social media how toAre you looking for actionable tips to improve your social media marketing?

Are you wondering what the common themes of social media experts are these days?

This April, 1,100 passionate marketers from every corner of the world traveled to San Diego for Social Media Marketing World (#SMMW13), to find out.

The number of conference takeaways and buzz was immense.

For this article, I’ve focused on 26 takeaways from SMMW13, including notable quotes by presenters and their session titles.

CATEGORY: Calls to Action

#1: Get More Leads With Calls to Action

Throughout the conference, the topic of calls to action (CTAs) came up in numerous sessions. What is a CTA?

social media call to action is an integral and often overlooked element of an effective social media strategy. Social media gets prospects, customers and the public primed to want to find out more about your offering or to engage with you further, but you must lead them to the next step in your sales or other conversion process.

Regardless of the platform—blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc.—posts will receive better success rates if they contain calls to action, compared to ones without them. So, all the more reason to use them!

call to action

From the post, "Theft: 9 Ways to Protect Yourself From Losing Your Data" by Michael Stelzner.

#2: Optimize Your Facebook Posts With Calls to Action

“On Facebook, posts that include the call to action “share” receive more shares, comments and likes.”

Mari Smith, 10 Ways to Improve Your Facebook Reach

Sometimes just the act of inviting someone to share your post will be the encouragement a fan needs to take your suggestion. Once they share the post, it will travel on further to their colleagues, friends and family, thus expanding your reach. Truly one of greatest benefits of social media!


This post was shared by 42 people, in addition to 59 likes.

#3: Grab Readers’ Attention With CTAs

Examples of calls to action include: click here, sign up today, get your ticket, join us at, RSVP here, buy now, enroll here, check this out, click, and comment.

Rich Brooks, Beyond Likes: How to Turn Fans Into Customers; Amy Porterfield, Facebook Strategies to Launch a New Product; Pat Flynn, Podcasting for More Exposure, More Leads and More Money

When a reader is on your page and you have the privilege of having their attention for even the shortest span of time, make your CTAs an integral part of your marketing plan. Something you had front of mind—not an afterthought. Then you’ll have some influence on where readers navigate next and what steps you want to encourage them to take.

grab attention

Calls to action grab attention.

#4: Get the Most Bang for Your CTA Buck

Make your CTAs crystal-clear and stick to one CTA per post. Avoid excessive calls to action.

Cliff Ravenscraft, 15 Tips for Creating a Podcast People Can’t Live Without

When you present clear and direct CTAs, you reduce the risk of overwhelming readers with too many choices. They came to your post to learn something and the last thing you want to do is to make them feel they have to give you everything if they decide to become a follower of your content.

cliff ravenscraft

Decide what action you want users to take.

#5: Experiment With Different CTA Touch Points

On Twitter, if you want to target people who aren’t following you, try using a call to action to engage.

Kyle Lacy, 5 Social and Digital Trends Impacting Consumer Behaviors

Twitter is a fast-moving stream of content. Updates can quickly flow by readers. While they’re deciding on whether to read your full update, a call to action can help seize the moment. If they like what they see, they’ll be more inclined to follow you, retweet your message and visit your website.

touch points

Reach out and touch someone!

#6: Take the Guesswork Out of CTAs

Effective calls to action can result in completed lead generation forms, phone calls and email signups.

—Rich Brooks, Beyond Likes: How to Turn Fans Into Customers

When you put a call to action out there, you’ll know which ones have been effective. For example, if no one is signing up for your free website consultation, ask yourself if the call to action is buried too far down on the page, could the wording be more enticing, are readers worried that once they do that they’ll be hounded by salespeople?

What can your call to action do better to be more effective? Knowing the answer will enhance your marketing efforts.

gather information

Gather information with forms.

To learn more about CTAs, a 13-Point Checklist to Optimize Social Media Calls-to-Action can be found in an article by Heidi Cohen.

CATEGORY: Content Strategy

#7: Give Content the Priority It Deserves

It may not be much of a surprise that the topic of content received “royal” treatment at SMMW13. Whether the focus of a workshop was on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, etc., many focused on the importance of fresh, frequent, quality content.

“Content is King but engagement is Queen, and she rules the house.”

