social media how toAccording to the 2010 Social Media Marketing Report , 67% of marketers plan to increase their use of social media channels including blogs, Twitter, and Facebook.

As more companies integrate social media into their marketing and communications plans, emphasis needs to be on creating a social media strategy.  Without a strategy, you’ll undoubtedly be sucked into a social media time sink.

So how exactly do you develop this strategy?

It’s easy.  Here’s a practical approach to developing a social media strategy for your business.

The Prerequisite

Do you work for a large company? Before you develop your strategy, make sure your upper-management team believes in social media and that the first goal is not to sell, sell, sell.  In other words, if your business is jumping into social media because “everyone else is doing it” or because you want to sell product rather than to build relationships, please step away from social media.  Social media is a long-term commitment and not a marketing gimmick.

If you’re having a tough time convincing your team that social media needs to be integrated into your marketing plan, then counter any concerns with these responses to common social media objections.

It’s important for the organization to understand that testing and experimentation are keys to success.  This comes naturally to an organization whose culture embraces being proactive and open.  The reason why all businesses need to have a social media strategy is because it prevents any misunderstandings and emphasizes why social media is relevant to your business’ overall goals.

Now let's develop your social media business strategy, shall we?

Here are seven key points to consider…

#1: Determine Your Goals and Objectives

Determine who owns social media.  Whether it’s marketing, PR, or communications is irrelevant.  In a perfect social media world for businesses, social media instills a collaborative approach and breaks down silos.

What’s important is to understand your social media goals and objectives and how they tie into your overall company goals.

Keep it Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic/Relevant, and Timely (aka be SMART!).

#2: Research, Research, and Research Some More

Rather than jumping into the social media pool with both feet, do the equivalent of the “splash-water-on-self” maneuver so you know what to expect.  Step two of creating an effective social media strategy is research.

  • Develop a list of social media sites where you can potentially engage with people.  The list will most likely start off with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and a few select blogs and forums.
  • Check out each of the social media sites on your list and do additional research to determine relevancy by searching for your brand name, your competitors, and your target keywords.  Listen to what’s out there, identify, and understand your target audience.

#3: Create a Digital Rolodex of Contacts and Content

When social media is done correctly, relationships will build naturally.  Begin making connections by following the conversation.  You can do this by subscribing to blogs in your industry and by making a list of influencers who are relevant to your business.

This becomes handy when it’s time to provide content on your social networks.  Read Emily Proctor’s article in which she provides some excellent pointers on a social media content strategy.

#4: Join the Conversation to Develop Relationships

Now it’s time to start making use of all the research you’ve done.  You can start joining the conversation by posting comments on blogs and forums, answering questions on Yahoo! and LinkedIn, joining groups related to your industry and joining Twitter chats.

Begin developing relationships by following and friending influencers and those in your industry.  Don’t just look for people with thousands of followers; you’ll be surprised by the value that someone with only a couple of hundred followers provides.  Here’s an article on how to network on Twitter.

#5: Strengthen Relationships

It’s easy to hide behind your avatar or profile picture, but face-to-face is incredibly powerful.  I think more people are now realizing how underrated the in-person interaction really is because of how far social media has come, allowing so many people to “hide.”

Attend offline events related to your industry—not only to strengthen your knowledge base but also to network and strengthen relationships with those you might have conversed with via social media but never met in person.  A popular offline event is known as a tweetup.

#6: Measure Results

You have goals and objectives, right?  That means you should be able to measure  your success.

Remember, what you measure will tie into the goals and objectives of your social media strategy.

