I would love to spend my entire workday blogging, social bookmarking and business networking. However, long ago I discovered that combining these activities with other outreach is both more efficient and more far reaching than relying on social media alone to build a web presence.
Our company represents luxury watch brand Ferragamo Timepieces in the US and Caribbean markets. Industry leader Paul Ziff was appointed US and Caribbean Ferragamo President, and I was responsible as Social Media Director for spreading the word about the appointment and about Ferragamo.
I had about a week to implement a plan and capitalize on the news before it became stale and irrelevant. Our company was ready to host numerous sales meetings in Las Vegas, and I needed to create adequate buzz before the start of the meetings.
The effort consisted of writing and publishing web content related to Paul Ziff and Ferragamo, distributing press releases about Paul’s appointment, and emailing the news to a very large list. We were able to impact several thousand people, thanks to excellent resources and superb teamwork:
- Marketing expert, blogger and watch enthusiast, John Sealander, did a marvelous job writing all the web content. I merely added a few links and images.
- Paul Ziff wrote the press release, which was effectively distributed by eRealeases — via PR Newswire — and through their own channels. Our story was picked up by several hundred news websites.
- Our huge quantity of email messages were delivered and tracked by Green Wave Email Marketing, under the direction of software guru, David Alexander, my good friend of more than 40 years. I use Aweber to manage my blog subscribers, but I prefer Green Wave for my email marketing because David’s service provides greater flexibility and more personalized attention. In my opinion, Green Wave is more geared to mainstream business than Aweber.
- I leveraged search and social strategies and techniques to drive additional traffic to John’s content on our company website and blogs.
Please subscribe to my blog and share ways in which you’re going beyond social media.
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Social Media Help Wanted
I realized, of course, that I’d need substantial help to carry out the social media plans made in Basel.
Besides freelance writers who can appreciate and blog about luxury, fashion and watches, I’m also looking locally in the Greater New York area for an art director, PR expert and advertising specialist.
New Social Media Profit Centers
For decades, I’ve been intrapreneurial. Now, in addition to leveraging our Internet properties to promote our firm and its many watch brands, it’s my intention, as well, to turn these websites into profit centers and totally new income streams.
So far we have several work-at-home bloggers and a few candidates for the in-house positions. To recommend someone or apply yourself for any of these opportunities, check out my Connect page.
Social Media Watch
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It’s time to revisit social media list building once again. In this article, however, I focus more on where to build lists than how to build them. In other words, I focus on social media list building destinations.
A few remarks are in order before I address the where-to of list building.
Importance of List Building
Reach is the quantity of people your message reaches, while frequency is the average number of times each person is reached.
Frequency builds trust and drives your message home. Advertising without frequency is rarely effective. Marketers rely on list building to repeatedly reach their audience and achieve their target frequency levels.
New List Building Paradigm
In List Building Paradigm Shift, I discard the stereotype of list building as “a well-written lead capture page linked by a web form to an auto- responder” and redefine it as the process of acquiring and nurturing followers.
List building is the process of subscribing members of your target audience, in order to engage and nurture them and brand yourself and that which you represent.
This definition leaves plenty of room for creativity and customization of the list building process, yet it defines our objectives: engaging, nurturing and branding. Prescribing our objectives enables you to gauge the relative merits of each list building venue at your disposal.
List Building Destinations
These are my five favorite venues for list building. They are just as useful to owners of static websites as they are to bloggers.
I use all of them and let people choose for themselves which they prefer.
- Autoresponders - Reports of the death of email have been greatly exaggerated. Everybody receives email and knows how email works. Every website should provide email subscription. Emails sent to opt-in subscribers will have an open rate of about 30% and a click through rate of approximately 10%, which is excellent. The downside of email subscription in general is anonymity, lack of interactivity and changes of address. I use an autoresponder service to maintain my database and deliver my email. My service has a high delivery rate, many important features, good customer service, and it integrates with Google’s FeedBurner RSS if you have a blog.
