A 6-Step Guide to Social Media for Small Businesses

Imagine you’re a coffee shop owner—let’s call it “Sunrise Joe.” You just opened, even though coffee joints are on every corner. The grand opening was thriving and full of new customers and coffee lovers. You gained a few followers on the social media channels you set up. 

Yet, as time passes, many customers return to frequenting the coffee shops they knew before you existed. Now you’re wondering what you did wrong. Do people not like the coffee? Was the service not up to their standards? 

What was supposed to be your joyous dream has left you questioning your business’s worth. Every dime you have goes into running the coffee shop. You have little to no marketing budget. Yet you somehow have to attract new customers to keep the business afloat.

With so much competition in the coffee world, how do you foster a community of coffee lovers to become Sunrise Joe loyalists and frequent customers?

One answer—harness the power of social media marketing for small business and regain the customers you need to thrive. 

Small businesses face tremendous challenges when entering the social media marketing world. Investing and seeing investment returns can be difficult when budgets are already limited. If you are wondering how to use social media for small business—don’t worry!

These six practical steps can be a game changer in building brand awareness and getting new leads. Follow this small business social media guide to obtain the desired results. 

Social media marketing can be a low-cost, organic option for creating the brand awareness and recognition you want. 

When growing social media, it’s easy for a small business owner to focus on the number of followers gained rather than creating brand awareness. It’s common to think followers are potential paying customers. But this isn’t always the case. You don’t need a million followers to succeed. Instead, you should focus on getting a small number of loyal followers willing and able to engage with your business regularly. 

That’s why we think you should learn social media marketing small business tips and find these customers!

Small Business Social Media—Key Principles

If Sunrise Joe wanted to hit the ground running, brainstorming a rational content strategy and focusing on growing engagement rates should happen first.

Remember these few things:

  • Social media is not a sales channel
  • You have to invest in building a community
  • Choosing the right content is essential for your target audience

In Sunrise Joe’s case, it’s possible to extract results even with a slim marketing budget. This entails following our recommendations and using the Semrush social media management platform.

Just think of Semrush Social as an entire department designed to automate core processes in your social media marketing strategy.

Now that we’ve discussed the importance of social media—and given you some quick principles as a head start—let’s see how Sunrise Joe can improve its social media marketing game.

Step 1: Uncover Rivals’ Winning Strategies

The first step in launching Sunrise Joe’s social media—or improving the performance of existing social media channels—is understanding what works in the niche for its competitors. 

For Sunrise Joe to succeed with social media marketing, some analysis is needed first.

Analyze Social Media Platforms

With so many social media platforms, knowing which will be suitable for Sunrise Joe is impossible. However, the business can examine which social media platforms work well for its competitors and use those observations as a jumping-off point for its social media strategy. For this article, we will examine competitors and industry-related niches like Caribou Coffee, Blue Bottle, Panera Bread, and Costa Coffee.

Sunrise Joe can also utilize Social Tracker to understand its competitors and which social media platform it should focus on. 

Observing the “audience” metrics in the screenshot below, Sunrise Joe can see that most competitors have many followers on Facebook. However, BlueBottle Coffee prioritizes Instagram, while Costa Coffee has the maximum number of followers on Twitter(X).


When looking at the “engagement” metrics of the Social Tracker, engagement is much higher on Instagram for all competitors(except Costa Coffee) despite the number of followers.

This proves a high number of followers doesn’t necessarily mean high engagement.


By seeing competitors’ social media platforms and statistics, Sunrise Joe can compare engagement between channels and decide which one it might perform better on. 

Based on these screenshots, we can conclude that Instagram is likely a better channel for building up a social media presence since there is higher engagement. Also, prioritizing one channel works; you don’t have to spread yourself thin on multiple channels.

Analyze Competitors’ Content and Hashtags

With the coffee industry full of competition, Sunrise Joe shouldn’t just use #coffee with a picture of brown liquid in a cup on its social media channels. That won’t differentiate it from other brands. 

Instead, the business should look into what its competitors do with content and hashtags and which generates the most engagement. The proper research will determine how creative Sunrise Joe needs to get with its content and which hashtags to use. 

For instance, the Social Tracker shows Panera Bread’s best-performing content for the last 30 days. 


We see that their most popular post is a humorous joke about bread. The next two popular posts are videos that engagingly present deals and discounts.


Sunrise Joe can analyze their rivals’ best-performing content and use their winning ideas to create similar posts. With this method, they can improve engagement while maintaining low investments. 

To discover the best hashtags, Sunrise Joe can also visit the “Hashtags” tab in the Social Tracker to see Caribou Coffe’s best hashtags in the last year. You can observe that coffee shops use creative hashtags related to coffee, holidays, or their own brand. 


Choosing the most relevant hashtags is important. If Sunrise Joe notices a hashtag like #holidaycups on a post with high engagement, it can incorporate the hashtag in future posts and see if it performs as well.

