Steps + Missteps

What works in social media—and what definitely does not—when aiming to connect with consumers


Mark W. Schaefer is a globally recognized author, speaker, podcaster, business consultant, and blogger ( )—he was ranked as the No. 2 blogger in the world by Social Media Examiner in 2015.

Schaefer teaches graduate marketing classes at Rutgers University and has written six best-selling books, including “The Tao of Twitter,” “The Content Code,” and his new book, “KNOWN: The Handbook for Building and Unleashing Your Brand in the Digital Age.”

The consulting side of his Louisville, TN-based Schaefer Marketing Solutions business includes clients such as Pfizer, Cisco, Dell, adidas, and the U.S. Air Force.

Here, Schaefer addresses four top social media trends that can help you grow your online persona.



Actionable Connections

The goal of any business is to increase the level of engagement with customers over time by providing them opportunities to know and connect with us in deeper and deeper ways. Historically, this came through advertising.

Today, most of the connections we build on social media are weak relational links. They’re just a beginning…a handshake. You need to spend time to build true, actionable relationships.

MAKE THE CONNECTION: It takes TIME. The first stage is AWARENESS. Potential customers are just learning about us and considering whether they want to stick around. This is a nonactionable, weak relational link.

The next stage is RELIABLE REACH. The customer is following us, subscribed to us, maybe even engaging with us. We are building trust.

Over time, perhaps many years, we are hopefully building a deep connection that may transform to loyalty. At this point, our audience is actionable. They’re advocates!



Actionable Audiences

There are lots of amazing things a business can do to create benefits from the social web—customer service, business intelligence, and creating awareness, to name a few. Your primary goal, however, is likely to create an actionable audience—that is, develop an online community who will create some business benefit for you over time.

MAKE THE CONNECTION: Here are two key concepts about building that actionable audience:

Weak links versus strong: A common misconception is that “audience” equals “action.” It does not. If you have no emotional connection to me as a blogger, are you going to buy my books? No.

Social media marketing simply opens up the door for connections through weak relational links. You still have to do the hard work to turn those folks into buying customers.

Role of content: Content is the catalyst that leads to awareness on the web. Awareness may then lead to engagement, and engagement may lead to trust, and even loyalty over time. Creating, curating, and distributing content is the economic driver of social media success.

The different social media platforms require different types of content—some simple, some complex. This is important for a business to consider.



Pick Platforms

Choosing the right social media platforms is very important because most companies don’t have resources to be everywhere and do it all well. That’s OK, but remember that not all content is created equal.

MAKE THE CONNECTION: Facebook posts or LinkedIn updates alone probably aren’t going to cut it. You need something deeper. You need rich content.

This means a blog, podcast, video series, or perhaps a combination. While it may seem natural to immediately migrate to Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube, don’t overlook other sites. Options like Pinterest and Snapchat are also delivering real business value.



Social Proof Power

In a world of overwhelming information density, we’re starved for clues to help us know whom to trust, what to believe, and what can help us as quickly as possible. In the online world, social proof is power.

MAKE THE CONNECTION: Have you been featured on a well-known blog, newspaper, or TV show? Don’t keep it a secret! How else can you grow social proof? Request endorsements, activate employees, take advantage of friends and family, highlight testimonials, focus on customer reviews, collect kudo tweets, and publicize your clients.


Mark Schaefer has advanced degrees in both applied behavioral science and marketing, studying under famed business guru Peter Drucker. He holds seven patents and travels the globe as a consultant and speaker. In 2015, his book “The Content Code” was named one of the five top marketing books of the year by Inc. magazine.