- Ning Social Networks - You can connect with members of a Ning network, interact with them and broadcast messages to them as the site creator, as an administrator, as a group creator and as a friend. They all work. However, only as the site creator do you actually own their data. My primary Ning site is Small Business Network. Subscription through Ning can be powerful, but it takes much more work to join a Ning site than to opt into an email list. A big problem with Ning is that if somebody joins more than one site or group of yours, they can receive duplicate mail from you. If you’re already established on Ning, incorporate it in your list building strategy. If not, to Ning or not to Ning will not be an easy question to answer.
- Facebook - A Facebook fan page widget lets Facebook members register for your page with one click. Based on my experience, response to posts runs at around 5%, about half the rate of email, which is good. The quality of traffic is superb with high average time spent on site. Your posts on Facebook can promote interaction and draw comments themselves from the members of your page, which helps you brand yourself. The potential also exists with Facebook pages to benefit from viral effects.
- Twitter - Posts on Twitter, or tweets as they’re called, can easily be retweeted and spread virally throughout the site. In a future post, I might list the reasons why, not withstanding the viral effect, I like Twitter much less than I like Facebook for list building. Nevertheless, I’m very happy to make Twitter subscription available, and I love all the traffic it brings me. (I’m @larrybrauner.)
- Google Friend Connect - This is Google’s attempt to add a social element to every website. I doubt that it’s very successful from a social perspective, but it’s from Google, so I’m in. If Google uses or will use GFC membership to assess the relevance of websites, I’m covered. One nice feature of GFC is its newsletters. Make sure you enable them and use them to email your GFC subscribers.
If you’re not yet a subscriber, please choose a destination and subscribe.
Your comments about list building or social media list building destinations are welcome.
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Fortunately, the time frame for the networking phase of the event is open-ended, so drop by my Facebook page any time to meet some new people and check out what they’re up to. I’ll be busy working on the page for a few more days, reviewing web sites I haven’t yet visited.
Our four-day event was in part an experiment, as Tom Woolf pointed out. A key takeaway for me is that many people are promoting their products, services, companies interests and causes but not sufficiently promoting them- selves.
Keeping a low profile may occasionally be appropriate. However, in general, self-promotion is integral to social media marketing and public relations.
These are eight reasons why self-promotion and injecting yourself into your content are very important:
- You transcend your interests. No interest or group of interests, no matter how passionate you are about them, can fully define you as a person. Admittedly, this point is too existential, so…
- Your subject matter might lose relevance. For example, your product can be discontinued or your company can go out of business. Your content will become irrelevant with no residual benefit from the effort you put into creating and promoting it. However…
- You’re always relevant as a person. You have inherent value, and you’re completely portable from one venue to another.
- You and I are unique. People aren’t interchangeable, but products, services and organizations tend to be.
- You and I are memorable. People will come to remember us and our faces once they see us a few times.
- People prefer to do business with people they know, like and trust. It has always been that way, even before Al Gore allegedly invented the Internet. You and I can relate to people and build solid social capital.
- Synergy. Our diverse interests and content work to build a bigger and more insightful picture of us.
- Social media is uhh, social. You and I are social. Our jewelry and weight loss products merely facilitate social interaction. People relate to people, and their relationships are ongoing.
At this time, you can probably suggest additional reasons for keeping it social, and I expect that you will.
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This event’s premise is that each guest will post a link on my Facebook fan page, visible for all to see. They may link to a blog, a website or even a profile on one of the major social networking sites. I agreed to follow their link with the intention of commenting, sharing the link, or submitting it to social bookmarking sites.
When I undertook this unusual event, I was aware that I would be busy with it for weeks. I planned it very carefully with seven key objectives in mind:
- Win Win - I wanted each event participant to benefit, not only me.
- Interaction - I wanted to interact with each participant and start or nurture relationships. Community engagement is always a challenge.
- Meeting People - I wanted to expand my network and connect with new people.
- Collaboration - I wanted to share my expertise and influence. I believed that a good number of participants would want to do the same. Collaboration is a primary theme for me in 2010.
- Branding - I wanted to demonstrate that I could conceptualize and implement a creative and meaningful social media event as part of my overall walking the walk strategy.
- Leverage - In 2009 I reached out to many people. I wanted to do something that would include them and permit them to support me.
