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  Article updated: October 20, 2021

Create engaging and effective social media content

You already know that it’s important to have a social media presence with fresh, engaging content. And you know that effective social content can drive traffic to your site and convert visitors into paying customers. Hootsuite can help with scheduling, publishing, and managing activity on your content, but if you’re unsure exactly what to publish, you’re not alone.

This article is your ultimate guide to demystifying social media marketing. You’ll find everything you need to help you develop a successful content strategy—from the components of a great post, to ideas for engaging content, to social network–specific guidelines. You can read this article in any order. Just select a topic that interests you to find exactly what you’re looking for.

Looking to learn the fundamentals of social media marketing? Check out your options and sign up for a free, live, interactive Social media bootcamp class. Looking for advanced training? Check out our other training and certification offerings.

Know your post anatomy

There are posts, and then there are effective posts. To publish truly effective social media content, you should understand the specific purpose and value of each element of a post.

Here’s a sample post, built right in Hootsuite.

A sample post with numbered callouts corresponding to explanations of each post element
  1. Caption: Describe your visual, or draw attention with a statement, question, or headline. Research shows that an average of 150 characters, or about 15 words, gets the most clicks.
  2. Emoji: Include relevant emoji to add tone and visual interest.
  3. Call to action: Ask a question to encourage comments, or share a link to invite your audience to learn more, try, or buy.
  4. Mentions: Mention other accounts (yours or others) for added visibility and reach.
  5. Hashtags: Add topical and relevant keywords for added reach. For hashtag recommendations for each social network, see Know your networks.
  6. Images or videos: Include one or more (depending on the social network) compelling, high-quality photos, GIFs, or video clips, tailored to your brand and the tastes of your audience.

For more details and best practices for each of these elements, see Build the perfect post.

Build the perfect post

There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all post, so we’ve collected some proven best practices to help you achieve your social media goals. Here, we drill down into the post elements mentioned in Know your post anatomy to help you grow and engage your audience and avoid social media stagnation.

Captions and headlines

You have the choice of using a short headline, a longer caption, or both. Adding a secondary headline is a good option if you want to quickly provide more information about your content before readers scroll past your post.

Special characters and emoji

Special characters and emoji can add interest, attract the eye, and make your brand more relatable. Recent data shows that adding emoji can significantly increase audience engagement. Just be careful not to overdo it! Every emoji should have a purpose.

A Facebook bost uisng a dog emoji for an article with a dog theme

Besides conveying emotion and giving your brand a more human personality, emoji can be used as simple engagement tools. For example, you can add emoji to separate blocks of text, making it easier to read and skim. You can also use emoji to gather votes from your audience; for example, ask them to leave a thumbs up if they agree or a thumbs down if they don't.

If using emoji feels too risky, here are some basic symbols that can go a long way:

An arrow or pointing finger can draw a reader’s attention to a link you want them to click.

A Facebook post using a pointing finger to call attention to a link

Stars or starbursts can make text pop or convey excitement or celebration.

A Facebook post using starbursts to highlight a headline

Check marks can convey a sense of action or verification, while symbols with color associations can drive home a point.

A Facebook post using a green check mark and a red x to highlight good news and bad news

Calls to action

Try to begin or end your posts with a clear call to action. For example, on Facebook, you might announce the opening of a new location and encourage people to comment on the post for a reward redeemable at that location. On Twitter, you could simply ask for retweets. At the very least, include a link to your website, an article, or other site.

A Facebook post with a link to find out more


Mentioning other businesses, organizations, contributors, and influencers in social media posts is fundamental to social networking. Promote or thank a partner or supporter of your brand to increase mutual exposure and encourage the other party to reshare your post, or reciprocate with their own. Interactions on these posts (likes, comments, and shares) can quickly increase engagement and even affect algorithms that can help push your content to the top of users' feeds.

A tweet using mentions to highlight software partnerships and integrations

To mention others when crafting a post in Hootsuite, just type the @ symbol followed by their username or handle. For more details about using mentions in Hootsuite and how they work with each social network, see Mention a user or Page.


Hashtags are words or phrases combined together and preceded by the # symbol. You can use them to identify content, brands, themes, trends, and campaigns. They’re immediately searchable on social media as soon as you publish, so they can help make your post more discoverable and pull your brand into trending topics.

Hashtags are clickable, and anyone who clicks on a hashtag or conducts a hashtag search on a social network sees a page showing all the posts that contain that hashtag.

Here are some of the most common types of hashtags.

Type of hashtagExamples
Campaign or brand event#MakeoverMySocial, #Digital2021
Product or service#handbag, #divebar
Niche#foodblogger, #weddingphotographer
Industry, group, or community#craftersofinstagram, #LGBTQ
Event, holiday, or season#nationalicecreamday, #blackfriday
Location#vancouvercraftbeer, #LAcounty
Daily#MondayBlues, #SundayFunday
Acronym#TBT, #YOLO
Social responsibility #savetheplanet, #sustainability


Social media is inherently visual, and visual content provides a critical engagement boost. Statistically, visual posts get consistently more clicks, shares, and comments than posts with text only.

