Category Archives: marketing

Nothing Unveils Customer Commitment Like Social Media

As a digital marketing executive, I see two types of clients. Type A wants to increase sales. Type B takes it a bit further and knows that to increase sales brands need to provide an exceptional user experience to sustain continuous and long-term growth.

customer commitment

Let me share with you a correspondence I had this week. I have edited some of the conversation only to respect the privacy of those involved, but the nature and essence of the correspondence prevails free of any poetic justice on my part.

Potential client – “I wondered first and foremost what your fee would be to
help us with our social media page … We are a small company with an extremely small budget.”

My response – “Really more important than getting you on track is you and your team’s ability and bandwidth to keep social in motion. You (or your team) would need to produce constant content reinforcing [your brand value] … Would you be able to commit to an article a week, curating content, and providing a POV (point of view) on issues on a regularly bases? If yes, I’d be glad to discuss how I can help and my fees.”

You see participation and lack there of truly magnifies a company’s/brand’s commitment to their target audience. If you just want to get another number signed up to your company service, social is going to be a bad marketing mix choice for your company. If you want to use social to demonstrate your subject matter expertise, sincere interest in providing solutions, and a desire to listen to what your audience says, social marketing is an awesome addition to your marketing mix.

There is no social media expert that is going to turn your social marketing effort into success unless YOU are a) truly committed to your customer and b) are willing to learn your audience’s digital behavior and adapt or reallocate time and resources to meet their evolved usage patterns? Do you believe this mentality and approach leads to continuous sales growth?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

Footnote – The response I got from the prospect was – “I hear you. I do know that it would take time out of my already busy day. That being said, I’m not so sure if I have a choice if I want to gain greater visibility equating to greater income, or do I? Your question of course is understandable, but I guess it would depend upon the actual process, and just how time consuming it would be.”

An honest assessment that many must ask themselves. I do not typically share specific client correspondence and activities with my audience, but I really think there is a great sense of reality and honesty conveyed here. It is an issue that you will likely need to consciously face.

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Successful Social Marketing – Integrating Content and Community

The ultimate social marketing success is having a platform that stands out as the go to place for your target audience. If your product/service aims to capture an audience with special interests, you should consider a social strategy and plan that integrates content and community. Special interests groups could include fitness minded, wines enthusiasts, tech innovation, pet lovers, executive peer groups and many more.

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As I have stated many times, content is the core of social. So brands should think of themselves as publishers. Every brand should have a digital platform where they produce and curate industry related content of great value to their target audience. Do not think of this as product or service literature. Produce content that addresses the needs and interests of people within your brand’s industry.

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Launch your own brand’s digital blog, magazine, or journal.

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Be committed to continuous production and updates so that your audience is inspired to keep on returning and builds strong affinity for your “Brand Digital Media” platform. You want to build a reputation as being the go to place for your industries information, insights, and entertainment.

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In order to accomplish a “go-to reputation” you should consider a number of different types of content, which include original content, curated content, and UGC (user generated content).

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As example, consider the slide below as the “BRAND Digital Media” content hub for your brand…

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Determine a finite set of topics you will cover. Use the navigation bar to list these topics and allow your audience to click through directly. Build frames to pop in various content types. Try to keep a set template for these content frames so you can condition your audience to access information they desire and know how to easily obtain it. Update at least one frame a day. Include social sharing and follow buttons.

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Once you have established a “BRAND Digital Media” platform, use your social channels to proliferate the content. Include content reference updates on these social channels.

And make sure you are tracking how well the BRAND Digital Media content hub is performing. Consider metrics as follows …

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Once you have built a successful BRAND Digital Media platform, now you are in the position to launch an industry community platform.

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Assuming you have an audience coming to your content hub for information, why not give that audience a place to engage with your brand and one and other.

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As people come to your BRAND Digital Media site for information, give an opportunity to sign up and sign in to your community.

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The BRAND Network is an extension of your BRAND Digital Media hub. It is a place for people to connect, converse, and network.