- Momentum - After a slow 2009 holiday season, I wanted to build new momentum. Last year’s momentum was sustained by the articles I wrote and the growth of my network. This year’s momentum will be sustained by community-oriented projects as well.
- Tom Woolf, author of The PRagmatist, was enthusiastic: “I want to give Larry Brauner a nod for trying a different kind of social media experiment.”
- W. James Wright in Tweet it Toronto lamented “This is one for the ‘Wish I Woulda Thoughta That File.’”
- Rachel McAlpine in Contented Blog said “How quickly the shiny- new Facebook became boring-boring same-old same-old. I’m happy to say that Larry’s virtual party has already seeded my brain with other social marketing ideas.”
As I prepare to publish this article, 260 people have indicated that they’re “Attending” and 165 that they’re “Maybe Attending.” Entries will be accepted until the end of the event on January 14. I cover the details in 4+ Day Blog and Website Promotion Event and Social Media Party. It would help greatly if you could tweet that article (using this pre-formatted link).
If you could Digg this article and share it with acquaintances in the media, you’d be doing me an enormous favor.
Before I go, I must not forget to mention that there will be door prizes. The prizes and the winners will be announced some time after the completion of the event. Also, in case you’re new here and wondering, subscribing and commenting are the accepted norms.
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As we begin 2010, I wish you real success, both online and off, in the year ahead.
In a video I’ve already already shown you, marketing expert Darren Rouse, author of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, explains in detail his blog-centric approach to building a web presence, in which his blogs are his home base, and social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube are his outposts.
Some readers have questioned the necessity of starting a blog, since a blog can consume more time than a business might be prepared to invest in their social media initiative.
I agree that starting a blog is not absolutely necessary.
Businesses can choose among various alternatives when establishing their social media home bases. However, these alternatives are less ideal than a blog for one or more of the following reasons:
- Inadequate Control - When a site is owned by someone else, they modify the terms or remove users arbitrarily, not caring at all that it’s your home base.
- Inadequate Communication - The site’s features don’t sufficiently enable two-way communication between you and your community members.
- Inadequate Flexibility - The structure, linking or other features of the site are too rigid.
- Too Resource Intensive - The expense far exceeds the alternative cost of starting and maintaining a blog.
These are some major alternatives to the blog-centric approach and the reasons they are problematic:
- Static Website -Inadequate communication and flexibility.
- Your Own Ning Network or Facebook Page - Inadequate control and flexibility.
- LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Squidoo etc. - Inadequate control, communication and flexibility.
- Self-Hosted Social Networking Site - Too resource intensive.
Note also that search engines are consistently receptive to blogs, and that some social media sites and Facebook apps cater to blogs and bloggers.
If I couldn’t use a blog for whatever reason, a static website (equipped for lead capture) coupled with a Facebook Page or perhaps my own Ning (or SocialGO) social networking sites might be workable, but…
There ain’t nothing like a blog!
Start 2010 off right: Subscribe and leave a comment.
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Filed Under Best of 2009, Blogging, Facebook, LinkedIn, List Building, Ning Sites, Personal Development and Success, Public Relations, Search Engines, Social Media and Social Networking Sites, Targeting, Twitter | 17 Comments
I’ve bookmarked and skimmed a dozen or more articles that project the path of social media in 2010. Collectively these articles represent many days of researching and writing.
Search Social Media 2010 on Google, and you’ll be able to compile your own social media 2010 reading list. If the information in all the articles isn’t sufficiently comprehensive, a list of 44+ social media books to buy and read can help fill the gaps.
Not that I don’t like reading about trends and innovations — I do. However, I learned long ago that the bleeding edge cuts both ways, and there’s merit in waiting until the timing is right.
Blogs and Facebook have been around for years, yet only recently have they emerged as key tools for main- stream businesses.
I suggest that we watch and see how social media and technology play out in 2010, but that we focus on the basics and build our web presences right now using techniques and resources at our fingertips.
- Core Marketing and PR Competencies - Analytics, branding, communication, competitive intelligence, design, list building, market segmentation, marketing research, targeting, etc.
