Which social media channels should you use to market your small business? (20 minute read)
Photo by Caleb Jones on Unsplash

Which social media channels should you use to market your small business? (20 minute read)

I’m convinced that social media is a useful marketing tool for small businesses (see “Why use Social Media to Market your Small Business“), but what now?

Before I start dedicating time and resources into social media plans for my business, and daily posting, I want to know the facts.

With so many different social media channels, and only so many hours in the day, where should I focus my efforts and how often should I post?

Do I really need to post several times a day / week / month / forever?! If so, then when I am going to find time for the work I love?

Image from Pixabay

I’ve been looking into the latest research on marketing a Small Business on Social Media and am happy to share my findings with you in this blog post series:

I hope they help you decide where to focus your Social Media Marketing efforts as much as the research process has helped me!

SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS

According to Makeawebsite.com there are 65+ Social Networking Sites You Need to Know About in 2019! (1) 

I’m going to focus on the top four social platforms that marketers deemed the most important over a 5-year period from the 2019 Social Media Marketing Industry Report. (2) Facebook, Instagram, Linked In and Twitter.

Facebook logo
Instagram Logo
Linked In Logo

Cox Blue suggest choosing one or two sites to start out, ones that make the most sense for your business. Then, once you have enough time and money to commit, begin to scale your efforts and social footprint. (3) 

Melina Emerson, the “Small Biz Lady” agrees, she recommends finding out where your target customer spends time online:

“pick one social platform and dominate on that one. Claim your profiles on the other networks but focus most of your time on the main one.” (4) 

So, which of these social medial channels should we focus on? Where does are our target market hang out?

The 2019 Social Media Marketing Industry Report found that, for the first time in the last 5 years, Facebook lost share as the most important platform for marketers, dropping from 67% in 2018 to 61% in 2019.

Facebook can be seen in the ‘rise and fall of social media’ chart below (towering above in red). The rise of Instagram (in blue) can also be clearly seen, alongside the decline in Twitter (yellow). (2)

Let’s take a look into the latest research for Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. What they’re used for, who uses them and how often you need to post on each to get seen?

FACEBOOK

Smallbusiness.co.uk describes Facebook as a platform that lets people connect with friends, share links, photos, videos, and events, join groups, and more. There are also options for promoting content organically and through paid promotions. (5) 

Photo by freestocks.org from Pexels

Even though Facebook’s reach appears to be declining, most marketers still consider Facebook to be the most important social media platform. It is by far the largest with The Telegraph confirming that it currently has more than 2.3bn monthly active users. (6) 

In fact, according to Avocado Social, of all internet users in the UK, 78% of them use Facebook. Even more compelling is that a whopping 40 million people, or 71% of UK adults (+13 years old) can be reached with adverts on the platform. (7) 

For the most part, Quick Sprout suggest that starting with a Facebook profile is a safe bet for small businesses. With nearly 1.5 billion using the platform daily, you can assume your target audience has a presence there. (8) 

It’s no surprise then that 86% of small businesses stated they use Facebook in the Clutch 2018 Small Business Survey. (9)

There are now 65 million local business pages on Facebook according to Sprout Social. (10) That’s a lot of businesses all vying for attention!

How often should a small business post on Facebook?

The advice varies from 5 to 6 posts a week (11) to twice a day! (12)  WordStream warn, in their “Easy Guide to Social Media for Small Business”, that although posting on Facebook doesn’t have a limit for businesses, you should be mindful of your followers’ feeds and try not to dominate them.

Socialbakers research appears to confirm this as they found that engagement rates per post dropped significantly for businesses posting more than twice per day. (13) 

So, where’s the sweet spot? CoSchedule analysed research from 14 studies and from their findings recommend 1 Facebook post per day between 1pm and 4pm. (14)

Mari Smith, from CoSchedule, recommends skipping weekdays if you have to, but not weekend days since Facebook users tend to be active on the weekends and in the evenings. (15) 

However, in January 2018 Facebook changed their algorithm making it far tougher to reach people. According to Brandwatch, Facebook decided to take action to curb fake news on the platform, regain some trust, and reaffirm Facebook as a platform for community and ‘meaningful social interaction‘.

