Woman sitting down, holding a notebook and recording herself with a ring light.
Every social media platform offers a different way to find your customers where they live online. — Getty Images/Mario Arango

Social media has become an essential tool for growth for businesses of all types and sizes. These platforms are incredibly advantageous because they’re free to use and can connect your company’s services and products to billions of people across the world.

Learning how to use each platform individually will help your business’s brand expansion and, ultimately, your bottom line. Here’s your complete guide to using social media marketing to grow your business.

[Read more: How to Choose The Best Social Platforms For Your Business]

Getting started: Preparations for successful social media engagement

As with any marketing campaign, there are key elements to implementing an effective social media strategy and assessing the right platforms to use. Before starting or changing your social media engagement, take the following steps.

  • Identify your audience. Who are you trying to reach? Understanding your prospects (and customers) by their demographics (e.g., age, gender, education, ethnicity, business type, interests, etc.) will help you identify which platforms they use so you can wisely target your campaigns.
  • Outline your goals. Determine what you need to accomplish with your social media marketing and set goals that are measurable and relevant. For example, if you want to generate new leads, create understandable metrics to help track your team’s progress. Attaching the metrics to yes-or-no questions will help you evaluate whether or not you achieved the goal.
  • Track metrics that matter. Track the metrics that help you assess whether you’re achieving your goals. While it feels good to get “likes,” these don’t grow your brand or drive revenue. Some marketers value “shares” instead, as these demonstrate that your content is being circulated. Others want an action that leads to a prospect entering the sales pipeline.
  • Select your platforms. For each platform, understand aspects such as the demographics of users, types of content shared, and responsiveness to marketing messages. Think about the content your business might publish. Is it more visual? More informative? The answers to those questions will help you determine which platform may be best to showcase your brand’s voice and vision.
  • Set your budget. Social media platforms are working to limit organic growth to drive marketers to paid advertising (after all, social media platforms are businesses). Marketers can combat the cost of online advertising and this slowdown of organic growth by fueling user-generated content and customer advocacy. However, if you're on a budget, targeted paid campaigns may get results faster and more consistently. To invest wisely, consider testing a paid campaign against an organic campaign to see which gets you the best ROI (and remember to include man-hours in your cost).
  • Create your content plan. A plan is critical to your ability to remain committed to your strategy and supports you when you’re too busy to remember what’s next on the agenda. Put your plan into a calendar that specifies what content to post on which platform on what date. But be ready to adjust this calendar as you review metrics, monitor, and listen.

[Read more: How To Improve Your Brand’s Social Media Content]

Two-way communications: Social media monitoring and listening

Your social media activity should extend beyond posting to monitoring and listening. When it does, social media becomes an interactive tool and a strategy resource for your business. So, what’s the difference between monitoring and listening?

  • Monitoring: This is the process for tracking (and ideally responding to) references about your business and messages to your company. One way to do this is to spend time on the platforms where you post and reply to any feedback. There are also tools available to help you monitor across platforms and find what’s of interest. While there are many paid services with a variety of features, Google Alerts is a fairly basic and free resource that tracks keywords and phrases on web pages.
  • Listening: This is assessing and leveraging what you learn from monitoring to help shape your company strategy. Examples of listening include responding to a customer complaint, engaging in a conversation with other brands, or positively interacting with consumers who mention your company or product. Sometimes, this may even help you find gaps in the market that weren’t originally clear.

A plan is critical to your ability to remain committed to your strategy and supports you when you’re too busy to remember what’s next on the agenda.

Platform selection: A look at demographics for the top social media platforms

To help you decide where to focus your social media time and budget, here’s a look at some of the largest platforms and their user demographics. Except where otherwise indicated, user numbers represent active users worldwide as of January 2022, according to data from Statista.

Facebook: 2.9 billion users

Demographics: Most adults in the U.S. use Facebook, including 61% of all men and 77% of all women. This social media platform is popular among all age groups, the largest one being millennials — 77% of millennials use Facebook, the second most-used platform among this demographic after YouTube. In addition, people of all educational backgrounds and income levels use Facebook and users are almost evenly divided among urban, suburban, and rural populations.

Content: Facebook helps connect users across the world, whether based on IRL friendships, similar interests, or common event attendance. The platform lets users post videos, photos, and status updates for their followers to interact with. Brands can use this to their advantage by posting events, business hours, and more on their pages.

[Read our full guide on marketing your business on Facebook.]

