There’s no “one magical way” to do social media marketing that works for everyone. But, there are a few universal pitfalls that can sink anyone. These range from PR nightmares to more seemingly innocuous mistakes, like posting the exact same content on every platform.
By following these 21 social media best practices, you set yourself, or your brand, up for the best chance of success.
Bonus: Read the step-by-step social media strategy guide with pro tips on how to grow your social media presence.
This is #1 for a reason: You can’t build a following without knowing who you’re trying to attract. That’s social media 101.
Dig deep into the following questions:
- Who are your customers?
- Where do they hang out online?
- Where do they work?
- What do they care about?
- Do they already know you?
- What do they think of you? Is it what you want them to think?
- What content do they need to see to believe that your products or services are worth their money?
That’s just a start. Make sure your social media marketing plan includes detailed audience research. Document it so your entire team knows exactly who they’re crafting content for.
Pro tip: Defining your target audience is more than demographics or a superficial buyer persona. Include their motivations, inspirations and pain points, and how you’re the perfect solution.
2. Build a presence on the right social media networks
You don’t need to be on every platform to succeed, including jumping on the newest, hottest app just because everyone else is. Before opening a new account, ask:
- Do I (or my team) have the bandwidth to create relevant content for a new platform?
- Does the purpose of this platform fit my brand?
And the most important question:
- Does my audience spend time here?
Focusing on creating thoughtful content for fewer platforms will always serve you better than posting generic content across every platform.
Pro tip: By all means, stay informed on new social media trends, but think before taking action. Oh, hey, we did all the research for you with this comprehensive, free Social Trends 2022 report.
3. Strategic is better than clever
Set goals, create a content strategy, don’t create a TikTok account solely to participate in Dance Like a Chicken Day, yada yada… In short: be strategic in all your actions.
Your content is an extension of your business. Like any business practice, your social media needs a thoughtful approach, S.M.A.R.T. goals, and regular tactical adjustments.
Pro tip: Grab this free social media strategy template to create or revise yours, then share it with your entire team.
4. Audit your performance
Your following is growing. Your engagement rates are sky-high. You get daily DMs and comments from loyal, excited customers. Your content is fire. Life is good, right? No!
Sure, things are good right now, but do you know why? What exactly led to these great results? Striking lucky is great, but a better path forward is learning why your content performed well (or didn’t), so you can build repeatable processes for successful campaigns.
Here’s how to do that:
- Run a monthly social media audit.
- Experiment with posting content on different days and times.
- Survey your audience to ask them what they want.
- Use analytics to find your top-performing content.
Pro tip: Let Hootsuite tell you when your personal best time to post is, for each platform and goal. This is part of Hootsuite Analytics, along with advanced metrics tracking and reporting features, so you can spend less time staring at spreadsheets and more time optimizing your campaigns.
5. Develop consistent brand guidelines
You need two types of rulebooks for your team:
- Visual style, tone, and voice brand guidelines
- Employee social media guidelines
The former ensures your branding remains consistent and recognizable to your audience in everything from visuals to caption style, punctuation choices (#TeamOxfordComma), and overall ✨vibes✨.
Brand guidelines cover things like:
- Favorite or favourite?
- Which hashtags will you use?
- Sources employees should use for content vs. ones they shouldn’t
Employee social media guidelines, on the other hand, provide structure to your employees on what topics may be off limits to post about when representing your company — even on their personal accounts. This eliminates confusion, encourages employees to share positive content, and establishes clear consequences for violating terms, which can save you from legal and PR troubles down the road.
Pro tip: Not sure what to include? Download our free social media style guideline template to define your brand style, tone, and voice.
6. Schedule your content in advance
Don’t be a Last Minute Melvin. Coming up with content right before you need to post it is a recipe for burnout.
Planning your social media content allows space to create high-quality content, logically put together campaigns (organic and paid), and seek collaboration and feedback from your team.
Pro tip: Hootsuite Planner is your best choice for all-in-one easy collaboration, campaign mapping, and scheduling. It even has an approval process for mistake-proof, total social media content management.
Create content on the fly, or bulk upload and schedule up to 350 posts at a time in only a few minutes. Check out how Hootsuite can help organize your workflow.
7. Cross-post to different platforms — but make adjustments
Auto-sharing your Facebook post to Twitter isn’t a content strategy. Of course you can and should be repurposing content across multiple platforms, but that’s the key word: Repurposing.
Instead of simply spraying a link to your latest blog post across all of your social media accounts, turn the article’s key points into a Twitter thread.
Create a script from the blog post and film a YouTube video, then link to the article in the video description.
Stand in front of your phone and record a “pointing to various text boxes” Instagram Reel and direct your followers to read the full thing on your website.