Essentially, unless you have a very engaged audience most of your posts will just be pushed off into the void, with just a smattering of your followers seeing it. Without people liking, commenting on, and sharing your posts, you won’t get far and, with less people seeing it, that just becomes harder. (16)

Dow Social warn that changes to the Facebook algorithm means that organic reach has been severely throttled. This means that paid advertising and boosting of posts is now almost mandatory to get your message out. They also recommend spacing posts out to target when your audience is most active, this is often before starting work, lunchtime and the evenings. (17) 

The Telegraph article on Small Businesses Social Media in 2019 agrees that unless a post gains many likes and shares or gets boosted with ad spend, it tends to be seen by only a small percentage of a page’s fans because of Facebook’s algorithm. (18) 

Facebook Algorithm
Image by Intographics from Pixabay

In the UK, the average engagement rate on a Facebook post is 3.82% which is a small increase (0.13%) on this time last year. The average engagement rate for a photo post is 5.48% and for a video post is higher at 6.96%. (19)

However, as Pia Silva says in a Forbes article on Social Media, our time and money are finite resources so allocate accordingly. Rather than believe you have to post on Facebook, instead review all your options, evaluate where your efforts will have the greatest return, and double down there instead. (20)

INSTAGRAM

Smallbusiness.co.uk describe Instagram as a visual social media platform based entirely on photo and video posts. Although demographics veer towards younger users, older generations are starting to embrace it more and more. Unlike the others, Instagram is almost entirely mobile and, although there is a web version, you can’t take photos or create new posts on it. (21) 

Instagram Image
Photo by Georgia de Lotz on Unsplash

Lyfe Marketing explain that as Instagram is so visual it is a great place to share pictures of your physical products and engage with your potential customers. (22)

According to the 2019 Social Media Marketing Industry Report (2) Instagram’s influence has been growing steadily, as the most important platform for marketers, for the last five years.

The number of monthly active Instagram users has grown to 1 billion according to the latest social media statistics. (23) Avocado Social’s research found that at the beginning of 2019 there were an estimated 24 million Instagram users in the UK. This is 42% of the UK’s population that can be reached with advertising. (24)

Seventy-three percent of marketers are now using Instagram, up from 66% in 2018. It’s the second most important social platform for marketing (behind Facebook) and surpassed LinkedIn for the first time. A significant 69% of marketers plan on increasing their Instagram organic activities over the next 12 months. Instagram is the number-one platform marketers want to learn more about, surpassing Facebook for the first time. (25) 

How often should a small business post on Instagram?

The sources suggest that Instagram photos should be more regular than Facebook with the advice varying from 1 to 2 photos per day (26) up to as many as 10 to 20 photos per day! (27)

Findings from the CoSchedule research recommend 1-2 Instagram posts per day, with the first between 8am and 9am and then second at 2am. (28) 

Instagram posting

Dow Socials advise that the key with Instagram is consistency rather than quantity. Images are popular and highly shareable so posting as often as possible is recommended. (29)

And on Forbes, Neil Patel says “posting frequency is not all that important for your Instagram marketing.” Instead, what you should focus on is consistency. Whether you post once or twenty times per day, do your best to maintain that same cadence. (30) 

In January 2019, HypeAuditor ran a benchmark, studying the engagement rate of almost 4,2 million accounts of influencers. The covered pool of accounts was divided into five groups, based on the number of followers. 

