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The Content Leader’s Guide to the New Rules of Social Media

Thanks go to Ana Gotter for her contributions to this article.

Social media feels wilder than ever. New platforms surge into existence only to quickly fade into the shadows (cough, Clubhouse; cough, Threads). Where blue birds once chattered, X now marks a spot confusing for brands and users alike. 

Is it any wonder your maps for the social media space seem outdated?

How do you lead your team to make the most of these channels without wasting precious resources on dead-end efforts?

Your content strategy should identify which social spaces offer the best connection potential for your brand. But to spark and sustain the engagement, you need on-the-ground know-how. This guide forged by content and marketing leaders blazing trails through this tangled wilderness can help.

Start with strategic decision-making

Despite the ebbs and flows in this space, you can still find great opportunities to connect, build communities, and engage consumers in valuable conversations. Start with platforms where your goals align with people’s reasons for spending time there.  

For B2B brands, LinkedIn should be at the top of your list. In an upcoming CMI research report, 84% of B2B marketers say LinkedIn delivers the best value compared with other social platforms.

While that research shows that 20% of marketers have decreased their usage of Facebook over the last year and 32% decreased their use of Twitter, TikTok gained traction: Nineteen percent of B2B marketers say they use TikTok (up from 9% the previous year), and 10% of respondents say their use has increased over the last year.

Regardless of your platform mix, customize your content strategy to the particulars of each one to keep its users engaged as long as possible, suggests Daisy Shevlin, SEO and content manager at Kaspr.

Let your audience set your direction

Not every social site fits your brand or helps meet your engagement goals. To track down your best opportunities, let your audience’s actions be your guiding star.

Follow your target customers’ and audiences’ lead, says Jill Roberson, vice president of digital marketing at Velir. Social-listening tools and audience research can help you determine where they engage in conversations relevant to your brand.

Similarly, keep an eye on the volume and quality of users engaging in your brand’s conversations. “If you see engagement is dwindling on a particular channel, it’s time to diversify and focus on expanding reach via the channels your audience prefers,” Jill says.

For example, given Pew Research Center’s finding that 60% of users have taken breaks from X (formerly Twitter) in the past year, you might follow them to another watering hole like TikTok. 

But before you move, examine the terrain of the intended destination. Evaluate its conversation formats, audience makeup, and community standards against your content strategy to determine if it’s worth building – or sustaining – a presence.

That consideration includes understanding how each platform determines what content will appear in user feeds and notifications. The formulas can vary by site and content type.

Lead the conversation with valuable insights and unique ideas

It’s easy for your content to get lost in the conversational stream – even on emerging and experimental platforms. To stand out, offer valuable insights and conversations your audience may not find elsewhere.

Paul Fairbrother, owner of The Fairbrother Agency, says marketers should focus on quality and originality rather than quantity. “Leading the conversation with original insights, thought leadership, and ideas has never been so important,” he says.

“Leading the conversation with original insights, thought leadership, and ideas has never been so important.”

To increase audience interaction, use your social content as a testing ground for ideas and unique perspectives on relevant issues. You can also share successful solutions to challenges your audience may face.

Sharing lessons learned has been a critical component in Kaspr’s approach to LinkedIn, Daisy Shevlin says. Posting content about common pain points for their ideal customer profiles, such as tips for cold calling, helped the company grow its followers by over 200%.

But AdRoll senior content marketing manager Shae Henrie says social media conversations don’t have to be all business. “It doesn’t have to be boring. Creative, unique, and especially funny approaches are memorable and more impactful,” she says.

Don’t count on organic reach or engagement

Investing in paid social campaigns is increasingly important, with organic reach declining on social media and ongoing shifts in search ranking factors. CMI’s upcoming B2B research finds 78% of marketers used social media advertising and promoted posts in the past year. 

PureSEM CEO Keith Holloway says his content team has experienced great traction from its paid social to support their lead-gen campaigns. “Sending social traffic to a landing page is far less effective than using the right ad types and asking for the conversion right on the platform,” he says. In paid campaigns, he recommends offering value-driven downloadable content like e-books in exchange for consumers’ permission to communicate.

Remember: Paid promotion opportunities vary by platform and format. Refer to your buyer personas for engagement clues to help you decide among options like ads, influencer partnerships, and promoted posts. This guide to paid social promotions on the most popular platforms may be helpful in your planning.

Lean into video’s popularity and versatility

Thanks to TikTok, social platforms are going all-in on video. The upcoming CMI research report finds it’s also a brand favorite: 84% of B2B marketers create video content, and 89% rank it as their most successful format.

Many social sites have launched TikTok-like video features and retooled their algorithms to enhance this content’s discoverability and engagement. “As of 2023, Instagram’s algorithm still prioritizes video content,” says Jonny Hughes, a marketing and brand manager at Snappa.

