Social media for business

Social media is a form of digital communication conducted on socially networked platforms. Social media sites are online platforms that let you interact with others and share and create content through communities.

Social media communication has many forms, including text, images, videos, sounds, stories, posts and live streams.

It is a powerful tool for your business. It can help spread the word about your products, services and brand, and gives your business the opportunity to educate, entertain and engage with your customers online for a heavily reduced marketing cost.

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Social media and online marketing video

In this video, learn about choosing social media platforms to help promote your business.

This video covers:

  • the popular social media platforms and their uses
  • how to integrate social media marketing into your business
  • ways to improve the effectiveness of your social media activity.

Advantages of using social media

Social media use for business has many advantages.

  • Increase reach—social media can reach millions of people worldwide.
  • Direct messaging—communicate directly with your customers.
  • Enhance branding—connect social media users with your business's online channels, products and services.
  • Build trust—social media posting helps create transparency and legitimise your business.
  • Growth—social media can rapidly grow brand awareness through your followers sharing your posts with their audiences.
  • Target audiences—many forms of social media allow businesses to target specific groups, often in particular locations or demographics.
  • Free or low-cost entry—many forms of social media are free for business, and paid options are usually low-cost.
  • Personal—social media allows you to communicate on a personal basis with individual customers and groups.
  • Fast—you can quickly distribute timely information to many people.
  • Easy—you don't need high-level skills or computer equipment to participate in social media. Anyone with a computer or mobile device can effectively use social media with planning and the correct information.
  • Trackable—most social media platforms offer analytics so you can measure the success of your posts and content.

Risks of using social media

Of course, social media use for business also has risks.

  • Waste of time and money for little or no tangible return
  • The rapid spread of the wrong kind of information about your business (e.g. incorrect information accidentally posted by you or negative reviews posted by others)
  • Legal problems if you don't follow privacy legislation and the laws regarding spam, copyright and other online issues
  • Damage to your reputation or sales due to poor social media management—customers have high expectations of quick replies for social media in comparison to other communication forms

It's important to be aware of these risks and have strategies to avoid them if you decide to use social media for business marketing.

Platform selection

Ensure you are being selective about where you invest time and money on social media.

Choose 1–3 platforms to focus on instead of having a small amount of content across all sites that doesn't work as effectively. The overview below will help you decide which platforms are best for your online business goals.

Secure your business profiles

Your business will benefit from creating a business profile on all social platforms, because you will then own all the spaces that could reflect your business and fully control your branding and presence online.

Your business profile is your hub or landing page where your customers will find you. It will display all the information about your business. For example, a business profile may be represented by pages or accounts on:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest.

Even if you do not intend to use a social media platform for your business, you should still secure your business profile as a placeholder. This will stop others from creating unauthorised profiles representing your business to deceive customers or ruin your brand.

Social media platform overview

Expand each section for an explanation of the popular social media platforms and their main use and demographic.

A social networking site that allows you to have conversations with customers, post photos and videos, promote special offers and more.

Main use and demographics

  • Ideal for building customer relationships and targeted advertising.
  • Great for connecting to the 18–44 age group.

A micro-blogging service that allows you to exchange short messages with customers.

Main use and demographics

  • Ideal for delivering news, updates, marketing and connecting with customers.
  • Great for connecting to the 25–34 age group.

A video-sharing platform that dominates the market, which also offers live streaming options, playlists and user feedback and comments.

Main use and demographics

  • Ideal for entertainment, showcasing and positioning yourself as an expert in your field.
  • Great for advertising on other users channels to cross promote.

Both a video and photographic sharing platform that offers live streaming, posts, filters and fun storytelling options.

Main use and demographics

  • Ideal for connecting brands to fans, building out brand awareness and showcasing your brand personality.
  • Great for reaching all ages.

A social network for professionals with a focus on different industries.

Main use and demographics

  • Ideal for engaging with professionals and becoming an authority in your field.

A short-form video platform used on mobile devices, with content up to 60 seconds long.

Main use and demographics

  • Ideal for sharing authentic content.
  • Great for reaching the teen market, followed by under 30 age group overall.

A short-term content platform focused on connecting friends, where content is available for 24-hours before disappearing—it offers private and public options for creative content.

Main use and demographics

  • Ideal for behind the scenes and VIP content.
  • Great for connecting to the under 35 age group.