You don’t need to go into all-out production mode and make a thread, Reel, TikTok, video content, carousel posts, etc. for every article. Sometimes it’s fine to share a link. But make an effort to repurpose as much of your content as possible. It will allow you to create more—faster.
Pro tip: You can’t expect to grow a dedicated following and using generic marketing strategies. Tailor your content to what each social media platform excels at to cultivate meaningful engagement and drive traffic that can actually convert.
8. Embrace social listening
Social listening may sound like a fancy marketing buzzword but it’s actually free, real-time market research. Basic listening scans social media channels for mentions of your name, products, competitors, specific keywords, or anything else you want to scout for. Advanced tools can recognize logos in images, evaluate brand sentiment, and more.
This gives you the real scoop on what people think of your company, or the product features they really want. But knowledge alone isn’t enough. You need to put it into practice.
Day to day, keep your AI ears open for people asking about your industry or for recommendations, and pop into the conversation with a comment or retweet.
Social listening is powerful for big strategy stuff like positioning and new product development, too. By tracking brand mentions, Ben & Jerry’s noticed that, most of the time, people were enjoying their ice cream curled up inside on a rainy day vs. out and about in the sun.
Enter: Netflix n’ Chill’d, the product and partnership launched from the knowledge gained from social listening.
— Ben & Jerry’s (@benandjerrys) January 16, 2020
Pro tip: Use social listening to track brand sentiment and check it often. Sudden negative swing? Dig into why and address it to nip any PR problems in the bud.
Social listening is great, but also make a point to directly engage your audience. Ask for their opinions and ideas, or fun questions to get to know them better.
Run a quick Twitter or Instagram Stories poll, link to a web survey from your social accounts, or just ask people to leave a comment with their response.
By allowing your customers the space to tell you what they want, you can—unsurprisingly—deliver what they want (#BreakingNews).
We heard feedback that it was hard to set up relative date filters 🐌
Now it only takes a couple clicks! Use this to create dynamic views such as “Tasks due today” or “Events within the next month.” pic.twitter.com/yHZ0iFX7QH
— Notion (@NotionHQ) March 28, 2022
Pro tip: The primary purpose of social media is to forge connections and create a community online—so do that. Feedback doesn’t always have to be about product features. Focus on building a community first.
Social media customer service best practices
Yes, promotion and engagement are a huge part of why you’re on social media, but at its core, social media is not just about social networking — it’s about making your customers happy. You may have a 1-800 customer service number and email, but 70% of your customers would rather resolve issues on social media.
Want to go above and beyond? Combine a customer service mindset with social listening to help customers who haven’t even contacted you. Whoa.
A few weeks ago, I was struggling with Google Docs not saving, which also means you can’t type anything new. Super cool when you’re on deadline. I took to Twitter to vent my frustration with fellow writers. To my surprise, Google responded—within one hour!—with helpful troubleshooting advice:
That doesn’t sound good, Michelle. Let’s try the steps in this guide to clear cache & cookies and then relaunch the browser to see if that helps: https://t.co/wtSvku1zI2. Keep us updated.
— Google Docs (@googledocs) May 11, 2022
Since I didn’t use @googledocs in my Tweet, they found it via social listening. The simple interaction changed my mood from mild irritation to being impressed with their customer service. Nice work, Google!
Pro tip: Customer service + social listening = recipe for brand fans.
11. Respond promptly to DMs and comments
Besides tagging you in a post, users are also messaging you or leaving comments on your social media posts with customer service inquiries. Those important comments are easy to miss, especially if your posts get hundreds of comments.
So how can you make sure to see them and respond?
Make sense of the chaos with Hootsuite’s unified inbox. It pulls in all messages and comments across your connected social platforms. You can see full threads for DMs and comments, and @mentions, and assign conversations to specific reps to organize and speed up your responses.
Pro tip: Flag DMs and comments that require an urgent response. Whichever tool you use, ensure you have a way of assigning conversations to keep things organized and deliver the fastest response times.
12. Use a chatbot to speed up simple inquiries
Customer service is important, though can be time-consuming when most of your customers want to know the same things:
- “Where’s my order?”
- “I need to make a warranty claim.”
- “Do you ship to ____?”
Thankfully, tech has evolved to save time. Using a chatbot to handle simple, FAQ-style questions can reduce your customer service team’s workload by 94%.
Besides automating generic questions, chatbots like Heyday can provide fast, personalized service 24/7. Customers can track their order or ask about product availability in just a few minutes.
Within the first month of using Heyday’s chatbot, DAVIDsTEA automated 88% of their inquiries and received 30% fewer calls and emails, while still maintaining customer satisfaction scores.
