More than 70% of people in the United States use some form of social media, and most of these users are active on their preferred platforms every day. For business owners, this means social media marketing presents an opportunity to reach and engage with your customers where they already are.
Social media marketing can help small businesses acquire new customers, boost brand loyalty, improve customer relationships, and increase sales. To get these benefits, you first need to understand how and when to use different types of social media content and how to create engaging, audience-appropriate content that drives results.
9 types of social media content
- Text-only posts
- Recorded video
- Live video
- User-generated content
Most social media posts consist of written copy and an additional asset such as an image, video, audio clip, or link. There’s a lot of variation within these parameters—and different post types perform better on different platforms, engage different target audiences, and are best suited to sharing different types of information. Here’s an overview of how to use common social media content categories.
1. Text-only posts
Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn allow text-only posts, which are posts that contain copy but don’t include images, links, or other assets. Text-only posts are most popular on Twitter and LinkedIn. They can be useful for answering common questions about your brand and providing timely information.
In most cases, posts with images outperform text-only posts. LinkedIn reports that posts with images have a 98% higher comment rate, and Twitter reports that users are three times more likely to engage with posts that include visual content. This means that even if your post’s key content is best communicated through text, an accompanying image can boost engagement.
LinkedIn allows members to publish articles of up to 120,000 characters. Common types of articles include industry news, thought-leadership content, professional advice, and content marketing.
Users enter article content directly into platform fields and can include images, hyperlinks, hashtags, and mentions. LinkedIn articles are indexed by Google and can show up in search results, but they don’t automatically appear in your followers’ feeds like LinkedIn posts.
Since LinkedIn articles thus tend to have a smaller reach than LinkedIn posts, the platform recommends publishing a companion post linking to each article to increase traffic. If your articles are shared beyond your immediate following, you can increase brand awareness and build a reputation for industry leadership.
Many social media platforms allow you to share links to web pages outside of the platform itself. URLs can lead to content on your site (such as a blog post, landing page, or product page) or elsewhere—for example, a mail-order cupcake company might link to a news article about the emerging trend of throwing birthday parties for dogs.
Posting links to your site can help you increase traffic to key pages. Including external links can also position you as a thought leader without requiring you to write thought-leadership content; by carefully curating interesting and relevant content, you can keep your target audience engaged.
Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook allow users to share links—and if your link includes a featured image, these platforms will automatically pull it through to the post.
4. Recorded video
Many social media platforms allow users to share video content. Social media marketers frequently categorize video content by length. Short-form videos are brief snippets, typically between three seconds and one minute long and often shot in vertical format. They include TikTok videos, Instagram and Facebook Reels and Stories, and YouTube Shorts. Instagram and Facebook also allow users to share short video content posts to their feeds. Short-form videos are particularly popular with younger users, and industry research suggests that they provide the strongest return on investment (ROI) of any type of social content—making video marketing worthy of consideration.
Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube also allow users to upload long-form videos. On LinkedIn, videos can last up to 15 minutes. Facebook allows users to post videos up to four hours long. YouTube supports the longest of long-form videos, with a cap at 12 hours for verified creators.
5. Live video
Live video, or livestreaming, is video that broadcasts on social media platforms in real time (as opposed to video you make in advance and then publish on social channels). Live video is inherently unfiltered—you won’t necessarily be able to control for, say, your dog breaking into your showroom or a gust of wind nearly knocking you over at an outdoor event. Consumers respond to the realness of live video: A 2021 survey found livestreaming drives a 27% longer watch time per viewing than prerecorded video.
Facebook Live, Instagram Live, and Twitter allow all users to go live, and YouTube and TikTok allow users who meet certain platform requirements (including social media follower counts, age minimums, and verification status) to stream live content. Brands can use live video to give audiences virtual front-row seats at important events, such as product unveilings and industry panels.
Many platforms allow brands to post images to their feeds. Images are popular on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and, especially, Instagram. Instagram’s display prioritizes images over text, so it’s a particularly good social platform for showing off striking visual content like product photos, company culture photos, and graphics. Although it’s possible to publish image-only posts to most platforms, brands typically include some written copy to provide context.
Infographics are a type of image that provides a visualization of informational content. They perform well on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. You can use infographics to showcase product features. For example, an ecommerce apparel company might create an infographic featuring a graphic rendering of one of the company’s shirts and short snippets of text pointing out key features where they appear on the product, such as “two-button collar closure,” “wrinkle-resistant fabric,” and “extra-long hem.” Infographics are also an effective way to display statistics, like, for example, the percent of waste diverted from landfills thanks to a product’s sustainable packaging.
Audio content includes podcasts and live audio chat rooms. Although podcasts aren’t hosted directly on social platforms, users can distribute podcasts on any platform that allows external links. Clubhouse is a social platform built around live audio chat room interaction, and it surged in popularity in 2020. Since then, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn have also added live audio chat room functions to their platforms. In most cases, anyone can join the room, and users can also request permission to speak on the stream. Much like live video, live audio can allow brands to build relationships by connecting with users in real-time.