Let’s take the four commonly used objectives:

  • Improve brand presence across social channels—The measurement goal here is an increase in the number of followers on Twitter, number of fans on Facebook, number of comments, number of times your brand is mentioned in blogs and forums and so on.
  • Increase positive sentiment about your brand—The goal here is to convert the number of positive mentions while taking note of negative mentions.  Has the ratio of positive to negative comments improved?  With the good comes the bad in social media. Get used to it!
  • Develop relationships for future partnership opportunities—This goal is to keep track of those with whom you’ve connected.  For example, if you met a potential speaker for your webinar, include that person into your digital Rolodex.  If a vendor contacts you through your blog, capture that lead and take note.
  • Increase traffic to your website—Keep track of visitors to your website who come from each of your social media sites.  If you’re promoting an event using social media, consider using a unique code to track the campaign.

Measuring social media is a never-ending debate.  What metrics do you use to measure social media?  What objective are you measuring those metrics for?

When it comes to measuring social media, it takes a multitude of metrics as well as trending reports to get a sense of what to improve.

#7: Analyze, Adapt, and Improve

Your social media strategy doesn’t end with measurement; it goes beyond that.  You need to analyze your social media campaigns, adapt any new findings into your current processes, and improve your efforts.

Testing and experimentation will perfect your social media efforts.

As you dive deeper into the never-ending pool of social media, you’ll quickly understand what works and what doesn’t.

More specifically, you’ll develop favorite tools to use, realize that there are certain days and times where it doesn’t pay to be active in social media, and come to the conclusion that you still have lots to learn.  It’s a wonderful new world and I hope many of you are as thrilled to be part of it as I am.


Social media strategies will vary for each business and for each industry.  However, one thing is clear: social media needs to have “all hands on deck” in order to be successfully integrated into your company’s goals and objectives.

In general, I view social media as a strategy, not a tactic. I consider the social media platforms like blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc., as tactics that tie into the social media strategy.  In other words, outline your social media strategy and support your strategy with tactics.  Without a carefully thought-out plan, you’ll eventually be overwhelmed with social media and even worse, get burnt out by it.  Use this guide as a stepping-stone to your social media success.  Cheers!

What are your thoughts about strategy versus tactics? Do you have any tips from your own experience developing a social media plan?  Please share your thoughts in the comments box below.

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  • Nick,
    Awesome article on creating a social media strategy. Blending the offline and online networking is going to be key to future growth of our organization. Thanks for outlining a plan.

  • Financialsamurai

    Cool. Nick, maybe you can be my Social Media strategist!

  • I think a good step to include in every social media strategy is how you plan to brand yourself in social media networks. For businesses having an established brand, this may not be a problem although they would still have to study if their offline branding strategy translates well into social media marketing.

    For relatively new businesses however, they would have to find a way to be heard above the social media noise. What will be your message that people would want to see on their news feed? How will you integrate the available tools in social networks to reinforce your brand? What will be the viral component of your message?

  • #4 and #5 is the basis of Social Media. Without relationships – Social Media does not exist. Thanks for this great article. Very well written and specific tips.

  • I need help with my social media strategy. I am a personal trainer and a chef. I am not sure where should start

  • Hey Julie
    as underlined in the article, before everything, you should really understand what are your goals and what do you want to get out of your social media strategy. Once you have defined your goals, it will be also clear which platform you should use

  • Cgomez

    Thank you for this informative article!

  • strategy is good, but I cringe to think that some might use it as an excuse to wait. Your market is talking.. get a strategy and start today.

  • What tools do you recommend for analytics for Facebook pages and Twitter accounts?

    I am working on two of both and we are trying to find a comprehensive tool. Currently using Facebook Insights and Twitalyzer.

  • virginiasowers

    Great topic. We delved into social media with a strategy “outline.” More recently I’ve completed a comprehensive strategy for our organization’s social media presence. I found it helpful to start with the organization’s key marketing objectives and develop social media strategies to support those. From the overarching social media strategy, I divided the tactics by platforms (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, blog).

  • Diane Meyer

    I would just want to be sure that those attempting to write a comprehensive strategy understand that they should watch, listen and learn about all platforms…Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to start with. Until they really understand how each may fit into their markting mix, can they develop a strategy. It would be like sitting down to play a game of chess and be expected to implement a strategy at every move, except they don’t know how to play.

