For building awareness and sharing your message, nothing beats social media marketing. It’s a powerful way to connect with your audience, expand your network, and keep your brand top of mind.
But social media is constantly evolving. New platforms emerge, algorithms change, and user behavior shifts. If you’re not keeping up, you’re falling behind.
Keep reading for 28 proven social media best practices to follow now. Whether you use multiple social media platforms or just one, they’ll help you get the most from your social media efforts.
Social Media Best Practices: a Moving Target
Social media best practices are a bit like guardrails. They keep you focused on the right things, so you get better results with less effort. That’s the goal of this article: to help you develop a social media marketing strategy that actually works.
But you’ve got to remember, best practices can change quickly. Every time a platform updates its algorithm, you need to adapt what you’re doing to continue to get results.
Bottom line, you’ve got to stay up-to-date. What works today may not work next year.
That being the case, it’s important to understand the principles behind best practices. Because they’re based on higher level marketing best practices, relationship science, and good manners, they’ll give you good result even when algorithms change.
Now, let’s dive into some best practices for social media, organized by the principle they support.
Principle 1: Start with Your Social Media Strategy
The only way to avoid random acts of marketing is to have a clear, cohesive strategy that guides marketing motion. Social media marketing is no different. You need a social strategy that guides every decision.
1. Define your social media goals and objectives
You can’t hit a target if you don’t know where it is. By clearly defining your goals and objectives for social media, you create clarity and purpose for everything you do.
Goals give you direction, ensuring all your activities are aligned with your business objectives. They help you prioritize activities and allocate your resources more strategically. They also help you identify the key performance indicators (KPIs) that matter most for your program.
Note: If you’re unsure about what your goals should be, do a social media audit to gain insight on what’s working and what’s not. Rather than trying to fix everything at once, set priorities and focus on improving one metric at a time.
2. Choose the right social channels for your goals and audience
Every social media platform attracts different types of people and has its own “vibe.” Once your goals are in place, you need to select the social channels that will help you achieve them.
You don’t need to be present on every social network — just the ones that are a good fit for your brand and the types of people you serve. After all, why build brand awareness on a platform that doesn’t attract your ideal customers?
This choice is one of your first steps in developing a social content strategy. Since every platform has its own algorithm, content requirements, and preferred posting frequency, your choice determines the types of social posts you’ll create.
A few things to keep in mind:
- You’ll likely need unique strategies for each social platform you choose.
- Some platforms are better optimized for engagement than others. LinkedIn and Facebook, for example, encourage commenting and direct messaging. TikTok is more about entertaining your audience than networking.
- Every platform is best suited for a unique type of content. TikTok and YouTube are all about videos. Twitter is designed for short text posts. You need to know what works on your chosen platforms.
- The algorithm on each platform rewards different behaviors. TikTok and Twitter want you to post at least once a day. Others are more forgiving about your posting schedule, as long as you engage with your followers and connections.
- To easily expand your reach, look for “partner platforms,” sites that work well together because they’re optimized for the same types of content. For example, TikTok and Instagram are natural partners, as are LinkedIn and Facebook.
Principle 2: Actively Manage Your Social Media
Successful social media isn’t about luck. It’s about being present, strategic, and… well… social. Here are the best practices to keep in mind.
3. Create a social media calendar
I’ve been doing content marketing for decades — long before content marketing became a byword. And the number-one thing I’ve learned is how important it is to have an editorial calendar to keep you on track.
Your social media calendar gives you a high-level view of your content. It’s where you’ll plan your posts, identify topics and trends that work for you, and track metrics. You don’t need a social calendar template, by the way. You can use a spreadsheet or your project management tool of choice — or both!
Here’s how we use Asana to plan our posts:
And here’s how I use a spreadsheet to plan new social media posts:
A social marketing calendar gives you a bird’s-eye view of your content, making it easier to coordinate your marketing efforts, so every content channel is in sync, supporting the others.
It’s also the secret to getting more done in less time. When you add a social media post to your calendar, you can easily see what’s needed to make it work. If you need some additional research or visual content, you’ll know exactly what you need and how much time you have to get it done.
And since you’re not working last minute, stressing over what to say or how to say it, you’ll be able to take your time, creating higher quality posts.
4. Chunk your time
If you’re trying to do everything on the fly — writing your posts, pulling together the creative, and posting to all your channels — you’re going to struggle with being consistent.
There is a better way…
Chunk your time. Set aside an hour or so to plan and write your social posts. Set aside another chunk of time to create videos and graphics. Then schedule your posts on the appropriate social platforms in another work session.
The idea is to create flow: get into a head space and stay there.
This is key to productivity, and it will help you get more done in less time.