Try using a mixture of photos, images with text overlay, and videos to enhance the value and visual appeal of your posts. You don’t need to add a visual element to every single post, but pay attention to how visuals affect audience engagement and adjust your strategy accordingly.


Curate and re-purpose existing content

You don’t have to create all your social content from scratch! Your organization and your entire social media community are excellent content resources. Evaluating your organization’s own content as well as media from respected external sources can uncover valuable assets. You can then re-purpose or reshare these assets to help keep your audience engaged with your own brand.

External content

Sharing external posts is an excellent way to provide additional valuable content to your audiences, build trust as an involved and knowledgeable member of your industry, and help fill gaps in your content calendar.

Hootsuite Apps are a great way to get started curating external content. Hootsuite offers a variety of partner integrations that allow you to install and use content curation apps, right in Hootsuite. Browse the Find Content category in Hootsuite Apps to find apps that work for you.

Watch External Content Curation for Social Media for more suggestions.


Internal content

Your own organization can be a trove of content that can add value on your social channels. For example, how-tos, blog articles, press releases, printed materials, marketing presentations, and promotions all have the potential to be repurposed as social posts.

Consider breaking long pieces of content, such as brochures, into bite-sized social posts. Turn a detailed blog article into a Top 10 list. Or, reuse parts of a how-to article in the form of a Tips and Tricks post. Track the performance of this reused content to help you better understand your audience and fine-tune future content to meet their needs and interests.

For much more about repurposing internal content, watch Internal Content Curation for Social Media.

Know your networks

People use different social networks to accomplish different goals, and their behavior can vary significantly among social platforms. By understanding how people use each social media platform, you can adapt your strategy to suit their needs and reach more customers.

In this section, you’ll learn about the audience profile for each of the most popular social networks, the type of content that keeps them engaged on those platforms, and some specific best practices for each network.

Of course, you don’t need to use all the social networks. A little research into which social networks your audience prefers can help you target your efforts and save valuable time.

  Facebook Instagram Twitter LinkedIn
Captions1-80 characters138-150 characters71-100 characters25 words
Hashtags1-2 hashtags5-10 hashtags1-2 hashtags1-2 hashtags
Post frequency1-2 times per day3-7 times per week1-2 times per day1-5 times per day

For detailed guidance on how often to publish for each network, see How Often to Post to Social Media.

But WHAT should I publish?

Variety is key to keeping your audience interested and engaged. Different post types can achieve different goals, so we recommend planning content according to four content pillars: educate, entertain, inspire, and promote.

EducateEducational content should spark curiosity and help readers gain knowledge. Examples of this format include tips, FAQs, Top 10 lists (use any number), and Did you know? questions. This content can be about your brand or just relevant to your brand and your audience.
EntertainEntertaining content should be intriguing to your audience, as well as quick and punchy. “Entertaining” doesn’t mean you have to be funny (although humor is a great technique when done well). Examples of entertaining content include unusual stories, behind-the-scenes perspectives, and before-and-after posts.
InspireInspiring content should be especially positive or memorable. It should have an emotional impact and drive a user’s desire to take action or alter their perspective. Examples include people-focused stories, and stories about social responsibility or community involvement.
PromotePromotional content is about encouraging your audience to take the next step. Be sure to tell people what you want them to do with a call to action. Examples include shop now, enter our contest, see the link in our bio, and leave a comment.

When you know what your content should do, you can begin planning what and when to publish. Use the four content pillars to mix up your content and ensure variety while maintaining your brand voice and facilitating engagement.

To learn how to visualize, share, and manage a calendar of balanced social content in Hootsuite, see Manage your scheduled posts. For a handy content planning template, download Hootsuite’s free Social Media Content Calendar.

The content possibilities are endless, but you can use the following list as a starting point for your own content brainstorming. See example and more ideas in Creative Social Media Content Ideas You Should Try.


Publish at the “right” time

Questions about what and where to publish are usually followed by, “When should I publish?” The answer is complicated because audiences and algorithms vary among social networks and industries. Fortunately, Hootsuite Analytics can take much of the guesswork out of your strategy.

The Best times to publish view in Analytics uses your previous 30 days’ posts to provide suggestions for the best times to publish. These suggestions are based on your goals, such as brand awareness, engagement, or traffic. You’ll get suggestions for publishing to your Facebook Pages, Twitter accounts, Instagram Business accounts, LinkedIn Pages, and LinkedIn profiles. Learn more at Suggestions for the best time to publish on social.

To learn about publishing on each social network and fine-tune your timing strategy, read The Best Time to Post on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

When your timing strategy is established, consider developing a content calendar to plan and stay organized. Then, use Hootsuite to help you schedule your posts. To learn more, see:

Training and certification

Learn advanced skills—and get certified—by signing up for a Hootsuite Academy course in social marketing, social advertising, or advanced social media strategy: