Best Ways to Learn Social Media Marketing for Your Small Business

Do you have a preferred way to learn something new? Does it change depending on the topic?

10 years ago when I was trying to learn social media marketing for small businesses locally, it was pretty much all trial and error. There were not many alternatives out there. Experts in each platform were just baby experts and had barely started their blogs and vlogs. Conferences about social media marketing hadn’t begun yet. And who even knew what a podcast was? A decade ago some of the best education on managing your social media came in the form of printed textbooks!

HOW the world of social media learning has changed in a decade!

In 2006, as soon as it became public, I jumped into this thing called Facebook, not really knowing what to expect. I posted random thoughts and connected with a few people. Then I tried to convince my then employer to start a Facebook Profile (this was before business pages) so we could reach new people. I was unsuccessful.

In 2009 I joined Twitter. I looked around and thought, “This is a waste. I don’t get it.” and didn’t look at it again until I started my business in 2011. By then, the platform had grown in popularity locally and I was able to network with people, learn from experts and have conversations. It was starting to make sense and I was excited by the possibilities. This employer agreed and I started using Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to promote the local charity I was working for.

I found a passion for work again. I loved it. Couldn’t get enough of it.

I devoured books from the library. I found blogs…who knew blogs could be used for business? I had previously only seen blogs for my crafting hobby and couldn’t believe the information that was out there in blogs, so I started subscribing.

In 2010 I learned about social media dashboards by downloading and trialling the two major players. That’s right, there were only two that I knew of–today there are hundreds. I made every mistake in the book while learning how to build relationships, promote the charity I worked for and its events. I remember some really awkward conversations on Twitter as I learned my way around from a business perspective.

Since starting Twirp Communications in 2011 I’ve learned about social media in just about every way possible. I am mainly a physical learner. If I read about something in a book, or online, I have to pull out my computer or phone and try it right then for it to take hold in my brain. I need to take notes at conferences to make an imprint on my mind of what I learned.

The good news is there are still many different ways to learn about social media marketing, and many of them are easily accessible to small business owners. Whether you have a budget or you’re bootstrapping your business, here are some great resources for you in your quest to learn social media marketing for your business.

Trial by Fire Social Media Learning

Honestly, sometimes the best way to learn is to do. Simply do. Jump right in and do it.

This is especially true when a new network comes along, like Clubhouse, Spaces or TikTok. When you’re one of the early adopters YOU get to help figure out what the best practices are. You can’t look stupid on something brand new because NOBODY has it figured out yet. I jumped wholeheartedly into Blab in 2014. While that platform didn’t last long, it did help me build up my confidence for the video-based future of content marketing. So go ahead and be the person that figures out when you’re speaking on Clubhouse you should end by saying “My name is Anita and I’m done speaking”, to let the next person know they can start without interrupting you.

If you’re jumping into a long-established platform, maybe take a little time to look around and assess how people are using it. Do comments go in the description or in the first comment? Do links get included in the graphic or in the description? What phrases are common amongst posts and how can you use them (i.e. Link in Bio)?

And then just jump in. The world is not going to collapse if you make a mistake with the location or number of hashtags you use. Get in there are try it out. Have conversations. Respond to people. Reach out to people.

Build relationships.

Social Media Conferences

I’ve had the pleasure of attending a few social media conferences over the last 10 years. They were so valuable to my business that I even co-founded one of my own. Here are a few conferences to consider attending, in person, or virtually.

Social Media Day Halifax – The one-day conference for the local small business community that I co-founded to showcase the expertise of our local community of freelancers, influencers and consultants.

Social Media Marketing World – I’ve attended four times and learned a lot. I’ve met some amazing social media friends and had a lot of good times.

InBound – The conference I plan to attend in 2022. I had a ticket for 2020 but, you know… pandemonium prevented that. The only reason I’m switching from SMMW to InBound is that Boston is an easier commute for me from Halifax.

