If you search for the best social media marketing tips online, you’ll be presented with millions of results. Most of them will involve scheduling your posts and automating things like following and unfollowing on Twitter. However, social media marketing has come a long way in the past few years, and following techniques that were effective years ago just won’t cut it.

You’ll need to work harder than ever to stand out and keep your customers engaged. Not only is there more competition online than ever before, but consumers are becoming increasingly aware of brands trying to advertise. Some have even become immune. To give you a helping hand, we’ve put together five ways to make your social media marketing more effective.

Stop automating

Sure, automatically posting blog entries to your social media platforms is fine, but leave the automation there. RSS feeds, ‘X users unfollowed me this week’ and welcome messages and tweets can be off-putting and make your account look like a robot. Demonstrate that there’s a real team behind your account; press pause on the automation and do some real work. Interacting with customers on a one-on-one basis, posting off-the-whim when something catches your eye and responding to all comments and tweets is the best way to go.

Heck, we made the mistake of automating social media posts here at Muffin Marketing, too. When we launched our Daily Bite in April, we bulk-scheduled the posts so that they went out at the same time every day. What did we do wrong? Accidently schedule the same post to go out for three months – and it took us a fortnight to realise that we were posting the same graphic every day at 3.40pm. Awkward. Mistakes like this can be costly if you have a loyal following.

Lose the salesy attitude

The ultimate aim of social media for small businesses is driving traffic to your website and increasing your leads, but cut back on the sales-focused nature of your marketing efforts. We recommend that, for every one post that directly promotes your products and services, you follow it up with at least five or six non-promotional tweets that offer value to your customers. Of course, there are exceptions to this trend; every McDonald’s tweet features their products front and centre, but generally speaking, the less promotional your messages can be, the better your marketing will become.

Start interacting

Remember us saying that automation is bad for your brand? It can also be bad for maintaining the relationship you have with your fans. If you’re automatically posting new content, then the chances are that genuine interaction will be overlooked. Monitor your channels – whether that’s Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest – and respond to customer comments as soon as possible. Also consider investing in a tool such as BuzzSumo or Mention if you want to track all brand mentions, both positive and negative, and get in touch with them as soon as possible. Making customers wait for feedback or help could mean that they go elsewhere to find the same service, so be responsive and efficient!

Social media marketing: interaction is key

Mix it up

Even if you think you’ve found the winning formula with your digital marketing, sticking to the same schedule can be boring. Mix up your social media marketing and try something new every day, whether that’s live video on Facebook, taking part in a Twitter hour or experimenting with GIFs and emoji. The more techniques you try, the more you’ll learn, the more your customers will be engaged and the more relevant and engaging your brand will look to newcomers. After all, nothing sits still for long in the world of digital marketing.

Hand it over

If you’ve been managing your company’s social media handles for a while and you’re not seeing the results you’d like, hand it over to somebody who knows what they’re doing. Whether that means outsourcing your social media management or finding another member of staff who can tweet and status update during work hours, there’s no point in managing your social media marketing if you don’t have the skill or desire to do so. Plus, having multiple users on the same account can help diversify your brand voice and provide your users with more value.

Summary: social media marketing is important

Whether you’re already enjoying some success or your social media posts are bombing, it’s important to continuously innovate and experiment to ensure you’re getting the most out of platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest. Make sure you keep up to date with the latest trends and developments (for example, by subscribing to the awesome Muffin Marketing mailing list at the bottom of this blog post), experiment with your accounts and ask your followers what type of content they’d like to see. Only then will you see that social media marketing can play a major role in bringing success to your business.