YouTube: 2.5 billion users

Demographics: Used by 81% of Americans, YouTube’s viewership is spread fairly equally across all age groups under age 65 and is the most used platform by millennials. College graduates are more likely to use YouTube than those with a high school education (89% versus 70%). There is also a lower percentage of users in rural areas (74%), compared with users in urban areas (84%).

Content: This is a video-sharing platform that is becoming a focus for advertisers. Users post content of all sorts, ranging from music videos to clothing hauls. Though there is a lot of content on YouTube, your brand can stand out and connect to users by creating dynamic, unique video content and sharing it across other social media pages like Facebook.

[Read our full guide on marketing your business on YouTube.]

Instagram: 1.4 billion users

Demographics: Forty percent of Americans use Instagram, with a slightly higher usage among women — 77% as compared with 61% of men. People of all ages use Instagram, though the lowest percentage by far is those age 65 and older. College-educated earners are more likely to use Instagram. People in all areas, from urban to rural to suburban, use Instagram pretty equally.

Content: It’s about images. Instagram has the highest engagement rate and is the best platform for micro-influencer marketing and audience engagement. The platform is great for aesthetically pleasing businesses or products that require a visual representation.

[Read our full guide on marketing your business on Instagram.]

TikTok: 1 billion users

Demographics: Though TikTok is one of the newer social media players, 21% of Americans have already started using the platform. TikTok is significantly more popular with members of the Gen Z and millennial generations, with only 4% of users over the age of 65. Users of all educational and financial backgrounds use TikTok.

Content: Through short-form video content, TikTok users connect with others and engage in viral trends like TikTok-famous dances and cooking hacks. Subcultures have been created on TikTok, like BookTok or SkinTok, making it that much easier for brands to increase discoverability by using a popular subculture hashtag.

[Read our full guide on creating a TikTok video for your business.]

LinkedIn: 830 million users

Demographics: Over 25% of U.S. adults use LinkedIn. LinkedIn’s largest age demographic is those between 25 and 34. Most users are men with significantly higher usage among college-educated people and higher-income earners.

Content: It’s all about business. Content here must be professional. Users are typically working professionals using the platform to network with others or to search for new job opportunities. Content that is shared typically relates to industry updates and widely applicable news items. Many businesses have their own pages that employees can connect to their own profiles, listing their employment.

[Read our full guide on marketing your business on LinkedIn.]

Twitter: 436 million users

Demographics: Nearly 25% of U.S. adults use Twitter, with similar percentages among men and women. Again, there is higher participation among millennials and those who are college-educated and earning higher incomes.

Content: Tweets contain short content (280 characters) and utilize hashtags ("#") for discoverability. Many users get news from Twitter or interact with brands. Twitter is a common place for customers to “tweet” issues they’ve had with companies or products, making this a great platform to connect with users and address those concerns.

[Read our full guide on marketing your business on Twitter.]

Reddit: 430 million users

Demographics: Nearly 20% of Americans use Reddit with a significantly higher percentage of men (23%) using the social media platform than women (12%). Reddit is used mostly by millennials, with only 3% of users over age 65. It is used most in suburban and urban areas by high earners who are college graduates.

Content: Reddit users, often called “Redditors,” can post text, photos, videos, links, and other items to Reddit and their content is upvoted or downvoted by users. Posts that are upvoted are shown closer to the top of the page. Content is then separated into communities called “subreddits” to make content more easily searchable.

[Read our full guide on marketing your business on Reddit.]

Snapchat: 557 million users

Demographics: Twenty-five percent of U.S adults use Snapchat with a higher percentage of usage among women and millennials, as well as those living in urban environments. Users come from all different educational backgrounds.

Content: Pictures and posts that disappear after a matter of seconds. Snapchat users send photos back and forth with the option to add text, stickers, and filters to the photos. Snapchat also has a news section where popular media outlets like Cosmopolitan post their own public “stories” that contain short-form news snippets made for Snapchat specifically.

[Read our full guide on marketing your business on Snapchat.]

Pinterest: 444 million users

Demographics: While 31% of U.S. adults use Pinterest, the usage is much higher among women and those under age 50, as well as those who are college-educated. The usage is also much higher among those earning more than $75,000 per year.

Content: A personal board for pinning items of interest, usually of a very visual nature. Users can search for images by category or keyword and add photos they like to boards they create, usually dedicated to certain topics. Wedding boards are particularly popular among users. Photos that are “pinned” are typically attached to articles.

[Read our full guide to marketing your business on Pinterest.]

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Published February 25, 2019