Social Media Mistakes That Small Businesses Make (…And How To Fix Them)

As a small business owner, you have to wear many different hats and it may seem like you are being pulled in many directions! Social media is the way to market your business today, but with so much information out there, it can be head spinning trying to figure out the “right” way to do it all!  

I’ll tell you right now, you don’t have to do it all to be successful.

After working with many small businesses and “mompraneures” over the years, I have compiled a list of three common pitfalls and will offer strategies on how to emerge feeling confident and inspired to start marketing your business on social media – your way.

Here is a list of 3 mistakes I see often:

  1. Not engaging with your audience.
  2. Not knowing your audience.  
  3. Focusing on the number of followers.

Let’s dive into each mistake and learn how we can turn it around to get solutions that fit into your busy life.

Mistake #1. Not engaging with your audience

People don’t use social networks for a one-way experience. They’re seeking connections — with people and with brands. Eckstein, M. (n.d.). Social Media Engagement: Why it Matters and How to Do it Well [web log].

Keep this mantra from Mike Eckstein of Team Buffer in mind when you think about your business social media accounts.

Organic reach has dropped compared to years past. Research done by Blair Feehan on February 15, 2022, 2021 & 2020 for RivalIQ shows the drop of organic reach in Instagram going from 1.60% in 2020 to 1.22% in 2021 then down to 0.67% in 2022 .* The need to show the algorithm that your content is noteworthy is more important now than ever before. 

It’s like going to a party. Did the host greet you, introduce you to other attendees? Did you have some good conversations and a great time? Or did you walk in and feel a bit awkward introducing yourself while trying to pull conversation from the host or other attendees? Did it feel a bit forced or as if you were being ignored or unwelcome?

This is the same concept when thinking about your page. Followers or potential followers want to feel included when they see your content and engage with you online.

Usually, they will start the engagement but it’s up to you to keep it going.  Engagement includes likes, favourites, comments, shares, retweets, saves, clicks, mentions etc.

Keep people on your content by keeping the engagement going. This could be by conversing via DM or by replying to comments. Never let anything go unanswered. This also tells the algorithm that there is a party on your page and will send more eyes to your content by showing it in more people’s feeds or even the explore page.

Ok, we know its importance but how do we respond to everything! I’ve got so many other things to do!

I hear you. My simple answer is to set a schedule! If you are a parent like me, sometimes it’s hard to be on social media answering questions and responding to DM’s at all times.It’s important to create boundaries around social media and your business. Figure out your schedule for engagement and sign in at those times for engagement tasks only and keep it consistent each day.

For times you’re offline set your autoresponder. This is a great way to let your followers know they aren’t being ignored and also keeps that engagement open for you to respond at a time best for your schedule.

If you have more time to play with, take a peek at your analytics on your platform and see when is the best time to post. If time is short, make a schedule that works for you and be consistent.  Whether it’s seven days a week at 7:00pm or Tuesday and Thursday at 12 noon. Whatever your schedule, stick to it. Tell the algorithm when to expect you online and where the party will be so it can send your content to more people.

Mom with her two children
Photo by Hillshire Farm for Unsplash

Mistake # 2. Not knowing your audience 

Knowing your audience isn’t as simple as it seems. You need to hammer out the details, do your research and keep in mind that even the best plans change over time.

Not sure where to start?  Try this.  Create an audience profile, a made up one. You can give them a name, their demographic like age and income, their struggles, frustrations, interests and opinions. Look in your product reviews (e.g., review mining) and find the pain points in the negatives and the selling features in the positives, have online conversations in places like Facebook groups, reddit threads, DMs, Instagram story polls etc.

When I used to blog about eco-friendly family living pre-pandemic, I created this audience profile:

Name: Motivated Melanie (super clever)

Gender: Female (My content was geared towards mothers)

Age: 30

Income level: mid-range

Location: Ottawa, Canada (local-focused)

Kids: two aged 2 & 4



-Remembering to bring reusables to the store

-Their partner was not on the same page with eco-friendly living

-Where to find eco friendly products useful for busy moms

How they like consume info:

-Instagram stories

-Instagram feed


-Monthly newsletter

Knowing all this, I can cater my content to this “person” and create my content as if I’m speaking to her. It also gave me a starting point and content ideas.

Knowing your target audience in-depth may take some time but I promise with this knowledge you will have an engaged, committed and loyal follower. “Once you uncover the deep, burning pain points of your audience (and the language they use to describe those pain points), you can level up your marketing messages.” Elias, B. (2021, February 14). know your audience is a lie, but it still matters [web log].

Mistake #3. Focusing on the following number

Followers can be absolutely everything or absolutely nothing.” Vaynerchuk, G. (2016). [web log] “Numbers don’t matter, Influence does”.