—Mari Smith, 10 Ways to Improve Your Facebook Reach

Content is kind of a catch-22. The best content in the world won’t receive traffic unless people engage with it—sharing, commenting, liking, etc. Give your content the royal treatment—dot the i’s, cross the t’s, and most importantly, make it engagement-friendly. Then you’ll be able to see great results!

tweets and pics

15,000+ tweets and pics sure sounds like good engagement!

#8: Be Generous With Your Content

Useful content that people continue to remember long after the post was read becomes “sticky.” The content keeps you in the person’s mind. They may be willing to check out your products and services. By giving generously and gaining a reader’s trust, you earn a reputation of being a reliable resource. With all the competition out there, useful content will help differentiate you in the marketplace.

Content is fire, social media is gasoline. Content should be so useful that it’s seen as a “YOUtility”; in other words, content marketing that is so useful, people will want to keep you close and even be willing to pay for it.

Jay Baer, How to Create Customers for Life by Informing More and Promoting Less


Switch from a "me" to a "you" mentality.

#9: Keep the Content Flowing

We’ve all been there. Landed on a blog that hasn’t been updated in months. Or on a Twitter account that has an egghead avatar and was abandoned in 2010 after the user wrote: “Hello world.” What’s wrong with these pictures? Lack of content.

[Only] 36% of people surveyed believe their content marketing is effective. Biggest challenges they’ve faced are producing enough content and the kind that engages.

Joe Pulizzi, 10 Content Marketing Secrets That Will Propel You Beyond the Competition

Content requires a strategy, a production schedule with designated authors and engaging topics that encourage readers to return. Find ways to cover your content bases with an effective content plan.

Verbal and visual content that delivers on a frequent and regular basis will increase your chances to catch up to your competitors and join the ranks of those with effective content marketing strategies.

cmi content

How will you create more content?

#10: Offer Subscriptions to Your Content

Content can easily be missed on Facebook, Twitter and RSS feeds. One way to help ensure that your content is seen is through subscriptions.

Focus on subscriptions to your content; for example, “Join over 40,000 of your peers. Get daily articles and news delivered to your email inbox and get CMI’s exclusive ebook…free.”

—Joe Pulizzi, 10 Content Marketing Secrets That Will Propel You Beyond the Competition

Delivering daily articles and news to a subscriber’s email inbox is highly effective for busy businesspeople. Even if their inbox is overflowing, when they chip away at reading their emails, they’ll find your content pointing and linking to your articles.


Users may miss your tweets but will be more likely to receive your email.

#11: Give Credence to Analytics and Post Data

Social media data is the keeper of all kinds of useful information such as location of readers, topics and keywords that attract and time and day an update is more likely to be seen by your audience.

Amazing content yields great leads. Don’t get attached just to shares—find out which posts are getting leads.

Brian Carter, Turning Social Advertising Into Leads and Sales

Set aside time each week to review your analytics and what you can learn from them. Content may not magically convert a lead to a customer, but you’ll be more likely to increase your funnel of leads when you provide great content.

Unfortunately, there’s no shortcut around the sales cycle. Print placement ads, radio and TV commercials never promised that either. With social media marketing, you still have to work a lead!

batman and robin

Could it be any clearer?

#12: Give Your Posts More Pizazz

Some posts read like they’re just giving the facts, something that you’d find in an old-time Yellow Pages ad.  Nowadays, we have to go the extra couple of miles.

Posts that are shareable give advice, warn, amuse, inspire and amaze… don’t be boring.

—Cliff Ravenscraft, 15 Tips for Creating a Podcast People Can’t Live Without

“Don’t be boring” might be one of the harshest tough-love pieces of advice that you’ll receive. But it’s true. How many times are you more willing to read an article with catchy titles and cool images or watch a video with great camerawork and music or listen to a podcast that presents a dynamic interview or industry report? If you build amazing content, they will come!

dont be boring

What? We need to be interesting, too?!

#13: Meet Social Media Followers Where They Are

How many times have you felt that a company isn’t letting you in? That they’re not telling you more about the business culture or values that are important to them? One of the true assets of social marketing is the ease with which we can converse with our followers.

