Social media accounts for a third of all time spent online. Social networks have changed the game forever for marketers — and the changes aren’t slowing down anytime soon.

Keeping up with the latest social channels and their functionalities can feel like a full-time job. And if you’re like most marketers, you’re probably juggling other responsibilities, such as reporting on social media metrics, growing your audience, and collaborating with teams like sales and service to make every department more social.

That’s why we compiled a list of 50 social media best practices in a new e-book. You’ll find tips for every aspect of social media in business, from listening and engagement to publishing and advertising. 

Get an exclusive sneak preview with 20 of the tips now, then download the rest.

1. Keep an eye out for nondirect brand mentions.

People don’t always mention you by your correct brand name when talking about you. They may spell your name wrong, use an abbreviation, or simply talk about your industry without specifically calling you out. Put together a list of words people may use to describe you, your industry, and your competitors, and track conversation around those keywords across the social web. 

2. Connect social to the broader business.

In Salesforce’s State of Marketing research report, we found that the highest-performing marketing teams align social media across multiple teams. In fact, 82% of high-performing marketers integrate social media activity into other tools (like CRM) versus just 39% of underperformers.

Social media impacts the entire organization, so start getting your service teams onboard to listen for service issues; your sales teams helping to discover new leads; and your community managers involved with identifying brand advocates. 

3. Be customer focused, not channel focused.

As all social media marketers know, channels change over time, but the importance of knowing individual customers stays the same. As you listen for questions and comments, focus on individual customers and how you can provide a consistent experience across social, web, email, and more.

Instead of filing their thoughts away under keyword lists, get to know people as customers, not handles, connecting the dots on their relationship and history with the company. 

4. Automate what you can, but keep the human element.

The social listening process may be overwhelming, depending on the size of your company. Social listening tools help by automatically tagging keywords and assigning mentions to employees. These automation steps improve efficiency and allow you to spend more time engaging with people. But you can’t leave it all to computers.

Figure out what automation techniques work for you and allocate human resources where it makes the most sense. You’ll be more productive and your employees will be happier doing work that can’t be done by a robot. 

5. Empower employees to be social brand advocates.

Employee engagement is one of the best ways to get your social message spread far and wide. Empower your staff to be social ambassadors by making it simple for them to share company content on their personal channels. Curate a frequently updated list of links and short messages so all employees need to do is copy, paste, and customize. 

6. Put share buttons in strategic places.

A few years ago, social share buttons exploded. Suddenly Facebook and Twitter logos covered every surface of brick- and-mortar stores and websites. We’ve since learned that share buttons should be used more strategically — and as much as we love Facebook, the #1 social network in the world doesn’t need free advertising.

Use social media buttons to let people know about a new network you’ve expanded to (maybe Snapchat or Instagram) or to indicate where they can get quick customer service, and always provide a valuable reason they should connect with you.

7. Grow your audience the right way.

Big numbers of fans provide an ego boost and may help your boss see that you’re doing a great job. But what you really want is to grow your audience responsibly and sustainably. The old-fashioned formula of sharing consistent and valuable content, sending timely responses, and acting like a human still works for growing your audience on any social platform. 

Need more details on what that social audience growth looks like? Get the complete e-book.

8. Don’t always feel compelled to jump in.

You’ve probably seen one of the many articles poking fun at brands that feel compelled to share their opinion on every celebrity faux pas, world event, or holiday. Some things are better left unsaid — and most major news events don’t warrant a response from your company.

Similarly, you don’t always have to respond every time someone mentions your company. Sometimes it’s better to let individual employees, influencers, or other members of the community interject before — or instead of — you. If you jump in at the wrong time, you might send the wrong message. So pick your conversations wisely. 

9. Deal with negative feedback swiftly and skillfully.

When someone has negative things to say about your company, respond quickly and don’t delete the post from your page if it’s on a network like Instagram or Facebook where comments can be deleted. Your customers may view deletion as a sign your brand is dishonest and trying to hide the truth.

And don’t feed the trolls — stay focused on constructive criticism. If someone is clearly out to tarnish your name, it’s best not to play into their game on social media. Instead, send them your customer service email address or phone number and ask them to contact you directly. 