We tend to think AI customer service won’t be as good as speaking to a human. But what’s better:
- waiting on hold for 30 minutes to find out if your order shipped yet, or,
- opening a chat window and getting an answer in less than 60 seconds while you slurp an iced coffee?
Pro tip: Don’t be afraid of automation, but ensure customers still have a way to reach your human team for more complex inquiries, too.
13. Don’t ignore criticism
You don’t need to entertain obvious trolls, but you do need to respond to your customers and fans, even if it’s an uncomfortable interaction.
Coach your team on how to handle negative situations and offer solutions to angry customers. For criticism of company actions or values, ensure everyone on your team knows how to respond in a kind and—let’s face it: legal-department-approved—way.
Pro tip: Always take the high road and approach every interaction—positive or negative—with a solution-oriented mindset.
There’s a difference between a few negative comments and a full-blown public relations nightmare. Whether the backlash you receive is legit or not, you need to have a plan for dealing with crises:
- Who on your team will lead the response?
- What will your response be?
- Will you make a public statement about it?
- Will you respond to individual comments, or direct people to a prepared statement?
- Will you change the policy or action that people are upset about? And if so, how will you announce that?
Hopefully, conducting your daily operations in an ethical, responsible, and inclusive manner will avoid situations like this, but it’s best to have a plan.
Pro tip: Develop a process for handling a PR emergency, even if you don’t think it will happen to you.
The worst way to experience a PR emergency? A poorly-planned post on your company account that gets a roastin’ quote tweet from a well-known US Senator.
.@Chase: why aren’t customers saving money?
Taxpayers: we lost our jobs/homes/savings but gave you a $25b bailout
Workers: employers don’t pay living wages
Economists: rising costs + stagnant wages = 0 savings
Chase: guess we’ll never know
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) April 29, 2019
Pro tip: With Hootsuite, you can set up content collaboration and approval workflows to save you from situations like this.
Social media design best practices
One of the (many) reasons you shouldn’t cross-post the exact same content on every platform is that each platform has its own image/video size or character count specifications.
You can do this before you schedule content, or conveniently right inside Hootsuite as you’re scheduling:
Pro tip: Even if the overall message of the post stays the same, customizing the media specs and caption length will keep your profiles polished and professional. Check out our 2022 social media image size cheat sheet.
17. A/B test creative assets
Sure, you’re running A/B tests on headlines and copy, but are you testing visual assets, too?
- A GIF instead of a static image.
- A video instead of an image, or vice versa.
- Changing the style of a graphic.
- Using a different photo.
There are endless options to test, depending on your content, but the key thing is to test only one thing at a time. Otherwise you won’t know exactly which new element “won” at the end.
Pro tip: To quote marketing legend Vanilla Ice, “Test, test, baby. If your visual’s the problem, yo, a test will resolve it.”
18. Use tools to achieve more
Better yet: Hootsuite integrates with both of those to unlock max scheduling productivity.
Pro tip: Dial your efficiency up to 11 by creating a month of content at once, then bulk schedule it in Hootsuite. What will you do with the rest of your day?
If not, you’re wasting time chasing the wrong content ideas. Plus, if it’s a trend your existing audience doesn’t understand or finds offensive, you could lose followers and damage your reputation.
Pro tip: Stuck for content? Try these specific creative ideas.
20. Check your accounts daily
Even if you don’t post daily, ensure someone on your team is logging in to respond to comments and DMs, and check for potential spam.
Quick response times aren’t only appreciated, they’re expected. Globally, 83% of customers expect a response to a social media inquiry within 24 hours, and 28% expect an answer within one hour.
Pro tip: Like it or not, social media continues to shape expectations for businesses to live up to—or risk losing out to the competition.
21. Snag account names even if you don’t use them
You may not be on TikTok. You may never want to be on TikTok. But, it’s a good idea to reserve your company’s username on all existing social platforms anyway.
Not only will this keep your options open for future use, but it prevents potential imposters from using your brand name to pose as you. Even if you never plan to use platform, create an account to protect your reputation and intellectual property.
Pro tip: Think it won’t happen to you? It even happens to celebs. In 2020, scammers conned people out of $80 million after setting up fake Twitter accounts one letter off from real famous businesspeople’s usernames.
No, I’m not giving away ETH.
— vitalik.eth (@VitalikButerin) March 4, 2018
Get better results in less time by managing your social media marketing with Hootsuite. Plan, collaborate, schedule, and publish content for all your platforms in one place. Plus, benefit from in-depth analytics and a unified inbox to easily respond to and manage DMs and comments. Try it for free today.
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Friendly communicator. Music maven. Explorer. Pop culture trailblazer. Social media practitioner.