To learn more tips for small business social media, visit our article about gaining competitive insights on social media.

Analyze Competitors’ Social Media Ads

Maybe Sunrise Joe isn’t ready for ads yet. But if your small business does have a little budget, you can also learn how to create a small business social media advertising strategy.

To ensure their ads perform at their very best, Sunrise Joe needs to analyze its competitors’ social media ads. Facebook Ad Library is a great place to observe active ads across all Meta technologies.

From here, Sunrise Joe can see which ads from competitors have the highest engagement. Take Panera Bread, for example.


By analyzing Panera Bread’s ads, we can see that they promote their Sip Club with limited offers and discounts. Sunrise Joe can view these ads and model after them by incorporating similar ad content in its strategy.

Step 2: Create a Content Strategy 

Now that Sunrise Joe has insight into its competitors, what social channels to use, and opportunities to consider, it’s time to build a winning engagement generation content strategy.

It doesn’t have to be all words and pictures. Consider different types of content when mapping out your social media marketing strategy for small business. Here are some types to consider:

  • Video
  • Live streaming
  • Blogs and articles
  • Text-based posts
  • Images
  • External content
  • Infographics
  • Ebooks
  • Testimonials

Use a combination of these content types for variety and to appeal to all types of followers.

Focus On A Specific Social Media Platform

First, Sunrise Joe must choose the best social media platforms to pursue. Only some platforms are going to yield the best engagement. It’s better to try to win a single platform than win them all. To determine the best platforms, the brand needs to figure out what it wants to be known for, which we previously mentioned in Step 1. Another way is to just experiment with each one.

For example, if Sunrise Joe wants to be known for latte art, it might do much better on Instagram or TikTok, where visual content gets more engagement. On the other hand, if it plans to share text-based posts, blogs, different resources, videos, and images, Facebook would be a great option. If it wants to share a few words with high impact, Twitter may be its forte.

Either way, Sunrise Joe needs to identify it wants to stand out and use that to its advantage on social media.

Set Up Measurable Goals

Creating clear business goals will ensure Sunrise Joe stays on target with what it intends to achieve. Goals also keep the business accountable.

Goals may be simple—post daily for three months or read an article on social media weekly. 

Others may be more measured—grow social engagement by 10% in the first year or gain 200 followers by Q2. 

Get Content Ideas


Knowing where to start when putting together content ideas can take time and effort. If you’ve never managed a business on social media before, finding new and relevant content ideas and following trends can seem overwhelming.

Semrush’s Content Ideas tab of the Social Poster lets you view content from both coffee competitors and industry news. In this tab, Sunrise Joe can add up to five RSS feeds from other sources to help brainstorm content ideas.

This part of the tool is beneficial when content is scarce and you need more small business social media inspiration.

Build a Content Calendar

When trying to scale social media, winging these posts just won’t do. It actually takes more time to create ad hoc content than to organize a calendar. It is more efficient to take the time to plan your content. 

One of the least expensive ways to build a content calendar is in a Google or Excel Spreadsheet. 


Here are some simple steps to getting started:

  1. Open a new spreadsheet
  2. Make five columns in the first tab—Date, Channel, Description, Image/Link, and Post Date.
  3. Duplicate the first tab for each month of the year (Jan 2024, Feb 2024, Mar 2024, etc.)

With this basic foundation, Sunrise Joe can alter the calendar to cater to its content planning needs.

Sunrise Joe can also use the Semrush Social Poster to plan and schedule content for all channels simultaneously, which saves time. 

With the Social Poster, the business can save time by easily posting to multiple channels simultaneously and at peak times without switching between platforms. The tool always shows when a post was published, if one is scheduled, if the post wasn’t published, and what platform the post is scheduled for. 

There is also a function to duplicate a well-performing post and repurpose the content for later use.


Step 3: Create Small Business Social Media Content

Start creating content! We know that may be easier said than done. However, content possibilities are endless when it comes to social media. 

There are a few obvious ways to create content—designing graphics, sharing links to your blog posts, or linking to third-party sources. But other nontraditional forms of content creation can keep your channels interesting.

  • User-generated content (EGC)
  • Employee-generated content (EGC)
  • Repurposing content
  • Customer testimonials
  • Micro-influencer takeovers

For example, Sunrise Joe could take a five-star testimonial, make it into a graphic, and distribute it on its preferred social channel. 

The business could also record employee spotlights and details of what it’s like working in the coffee shop.

Tags for Organizing Content

If you are a super busy small business owner, consider creating several posts upfront at the start of the year. For example, you can:

  • Collate different educational links you want to share throughout the year and schedule a few for each month.
  • Create all the upcoming holiday posts and schedule them in advance
  • Plan out all the promos for the coming year and create content for that.

