How to Craft an Authentic Social Media Presence That Benefits Your Brand

A woman organizes candles in a stylized TikTok Reel next to the text, social media marketing tips for small businesses

“Videos don’t have to go viral for you to do well,” says Ramona Gohil, founder of jewelry brand Rani & Co

To perform well on social media, many use virality as the bar for success. But truthfully, the pieces of content that go viral for a brand don’t necessarily equal big sales. 

As a small business, prioritizing authenticity over virality by posting content that you genuinely find interesting has a better chance of engaging existing and potential customers.

We went directly to entrepreneurs and social media experts and asked how smaller brands can make a dent in a social media landscape that’s always teeming with content. 

Meet the experts

Headshots of experts Ramona Gohil, Andre Smith, and Rachel Karten

1. Choose the platforms that fit your audience

Just as every business’s target audience is going to be unique, each social media platform has a different personality. You don’t have to show up consistently everywhere—in fact, doing so would stretch your brand too thin. 

While TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn, and Pinterest are all social media channels you can be active on as a business, Rachel Karten says that Instagram and TikTok are the priority platforms she’d recommend that businesses invest in right now. 

“If you have a younger audience, TikTok is a great place to be. Instagram is still a really important place that almost acts as a website for your brand. A lot of people will go to an Instagram account before they even go to a website. Think about what your goals are, who your audience is, and where you want to be,” Rachel says, noting that older demographics are best reached on Facebook, and Pinterest is still extremely relevant. 

2. Decide what kind of social media presence fits your brand 

Aside from selecting the actual platforms where you’ll be active as a brand, what kind of content will you create? For example: 

  • If you sell food products, will you cook with them on reels to show how to use them in the kitchen?
  • If you sell jewelry, will you create reels where you demonstrate how pieces move or sparkle in different types of light?
  • If you sell thrifted or vintage items, will you build hype with weekly drops?

If you’re having trouble getting inspired, Rachel recommends looking at accounts from other industries or even logging off to do creative research. “I get a lot of inspiration from looking at old advertisements or old campaigns or going on a hike and just getting out in the world and getting off of social media,” she says. 

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Omsom, a shop that sells flavorful packs of seasoning sauces that help home cooks to create restaurant-quality Asian dishes in under 20 minutes, has found tremendous success on TikTok and Instagram

The brand posts reels that demonstrate how to cook with its meal starters, and uses its own branding design as a through-line. Followers can enjoy the making of mouthwatering dishes like a lemongrass chicken bánh mì or spicy mushroom fried rice. Or they can chuckle at relatable Reels like “When you’re mad but they ask you if you want to eat” or “POV: The friend who can’t cook is talking about what’s ‘missing’ from a dish.” 

You don’t have to set in stone the types of content you’ll put out on each channel, but identifying the different buckets can be helpful as you set up a cadence for yourself. 

One way to do this is by assigning roles to the different social media platforms that you use. Maybe on TikTok you share recipe reels, Instagram is for photos of the finished meal, and Twitter marketing is for real-time business updates. That’s what clothing shop TrashQueen does: its creative content lives on channels like Instagram and TikTok, but its business-oriented news stays on Twitter.

After many years of scrolling through expertly curated posts on Instagram, TikTok unleashed a thirst for authenticity—from followers and creators alike.

As you develop what you’ll share, consider whether you’re putting out content that you’d like or share yourself. For Rachel, the posts where the answer to that question is “yes” always outperform everything else. 

“Shareability, more than ever on social media, is so important,” she says. “Whether it’s leaning into humor or useful reels that are recipes or just something that has added value that makes somebody say, ‘I’m going to add this to my story, I’m going to send this to a friend.’ Those types of cues from an algorithm perspective are so important right now.” 

3. Be authentic to who or what your brand stands for 

“We’re currently in a very personality-driven social media era, where people like following creators, they like TikTok, and like seeing people’s faces,” says Rachel.

After many years of scrolling through expertly curated posts on Instagram, TikTok unleashed a thirst for authenticity—from followers and creators alike.

“On Instagram I always feel like I have to look good and have to wear makeup, but I can literally just look like this on TikTok, no makeup on, my hair just tied up, and people just don’t judge you because it’s such an authentic platform,” says Ramona. 

Andre’s social media following grew rapidly on TikTok because he shared a collection of educational content for others starting brands, kept up with current trends, and wasn’t afraid to share his struggles along the way.

“I told my story of who I am, where I came from, and then also put in the brand story. Those three things combined made it into this big TikTok page that you see now,” he says. 

Megan Mensink, founder of curated jewelry brand Folklor, consistently shows up as her authentic self on Instagram Stories. “I’m sharing behind the scenes. I’m sharing what it’s like to be an entrepreneur. I’m sharing what’s coming up. I was always very transparent with my community and it was always a really safe space, so people could feel like they’re not alone,” Megan says.  

A Folklor Instagram Story showing Megan with a plant in front of her face and the text, Megan why are you repeating yourself we get it
Megan Mensink, Folklor founder, shows up authentically on Instagram Stories to help others feel less alone. Folklor via Instagram 

The best part of this trend is that you don’t need a social media team or fancy equipment to get in on it. You just have to show up and be yourself. “Lean into your brand and your storytelling and your personality. Find yourself on the platforms by just participating,” Rachel says. 

4. Go live

When it comes to authenticity, it’s hard to top the real-time vulnerability that comes with going live on social media. For example, on TikTok right now, people want to see you pack their order live because it makes them feel more connected to both you and your brand. 

TikTok and Instagram are powerful tools for addressing doubts or concerns from customers. You can sit with your followers and answer any questions they have about your products.