  • Addoway, Inc

    I am glad you mentioned social media as a strategy. Many tend to think of it as a job, but instead of looking at it as a strategy comprised of tools to engage your audience. You need a strategy and then underlying tactics that help you get the main Goal done.

    Great article. Thank you.

  • Thanks Carla. Blending offline and online is a challenge for many organizations. Check out this Flickr group that has examples of brick-and-mortar stores showing their signs for social media networking:


  • Hope that means you found this article useful! 😉


  • The best advice is often that which, in hindsight, is obvious and commonsensical!
    Nice article Nick!

  • That is an excellent point. The branding strategy comes from the overall marketing strategy for the company. This should stay consistent with how you brand on social networks. Trying to brand oneself through social media first can have unfavorable and inconsistent results. I hope new businesses realize that.

    The questions you presented are quite interesting. I think creating a social media strategy answers those concerns as it relates to the content that you provide and the integration of social media tools.

    Very insightful, thanks!


  • Thanks Charlene! I have nothing else to add to your comment. Relationships are key in social media especially for businesses that are trying to gain leads through social media.


  • I tend to think that many wait to jump into social media because there is so much going on at once. There seems to be an overwhelming sensation for those new to social media and maybe even an intimidation factor. I agree with you, get a strategy and start today. Social media is an experiment for EVERY business as proven by several notable and unfortunate social media accidents by some big brands.


  • Mat

    Okay, that’s weird. A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post with almost the exact same title You didn’t copy did you? Just kidding of course. Its always great to see strategic thinking applied to social media marketing. So many business owners/executives still believe in the Field of Dreams strategy: If you build it they will come. This is simply not true. Social media marketing is difficult, like many things in business, and it must be worked with a plan in order to succeed. Great post.

  • Sam

    Although I completely agree with everything in this post I think that “some” companies can often get bogged down by too much research. I think there comes a certain point where you have to say “we’re as ready as we’re going to be, let’s start engaging.”

    It’s kind of like riding a bike, you can research the laws of physics but you won’t really know until you get on and start to pedal.

  • Sam, you’re right. Great bike analogy too haha it’s so true.

    And as Nick mentioned in the post, analyze what you’ve done, adapt, and improve.

  • I come across this all the time, clients who want to jump into SM, but are too eager to lay out a plan or allocate resources. Then they wonder why they only have 120 followers and nothing is happening. Very nice article that I’ll be sharing. A strategic and measured approach that you constantly build on is key.Cheers!Zack

  • KjerstiBakke

    Very nice article that I will be sharing. Where I work we are just starting this process. This was good tip and very easy to understand.
    Thank you for your effort.

  • Hey there Nick!

    5 Stars I give you to this post! 🙂 Cheers!
    This entails a nice article to share at my blog! 🙂
    Giving you a trackback too!

    Keep it up,

  • Hey Nick,
    Nice tips thanks for helpfully article.

  • Nice article! I agree that Social Media is definitely a long term commitment that provide value and useful information to the reader.The 7 key points are very useful to consider when doing your strategy.

  • Ldhaywood

    Great article! I like the emphasis on face to face meetings. I have a few clients I’ve never met in person, but most were won with face to face presentations. And there’s nothing like networking with people in your own backyard who have more expertise than myself.

  • Styliciouslysocial

    This was a very informal article. Thanks for sharing.

  • Number 7 is 100% true. No matter what you THINK is going to work, you never know until you test it out. I have had clients tell me they wanted me to post on X, Y and Z web sites and I go to those sites and there is either zero traffic, bogus posts, or just bad information. I end up having to convince the client that there is a better way.

  • I agree with importance of a strategy but I have found the 80/20 rule is best on defining the strategy then moving right to #7 experimenting then analyze and improve. Great Article!!

  • These are the reasons why I hired someone to help me with all my social media strategy. Othewise, I would have been wondering around lost for days/weeks trying to figure this out on my own.