He recommends posting engaging Reels with useful information related to your niche. “It can help you reach more non-followers than a single image post would,” he says.

To appease those algorithms, consider creating SEO-optimized short-form videos that offer tips and solutions to common customer challenges.

“Video is what Google prioritizes,” says Kaspr’s Daisy Shevlin. Her team features B2B influencers in educational spots on YouTube Shorts. “These are often more tactical pieces of content where someone wants the answer to something specific fast,” she says. These videos also support the brand’s SEO strategy.

MyTracker’s Maria Vilinia also considers video a primary channel for repurposing content. When her team hosts webinars or attends conferences, they post the video assets on their YouTube channel and share them on other social platforms.

Maria says her company also repurposes its videos to fuel the content needs of other functions in the organization. “Our sales team will use [them] when interacting with potential clients, and our technical account managers use them to educate existing users,” she says.

Leverage groups to build community trust

Consumers have good reason to distrust social media, from privacy issues on Facebook to ongoing concerns about disinformation and deceptive ad practices. While some disengage or delete their profiles, others move toward invitation-only options like Discord, Reddit, or Circle.

These semi-open spaces may not give the high-volume reach you seek, but Trust Insights chief data scientist Christopher Penn believes they are worth exploring. “Invitation-only servers on Discord are not mediated by AI, which makes the engagement experience more authentic and organic,” he explains.

If your brand can get an invitation to relevant Discord communities, earning members’ attention and trust may be easier, too.

Experiment and diversify, but exercise caution

Because social media sites are created to make money for their parent company – not your business –this landscape will remain volatile, says Adrienne Sheares, owner of ViviMae Labs. To mitigate the risks of entering an untested social space, she recommends you establish a strategy for investing in owned platforms (e.g., your blog, website, or email newsletters) where you have more control over what happens.

Once you’ve done that, carve out some resources for experimentation. Stay curious and open to exploring new social media spaces, says Orbit Media Studios co-founder Andy Crestodina. And don’t drag your feet. “Jump in quick,” he says. “If something doesn’t work, quit and move on.”

“When new social platforms emerge, jump in quick. If something doesn’t work, quit and move on.”

That’s less risky with a diversified social portfolio. The goal, says LetterShop x KMC CMO Karen McFarlane, is to ensure the flow of communication between you and your audience even if some members stray from a given channel.

Maintaining investment in channels your brand owns and operates, such as your website, blog, and email list, lets you stay in contact with your customers no matter which way the social media winds may blow, Karen says.

Know when – and how – to pull back

“Companies must always be prepared to lose access to or leave platforms they don’t own,” Hijinx Marketing owner Andi Robinson says. For example, if the platform decreases its moderation efforts or posts more objectionable content, your audience might not want to be associated with that site anymore. Your brand should consider moving on, too.

When that happens on one platform, it’s easy enough to seek your brand’s fortune elsewhere. But given that brands have experienced declines in organic reach and engagement on social (except for TikTok), your safest move may be to pull back on your investment in the channel entirely.

Geek Law Firm’s self-proclaimed evil genius Ruth Carter recommends conducting regular meetings to review what’s working. In those meetings, you may prepare an exit strategy. Ruth says, “Discuss considerations like how you’ll recognize a change is necessary, and what that might look like, so you won’t be scrambling when something happens like a mass exodus or platform being banned.”

But brands can attract undesirable attention by announcing their decisions, says Adam Pierno, Arizona State University’s managing director of brand strategy. “If there’s a troubling platform, and your brand wants to pause there, just pause. Don’t put out a press release,” he says.

“If there’s a troubling platform, and your brand wants to pause there, just pause. Don’t put out a press release.”

Keeping small directional shifts on the down low can prevent you from becoming the target of high-profile backlash and outrage posts (especially the attention-seeking kind), he says. You also avoid having to backpedal if you change your strategy.

As social media evolves, so should its role in your content program

Your community managers and agencies live and breathe social. Look to their guidance to help you understand where your customers are gathering, why they are gathering, and how they engage there.

But first, consider what your content program stands to gain from those engagements and whether those results are worth your investment. Not all marketers feel a social media presence is a given anymore.

Marketing Insider Group CEO Michael Brenner says they’re recommending that their clients spend less time and budget on this channel. “Our research tells us social media only generates 2% of traffic and leads for most companies, and paid social is only 2%,” Michael says. “Focus your effort where the people are willing and ready to engage.”

Don’t let the constant turning of the social media tides leave your content adrift. You’ll find more social engagement advice from these experts – and others – in this CMI blog post.


Jodi Harris

Jodi Harris

Jodi Harris is director of content strategy at CMI. She describes her role as a combination of strategic alchemist, process architect, and creative explorer. Prior to this role, Jodi spent over a decade developing and managing content initiatives for brand clients in the entertainment, CPG, health care, technology, and biotech industries, as well as for agencies and media brands. Follow her on Twitter at @Joderama.