With so many competing social media ecosystems, it can be overwhelming to keep track of all the features. How do you know which platform to prioritize to make the biggest impact on your business? Most experts will tell you there’s no right way to do it.

And we agree! But we’ll discuss the common social media features brands benefit from the most and a few untapped features to consider. We’ll also explain the criteria brands can follow to decide which social media app to invest in.

Core social media features and functions for your brand

Although every social platform is different, they share some functionalities that set them apart from other types of media. Here are some of the common features of social media that brands leverage to engage with their audience.

Content sharing and virality

Social media content has the potential to bring exponential reach and engagement—the virality factor. As more people like, share and comment on your posts, it’s exposed to newer audiences who might be interested in what your brand offers. Compared to other forms of media, putting out content is simpler, doesn’t involve formalities and is more cost efficient.

Audience engagement

Social media creates a space for direct interaction with potential customers, unlike most traditional media that’s a one-way street for engagement.

Establishing your presence on social and responding to comments makes you part of the conversation. By engaging with your audience, you can understand what content resonates, your brand perception, plus discover common issues and features your customers want.

Features for audience engagement:

  • Comments and reactions on posts
  • Direct messages
  • Live videos

Sales and growth

Social commerce is ever-increasing. About 68% of consumers responded they made at least one purchase directly from social media in 2021.

Some social media apps enable brands to display product catalogs and complete purchases within or outside the app.

Social shopping features:

A screenshot of Facebook Marketplace that demonstrates search results (prices, images) of the search term "satin dress."

Most social networks also have e-commerce, and you can use social media to drive traffic to your website. For example, the link in bio feature can direct your audience to more content on your website. Here’s an example of an interactive bio from Semrush’s Twitter account:

A screenshot of Semrush's Twitter bio that demonstrates their link in bio to their website.

Lead generation

Social has features dedicated to generating leads, like mobile-optimized ads that capture customers details while offering a lead magnet. You can also create personalized experiences by running retargeting ads to convert past visitors or abandoned carts.

Features for lead generation:

Here’s an example of a Sponsored Carousel Ad on LinkedIn by Refinitiv. They increased their click-through rate by 34% through this campaign which also generated quality leads.

A screenshot of Refinitiv's sponsored carousel ad on LinkedIn.

Top features social media apps have in common

Analytics and reporting

All the major apps offer analytics that inform how well your content performed as well as demographic information about your audience.

Instagram Analytics account insights that demonstrates how many accounts have been reached in the last 30 days. The chart breaks down followers compared to non-followers.

Use the analytics feature to tailor your social media marketing strategy and prove ROI. Also gauge the performance of your social media activities, from audience growth and engagement to purchases.

And don’t forget about social listening. Analyze conversations around your brand and industry to identify trends and understand sentiment.

Customer care and communication

More users are turning to social media when they want to communicate with brands or air their grievances. According to The 2022 Sprout Social Index™, 69% of consumers expect a response on social media within 24 hours.

This means brands need to be prepared to address customer concerns and potential brand crises through:

  • Customer service: Encourage customers to reach out to your brand on social for customer service queries.
  • Reputation management: If a customer posts about a negative experience, acknowledge the comment then address the issue. Try to offer a solution in a DM, so you get more control over what’s being said about your brand.
  • Crisis communication: In case of a crisis, make it a priority to post about it on social media and let your followers know how and when it will be resolved.

Stripe proactively responds to customers who post about the issues they face on social media.

Tweet thread showing Stripe's customer service responding to an issue a customer Tweeted

Features that enable customer communication:

  • Direct messages (DMs)
  • Saved replies on DMs
  • Comments on posts

You can also use tools like Sprout Social to manage customer expectations and deliver responsive, tailored experiences on social media at scale.

Collab features

Some social apps have recently launched collaboration features, so you can co-create content with other brands or creators. A collab post will show up on both users’ profiles, giving brands the potential to tap into each other’s loyal audiences.

Features for brand collaboration:

  • Instagram collab
  • Paid partnerships in Reels
  • Facebook Brand Collabs Manager
  • Facebook Partnership messaging folder
  • TikTok Duet

Navigating feature overlap in different platforms

Between the similarities and differences, it can be overwhelming to understand where to invest your time, energy and resources for your brand.

Instead of trying to crack each platform, prioritize the ones most relevant to your audience and brand. Here are some tips to help you evaluate what will work best for you.

Know your audience

Which social media platforms do your target audience spend time on? Once you know where your audience is, you can easily prioritize where you should invest in your brand’s presence.

Next, know how your audience uses that platform: What kind of accounts do they interact with, what are their preferred content formats, how much time do they spend? Gather data by conducting a survey, checking out competitor accounts, reading industry reports or by using a social listening tool.

Establish goals

Choose platforms based on your business goals, as this will help you decide which specific features will benefit your brand the most.

For example, if your goal is to increase sales, choose a platform with shopping features. If your goal is to grow your email list, make use of lead-gen features.

Choose based on your time and resources

How much time can you commit for social media marketing and management? What kind of content are you more comfortable creating? Answering these questions will help you decide which platform is best for you.

For example, visual-driven platforms like Instagram may require more time as compared to text-driven platforms like Twitter.

You’ll also need to consider how frequently to post on each platform to reach the desired engagement level.

Untapped social features brands should know about

Among the commonalities, there are also some unique gems. Here are some lesser known features that can benefit your brand.

Instagram Guides

Instagram Guides are a curation of published posts featured separately on your profile. Guides are like Story highlights because they can help your audience find specific content that interests them long after you initially posted.

A screenshot of Grove Collective's Instagram Guide Plastic-free Products at Grove.

There are three different kinds of Instagram Guides:

  • Post Guides: Curate posts around a specific theme, share helpful resources and curate listicles.
  • Product Guides: Bring eCommerce products into the spotlight.
  • Place Guides: Curate a guide using posts with specific geotags.

LinkedIn Showcase Pages

Showcase Pages are an underrated LinkedIn feature that help brands that cater to multiple segments or offer several types of products.

You can target audience segments with dedicated Showcase Pages based on different criteria like interests, preferences, professions and more.

YouTube cards

YouTube cards are link cards that pop up throughout a video to direct viewers to other related content. You can add cards to promote another video, a playlist, a channel or an external link.

A screen of a Sprout Social YouTube video. YouTube cards pop up in the right-hand corner of the screen with related content suggestions based on the video.

Many creators leave out cards and only use the description box. Use cards to direct your viewers’ attention, in the moment, to a particular piece of content.

Facebook Watch Party

Watch Party enables you to stream at a certain time of your choosing in a Facebook group. It’s different from Facebook LIVE because it’s pre-recorded and you can engage as people watch the video. However, you can use it to re-stream a Facebook LIVE, as well as create playlists with multiple videos or host a watch party for a video from a partner account.

Hosting a Watch Party is a great way to repurpose your video content that previously performed well.

How to keep up with changing social media features and trends

Social media features are dynamic and evolving. New features are constantly added and user behavior changes. So you need to keep up with the latest functionalities to create successful social media marketing strategies.

You can navigate through the noise by taking a critical look at what’s most essential for your business and which platforms will propel your business forward.

Want to know more about social media features? Here are some articles to help you out: