By Cindy King

  • What were the best social media articles you read in the last 12 months?
  • Did you find any particularly useful for your business?

We asked our writers to share their favorite social media blog posts.

Here are 31 blog posts worth exploration.

#1: The 16 Most Important Social Media Updates of 2012

Kristi Hines

This post includes some major updates to the top social media networks this year. Although I feel I’m usually on top of the latest social news, there were a few things I had missed that were covered in this post for Facebook and LinkedIn.

Although it doesn’t mention the changes to LinkedIn professional profiles, it covers the main things businesses need to know about changes to their social media.

Kristi Hines, freelance writer, professional blogger and social media enthusiast.

#2: Content Marketing Manifesto

Leo Widrich

If there’s any one piece of content that has truly transformed my thinking about blogging in 2012, it’s Rand Fishkin’s Content Marketing Manifesto.

After coming across his slideshow, we went ahead and had a company meeting brainstorming it. Shortly afterward, we completely changed the direction and content of our blog.

We went from writing articles ”relevant to current customers,” to writing content ”relevant to anyone who interacts with potential customers.”

Since then, the number of shares, comments and signups we get has had a strong uptick. So if you get the chance to read any piece of content out there, I hope this one will help you too!

Leo Widrich, co-founder of BufferApp.

#3: 40+ Tips on How to Become a Social Media Rock Star on Twitter, Facebook and Google+

Andrea Vahl

One of the best blog posts I read this year was 40+ Tips on How to Become a Social Media Rock Star on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

This post gives beginners (and even people who aren’t beginners) the perfect things to do on three social sites. The activities are outlined in a well-organized manner and easy to understand.

Even though I’m not a beginner, I still learned that I need to use the official Twitter retweet button to have the popup automatically suggest that the person follow me—a great tip among all of the other 39 tips!

Andrea Vahl, community manager for Social Media Examiner, social media coach, speaker and strategist.

#4: A Retweet From Michael @Arrington Is Worth 20K Unique Visits, 3 Job Offers and 20 Interview Requests

Benjamin Beck

One of my favorite posts from 2012 was on how A Retweet From Michael @Arrington Is Worth 20K Unique Visits, 3 Job Offers and 20 Interview Requests.

Cliff Dailey shows how some creativity and well-timed social media hustle can go a long way! Aside from the article being entertaining, I got three valuable lessons from it.

  1. Perfect your timing—It’s critical to have a goal in mind and pitch ready with every strategy. From Cliff’s story, you learn how to use social media platforms to find the most opportune time to make a pitch.
  2. Have a community promote you—While Cliff was waiting for the perfect moment to pitch Mike, he was also looking for other opportunities to get his attention. Instead of tweeting at him directly, like everyone else does, Cliff tried to get his story noticed on the popular forum Hacker News. This didn’t work out, but I really liked the idea.
  3. Go big—Lastly, you have to like how Cliff went for the biggest, most difficult person to connect with and succeeded!

It’s amazing what you can do when you put your mind to something.

Benjamin Beck, SEO associate and social media junkie at SEER Interactive.

#5: What Happened When I Stopped Following and Started Listening

AJ Kumar

First of all, let me just say that choosing a single post from all of the amazing content that’s been published in the social media space this year is incredibly difficult.

One article that really sticks with me is Jessica Lee’s post on the Bruce Clay blog, titled, What Happened When I Stopped Following and Started Listening.

Plenty of articles talk about specific actions you should be taking on Twitter and other social media websites to increase your online authority, but Lee’s post breaks down some of the arguments against following these arbitrary social media marketing protocols.

Not only does she identify the problems associated with blind Twitter usage, she gives you a concrete framework to ensure you’re connecting with the right people.

It might seem like a little thing, but I believe the impact of applying Lee’s filtering criteria to any group of Twitter followers could result in a major improvement in engagement and brand associations.

AJ Kumar, co-founder of Single Grain.

