In recent years, increased competition and clutter on social media as well as the rise of social media algorithms have caused the entire landscape to change drastically for anyone using it to market their business.

A 2014 study by LinkedIn found that 81 percent of small to medium-sized businesses alone were using social media for marketing purposes. Today, this percentage is, more than likely, even higher. Couple this with social media usage among general users increasing from 7 percent to 65 percent from 2005 to 2015, and it quickly becomes undeniable that competition on social media is at an all-time high.

In 2011, if you were active on Pinterest or Instagram, you were ahead of the curve. Today, that just isn't the case. In 2013, if your company was leveraging Facebook Ads, you were light-years ahead of the competition. Today, Facebook Ads are virtually stock standard for brands deeply invested in social media marketing.

Because competition has increased, creativity, strategy, and resourcefulness must be prioritized now more than ever before.

In 2010, Facebook attempted to provide a solution to immense social media clutter: an updated news feed, which showed users content based mostly on engagement rather than just by chronological order. By doing this, Facebook ensured (to the best of their ability) only the highest quality of content was shown to users.

Since then, most marquee social media platforms have followed suit and adopted a similar model. Instagram, Medium, Twitter, and LinkedIn are just some to make the switch.

As a result, organic reach for users has plummeted. A study by Social Flow found that organic reach on Facebook dropped 52 percent from January 2016 to June 2016 alone. On other platforms, similar observations have been noted.

As intense as the competition is out there, you shouldn't be worried. With a couple mindset shifts and sound strategy, not only can you overcome this trend, but you can capitalize on it and even benefit from it.

Here are four ways you can get started.

1. Participate in Paid Social: The Answer to Social Media Algorithms

Apart from creating high quality content your audience will enjoy and engage with, the simplest way to combat the drop in organic reach caused by algorithms is simple: increase your company's spend on paid social (Facebook Ads, Twitter Ads, boosted Facebook posts, etc.).

Many companies have come to this conclusion. Hubspot found that, from 2014 to 2015, companies increased their average social media marketing spend from $17.7 billion to $23.6 billion.

As social media platforms continue their quest to hoard their user's attention with engagement-based algorithms, paying to boost your content will grow more vital to your success on social media.

Unfortunately for social media marketing, the free days are behind us. Today, you just can't afford to be cheap on social media or you'll surely fall behind.

2. Invest in Educating Yourself

In order to stay up-to-date with an industry as influx as social media, you need to learn from the experts. No matter how large or small your business is, every 3-4 months, invest in a Udemy course, Lynda course, webinar, ebook, or other useful resource either for yourself or an employee.

This will allow you to stay current on social media trends and tactics without being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of material published every single day across the web.

3. Invest in Third Party Tools & Services

Whether it's pre-scheduling tools like Hootsuite or Buffer, analytics tools like Simply Measured, or the consulting services of an expert in the field, your company will certainly benefit from investing in third parties.

To buy back time for yourself, sometimes you have to refer to the experts, whether that's an actual person or a piece of software. Just remember, as with most things in life, you get what you pay for.

4. Deeper Penetration on Fewer Platforms

With social media algorithms in full swing, engagement and quality of content is more important than ever. In fact, Facebook's algorithm already penalizes accounts with low engagement by decreasing their organic reach, and other platforms are sure to follow suit.

In light of this, you must allocate your time to the platforms working best for your company. You don't have to be on every single platform. If your company is crushing it on Pinterest, but seeing zero results on Twitter, either revamp your Twitter strategy or prioritize Pinterest. If your long form content is getting little to no interaction on LinkedIn, but immense amounts on Medium, then prioritize Medium. Plain and simple.

In the ever-changing digital age we live in, it's easy to fall into the trap of needing to be everywhere at once. Not only does this mindset take away from your quality of content on platforms, it also takes away from the results you could see on them.

Oftentimes, it's totally okay for you to neglect a specific social media network if it isn't delivering the results you're looking for. At the end of the day, you know your business better than anybody.

Published on: May 12, 2017