The study showed that Engagement Rate depends on follower count. The more followers an influencer has, the lower their ER. The most active audience have influencers with less than 5K followers. (31)

Instagram Engagement

Instagram also has an algorithm that affects who sees your posts. Hootsuite remind us that Instagram’s primary goal is to maximise the time users spend on the platform. Because the longer users linger, the more ads they see. So directly or indirectly, accounts that help Instagram achieve that goal are rewarded. They recommend that if you think you have the capacity to increase quality and quantity, go for it. (32)

LINKEDIN

LinkedIn is described as being the largest social media network for professionals. It’s a business-focused network where users add connections, share links, join groups, write recommendations, and search for connections by company, location, industry and skills. Paid-for advertising is also available. (33) 

Business to Business
Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

LinkedIn may not see the same rate of growth as platforms like Instagram, since it has a niche audience type that is different from that of other social media platforms. But Sprout Social suggest it continues to be the largest professional network and provides ‘business to business’ (B2B) companies with an ideal marketing channel. (34)

The Telegraph agree that B2B companies would be missing a trick by avoiding LinkedIn, which has 590m global members, 25m of whom are in the UK. (35) 

LinkedIn encourages thought leadership through longer-form content, such as articles, videos and considered blogs. (36)

As such, 91% of executives surveyed by Sprout Social, believe that LinkedIn is the top choice for professionally relevant content. (37) 

It also was found to be the best social network for lead generation in a study by HubSpot. (38)

LinkedIn for Lead Generation

Quick Sprout also suggest that LinkedIn is more beneficial to B2B companies as 80% of leads generated by B2B brands come from LinkedIn. (39) 

How often should a small business post on LinkedIn?

Again the sources vary from at least two times per week (40)  to 20 posts per month, but CoSchedule’s research recommends 1 post per day between 10am to 11am. (41) 

LinkedIn

Dow Social advise that posting onto your company’s LinkedIn page keeps your business followers in the loop as to what you’re doing in your company. You can use this space to share updates about your company. The same advice applies for your personal profile, although the style of the updates should be more tailored to your professional rather than company persona. (42) 

Michael Quoc reminds us that much like Facebook and Instagram, the LinkedIn algorithm prioritises content you’re most likely to find relevant and engage with over the most recent content.

However, the LinkedIn algorithm actually favours “natural” posting schedules over very regular ones. That means that your posts could actually be penalised for appearing every day at exactly the same time. He recommends posting frequent, high-quality content at irregular intervals, including the weekends. (43) 

TWITTER

According to Smallbusiness.co.uk, Twitter is widely regarded as the best platform for engagement and is growing more popular as a tool for social customer service. Users can post messages of up to 140 characters, share photos and videos, create custom lists, send direct messages, and more. Content can be promoted organically, with Twitter cards, or paid promotions. (44)

Statistics predict that in 2019, Twitter’s audience size is projected to reach 275 million monthly active users worldwide. (45) There are currently 14 million active Twitter users in the UK.

Internet Live Stats show that every second, on average, around 6,000 tweets are tweeted on Twitter. (46)

With all this traffic it’s easy for your tweets to get lost. Hootsuite state that the half-life of a tweet is 24 minutes. In other words, a tweet gets half its interactions in the first half hour, and then starts a long, slow decline into the fog of time. This is why some guides don’t have upward limits on the number of times a brand ought to tweet in a day. (47) 

Twitter Image
Photo by Luke Chesser on Unsplash

How often should a small business post on Twitter?

Dow Social recommend only focussing on Twitter if you have the resources because getting noticed on Twitter is getting harder and harder. As a fast-moving platform if you blink you can miss some great content, therefore they recommend posting content just over once every hour during business hours and interspersing this with engagement on top. (48) 

Writing for Forbes, Neil Patel suggests tweet frequency should be tied to your goals. If you want maximum engagement per tweet, aim for 1-5 tweets per day. However, if you want more total responses to your tweets overall, 50 tweets or more are acceptable. (49)

Buffer recommends three tweets a day is the most you should share before engagement starts to drop off, and CoSchedule’s research suggested that a higher daily frequency is best and recommended 15 tweets per day. (50)

Twitter Posting

According to the 2019 Social Media Marketing Industry Report (2), Twitter’s influence has been decreasing steadily, as the most important platform for marketers, for the last five years. This could be because it is becoming harder to be noticed on Twitter.