  • Strategy is everything if you are thinking about seriously using social media to develop your business. Without one, it’s very easy to get lost, and feel overwhelmed, like you aren’t really making any progress. With one, you have a focus and a well researched process of achieving the end result.

    Great article Nick!

  • Thanks for this resource, Nick. I can’t wait to add some of my local biz photos to Signs of Social Media!

  • Julie, before you even start with social media, identify your niche. Who is your ideal client? What is their need or problem–and what solution do you provide? What’s at the heart of your biz e.g. what is your core strength, message and unique perspective you bring to your ideal client? What’s your “secret sauce”?

  • Very sound advice, I’ll have to take your word for it. Thanks.

  • You’re welcome Kate! That group is one of my favorites. I hope more businesses are like you and take advantage of offline marketing to promote online networking. Potential clients are everywhere!


  • I’d agree with the responses provided by Alistair and Kate. Make sure you understand what you want to get out of social media. It’s intimidating at first, but as long as you realize that social media is a long term strategy, you’ll do just fine.


  • You’re welcome! Glad you found it useful.


  • I know of a few useful paid tools like Sysomos (disclosure: I am the SEM and Social Media Specialist @Marketwire, which recently bought Sysomos).

    A good one to add to Facebook is Google Analytics –


  • I’m a big believer in jumping into social media with a strategy so this topic came naturally. I like the way you outlined your strategy. This article provides a foundation, but deeper strategies are requried in the tactics by platforms. I hope everyone reading this realizes that it doesn’t just end with the strategy as outlined in this article. Thanks!


  • I completely agree. The big three that every business should consider joining immediately is Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Businesses also need to realize that these platforms are tactics and require a deeper understanding as it relates to their overall goals. Some may realize that Twitter isn’t for them, but don’t rule it out right away.

    Love the chess analogy!


  • You’re welcome and thanks for the comment!


  • Thanks! Your comment was zen-like. Heh.


  • Indeed weird. My original post title was actually something else, but the editors changed it. I was fine with any changes. What a coincidence.

    The only exception to the “field of dreams” strategy is for celebs and notable public figures. If THEY build it, they WILL come.


  • That’s a great point Sam! Glad you brought it up. Too much research can cause the equivalent of “paralysis of analysis” in that you can easily get intimidated by all the social networking sites.

    You’re the 3rd or 4th person to come up with a clever analogy. Loving it!


  • Thanks! There’s also the flip side to your scenario. As you garner thousands and thousands of followers, the strategy itself must also evolve. It then goes into scale where resources within the organization becomes key.


  • You’re welcome. Glad you found the article useful!


  • Thanks Howard!


  • You’re welcome! Glad you found it helpful.


  • Thanks Justin! I think more and more businesses are realizing that social media is a long term commitment. Now they need to realize that a strategy is a necessity when getting their business involved in such transparent platforms.


  • Thanks! Conversing online is one thing, but meeting in person and really understanding their personality and passion only strengthens a relationship. Nothing beats a personal encounter.


  • You’re welcome! Glad you enjoyed.


  • Great point. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a regular occurrence for social media strategists. Social media is an experiment. Everyone is experimenting; everyone is making mistakes. However, clients convince themselves that they need to be on certain sites. Showing them traffic, demographics, relevancy, participation, etc. should tell them otherwise. Just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t mean you should.


  • Thanks Deborah!. I’m interested to know more about the 80/20 rule as it relates to strategy.


  • If one has the time, the process can be rewarding and one can learn lots from the process. I’ve spent too much time doing just that, but in return, I now understand more and know what not to do. Hiring is good too 😉


  • Thanks! You hit it on the head. Without a strategy, you can feel overwhelmed and even feel so intimidated that you rule out social media altogether. With one, you feel more confident and more prepared to dive in.


  • My word is gold! Thanks for commenting.


  • Great post. I think the graphic is a bit of a misnomer, though.

    That is more like “We need to be on this platform vs We need a strategy”

    I think tool selection means picking a monitoring tool, social crm, etc. This should come AFTER you define your goals and select your platforms.

