5 Social Media Best Practices Every Marketer Must Follow

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There isn’t a definitive guidebook to social media best practices because social changes everyday. In this turbulent landscape, you must be vigilant to spot algorithm updates, new consumer behavior trends and foundational changes to social best practices.

As the social expert at your company, your leaders look to you as the authority. You must be well-versed in best practices for social media. To help you get ahead with your social media marketing and maximize your social channels this year, we’ve compiled a list of 23 social media best practices for 2023.

  1. Aspire for authenticity
  2. Research your ideal customer
  3. Use your community’s favorite networks
  4. Keep your audience at the forefront
  5. Post at the right time
  6. Post regularly
  7. Reduce your response time
  8. Up-level your customer care
  9. Go for engagement
  10. Take video seriously
  11. Highlight your product in action
  12. Showcase real testimonials and demos
  13. Infuse your content with personality
  14. Take a stand
  15. Partner with creators
  16. Tap into employees
  17. Experiment with emerging tech
  18. Test new platforms
  19. Iron out your approval process
  20. Optimize for social commerce
  21. Prove the value of social
  22. Bring social data to your entire business
  23. Invest in social

1. Aspire for authenticity

In the words of Jenny Li Fowler, Director of Social Media Strategy at MIT, “Today’s consumers seek authenticity, and a super polished or overly stylized piece of content isn’t it.”

A screenshot of a LinkedIn post from a Glossier x Sprout webinar attendee. The post is about the trend of using user-generated content and authentic posts rather than overly polished images.

In the last few years, we’ve seen the decline of aspirational, aesthetic-driven posts as scrappy, lo-fi content rose to the top. People prefer content that bears it all—the good, the bad and the downright messy. The emergence of BeReal in 2022 illustrated the appeal of genuine, unfiltered content—especially for younger audiences.

Apply it: Audit your approach to brand authenticity by asking yourself these questions:

  • Does our brand deliver what we promise on social?
  • Is our content true to the values we claim to uphold?
  • Are we serving the needs of our customers/community?

2. Research your ideal customer

Leveraging social media isn’t just about reaching people—it’s about reaching the right people.

Learning about your ideal customer is vital to defining and reaching your target audience. Start by digging into the people who currently follow you on social and engage with your content. Who are they? What are their shared characteristics? Consider traits like age, location, language and hobbies.

Compare those findings with how your product marketing team defines your company’s ideal customer. Do your followers currently fit within that description?

Apply it: Analyze your followers and online community. Determine how well they align with your business interests, and uncover gaps your social strategy can help fill.

Once you zero in on who you’re trying to reach, focus on building your presence on the channels they use. Turn to social media demographic data to figure out which networks matter most to your community. Scope out their daily social usage to weave together their digital buyer’s journey.

Remember to keep an eye out for emerging platforms they could start using, and stay up to date on the latest usage trends.

A data chart that reads the top platforms consumers and brands anticipate using most in the next 12 months. Consumers are most likely to use Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

Apply it: When choosing platforms to prioritize, invest the most time and resources into social networks popular with your audience and review the best practices for each.

4. Keep your audience at the forefront

Out: Making yourself the hero of your brand story. In: Using your content to build emotional connections.

Rather than making your company’s products the star of the show, ground your strategy in the pain points you can help your audience overcome. On social, your target audience tells you exactly what those pain points are. Take note of their thoughts, feelings, opinions and experiences related to your brand, products, industry and competitors. Listen to them first, develop your story second.

Apply it: The best storytellers are actually engaged listeners. Use social listening (and a tool like Sprout Social) to track conversations your audience has online. Extract insights that help you empathize with their challenges and provide meaningful solutions.

A screenshot of the Conversation Overview in Sprout Social. The image demonstrates the metrics of select keywords and hashtags.

5. Post at the right time

Finding the best time to publish is the low hanging fruit of social media best practices. After doing the hard work of crafting your content and getting it approved, optimizing your publishing time is an easy way to achieve more engagement.

Apply it: Consult Sprout’s guide to the best times to post, or try pinpointing the best times for your brand to post based on channel and industry.

6. Post regularly

Consistency is key. According to 300 marketers we recently surveyed, 81% said maintaining a regular posting cadence on social positively impacts their business goals.

A data chart that reads 81% of marketers agree a regular social media posting cadence impacts business goals

But it’s imperative to strike the right balance between reaching and overwhelming your audience. For example, The Sprout Social Index™ 2022 revealed 74% of consumers think the publishing sweet spot for brands is one to two posts per day.

Keep in mind that number is based on what consumers actually see in their newsfeeds. Since every platform has a different algorithm, brands should post more often to make sure their customers see their posts.

Apply it: Most brands should post 11 times per day across platforms in order to reach their entire audience across multiple channels. Check out our article on how often to post on social media for a breakdown of each social network’s posting best practices.

7. Reduce your response time

Our data demonstrates that more than three-quarters of consumers expect responses from brands in less than 24 hours. Marketers report their organizations maintain a response time of two hours or less. But that might not be the full story.