9. User-generated content
User-generated content (UGC) is any content related to a brand that is created by somebody other than the brand entity—such as a customer or employee. UGC can take a variety of forms: YouTube unboxing videos, customer success stories, and video testimonials are all types of UGC.
Brands can launch UGC campaigns or social media contests or giveaways to encourage users to create content featuring their brands. For example, a company that makes straw hats for skin-safe fun in the sun might encourage social media users to post pictures of themselves frolicking in the sunlight, tag the company, and include the hashtag #sunsafestraw. The brand can reshare posts, engage with posters, and even request permission to post photos from the company’s social media accounts.
6 tips for creating effective social media content
- Conduct audience research
- Post different types of content
- Incorporate your mission and values
- Adopt a community management strategy
- Develop a content calendar to stay organized
- Leverage analytics to learn what needs improvement
A strong social media presence can support a range of digital marketing metrics and overall business goals—from increasing trust in your brand to driving traffic to a particular landing page. Follow these tips to create social media content that provides value to target audiences, encourages engagement, and helps you reach your goals.
1. Conduct audience research
An effective social media strategy provides value to your target audience—but before you can provide value, you have to know who you’re doing it for. Gather customer demographic info (such as age, gender, geographic location, income, and level of education) as well as information about interests, needs, buying cycles, and decision drivers. You can pull this information from existing customer data, survey your customers, or use in-platform analytics or third-party social media analytics tools to gather information about your current audience.
Leverage this audience research to determine which social media platform(s) your audience uses and which type of content they’re most likely to connect with.
2. Post different types of content
Successful social media strategies include diverse content types. Brands also use different types of posts to communicate different types of information and engage followers with different content preferences. For example, entertaining content might generate loyalty, but it won’t necessarily inspire your audience to make purchases, and while livestreams can help brands attract new followers, they won’t reach users who only skim their social media feeds.
To round out your social media presence, diversify both content type and content form. Every audience is different, and this strategy also allows you to supplement industry research with tested insights about your company’s specific followers. For example, platform intelligence might tell you that your target demographics are more likely to engage with image-based posts than linked articles, but you might find that the opposite is true for your most engaged followers. You can use this information to create content that meets your specific audience's needs.
3. Incorporate your mission and values
Messages about social impact can catch people’s eye on social media. For example, intimacy and wellness company Maude’s Sex Ed for All campaign aimed to raise awareness about the importance of access to sexual education. As part of this content strategy, Maude posts informational text-only graphics on Instagram that describe the history of sex education and its current status in the United States.
4. Adopt a community management strategy
Creating engaging posts can help you build audience relationships and attract new followers, and interacting with audiences can further increase engagement. Community management refers to methods brands use to interact with audiences in online spaces. It involves monitoring social platforms for chatter about your company, proactively engaging with your audience, and addressing customer complaints.
To get started, set up a mentions feed in you social media management platform, and commit to responding to customer comments within 24 hours: According to a 2022 study, 76% of consumers expect brands to respond to comments within 24 hours, and 30% of customers will move on to a competing brand if a company doesn’t respond in a timely manner.
5. Develop a content calendar to stay organized
A content calendar is an organized representation of your planned schedule for posting social media content. Creating a content calendar can help you evaluate your content mix, develop a publishing cadence, and strategically schedule posts. Social media management tools allow you to create content calendars in the platform and automatically schedule posts for publication.
One commonly cited rule of thumb is that 80% of a brand’s social media content should educate, entertain, or inform its target audiences, while 20% should directly promote a brand’s products or services. A content calendar can help you confirm that your content mix is appropriately diverse, with different types of content evenly distributed over time.
6. Leverage analytics to learn what needs improvement
Social media analytics tools can help you identify top-performing posts and factors that affect engagement. For example, you can use video analytics to see where users stop watching your content—known as a drop-off point. If you notice a high drop-off rate at around 30 seconds into a two-minute video, you can tease exciting content featured in the second half of the video at around the 25-second mark to encourage users to keep watching.
Social media content FAQ
What is the ideal length for social media captions?
The ideal length for social media captions varies by platform. In general, however, shorter captions are better. Here’s a general overview of the ideal length per platform:
- Facebook posts: Fewer than 80 characters
- Tweets: 71–100 characters
- LinkedIn posts: Fewer than 25 words
- Instagram posts: 138–150 characters
Should I use paid promotion to boost my social media content?
Paid social strategies can help more users see your posts. In some cases, they also provide access to additional features (such as clickable buttons or purchase links). If you have space in your digital marketing budget and your goals include increasing post reach, investing in paid social promotion can benefit your brand.
How can I track the performance of my social media content?
Social media marketers use in-platform analytics and third-party social media analytics tools to measure social media performance. Common metrics include impressions, engagement rate, click-through rate, and conversion rate.