What Is Social Media for Small Businesses?

Definition and Examples of Social Media

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Social media for small business is a means of communicating brand messaging in an effort to connect with existing customers and potentially reach new ones.

Key Takeaways

  • Social media encompasses a number of websites, applications, and platforms that allow for the sharing of ideas and information online.
  • Social media for small businesses can be a powerful marketing tool for growing a customer base.
  • It's important to understand the target audience and typical user base when determining which social media channels to use for small businesses.
  • Small businesses that use social media to communicate with customers must follow federal regulatory guidelines when publishing content.

How Social Media for Small Businesses Works

Social media is a means of transferring information and ideas online. Individuals and small businesses can create social media accounts and use them to post original content or repost content created by someone else. Some of the most popular social media networks for small businesses include Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Companies can hire social media managers or specialists to oversee their social media accounts. These managers or specialists work to create social media campaigns designed to help businesses reach their desired goals. Social media marketing for small businesses may revolve around video content, written content, or a combination of the two.


If you're considering hiring a social media manager for your small business, estimating your return on investment (ROI) can help you to decide if it's worth it.

Small businesses that use social media for marketing purposes are required to act in accordance with federal guidelines. For example, Truth in Advertising regulations prevent businesses from using social media or other advertising outlets to make false or misleading claims about products and services. Businesses are also required to make clear any disclaimers or disclosures relating to products and services when advertising online.

Social media can be a powerful marketing tool for businesses. Seven in 10 Americans use social media, according to Pew Research, with YouTube and Facebook visited most often. Being able to claim a share of that market can be critical for driving sales and revenues, especially if a social media campaign goes viral.


When creating social media content, it's important to consider mobile usability because 68% of global web traffic comes from mobile devices.

Example of Social Media for Small Businesses

Hip-hop-themed lip-balm brand Trapstix is a good example of how small businesses can leverage social media to increase sales. Between 2018 and 2020, the brand had just 75 sales, but the numbers skyrocketed after founder Aysia Hillard began posting promotional videos on TikTok. TikTok has more than one billion users each month, including many small business owners who are hoping to gain more exposure for their brands.

Small businesses can use social media to:

  • Promote new products or services
  • Advertise sales
  • Alert followers to new promotions
  • Raise awareness for social causes

In addition to the content itself, businesses can use hashtags to help social media posts gain traction. For example, participants in American Express’s Small Business Saturday and Shop Small movement can use the hashtag #shopsmall to encourage consumers to shop local businesses over the Black Friday weekend.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

When was social media invented?

The first true social media platform was launched in 1997. The platform, called Six Degrees, was relatively short-lived and was followed by Friendster in 2001, LinkedIn in 2002, and MySpace in 2003. Today, more than two-thirds of people in the U.S. use at least one social media platform to connect and communicate.

Is YouTube considered social media?

YouTube is a social media network and it's one of the most popular for people who are interested in sharing or viewing video content. The platform has more than two billion logged-in users monthly. People watch over a billion hours of video each day on YouTube.

What is social media marketing?

Social media marketing is the use of social media platforms to advertise products or services for business purposes. Small businesses and larger companies can use social media platforms to promote advertising campaigns in order to attract new customers and potentially boost sales. Businesses that use social media for marketing are required to follow FTC advertising guidelines when doing so.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Buffer. “How To Hire a Social Media Manager: Our Exact Process and Job Description.”

  2. Federal Trade Commission. “Truth in Advertising.”

  3. Federal Trade Commission. "Advertising and Marketing on the Internet: Rules of the Road."

  4. Pew Research Center. "Social Media Fact Sheet."

  5. Perficient. "Mobile vs. Desktop Usage in 2020."

  6. ModernRetail. "‘So Much of My Audience in One Place’: The Rise of the TikTok Small Businesses.”

  7. TikTok. "Thanks a Billion!"

  8. American Express. “About Shop Small.”

  9. Maryville University. “The Evolution of Social Media: How Did It Begin, and Where Could It Go Next?

  10. YouTube. “Press.”

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