When Sprout analyzed more than 457 million messages across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram ahead of the 2022 holiday season, we discovered brand response rates steadily declined from 2020 to 2022. Brands need to speed up their response time to provide best-in-class customer service.

Apply it: Make sure your team has the tools they need to shorten your brand’s response times. Here are a few actionable ways you can start today:

  1. Audit your current response time average. Pro tip: Use a report like Sprout’s Inbox Activity Report to quickly calculate your performance.
  2. Use tools like customer service chatbots to make sure you have chat coverage 24/7.
  3. Simplify your process to eliminate customer friction. Establish a clear line of responsibility for complex customer needs.

8. Up-level your customer care

In today’s competitive landscape, it should come as no surprise that top brands consider strong customer care practices non-negotiable.

On social, consumers can compare brands’ support practices in just a few minutes and taking too long to respond has consequences. Our recent data reveals that when this happens, 36% of consumers will share that negative experience with friends and family. A comparable 31% won’t complete their purchase, while 30% will buy from a competitor instead.

Apply it: Be ready to engage with customers on social. Take your strategy to the next level by creating separate handles for customer care and using sophisticated social customer service tools. A tool like Sprout Social will give you a 360-degree view of your brand’s interactions with your customers—integrating the worlds of social media and customer service.

9. Go for engagement

Focus on creating the most engaging types of in-feed social content to build your presence. According to Index data, 66% of consumers cite short-form video as the most engaging content type, up from 50% in 2020. Images and live video are the second and third most popular content types.

A data chart that reads the most engaging types of in-feed social content. It demonstrates that short-form video, images and live video are the most popular.

Apply it: Fuel a successful video marketing strategy by planning for the time and resources you need for consistent video production. Maximize your investment by repurposing your videos into other engaging content types like images, GIFs/memes and text-based posts.

10. Take video seriously

As short-form video skyrocketed in popularity in 2022, many brands started to dip their toe in the format. Social media managers were tasked with creating videos on the side to complement their other social efforts.

In 2023, video production will require full-time effort to keep up with consumers’ increased appetite. Lean into this shift by growing your team, combining internal resources and/or outsourcing some of your video production needs.

Apply it: Create a solid video plan to help you secure budget and buy-in. Here’s a list of social media video content ideas to help you get started.

11. Highlight your product in action

According to The Sprout Social Index™, 51% of consumers like to see brands highlighting their product or service in their social posts. But remember, your product or service shouldn’t be the hero of your posts. Instead, demonstrate how your product/service empowers your target customers to overcome their challenges.

Apply it: With your customers’ use cases in mind, show your product or service in action.

12. Showcase real testimonials and demos

Word-of-mouth marketing isn’t going away—it’s just getting a makeover. Our data reveals 39% of consumers like to see brand social content that features real customer testimonials and product demonstrations.

Apply it: Rather than catchy slogans and marketing spin, focus on providing your audience with authentic content from real customers they can relate to. Customer testimonials and user-generated content are some of the most powerful ways of doing so.

13. Infuse your content with personality

Throughout this list of social media best practices, you will notice a common theme: Consumers prefer to follow and buy from brands that seem authentic. According to The Sprout Social Index™, 34% of consumers like to see posts highlighting their brand’s personality.

When you humanize your content, you build emotional connections with your followers. A recent Sprout survey of 300 marketers found that 77% of consumers are more likely to increase their spending with brands they feel connected to, up from 57% in 2018.

A data visualization that reads 77% of consumers are more likely to increase their spending with brands they feel connected to.

Apply it: Ditch robotic or overly polished content/messaging in favor of a relatable, personable communication style.

14. Take a stand

Take a stand on sensitive issues that align with your values and make sense for your brand. Our index report uncovered that 71% of consumers think it’s important for brands to take a stand on sensitive issues, and 74% think company alignment with personal values is more important than it was in 2021.

Keep in mind only posting on social isn’t enough. Your brand activism should impact your entire business. It’s imperative to do the work to support the causes you speak out about.

A screenshot of Patagonia's Twitter bio that reads we're in business to save our home planet.

Apply it: Use social to demonstrate brand activism practices at your company. For inspiration, read this list of seven examples of corporate social responsibility.

15. Partner with creators

As the creator economy matures in 2023, the opportunity for brands will continue to grow.

Of the 300 marketers we recently surveyed, 79% plan to spend half of their total social budget on content creators. Why? Successful creators inspire communities and bring people together around shared interests, hobbies and identities. Creator partnerships are a prime way to generate engagement and reach new audiences.

A data chart that reads marketers' primary goals when working with creators. The top reasons are engagement, new audiences and stronger communities on social.

Apply it: If you aren’t already, start finding creators to work with and building your creator partnership strategy.

16. Tap into employees

Some of your most influential brand advocates are the people behind your brand: your employees. Leaning into employee advocacy as a part of your social media strategy is one of the most effective ways to amplify your content, humanize your brand and engage your audience.

In our recent survey, 87% of Millennials shared they feel more connected to brands when they see employees sharing information about them online and 81% think it’s important for employees to post about their company, up from 72% in 2022.

Apply it: Launch your own employee advocacy program and curate a pipeline of content to ensure long-term success.

