In the last few years, having a social media strategy has gone from a nice-to-have to an absolute-must-have. Consequently, just about every business no matter how big or small can be found on at least one social media platform. And no matter how niche your small business is, chances are there are other brands who offer similar things that you have to compete with on social media. The following tips can help you differentiate your brand from others and really succeed with social media marketing.

Communicate your brand’s mission

Every brand has to have it’s own unique message–a statement of vision or mission that sets it apart from every other brand. Often this takes the form of a carefully worded mission statement or slogan. Sometimes it’s never stated explicitly, but customers know what that thing is that sets the brand apart from everyone else. If you want your brand to be differentiated from the rest on social media, you have to first know what your brand’s mission and vision are and you have to have a plan for communicating that to your target audience on social media. Of course you can craft a carefully worded statement for your about page. But in addition to that, every post you share and every interaction with customers and every comment on every post must communicate that brand message as well. Anyone with access to your social media platforms needs to share that vision and fully understand that brand message to ensure you never go off-message.

Automate where possible

Many smaller businesses treat social media marketing as something to do only when there’s time and it ends up on the back burner when things are busy. If a business is sometimes very active on social media, posting frequently, engaging with other content, responding to comments and answering private messages and other times all but invisible for days or weeks at a time, that business won’t be able to maintain a strong social media presence. That’s where automation comes in. Even smaller businesses that can’t afford to hire a team of social media people can pay for tools that help automate social media activity. You can write several posts in advance and then use an automation to tool to set the day and time for each to be posted so there’s some consistency in social media activity. Another way to automate is through chatbots. Chatbots can automatically respond to customer queries immediately and can even resolve many of them unassisted.

Monitor social media channels closely

Brands that are effective on social media are ones who are very aware of the numbers. They look beyond the number of likes and shares which anybody can see. They invest in more advanced analysis tools that can give them a better picture of what’s working and what isn’t. Paying attention to key performance indicators and actively working to adapt accordingly is a huge key to success.

Keep an eye on the competition

While you never want to copy a competitor’s strategy (remember the first key to success and staying true to your own brand message and vision), it’s a good idea to occasionally check in on your competitors and what they’re doing with social media. This can serve two functions: it can help you discover things about your target audience since your competition is most likely targeting the same people as your brand and it can reveal to gaps in their social media strategy that you can fill to further differentiate your brand across social media channels.

Merge social media and content strategies

So many brands treat content marketing and having a company blog as synonymous. But social media can and should be an equally important if not more important outlet for your content as well. You can use your social media profiles to extend the reach of blog posts by sharing an excerpt and including a link to the full article in social media posts. You can also use social media to post unique content in formats that don’t work on a traditional blog. Some formats to include might be video, livestream, or microcontent.