Semrush Social Poster Tags feature lets you create custom tags like “holidays,” “memes,” “discounts,” or any other relevant terms to filter and sort content easily. Filter by tags to assess content type performance. If you notice that “memes” or “educational content” outperform other content, you can increase those content types for faster growth.

It is important to note that Tags are only for you and not for your customers. Your customers won’t see the tags on posts. Only you will see them in your admin panel.

Getting Started with Content Creation

The type of content also depends on the platform used. For example, Instagram is usually a square image. Videos for TikTok or Instagram reels should be portrait-oriented instead of landscape.

Sunrise Joe, which might be more suitable for Instagram and TikTok, should focus more on square graphic designs for Instagram—with microblogs—or videos for TikTok and Instagram reels.

Creating content may seem overwhelming at first. But the creative process gets easier after taking that first step. 

AI is the new technology that can assist you in this regard. The AI Assistant in Social Poster can help you craft social media posts effortlessly. When creating a post, simply click on “AI Assistant” and provide a general idea of what you wish to write about, along with the desired tone of voice. The AI will take care of the rest!


For a more extensive list of ways to create social media marketing small business content, check out our blog on 11 Ways to Create Engaging Social Media Content.

Step 4: Distribute Small Business Social Media Content

Content distribution is a crucial part of social media strategy. For instance, Sunrise Joe can have the most stunning content. However, the business must still distribute it to different channels to reach its target audience. 


Here are some ways to distribute content effectively.

  • Schedule ahead of time: Schedule everything in advance with a Social Poster to avoid bouncing from one channel to another.
  • Post at peak times: Data in Semrush Social provides insight into when users are most active on social media so you can reach them.
  • Don’t forget hashtags: Add relevant and branded hashtags to increase engagement. These are easily found in the Semrush Social Tracker.
  • Turn posts into ads: Boost posts in Facebook Ad Manager
  • Stay consistent: post regularly and consistently to ensure your audience stays engaged.

Finding the rhythm with distributing content can take a month or two to get used to, but here’s a tip to make it easier: Before a new month begins, dedicate a few hours to sit down and schedule content. 

But overall, don’t get stuck on the distribution alone. If needed, get other employees or business partners to help you out. Social media marketing for small business is not a one person job!

Step 5: Engage With Your Audience 

How to grow social media for business? Interacting with your target audience is crucial to show you care for your customers. Social listening and reputation management are critical in social media marketing for small business. If Sunrise Joe wants to create the strong coffee-lover community it hoped for, it must interact with its audience.

Sunrise Joe should respond to both positive and negative mentions and comments, have brief conversations with users, and share the content it’s mentioned in. 

One of the easiest and least costly ways to manage comments and mentions is spending an hour or so each day reading through notifications for each channel. This could also entail looking at brand hashtags or searching “Sunrise Joe” in Google News, Instagram discovery, or TikTok discovery.

Having lively social media is important. But being a good listener will be a significant asset to your brand’s success.

A business should never stop analyzing its social media progress. Regular observation can help address what is or isn’t working, find solutions for dips in engagement, and discover improvement opportunities.

When it’s time to analyze results, the Semrush Social Analysis tool can look at how social channels are performing. Then, it breaks down data into categories depending on the channel.

For instance, in the Facebook section of the analysis, Sunrise Joe can see information about its audience, mentions, page likes, engagement, and posts.


Then Sunrise Joe should assess how its Facebook posts are performing in a single view. The tool shows post performance, engagement, reach, and any paid ad performance. If you click on the audience tab, the tool reveals a range of the times users are on Facebook, where its followers live as well as their gender, and age.

Use the data from Social Analytics to adjust your social media strategy accordingly. This ensures the brand ebbs and flows with the constant changes in algorithms, news, and social media trends.

Benchmark Against Competitors

Sunrise Joe can also use data from each channel in the Social Tracker to benchmark against its competitors.

To do this, use the Comparison with Competitors report of the Social Tracker. You can switch between Audience, Activity, and Engagement tabs to benchmark for different parameters and on various platforms.


Sunrise Joe can schedule reports composed of different data to receive regular notifications about any changes in rivals’ strategies.


These notifications can help Sunrise Joe adjust to the rivals’ strategies more quickly.

Attention to the audience and consistency in communication can foster a strong community for a small business like Sunrise Joe. Genuine interaction, appealing to a user’s emotions, setting SMART goals, and keeping up with analysis all lead to better engagement and growth in brand awareness. 

A buyer’s decision can be heavily influenced by what they observe on Sunrise Joe’s social media account. Therefore, generating and distributing engaging content that resonates with users is essential. 

The right social media marketing tools can help accomplish this for Sunrise Joe or any small business seeking results on social media.

Semrush Social is a platform that helps small businesses manage their time, save money, and get real social media results. 

With tools like Semrush as a trusty sidekick and Sunrise Joe’s coffee marketing expertise, this small business can make a big impact on social media. All it must do is begin.

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