5. Develop a consistent social media presence
To reap the rewards of social media marketing, you need to post frequently and consistently. Depending on the platform, that may mean daily posts or multiple posts a week.
When you do this, you show up in your followers’ feeds on a regular basis, and they start to feel they know you. You build stronger relationships with them, which builds trust and loyalty.
But this only happens if you treat social media as a partnership. The social media channel wants to keep users actively engaged for as long as possible. You want your followers to see your posts. If you help the platform achieve their goal, they’ll reward you by giving your content more reach.
And that will help you reach new audiences, attracting new followers and boosting your impact.
6. Plan a runway
Social media management is easier if you have a runway of content. By planning ahead, you ensure you’ve got something to post, even on days when you’re busy or feeling uninspired. That lowers your stress and keeps things fun.
But more importantly, by creating content ahead of your publish date, you can build quality control into your workflow. You have time to develop engaging visuals, fine-tune your captions, and anticipate events, holidays, and promotions.
What’s a good runway length? Social media networks are more timely than other channels. They need to be relevant to what’s happening today. That being the case, you can’t work as far in advance as you can on your blog.
Aim for a runway of about two weeks. That gives you time to create your assets and catch typos without missing out on trends and hot topics.
7. Do keyword and hashtag research
Hashtags got their start in 2007, when Chris Messina suggested we use them to provide metadata for tweets. It was a brilliant idea, and they were an immediate hit. Other social sites adopted them as well, and they evolved into an indexing system that made it easier to find posts on a specific topic.
From that time, social media accounts were hashtag-heavy. We used them to ensure our posts showed up in social searches and to help people know what we’re about. We even developed elaborate strategies around their use…
Until March 2022, that is.
That’s when Instagram CEO Adam Moserri announced that hashtags don’t necessarily extend the reach of your posts. They provide context, sure, but that’s about it.
So for years, we’ve been hashtagging away — to no avail.
No worries. These days, social algorithms are so smart, they work like search engines. We don’t need hashtags. We can optimize posts by adding keywords to our captions, alt-texts, and closed captions.
So the keyword research you’ve been doing for your website will now help you create more effective social media posts. That’s a good thing: it streamlines your efforts and saves time.
To execute on this social media best practice, create a bank of keywords that are related to your primary topics. Use them to optimize your social profiles and to build your brand on social media.
SEO is pretty much the same on social media as on your blog. When planning your social media, choose a keyword for each post and optimize for it by placing the keyword in a few key places:
- In the text of your post
- In videos and closed captions
- In text overlays on images and videos
- In alt-text of images
- In the file names of videos
This tells the algorithm what your content is about, so they know who to show it to.
8. Prioritize relationships
The real value of social media is the relationships you’ll build, which is why social media success depends so heavily on relationship management.
Your goal isn’t just to publish content. It’s to connect with influencers and target accounts, so you can have quality conversations, generate leads, and drive organic traffic to the website.
Relationship management can take many forms:
- Responding promptly to customer inquiries
- Sharing content that’s relevant and useful to your audience
- Offering incentives and rewards for loyal customers
And it can dramatically improve the ROI of social media marketing — as evidenced by this LinkedIn post by an agency owner:
For more effective social media marketing includes, you’ve got to prioritize relationships. That means you need to be authentic and genuine, no matter who you’re talking to. That generates interest in what you do, which means people will explore your website to learn more.
By focusing on relationship management on social media, you can turn casual followers into loyal brand advocates who will not only continue to engage with you but also recommend your products or services to their own networks.
Principle 3: Know Your Audience
You’ll experience more social media success with a small, engaged audience than a huge audience that never likes or comments. Your goal isn’t to build the biggest following, it’s to build a quality audience. And for that, you need to know your audience: who they are, what they care about, and the types of content they engage with.
9. Identify your audience
You’d think business social media would be about building your brand or attracting a huge following of social media users. In reality, its sole purpose is to build relationships with the right people in the right way.
A company’s social media marketing should focus on attracting and engaging these three categories of people:
- Potential customers
- Current customers
- Thought leaders in your space
That may or may not amount to hundreds of thousands of people, but that’s okay. You only need to build a social presence on the platforms where these people active and connect with them so you can begin building a relationship with them.
10. Know the topics they care about
To engage your audience, your content needs to address the topics they care about. Which means you need to find the answers to these important questions:
- How do they typically talk: technically or conversationally, as experts or learners?
- What are the problems they’re struggling with now?
- What keeps them up at night?
- What motivates them?
- What makes them laugh?
- How can you build credibility with them?
- How can you enhance your social media engagement by making people feel something?
11. Identify their favorite content formats
As you plan your social calendar, it’s important to consider the formats that are most likely to engage your audience: video, audio, or text. But you also need to understand the formats that work best for your product or service.