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While anyone can get content at the BRAND Digital Media site, only members can comment on content, engage with other users, set up meetings, and network with peers. For starters, consider the following BRAND Network feature set.

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The power of having your brand serve as an industry related community is that your brand delivers great value to the target audience. Strive to be the industry digital leading member’s forum. Avoid overt product push. Just aim to be an extremely valued industry information and networking source.

And like any other marketing effort, you need to track success metrics. Consider the following for your BRAND Network …

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So think about what you can do to deliver a BRAND Digital Media hub and BRAND Network. If you deliver stellar content and a networking platform your target will truly value your brand.

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Yes, building an industry leading content and community front takes much effort, time, resources, and budget. But do you want to be a recognized industry leader or is just being part of the pack good enough? If you want to be a leader, demonstrate leadership. Building the industry best BRAND Digital Media platform and BRAND Network demonstrates leadership.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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Integrating Advertisements and Social Marketing – Why it is a Must

integrating ads and social marketing

This past week I read an article that sited a study claiming that only 20% of Super Bowl ads actually resulted in a sales increase of the product. In one way, this surprised me … how could brands continue to dump that much money into a non-performing endeavor? And in another way, it did not really surprise me at all … does a catchy ad really get hoards of people lining up to buy? (I think all of us marketers would like to think so.)

The reality is that more and more consumers, and more and more clients are becoming skeptical and cynical about advertisements. But let me plainly state that advertisements are still very important in a successful marketing mix. It’s just that their role and performance objective must change. And social media is the reason why. Brands no longer have complete control of their position and value proposition. It is the democratic public that holds control of brand reputation and outward postings can affect brand position and intended value proposition.

This being the case, integration of advertisement and social marketing is imperative. We must realize that seeing an ad (in print, on TV and online) is not the end of winning the consumer over. It should be perceived as the beginning.

For quite some time now, I have been defining the three fundamentals of social marketing. One of these elements is “Holistic Social Marketing” where I explain the social marketing A-Path and execution channels for the various stages.

A-Path Onsite-Offsite 3

I suggested that “Attention” and “Attraction” were best achieved by going to the existing digital channels where the existing conversations are ongoing and start there. Then work to subtly pull the audience to the brands’ own digital assets (their website, blog, social channels). But maybe a quicker way of gaining attention and attraction is via ads.

So let’s reconsider the objectives of ads. Maybe the best ROI for ads is a sustainable and continuous long-term profitability rather than short-term, one shot sales increase.

The ultimate goal of marketing is to create an emotional bond between brand and target audience. A bond that has deep loyalty and actionable advocacy. We need to view ads as the start of this journey to get brand attention and attraction. But we do not want to stop there. We want to turn the attention and attraction gained from the ads to continue to move the target audience to affinity, audience, and advocacy.

Thus, start to think of the connection points and follow through of ads to convert to affinity, audience, and advocacy. This is most relevant for digital paid media but also applicable for paid print, TV, and radio media.

The target audience perceptions and behavior are changing. So we need to change our approach to marketing to fit the changing audience dynamics. Advertisement and social marketing integration is key to brand success.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Are You Ready to Put Your Brand’s Marketing in Your Audience’s Hand?

That’s right. I am asking what you might consider to be a dumb question – should you put your brand’s marketing in your audience’s hand? The answer to the question is probably an overwhelming “no”. Well I am here to tell you this is not the most prudent response.

But before you discard this article as a piece of sensationalism looking to stir up controversy, let’s face a couple of facts.

1) People are skeptical (and often cynical) about brand’s advertisements and communication.
2) People trust objective friends, family, and colleagues far more than subjective brand marketing.