The leading vision-board platform for sharing inspiration and ideas—users can pin their favourite content, gather and curate boards and pull content from other users.

Main use and demographics

  • Ideal for displaying products and driving traffic back to your website.
  • Great for connecting to a female demographic.

Social media demographics

To effectively target your content to customers on different social media platforms, it is helpful to understand the platform demographics or characteristics that apply to the users.

Understanding the features of the customers that commonly use a particular platform can help you choose the most suitable ones for your business.

As of July 2021, females aged 25–34 were the largest user group in the U.S., accounting for 13.2% of the user base.

Reference:

63.7% of Twitter users are male.

42% of U.S. Twitter users are between 18–29; 27% of users are between 30–49.

References:

21.2% of the global audience is between 25–34, and 17% is between 35–44.

Reference:

17.9% of global active users were men between the ages of 18–24, followed by males 25–34.

Reference:

More than 74% of LinkedIn users are from outside the U.S.

Females account for 43.1% of users.

Reference:

Female users in their teens accounted for 16.4% of active users.

Female users aged 30–39 were the second largest user group.

Reference:

Females aged between 13–17 account for 12% of the audience.

Males aged between 25–34 made up 10.3%.

Reference:

77% of users are female.

Reference:

Getting started on social media

Once you decide to engage in social media, you will need to create your business profile on each platform you join.

Use the following checklist to set up your social media business profiles.

  • Profile—create your business profile on each social media platform to have a continuous and uniform online presence.
  • Contact details—list your phone number, business address and/or email address for customers to contact you.
  • Website—ensure your website address is listed.
  • Logo—upload your business logo as your profile photo.
  • Bio—tell new customers about your business and why they should connect with you, and what sets you apart from your competitors.

Support, 'how to' guides and step-by-step instructions are provided for all the major social media platforms to help you get started.

Social media features and terms

Get to know the common features and terms of social media to help develop your social media profile and grow your following.

Hashtags are used for content searches. You add it to your content to make it discoverable to others online. Hashtags link your content to other content using the same hashtags so that customers can search for related posts. Hashtags link to search terms like location names, business types and other identifying items.

For example, a hairdresser in Queensland may use the hashtags #Queensland, #Hairdresser, #Summerhair.

The more popular (trending) the hashtag you use, the more people will find your business using it. There are lists online of the most popular hashtags to help guide your selection.

Creating a theme for your social media content (e.g. with certain styles of photos and videos) is a fast way to create a professional and engaging profile. A theme for your social media can enhance the way you present your brand online and encourage the audience to follow your account.

A theme may be as simple as:

  • increasing the colour saturation on all of your images so they are visually rich and appealing
  • choosing 1 colour from your brand colours and including that in all of your images
  • using a lot of white space in every image, as your brand may also reflect space and freedom
  • adding an extra element to your images or videos that is also repeated on your other content to create a visual theme versus uploading raw images.

Creating a theme for your content is a great way to separate you from your competitors. Your theme needs to remain consistent with your branding and personality.

Tips for social media themes

  • Use your brand colours in your theme for a consistent look.
  • Do a web search for social media theme ideas for some inspiration.

Different social media platforms allow you to interact with customers in various ways—the 2 most common are 'friends' and 'followers'.

Friends are other users on the social media platform that you have 'followed'. They are accounts that interest you and you want to see more of their activity.

Followers are user accounts that have followed your business profile. They are your fans and are interested in your content and posts.

It is important to engage with your followers on your platforms. If they comment on your posts, for example, it is essential to 'like' or reply to increase audience engagement and make your fan feel appreciated.

All social media platforms are most effective when you have a high level of engagement. Algorithms and code built into these platforms highlight and share popular or trending content—this means that the more friends and followers or interactions you have, the more reach your content can have.

Finding ways to use platform-specific features to drive higher engagement and interaction is vital for your social media to be effective.

Frequency of posting refers to how many times a day you are uploading content to your social media profiles. Each social media site has a preferred frequency volume and you should post no more than that.

You should post each day when growing your profile. Posting when your audience is most likely to be online is important to increase your posts' impact.

Research social media frequency and timing guides online for more information.

Tagging is a way to directly connect others to your content so that it may also show up on their social media profiles.

