If I've learned anything about social media while managing my content marketing company, Masthead Media, it's that the tools and rules are constantly changing. Your Instagram app never looks the same from one day to the next. Constant algorithm changes mean that the followers you worked so hard to build are seeing less and less of your organic content. Some days, even your paid social efforts aren't working. 

Real talk: Social isn't as much of an easy win as it was at the dawn of the medium, but if you're willing to evolve, there are still plenty of opportunities to use it to forge better connections with your customers and actually grow your business.

Oliver Yonchev, U.S. managing director at Social Chain, a social media agency, has made navigating the social landscape his everyday mission. He and his team constantly experiment with new tools and releases in order to ensure companies can maximize the impact social has on their business. 

As my company helps brands of all sizes leverage all of their content tools to win and retain business, it's imperative for us to understand the changes happening within the social landscape. I recently spoke with Yonchev to discuss how brands with smaller budgets can stay on the leading edge of social and get the most value out of every dollar spent. Here are three things he recommends to raise your game--and reestablish social as one of your most effective marketing tools.

Post Less Frequently (But Make it Amazing)

Early on in the social game, it was relatively easy for a brand to grow its audience to hundreds of thousands and even millions of followers. As they did, major players like Facebook and Twitter would let those people see nearly every piece of content the brand posted (no matter how lifeless those posts were!) Today, social algorithms have gotten a lot savvier about what constitutes a truly engaging piece of content, and what's worth sharing with the organic, and even paid, audience universe. 

If you're throwing up mediocre posts just to check a box, or reach a target number of posts, your efforts are likely being wasted. Focus your efforts on visually arresting, highly entertaining, or informative content made with your audience's passions--not your marketing initiatives--in mind. Yonchev adds, "Social media has become a game of attention-seeking and provocation. Be brave enough to attach your brand to cultural relevance--because winners win big and losers don't exist." 

Seize New Opportunities

Just when you think you've figured out what type of posts your audiences love, or you've perfectly optimized your paid social budget, suddenly, out of nowhere, the landscape will change and you'll be faced with declining engagement. This past year there were a lot of brands jumping to get on Tik Tok and utilize the reach it has with younger generations, but it's still unclear what value marketing on the app really delivers. So, is it worth it for your brand to give Tik Tok a shot? Yonchev advises to go ahead and try it out, "Test it, don't take yourself seriously, and be creative--even if it doesn't move the needle for your business, you'll learn a lot about young people and culture."

But this doesn't mean you should abandon the basics. To stay relevant on the traditional platforms, Yonchev recommends being among the first test out new features introduced by Facebook and Instagram. "Because the main social platforms really want adoption of their latest offerings, brands who are early to use tend to see the biggest lift in their numbers."

Value Creativity Above All

When working with a smaller budget, it can be difficult to decide which risks are worth it to pursue. Yonchev's main tip for brands with fewer resources is to make sure you're not diluting your budget by trying to serve every channel. It's more effective to focus on developing, and really growing, one singular channel rather than spreading yourself too thin. Also, a small budget doesn't have to be the defining factor of a brand's social approach. In fact, he notes that smaller brands often are more agile and able to experiment with less on the line which leaves more room for success. 

If you could spend your budget on only one strategy, Yonchev suggests focusing on hiring someone creative with practical video and editing skills to help develop your social feeds. "The defining success factors aren't budget, but creativity. Creative in a social context isn't about producing cinematic videos, it's about relevant content, that provokes an emotion, served at the right time, in the right format."