It kind of reminds me of a scene from one of my favorite movies, “Elf” …

If someone puts a neon sign on the window of their business claiming “Best …,” are you likely to believe them? Or would it be more believable and compelling if a friend tells you “if you want the best … go to …?” Seems pretty simple, right? Then why aren’t more and more brands investing marketing dollars in advocacy programs? Maybe you really do not need to spend $4 million on a 30-second Super Bowl commercial to reach 110 million people. Maybe the answer is reaching far less of an audience, but THE audience that will activate your brand marketing.

brand advocate

So whether it is encouraging reviews, providing content to share valuable information, friend referral incentives programs, UGC (user generated content), contests to activate sharing, or a host of other tactics, brands need to have a keen focus (and budget allocation) on audience advocacy programs.

Many brands are far too cautious about advocacy programs (word-of-mouth marketing). Especially those brands that do not offer true value or have something to hide. Good marketing starts with a great product or service. Once you are convinced your product/service offers true value to a target audience, activate your most loyal and brand-interested customer to do your marketing. The reality is that they will drive better measureable results than you can.

Yes, I know it is a bit discomforting to give up some control of your brand marketing, but the reality is that it is happening anyway. Digital and social technologies coupled with consumer behavior have forever changed and have placed great control in the hands of the general public. You cannot fight it so you might as well adapt appropriately. Unleash your audience to promote your brand and provide trusted marketing.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Why Marketing Must Change Due to Social Media Behavior

Let me get this right on the table. Neither technology nor hype demands the change of marketing. Rather it is the behavior of human beings usage of new technologies that demand marketers adapt.

marketing leaderBrand reputation always sat in the hands of the target audience. But now the way people use social channels to compliment or reject brands creates an exponential power for people to influence brand reputation. This is the main reason why marketing must change due to social media behavior. When brands falter, the nature of people is to call foul. And now the technology of social media creates a platform for greater consumer power. This is the case independent of a brand’s participation or lack there of on social channels. Many brands are afraid to open up a social channel in fear of what their customers might say. But anyone can post derogatory statements on Twitter, forum, review sites, and any other platform. And the use of these other channels is likely to have a more positive or detrimental effect on the brand anyway.

Earlier this week I tweeted “Social media means people see the difference between what you (brands) say and do.” Think about it for a minute. People now can (and do) call out brands in a highly social forum when they step out of line.

And this brings up a very important point. Honesty, not transparency, is a new marketing demand due to social media behavior. Too many people mistake the importance of brand transparency when they really mean brand honesty. Marketing is really about demonstrating a great value and overall user experience of your product/service. Nothing in the world is perfect. In fact, some companies may avoid perfection on purpose because the result would drive pricing up too much while the product at hand is quite sufficient and valuable for the market they serve. Transparency would mean a requirement to openly show all the warts of your business. This is not necessary. But honesty is. Be careful of stretching product claims via advertorial “poetic justice.” It is an invitation for revolt of social channels.

And there is one other thing about social media behavior you should consider. People want to share positive experiences with their friends, family, and colleagues. They express these experiences on their social space. This means that brands should go beyond the marketing of their product/service and give their target audience a reason to love them. There are many tactics that brands can use to accomplish this love. Social cause. Producer of valued added content. And many other tactics beyond product/service value that give your audience a reason to love your brand and share it.

So if there are two new punctuated rules to successful marketing it is 1) honesty, not transparency; and 2) taking a big step forward and offering reasons beyond product/service value for people to love your brand. These two approaches will truly ignite your audience. The audience will react and initiate your desired actions. This is the new successful marketing mentality.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under behavior, brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, brands, marketing, social media, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

After 10 Years of Facebook, 10 Things You Should Know About Social Marketing

10 yearsThis past week, Facebook turned 10 years old. While a handful of social networks came before Facebook, and many followed, Facebook was synonymous with social media for quite a while. For some time when people said social media they meant Facebook. Yes, there have always been other active social networks.

Facebook (and other social platforms) have dramatically changed our culture … the way we communicate and engage with others. And ten years later so many brands and companies still stumble using social media to win customers over. Far too many marketers bring an advertorial mentality to social marketing. The reality is that a majority of social users are turned off by brands’ advertorial interruption on social channels.