Tagging is a great way to get free exposure. Re-post a photo of your customer using your product and then tag that customer in the post on your business page. The photo will then appear on your customer's page and all their community will also see your product, increasing your brand awareness and expanding your online reach.

If you are using and sharing content from other accounts, contact the content owner and ask permission to avoid copyright infringement and other legal issues.

Tagging is also highly effective when used as a part of cross-promotions with well-known persons, accounts or other businesses. Your business can tag or be tagged in content on different accounts, which will increase the number of people who can see and interact with your business content.

Social media glossary

Understanding the following terms can help you better manage your social media.

Alerts

  • Notifications to advise you when posts occur

Algorithms

  • A mathematical formula that determines which content is shown to users on the site

Analytics

  • Tracking data to assess the performance of your content

Bio

  • An introduction for your users to learn more about you and what your social media account offers

Direct message

  • A message sent privately to your social media inbox from another user

Emoji

  • A small image or icon that expresses human emotions or reactions in the place of or along with text

Engagement

  • The interaction between you and another user on a platform—engagement can be in the form of chats, comments and shares of your content or another's content

Feed

  • The display of collected posts from other users on the platform that you are subscribed to or may be of interest to you

Follow

  • When you add yourself to another user's social media account to consume their content

Follower

  • A user who adds themselves or subscribes to your social media account to consume your content

Handle

  • Your username

Hashtag

  • A tag for search tools using '#'—this symbol is added in front of a word to link it to other instances of the word
  • Hashtags provide a way of categorising information to be easily found

Live stream

  • A video streamed in real-time to your audience where they can interact with you

Post

  • Content a user creates or shares with other users

Profile

  • The main page that contains all the information about you that other users see—your branding, location, posts, friends, contact details etc.

Repost

  • Sharing another user's content on your page or feed

Social media platform

  • A website where users interact in a virtual social environment with other users

Story

  • A piece of content published with a limited viewing window, generally 24-hours.

Tag

  • A way of linking other profiles or locations to your post—you can 'tag' their name or business and it will show up with your post

Thread

  • A conversation with many messages attached to the original message that can display in chronological order or with the most relevant comments

Trending

  • Posts, topics or hashtags with a high level of engagement, shares or mentions

Viral

  • Describes a piece of content that has spread (viewed or shared) an unusually large amount in a short period of time by users and their followers

Social media branding

Branding is a way of identifying your business—it is how your customers recognise and experience your business.

Branding is the perception of your product that you leave in a customer's mind. Having consistent branding across all platforms where customers can see or engage with your business is very important—this makes your brand recognisable.

Branding on your social media allows you to continue to share the story of your business with the bonus of creating a visual personality through the content you create and share with audiences.

Action item: Perform a social media branding optimisation

Assess all your business profiles across social media platforms to ensure they reflect your business brand.

  1. Write down each platform you are on.
  2. Check for consistency on each platform to ensure they have the same branding.
    • Are your social media handles (@name) all the same? If not, changing your handles to be the same on all platforms makes it easier for customers to find you.
    • Are all your profile images the same? Having the same profile images makes recognition faster and familiar to the customer.
    • Are your cover photos/header images all the same?
    • Check your images are sized according to the site requirements.
    • Do you have your email address and phone number on all socials?
    • Is your website listed on each platform? Use the full URL (e.g. https://www.your domain.com).
    • Does the 'About' section on your website reflect your business and style? Does it tell a story that your customers will find exciting and engaging (i.e. how you got started, your business values, your point of difference, what you love about the industry you are in and why you started your business)?
    • Do you have a bio written on each social platform, explaining what your business does and what makes you different from your competitors?
  1. Check that all your posts, photos and social media content have a similar look and feel to reflect your brand and style. Are you using similar colours, themes, stylised images that look like they're from the same business?
  2. Make sure the style of writing used on your profiles and website is consistent.
    • Consider if your content has the same tone and is reflective of your brand and style.
      • Are your words communicating the same message across platforms?
      • Do the words you are using on your social media and website reflect your brand's personality?
      • Is your brand calming, fun, serious, exciting, warm, friendly, formal? Is this personality being shown via your social media?
    • Write down all the words that you feel describe your business.
    • Write down all the colours that represent your brand.
    • Create a word cloud—a cluster or collection of words of different sizes based on how frequently they are associated with your brand.
    • Print out your word cloud and pin where you can see it.
    • When creating your content, check to see your word cloud branding is reflected in new content.