  • Nice Post, SM strategy also needed because social media is time consuming and you can not consume time on every social site…you need tools to increase your performance as well while keeping real participation and networking in point of view

  • Thanks Cody! I think the graphic is a good representation of what most companies do. They pick which tools to use first rather than creating a strategy to determine which tools work best. Without understanding goals and objectives, companies are wasting time playing around on different platforms and fooling around with the multitude of tools to manage social media.


  • You’re absolutely right Steve. Social media can waste a lot of valuable time if you don’t have goals and objectives. Once you’ve understood what you want to get out of social media and evaluated the social media landscape as it relates to your business and industry, what tools and platforms to use should be considered next to maximize productivity.


  • Great piece – what people need to keep in mind is that a good social media plan will be give snowball effect in terms of success – not the immediate bang like you get with Google adspend. I think a lot of marketing people may find this a tough concept as most of us are used to getting pretty quick returns from other forms of online marketing. I use social for some of my sites – the one that is proving the most entertainment in terms of learning is as the growth via social is working but very slow *(but steady)- and with a topic like art you would expect it to be buzzing. any ideas welcomed

  • Thanks Nigel. I think a lot of marketing professionals are patient when it comes to results, but are impatient when it comes to implementing a new strategy. Some are too quick to try out a new platform only to quit much too soon to see the overall benefit.


  • Social Media has become one of the most aggressive ways to promote your site or business, recruiting increasing back links, more attention, resulting in additional website traffic.

  • Thanks for the specifics. Great article. This is my first social media managing gig so the specifics as to how to draft a strategy was extremely beneficial. Thanks

  • Nick–great information and you make an insightful point regarding the need for tactical planning. Here is article that does a nice job of covering this planning issue:

  • Hithnar

    This is not a bad article, but does not tackle the core of the issue at all. Most companies have very little understanding what a strategy is – when I ask hem, about tit they will most often tell me their goals like “Our strategy is to have more sign ups to our service”. But they have no plan on HOW they will do it, so they grab whatever comes their way and market to whatever audience strikes their fancy. It leaves a confused community, incoherent communication strategy, and a content that’s like a meatball sundae.

  • Social networking is one of the best things you can do for your business. It is good for advertising, and cuts down on a lot of expenses.


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  • This article is fantastic!
    It;s very easy to read, crisp and straight to the point.
    I look forward to reading a whole heap more Nick 🙂

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  • Alexander_welz

    Great post. This goes back to what I always believe. You need to constantly be monitoring and adjusting you strategy to obtain the goals you want.

  • Swati Ramnath21

    Great tips……. I recently wrote an article about the steps for successful marketing-

    Another tip would be to customize the message to suit the social networking site and keeping in mind the target audience.

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  • mattisonic

    Great Article! Planning is critical as with any marketing effort! Thanks.

  • Hi Nick – I would agree with a few of your steps regarding social media strategy but disagree with some others. Determine goals and objectives is huge! Research and more research is the best second step you can do.

    The rest of your steps are without question steps that should be included but a social media strategy needs to be even more detailed.

    After your steps 1 and 2 – I would argue that the rest of the strategy should go like this:
    3 – have an idea session, a place where clients can formulate ideas and stories, the true building blocks of social media.
    4 – define personas and scenarios. Who is the correct audience, and what times of day are they focused on interacting with social media.
    5 – Create and modify on a monthly basis an Editorial Calendar.
    6 – Define the future – mapping and visualization so that a client can understand current year and future years

  • Everybody in the organization owns Social Media, and their culture must change to support this new marketing. Unfortunately too many Silos in businesses, leadership is critical to set the tone for everyone. Measurement is important…yet I don’t hear that drumbeat for the Old Marketing. When was the last time we heard that we got a 1% response for direct mail marketing that interrupts people, so let’s double are efforts.