So as Facebook turns 10, marketers must be aware of the unofficial rules. These unofficial rules are driven by audience behavior first and foremost, and a desire to increase sales and profitability second.

1) Meaningless followers and likes – followers, likes, etc. are meaningless in and of themselves. If your audience doesn’t engage with you, and you with them, the audience never sees your posts anyway.

2) Followers and likes are just the beginning – the initial actions to get followers or likes is only the start. Yes, you could run a sweepstake and give away an iPad to everyone that likes your brand and get 1 million followers. But what good is that if it is the last action a person takes with your brand.

3) Relations are key – brand relationships are key to social success. You want to build an emotional bond with your target audience by showing them you care, delivering useful and/or entertaining information, and responding to mentions of your brand.

4) Avoid advertorial content – social users are turned by advertorial like content in their social feeds. Social media channels are not another acceptable place for content and postings, which are solely product push.

5) Avoid the hard sell – social media is not a good channel for direct sales. Typically, last click conversion does not happen on social media. Social media is an excellent marketing channel to gain attention and influence brand preference.

6) Measure – social marketing must be measured appropriately. Sales are not an appropriate measure of social marketing efforts, but rather the behaviors that tee up sales should be measured. Specifically – awareness, consideration, loyalty, and advocacy. (See “Know What Successful Social Media Looks Like.”)

7) Social starts off your home court – do not build the “field of dreams” social presence and expect everyone to show up there. Go out in existing forums, groups, communities, etc. that you do not own where the conversation already exists. Engage there. Build a reputation as a valuable source. Slowly move people to your social properties once you have established some degree of positive reputation.

8) Don’t confuse Facebook as your community – platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. are NOT your brand community. You do not own the database of information of your audience on these platforms. Consider these platforms as a stepping-stone to attract people and gain affinity for your content hub and/or community you truly own. (See “Why Facebook may not be Your Brand’s Community.”)

9) Social is not a silo … typically social media responsibilities reside in the marketing department. In the words of David Packard (formerly of HP), “Marketing is far too important to be left to the marketing department.” Social leadership may come from the marketing department, but the social practice should be executed by the whole company. Have a plan to unleash company brand ambassadors. Establish policies that govern who speaks on brand social channels and how other employees can positively promote the brand on their personal channels. Motivate the whole company to participate.

10) Integration is key – integration of social marketing with other offline, traditional, direct, advertorial, and online marketing is imperative. Create synergy across all your marketing efforts.

As I hit my seventh year in social marketing I see one problem continuously standing in the way of success. That is most companies (and their leaders) continue to be myopic and internally focused. If there is one thing that social media has culturally changed that marketers must be sensitive to, it is that people who show continuous concern for their audience and “friends” get rewarded. Social user behavior dictates this. Give it some thought.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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Filed under behavior, brand communication, brand marketing, brands, community, Facebook, marketing, social marketing, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

The Art of Marketing to Get Attention

attention As we experience The Super Bowl we question whether the football game or the commercials are the spectacle. Actually prior to 1984, football commanded the interest. But all changed that year on January 22nd when Apple’s “1984″ commercial might have reshaped the highlights of The Super Bowl. Since then, we have seen countless extravagant commercials and our expectations are to be wowed at each commercial break.

There is a massive amount of creative work and planning that goes into a Super Bowl commercial. Now I am not suggesting that you need to put in the budget and time that the major brands do for a Super Bowl commercial, but I am suggesting that your marketing efforts include a heavy dose of creative time and resources. You cannot just wing it. You need to thoroughly understand your audience and create something that peaks their interest. This is a requirement of all brands … Not just big brands.

And creativity is not just reserved for commercials. Take the next marketing milestone for Super Bowl marketing … The “dunk in the dark Oreo” tweet. What is noteworthy about this social media marketing moment is that the tweet did not come from one guy/gal just sitting in the dark with an epiphany. A creative agency and Oreo executives all huddled together to brainstorm, copy-write, and image the tweet. Creative planning allows you to seize a moment and get ATTENTION.

