Time is money for all small businesses, so while building your organic social media presence is technically free, the hours you sink into it is worth something, and you should be careful not to waste it. But before you fork over a large amount to a social media platform—and especially before you start with paid options on any platform or spend money on a social media manager—spend some focused time getting to know the free services on every channel, and not just the ones you’re using now. Then, once you do that, you’d be wise to pick a select few channels to direct your energy. The #1 Rule For Choosing a Social Media Platform “Is my audience on it?” You must ask yourself this question before committing any time to a platform because you don’t want to be wasting your time (and by extension, your money) in a space that won’t yield returns. For example, if you were a restaurant looking to attract customers who care about presentation of your dishes, a verbal-based medium like Twitter might not be the best option for you. On the flipside, if you were a freelance writer looking for work, then showing off your skills on Twitter might be a very good option. To begin this look at your social media options, let’s look at the two most popular social platforms (and the ones both owned by social media wunderkind Mark Zuckerberg): Facebook and Instagram. Facebook “Checking Facebook” has become a habit for so many of us that your small business's message has the potential to reach a big audience — without a lot of effort. Facebook has the largest global user base: Number of monthly active users: 2.91 billion Largest age group: 25−34 (31.5%) Gender: 43% female, 57% male (no data on other genders) Time spent per day: 33 minutes Facebook is good because it’s been around the longest, and “checking Facebook” has become a habit for so many that a good presence done well can get in front of many people. Also, Facebook users have money to spend: 73% of college-educated Internet users are on Facebook, as are 70% of people earning more than $75k a year. A big reason to leverage Facebook is Meta for Business, previously Facebook for Business. Because of how many people are on Facebook and how habitual it has become, people will often look your up company on Facebook before searching for your website. Finally, using Facebook is good because making updates to what you put out to the world is easy. You don’t need a web master to do it, nor do you need to know how to code or use platforms like WordPress. You can publish specials, deals, promotions, announcements, and anything else you want on your Facebook page—and it’s all free. Of course, if you want to promote your page, you may have to put some dollars behind it. But don’t even think about doing that until your page is fully optimized, which is free to do. Instagram Instagram’s focus on photo and video mediums makes the platform the best choice for sharing your visual content. Facebook bought this popular photo-and-video-driven social media platform in 2012 for a cool billion dollars; today, both are owned by Meta. Unlike Facebook, which began as a largely text-only social media platform, Instagram is a paradise for all things visual. Its primary users for 2022, while similar to Facebook, skew a bit younger and include more women: Number of monthly active users: 2 billion Largest age group: 25−34 (31.2%), with 18−24 close behind at 31% Gender: 48.4% female, 51.8% male (no data on other genders) Time spent per day: 29 minutes Because of Instagram’s intense focus on photo and video mediums, the best way to utilize this platform is with visual content. No stock photos or boring text screenshots here—businesses that thrive on Instagram are masters of creating original, engaging visual content, whether on the static grid or their 24-hour short-form Stories, both of which can also feature Instagram ads. A good example of Instagram done right is Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, a small-but-growing ice cream business. They feature not just photos of their rotating ice-cream offerings, but illustrations, news of new shop openings, and even some light-hearted self-parody. Another fantastic Instagram feature for small businesses: Instagram Shopping. Since 90% of people on Instagram follow a business, being able to shop from the platform directly is a huge asset for your bottom line. Masa Madre, a local online bakery, serves as a great example of utilizing their Instagram shop, accessible through the link in their IG bio to reach customers: In fact, I can order for local delivery directly from the app in a matter of minutes, straight from the photo. What Should You Post on Facebook and Instagram? Follow these simple guidelines and you should be okay: Stay away from anything controversial. Offending people isn’t going to make them want to follow you, much less buy from you. Be authentically on brand. Trying to be something you’re not will come through loud and clear, even if you think it doesn’t. Engage your audiences. Ask them questions. You’ll eventually start getting answers. Post consistently, whatever that means to you. Once a week? Great. Once a day? Better. Eventually, your audience will expect to hear from you. Don’t leave them wondering where you went. Finally, and for sure most importantly, have fun with Facebook and Instagram. Try new things. Post cool pictures. Take your audience behind the curtain of your company and show them how the secret sauce is made. And definitely remember this: Don’t worry if today’s post doesn’t perform as well as you thought it would. You can always make tomorrow’s post better. Disclaimer: The information provided in this post does not, and is not intended to, constitute business, legal, tax, or accounting advice and is provided for general informational purposes only. Readers should contact their attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor to obtain advice on any particular matter.