Gary Vaynerchuk makes a good point. Follower count means nothing if they’re not engaged and invested in your brand or business. As a small business owner promoting or selling products, having 10,000 people see your latest product reel or your facebook post sounds pretty awesome.  It’s always good to get eyes on your brand or content but the goal should be nurturing your followers and building trust, only then will the sales will follow. You need to appeal to your target audience. Find other “Motivational Melanie’s” and reel them in (see what I did there).

When trying to increase your visibility, I beg of you, do not do either of these things:

-Buy followers. These are mostly bots or unused profiles who get deleted by the platforms tanking your engagement and telling the algorhythm your page is not where to be because everyone is leaving.

-Engagement pods or follow trains etc. These follow-for- follow type of situations don’t do much good. They are likely not your target audience and the users involved are only looking to grow their follower number and nothing else. In my opinion, these opportunities are a waste of your time and do more harm than good when looking to grow meaningful connections with your followers.

-Mass giveaways. Follow these 25 other people to get in a draw for a $200 starbucks gift card. Don’t do it. What does winning a starbucks card have to do with your content or product? Is it in alignment with your brand? Are the others involved in a complementing niche? Will the others bring something great to your current audience?

The answer is likely no.

Now, take a breath. That was a lot of information.

We know we need to engage with our followers, know our audience and focus on meaningful connections rather than the follower count.

Use your time wisely, schedule specific times you are available and  build trust with your audience – further engagement and/or sales will follow.  

Are you feeling more at ease with tackling your social media?

What are you most concerned about moving forward and implementing this in your schedule?

Let me know in the comments.

Got questions? Send them my way.

*Note: These numbers were averaged across all industry types

Sarah Douglas

Virtual assistant – Administration & Social Media creation and planning

Social posts:

Are you a small business making any of these social media mistakes? Click the link to see how we can fix it

Attention all small business owners! Click the link to see if you’re making any of these social media mistakes. (Don’t worry I’ll show you how to fix them)

11 thoughts on “Social Media Mistakes That Small Businesses Make (…And How To Fix Them)

  1. Such a great post Sarah! I’m not a small business but because I’m an artist, I have to market myself in a similar way and I get overwhelmed with it sometimes. I feel like it’s so hard to get new eyes on my page or more engagement and it gets discouraging. The numbers move up at a snails pace. Your tips are super helpful. I need to stop focusing on the number of followers and focus on finding who my audience is. And as a “small-time” actor, it’s harder to figure that part out. But once i do that work, I think I’ll be able to create the right kind of content that will get more engagement.

    • Thanks for your comment Maisse. Building your page authentically can feel a bit discouraging because it does move slowly, I can understand as I have been there myself. You won’t regret it once you have nurtured your audience and created a community within your page.
      I am excited to see your journey unfold and see how you implement these tips! Please keep me posted.

  2. You have opened my eyes! I don’t own a small business, but I manage four social media accounts at work, and let me tell you that we focus on the number of followers. I do engage with our followers, but I think I will have to take more time to interact. Thanks for the great tips!

    • It does seem overwhelming at times, there are so many options and only so much time.
      Thank you for reading and I hope it helps you as you start out with your business.

  3. I really like some of the tips you have written about here. It touches on some of the topics I listed as obstacles or wanting to learn about in my intro. So great to find some really good advice within someone else’s first assignment: like setting a consistent social media engagement schedule and sticking to it. You have mentioned some things I had never thought of before: like creating an audience profile to better understand your audience. Your blog makes handling social media sound a lot less complicated than I see it in my head. I will definitely read your next blog!

    • I am so glad you found my blog helpful. I really appreciate you taking the time to read it and I’m so glad that it has made it less complicated for you.

  4. Great tips! I love how you formatted them. It’s very easy to find key information in each section. You did a great job incorporating images into the post in an engaging way. You have a great writing voice, this was very informative! While I don’t run a small business, I am an artist. These tips are definitely helpful for managing project accounts!
    Making enough content to post regularly and at set times is definitely what worries me the most. I have a day job and of course, school, so I often feel like there isn’t enough time in the day to get everything I want done.

    • Thank you for such a kind review. Writing is not my strength so I feel more confident knowing that you like my writing voice.

      You will hear from a lot of people that you need to post every day but that’s not very realistic. Social media does not need to run your life, pick a schedule that you can commit to. 2 posts at the same time each week is better than attempting every day and becoming inconsistent and all over because it’s not consistent. I have social media experience as a creator on Youtube (way back when) and an eco-friendly family living blogger and I have tried very many strategies and consistency is key.

      You’ve got this!

  5. Pingback: To niche down or not to niche down…. That is the question. – Algonquin College Social Media Certificate Program

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