Best of SMMW17: How SMBs Can Win on Social Media According to 15 Marketing Experts

Irina Baranovskaya
Irina Baranovskaya
Content Marketing Manager
≈ 10 min read
Upd. on: 1 Oct 2021

What is the ONE thing that can make or break social media presence of a small business?

PromoRepublic was one of the exhibitors at Social Media Marketing World 2017 in San Diego. During our time there we got to speak to industry professionals about everything from the current state of social media marketing to what’s projected for the future. It all came down to one most essential ingredient that can make the biggest difference for your success. What’s that? It’s genuine interaction! Sounds simple and obvious, but is it really? Let’s see what the experts had to say.

What Is The Current State of Social Media Marketing for Small Businesses & What Could Be Improved Today?

As providers of social media services for small business, we are well aware of the pain points and pitfalls of trying to not only establish a social media calendar, but to find the pitch-perfect content that will engage fans and followers. There are several things to think about when establishing a social media presence for small businesses. And, thought leaders in the field helped us identify them. Gini Dietrich says, “Find out where your customers are hanging out and go there.”

Choosing the Right Channel

Bernie Borges

Bernie Borges

Bernie Borges, host of Social Business Engine podcast, says, “SMBs are struggling. There is so much coming at them with social media marketing.” He says that choosing their platforms is one of the biggest challenges. Sue B. Zimmerman agrees. She says, “Small businesses really need to be intentional about what they are doing and not do it just to check it off their list.”

Sue B Zimmerman

Sue B Zimmerman

That means not investing time in channels where you don’t have an audience, for one. Choosing the correct channels isn’t hard, but it does take time and research. We talk about how to find your audience in our blog post and tutorial webinar

Jenn Herman

Jenn Herman

Jenn Herman from Jenn’s Trends says, “Not all brands need to be everywhere, but you do have more options than you used to.” Here at PromoRepublic, we recommend focusing your social efforts only on the channels where your customers are, rather than following the latest new fads.

Taking Social Media Marketing Seriously

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich, CEO and founder of Arment Dietrich and awesome thought leader, says that ten years ago, social was “very much a fad,” and people thought it was just for kids. She says “There’s been a transition, but you still see a lot of hesitancy in using social. You see a lot of building it and forgetting about it. You see people building Facebook pages that nobody answers comments on.”

It’s important to be PRESENT when you’re running a social page. Lots of people even go so far as to set up a social media content generator and then they never even check the content that’s being posted. Gini says that social is time-intensive. Tools are OK, but if you do that a lot people can tell that’s what you’re doing.

Zontee Hou, Senior Strategist at Convince and Convert, says, “The challenge with social media marketing for small business is that often it’s an afterthought or just one of many tasks to get done.” If you’re going to do social media marketing, commit to it.


Have a Strategy in Place

Bernie Borges says that more than anything, small businesses need to have a social media strategy. To the last point, he says “Those that don’t take it seriously and hand it off to an intern are putting their brands at risk. If they’re a big enough company to have employees, it’s important that they embrace employee advocacy.” It’s important, when developing a social strategy for small business, that you teach your employees to brand themselves so that it benefits your brand.

Sue B. Zimmerman agrees. She says, “They need to have a high level strategy and understand that if they’re sticking to their content strategy, visual strategy and their core brand messaging and brand values, they can have great success. Random posting leads to random results.”

Zontee Hou

Zontee Hou

Zontee Hou says, “As a small business owner myself, I know that it can be difficult to make time for creating content when there’s other work to be done. However, with smart planning and focus on the returns that social media can bring to a business, small businesses can and should be able to create a social media workflow that works for them. That’s where a social media strategy comes in. You have to figure out the type of content you want to post, the frequency and who’s going to do what. It’s a lot, but it’s well worth it.”

Post the Right Type of Content

Robert Bly

Robert Bly

Robert Bly of says that there is a lot of “content pollution” out there. Yes, you need to post on social, but you have to post the type of things that your audience won’t see as pollution or spam.

Koka Sexton

Koka Sexton

Koka Sexton, Industry Principal for Hootsuite, says that the largest gains are to be made from original content, and here at PromoRepublic, we agree.

Katie Lance from says that social media marketing for small business can be a lot more efficient, but that in addition to a social plan (your strategy), you need a content plan. (Check out Katie’s key take-aways from SMMW17.)

Jenn Herman says, “Most people don’t know how to create content. Small businesses want to talk about themselves and that’s all they’re doing for content. They’re not solving an actual problem for their customer. They’re not building relationships with their customers. And social media is SOCIAL. You have to create content that forms a relationship.”

Ana Hoffman

Ana Hoffman

Ana Hoffman from Traffic Generation Cafe says that the current content game for SMBs is “kinda broken, because they’re trying to promote their content on social media and that’s not working anymore.” She goes on to say that SMBs need to promote actual knowledge in bite-sized pieces. Ana suggests writing fewer blog posts and then re-purposing the content into different forms, for example, slide shares, and using the images for social media.

