Want to Win at Social Media in 2023? Here‘s What Followers Want, According to the Experts

Social media is always evolving, and so are the expectations and desires of its users. As a marketer trying to "win" at social media in 2023, it‘s crucial to understand what today‘s followers are really looking for from the accounts they choose to engage with and the platforms where they spend their time.

At the 2023 SXSW conference, a panel of social media experts from leading brands shared their insights on what followers want now. "Social media is the one thing that galvanizes a movement. [It] allows people to gather in a way that is faster and more efficient," said Rajni Lucienne Jacques, Head of Fashion & Beauty Partnerships at TikTok.

So how can you create social content that doesn‘t just engage — but also drives real business value? Here are the key takeaways, along with further analysis and recommendations to help guide your social strategy this year.

1. Authentic community building

One resounding theme is that social media users are craving authentic communities again. They want to connect with like-minded people around shared interests, causes and movements. The days of simply broadcasting content to a passive audience are over.

Facebook‘s Tutti Taygerly added that "As a company, we‘re not just trying to promote passive consumption of content. We‘re trying to pay a lot of attention to [community building]."

This tracks with Facebook‘s recent algorithm updates prioritizing "meaningful interactions" and aiming to spark conversations between users. Posts that get thoughtful comments and discussion will be rewarded with more reach.

Consider these stats on the power of social community building:

  • 76% of consumers say they‘re more likely to trust content shared by "normal" people than content shared by brands (Stackla)
  • 66% of branded communities say their community has led to increased loyalty (CMX/Influitive)
  • Brand communities boost new product adoption by 24% and existing product spend by 26% (Salesforce)

So how can brands build engaged communities on social today? Some suggestions:

  • Focus on your niche. Hone in on the specific interests, concerns, and passions that unite your target audience. Create a space for them to gather around that.

  • Host live events and discussions. Bring your community together in real-time with live videos, Q&As, watch parties, etc. on the platforms that enable it. 67% of people are more likely to buy from a brand after a positive live video experience.

  • Elevate your fans. Source and share user-generated content, run contests that encourage audience participation, give shoutouts to your top fans and advocates. Help them feel seen and valued.

  • Get involved in relevant social causes. 74% of consumers believe companies should take a stand on important issues. Find authentic ways to use your platform to support the movements your audience cares about.

The key is solving for human needs and creating experiences that add value to your audience‘s lives, not just pushing your own agenda. "Anchor on the core people problem, and then figure out ‘What is the work? What are the use cases?‘" advised Taygerly.

For example, beauty brand Sephora has built a thriving online community of millions called Beauty Insider. Members connect on the brand‘s website and app to ask questions, share tips, post looks, and review products. Sephora fosters engagement with exclusive content, expert Q&As, and a gamified points system. The result? Increased loyalty, lifetime value, and organic advocacy.

2. Respect for privacy and boundaries

Even as people crave community on social media, privacy is still a major concern for many. With frequent headlines about data breaches and misuse, trust in social platforms is low. And after two years of pandemic-fueled screen time, many users are more mindful about their digital well-being and setting boundaries with social media.

"Social media [sometimes] becomes too much," said Jacques. "Users take a detox and live their lives… It‘s nice for anyone who devours social media to go through to realize your best self."

In a 2022 survey by Sprout Social, 33% of consumers said they‘d stopped buying from a brand due to "creepy" social media behaviors, like sending too many messages or ads.

Social Media Trust
Image source

Brands need to be respectful of their audience‘s privacy needs and careful not to overstep. Some ways to achieve this:

  • Be transparent about data collection. Clearly communicate what data you collect from followers and how it‘s used. Give them control over their privacy settings.
  • Don‘t bombard people with ads and messages. Use audience targeting and personalization thoughtfully, not in a way that feels invasive or "creepy". Pace your posting cadence so you‘re not dominating feeds.
  • Provide value, not just promotion. Balance sales-focused content with helpful resources, entertainment, and community building so your presence is welcome, not annoying. Aim for a 5:3:2 ratio of 50% valuable/educational content, 30% human content showcasing your brand voice and values, and 20% promotional content.
  • Consider closed communities. In addition to your public social profiles, explore building private groups or communities for your most engaged fans, where they may feel more comfortable sharing.

Ultimately, trust and consent should be at the core of how you engage followers on social. Brands that enable people to come together in safe, respectful ways will be rewarded with loyal fans.

3. A megaphone for their stories

Thanks to social media, everyone now has a platform to share their voice and experiences with the world. For many, it‘s an empowering opportunity for storytelling, creativity and connection.

"People are sharing their creativity and expanding it to their audiences," said Joshua Dickens, Director of Creator Marketing at Snap Inc.

Savvy brands recognize this and look for ways to invite and amplify their audience‘s stories, not just broadcast their own.

"[Social media] gives a voice to those who never thought they had a voice," said Jacques. "So we don‘t tap into that? Why don‘t we say, ‘We‘re inviting you in to tell your stories that you‘re already telling your peers‘?"