#6: Why the Ad Tech Guys Are Going Nuts About Facebook Exchange, and Why That Matter

Mike Essex

My favorite article of this year was Why the Ad Tech Guys Are Going Nuts About Facebook Exchange, and Why That Matters, which covers the new Facebook Ad Exchange, which is similar to Google remarketing and is the biggest thing to ever happen to advertising on Facebook.

It shows massive potential for the future of Facebook, and following a year of share price drops it’s exactly the shot in the arm Facebook needs to prove they can provide strong advertising returns.

What I learned from the post is that Facebook is moving away from their core strength—allowing ads that target people based on demographics—and toward the more successful model seen at Google that shows people ads based on their browsing history.

Given the success we’ve seen with Google remarketing, this has put Facebook back on our radar as an interesting advertising platform for 2013.

Mike Essex, online marketing manager at Koozai.

#7: Calculate the ROI of Social Media

Christine Gallagher

This year, the most valuable post for me is Calculate the ROI of Social Media.

This is the burning question most commonly associated with businesses using social media.

As a social media and online marketing trainer and coach for four years, I’ve observed that the pursuit of the answer to the question “What’s the ROI of social media?” has not diminished.

This post outlines the foundation of the more intangible aspects of social media ROI, but it also teaches you that Jaap Favier has a valuable “tried-and-tested interactive model” to verify the ROI of a brand’s social media activities available for anyone to download.

This model helps companies find out how much money their social media campaign is making them, and most impressively, has been tested and fine-tuned with a number of brand and agency partners, using over 50 campaigns of all sizes.

Most of all, I love Favier’s simple explanation as to why his social marketing consultancy is giving this away for free: “We are passionate about social media. We believe that it will change marketing for good.”

Christine Gallagher, founder of ShesGotClients.

#8: How to Build Your Army BEFORE You Need It

Don Power

The single most valuable blog post I read in 2012 is an article entitled, How to Build Your Army BEFORE You Need It.

To me, this is the best possible advice you could give someone on how social media works. Whether you’re looking for a job, looking to sell your widgets or looking to social media to do anything for you, you first have to build your network, or your army, without asking anything in return.

In this article, Paul Castain refers to not one, but two, potentially devastating and definitely life-changing events that led him to embark upon an entirely different career path. Because he’d spent a lifetime developing his army, it was there for him to tap when he needed it the most.

This article is both an inspiration and an instruction manual on how to get the most out of social media—and also out of life! I quote it all the time, giving Paul the credit for putting this idea down in writing.

Don Power, managing editor of Sprout Social Insights.

#9: Paradox of Online Influence

Ekaterina Walter

One of the best posts I read in 2012 was the Paradox of Online Influence.

As marketers, we get too caught up in tools without thinking what exactly those tools measure. We look at fragmented data and popularity scores and somehow turn them into an ultimate measure to compare everything and everyone.

While I believe every tool used right has real value to users, as marketers we need to be very clear on what exactly we are trying to achieve, what our measurement for success looks like and what the definition of influence (in this case) truly means.

We shouldn’t be caught up in chasing one score and in the process ignoring or forgetting customers who may not be measured by that particular score, while representing an enormous value to us as a brand nevertheless.

We should be thoughtful in what questions we ask when evaluating anything we do, not just our influencer or advocacy programs.

Ekaterina Walter, social innovator at Intel.

#10: The Night I Stopped Marketing on Facebook

Emeric Ernoult

The best blog post I read in 2012 is The Night I Stopped Marketing on Facebook.

First, I love the controversial title! Then, this blog post reminds us all that the real purpose of Facebook is not to sell things, market products or services or even create “brand awareness,” but to have genuine conversations with people.

Sure, these genuine conversations create a lasting perception in our prospects’ and clients’ minds and will eventually influence their purchase decision. But this is not the purpose, and it should not be.

I also loved the fact that even though lately many people have been worrying  about EdgeRank‘s constant evolution, reach being lowered or what is the best “tactic” to get more visibility on Facebook, in the end all of this does not really matter (or not so much).

