a 6 step guide to social media for small businesses

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 seem to be 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 have set up. And yet, as time goes on, you notice 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 a joyous dream of yours has left you questioning your business’s worth.

Every dime you had went into opening this coffee shop. You have little to no marketing budget. And you need 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 to help regain the customers you need to thrive. 

Small businesses face huge challenges when entering the social media marketing world. It can be difficult to invest and see returns on investments when there are already limited budgets.

These six practical steps can be a game changer in building brand awareness and getting leads through social media. Follow this guide to start getting the results you desire. 

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 equal paying customers. But this isn’t always the case.

Social media marketing can be a low-cost, organic option for creating that brand awareness and recognition you are looking to achieve. This is true even with a low number of followers who are loyal and engaged.

That’s why we think every small business owner should learn how to leverage social media to help gain those customers and grow awareness.

One Pre-Step to Getting Results Through Social Media

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

Before following these five steps, remember these few things:

  • Social media is not a sales channel
  • It invests in building a community
  • Choosing the right content is important 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 our free social media management platform.

Just think of Semrush’s Social Media toolkit 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 gave you a quick pre-step as a head start—let’s see how Sunrise Joe can up 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 this niche for its competitors. 

For Sunrise Joe to succeed with social media marketing, some analyses are needed first.

Analyzing Social Media Platforms

With so many social media platforms to choose from, it’s impossible to know which will be suitable for Sunrise Joe. 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 Media 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 all the competitors have a high number of followers on Facebook and fewer on other platforms like Instagram.


However, when looking at the “engagement” metrics of the Tracker, engagement is much higher on Instagram for all competitors 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 how they are faring, 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. 

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 are doing with content and hashtags, and which of those generate the most engagement. The right research will determine how creative Sunrise Joe needs to get with its content and which hashtags to use. 

For instance, the Tracker shows Costa Coffee’s best-performing content for the last 30 days. 


We see that one of their most popular posts is a product integration with KitKat. The next two popular posts talk about their local store and celebrate Easter.


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

To discover the best hashtags, Sunrise Joe can also visit the “Hashtags” tab in the Tracker to see Panera Bread’s best hashtags in the last year. By observing this, coffee shops use hashtags that are mostly related to holidays or their own brand: 


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

To learn more about getting the most engagement, visit our article about gaining competitive insights on social media.

Analyze Competitors’ Social Media Ads

Maybe Sunrise Joe isn’t ready for ads just yet. But if the business does have a little bit of an advertising budget, social media advertising might be a good choice. 

To make sure these ads perform at their very best, Sunrise Joe will need 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 kinds of ads and model after them by incorporating similar ad content in its strategy.

Step 2: Create a Content Strategy 

Now that Sunrise Joe has some 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 strategy. Here are some 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 learners.

Focus On A Specific Social Media Platform

First, Sunrise Joe will need to choose the best social media platforms to pursue. Not every platform is going to yield the best engagement. It’s better to try to win a single platform than try to 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, other 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 SMART Goals

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

Goals may be simple—post every day for three months or read an article on social media each week. 

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 be difficult. 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 Media Poster will let Sunrise Joe 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 very useful when content is scarce and inspiration is needed.

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. Taking the time to plan content will be more efficient. 

One of the best, easiest, and least expensive ways to build a content calendar is in a Google or Excel Spreadsheet. This method is useful if a social media poster is not currently in use.


Here are some simple steps to getting started:

  1. Open a new spreadsheet
  2. Make five columns in the first tab—Date, Channel, Description, Link/Image, and Post Date
  3. Duplicate the first tab for each month of the year (Jan 2022, Feb 2022, Mar 2022, etc.)

With this basic foundation, Sunrise Joe can alter the calendar so it caters more to its content planning needs.

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

With the poster, the business can save time by easily posting to multiple channels simultaneously and at peak times without jumping around to each individual platform. The poster 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 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.

Content creation 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 all seem overwhelming at first. But after taking that first step to content creation, the creative process gets easier. 

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

Step 4: Distribute Content

Content distribution is a crucial part of social media strategy. For instance, Sunrise Joe can have the most stunning content. However, the business still needs to 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 media poster to avoid bouncing from one channel to another.
  • Post at peak times: Data in the Semrush Social Media Toolkit provides insight on 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 Media 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 take on the distribution alone. If needed, get other employees or business partners involved with distribution to help make the process easier.

Step 5: Engage With Your Audience 

Interacting with the target audience is crucial to showing a company’s care for its customers. Being a great social media strategist includes social listening and reputation management. 

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 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 the 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 opportunities for improvement.

When it’s time to analyze results, the Semrush Social Media Analysis tool can look at how social channels are performing. Then, it breaks down each bit of 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 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 Media 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 Media Tracker to benchmark against its competitors.

To do this, use the report in the “Overview” tab of the Social Media Tracker to identify the activity of competitors on different platforms.


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


Having these notifications can help a 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 can 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, it’s essential to generate and distribute engaging content that resonates with users. 

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

The Semrush Social Media Toolkit is a free platform helping small businesses manage their time and save them 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.

Leave a Reply