2000px-Botón_Me_gusta.svgYou’ve raised capital, built a website, and opened the doors to your small business — now what? Raising awareness for your business and promoting it are essential for ensuring your success and thankfully that task is now easier than ever. With an estimated 78% of Americans now on social media these sites and apps have become go-tos for entrepreneurs looking to engage with customers and potential customers alike.

However today it’s no longer enough to just be on social media. Recent changes made to how these platforms display content have been detrimental to small businesses — even those with large fanbases and followings. That’s why small business owners should seriously consider advertising on these networks in addition to their typical posting. Not only have many of the top social networks made it easy for entrepreneurs to target the right users and consumers for relatively little money but new opportunities for businesses to promote themselves are also developing all the time. For all these reasons and more social media advertising is now a must for any small business.

The impact of algorithmic feeds

One huge thing that early-adopting entrepreneurs loved about social media marketing was, for the most part, it was free. While that’s still technically true some of the top networks — including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram — have switched to what are known as algorithmic feeds. Instead of displaying posts in reverse chronological order, algorithmic feeds attempt to show users the “best” posts first, often leading to marketing posts to going unseen.

The first big impact of algorithmic feeds was felt when Facebook changed from a “Most Recent” feed to a “Top News” arrangement by default. Suddenly thousands of small business owners with Facebook pages saw their engagement numbers drop. Essentially the change meant that, even if customers “liked” your page, that wasn’t enough to ensure they would see your posts.

Twitter and Instagram only recently joined the algorithmic movement with both networks still in the process of fine tuning and rolling out the changes to all users. However some small business marketers are already feeling the effects. While there are a few workarounds where businesses can plead with their fans to change their settings in order to keep up with their latest posts, for the most part, social media advertising is now a pay-to-play game.

Targeting your audience with social advertising

Last month Facebook reached an advertising milestone: it now has over three million companies advertising on their network. That’s a 50% increase from just one year ago. There’s good reason for this rise as not only does the social network offer access to a huge number of users but also provides business owners with easy-to-use tools to target the exact demographic they want.

When setting up a new social media advertising campaign the first thing sites like Facebook or Twitter will ask is what your goals are. On Twitter maybe you just want to build up your social following so that people in your area can see the deals you post. Alternatively maybe you’re an online retailer and really want to drive more clicks to your website. Depending on which goal you select the network will show you different options for the types of ads and promotions they offer and allow you to pick which you’d like to purchase.

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 8.28.21 AM

Once you’ve nailed down which ad type you’re going to try you can set the parameters of your campaign. This includes basic demographic info such as location and age range as well as more detailed interests and other keywords. You can even target users who follow your competitor or another relevant page.

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 8.25.56 AM

Perhaps the best part of using these social advertising tools is that they allow you to easily set a budget for your campaign and preview what results you can expect to see for that amount of money. There are also very low minimums to get started with most of these ads — often $5 will actually go pretty far. This is important because experimentation is key for success with these ads. If you’re new to social media advertising you may want to try a few different strategies with small budgets to see which works best before investing more in any one campaign.

New forms of social marketing

From MySpace to Facebook to Snapchat social media is consistently evolving. For small business owners this means learning about and adapting to new forms of advertising and going where their audience is. If your demographic is teenagers and younger Millennials then it’s time you learned all about Snapchat.

One of the downsides to Snapchat is that the company is still learning what forms of monetization work, including promoting branded “stories” in their channels and allowing advertisers to create sponsored photo filters. Unfortunately this has made the platform more or less inaccessible to smaller businesses looking to advertise. Although that may be changing in the coming months there are still some ways entrepreneurs can reach Snapchat’s massive (and growing) audience now.

If you have a brick and mortar location custom Snapchat on-demand filters could be a great way to get your local and loyal customers to spread the word. Although these won’t have nearly the same reach as the more formal branded filters they will allow you to set geographic parameters around your business in which to give customers access to your filter. You could also offer special deals to customers who follow you on Snapchat and share their photos with your filter to help grow your audience and bring in new customers at the same time.

This is just one idea for one social network but new opportunities are popping up all the time. Keep in mind that not every new app or network will be a good fit your business or your demographic, but it’s definitely worth keeping an eye out for new trends. Additionally, don’t be afraid to change up your current social advertising playbook by trying out new ad formats that your networks may offer.

Give social network advertising a try

For Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram social advertising is a big business that’s mostly driven by small businesses. As a result these platforms have worked hard to provide entrepreneurs with the tools they need to promote their businesses in an effective way. Additionally, with recent changes to how posts are displayed and ordered on these networks, the need to advertise has increased. If you haven’t already now is the time to get started with social media advertising and reach new fans and customers for your small business.