Some notable stats on the power of user-generated content (UGC):

  • 79% of people say UGC highly impacts their purchasing decisions, compared to 13% who say content from brands does (Stackla)
  • UGC-based ads get 4X higher click-through rates and a 50% drop in cost-per-click compared to average ads (Shopify)
  • Ads with UGC visuals had a 38% higher ATC rate than using brand-owned creative alone (Meta)

Some examples of how brands are handing followers the mic:

  • Duolingo‘s TikTok strategy focuses on spotlighting funny and relatable user-generated content about learning languages, rather than pushing the app directly. It‘s become one of the most followed and engaged-with brand accounts on the platform.

  • Sephora‘s #SephoraSquad influencer program brings together 73 diverse creators to share their unique beauty journeys and tips. They post tutorials, product reviews, and glimpses into their lives, creating a tapestry of authentic stories that ladders up to Sephora‘s brand.

  • Dove‘s long-running "Real Beauty" campaign centers real women‘s experiences with self-esteem and body image. By sharing unretouched photos, confessional videos and support for body-positive causes, Dove has built a community of millions united by a mission of inclusive beauty.

The common thread is that these brands make their followers the heroes, not just the audience. They provide prompts and platforms for people to contribute their own narratives, then shine a spotlight on those diverse voices.

To follow their lead, consider:

  • Running storytelling challenges and hashtag campaigns that invite audience participation around a theme
  • Showcasing user-generated content like reviews, testimonials, and personal anecdotes in your feed and ads
  • Partnering with creators and influencers who can bring new perspectives and stories to your brand
  • Supporting follower-driven fundraisers and petitions for causes they care about

When you make space for your audience‘s stories alongside your own, you show that you value them as partners, not just targets. You build deeper affinity and loyalty by making them feel heard.

4. Intimacy and real-time connection

As social media has become more crowded and impersonal over the years, many users are gravitating toward smaller, more intimate digital spaces where they can engage in the moment with close-knit communities.

This may take the form of private messaging, closed groups, invite-only apps, or emerging formats designed for real-time interaction, like social audio.

According to a Facebook survey, 69% of respondents said messaging has made them feel closer to friends and family. During the pandemic, as in-person interaction became rare, tools like WhatsApp, Messenger and Zoom became vital ways to maintain relationships and combat isolation.

And amid Zoom fatigue and spur-of-the-moment cravings for connection, social audio apps like Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces took off, enabling people to drop into rooms and join free-flowing live conversations about any topic under the sun.

"Sometimes, it‘s easier to share more intimately in a group," said Taygerly. The challenge for brands becomes "What should be shared just with friends and family, and what should be public? What is the demarcation between those two worlds?"

Leaning too far into private spaces risks feeling intrusive, but ignoring them means missing out on powerful bonding opportunities. The sweet spot is giving followers agency to choose their level of intimacy, and rewarding the ones who invite you in.

Some ways brands can cultivate intimacy and FOMO:

  • Offer closed communities and exclusive content for your most loyal customers or top fans, like Sephora‘s Beauty Insider Community or Glossier‘s Into the Gloss blog
  • Host spontaneous AMAs, office hours or informal hangouts on social audio or live video, like Coinbase‘s frequent Twitter Spaces
  • Encourage employees to share candid, behind-the-scenes moments on their own channels, like Away Travel‘s #AwayInsider employee stories
  • Create interactive, shared experiences like co-watching events, Twitter chats or scavenger hunts
  • Give followers sneak peeks and input into product development or creative brainstorms, like LEGO Ideas

When you give people the keys to join in shaping your brand in real-time, you turn them from passive viewers to active stakeholders.

![Social Media Connection Stats](https://www.marketingscoop.com/hs-fs/hubfs/social-media-connection-stats.jpg?width=600&name=social-media-connection-stats.jpg)

*[Image source](https://www.facebook.com/business/news/insights/generation-z-and-digital-communication-the-role-of-social-messaging)*

Putting it into practice

As you craft your social media marketing strategy, keep these follower desires top of mind. How can you build thriving communities, respect privacy, elevate diverse voices, and create spontaneous connections?

Remember, social media success isn‘t just about racking up the most likes or followers. It‘s about forging authentic relationships with your audience and adding real value to their lives.

"We‘re optimistic," said Taygerly. "We‘re designers because we envision a better world." As you design your brand‘s social presence, let a people-first ethos lead the way.

The platforms and tactics will keep evolving, but an audience-centric approach will always be a winning strategy. Develop deep empathy for your followers‘ needs and a genuine desire to serve them, and the engagement and loyalty will follow.

To sum up, here are the key principles to keep in mind for social media marketing success in 2023 and beyond:

  1. Build engaged communities united by shared interests and values. Use social to connect people, not just promote to them.
  2. Respect privacy and give people control over their data and social boundaries. Focus on consent and transparency.
  3. Amplify your audience‘s voices and stories, not just your brand‘s. Treat followers like partners in co-creation.
  4. Foster intimate connections and FOMO with exclusive access and live experiences. Reward your most loyal fans.

Social media is ultimately about people, not platforms. Keep that north star in focus, and evolve your strategies to meet their changing needs and expectations. That‘s the secret to "future-proofing" your brand‘s social success.

Need help developing a winning social media marketing plan? Download our free template here.