Jill Stanton

Jill Stanton

Jill Stanton from Screw the Nine to Five agrees, but thinks that SMBs are doing OK. She says, “There are so many small businesses and entrepreneurs just kicking ass on social media. They’re sharing the backstage of their life, they’re building relationships, they’re building that connection.” She goes on to say that businesses doing a poor job are ones that make it all about them. Jill says, “High quality stuff is about community, customers and highlighting transformations.” So how do you do that?

Visual Posts and Ads

Michael O'Neal

Michael O’Neal

Overwhelmingly, everyone says that visual content performs best. Michael O’Neal from Solopreneur Hour podcast thinks that some SMBs are using ads brilliantly, but there is room for improvement. That means great visual posts, and other types of storytelling content that will draw audiences in. He says that organic reach continues to dwindle, and people are doing more with targeted Facebook ads and Instagram stories.



Like it or not, it looks like video is here to stay. While you shouldn’t post video exclusively, it should be part of your content mix, and live video is especially effective. It’s hard to do that on the fly, so practice with a few recordings before you take the leap and go live.


Michael Stelzner

Michael Stelzner

Michael Stelzner of Social Media Examiner says, “Quality of content can be a problem. Small businesses have to find someone, a person or tool, that will help them create professional content. There’s no other way.” He believes in templatization. Michael says, “Templates are made by experts, pros, and small businesses are not conscientious about exclusivity.” While that might be true, it’s best to pick content creation templates that are customizable so that you can change colors, fonts and add your logo.

Evergreen Content

Mari Smith

Mari Smith

Mari Smith – one of the top social media thought leaders – is a big believer in posting the right content. She says, “A lot of small businesses AND major businesses are executing the same thing, like posting too many link posts on Facebook when video is what’s working better.”

Mari told us about a client of hers who wrote an evergreen blog post related to the client’s industry and it continues to bring a ton of ROI to the business. Coming up with some evergreen blog content you can share and boost on social is a good way to go, and should be a part of your social media calendar.

Choose the Right Resources and Tools

When you’re thinking about social media marketing services, you might be thinking about social media marketing AUTOMATION. The best tools not only allow you to maintain a social media calendar, but they also contain content creation examples you can use – the templates Michael was talking about. And, as Peter Parker Rich Brooks from Take Flyte says to not forget about other marketing tools, like search engine optimization and building your email lists. You have to have a full arsenal to execute a marketing strategy effectively.


What is the Future of Social Media Marketing for Small Businesses – Human or Automation?

Bernie Borges says, “[The future will be] a lot more automated. We’re going to need people to do strategy and creative work, but a lot of the busy repetitive stuff will be automated. Brands need to think about what tools they need to use to make things more automated, but also more engaging.”

Jill Stanton hopes that social will become more humanized, but clarifies by saying “I automate a lot of stuff on my page. I doubt that’s going any where, but you have to be there to answer comments and interact. Don’t talk at people, talk to them.”

Katie Lance

Katie Lance

Gini Dietrich agrees with Bernie in that “our jobs are going to evolve – we’ve become sophisticated and AI and bots are going to change everything. We won’t get paid to schedule posts, but we’ll be paid to be creative.” Katie Lance says, “Some automation can be good when done right.”

Koka from HootSuite says that automation and a programmatic approach isn’t necessarily wrong, but that “the biggest benefits and largest rewards will come from small businesses that want to connect and engage with their community on a very human level. Ultimately, this is what drives brand loyalty for the company.”

Zontee Hou says, “The best social media marketing is engaging because it’s genuine. With that in mind, I think we’ll see the trends towards more visual continue. Video and photos help tell the story of the people behind a business.” So, it seems that the future will hold automation, but also more creative storytelling.

Ana Hoffman insists that the name of the social game is value, and she is right. Ana says, “What it boils down to is that when a business solves a problem for someone, that’s when they win.” Solving pain points and listening to your audience is much more important than inundating them with information they’re not asking for.

Rich Brooks

Rich Brooks

Rich Brooks gives some advice on finding the right pitch or tone when posting to social. He says, “If you’re not posting regularly, it feels like you’re speaking a different language. When you get used to it you can develop your own voice. Social media is still about making connections with other people. So you have to be your own brand, you have to create your own cult of personality, and you have to put that out on social media and, hopefully, it will resonate with your audience.”
So, the future might contain all sorts of cool automation, but what we’re hearing from everyone is that it’s still quality over quantity, it’s still about the customers and it’s all about creating a distinctive and friendly brand.

Tying it All Together – What Can We Do To Prepare?

To achieve that mix of humanization and automation, you need the tools and resources that let you create and schedule all types of content to post on social media to save you time, but that also allow you to be creative and really tell the story of your brand.

More than that, you need to be customer-focused and realize that the more value you bring to social pages, the more you give social fans and followers what they need. Never forget that social media is still social, and listening to the needs of your people is the most important thing you can do.

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