Platform-specific guides and support

You can complete training and do more research into using the different social media platforms to further your business goals. Review the resources below from the most common platforms.

Managing your social media

Social media is an ever-changing world with millions of people online every day searching for a product or business precisely like yours. Managing your social media productively allows you to be discovered by new fans or customers.

Managing your social media benefits your business in many ways:

  • build your brand consistently across the web
  • see where your financial investments in social media campaigns are successful
  • grow and manage online groups, fan bases and communities
  • plan and prepare content to meet the business needs throughout the year and tailor content to immediate needs.

Ensuring you have a strong presence online requires managing your social media content delivery.

DIY social media

If you want to be hands-on with the creation and management of your social media, there are applications on the market that can help you.

DIY-type applications require you to spend time setting up your weekly social media posts and prepping them to post on a set day at a set time automatically.

DIY applications allow you to post with freedom and autonomy. Some applications allow you to reply to comments made on any social media platform directly from within their application.

By using DIY social media applications, you can take control of your social media publishing without a low learning curve and with lower costs compared to the costs that may be associated with hiring a full-service social media company.

Action item: Do a web search for 'manage social media apps'

You will find various applications to support you with DIY social media. See which one best fits your needs, budget and technical skillset.

Action item: Develop a content calendar

A great way to get started with DIY social media management is to create a content calendar. These calendars allow you to map out which platforms you will post content on and when.

You can then visualise your entire year or month and review and adjust the content as required.

Web search for 'content calendar' or 'social media scheduling' and view the image results for examples you can use.

Action item: Create social media guidelines

Use this template to develop social media guidelines for your business, so you have a reference point for anyone managing your social media accounts to ensure your messaging and processes are consistent.

Outsourced social media

If you do not want to self-manage your business’s social media, you can hire a professional social media consultant. You may also want to contact large social media agencies that can create and manage a complete social media strategy and campaign for you if it’s within your budget.

Outsourcing your social media provides for:

  • highly skilled and experienced consultants guiding your campaign
  • high-quality content
  • more time to focus on other business functions
  • constant monitoring by experts.

Maintaining control of your social media

Your social media account can become an important business asset and maintaining control and access to it is essential.

Using staff or other people to manage your social media for you has many benefits but you should also be aware of the risks.

Access enables a person to have a dedicated role and responsibility in managing your accounts, so allowing staff access to your accounts means sharing your login details and password with them.

Sharing login details exposes your business to the risk of:

  • account loss or deletion
  • unauthorised changes to
    • account emails
    • usernames
    • passwords
  • hijacked accounts.

A high level of trust is required to share passwords with staff.

Some social media platforms have different access levels that can be assigned, which may not require the password to be shared but still enable users to make changes to the account as necessary to complete their role. This feature provides a security barrier between employees and the business and reduces the risk of losing your social media account to an unhappy employee.

Some platforms now allow for a business to set up editor access, so there is less of a risk giving staff access accounts.

Tips for reducing social media security risks

  • using DIY social media platforms to manage your social media account (as listed above)
  • removing access to social media accounts when employees leave the company
  • changing passwords to all social media accounts before advising of employee terminations
  • changing user roles when an employee’s internal role changes
  • providing only the level of access an employee needs to do their job, i.e. editor, contributor vs admin, full access.

Training your staff on social media

You should train your staff on social media awareness and use before giving them access to your accounts.

Social media training should cover:

  • style, tone and the personality of social media posts
  • acceptable language
  • your social media style guide (company identity, voice, communication, presentation, rulebook)
  • purpose and goals of your social media content
  • expectations of social media customer service (replies, reporting issues)
  • company social media policies, procedures and best practices.

By training your staff before granting access to your social media accounts, you will protect your image and give your employees the freedom to create within the boundaries of your brand.

Communicating professionally on social media

Ensuring all staff understand the image and voice you want your business to portray online is vital for managing your brand. You should train your staff in the professional communication standards that you want to be used in your social media accounts.

Professional communication training for social media should cover:

  • types of replies to customer comments
  • how to manage conflict online
  • when to escalate the issue to a manager or supervisor
  • limits and guidelines to problem-solving with customers in the public space
  • type of personality to showcase in online communication
  • what procedures staff should follow in different scenarios
  • checking spelling and grammar before posting online.

Read more about digital communication.