Much like Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn’s algorithms, Twitter’s algorithm works behind the scenes to rank and prioritise posts it thinks people want to see.

In September 2018, Twitter announced that users would be able to toggle between Top Tweets and Latest Tweets. What that means is that people can now easily switch between an algorithm feed and a real-time feed. (51)

WHICH SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS SHOULD SMALL BUSINESSES USE?

As a small business, with limited time available for social media marketing, it seems sensible to choose one channel to focus your attention on initially. Find out where your customers are and join in the conversation there.

Connect
Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

Time required for planning posts is a factor when choosing which social media platform to run with. If you can just about manage one post per day then choosing Facebook or LinkedIn would be fine, whereas one post a day would get swallowed up in the Twitter tidal wave.

Facebook, without a doubt, has the largest number of active users, so your target customer is likely to be found there. It also has 65 million business pages which is a lot of businesses vying for their attention. However, it still looks like a good choice for small businesses, with a manageable recommended one post per day you have the opportunity to make connections and build engagement with an enormous number of people.

Instagram is on the rise, and if you have a visual business, and can share lots of beautiful photos of your products or services, then it would appear to be a great place to market your business. However, keeping up with the recommended two posts per day, and maintaining the quality of each post, may be difficult.

Although smaller than Facebook, LinkedIn looks like a good option if you are a B2B company. It’s a smaller pond designed for business networking. One post per day is acceptable and it has the highest visit to lead conversion rate.

Twitter might not be the best option when you are a small business due to the volume of tweets required. However, there is plenty of content to share, and if you’re sharing four pieces of someone else’s content for every piece of your own, that would mean creating around four short tweets per day and retweeting 12, so could be a viable option if you prefer the short snappy tweet format.

We’re going to need a plan!

One thing is for sure, to market your business on any of the social media channels, consistently creating and sharing a stream of relevant and engaging content is recommended, and for that we’re going to need a plan!

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the amount of content needed to market your business, fear not, the next blog will take a look into Social Media Marketing Overwhelm and how to combat it with a strategy!

REFERENCES

Extra reading if you fancy delving down further into the research.

