Social Media Marketing For Beginners: Which Are Right for Your Brand?

by Alexandra Sheehan
8 minute read

Whether you’re new to social media marketing for your business or not, there’s no arguing the opportunities for businesses. Roughly one-third of consumers prefer to connect with brands on social media instead of over the phone, and a majority of social media users are engaging with a mobile device. And considering that 58% of consumers use their smartphone while shopping in-store, there’s a huge opportunity for retailers.

Social media marketing, Pew Research | Shopify Retail blog
Image: Pew Internet

With so many social networks out there — and updates to algorithms and new guidelines for brands — it’s difficult to know where to start. Most experts agree: Start with one, master it, and then move on to the next. But where do you start?

Start With a Social Media Marketing Strategy

Ask any social media expert where to start, and they’ll likely stress the importance of kicking off with a strategy. Even if you don’t have the expertise, time, or money to create a social media marketing strategy, you can at least set goals for what you want to get out of social media.

Anna Sullivan, co-founder and strategist at social media marketing agency The Creative Exchange, suggests asking yourself why you want to be on social media. “What are your general marketing goals, and how can social media help you reach those goals faster or in a different way,” she says. “A lot of retailers think that since every other business is on social media, they need to be too.”
A lot of retailers think that since every other business is on social media, they need to be too.
Establishing goals through a clear social media marketing strategy can help you monitor performance and progress toward reaching those goals. Otherwise, it’s difficult to measure the business impact of your efforts.

Your strategy also provides a roadmap — so if you have changing team members, or if multiple employees handle social media, you can ensure everyone has direction and the result is a cohesive social media experience. “Everything after strategy falls into place,” Sullivan says. “Retailers who don’t start with strategy don’t have a clear voice or aesthetic. It’s inconsistent, and that doesn’t look good for your brand.”

In short, your social media marketing strategy should:
  • Define goals
  • Identify your audience
  • Provide a competitive analysis
  • Determine which types of content are appropriate for which channels (more on that later)
Sullivan also suggests looking at your existing data to glean further insights. Perhaps Pinterest is driving tons of traffic to your site, or maybe your in-store shoppers frequently post Instagram photos from your store.

Sizing Up Your Options: Social Media Channel Breakdown

Simply posting the same content — with the same copy and imagery — on all your social media channels is not the best way to approach diversifying your social presence. Each channel has different audiences, different content types that perform well, and different contexts in which consumers are using them.

“It really comes down to the audience you’re trying to target,” Sullivan says.

Many companies use Twitter for customer support and company announcements (more than two-thirds of users turn to Twitter for support issues), whereas Facebook is more targeted to their relationship-building efforts. But those are just two of the many social media channels you can explore.

Social media marketing, Pew Internet | Shopify Retail blog
Image: Pew Internet

Here’s a breakdown of the most popular social media networks and how retailers can use them:


Facebook is a go-to — it is the most widely used and also represents a wide range of demographics, making it a viable option for retailers of many kinds. Most Facebook users log in to the platform daily. It’s almost equally used by men and women, and despite growing popularity of other platforms, 88% of people aged 18-29 still use it. The only crowd you might not be able to reach here is the 65+ group, being that just over one-third of them use it.

Just because almost everyone is on Facebook doesn’t mean almost everyone will see your posts. “Facebook is a pay-to-play now,” says Sullivan. “If you don’t have money to spend there, your page will never grow.”

With changes to algorithms over the years, not every post is seen by everyone in your audience, even those who have clicked the Like and Follow buttons on your page.

Some ways retailers can use Facebook:
  • Create Facebook events to promote in-store happenings or grand openings
  • Run Facebook ads to provide exclusive offers, redeemable in-store
  • Share content about your latest in-store arrivals — complete with photos (square photos do best on Facebook and across devices)
  • Make sure to engage with your followers on Facebook — replying to comments and answering questions is key


Twitter users skew younger, with more than half of the userbase under the age of 49. There are fewer daily users than Facebook (42%), and a third of the users use the platform less frequently than weekly.

Twitter requires lots of content.
If you don’t have much to say or know how to get in on conversations, Twitter’s not the one for you,” Sullivan says.
Some ways retailers can use Twitter:
  • Use Twitter to manage customer service issues and respond to queries
  • Newsworthy content reigns supreme — promote the latest updates and news at your store and in your industry
  • Casper mattresses is a great example of a retailer that has nailed their voice in the confines of the Twitter universe


Instagram, which Facebook purchased in 2012, has quickly joined the ranks of the most-used social media networks. Almost one-third of all Internet users are on Instagram, more than half of whom are 18-29 years old. If your target market skews younger, Instagram is a great platform to test.

Instagram is a highly visual platform, so if you don’t have the content, you might not make a splash. Retailers in the fashion, cosmetics, and food industries do especially well on Instagram.
Some ways retailers can use Instagram:
  • Curate some visually appealing user-generated content to ease the burden on yourself and your staff (just make sure the images are on-brand!)
  • Send your products to influencers and ask them to promote the products and your brand on their own channels
  • Create a library of both photo and video content to pull from
  • Explore photos tagged at your store and see who’s posting what, and see how you can integrate the same ideas into your content
FURTHER READING: Want to know more about building your brand on Instagram? Check out how these 3 brands leveraged the platform to grow their sales.