“One of the biggest things I like to do is go on TikTok live. Everyone who follows you can come in and ask you questions. They can learn more about you,” Andre says. 

Andre also recommends hosting a QVC-style live show on TikTok. He puts his current collection of loungewear behind him and sells sweatshirts and sweatpants to an engaged audience. “It’s a great way to have a whole bunch of people come in, tell people about the products, what they do, why they’re going to love it, and what they can do with it,” he says. “And then while you’re on live promoting the product, people order in the background, and then you can pack those orders on live as well.” 

@loungefitbrand How to sell out your brand #smallbusiness #BetterTogetherChallenge #clothingbrand #entrepreneur #manifestation #fashion ♬ Still Into You Drill - ShoBeatz

5. Poll your audience to see what they want to see more of 

Ask your audience questions about the kinds of content they’d like to see, new products they want, or what questions they have for you. Instagram and TikTok have polling features, and on Twitter and Facebook you can ask for comments in threads. 

@loungefitbrand

I need some YouTube help! ASAP

♬ original sound - loungefit - Premium Loungewear

Ramona asked her audience what she should do with a few jewelry pieces with defects, and followers commented back asking for a sample sale. “You can learn some good stuff from your followers,” Ramona said.

6. Share customer stories and what your products mean to them

“On Shopify, there is an option where people can add a note to their order, and people were actually starting to write notes on why they bought their jewelry,” says Ramona. 

“It was a sentimental thing for them, so they would write notes, such as ‘I’ve just gone through a breakup,’ or ‘I’m having IVF treatments,’ or ‘This is for my mom.’ And they were really, really nice, powerful stories so I started sharing them on TikTok, and that really grew my platform.”

While she doesn’t share names, wanting to keep customers’ information private, Ramona will pack orders with a voiceover of why the customer purchased the item. “It’s really helped tell my brand story, and since then we’ve had so many people sharing their story, which is absolutely amazing.” 

If you have customers writing in telling you why they purchased your product, what it means to them, or how useful they find it, those stories go a long way toward building trust with your community. 

@raniandco Do you need energies from these? #crystalhealing #crystals #gemstonejewellery #jewellery #jewellerytok #moonstone #labradorite #anxiety ♬ Just a Cloud Away - Pharrell Williams

7. Cross-post between platforms

Cross-posting content between platforms can help you save time, and it can also help you generate more sales. For example, Ramona posts high-performing TikTok videos to Instagram, which serves two purposes: to keep that channel active and engaging, and to make more sales. 

Because each platform is different, a post that performs poorly on one might drive sales on another. For example, a video that Ramona posted about Bridgerton generated more sales on Instagram than it did on TikTok, because it’s just a different audience. “It's not always easy to tell, but you just have to keep putting content out there and see what works for you,” she says.

Sometimes, one social media platform can help you grow a following on another. That was the case for Ramona, who used Instagram to promote her jewelry brand in the days before TikTok launched. TikTok has been a major source of Rani & Co’s growth since the brand created an account at the end of 2020, and the account helped increase the brand’s Instagram followers by 15,000. 

@raniandco How many times 🤯?! @raniandco #jewellery #jewellerylover #jewellerybusiness #jewellerytok #gloriasteinem #labradorite #gemstonejewellery #womenownedbusiness ♬ Just a Cloud Away - Pharrell Williams

8. Batch posts to save time

Especially if you run your business yourself, running all aspects of it plus showing up every day on various social media channels can be draining, overwhelming, and sometimes just not possible. 

For entrepreneurs, Rachel recommends batching your content to take some of the stress and pressure away. Choose a day where you’re going to film all of your reels or shoot all of your photos, and then either publish them over the next week or two, or use a scheduling tool like Buffer or Sprout Social to do it for you. 

A person takes a photo of plated food on an iphone
Unsplash

9. Use social platforms as sales channels

There’s a big benefit to building an engaged community on social media, because ultimately you can use it to make sales. When he first started loungefit., Andre saw 80% of his sales come in through TikTok. 

“TikTok is the main driving force when it comes to making sales for the brand,” he says. “And it’s just so easy to go viral on there. You might make 10 videos and they’ll all do badly, but on the 11th, it’ll just pop off. And next thing you know, a bunch of sales come in. But it doesn’t mean that every time you go viral, you get sales. My lower-ranking videos, the videos with 5,000 views or 10,000 views, get more sales than a video that has 400,000 views.” 

Aside from using trial and error to figure out the types of content that generates the most sales for you, there are a couple of things that can help you turn social media into a sales channel. 

A shoppable Instagram post from loungefit. that links to the comfort collection
loungefit.
  • Chat with customers via direct messages. Tools like Shopify Inbox can help you engage with customers and answer their questions via live chat. 
  • Link products on Instagram posts. Shoppable Instagram posts make it easy for customers to check out a product they like and purchase it without ever leaving the app.
  • Set up TikTok shopping. Make it easy for shoppers to toggle between your feed and shoppable items. This feature is currently exclusive to Shopify stores. 
  • Run post-purchase surveys. Ask customers how they found out about your shop so you can double down on the channels that perform best.
  • Share social proof. Did you get a rave review from a customer? Share it on your social channels for prospective shoppers to see.  
  • Showcase user-generated content. Similarly, if you get tagged or sent photos of customers using your products, let your followers see that, too. 

        Keep experimenting with different types of content 

        The social media landscape is perpetually changing. Chances are, if you create a piece of content that you feel is interesting and engaging, your followers will like it too. 

        Social media poses a great opportunity to get to know your customers on a more personal level. If you have the time, getting to know them and understanding their needs can help you create better content—and products—overall.



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