For example, a voice coach needs to publish videos with audio to attract their best audience. A writer needs to show off their skills by publish text posts.
Your goal is to find the right balance between your resources and strengths, the types of posts that highlight your value, and the types of posts your audience enjoys.
12. Know your competitors
Your strategy should revolve around the people who follow you on social media — but you also need to be aware of your competitors, what they’re talking about, and who they’re attracting.
You can glean ideas from them and identify topics that are trending. You might also identify new markets or thought leaders you want to add to your network.
Be careful, though. You should never copy another brand’s posts or mimic them too closely. Marketing is about differentiating yourself — so dare to be different. Copycat marketing puts you in second place at best.
And remember, competitors aren’t the enemy. Don’t obsess over them. And don’t be afraid to build a relationship with them. It might make sense to partner with them on a project or campaign if it could benefit you both.
Principle 4: Stay on Brand
Your brand is your signature. Done right, it distinguishes you from everyone else in your space and can be identified at a glance. Here’s a short list of social media best practices that will help you not just stay on brand, but make it more recognizable.
13. Develop a consistent brand voice and style
To develop a strong brand, you need to be intentional about how you show up. You need a distinct visual and verbal style.
Start with your brand personality. Is it serious and professional, or playful and casual? Use this personality to inform your social media voice and tone.
Create a stylebook for your social media content, including tone, language, and visual style. Share it with everyone involved with social media content for your brand. This will help you create a consistent look and feel that makes your brand stand out.
14. Use visual branding elements like logos and colors
When you create an iconic look and feel for your brand, it’s unforgettable. Think Coca-Cola. You know them at a glance.
That’s the goal for your own brand:
- Create an iconic look and feel.
- Use your brand colors in all your graphics.
- Put your logo on all your visual content.
- Create a unique style for all your graphics.
Get your marketing team on the same page, so your company social media — voice, tone, style, and design — looks like is comes from the same place.
15. Know your topics
Another key to branding is to be clear about what you do and for whom. Your brand identity needs to permeate all your content.
For example, if your business is about B2B sales, you can talk about dozens of related subtopics, but you shouldn’t start talking about pet care or cake decorating. That would confuse people and undermine your brand.
Stay in your lane, and your brand will be more recognizable.
Principle 5: Create Quality Social Media Content
On social media, you’re attracting new followers every time you post. That means every post creates a first impression for someone. For good or bad, that impression will stick, so you need to create consistently high-quality content.
16. Produce the right type of content for the channel
We talked about this a minute ago, but it’s worth repeating: Different platforms prefer different types of content. You need to know your platform and give it what it wants.
You also need to understand what “quality” looks like on each channel. Do you need to be producing polished videos and highly edited text content or should it look like you’re quickly producing content on the spot, so people can follow your day?
Evaluate other brands’ content and social media marketing campaigns. What types of content are they producing? What are their quality standards? Your content should be at least the same quality.
17. Create engaging content
As we’ve discussed, your goal on social media is to engage your audience. You want to entertain them, make them think, and start conversations with them.
Ideally, you also want to make your followers feel something. If you can make them smile or rally behind a cause, they’ll stop scrolling every time they see your posts. They’ll look forward to your content and engage with it.
So be creative. Tell stories. Ask questions. Get their input on your ideas. Share tips and fun facts. Make them laugh.
18. Use high-quality images, videos, and graphics
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. For years, marketers have relied on quality images to capture people’s attention.
But for the last decade, video has been gaining ground as the go-to content format. According to Forrester, a single minute of video is worth about 1.8 million words. People retain 95% of a message delivered via video, as opposed to just 10% of a message delivered in text. And most social platforms reward native video content.
The key, of course, is quality. A boring or low-resolution video can actually hurt your brand. Here’s how you can quickly and easily produce high-quality video content for social media marketing:
- Set your camera to 1080p at 60 fps. This will give you crisp, high-resolution videos.
- When recording, look at the camera, not yourself.
- Use the first few seconds to capture people’s attention.
- Make sure the lighting is good.
- Use the best microphone you can afford.
- Add captions.
19. Play nice with the algorithm
Social media algorithms are complex sets of rules and signals that determine what content is shown to users in their feeds. When you understanding how these algorithms work and give them what they want, your content is more likely to be seen by your target audience.
For example, all social platforms want to keep people on their site as long as possible, so they demote content that has a link sending people to another website. Understanding this, you’ll avoid adding external links to your posts. Instead, you’ll put links and CTAs in a comment.
Playing nice with a platform’s algorithm will give you the best social media results. You’ll also know how to optimize your strategy to grow your social presence.