- High-Quality Relevant Content - Producing and sharing articles, videos, podcasts, pictures, conference calls and talk shows.
- Search Engine Optimization - Social media and SEO complement each other. Read Social Media vs. Search Engine Optimization and Website vs. Web Presence.
- Blogging - Also in Website vs. Web Presence, Darren Rouse, author of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, shares in a video his blog-centric approach to social media marketing, an approach to which I subscribe.
- Social Networking Sites - Nearly any social media site can present opportunities to network. By social networking sites, I mean sites that exist primarily for networking rather than content sharing.The principal social networking sites for business are LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. You can also throw into the mix Ning and other niche social networking sites.
- Content Sharing Sites - Two of the most popular content sharing sites are YouTube and Flickr, but there are many more.
- Social Bookmarking Sites - There are hundreds of business and social bookmarking sites. Two of my favorite sites are Business Exchange and StumbleUpon.
- Blog and Web Site Networks - There are many blog and website networks. My favorites include Entrecard, NetworkedBlogs, Technorati, MyBlogLog, BlogCatalog and Google Friend Connect.
With these social media basics, you can build a huge web presence in 2010. It’s not possession of the latest technology or an inside scoop on a new FB app that’ll enable you to soar in 2010. Your success will depend largely upon your own creativity, skills, efficiency and inner motivation.
I hope you have already mastered the all-important skills of subscribing to blogs and commenting on blog posts.
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I hesitate to write an article about choosing a social media consultant because of concerns about bias and my obvious conflict of interests.
After writing Social Media Carpetbaggers and Snake Oil Salesmen, readers remarked that they had heard enough about the kinds of social media consultants to avoid and were ready to learn how to choose a good social media consultant.
The ten guidelines I present below are best practices for choosing and hiring social media consultants but can be adapted for choosing an SEO consultant, an Internet marketing consultant, or another type of business consultant.
Oh by the way, when I say “he”, I mean “he, she or they.” Biased I may be, but that biased, I’m not.
#1 - Walking the Walk - Many businesses know little about social media. For such a business, choosing and hiring a social media consultant is on a par with choosing a brain surgeon or hiring a rocket scientist. If there’s no one in your business who knows about social media, enlist the help of an expert. Most high school or college kids can qualify.
Here are ten ways to tell whether your candidate is walking the walk:
- Established Blog - He has a blog and has been posting consistently to it for at least a year, and all the recent blog posts have comments.
- Articulate - He writes and speaks well and will be able to help you develop and evaluate content.
- Blog Subscribers - The subscriber count widget on his blog shows the number of subscribed readers. The more, the merrier.
- Web Presence - Google him and his blog. Each search should return at least a few pages of relevant results.
- Linking Out - His blog ought to link out to other blogs and websites.
- Facebook - With everybody and his brother joining Facebook these days, I expect that you will find him on Facebook too. He’ll have many friends on his Facebook profile and fans on his page, if he has set one up.
- Twitter - While Twitter may not be a good fit for your business, each and every social media consultant has a profile on Twitter. More important than the number of people following him are the number of lists following him and how, judging by their names, the curators of those Twitter lists seem to characterize him.
- LinkedIn - Everybody in business is joining LinkedIn. There’s a good chance that he’ll be on LinkedIn and have more than 500 connections there.
- People Person - He needs to understand people. On his blog, Facebook and Twitter he interacts with people who respect him.
- Social Bookmarking - It’s probably too much for you to check whether he uses social bookmarking sites, but ask. If he’s puzzled, that’s a bad sign. Some popular social bookmarking and content sharing sites are Digg, Delicious, Propeller, Flickr, YouTube, Reddit, diigo, Jumptags, Business Exchange and Google.
#2 - Past Accomplishments - Past successes help predict future ones, even in an unrelated field. Ask for and check references. Past employers and clients aren’t likely to report any misgivings, but perhaps you can still learn something valuable. A lukewarm reference may signal dissatisfaction.
#3 - Questions Asked - Does he ask great questions about your business and what you want to accomplish, or is he selling to you like a used car salesman? Don’t choose a consultant who fails to ask meaningful questions.
