to learn:

  • Impressions: The number of times people saw your ad.
  • Clicks: The number of times people clicked on your ad. This metric may exclude some social actions such as likes, shares and comments.
  • Ad Bids: Each platform provides several ways to bid for your ads depending on what matters most to you and your business. Most advertisers focus on clicks, impressions, conversions, or views (for video ads). This determines how much your campaign will cost.
  • Average Click-Through Rate (CTR): How often people who view your ad actually click on it. CTR can be used to help you determine the quality of your imagery, positioning, and keywords.
  • Cost Per Thousand (CPT) or Cost Per Mille (CPM): This denotes the price of 1,000 advertisement impressions on one webpage. If a website publisher charges $2.00 CPM, that means an advertiser must pay $2.00 for every 1,000 impressions of its ad.
  • Cost Per Click (CPC): This refers to the actual price you pay for each click in your pay-per-click (PPC) marketing campaigns.
  • Conversions: The number of times people took a desired action after clicking on or seeing your ad. For example, if your campaign objective is to sell a certain product, conversion would be measured by how many people bought the product through your ad.
  • Cost Per Conversion: This is the average amount you spent per conversion.
  • Cost Per Lead: This is the average amount you spent per new lead obtained.

A few best practices

For small businesses, paid ads are immensely powerful tools to promote your brand. Consider using paid media after exhausting free options for social media first.

Once you’ve developed strong messages that resonate with customers and established a sustainable pipeline for future content, investment in sponsored ads will have the most bang for your buck.

Revisit and experiment with your social media campaigns to help you focus on the messages and platforms that work best for your business. Leverage customer rewards and promotional items that are offered exclusively via your social channels, and track how website traffic fluctuates based on your promotions.

Analyze the response from your quick, run-and-gun posts that cost nothing to promote, like a photo on Instagram, compared to a budgeted, well produced YouTube video, and see if there is any significant difference in engagement and feedback. Both will provide lessons learned that will inform your future content.

In summary, get to know each one of the various social media platforms intimately. You don’t want to experiment while valuable time and money are being expended at a premium. Take your time in the lead up to a campaign and make sure it’s your best offering before presenting it to your audience.    

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