One kind of content that has been effective for TaylorMade is real-time, ‘inside-the-ropes’ information to consumers.

Liz Phillips of TaylorMade, Twitter Marketing: Success Tips From Brands

Real time is the real thing. Inside-the-ropes information makes followers feel a part of an online community—and connected.


Consumers like to be in-the-know.

#14: Tune Into What’s Being Talked About

Time passes quickly and topics do, too. It’s become increasingly important for social media marketers to know what readers are most interested in today, this week, this month—and as projected into next year.

Content is the greatest sales and trust-building tool in the world.  Find the most common phrases and their keyword rank in monthly searches.

Marcus Sheridan, How to Build a Business Blog That Grows Your Brand, Generates Leads and Makes Sales

With free and paid keyword tools at our disposal (e.g., Google Keyword Tool, Long Tail Pro), you have a tremendous opportunity to tap into the content that is resonating the most with your audience. This will cut down on useless projects and make each and every post an important spoke in your marketing hub.

higher ranked keywords

Using higher-ranked keywords will make a difference.

#15: Look for the Best Ways to Promote Your Content

Content promotion is an important part of content marketing strategy. With the ease of ebook creation, many businesses have found that putting together new or repurposed content into an ebook format may be one of the most advantageous ways to get their content out there.

Ebooks are best used to promote content. Businesses should focus on the value that users will receive from your content.

Rebecca Corliss, How to Generate Leads With Social Media

Ebooks offer the ability to create cost-effective, well-designed pieces that don’t require the expense of printing.

hubspot ebooks

HubSpot displays their ebooks on a Pinterest board.

#16: Know Thy Customer

By keeping your customer in mind during your content strategizing, you’ll be more likely to engage the people you’re looking to attract.

Use the social data you have about your customer to improve content strategy.

—Kyle Lacy, 5 Social and Digital Trends Impacting Consumer Behaviors

Buyer personas and knowing how topics rank among their interests will be helpful ways to improve content strategy.

know who you're talking to

Knowing who you're talking to is a big part of the content equation.

#17: Write Great Blog Posts

In an earlier 26 Tips piece, we discussed Tips for Writing Great Blog Posts. Writing great content involves many aspects beyond the ideas you set down on the page. It includes factors such as layout and design, formatting, whether the content is original or curated and more. Producing quality content requires proactivity.

Take an active approach to content development. Create content all the time.

—Amy Porterfield, Facebook Strategies to Launch a New Product or Program

Even when you’re not in the middle of a new post, jot down ideas as they come to you and see whether you can work them into a post.

keep content rolling

Keep the content rolling.

#18: Think Beyond the Written Word

Content assets include images, videos, printed word and audio. When you have an idea for what you want to communicate, you may find that one format will serve your audience better than another. At SMMW13, there was a lot of buzz about podcasts and the impact that mobile phones and working on-the-go have on our ability to reach people, even when they don’t have time to sit down and read an article.

Podcasts cannot live without content.

—Cliff Ravenscraft, 15 Tips for Creating a Podcast People Can’t Live Without

What information could be communicated to your audience via a podcast?

list of topics

Offer a variety of topics.

#19: Deliver Targeted Content

If the demographics of your target customer are diverse, then targeted topics or specific platforms may suit one audience better than another.

Slice and dice content to make it highly targetedbe consistent, authentic and relevant.

Michael Bepko of Whole Foods, Twitter Marketing: Success Tips From Brands

Maybe you have one blog that speaks to a younger audience and another that addresses issues of more concern to middle-aged people. Messaging isn’t one-stop shopping.

whole foods

Whole Foods takes "slicing and dicing" very seriously (and literally).

#20: Motivate Customers

Don’t just communicate. Motivate. Find the niche area that makes readers stop, listen and watch.

Who are your customers, what do they want to hear about, what do they talk about to friends and family, what are their obstacles, what are their worries, how can you inspire them, how can you coach, mentor and motivate?

—Brian Carter, Turning Social Advertising Into Leads and Sales


Make your content motivating and inspiring.

#21: Use Keywords Strategically

Keywords should stay front and center. Don’t think of them on a piece-by-piece basis. Instead, what are the topics that will cover the range of topics of most interest to your audience?

