The small business owner’s guide to social media

As a small business it can often feel impossible to get started on social media. But with our essential guide to social media advertising, you’ll soon get the results you need.

Social media. Millions of people use it for business and pleasure, but for many it’s something that’s scary and untouchable. It doesn’t need to be. There’s a huge opportunity to make your stamp on social media.

When done correctly, social media can increase awareness of your products and services, and lead to an increase in sales and brand loyalty.

A recent Sage UK study from 2015 revealed that a huge 75% of British SMEs don’t use social media to engage with their local customers. There’s potentially a wealth of customers just waiting for you to establish relationships and get repeat visits, so don’t be afraid to make an account and start posting. Social media is as much as place for SMEs as it is for customers.

We’ve put together a guide to the main social media platforms and all the tools they offer you to find customers and create great content for them. The best content appears when you create it for each platform individually – each has different interactivity, text limits and image dimensions.

Check out the guide below to get started.


“I think a simple rule of business is, if you do the things that are easier first, then you can actually make a lot of progress.” – Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook

Facebook has one of the largest audiences of any social network, and it makes it easy to give you a whole host of tools to use to try an get their attention. Here’s a rundown of what you could be using:

Promoted posts

Promoted posts let you send Facebook posts directly to an audience you define yourself. To find out who this audience is, check out our Business Hacks # 1 article. Remember that it’s quality and not quantity of the people you reach that counts, so sticking to this researched list will really pay off. When you’re paying to promote a post, the more money you put behind it, the more exposure it will have.

Facebook promoted post

Best for:

  • Reaching a new audience
  • Building your followers
  • Getting exposure on content
  • Promoting events and offers

Find out more about Facebook.

Facebook Canvas

Canvas was designed to help you bring your content to life from a mobile device. It’s a new way of creating fast loading adverts on Android and iOS. So if you’ve done your customer research and know your customers are active on mobile, Facebook Canvas is here to help.

Facebook Canvas

When a user clicks on an ad made in Canvas, the ad will instantly load fullscreen, meaning your visual content will be big and beautiful. It’s positioned as a way to tell emotional stories and convince the people to click through and purchase.

Best yet, because of the speed it loads in the Facebook app (instead of opening a new browser window outside of the app), it means you have less chance of losing the interest of your audience. Facebook revealed that 53% of test subjects viewed at least half the ads, which is a great engagement rate.

Best for:

  • Displaying a number of different content types ( i.e. infographics, video and articles)
  • Customers who predominantly use mobile
  • SMEs with lots of visual ads
  • Keeping your audience’s attention
  • Generating click through sales

Find out more about Facebook Canvas.

Facebook Power Editor

Facebook Power Editor is best for creating ads that are viewed on desktops or laptops. You can create, edit and manage ads, campaigns and even individual page posts in bulk, across as many ad accounts and pages as you need. Mass-editing means it’s the easier way of managing multiple ads at once.

Facebook power editor

With the Audiences feature you can create preset filters and customer audiences. You can also promote posts from within the Power Editor, even if they’ve already been published. It’s a useful way to add Call To Action buttons (e.g. buy now, find out more, start shopping) directly to your posts, to give your audience a direct way to buy or visit your website.

Best for:

  • SMEs running multiple campaigns at once
  • Customers who predominantly use desktop and laptops

Find out more about Facebook Power Editor.


“The major reason why Instagram works is that you can follow anyone out there and start following their photos immediately.” – Kevin Systrom, founder of Instagram

Instagram is full of beautiful images of people, places and products that provoke an aspirational or desire factor in audiences. The right image and text can inspire someone to like, follow or buy. However, none of this will happen if people aren’t seeing your posts or page in the first place.


So using the right hashtag is essential. Hashtags help Instagram users to find content that matches their interests. For example, if you’re a bakery selling vegan, gluten-free cakes and biscuits, you can add the hashtags #glutenfree #vegan #veganbaking to relevant posts. Everyone who actively searches for those tags will see you on the curated list.

People will then follow you if you have beautiful images, useful information in your text or you give them something they want to see every day.

Best for:

  • Building your brand presence
  • Raising brand and product awareness
  • Showcasing your product
  • Generating sales

Find out more about Instagram.


“Make every detail perfect, and limit the number of details to perfect.” – Jack Dorsey, creator of Twitter

Twitter is a great place to start conversations and find communities of people who chat, share and like content of all types.


Promoted tweets are easy to use and extremely versatile. The trick is getting your targeting right. For example, using a keyword like “marketing” won’t get you great results. Tens of thousands of people will be spending to try and control the same keyword, often with much larger budgets.

Instead research niche hashtags or phrases. Be specific and use phrases you’ve researched and know your potential customers respond to. Localisation works well on Twitter, hashtag your location to signpost your content to local people. It’s a great way to get noticed by your immediate, local audience.

As well as the usual demographic targeting, you can also upload an email list and if any emails are associated with existing Twitter accounts, you can target them. It’s a great way to start linking your marketing channels.

Best for:

  • Building your reputation
  • Connecting with a local audience
  • Cross-channel marketing
  • Starting conversations

Find out more about Twitter.


“LinkedIn should be connecting you to the information, insights and people to be more effective.” – Reid Hoffman, co-creator, LinkedIn

“The brands I see doing well are those that create strong communities and build followers to their company pages, a home from which they can share thought-leadership pieces.” – Jason A. Miller, Global Content Marketing Leader, LinkedIn

LinkedIn is great for Business to businesses marketing. It’s a way you can target users based on their job title, the company they work for and where it’s based. When creating and targeting content you need to use the same tactics that you would on any other social channel: always think about the audience and the type of content they would respond to.


For example, promoting a post that simply says “buy now” with a picture of your product probably wouldn’t be successful. People on LinkedIn expect interesting topics to grow their knowledge and learn from experts.

Alternatively, LinkedIn could be a great way to promote any events you’re doing, particularly in the local community or about your area of expertise.

The key to LinkedIn is working out what makes you stand out and how to do more of it in a creative way. Business doesn’t mean boring!

Best for:

  • Reputation building
  • Business to Business marketing
  • Knowledge sharing
  • Thought leadership

Find out more about LinkedIn.

Now you know how to get started with social media advertising, look out for our Business Hacks series, which will given you even more insights into how to make your business more digital. Check below to find us on social media to see all of our latest content. To see how your business compares to 5,000 other UK businesses, visit our Ready Business Indicator.