Unless you’re Doctor Strange with a time stone, there’s little use in trying to predict the future. Because if 2020 taught us anything, it’s that nothing is for certain and plans can change on a whim.

So instead of trying to anticipate the next big thing for 2021, we’re going in the opposite direction and sharing what not to do on social media based on what we learned in 2020. Social marketers Bre Schneider, Christina Olivarez and Olivia Jepson share the social media tips and tricks they’re embracing to put data first and reclaim their time. From taking a stand on current events to embracing the rise of TikTok, here are six things to keep in mind when executing your 2021 social strategy.

The social media do’s and don’ts for 2021

1. Don’t forget, it’s quality over quantity

With social algorithms continuing to evolve over time, ditch the mentality that you need to constantly publish a high volume of content. Social algorithms prioritize relevance over quantity, so more posts don’t equate to more engagement.

Publishing at a high frequency can be harmful in more ways than one. Too many posts can come off as spammy to your audience, and the need to create can quickly burn out your social team. Figuring out what your audience really wants to hear from your brand is what will fuel your social engagement.

Do this instead: Christina Olivarez, Founder and CEO of The Social Butterfly Gal, recommends brands take a listening approach to content creation. With tools like social listening, marketers can better understand what their audience cares about and develop social content that directly addresses consumers’ expectations. At the start of the pandemic, the city of San Antonio turned to social media to identify what topics were top of mind for their audience. The result was a social campaign encouraging residents to share why they wear a mask and drawing support from people like the San Antonio Spurs’ Gregg Popovich.

2. Don’t sleep on TikTok

It feels like everyone was on TikTok in 2020. From the skateboarding, cranberry juice and “Dreams” combo we didn’t know we needed to the #BlindingLights challenge, TikTok is where trends are born and go viral.

Brands, however, are still slow to go all-in on TikTok—a mistake that Bre Schneider, the Social Media Manager at US HealthConnect Inc., hopes brands will soon address. “I can’t tell you how many digital marketers I’ve talked to about their brand and TikTok,” says Schneider. “Because it’s an emerging platform, most digital marketers either say ‘my audience isn’t here’ or ‘TikTok isn’t for us right now.’” But with 700+ million active users worldwide, there’s a strong likelihood your audience is on TikTok—and they’re waiting for you to come and entertain them.

Do this instead: If your brand isn’t ready to start creating content for TikTok, that doesn’t mean you should ignore the network entirely. Schneider recommends using TikTok to keep a pulse on emerging cultural trends to inspire creative social media ideas on other channels. Clips can be repurposed as Instagram videos and trends can be modified to fit other social networks. You might not be creating for TikTok, but you can still treat TikTok as a source of inspiration for your social content strategy.

3. Don’t be afraid to take a stand

This past year, brands were pressed to speak out on social and political issues, with 70% of consumers saying it’s important for brands to take a stand. Olivia Jepson, the Social Media Specialist here at Sprout Social, believes this pressure on brands will only increase as consumers want to support brands that share values similar to their own.

“This will be the year for brands that spoke up in 2020 to follow up on their commitments and be transparent with their audience about the actions they’re taking,” says Jepson. And for brands that haven’t taken a stand yet, consider the pros and cons of doing so. Staying silent can hurt your brand, but it’s equally important to know when to join the conversation in an appropriate manner.

Do this instead: If push back from leadership is what’s keeping you from speaking up, bring the data that shows taking a stand is actually what your audience wants. Data shows, for example, that 40% of consumers want brands to collaborate with relevant nonprofits and 27% want CEOs to publish their own statement. Ben & Jerry’s regularly posts on topics like prison reform and ending the cash bail system, while H-E-B shared their stance on fighting systemic racism in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.

Remember: Your brand also needs to be able to support whatever you post on social media. Continue to push for leadership buy-in but also be mindful your brand may not be in a position to back up that stance at this particular moment in time.

4. Don’t lump your content and campaign reports together

Tracking your social content performance in aggregate may sound like a timesaver, but in actuality it can make reporting more complicated than necessary. While it’s great to be able to see an overview of how all of your content is performing, it’s the granular details that can help you adjust and elevate your social strategy.

“You want to test certain things about a campaign or post compared to others, and if you don’t have a process set up you’re doing yourself a disservice,” says Schneider. With a general report, you can overlook the specific details that take your social content strategy from good to great.

Do this instead: Organize and tag your content by campaign so you understand how each performs individually. If you manage an ecommerce brand, for example, you may want to create a tag specifically for customer service so you can track support efforts and identify opportunities to improve the customer experience. If you’re promoting an event, create an event hashtag you can monitor with social listening tools and share back metrics like potential impressions and engagement.

Tip: You can easily organize your content using tags in Sprout! Use Tags to categorize content related to upcoming events, campaigns or product launches and then use the Tag Report to analyze what resonated the most with your audience.

5. Don’t keep your data to yourself

Working in social can often feel like working in a silo, but the reality is that every department can benefit from collaborating with social and using the data you have to share. There are valuable consumer insights nestled in your social data that teams across sales, product and more can leverage to improve their own respective disciplines.

If you aren’t sharing data outside of marketing, you’re keeping information that can help teams like sales and customer service have a greater impact on your business’ goals. Jepson also recommends sharing social data to help secure leadership buy-in and to get the rest of your team invested in your social strategy.

Do this instead: Bridge the gap by proactively sharing social reports with stakeholders to keep them informed of your projects and to demonstrate the impact of social. Here at Sprout, our social team went on a listening roadshow to share relevant listening insights with departments like creative, sales and product. These insights ranged from what our customers want in a feature as well as their biggest pain points in the app, and would not have seen the light of day if the social team didn’t proactively share this information with others.

6. Don’t forget to prioritize social customer service

Build brand loyalty and strengthen your customer relationships by investing in your social customer care strategy. When your audience has a question, complaint or a compliment, the first place they’ll turn is social media—and your brand needs to be ready to respond with helpful information.

A robust customer support plan, complete with prepared responses, is part of what makes a great customer experience. Remember, everyone is watching how you interact with your audience on social, and your response says a lot about what kind of experience you’re cultivating for your customers.

Do this instead: In addition to monitoring engagement metrics, make sure you’re tracking metrics like response rate and sentiment to gauge the effectiveness of your social customer service. Data shows 40% of consumers expect brands to respond within an hour of reaching out on social media, and response rates can tell you if you’re on the right track or need further improvement. To speed up their response time, the San Antonio Zoo developed content with answers to frequently asked questions and any additional information needed before attending the zoo.

A new year with boundless opportunity

While we have little way of knowing what to expect this year, 2020 taught us what not to do on social media and what we should be doing instead. From taking a stand on social or political issues to investing in short-form video, the new year brings with it an opportunity to try new things to improve our social strategies.

Ready to put these social media do’s and don’ts into action? Read on to learn how to package your ideas together and nail your next big social media marketing pitch.