Develop 5 key topic areas and at least 20 unique pieces of content for each of 100+ keywords per year.

—Joe Pulizzi, 10 Content Marketing Secrets That Will Propel You Beyond the Competition

Being prepared with topics and keywords will make it easier to create unique content.

use keywords

Knowing keywords and topics you will be writing about will help keep you focused. Readers will learn what they can expect.

#22: Alter Your Ways of Looking at Content Development and Delivery

Your content strategy will make a lot more sense to your authors and your audience if you think about people and where they are in the sales cycle. The information will be helpful in making a decision about whether to write a blog post, conduct a webinar or engage in a LinkedIn group forum.

Map content to customers’ journeys through the sales cycle—awareness, interest, consideration, purchase, retention and advocacy.

Lee Odden, How to Integrate Blogging With Content Marketing That Inspires

target content

Targeting content to the sales cycle can be highly effective.

To learn more about content marketing, 10 Content Marketing Tips can be found in an article by Cindy King.

CATEGORY: Email and Social Integration

#23: Integrate Email and Social Media Marketing

Consider this: “Email has had a long history, beginning in 1971 when U.S. programmer Raymond Tomlinson allegedly sent “QWERTYUIOP” as the first network email, and he was the first to connect his computer to his mailbox by using an ‘@’ symbol… Email has become a major part of our lives, consuming 28% of our workday.”

With the maturity of media, preceding ones will become displaced. Email, which has been a key player for 20 years, hurt postal delivery. Today, many are using Facebook messages instead of email.

Mike Stelzner, Social Media Marketing in 2013: New Research and Its Implications

facebook message

Facebook messages improve the odds of having direct contact.

#24: Interact With Your Audience Via Opt-In Emails

With the subscriber opts into your emails, your business can get in front of your audience’s eyes on a daily and weekly basis.

The inbox is the best social network in the world.

Chris Brogan, Are We Getting Better or Just Busier?

email update

Social Media Examiner not only sends email updates, but also tells you the number of subscribers.

#25: Vary Your Email and Social Integration Strategies

Below are a number of great suggestions from presenters at SMMW13:

  • Advertise on Facebook to your email list.—Brian Carter, Turning Social Advertising Into Leads and Sales
  • Subscribers who follow brands on Twitter are three times more likely to open an email than a subscriber who’s not on Twitter.—Kyle Lacy, 5 Social and Digital Trends Impacting Consumer Behaviors
  • During the promote phase of a Facebook campaign, build your launch email list with a signature promotional giveaway. When launching, your email list can be your most powerful profit-generating resource. Use an autoresponder as part of your email campaign.—Amy Porterfield, Facebook Strategies to Launch a New Product (autoresponder)
  • The third time you email someone, just pick up the damn phone.—Jay Baer, How to Create Customers for Life by Informing More and Promoting Less

    Set up any number of email messages to be sent either immediately after a new user subscribes to your mailing list, or after any period of time has passed.

To learn more about email and social media integration, 9 Ways to Integrate Email and Social Media Marketing can be found in this article by DJ Waldow.

#26: Set Personal and Business Goals for Social Media

  • Personal: Self-expression, exercise writing, be a useful resource, connect with bloggers, contribute to the community
  • Business: Brand awareness, elevate publicity, support customers, recruit, attract new business referrals, create an editorial calendar

Lee Odden, How to Integrate Blogging With Content Marketing that Inspire

  • Google Analytics to create and track goals via a goal funnel, a series of pages leading up to the goal destination—for example, a contact page.

—Rich Brooks, Beyond Likes: How to Turn Fans Into Customers


Be sure to create and track your business goals.

To learn more about setting social media goals, 4 Social Media Goals Every Business Should Measure can be found in this article by Andrew K. Kirk.

Concluding Thoughts

Perhaps the most telling number about the significance of social media marketing was reported in the April 8, 2013 PeekAnalytics report for the hashtag #SMMW13 that states:

The content [at SMMW13] was shared by consumers who have a combined total of 4.8 million social connections across their social graphs.

The speed-of-light communication that social media provides with its far-reaching capabilities is unprecedented and undoubtedly will continue to change the way businesses engage with customers, prospects and leads. What will we be talking about at SMMW14? Stay tuned!