This takes me to the second point about attention … Scale it appropriately for your brand. Yes, Budweiser is big enough to go for an audience of 170 million, but that is likely a bit big for your brand’s budget. You don’t need to blow your budget on the price of Super Bowl commercial to get attention for your brand. Even if you are simply a local brand, work your creativity to get your audience’s attention.

So let the Super Bowl marketing motivate your creativity and don’t think you are too small to grab some attention.

A Path Circle

But that is not the end of your marketing plight. It is just the beginning. And this is the last point I wanted to make here. What good is getting your audience’s attention if you do not activate them further? If you have read me before, you might be familiar with my “A-Path” methodology. cAs a brand, first I want to get your Attention; then I want you to be Attracted to my brand; then I want you to build Affinity for the brand; then I want you to opt-in in some fashion and become part of my Audience; and finally you work to get a subset of your audience to become your Advocate. And the cycle continues. Your advocates then work to get your brand objective attention.

So if you were wowed by The Super Bowl XLVIII commercials, think about how the brands are continuing (or not) to move their audience along the brand journey beyond attention.

Are you working on your brand’s complete marketing journey? Work hard for attention and even harder to get them emotionally tied to your brand by continuing on the A-Path.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

Acknowledgement – Kimberly Potts – Is Oreo’s Super Bowl Blackout Tweet the Apple ’1984′ of Social Media Advertising? for information regarding Apple and Oreo’s Super Bowl marketing milestones.

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Filed under ads, brand marketing, brands, Creativity, marketing, marketing plan, Social Steve, SocialSteve

Please Ask Yourself – Are You Worthy of Having Me as Your Customer

Have you ever stopped and asked yourself if you are worthy of having customers? What exactly does that mean?

worthy business

Well it starts with having a thorough understanding of your customers. They are people with wants and needs, and can get motivated and/or disillusioned by your actions and presence. You need to understand your target audience beyond an interest in their purchases. Previously, I stated that empathy was the most important word in marketing. Marketing strategy must start with target audience empathy.

If you really understand your target audience, you are in a position to prove to them that you are worthy of their business. And digital marketing is a key asset to use to demonstrate your worthiness? Not sure about that? Consider the following …

1) Where do consumers and business decision makers go to capture product/service information?
2) What does it take to be perceived as a subject matter expert?
3) How relevant and prolific is the use of mobile?
4) What is more compelling and believable … Hearing a product/service is great from the brand itself or an objective individual?

If you take time to answer the questions above, I think it becomes a no-brainer how important a strong digital presence. As you think about your digital marketing strategy, go back to the first question I asked … Are you worthy of having me as a customer?

Think about how your digital presence can continually prove you are worthy of your target audience’s business. Here are some elements that should be part of your digital activities, presence, and implementations …

1) Listen – listen to what your target audience is saying. This should guide everything you do in business if you truly are a customer-centric business.
2) Engage – connect with people to build deeper relationships such that you learn more from them and win their trust and support.
3) Content – deliver stories and information that your audience truly values. Give them a reason to stay connected and interested.
4) Outreach – actively seek people that are interested in your product/service area. Search the internet, forums, communities, online groups, etc. for relative conversations and participate.
5) Mobile – everything you produce online needs to be accessible via mobile. Just look at the growing number mobile use. If your digital presence is not mobile-ready, you are missing out on a good part of your potential audience.

Granted, much of what I have just stated resembles last week’s post where I focused on the areas you need to focus on for social marketing success. The point in this week’s article is that social marketing actions are driven by the objective of winning the customer over. And this goes far beyond a particular product or service. Digital presence gives marketers an opportunity to provide a product/service extension … a strong enhancement of the user experience.