Bonus: The same survey found that both marketers (81%) and consumers (66%) agree: Brands posting about their employees positively impacts customers’ view of their company. Create your own “meet the team” series to showcase your employees and drive brand affinity.

17. Experiment with emerging tech

Early adopters are already making their mark in the metaverse. According to The Sprout Social Index™, more than two-thirds (67%) of marketers anticipated investing at least a quarter of their budget into metaverse and augmented/virtual reality tactics in 2022. We suspect that number will increase in 2023 as the metaverse goes more mainstream.

A data chart that reads percentage of budgets marketers anticipate spending on metaverse, AR and VR social strategy in the next two years.

The metaverse is also paving the way for other emerging technologies like artificial intelligence to capture consumer attention this year.

Apply it: Now’s the time to start researching how to join the metaverse and experiment with emerging technologies. Look to top brands for inspiration to help you get started, and consistently test new approaches with your audience.

18. Test new platforms

The platforms that have been the bread and butter of your social mix so far won’t necessarily be the same platforms that carry you into the future. In 2022, we saw the unprecedented rise of the likes of Tumblr and Discord. Tumblr had a 96% adoption surge between October 27 and November 17, 2022, and Discord is the latest network marketers are turning to in their effort to build long-term communities.

With all of this talk of emerging (and re-emerging) platforms, you might be wondering what that means for your brand’s future.

Apply it: Like we explain in best practice #3, your focus should always be on joining networks your audience is likely to use. Don’t jump on a platform just because the cool brands are doing it. If you do decide to join, test and learn before going all-in.

19. Iron out your approval process

Trend cycles seem to move at the speed of light. Which means your approval process must keep up.

A screenshot of a LinkedIn meme that reads Little Miss missing fun social trends because of slow content approvals. The meme image is blank, and the caption reads sometimes little misses can be big misses on social.

If you’re feeling bogged down by a slow approval process, take the initiative to create an optimized workflow for your team and cross-collaborators. Build a seamless social media approval process all drafters and approvers can agree to. It could be the difference between going viral and getting left behind.

Apply it: For best results, use a social collaboration tool like Sprout Social to formalize your approval process. Sprout’s Approval Workflow also lets you add and remove external stakeholders so they can review social posts before they’re published without needing to log in to Sprout.

A screenshot of Sprout's compose tool that displays the publishing workflow

20. Optimize for social commerce

By 2025, social shopping is set to become a $1.2 trillion channel. In 2022 alone, 98% of consumers planned on making at least one purchase on social media.

Even as some networks change their approach to commerce, others are doubling down. Have a point of view on where your customers want to buy, and optimize your social commerce tools on platforms where they are ready to go all in.

A streamlined in-platform shopping experience is key. About 38% of consumers agreed it is important to have fewer steps in the social commerce checkout process. Barriers like a complicated path to purchase will deter shoppers from buying.

Apply it: Start enhancing your omnichannel customer experience with all-in-one social commerce tools today. In Sprout Social, you can use our social commerce solutions to integrate your social and commerce workflows.

21. Prove the value of social

To secure the resources and buy-in you need to build a sophisticated social presence, you need to measure the value social brings to every part of your company—from consumer research to customer service.

Translate metrics like impressions, engagements, conversions and clicks into executive-ready reports that highlight how social impacts company goals.

Apply it: Quantify the value of your social media efforts by calculating ROI. Determine website traffic, brand awareness, engagement, lead generation and customer retention gains attributed to social. Convert the raw data into big-picture takeaways that will resonate with the C-suite.

22. Bring social data to your entire business

More departments understand the value social media brings to the table. The Sprout Social Index™ found that 53% of customer service teams, 48% of corporate communications teams and 43% of product teams all contribute to their company’s social strategy and use social findings to influence their direction.

Create reports for collaborators outside of the social team to keep them up to date on your brand’s social performance. Illuminate how social insights can help their teams improve their output and achieve their goals.

A data chart that reads teams that contribute to their organization's social strategy. The top teams were customer service, corporate comms and product.

Apply it: To showcase your expertise and the contribution social makes to company-wide objectives, create/update regular reports and share them across your organization. Here are 10 social media report examples to give you a head start.

23. Invest in social

According to Sprout’s CMO Jamie Gilpin, the future of marketing starts with social, and companies who endow their teams now will receive long-term gains. She said, “Overwhelmingly, 91% of executives report that over the next few years, their company’s social media marketing budget will increase. And I truly believe that those investments will pay off.”

Apply it: To help your company leaders see social differently, bridge the gap between social and the rest of your organization. Break down silos and misconceptions for improved visibility, increased collaboration and greater business results. Make a case for more resources and lobby for additional team members.

Find your own best practices this year

Social media is always shifting. Platform shake-ups and new frontiers push social managers to learn new skills, experiment with emerging technologies and refine their approach on a regular basis.

But you can ground your 2023 strategy in social media best practices that will help you weather all the uncertainty. Bookmark this list so you can revisit it when you need help optimizing your social efforts.

To unlock the full potential of social and transform every area of your organization, begin your free Sprout trial today.

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