Social media marketing has gone from being a “good to have” tool in your marketing toolbox to one of the first go-to platforms that new businesses promote themselves on.
It’s not just new businesses. Established businesses and known brands spend millions of dollars promoting themselves and engaging with their users on a one on one basis via social media. In 2014, advertisers worldwide spent  a collective $17.74 billion on social media. That figure is set to go up by over a third this year.
With that kind of money gushing into this platform, do the Davids of the world even stand a chance to stay ahead of the competition – the Goliaths with deep, unending pockets? They just might – if they play their cards right.
1. Keep the Content Engine Chugging
Content is the lifeblood of social media. Do you have at least a week’s worth of content ready and waiting in your social media pipeline? No. Then stop right there. Take a break from all that meaningless tweeting and retweeting. To stay ahead of the competition, reassess your game plan and come back on social media when you have enough content ammo in place.
Build a detailed social media calendar  that takes into account your brand’s objectives, its competitive landscape and current events in the industry. Before your content can entertain and inform your audience, it needs to be relevant to them to grab their attention.
Twenty20’s Social Media Calendar  is a great tool that enables you to build a custom calendar for your business. This free tool is your ears to the ground for the latest that’s going on around you.
From Earth Day to National Engineer’s Day, you get a heads up every week on the occasions that are around the corner. Not only do you get occasion alerts with seven days advance notice, you also get six free photos relevant to the occasion that you can use on social media.
Popular hashtags for the holiday in question combined with social media tips and tricks round off the goodies that this unique content calendar service offers you.
2. Clear Away Bad Social Karma
Despite of our best intentions, sometimes we all make careless mistakes on social media. This can be a rogue tweet by an unhappy employee from the company handle or a callous response to a customer problem by someone on your customer care team. Whatever the cause, it’s always the social media team that is responsible for cleaning up the mess.
Large brands that mess up have the luxury of dedicated PR agencies that can monitor their brand activity and clean up behind the brand every time something negative happens.
Now small businesses can too. Clear  is a magic eraser, of sorts, for all your past social media faux pas.
This app connects your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts and scours through all your posts for words and phrases that can be directly or indirectly seen as offensive. It then presents you a report with all the offensive posts and offers you a chance to obliterate them from all social networks – for good.
Clear has interesting roots. The founder of Clear, Ethan Czahor was once the CTO for Jeb Bush’s political presence on the World Wide Web. However, Czahor’s not-so-politically correct tweets from his days as a standup comic came back to haunt him in his high profile role. The result? He was fired from a dream job.
This tool is created as an antidote to any similar mishaps for individuals and businesses. Currently in beta, the app plans to expand its capabilities to also cover blog posts and visual content in the days ahead.
3. Automate Wherever Possible
It’s tough to stay ahead of the competition, and social media management can be even tougher. Especially with the number of new networks that gain popularity every other day, there’s simply never enough time to catch a breath. This is where the big boys and the experts rely on automation.
By relying on technology to take care of things that can be automated, you free up time to do things on social media that cannot be automated – like engaging with your fans. From getting curated content instantly to generating detailed reports across networks, social media automation is something which I’m forever grateful for.
One of my favorite tools when it comes to social media has got to be Tweet Jukebox . This is a free tool that allows you to send out automated tweets from a library that you can pre-load in advance.
This library of content called a ‘jukebox’ can accommodate thousands of tweets at a time. You can create dedicated jukeboxes for different types of content and schedule them to be tweeted create multiple folders containing tweets dedicated to specific subject areas.
There are hundreds of jukeboxes with ready-made content that you can use too. There are interesting quotes, images and the like to pick from on days when you’re really running low on things to post.
4. Learn from Social Media Leaders
Too often, businesses get caught up in the daily rigmarole of creating content, curating new content, publishing it, responding to fans and so on. They get blinded to all the innovation that is going on around them on social media. Yes, we all see the big viral campaign by that social media savvy brand once it breaks across networks.
But do we catch it before it becomes the topic du jour?
Small businesses especially have a lot to learn from successful brands on social media. This includes not just their flagship campaigns, but also the small things that go into making them the social media powerhouses they are. Things like which type of content works best for them, which platforms are most effective and so on.
Unmetric  helps businesses see where they stand against immediate competition. It also tracks large marquee brands that have turned social media marketing into an art form that others can learn from.
Things like which type of content works best for them, which platforms are most effective, what time of day did they send out their winning posts are all tracked, measured and presented in simple digestible nuggets for you to gain insights from.
Unmetric is not just about competitive tracking though. It also does a fabulous job of helping you create content that will resonate with your target audience. It does this by tracking the latest content sensations on social media, matching them up against your audience and showing you the direction in which you need to be headed from a content creation perspective.
Managing social media for your business is very different from what you do on social media as an individual. To stay ahead of the competition, put aside your preconceived notions about social media when you take up the task of managing social media for a business.
The sooner you play like the big boys on social media – the easier it will be to join their club.
Use this social media calendar template  to create a social media publishing schedule!
Social Media Buttons  Photo via Shutterstock