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  • Hi Nick,

    WOW, That’s a very helpful post. I really thing that what you are sharing with all of us is great knowledge and a very cool thing you guys are doing.

    I do enjoy reading and learning more and more everyday. Just like some of you wrote, It takes time and when our clients buy our services they need to understand that they are buying our time as well as our growing knowledge.

    @BlairEvansBall:disqus . That is so true!!! or what about flyers or Email newsletters?

    When someone asks me about the ROI on SM. I explaine that it’s an additional tool to our marketing strategies, I often ask them about their ROI on their mobile device.. It’s a communication tool as well.

    DJ. Perez  

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  • Temitope Gbenro

    I realise this is coming many months after the article was posted, but I find it very relevant. Thanks!!

  • Thanks so much for the tips and with the launch of google plus we have even more to play with

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  • Thankyou..was of great Help 🙂

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  • Web Design Academy

    Great, thanks for the share

  • Some great advice here. One thing that I’d like to add is that with Social Media you need to be active on a daily basis in order to ever be able to build those relationships mentioned in the article. Having a well written and thought out plan makes it easier to come up with status updates and easier to respond to comments accordingly. 

    ~ Brother Trevor

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  • muaathaljamah

    Good post!! I think the seven steps that you mentioned covered most of the
    important social media strategies for implementing the social media in a real organization.
    However, I believe that each company need to have it own strategies based on
    their objectives and goals.

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  • makiomilano

    A very useful article!!, thanks for sharing this with us

  • Sjoerdpreesman

    Good post. Very useful. What is the most used strategy for social media?

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  • Thank you so much,just i am planing to start my social media activities , it so help full to me.
    Just i  am confused about one thing, that is over coming of negative comments ?

  • Just found a very nice article here. Thanks for sharing. I agree. We need to socialize also offline to show that we are for real.

  •  “It’s a wonderful new world and I hope many of you are as thrilled to be part of it as I am.”  I definitely am! I’m what we would call a beginner to using social media for business and I’m super excited about all the knowledge I’m gaining along the way! Thank you so much for your help!! 🙂

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  • Great Article,,, Helped a lot. I am Creating a Social Media Strategy for my Mobile Prices Website and your article have given great insight.

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  • Great post & great timing – I was just thinking of emailing you or searching your blog archive to see if you had any tips/pointers/rules for how to use Twitter vs. Facebook vs. LinkedIN as I’m getting my feet wet w/ social media and considering a customer oriented Architecture blog. of specific concern to me right now is the idea of accepting LinkedIN connection requests from headhunters, etc. that I’ll likely never meet, interact with, or have any value to besides increasing their connectoins, or being followed by twitterers that never post but follow thousands of people. Both make me uncomfortable for some reason (LinkedIn particularly concerns me for some reason, because beyond the access it gives to me, which I willingly accept, it also gives some level of access to those who trust me enough to accept my connection requests!! & that’s a trust that i don’t want to violate).  

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  • thanks bro…

  • Thank you very much Nick. Your information is really important for me as a beginner as a social media manager 🙂

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  • Some great info. Its very easy to get sucked into social media with no plan in place.  I feel that strategy is key to getting a measuring results.

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  • Nice list, thanks for taking the time to put this together. I have to say I agree with point number 2; too often I come across Blogger pages or unused profiles which were created in haste and never used!  There’s nothing more disappointing for a client than finding an unused company platform.

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  • John gregory

    Great article Nick. Thanks for spending the time to write it. I wanted to ask you what you views are on the importance of setting benchmarks to measure a social media strategy and what metrics are best used to analyse the social media presence?.

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  • Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon.

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  • Adityarana

    Hi, is it always necessary to create a strategy =, what if a brand is thinking of joining a lesser known social media platform..

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  • Maria Paiva

    Hey Nick,

    Quite an effective article. Kudos to you man!

    I guess…. I’m going to follow your tips by commenting on your article first (hehehe)… Looking forward to more of your articles. Once again…. great piece 🙂

    Keep up the good work! 

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