Pinterest is unique to the other social networks in that its user base is heavily dominated by females (38% of women use the platform, compared to 15% of men). If you’re targeting male consumers, Pinterest might not be the best place for you.

Pinterest is also not usually a platform that users log into daily, so daily posting isn’t as crucial as it is for a platform like Twitter.

Like Instagram, Pinterest is extremely visual. Infographics and photography (shot in portrait, as opposed to landscape) do well on the platform. Many users come to Pinterest to browse, find inspiration, and shop — so it’s a great place to promote your brand and products.

Some ways retailers can use Pinterest:
  • Create boards themed to match the aspirations of your target customer — perhaps it’s the living green board, or a fitness board
  • For content, create infographics or pins that incorporate your target’s interests and your product, such as “5 things you need for your wedding day” — including a mix of your products and other creative ideas

FURTHER READING: Need more inspiration for getting started on Pinterest? Here are 4 ways to attract customers and boost sales using the platform.


Snapchat has the youngest user base by far: 37% are 18–24, 26% 25–34, and 23% 13–17. It’s also unique in that Snapchat only has a mobile application — users cannot access the social network via web browser. That means when you’re talking to your audience on Snapchat, you’re talking to them on their mobile device.

Snapchat doesn’t demand as high-quality of content as other social networks. Here, behind-the-scenes, “real-world” posts that show what’s going on in your business do well.
Some ways retailers can use Snapchat:


LinkedIn is a B2B social media network, so it’s not necessarily the best place for retailers that are selling directly to consumers. On the other hand, it can be a great way to get in front of potential buyers if you want to distribute your products to other stores.

College grads and high earners are key groups on LinkedIn — the latter of which provide more potential value to retailers.

Some ways retailers can use LinkedIn:
  • Use LinkedIn as a recruitment tool — talk about your company values and culture, and promote how great it is to work there
  • Create and nurture relationships with potential buyers or business partners
  • Away suitcases recently presented at HubSpot’s Inbound marketing conference, and LinkedIn could be a way for you to tap into similar opportunities and become an industry leader

Explore Niche Social Media Sites

There are industry-specific social media sites out there, too. Though they’re lesser-known and have fewer users, the user base is specifically targeted. So, if you find a niche social site in your industry, even if it hasn’t gained a huge user base, you know that those users are likely to be in your target market. On other popular social media channels, you have to do the work to find the right audience, whereas these niche channels have already done that work for you.

Sullivan makes another great argument for using less-popular niche social sites: “Remember Vine? It died, but the people who jumped on it early all had other social media profiles, but were never discovered there. They found the opportunity through Vine, and even though it’s not worth anything now, these influencers have built up their other social channels.” Even if the network doesn’t last forever, you could attract new followers elsewhere.

Here are some examples of niche social media networks that retailers can tap into:
  • Houzz: Home design, decorating, and remodeling ideas and inspiration reign supreme on this social network — and many retailers have jumped in on the conversation. If you sell home goods or anything related, this could be a great network to become a part of.
  • Untappd: Untappd is a mobile app designed for users to log and rate beers they’ve tried, as well as see the beers their friends have logged and rated. Many craft breweries have jumped on the app, offering promo codes and interacting with users who have “checked in” their beers.
  • Allrecipes: The website and complementary mobile app allows users to discover new recipes to try, as well as watch videos on cooking techniques and follow brands that have a presence on the app. It’s a great one to explore if you’re a retailer in the food and beverage industry (Dixie, for example, has found success on the app as a paper goods company).
  • MapMyFitness: The fitness-oriented app allows users to track workouts and other personal health and wellness data. Retail giant Under Armour owns the app, but many other brands can get in on the action by sponsoring fitness challenges.

Social Media Marketing Content: What to Post (And Where)

Each social media channel has different requirements, and different content may perform well on one channel and not the next. But that doesn’t mean you can’t repurpose content.

“Always tweak your copy and visuals, and avoid automatically posting the same posts to various channels,” Sullivan says. “Horizontal images work best on Twitter and Facebook, otherwise they’ll get cut off in the preview. On Instagram, you can post horizontal, vertical, or square, but the horizontal has to be 4:5 and vertical 5:4.”

If you’re still stuck, find out how to create your social media content calendar in four easy steps.
Each social channel has different capabilities too. “On Facebook, you can upload photos, videos, and 360-degree visuals as they’re getting into virtual reality. That has the most options as far as uploading content,” says Sullivan. “When it comes to Instagram, it’s only images and videos, while Twitter is super text-heavy.”

Regardless of which networks you leverage for your business, it all comes down to what works for you and helps you accomplish your goals. Always analyze the performance of your efforts, and learn what’s working and what’s not. From there, you can pivot where necessary to amplify success.

Which social media channels have garnered the most success for your retail business? How do you use multiple social media channels to promote your retail business at part of your overall social media marketing strategy?

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