Social Media Week Lima – By all accounts, this looks like the most fun you can have at a social media conference and one day I’m going to get there, too.

Traffic & Conversion Summit – I hear this one is really good, but it’s on the west coast again and I haven’t made it out there.

There are a ton of social media conferences now, both online and in-person. Here’s a great list of 35 social media conferences curated by Hey Orca.

Social Media Courses and Workshops

Where to even start with this? Courses about social media are EVERYWHERE. Some are paid, some are free. If you like to attend live and in-person, check with your local Chamber of Commerce, business association or library to see what they might offer. You can also Google “social media training” in your city, just be careful that you’re not clicking on ads from big nationwide companies who aren’t really in your area.

No BS Social Media Blueprint – My own (hey, it’s my blog I’ll promote myself thank you) FREE and live 5-day training series to help you get your social media plan sorted.

Facebook Blueprint – From Facebook, an in-depth course on how to use their platform. There is a certification test available.

Social Media Manager School – Probably the longest-running course out there…and pretty affordable, too. There is a free tier.

You’ll also find courses at Hootsuite, HubSpot and Google that could be valuable for you. And long-time social media marketing experts are always updating and running new courses. Check out Amy Porterfield, Rachel Pedersen, Sunny Lenarduzi to see what they’ve got coming up, or on-demand.

A lot of social media experts have their own paid and free courses, too. You can’t go wrong with courses by Amy Porterfield, Rachel Pedersen and Jasmine Star, to name a trio of my favourites.

Social Media Books

To be honest, I don’t find time to read much anymore, but there are great books out there to help you with the personal branding and strategy side of social media marketing.

Tamsen is a master at developing your story.

The latest book on my virtual shelf, this guide is IDEAL for beginners looking to understand how social media works on different platforms.

I had the pleasure of organizing an event and hosting Scott Stratten on his book tour way back in the early days of my business. Unmarketing will remain one of my favourite marketing books of all time.

Another one that will never go out of style is YOUtility by Jay Baer. If you are struggling with educational, useful marketing, this book is where you need to start.

Blogs to Help you Learn Social Media Marketing

As an avid social media blogger myself of course I’m watching the blogs of other social media experts out there! I already created a list of my favourite Canadian blogs, so I’ll add a few non-Canadian sites here.

Social Media Examiner – Also the hosts/organizers of the Social Media Marketing World Conference.

Jenn’s Trends – Follow Jenn Herman for the real deal on Instagram updates.

Grow by Mark W. Schaefer – A great mix of strategy, stories and case studies.

Podcasts about Social Media Marketing

I still haven’t created a habit of listening to podcasts on a regular basis. I’m more of a pick and choose the episodes that sound interesting kind of listener. Here are a few of my favourite marketing podcasts.

Under the Influence – Ok… this one is not about social media at all…but if you enjoy marketing, history and storytelling, you’re going to love this one. I’m still working my way through the back catalogue…there are a few years there for your listening pleasure.

BeFlawsome: The Good Enough Podcast – This *IS* my blog, so yes, I’m going to share my own podcast. If you need inspiration from other imperfect entrepreneurs who are struggling with their own social media presence, this is the one for you.

Unpodcast – By the author of unmarketing and his partner Alison. Irreverant and informative.

She Means Business – Lisa Larter was one of the first marketing coaches I hired. Enjoy her no-nonsense approach to marketing.

Online Marketing Made Easy – Amy Porterfield’s podcast about all things course creation and digital marketing.

University or College Social Media Courses

The closest thing I had to university-level social media education when I started was my Bachelor of Public Relations from MSVU here in Halifax. At least I had training and experience in communications planning. There was NOTHING available, that I know of, at this level for social media in 2010/11. People still thought social media was going to be a fad! Today you have lots of choices in college-level courses for social media and digital marketing. I have ZERO experience with any of the college-level courses or degrees, so I cannot list any here to recommend, but there are many, many choices now.

My name is Anita and I’m done writing. For now.



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