As a small business owner, you have so many things to manage, and social media may be the last item on your list. But when you consider that in 2021, nearly 3 billion people used Facebook and 1.3 billion people used Instagram, it’s hard to overlook—and embracing these platforms may help bring your business to crucial new customers. Why create content for social media? A great post or engagement helps you reach new audiences—which has never been more important than now, as digital and e-commerce spaces have increased even more in popularity during the pandemic. If I see a great local-business clothing sale or to-go food option on my Instagram, I usually DM the link to a couple friends…who then might tell their friends…and on, and on. You get the idea. And I’m not alone: according to Hootsuite, 27% of all internet users discover products and brands to purchase from social media advertising. There are so many social channels now, so it understandably can become confusing trying to figure out which ones to focus on and how frequently you should post. Feeling overwhelmed? Start with the basics, pick the best platforms for your particular small business (more on that below!), and work your way up. Here are a few tips to move you in the right direction. Choose Your Channels Yes, there are dozens of social media channels: Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp, TikTok, and beyond. With so many channels to choose from, how do you determine a mix that works for you? As a general rule of thumb, choose 2–3 of the ones that would fit your business best. We’re going to focus on the 2 biggest ones, Facebook and Instagram, in this article, but never fear—we’ve got resources on others for you to consider as you broaden your focus. So, let’s talk about channels. Why Facebook and Instagram—and which one is better for your small business, if focusing on both at first feels overwhelming? There’s a lot of nuance here, but a primary distinction between FB and Insta is audience demographics. Russ Shumaker at Hearst Media writes: “Although the majority of millennials use both platforms, Instagram’s user base decreases drastically after the 18-29-year-old age group, while Facebook maintains a significant user base even with the 65+ age group. Under 18, Instagram is the clear winner.” Depending on the age of your primary customer base, focusing on 1 platform over the other may provide a winning strategy for your small business. Trying to reach one of these key demographics for new customers? Choose accordingly. Industry type may also dictate your preferred social media platform. Some companies will benefit more from Instagram’s photo- and video-heavy content creation, whereas others will find Facebook’s text- and event-sharing focus more useful. And because both are owned by newly coined Meta, you can even sometimes cross-post (share a single post across both channels), although admittedly there are plenty of hoops to jump through to make cross-posting work. Once you become familiar with these 2 channels, you can get a feel for what your customers like—and don’t like—and what social channels they are most likely to use. Depending on how effective social media is for your business, as your business grows, you may even consider hiring a social media manager to expand your reach to more than 2 or 3 channels. Use a Social Media Management Tool Even if you only have 2 social media channels at the center of your business’s social media strategy, having a tool to manage them in a singular spot can make your life much easier and save you vital time to manage other areas of your company. By using one of these tools, you can: Schedule posts days, weeks, or months in advanceTrack metrics such as likes, clicks, shares, follows, and moreCreate a customizable quick-view dashboard There are numerous platforms available to manage your social media channels, ranging from free to paid with many customizable options across the board. If you don’t know where to start, check out this list of 2021’s 5 best social media management platforms. A social media management tool’s customizable dashboard in particular helps not only with scheduling content on your chosen channels, but with “listening” to them as well. Using the dashboard will help you identify what posts are being liked or shared in an easy-to-read format. It also helps you keep track of who is trying to reach you or leaving a review about your business. Determine Post Frequency Quick: think of a peer business whose Instagram you really like and pull up their account. How often do they post to their grid each day? What about their Stories? Are they regularly making Reels to engage with customers or using the platform to share quickly evolving information about shipping delays or pandemic-related adjustments? Now ask yourself: does this strategy suit my business? And if not, what’s different about my goals, customers, or product/service that I could use to adjust my own approach to social media management? To answer these complicated but important questions, start by experimenting with the amount and frequency that you post on each platform—and pay attention to which platform gets you the most engagement. Not sure where to start? Set a goal of at least 1 post per day on Facebook and 3–5 Stories or Reels on Instagram, with a grid post every few days to ground the more permanent aspects of the platform in dynamic, visual data. No matter your frequency, consistency is king. If your posts are irregular and sporadic, it’s hard for your social followers to depend on you. If they see that you haven’t posted anything in a few months, they’re not going to return regularly for updates or advice—and they may even assume that your business has closed. Good social media practices involve regular and consistent posting, so make sure you stick to that schedule once you’ve drafted it. Develop Your Content Once you’ve got a rough schedule figured out and your social media channels are up and running, the hard part begins: what should you post about? Here’s a great place to start: does your business have a blog? If so, make sure that every single blog post also gets shared via your social channels. You’re already creating unique creative content, so make sure to share it with the world. Consider posting third-party articles as well, especially if you know the content will benefit your target customer demographic and lead to increased sales. This will show your audience that you’re in-the-know on all things related to your products or services. For example, let’s say you’re a budding beauty company, and 1 of your signature ingredients is featured in a Vogue article promoting healthy skin. Tell your followers about the article—and then link them to your product in the same post. Lastly, social media channels are the perfect avenue to post any sales, promotions, or events about your business—so make sure to push those updates! These days, with so much constantly in flux, I know I check a business’s social media almost every time I’m about to order from them or visit their establishment so I can stay on top of shipping delays, vaccine requirement changes, or temporary closures. And you can even sell goods directly through Instagram or Facebook, thanks to their integrated e-commerce platforms. Some folks, especially your theoretical future employees, might be scoping you out on social media to see what you’re like to work for as an employer or company. So don’t leave your customers and future hypothetical coworkers in the dark: spread the word about any changes and they’ll appreciate your effort. Content is the most important part of the social-media puzzle. If you want your customers to follow your accounts, check for updates, and see your promotions, you need to give them a reason to do so. Remember, you can use a social media management tool to help you schedule your posts weeks in advance—great for saving time and building a bedrock of content at more frantic moments, like the holidays. This way, you can take a few hours on a given day and build out all of your posts for the week or month. However, make sure that you’re still periodically checking your social channels, possibly on that handy dashboard we talked about above, so you can address issues or negative reviews in a timely manner. These days, many customers take their grievances straight to social media, so your accounts can serve as customer-service outreach as well as marketing. Let’s Get Started So many small businesses ignore their social media power, and therefore miss the chance to build a community around their offerings. Social media can be a powerful business development tool—if you can figure out how it works for you. The details will be different for every company, but its broader importance is undeniable. Ultimately, when it comes to social media management, remember to start small: don’t bite off more than you can chew. Take baby steps toward creating a stellar social media presence for your business, and assess its success as you go. Learn from what works—and what doesn’t—and use that data to improve your efforts. 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.