What’s the Best Social Media Platform for Your Small Business?

SCORE Rhode Island’s recent web seminar answered five key social media questions facing many small businesses:

  • What do you need to do before investing time and money in social media?
  • Should I focus on organic activity or social media/search engine paid advertising?
  • What are the target audiences, industries and demographics for each social media platform?
  • What are some best practices for each social media platform?
  • Should I hire an outside firm for social media and digital marketing?

The web seminar was hosted by myself and featured advice from marketing experts Sarah Linker and Tyla Bucher. An on-demand replay can be found online by clicking here.

What do you need to do before investing time and money in social media?

“If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there,” was the answer to this question. You need a solid understanding of your target customers, differentiators, offering and message. Without this in place, your social media efforts are flying blind.  In the seminar we outlined a process for building this foundation and then walked through an example of one small business’s customer segmentation.  It begins with an “outside in” view of target market customers, followed by an “inside out” assessment of you true differentiators in the eyes of those prospects. Finally we combine the two views to best define the offering and message.

Should I focus on organic activity or social media/search engine paid advertising?

Organic and paid social media activity are both viable and are not mutually exclusive. Small businesses that start out with an organic campaign often add paid advertising as their business gains traction. And even the most aggressive web advertiser will maintain an organic presence.

But there are big differences between the two approaches that should be considered in choosing where to focus your efforts. With organic campaigns, the cost and skills required to get started are modest, but there are some drawbacks. It can be a labor intensive process requiring several hours or more per week and almost daily attention. Prospects have to discover you. So even in favorable circumstances it can take 3-6 months to see meaningful results. Also the ability to target your audience and audience data you receive may be limited.

In contrast, with paid advertising (on social media and also search engines) the cost and specialized skills required can be more significant. But you are able to more aggressively pursue potential customers, so time to results can be much shorter, 3-6 weeks in good circumstances.  The ability to target ads is very detailed, including personal attributes such as geo-targeting to zip code, life events such as weddings, personal interests, income level, or relationship type.  B2B advertising can target professional attributes such as job type or title, company, career history and group affiliations. In addition online advertising provides substantial feedback data about who is responding to your outreach.

What are the target audiences, industries and demographics for each platform?

In the seminar we offered a comparison of four broad social media platforms – Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter, followed by four more targeted platforms – LinkedIn, Pinterest, TikTok, and Snap Chat.  While we explored each in some depth, here are just a few sample items.

The broad platforms address a wide range of age groups, although if you are targeting baby boomers, then Facebook is almost always the platform of choice.  For educating consumers (such as “How To” videos) YouTube is a good platform. Brands that are visually appealing and products that are eye catching often show well on Instagram. 

Among the more targeted platforms, LinkedIn is the best platform for B2B marketing.   Pinterest has a large female following and is well suited to health and fitness, self-improvement, arts and crafts, home décor, fashion and beauty products. TikTok has a very young following with the largest age group being 16-24 years old.

For a far more thorough and detailed comparison, go to the seminar replay.

What are some best practices for each platform?

After profiling each social media platform we reviewed best practices for several of them. Again we covered far more in the seminar, but here are two examples.

With Facebook, focus on engagement - encourage conversations, monitor likes and shares, respond to comments in a timely manner, and make plenty of non-promotional but relevant posts. Outreach should be targeted to user interests and niches (e.g., owners of a specific dog breed) using various types of content formats, such as stories, images, and videos. Facebook has a strong ecommerce back end, so content can be linked to a conversion landing page with buying incentives such as discounts, coupons, and free shipping. Ecommerce capabilities also include shopping functions like checkout, payment, and integration with ecommerce platforms like Shopify.

On LinkedIn we suggest creating both a personal page and a business page for the best B2B networking. Share relevant content such as articles and blogs to build trusted relationships. LinkedIn’s premium service offers lots of opportunity for reach deep into your more distant network. LinkedIn also offers some highly targeted advertising opportunities.

Should I hire an outside firm for social media and digital marketing? 

On this question we laid out the plusses and minuses of hiring an outside firm, describing it as a tradeoff between cost versus adding skilled resources. Social media and particularly paid advertising can be challenging. Plus the landscape and tools are constantly evolving. With an outside firm you are buying up-to-date knowledge, experience and someone else’s time. Also consider using platforms such as Outbrain or ClickFunnels to help with your campaigns.  

Regardless of which approach you choose, make sure to take care of the essentials. First identify your target customers, differentiation, and message/offering. Set goals and build your plan with different market funnel phases in mind – traffic, brand awareness, leads and sales. Use built-in monitoring and analytics. And test everything –text, product, price, packaging, descriptions, keywords, etc.

Since the seminar covered far more material than we did above, for the full analysis check out the web seminar recording online by clicking here. In addition, SCORE volunteers are available to assist you. Feel free to reach out to your local SCORE chapter at or call 401-226-0077.

A special thanks to the following people and organizations whose material I took advantage of to create the seminar and this blog: Technology Therapy (, KSA Marketing (, and Rochelle Blease and David Bradley of SCORE Rhode Island (

For more than 50 years, SCORE has helped more than 11 million aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners through mentoring and business workshops. More than 11,000 volunteer business mentors in more than 300 chapters serve their communities.

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About the Author(s)

Jeff Bodenstab is a Providence, Rhode Island-based SCORE mentor and recently retired marketing executive, board member and co-founder with a career of helping build young businesses into larger enterprises.

What’s the Best Social Media Platform for Your Small Business?