Is your brand killing it on the social web? Last week, we attended Luxury Interactive, where we had the opportunity to learn best practices from some of social’s most innovative brands.

Below, we share five key takeaways from the conference—as well as where these marketing masterminds felt the biggest oversights are being made—so you can assess whether your team is making the social cut. The bottom line? Be present. Be tactical. And be real.

1. Social media isn’t opt-in.

Consumers are talking about your brand on the social web whether you have a presence on a particular platform or not. That’s why Heather Park, Global Executive Director of Digital and Consumer Strategy at NARS Cosmetics, believes that brands need to embrace the social dialogue – that means the good, the bad and the ugly.

As Park explains, when consumers lash out, it is frequently because they want to be recognized and heard by the brand. So, while brands can’t control what reviews consumers post or which images are shared, it is in their power to engage these users and take control of the conversation. By addressing complaints in a way that satisfies or exceeds a fan’s expectations, you can even turn a negative incident into a positive one.

2. Positive brand sentiment can and should be amplified.

positive social buzz

Most brands are quick to respond to negative messages, but what about positive buzz?

Consumers use Instagram to celebrate the moments that matter to them, sharing beautiful images of products and experiences that are often favorable to brands. That’s why Saks Fifth Avenue’s Qianna Smith encourages marketers to consider the 70/30 rule. At Saks, 70% of content is created internally; the other 30% is sourced from the community in an effort to showcase positive social remarks.

A few ideas: “Like,” re-gram, or comment on an image with a simple, “Thanks, we love you too!” As Smith explains, your fans are the best advocates you have. By leveraging their images, both via their social channels and within a user-generated content gallery on their website, Saks is able inspire their community in a subtle, authentic way.

3. Humanize your social channels.

pinterest dead links

Retail’s most successful social brands keep it real and aim to replicate the in-store experience within online, mobile and social environments. Curalate’s Deb Berman—a speaker at Luxury Interactive—touched upon this during the conference, likening dead links on Pinterest to pushing a customer out the door. Berman went on to emphasize the importance for brands to make sure all product images on Pinterest link back to the appropriate item on their website.

Luxury designer Rebecca Minkoff is one brand that truly takes this to heart. To ensure all links drive users to functional ecommerce pages, the team treats every Pinterest board like a “little store,” actively updating their social shelves to reflect current offerings.

4. Weave social into every business touchpoint.

Another common theme emphasized during the conference: the importance for brands to tie social initiatives back to core business objectives.

One contemporary designer based in Manhattan (blog shy; sorry!) offered a great way to think about this. Before an event or product launch, the team brainstorms any and every “Instagrammable moment” that might occur, knowing that snap happy consumers will likely share photos whether prompted or not. By promoting a single hashtag throughout an event, this brand is able to proactively guide, monitor and respond to all conversations.

5. Tailor your content rigorously.

pinterest and instagram content

Smith (Saks’ Social Director) shared that her team uses different social platforms to cultivate different kinds of relationships with fans. On Pinterest, it’s about connecting with people who share similar interests. Instagram is more personal; it’s about expressing your lifestyle, showing off a purchase, and celebrating important occasions.

In other words, don’t assume that all content is created equal. Brands need to create content that caters to their unique social audiences. To achieve this, pay attention to how your brand’s images behave across different social channels—analyze which products are trending organically and where those products are being shared from—and then optimize your content strategy to reflect this.