With 73 percent of adults who have access to the Internet using social-networking sites, it’s not surprising that 86 percent of marketers say social media is important for their business. But social media moves at lightning speed: content posted to Facebook or Twitter becomes irrelevant after a mere three hours.

The opportunity to connect with your fans and followers on social channels is small, but it can make the difference between landing or losing a customer.

Let’s look at five ways successful businesses get their messages heard without getting drowned out by the crowd.

1. They acknowledge competitors. While you don’t want to encourage customers to visit your competition, it’s perfectly fine to acknowledge they exist. Besides offering a great networking opportunity, it fosters goodwill -- something customers enjoy much more than smear campaigns and negative advertising.

Related: The 5 Common Mistakes Entrepreneurs Are Still Making on Twitter

Take one snack-food brand’s response to being mentioned on Twitter alongside another popular snack item.

Rather than ignore or deflect the comparison, Kit Kat’s social-media team had a little light-hearted fun.

It takes a certain amount of finesse and courage to engage a competitor over social media. The other company may completely ignore you: the digital equivalent of an unacknowledged outstretched hand. And if they do respond in kind, they may spin the conversation in their favor, so you lose control of the message. 

If you plan to engage your competitors, keep it friendly, monitor their responses carefully and be ready to pivot if things get uncomfortable.

2. They’re nimble and quick to adapt. Facebook and Google certainly know how to keep social-media professionals on their toes. As soon as you find the sweet spot for getting your content noticed, algorithms change and you’re back to square one. You have to be willing to adapt your strategies as needed because agility is a key to success.

These three blogs will help you stay on top on the latest algorithm changes and developments:

3. They have a crash plan. No one expects to blunder a status update and irritate a whole swath of followers, but it happens. Have a damage-control strategy before you need it, because no one is exempt from Murphy’s Law.

Some of the most common social media disasters include:

If you’re lucky, followers will ignore bad behavior on social media channels. But don’t count on it.

Related: 5 Ways to Harness Hashtags to Drive Business Value

A strong social-media disaster plan may seem like overkill but think of it as a fire extinguisher. Hopefully you’ll never need it but, if you do, you’ll be damn glad it’s there.

4. They recycle old content. While you want to guard against repetitive updates, it’s not verboten to recycle old content that has already been loved and shared. Not everything you post is seen by every follower, every time, so cherry pick your best work and share it again. Some tips to keep in mind:

  • Put a few weeks of time between reposts. You can make an exception if your content is time sensitive or relates to an upcoming event, but don’t make it a habit.
  • Consider reworking the message the second time around. For example, if you’re calling out a blog post located on your website put a different spin on it.
  • Cross-promote on different social-media channels. Have a cool infographic laying around on Pinterest? Put it on Facebook. Pull one of your YouTube videos over to Twitter. Mix and match your content to reach a new audience.
  • Release your content at a different time of day. If your first update got a lot of traction at noon on a Tuesday, toss it out again over the weekend or toward the end of the day.

5. They use visual content. There’s a reason your Facebook timeline is filled with kitten pictures and viral videos. People like to be shown rather than told, and visual content is easier to share.

In the early days of social media, visuals were intimidating to develop. Now, with easy-to-use (and often free) content creation services, it’s super simple to whip up an informative infographic, short video or clever image to share.

Check out sites like Quozio for making the inspirational images everyone seems to love so much or use PicMonkey to punch up pictures before sharing. Visually’s own Create platform helps you visualize your social-media activity with simple infographic templates, while Photobucket is your one-stop shop for video editing. And don’t forget to take a look at what creation and editing tools are already bundled right into your computer.

Related: Here's the Big Problem With Chasing Customers on Social Media

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