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Small Business Marketing on Social Media: Incorporating Authenticity with User-Generated Content and Hashtags  

Small Business Marketing on Social Media: Incorporating Authenticity with User-Generated Content and Hashtags  


Unlike large corporations, small businesses can’t afford to hash out millions of dollars to market their services or products. Therefore, small businesses need to invest time and energy into what’s readily available for them – social media. 


The successful explosion of social media and other online platforms has interrupted the old ways of business and introduced a newer, faster way of conducting business. Specifically, social media and online platforms offer a direct path to reach and market to clients and audiences. 


Forget about billboard ads and cheesy commercials. Instead, build your online presence on the various social media accounts available nowadays. The most popular platforms for businesses are Facebook and Instagram (depending on the business, of course). 


Although Facebook and Instagram are both social media platforms, they have different strengths when it comes to social media strategy and business. Their algorithms detect particular pieces of data and attract different audiences, but both are great tools for building an online presence and connecting with users as well as promoting visibility.


The Issue with Authenticity

Keep in mind that although these tools are useful for marketing small businesses, a business owner must understand the audience they’re catering to. Nowadays, consumers are educated and aware of business tactics – their values have changed. They now desire authentic content and branding in this advertisement-rich world. 


According to a survey conducted by Stackla, 90% of consumers claim that authenticity affects their decision whether to follow or support a business. Consumers are tired of advertisement-rich feed/world, they crave a genuine business brand. 


Unfortunately, businesses and consumers struggle with a huge disconnect–  92% of marketers believe their content generates an authentic image to consumers while only 52% of consumers believe that less than half of the content they see from businesses are authentic


While businesses believe they’re producing authentic material, consumers aren’t biting. The problem is that businesses focus too much on the sales aspect of their brand and not other important aspects like connecting with consumers through other means than selling products. 


Authentic Content

Marketers need to treat authenticity as a social media strategy rather than just personality trait. Portraying a personable and genuine brand requires content that allows consumers to engage and connect with a business. 

One way to utilize authenticity as a strategy is User-Generated Content (UGC). It’s exactly what it sounds like – it’s consumer-produced content (videos, text, images) that is posted onto social media or any online platform. UGC is found to be “the most authentic and influential content by consumers” (Stackla). 

For instance, an Amazon consumer behavior report shows that 77% of consumers read product reviews “to some degree” before purchasing and 92% consumers trust product reviews. Consumers do not trust retailers or any businesses. 

Consumers will trust other consumers more than the business itself. The main reason is because they know that other consumers don’t have a hidden agenda to sell them anything. 


Branding and Building your Community 

With UGC and consumer engagement, brands can easily build what’s called a Brand Community, “a specialized….non-geographically bound community based on …social relations among admirers of a brand”. 


A business’s brand is their external, public image and personality. – it informs the consumer the character and intentions the business upholds without directly telling them. Community engagement is more prevalent than ever because of social media. 


Social media platforms provide a non-geographical space for consumers to connect with each other or with businesses. All businesses, whether on social media or not, aims to attract the largest share of attention. 


Along with UGC, consumers are more likely to decide to follow or support a business if their brand is personalized. Personalization is the key to building a close relationship with users. Creating relatable or non-sales-like content allows them to attach to a business which ultimately encourages them to engage (brand attachment). 


Facebook or Instagram…or Both? 

Facebook and Instagram are both great tools to take advantage of for building your online presence. 


Popular with both teenagers and adults, utilizing both would be really wise just to expand your online presence, but they do carry different strengths and reach various demographics. 


Likes and Engagement

According to Dreamgrow, Instagram accrues better engagement from users. A NewsWhip survey compared the amount of likes posts get on Facebook and Instagram. 

There’s a clear difference between Instagram and Facebook likes – Instagram’s highest rating is 283,030 likes for a Victoria Secret post while Facebook gathered 2,078 likes. Instagram’s numbers are in the hundreds of thousands while Facebook likes are in the thousands. 


Links and Information Distribution 

However, Facebook allows for better visibility. When it comes to reaching users or audiences, Facebook takes the cake. Facebook, being a bit older than Instagram, has a much larger user base that includes people from all age ranges. While Instagram is popular with young adults and teenagers, Facebook is popular with both young adults, teens and older adults. 


In addition to that, Facebook is better for distributing information – this is due to the fact that Facebook doesn’t limit the amount of links a user can put on their profile whereas Instagram restricts posts to one link per post and bio.


 Instagram users only have the option of placing one link on a user’s bio and post. If a user would like to place multiple links, it’ll have to be in the form of plain text which the user can’t tap or click on. They would have to manually type links out. 


Young Audiences 

If you want to target a younger market, Instagram’s your best friend. Instagram appeals to a younger audience and carries a much larger younger audience than Facebook does. There’s a much larger need for creativity and trends and whatnot. 


Hashtag Strategy


Hashtags, for Instagram, are used to garner likes and attention to posts by grouping posts within the hashtags. The great thing about Instagram is that their algorithm ranks hashtags by popularity. For instance, a user can search the tag “poet” and these are the results: 

Instagram lists the amount of posts within that tag as well as just giving you options. The more popular the tag is, the more visibility a post will get.

A user can also follow tags. 

Following a tag means that Instagram will incorporate posts linked to that hashtag and feed it into the user’s feed, meaning they’ll see all the posts that are entered in underneath that hashtag. 



Facebook is different – Facebook doesn’t use hashtags to garner likes or attention so it’s more difficult to utilize hashtags strategically to attract attention. Facebook posts perform exceptionally WITHOUT hashtags too, but it doesn’t hurt to include hashtags on your Facebook page.

Facebook doesn’t use hashtags to collect data either, so a user must manually search a hashtag to see relevant posts. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t use them – Facebook has yet to update their hashtag guidelines (since 2016) which has left users scrambling as to what hashtags contribute in terms of its function. 

Hashtags will make your post searchable though. For Facebook hashtags, it’s up to you! 

Hashtag Tracking

Keeping track of your hashtags will assist businesses in seeing how hashtags helps in user engagement and user outreach. It’s especially important if you’re just starting out on social media platforms – tracking engagement and hashtags will give you a good idea as to where you stand.  Here’s a list of free hashtag tracking tools:

  1. Talkwalker
  2. Social Searcher
  3. All Hashtag
  4. Ritetag
  5. Keyhole
  6. Pixlee’s Free Instagram Analytics 


Building your business starts with building your brand community and creating authentic content that your users would like to see.

Small businesses have the advantage of creating an authentic online presence with social media. Because they’re small, it’s easier to create an authentic image compared to larger corporations. Facebook and Instagram have their strengths – use it. Hashtags may be a small aspect of social media, but they are powerful if used strategically.

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