By 2016, you would think that every brand and every company understands social media and are now exploring new frontiers and getting into interactive in an entirely new way. Not necessarily. This is happening for the early adopters – the companies who have leadership support and understand how important social media is. The early adopters are increasing their advertising spend in social media, utilizing short video and taking their efforts to an entirely new level.

The late adopters either lack resources, budget or buy-in simply haven’t gotten there yet. How can companies go beyond the old-school marketing mentality and get to a new place? I would argue that it’s tough to teach social media – there’s an art and science to social media. If you’re not accustomed to fast moving short content that’s conversational then it may be tough for you to thrive in this space. I do think everyone can make improvements, learn the space and take their brands’ efforts to the next level.

How do you become a social media rock star and get out of the traditional space?

  • Leadership Support – You need leadership support to execute social media outside of your standard marketing plans. However your organization is structured; try to go the highest level. It’s better to get buy-in and support in order to experiment and get your brand out there. Most C-level executives realize and understand social is here to stay. They may not participate in the platforms themselves but their children certainly do. If you have the rare executive who’s active in social then I doubt you’ll have issues. The most regulated of industries has companies who are very creative. TD Banks’ #ShouldaBeenaVideo campaign on Facebook is clever. Ameritrade is doing a great job on Twitter – even leveraging Periscope. And BBVA Compass has many social tactics and creativity in their use of content.
  • Study the Big Consumer Brands – Before you formulate your strategy look at what the large consumer brands are doing. The NBA is killing it on Twitter. Lowe’s has a terrific Vine presence. Oreo’s, M&M’s and Visa all have very strong vine campaigns. I love Expedia’s Instagram feed – even Bank of America is getting creative on Pinterest.
  • Formulate a Strategy – Create a strong, creative and differentiating strategy. Think beyond what you typically do and use social media to put your brand out there in a unique way. Come up with a cause or use an idea that you’ve always wanted to do but could not fit into the traditional space. Throw your marketing on its’ head.
  • Determine Your Content Creation – Social is all about content. Whether you use a campaign mentality or follow your overall marketing calendar you’ll need a plan for how content gets created on a consistent and regular basis.
  • Get Comfortable with Short Format – Social media is short content. And it’s also become extremely image based. Pins related to trending topics see an average of 94% increase in click-through. You’ll want to create brand guidelines for your social graphics, given space constraints and differing format to your traditional channels.
  • Graphics, Graphics and Graphics – Graphics are the basis of all your content in social media now. Vine, Instagram and Pinterest are based on graphics and short video format. You may choose to create graphics for these platforms. If your industry and brand are naturally aligned with imagery then these communities will allow you to showcase your brand. Total same-store referral traffic from Pinterest for five specialty apparel retailers rose 389% from July to December 2011.See more social stats here.
  • Experiment on your Own – If you aren’t comfortable experimenting on your brand, then experiment on your own community. I’ve found having my own feed on Twitter, LinkedIn and my blog has helped me push and experiment without impacting a brand I’m managing. I do think it’s healthy for brands to get comfortable experimenting – that one idea could be the one that takes you to the next level.
  • Advertising – Advertising is the norm now in social media and having a specific budget for Facebook, Twitter and other platforms will support your content. It’s tough to build a strong social media presence without the paid side now. Social media ad spending is expected to exceed $35 billion by 2017.

These tips should get you going and hopefully inspire you to re-look at your social media strategy and made changes in 2016. Social media should be part of everyone’s marketing plans. Getting outside your comfort zone will stretch you and make great strides for your brand.

Read more: Four Ways to Include Your Whole Company In Your Social Media Efforts