Social media advertising  methods for small businesses

Advertising on social media can help you find new ways to reach customers. But with its platform choice, it could be challenging to decide which to use to make the most of your marketing budget.

This guide discusses social media advertising methods for small businesses, which include:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • TikTok

Social media advertising methods for small businesses:


Top demographic age group: 25-34 in the UK.

Minimum ad spend: £1 a day.

Pros of Facebook advertising

Cons of Facebook advertising

  • Trust — The platform has had frequent scandals over its privacy and handling of user data.
  • Decline — For the first time since it launched, the company is losing users, which could continue.

What works best

Facebook offers some advice on what advertising works best on their platform. Some of these tips include:

  • Use less text — the platform says it will lower your cost per click (the amount you need to spend for each customer to engage).
  • Add people — images with people in are more likely to get customers to click on it.
  • Change it up — variation in advertising images increase your ad quality score by 26% (which the platform uses in its algorithm).

Example: Slack ‘Make Work Better’.

For information on Facebook advertising, see: How to market a small business on Facebook.


Top demographic age group: 25-34 in the UK.

Minimum ad spend: £1 a day.

Pros of Instagram advertising

  • High engagement — the platform has ten times more engagement than Facebook (more users liking an ad, for example).
  • More likely to buy — over 1/3 of users buy things through their phone, 70% more than non-users.

Cons of Instagram advertising

  • Less organic — recently normal posts are less likely to reach people, so paid ads are more competitive.
  • Limited text — the visual platform allows for 2,200 characters on a post but only 125 will be shown in a feed (unless the user wants to see more).

What works best

Instagram provide you with tips to be successful on its platform, these include:

  • Batch content — the platform suggests that you create ads in batches so you can routinely post them (consistency is crucial to build recognition).
  • Community — encourage users to use a hashtag you create or tag you, then repost their content.
  • Share worthy — create statement content that users can share to their stories (inspirational quotes, for example).

Example: Daily Harvest ‘We Got You’.

For information on Instagram advertising, see: How to start a small business on Instagram.


Top demographic age group: 25-34 worldwide.

Minimum ad spend: No minimum, so £0.01.

Pros of Twitter advertising

  • Word targeting — the platform lets you target users who mention or search for terms related to your advertising.
  • Schedule — it allows you to schedule tweets to post so your account is still active while you aren’t working.

Cons of Twitter advertising

  • Pace of change — the platform relies on conversations which move quickly, it can be a struggle to keep up.
  • Most limited text — each post must be under 280 characters and if you want to include a link it goes toward the count.

What works best

Twitter suggests a few ways to make your ads more popular:

  • Concise — use a few words with a strong message.
  • Hashtag — only use 1-2 hashtags per tweet.
  • Tone — be conversational in the tone you write your caption and possibly add emojis when relevant.

Example: Verge Transportation ‘Fastest Cat’.

For information on Twitter advertising, see: How to use Twitter for small business marketing.


Top demographic age group: 25-34 in the UK.

Minimum ad spend: $10 (£7.35) a day.

Pros of LinkedIn advertising

  • B2B (business to business) — it’s great if you want to advertise to other companies.
  • Target by jobs — the platform let’s you market toward people in specific industries or roles.

Cons of LinkedIn advertising

  • Expensive — higher cost than Facebook for example.
  • Not for products — if you sell items then it’s unlikely to be popular on the platform which caters to professionals and services.

What works best

LinkedIn prepare you with some guidance when it comes to ads on their platform:

  • Keep it short — headlines with less than 150 characters and descriptions with less than 70, see more engagement.
  • Big images — if you add larger images to your ads (1200 x 627 is what LinkedIn recommends), you will benefit from 38% more clicks.
  • Clear CTA (call to action) — give users something to do after they see your ad, like follow you for example.

Example: HelloFresh ‘Holiday Box’.

For information on LinkedIn advertising, see: How to improve your LinkedIn business page.


Top demographic age group: 15-25 in the UK

Minimum spend: £50 a day.

TikTok is a social media platform dedicated to short videos. In 2020 there were 9.8 million UK users. It will be 16.8 million by 2024.

The high growth is down to its simple video editing tools, which mean it’s flooded with engaging content that anyone can create—an excellent opportunity for your business.

Pros of TikTok advertising

  • Automatic play — your ads are shown on the platform in-between other clips.
  • Creative — the platform encourages you to create fun content on a low budget (ideal for a small business).

Cons of TikTok advertising

  • Expensive — a ‘brand takeover’, which is the first thing a user sees when they open the app, is £32,700 a day.
  • Censorship — the platform censors content mistakenly so that could lead to a paid advert taken down without explanation.

What works best

TikTok have advice specifically for small businesses:

  • Organic first — post normal clips, then turn ones which perform best into promoted ads later.
  • Creators — find an experienced content creator in the TikTok Creator Marketplace, they will produce ads for you.
  • Holidays — users are more likely to want to buy something near a holiday (Valentine’s Day, for example).

TikTok Shop Example: Sports Direct X Puma

For information on TikTok advertising, see: How to use TikTok for your small business.

Manage the costs of advertising on social media with Countingup

With different audiences to reach on the various social platforms, you may decide to use more than one to advertise on. That’ll help you reach more people and keep your business relevant.

To manage social media advertising, it’s essential to set yourself budgets. Countingup is a business account with built-in accounting software that can sort your spending automatically with its expense categorisation feature.

Get started for free.