#4 - Appreciating Your Business - The person who is meant to be your social media consultant will “get” what your business is all about and appreciate or even share some of your passion for it.
#5 - Chemistry - You and he will hopefully work together for a long time. Rapport, communication and comfort are essential for a good long-term fit.
#6 - Sharp Thinking - Your social media program will consist of planning, execution and analytics. Therefore, your ideal social media consultant should be strong strategically, tactically and quantitatively.
#7 - Breadth and Depth - In order to see the big picture and master the details, not only is sharp thinking a must, your social media consultant should know a whole lot about a whole lot of things. Sharp thinking and extensive knowledge combine to promote creativity and excellence.
#8 - Money Issues - You have budgetary considerations, but never choose a social media consultant just because he’s cheap. Don’t let money impair your judgment. Find the right person to help you build your web presence and negotiate the terms with him.
# 9 - Distance Matters - All other things being equal, it’s helpful if your social media consultant is local to you or within reasonable flying time and cost. However, don’t let distance stop you from choosing the best social media consultant for your business.
#10 - Small Assignments - Don’t make a long term commitment on Day 1. Hire your consultant for preliminary planning and competitive analysis. If he performs well, let him work to develop a more comprehensive plan, etc.
We’ve reached the point in the post where you usually comment. Make me look good.
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In the past week, social media hype and the competency of social media consultants have been analyzed from different vantage points by prominent writers.
Social Media Carpetbaggers
Rebecca pointed out that a combination of the recession, the decline of traditional media, and the nearly zero cost and barrier-to-entry into social media has spawned 21st century “social media carpetbaggers, in all flavors and colors of the rainbow.”
It’s reputable marketers who have built deservedly strong reputations in other digital disciplines: branding, creative, strategy, search, media, and a host of other specialties, who are suddenly labeling themselves “social.”
These carpetbaggers are anxious to get their piece of social media marketing, and their dog-and-pony shows and social media clichés substitute for real experience, competence and substance.
Social Media Snake Oil
Stephen criticized rigidity, conflicts of interest, reliance on soft metrics, and in the worst of cases, pure hype:
“It’s a bit of a Wild West scenario,” blogs David Armano, a consultant with the Dachis Group of Austin, Texas. Without naming names, he compares some consultants to “snake oil salesmen.”
Beyond Social Media Snake Oil
The David Armano just cited added to the discussion in a subsequent article on his blog, Life After Social Media Snake Oil. David made some astute comparisons between the social media “hype and fuzzy metrics” and the denial surrounding the dot com bubble.
David ended his article by connecting the past and the future:
The true believers who stuck with the Web even when the bubble burst became the people you wanted to work with. If there is a shakeout in the social space, the same will happen. The true believers will remain, while others flock to the next hot field.
Social Media in Perspective
Mark Evans also picked up on the Business Week piece. Mark concludes that we need more perspective:
All the hype surrounding social media and tools such as Twitter and Facebook overshadow the fact that effective marketing and communications will continue to include a variety of tools. To counter all the happy talk from social media consultants about what could be, the biggest thing needed right now is perspective.
My Comments on What I’ve Read
I have several comments to make on the articles I’ve read:
- Not only social media, but web development, and website, social media and search engine optimization all have more than enough carpetbaggers and snake oil salesmen. In all these areas, service providers, and even their completed work, are difficult to evaluate. Licensing isn’t required either, so they can easily hang up shingles and start practices. Sadly, they’re practicing on your company.
- In the case of Rebecca Lieb’s marketing firm turned social media carpetbagger, it’s unfortunate that they haven’t yet developed the strategic alliances they will need to compensate for a lack of experience that cannot be otherwise mitigated in the short run.
- Measuring ROI and developing other hard metrics was a concern shared by several authors. I protested already in my article, The Social Media ROI Obsession, that much of social media marketing is really public relations, and that the use of softer metrics may be appropriate in such a case.
- While the absence of clear financial justification may cause the social media marketing bubble to burst, I expect that public and customer relations, as well as B2B prospecting will continue to make good use of social media.
And now, it’s your turn to comment on another hot topic.
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As a business community, are we obsessed with return on investment? Is our preoccupation with measuring social media ROI counterproductive?