  1. 65 Social Networking Sites You Need to Know About in 2019 – Make A Website Hub, 65 Social Networking Sites You Need to Know About, https://makeawebsitehub.com/social-media-sites/
  2. 2019 SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING INDUSTRY REPORT – How Marketers Are Using Social Media to Grow Their Businesses, Social Media Examiner, https://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/social-media-marketing-industry-report-2019/, Michael A. Stelzner, May 2019
  3. Getting Started With Social Media Marketing for Your Business, 17 Tips For Getting Your Small Business Started With Social Media Marketing, https://www.coxblue.com/17-tips-for-getting-your-small-business-started-with-social-media-marketing/
  4. 10 Expert Social Media Tips To Help Your Small Business Succeed, 10 Expert Social Media Tips To Help Your Small Business Succeed, https://www.forbes.com/sites/allbusiness/2018/03/27/10-expert-social-media-tips-to-help-your-small-business-succeed/#56c03cfe14a1, Gerri Detweiler
  5. Top social media tips for small businesses, Top social media tips for small businesses, https://smallbusiness.co.uk/top-social-media-tips-small-businesses-2540617/
  6. How should small businesses use social media in 2019?, How should small businesses use social media in 2019?, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/connect/small-business/business-solutions/small-businesses-social-media-2019/
  7. The Latest UK Social Media Statistics for 2019 – Avocado Social, The Latest UK Social Media Statistics for 2019, https://www.avocadosocial.com/latest-social-media-statistics-and-demographics-for-the-uk-in-2019/
  8. How to Effectively Market Your Small Business on Social Media, How to Effectively Market Your Small Business on Social Media, https://www.quicksprout.com/social-media-for-small-business/
  9. How to Effectively Market Your Small Business on Social Media, How to Effectively Market Your Small Business on Social Media, https://www.quicksprout.com/social-media-for-small-business/
  10. 65 Social Media Statistics to Bookmark in 2019 | Sprout Social, 65 Social Media Statistics to Bookmark in 2019, https://sproutsocial.com/insights/social-media-statistics/
  11. How Often To Post On Social Media According To 14 Studies, How Often To Post On Social Media? [Proven Research From 14 Studies]72, https://coschedule.com/blog/how-often-to-post-on-social-media/, CoSchedule
  12. How Often You Should Post On Social Media Platforms [Updated 2018] – DowSocial, How Often You Should Post On Social Media Platforms [Updated 2018], https://dowsocial.com/how-often-you-should-post-on-social-media-platforms/
  13. The Easy Guide to Social Media for Small Business | WordStream, The Easy Guide to Social Media for Small Business, https://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2019/03/19/social-media-for-small-business
  14. How Often To Post On Social Media? [Proven Research From 14 Studies], CoSchedule.com, https://coschedule.com/blog/how-often-to-post-on-social-media/
  15. How Often To Post On Social Media According To 14 Studies, How Often To Post On Social Media? [Proven Research From 14 Studies]72, https://coschedule.com/blog/how-often-to-post-on-social-media/, CoSchedule
  16. The Facebook Algorithm Explained and How to Work it | Brandwatch, The Facebook AlgorithmExplained, https://www.brandwatch.com/blog/the-facebook-algorithm-explained/
  17. How Often You Should Post On Social Media Platforms [Updated 2018] – DowSocial, How Often You Should Post On Social Media Platforms [Updated 2018], https://dowsocial.com/how-often-you-should-post-on-social-media-platforms/
  18. How should small businesses use social media in 2019?, How should small businesses use social media in 2019?, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/connect/small-business/business-solutions/small-businesses-social-media-2019/
  19. The Latest UK Social Media Statistics for 2019 – Avocado Social, The Latest UK Social Media Statistics for 2019, https://www.avocadosocial.com/latest-social-media-statistics-and-demographics-for-the-uk-in-2019/
  20. When Social Media Is A Waste Of Time For Businesses, When Social Media Is A Waste Of Time For Businesses, https://www.forbes.com/sites/piasilva/2017/02/20/when-social-media-is-a-waste-of-time-for-businesses/#794ca923237f, Pia Silva
  21. Top social media tips for small businesses, Top social media tips for small businesses, https://smallbusiness.co.uk/top-social-media-tips-small-businesses-2540617/
  22. Social Media Marketing for Small Business: 4 Tips That Work, https://www.lyfemarketing.com/blog/social-media-marketing-for-small-business/
  23. 65 Social Media Statistics to Bookmark in 2019 | Sprout Social, 65 Social Media Statistics to Bookmark in 2019, https://sproutsocial.com/insights/social-media-statistics/
  24. The Latest UK Social Media Statistics for 2019 – Avocado Social, The Latest UK Social Media Statistics for 2019, https://www.avocadosocial.com/latest-social-media-statistics-and-demographics-for-the-uk-in-2019/
