Shifting strategies: What you can learn from a network-specific social program


As 2022 comes to a close, we’re looking back on our own year in social at Sprout. Like most social media teams, we’re taking stock of what went well with our social media marketing and what we can improve on as we enter 2023.

At Sprout, this year looked a little different since we debuted a new network-specific social media strategy at the beginning of the year. We learned a lot from taking a new approach and hopefully, you can learn from our strategic wins–and mistakes.

Setting expectations

As we surveyed the social landscape, we classified networks into two different categories–engagement and awareness. As for our internal team model, we divided our social team’s responsibilities to align with these types of networks. This allowed each team member to create platform-specific content that fit exactly what users were looking for.

What is an awareness network?

Awareness networks, like TikTok, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube, are where people go for inspiration. We used these networks to share insights and new perspectives with our audience. Ultimately, posts to these networks aimed to inspire creativity about the possibilities of social–and establish Sprout as a go-to resource for that inspiration.

Awareness content is more about what you’re posting than how people interact with it. We still wanted people to like and share the content we were creating, but the main goal was to increase awareness of Sprout.

List of awareness networks

What is an engagement network?

Simply put, engagement networks are shareable. These networks, like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, are primed for community-building posts. Whether you’re encouraging users to share content with their personal audiences or creating space for dialogue in the comments, engagement networks are all about building conversations.

Our goal for these networks was to create relatable and bold content that made people want to talk. The conversations were about topics like the state of social, what it’s like to work in social media or thoughts about where social media is heading.

List of engagement networks

Establishing network by network goals

After establishing the purpose of each network for our teams, it was time to set our goals. We set both hard and soft metrics for each platform so we knew exactly how to tailor content to reach our goals. Each network got an overall soft goal like reach, inspiration or amplification. Our hard metrics stayed the same, looking at social media metrics like impressions and engagement. By setting goals for the new strategy early on, we were able to establish expectations and give ourselves a yardstick to measure progress.

Looking back

Spoiler alert: Sprout won’t be continuing with a network-specific approach next year. It wasn’t the right fit for our team, but we did learn some valuable lessons in the process and gained powerful insights that wouldn’t have been possible without trying this out. Consistently testing new strategies is the most important piece of a sustainable social media strategy, and we’re happy we tried this, even if we won’t continue in the new year. Here are a few lessons we learned on our network-specific journey.

Win: Gaining individual insights

A network-specific strategy is excellent for determining how you’re performing on each network. Algorithms and audiences differ, and putting each platform under a microscope gave us invaluable insights into our performance. We were able to make intentional content shifts in real-time that will have a lasting impact on how we structure our content and prioritize networks in the future. These insights made our team feel more confident in proactively creating social content for each network.

I felt like I could really own the networks I had. That allowed me to be more proactive with content since my focus wasn’t spread as thin across all of our networks.

Olivia Jepson
Senior Social Media Strategist

Win: Getting intentional

This strategy forced us to really think about why a user visits a platform. We had to constantly ask ourselves what our users wanted when they logged on. This kind of intentionality creates better content. Even as we’re structuring our team and strategy differently, we’re looking at which platform is best suited for which content in a whole new way.

Loss: Scaling sustainably

Simply put, this strategy isn’t built for scale. Unsurprisingly, having a separate strategy for each social network is hard. As more and more platforms join the chat, creating effective strategies for each of them is virtually impossible.

We also learned that silos kill scalability. Teams need to collaborate and communicate to create lasting outcomes, and that became increasingly difficult after we split our team in half. It’s possible to focus too hard and we definitely learned that during this process. We didn’t see a clear path to growth with this strategy.

Moving forward

Even though we won’t bring this strategy with us into 2023, we’re taking the lessons we learned and the pieces that worked with us. From a holistic perspective, we’ll never be able to look at individual networks the same way, and that’s made us better social media marketers. This approach is a great way to gain valuable insights, get better data and build an understanding of your audience platform by platform.

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