If there is one reason why you need to ask yourself if you are worthy of having your target audience as customers, it is because the actual audience is asking themselves, “are you worthy of having ME as your customer?” Purchase decisions are being driven by customer use of digital technologies more and more. Social and mobile technologies may not invoke “last click” purchase action, but they certainly set the path to the final purchase, ongoing loyalty, and advocacy.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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4 Musts for Your Social Marketing This Year

It is the beginning of the year and you want to make sure you kick off your marketing to drive success in your company. With this in mind, let me give you four musts for your brand social marketing.

must do social marketing

Throughout my entire marketing career, I have continuously examined brands’ audiences to drive strategy, plan, and execution. I label marketing as the “psychology of business.” And with this in mind, I have identified four areas that you need to focus on with regards to your social marketing efforts to drive audience adoption, brand preference, loyalty, and advocacy.

1. Listening and Responding

There are three types of social marketing listening that are required.

a) People talking to your brand – there are going to be people that use your brand’s social channels and other channels to talk directly to your brand.
b) People talking about your brand – while not directly speaking to your brand people will mention your brand in the vast digital world.
c) People talk about a subject relevant to your brand – while not mentioning your brand, people touch on a subject area that speaks directly to a topic that is relevant to your brand.

You must monitor for all the cases listed above. In the first two cases, you must monitor and respond. The best way to tell your audience you don’t care about them is to not listen to them, or not respond to them. Only respond to mentions if you care about their business … that should include every mention. In the third case, you have an opportunity to expose a new audience to your brand. Do not respond with product information, but rather valuable information. Gain awareness and start to build a great reputation by delivering unexpected help.

2. Content

The way to keep your brand in the minds and hearts of your target audience is produce content they value. The way to prove you are worthy of people’s business (beyond having a truly valued product/service) is to be helpful and entertaining. Brands are often shared between people via content. Thus your brand needs to think like a publisher and produce weekly content (at a minimum). But your content plan should not be limited to original content. Consider how your content strategy will include curation from other sources as well as UGC (user generated content). Your content strategy should also include a plan to capture earned media. This leads to the third focus area …

3. Influence Marketing

In influence marketing, first you identify those individuals and publications that influence your target market. Once you identify the influencers, you work to build a relationship with them by providing them information that is valued by THEIR audience. It is not about pushing your agenda, but finding the intersection of what your brand represents and the information that identified influencers want to deliver to their audience. Influence marketing will continue to gain importance because objective advocacy is much more compelling than subjective brand communication.

4. Personalization

I touched on personalization when discussing “listening and responding.” But personalization needs to go beyond listening and responding. Users are tiring of email blasts and other brand communications that are nothing more than an extension of advertorial programs. What if the brand communication was driven by consumer intelligence? What if you integrated digital behavior and purchase history to deliver contextual relevant communication to your audience? Certainly your audience will feel “special” if you deliver communication and content relevant to their history, interests, and behavior. Personalization means that brands deliver contextual relevant communication and content. Look into tools that allow you to correlate and integrate different data points to produce a data driven view of your consumers.

The four areas of focus I suggested above are not driven by technology or marketing hype, but rather by examining user behavior spawned by new digital technological advancements. Far too often predictions are driven by technology hype rather than user behavior driven by new technology advancements. If marketing is the psychology of business, understand your target audience behavior and implement social marketing accordingly.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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The Greatest Hits on The SocialSteve Blog – 2013

Thanks for being a reader of The SocialSteve Blog (named one of the Top 50 Global Influential Marketing Blogs). Here are the articles that were the greatest hits on The SocialSteve Blog in 2013 …

SocialSteve Greatest Hits

#10) Why PR Agencies Should be Great at Social Marketing, But So Few Are

#9) A Facebook Page Every Marketer Should Learn From

#8) How Often Should You Post?

#7) 2013 – The Year Social Media Will Be Measured Correctly

#6) Activation Marketing via Social Media

#5) Social Media Highlights the Important Difference Between Marketing and Sales

#4) Know Your “Ps” When It Comes to Content and Social Marketing

#3) The Successful Social Marketing Framework

#2) What is Social Marketing? (Make Sure You Really Know)

#1) Why Are We Doing Social Marketing Anyway?

Strive for social marketing excellence.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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