In this article I look at social media from what might be a novel perspective. I hope to convince you that social media use need not impact the bottom line over the short term, and that our belief that it ought to is impeding our progress.
I expect to provide a few other takeaways as well.
Are Marketing and PR Merging?
I was speaking with Jeffrey Cole, the marketing PR expert behind JJC Communications LLC, an agency using both social media and traditional public relations to achieve clients’ goals. Jeff authors the blog PR 101.
I asked Jeff whether he agreed with me that marketing and public relations were converging. He said he agreed, and that he believed advertising was converging with them as well.
Can You Put a Value on Reputation?
I saw a video and article posted by Chris Boyer, creator of the Hospital Online Marketing Education site on Ning and online marketing consultant at Healthgrades. Chris was discussing social media and the importance of his four R’s:
- Return on investment
Regarding return on investment, Chris pointed out that measuring the ROI of social media was like trying to measure the ROI of a friendship.
I agreed with Chris’ assessment of social media, but let me ask you this question: What about measuring the ROI of your reputation? Could you possibly place a value on your reputation? I say no. Your reputation is invaluable.
Defining PR, the Public Relations Society of America states that PR “helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.”
The PRSA definition of PR implies relationship, Chris Boyer’s 2nd R of social media. Even the term itself, public relations, suggests relationship. The key word is relations. According to the Council of Public Relations Firms, public relations also:
- “Builds and protects reputations.” Reputation is Chris’ 3rd R.
- “Extends reach, frequency and the message of an advertising campaign.” Reach is Chris’ 1st R.
Marketing tends to revolve around cost per acquisition and ROI. However, public relations relies on softer metrics, and since reputation is invaluable, PR almost never requires ROI justification.
Public relations and social media are a perfect pairing according to Chris’ four R’s.
According to the American Marketing Association, “Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”
The key word in this definition is offerings. Nothing is mentioned about reputation, although communicating and exchanging seem to correspond to reach and relationship.
Given marketing’s basic orientation toward advertising offerings, an activity in conflict with social media, and that it tends to revolve around cost per acquisition and return on investment, marketing and social media might be incompatible.
There are marketing-related activities that are obvious exceptions.
Customer Relationship Management
Although customer relationship management and customer service are marketing functions, they differ from marketing conceptually.
CRM and customer service focus on relationships more than offerings and are tracked using soft metrics such as time to answer call, call length, first call resolution, sales, saves, etc.
Many attempts to interact with customers on Twitter and to broadcast limited-time offers to them have been successful.
Selling, according to Wikipedia, is “persuading someone to buy one’s product or service,” i.e., to buy one’s offerings, and relationship is certainly essential for selling success. However, the key word here is persuading.
Social media prospecting, if done well, can open doors which have been closed until now. Perhaps though, the persuading part of selling will go more smoothly if taken offline.
One-to-one selling using business networking sites to make connections is working for many people.
As I said above, marketing almost always requires ROI justification.
There are some marketing efforts that don’t directly increase sales. Big companies can advertise their brands like Coke and Pepsi in order to maintain parity and to create economic barriers to entry into their markets.
These marketing campaigns are brand and reputation centric, and as such the public relations function could presumably conduct the very same campaigns just as effectively.
Social Media Marketing
If social media is largely a public relations tool, then what is social media marketing or social marketing?
Social marketing is web PR as practiced by marketing people who hope (pray?) that their social media outreach will eventually spill over into sales and justify their efforts.
We as marketers find it difficult to admit to ourselves and to others that we’re engaged in PR, but we are.
Do our companies really need more PR?
Marketers have long understood the importance of listening to customers. Today social media facilitates useful dialogue with and understanding of both customers and prospects.
The Long Tail of Social Media
Social media is an investment with a very long tail. The content we create and the relationships we build can continue to bring a return far into the future. The revenue in the ROI equation is the present value of future dividends arising from our social media investment.
Social media used wisely ought to pay off. We can’t yet say exactly how-so nor how-much-so, but we’ll never find out unless we remove the impediment to progress, our obsession with social media ROI.
Keep the faith.. and leave me your comment.
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