10. Use tracking URLs.

Tracking URLs are a great way to prove the return on investment (ROI) of social. Post links that have a tracking code built into them. This tracking code will then feed back into an overall database, helping you track which social networks are driving the most traffic and purchases. When it comes to proving the ROI of social, every link counts. 

11. Publish during nights and weekends.

You might work Monday through Friday from 9–5, but your community is global, spanning time zones around the world and checking social networks outside of your normal work hours. Think about all of the times throughout the week when you check your Twitter feed or watch a YouTube video on nights and weekends. Posting outside of regular office hours helps your content stand out when many other brands aren’t posting. 

12. Make every social CTA mobile friendly.

Today, nearly 80% of time spent on social media is spent on mobile devices. So when you’re sharing content on social and hoping consumers will take action — whether that’s by clicking, purchasing, or sharing — every call to action (CTA) must be seamless on mobile. You and your social team should be constantly testing social CTAs yourselves with your mobile devices. Ease of use is key. The less work people need to do on their phones to access your content, the more willing they’ll be to stick with you. 

13. Test ideas for new marketing campaigns.

One of the biggest benefits of building a large social network is the ability to test new copy and concepts with that audience. Experiment with different headlines and post types to find what might work in an email subject line. Look back on your most retweeted content to get ideas for new content marketing efforts. Your social audience is a great petri dish. 

14. Fit your social campaigns in the context of other advertising initiatives.

There may be times when you want to run social media ads separately from other marketing initiatives, and that’s fine. But most likely, your social media ads will coincide with other paid media initiatives. To create cohesion, make sure your creative, messaging, and targeting coincides with the rest of your traditional advertising. This may seem obvious, but different departments or media-buying agencies may oversee different advertising responsibilities, so it’s important to get everyone in the same room to share plans and assets. 

15. Get smarter about targeting, whether you’re B2B or B2C.

Today, ads can go far beyond traditional demographic targeting, like all 18–25-year-old women in Chicago. For example, with Facebook behavioral targeting, a B2B marketer could start by targeting people with specific seniority levels and job titles, segmented by company size. A B2C company might be more interested in targeting email subscribers who haven’t purchased in three months.

The sky’s truly the limit with digital ads and hyper-specific targeting. Your ads can reach real people, not anonymous groups. And with Facebook Custom Audiences, Google Customer Match, or Twitter Tailored Audiences, you can directly target people in your CRM system based on their email addresses or phone numbers. 

16. Only measure what adds value.

Philadelphia retailer John Wanamaker famously remarked, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”

Unfortunately, some CMOs and marketing professionals still feel that way, even though so much of digital is measurable. Remember what your parents taught you: Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. For social media marketing, just because you can measure something doesn’t mean it has value, so only track what truly adds value to your business. 

17. Go beyond vanity metrics.

It feels great to measure your growing number of fans, followers, and subscribers. Views, likes, shares, and tweets are clear indications that your audience appreciates you. But marketers are under increased pressure to demonstrate ROI from social media.

Are Facebook likes translating into web form completes? Are Twitter campaigns reducing acquisition costs of search-engine marketing? Have reporting tools closely monitor content performance and engagement. Not only does this provide insights, it enables you to target your most responsive audiences across social networks and geographies. 

18. Measure social’s impact on email subscriber growth.

For most companies, email ROI remains strong. One excellent way to track social media success is to measure its impact on your email list. For example, you could use a simple email sign-up form on your Facebook page or promote email address–required white papers, online courses, or e-books on social. No matter what you test, social media is a great — and measurable — tool to grow your email list. Email is a great opportunity to help bring social followers through the sales funnel. 

19. Gain insights about favorite products and services.

As you listen to the chatter on social media, you may discover certain features or products that customers can’t stop talking about, for better or for worse. Take it a step farther. Don’t just listen; track and measure these conversations over time. This ability to run R&D studies in real time should change the way you market. 

20. Define your ROI.

ROI will always be marketing’s three magic letters. Everyone wants an answer to the question, “How do I track ROI on this campaign or platform?” By this point, you know there’s no one answer to this question. Social media gives you tons of data, but you have to decide what user actions are most important to you. Then you can figure out how to track them before you start your next campaign. 

Want more social media tips to up-level your company's online presence? Download 50 Social Media Best Practices now.