  25. 2019 SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING INDUSTRY REPORT – How Marketers Are Using Social Media to Grow Their Businesses, Social Media Examiner, https://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/social-media-marketing-industry-report-2019/, Michael A. Stelzner, May 2019
  26. How Often To Post On Social Media? [Proven Research From 14 Studies], CoSchedule.com, https://coschedule.com/blog/how-often-to-post-on-social-media/
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  28. How Often To Post On Social Media? [Proven Research From 14 Studies], CoSchedule.com, https://coschedule.com/blog/how-often-to-post-on-social-media/
  29. How Often You Should Post On Social Media Platforms [Updated 2018] – DowSocial, How Often You Should Post On Social Media Platforms [Updated 2018], https://dowsocial.com/how-often-you-should-post-on-social-media-platforms/
  30. How Often To Post On Social Media According To 14 Studies, How Often To Post On Social Media? [Proven Research From 14 Studies]72, https://coschedule.com/blog/how-often-to-post-on-social-media/, CoSchedule
  31. Instagram Engagement Rate Benchmark2018 vs 2019 | HypeAuditor Blog, Instagram Engagement Rate Benchmark 2018 vs 2019, https://hypeauditor.com/blog/instagram-engagement-rate-benchmark-2018-vs-2019/
  32. How the Instagram Algorithm Works in 2019 (And How to Work With It), How the Instagram Algorithm Works in 2019 (And How to Work With It), https://blog.hootsuite.com/instagram-algorithm/
  33. Top social media tips for small businesses, Top social media tips for small businesses, https://smallbusiness.co.uk/top-social-media-tips-small-businesses-2540617/
  34. 65 Social Media Statistics to Bookmark in 2019 | Sprout Social, 65 Social Media Statistics to Bookmark in 2019, https://sproutsocial.com/insights/social-media-statistics/
  35. How should small businesses use social media in 2019?, How should small businesses use social media in 2019?, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/connect/small-business/business-solutions/small-businesses-social-media-2019/
  36. How should small businesses use social media in 2019?, How should small businesses use social media in 2019?, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/connect/small-business/business-solutions/small-businesses-social-media-2019/
  37. 65 Social Media Statistics to Bookmark in 2019 | Sprout Social, 65 Social Media Statistics to Bookmark in 2019, https://sproutsocial.com/insights/social-media-statistics/
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  39. How to Effectively Market Your Small Business on Social Media, How to Effectively Market Your Small Business on Social Media, https://www.quicksprout.com/social-media-for-small-business/
  40. How Often To Post On Social Media According To 14 Studies, How Often To Post On Social Media? [Proven Research From 14 Studies]72, https://coschedule.com/blog/how-often-to-post-on-social-media/, CoSchedule
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  42. How Often You Should Post On Social Media Platforms [Updated 2018] – DowSocial, How Often You Should Post On Social Media Platforms [Updated 2018], https://dowsocial.com/how-often-you-should-post-on-social-media-platforms/
  43. How Does the LinkedIn Algorithm Work in 2019? | Falcon.io, How the LinkedIn Algorithm Works in 2019., https://www.falcon.io/insights-hub/topics/social-media-strategy/how-the-linkedin-algorithm-works-in-2019/
  44. Top social media tips for small businesses, Top social media tips for small businesses, https://smallbusiness.co.uk/top-social-media-tips-small-businesses-2540617/
  45. Twitter: number of users worldwide 2020 | Statistic, Twitter: number of worldwide users 2014-2020, https://www.statista.com/statistics/303681/twitter-users-worldwide/
  46. Twitter Usage Statistics – Internet Live Stats, Twitter Usage Statistics, https://www.internetlivestats.com/twitter-statistics/
  47. 28 Twitter Statistics All Marketers Should Know in 2019, 28 Twitter Statistics All Marketers Need to Know in 2019, https://blog.hootsuite.com/twitter-statistics/
  48. How Often You Should Post On Social Media Platforms [Updated 2018] – DowSocial, How Often You Should Post On Social Media Platforms [Updated 2018], https://dowsocial.com/how-often-you-should-post-on-social-media-platforms/
  49. How Often To Post On Social Media According To 14 Studies, How Often To Post On Social Media? [Proven Research From 14 Studies]72, https://coschedule.com/blog/how-often-to-post-on-social-media/, CoSchedule
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  51. How To Make The 2019 Twitter Algorithm Work For You |, How To Make The 2019 Twitter Algorithm Work For You, https://scsmarketingandpr.co.uk/how-to-make-the-2019-twitter-algorithm-work-for-you/

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