20. Leverage keywords and hashtags
Just as you optimize website content for search, you need to optimize social posts for social search. Every platform allows you to search content by keyword and/or hashtag. This helps you find content and creators you’re likely to be interested in.
By using keywords and hashtags in your posts, you increase your chances of
- Showing up in searches
- Being seen by wider audiences
- Targeting a specific audience
Tip: Try creating branded hashtags that will help you build a community around your big ideas. Create a unique hashtag that serves as a rallying cry for your followers, like The Sales Rebellion’s #changethegame…
and Domino’s Pizza’s 2012 #letsdolunch campaign:
21. Focus on brand credibility
While businesses generally use social media to engage with their audience and build brand awareness, it’s also important to establish yourself as a credible and trustworthy solution.
This is one of the most important best practices to follow: Only post content that builds credibility and trust. It’s fine to post a variety of content, including humor and personal stories. But they must help rather than hinder your brand credibility.
Remember, you want to be a go-to source for your audience, which means your social presence must be on-brand and topical at all times.
22. Include social media trends in your strategy
Every now and then, a new social media content template or topic catches everyone’s imagination. Don’t be afraid of jumping on the trend. Join the conversation!
A recent example is ChatGPT. AI tools have been around for a while, but most of us have been quietly disappointed in the quality of AI writing tools. Then ChatGPT came along…
Here was a tool that was good enough to potentially transform business communications, and everyone was excited. They began sharing their experience with the app, their opinions, and tips.
When you see a trending topic like this, if you’re not contributing, you’re not relevant. Find a way to participate. What angle can you take to further your message and business goals?
Principle 6: Prioritize Engagement and Audience Building
Social media is a people-first strategy. To be effective, you need to give your followers a good experience.
23. Monitor and respond to comments and messages in a timely manner
When you’re at a party, if someone stops to chat with you, it would be rude to ignore them. It’s the same on social media.
If someone leaves a comment, acknowledge them. Let them know you see and appreciate them. This will build trust and give you a strong social media following.
24. Encourage follower engagement
The more you can activate your followers, the more loyal they’ll become. And that strengthens your social media presence across all channels. Here are some easy ways to encourage follower engagement:
- User-generated content
Be creative, and let people know you want to hear from them.
25. Build your social network by commenting on other people’s posts
Social publishing is just one part of your strategy. For a bigger social media ROI, you need to engage with other people’s posts to improve reach and visibility.
Every day, spend time reading posts by your social media followers and leaving meaningful comments. Do this with target accounts, thought leaders, prospects, and other people who are in your network.
26. Practice social listening
Another important social media best practice is to gain insights into what people are saying about your brand, your competitors, and your industry.
Social listening is the act of monitoring and analyzing social media conversations to:
- Track brand perception across multiple social media platforms
- Understand your audience’s needs and preferences
- Uncover opportunities
- Identify brand threats
- Respond in real-time to customer feedback and concerns
All-in-one social media management platforms like Sprout Social and Buffer make it easy to eliminate noise and monitor brand mentions.
Principle 7: Stay on Top of Your Social Media Analytics
To measure your social ROI, you need to track your metrics. It’s the only way to understand your audiences on every social platform and optimize your strategy.
27. Track and analyze your social media performance
You can’t improve what you don’t measure. To meet your goals, you need to review your social analytics on a weekly basis.
Keep an eye on the key performance metrics that will help you reach your goals. In particular, focus on:
- Referral traffic
- Top posts
You can use a social media management tool to simplify analytics, but the numbers are available on your social accounts. If you use a spreadsheet for your social media content calendar, post metrics with your post content, so you can identify the posts that perform best.
28. Use data to refine and improve your social media strategy
For social media managers, analytics are gold. They provide deep insight into your social media presence and performance — if you know how to interpret the numbers.
Keep in mind, trends are more important than specific numbers. You’re going to experience periodic slumps and plateaus, but you should see incremental growth over time.
Use your metrics to answer key questions about your strategy:
- Is you engagement trending upward?
- Are you connecting with your key audience?
- Do people care about the topics you’re covering?
- Which topics and formats do they engage with most?
You should always be testing new ways to improve your analytics. For example, try new social media templates, formats, and posting times to see what happens. If you find a way to improve your current metrics and growth rates, let the social team know. Then continue testing to refine your strategy.
Social Media Best Practices: Bottom Line
Creating your social media brand presence can be challenging. Social media is a powerful channel for growing your business — but only if it’s done right. You must stay consistent, engage with your followers, and provide value with every post you make.
Social media success doesn’t happen overnight, but with the best practices we’ve outlined here, you’ll be able to build brand awareness, drive traffic to your website, and ultimately, grow your business.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start leveraging the power of social media today!
Need help? We’ll handle the hard stuff so you can create a consistent social media presence — without the worry.