What do you think? How do calls to action, content strategy, email/social integration and goals play a part in your social media efforts? What is working well? What goals will help you make improvements? Leave your comments in the space below.

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  • Great post, especially the focus on content. The most successful content strategy I’ve seen is the one used by master gardener, Jan Bills to grow her audience – and her landscape design business in Michigan. She doesn’t use keywords, calls to action or email but has single-handedly grown her Two Women and a Hoe Facebook following from 1800 to 148,687 since Jan. 2012. Here’s an example of how she WOWS her audience with content.

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  • Awesome post Debbie! I used to pack my post with multiple calls to action, but it did not generate the kind of response I wanted, so now I to focus on enticing people to engage. Thanks 🙂

    Stay inspired!

    ~John Lee Dumas

  • deb1221

    John, Thanks for sharing your lesson learned.

    I love the way Mari Smith says this, “Content is King but engagement is Queen, and she rules the house.”

    How true!

  • Great post Debbie! Lots of usefull info we all love! Keep it up!
    Regards from Argentina!

  • deb1221

    Thanks, Nico! Great to hear from you in Argentina!

    One of the things I love most about social media is the ability to converse with people from all around the world. Best, Debbie

  • Another insightful, in-depth, and intelligent piece by Social Media Examiner. One point I didn’t fully see explained (but it could have been in the data part): TEST, TEST, TEST. What works for you might not work for someone else.

  • deb1221

    Excellent point, Stephan! Social media isn’t one size fits all. Even for businesses in the same industry, there can be many variables.

    #16 could have also been said–Know YOUR customer
    Thanks, Debbie

  • Interesting post with a lot of cool stuff.
    It will take time to implement most of them.

    Thanks for sharing!


  • tlashier

    Wow. Those are some great tips, Debbie! I loved the part about CTA’s because in business, we all have to “sell” in one way or another and CTA’s have a dramatic effect on shares, likes, and purchases. We will be using some of those tips as we move forward with our efforts. Thanks for sharing!

  • deb1221

    Thanks, good luck with them! Thanks for reading!

  • deb1221

    Hi Leo,

    I hear ya!
    Step-by-step, inch-by-inch. That’s what helps to keep social media fun and engaging.

    All in due time!


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  • deb1221

    Hi Karen,

    Thanks for sharing info. Will check out her content!


  • Dara Khajavi

    Thanks for the great post! I always find great advice and content on this site. Keep the advice coming. I will definitely use tip 25. I forgot about the importance of personalized emails.

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  • deb1221

    Hi Dara,
    Glad you find SME helpful.

    Funny, yesterday I received what should have been a personalized email but the company forgot to enable the name feature so it appeared “Dear ,”
    Some how took away from what they were intending to do!

    As they used to say on TV show, “be careful out there.”

  • deb1221

    Correction 🙂
    As they used to say on the TV show, Hill Street Blues….

  • Alabi

    I think I should be paying more attention to Call To Action and how to use it.

  • Sarah Bauer

    The CTA advice had some real eye-openers for me, especially this idea to be perfectly explicit in motivating users to share our content. To just come right out and say “If you like this, please share it” is not pushy, it is transparent, and “takes the guesswork” out of CTA’s. Love it! Definitely something we’re going to start doing for our Facebook page.

    Sarah Bauer
    Navigator Multimedia

  • deb1221

    Hi Alabi, I think you’re not alone in this area. Sounds like many of us were led to believe it was too pushy and direct. And as a result, we’ve not encouraged people to take the next steps.

    Good luck with your CTAs. Best, Debbie

  • Santosh Singh

    Another great post!!!

  • deb1221

    Hi Sarah,

    I saw a CTA at an event the other night worth noting. It was on a large banner and instead of saying “Like us” on Facebook, it said “Mention us” on Facebook. I liked that. Might be presumptuous at times to think that someone will be willing to go as far as “liking” you, but a mention– well that seems doable!

    Best, Debbie

  • deb1221

    Thanks, Santosh!

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  • Brilliant post Debbie! Thanks for sharing this with us, I found some very useful information here.

  • deb1221

    Hi Jose.Thanks. Appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. I know it’s a long article and somewhat of a time commitment! Best, Debbie

  • Julio Carvalho

    Very rich post. Please keep on posting.
    Regards from Sao Paulo-Brazil

  • deb1221

    Thanks, Julio. Love hearing from our readers in San Paulo-Brazil! Best, Debbie

  • Rignite

    Awesome tips! Very clear and concise and covered a broad range of subjects. Great content! Glen

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  • deb1221

    Thanks, Glen. Appreciate your feedback!
    Best, Debbie

  • A lot of great tips here! Thanks for sharing.

  • deb1221

    You’re welcome! Thanks for reading.
    Best, Debbie

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  • WOW! Really good tips!

  • There are really a lot of great and very insightful tips in this article. Thanks for sharing it with us, @deb1221:disqus.

  • deb1221

    Thanks, Michal. Glad to know the tips were helpful to you. Best, Debbie

  • deb1221

    Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

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  • Awesome post! Never thought about CTA’s in this way. This article really explains how important CTA’s are and how they must be used. Proper use of them will surely get us some good leads by the end of the day, just make sure you’re not going overboard.

  • Great post – Thanks Debbie! Love the examples you’ve used too 🙂

  • deb1221

    Thanks, Amy. It was a fun post to work on. Best, Debbie

  • deb1221

    Hi Dave, CTA’s got a lot of attention at SMMW13 as I mentioned and I think it was fairly unanimous that people didn’t feel they understood the range of possibilities. But as you say you need to be sure not to go overboard.
    Best, Debbie

  • I love this kind of content. It gives me a great place to send my customers to learn and reaffirm some of the techniques I suggest to them.

  • deb1221

    Hi Chris,
    Glad to hear that the content is useful for both you and your customers. Thanks for reading!
    Best, Debbie

  • The CTA is in central of this post. Increasing engagement to social media sites and then point to a specific action is an interesting thing to be noted.

  • Nice insight, This is indeed informative. Social media needs your continuous efforts. So set your goals and work on them systematically as far as social media is concerned.

  • deb1221

    Thank you for reading and commenting!
    Best, Debbie

  • deb1221

    Nicely said. Sounds like a great CTA for all of us! Best, Debbie

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  • Great tips. Great memories! The ideas on different types of content, helping folks where they are at, and the value of email lists really stood out to me.

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  • deb1221

    Thanks, Mike! I take it you were there, too. Truly a wonderful experience. Thanks too for reading. Best, Debbie

  • Great post!

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  • deb1221

    Thanks, Nina!

  • Thanks for sharing this. I love the work that you guys do at Social Media Examiner and I like how Michael coolly and calmly handles each episode of his terrific podcast! I’m going to bookmark these tips and come back to them often!

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  • deb1221

    Thanks, Walter. Happy to hear that you enjoy the articles and podcasts here. Bookmarking sounds like a good idea. Best, Debbie

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  • Anna Pham

    Hi there Debbie, I think your list include all the important points on marketing and social media that a blogger like me have to think about. Thanks for sharing, they are very useful.

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  • Sharon Martin

    Thanks for the great information. Any ideas on how to target a specific area if I know which area many of my customers generally come from?

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  • Abbey Thomas

    I’m a freelance social media marketer and I have a dilemma:

    My client (a very new apparel brand) is extremely leery of emulating a similar marketing strategy as our main competitor. I understand the importance of establishing your own brand strategy, but there are certain principles that apply universally to effective social media marketing. My client is so competition-phobic, that he doesn’t want to start a company blog, “because it’s what [competition] does.” I’ve tried to explain that [competition] is not the only brand in the universe doing this, but he is so afraid of crossing over into copy-cat-land. It’s extremely frustrating when it comes to crafting engaging social content, because the target markets and online behavior are psychographically and demographically identical; however, I have been criticized multiple times for my work for being too similar.

    Is there any way you could offer some advice? or perhaps a resource I can share with my client to help better understand this fine line?

    Thank you!

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  • What about using social media CTA’s on offline collateral? For example product packaging, POS, posters, DM etc?

  • Skarsten Rachel

    Awesome post. You shared useful and unique information with
    us. I used 22 strategy. Hoping for more great post form your side. Good Luck!

  • Thanks for the great information Debbie!