We should do more of this type of update on our Facebook Page, rather than just sharing our latest feature or blog post. I’m guilty of this, like everyone else.

Emeric Ernoult, founder of AgoraPulse.

#11: Killing Rumors With Facts: No, Facebook Didn’t Decrease Page Feed Reach to Sell More Promoted Posts

Erin Ryan

The single most valuable article I read in 2012 is Killing Rumors With Facts: No, Facebook Didn’t Decrease Page Feed Reach to Sell More Promoted Posts.

This article helped me understand the true meaning behind Facebook’s Promoted Posts and backed up my theory that not every post prior to this added feature was ever seen by the entirety of likes on a Page.

It explains and proves that Promoted Posts on Facebook were never a ploy to distort Facebook Page owners, but instead to help weed out spammy posts and Pages and to avoid clogging up news feeds.

In truth, a Facebook Page status update never has 100% of its “likes” see the post. Approximately 16% of Page “likes” have ever seen a Page’s post and that remains unchanged, unless you are a spammy page.

Promoted Posts help Facebook Page owners choose which status update they want to amplify within news feeds, not hinder them. Just like Twitter, not everyone who follows you will see your post. Unlike Twitter, Facebook now provides a new way to get seen and spammers will unlikely invest compared to a business looking to truly share their brand.

Erin Ryan, social media promotional director of Hasai Inc., creator and editor of Socialeyezer.

#12: Are You a Marketing Cheater? The Continued Gamification of Attention

Gregory Ciotti

So for me, the answer comes from a pretty recent article actually: Are You a Marketing Cheater? The Continued Gamification of Attention.

When Jay Baer first published this piece I was blown away, likely because he put so eloquently what all of us probably think when we see things like “Buy Facebook Fans Cheap!”

Too often, social media marketers get caught up in this dangerous gamification of social media. Instead of worrying about what a brand really is, “a collection of what people think and say about it,” marketers get caught up in vanity metrics and turn genuine marketing campaigns into imaginary scoreboard competitions where the numbers come first, not the customers.

This post was far and away my favorite this year, as it was a pointed reminder of what really matters with social media marketing, which is connecting with current and prospective customers, not gaming the system to reach arbitrary statistical goals.

Gregory Ciotti, founder of Sparring Mind and the marketing guy at Help Scout.

#13: 21 Tactics to Increase Blog Traffic

Heidi Cohen

Rand Fishkin’s 21 Tactics to Increase Blog Traffic is one of my go-to posts on blogging.

It’s the Reader’s Digest abbreviated guide to blogging, complete with how-to screenshots (just like Social Media Examiner!) from one of the smartest SEO experts around.

This article provides tips on the most critical elements of a blog post and it also provides links to amazing resources.

Don’t just read it. Print it out and keep it next to your computer to help you take your blog to the next level (BTW—I do!).

Heidi Cohen, president of Riverside Marketing Strategies.

#14: How to Start a Podcast

I nominate Pat Flynn’s podcasting tutorial as the best blog post I read in 2012.

In this tutorial, Pat shares how podcasting works, how to prepare your podcast, some tools to use and equipment choices—pretty much everything you need to know.

Beyond the fact I learned some useful tips about podcasting, a subject I like to learn a lot about, there are many reasons I loved it.

It’s well-written, it’s timely, it’s comprehensive—but best of all—it’s valuable. Not just useful. Pat gave value far beyond what is “necessary,” to the point he could have charged good money for it. (He doesn’t even require you to give him your email address!)

Rather than just provide a text description of his process, he even includes several great-quality videos.

Chris Garrett, founder of Authority Blogger, VP of educational content at Copyblogger Media.

#15: Forget Strategy: Develop a Social Media Philosophy

Jennifer Amanda Jones

Over the years I’ve watched many non-profit organizations attempt to be strategic on social media.

What they are really doing is applying the framework of new public management onto a field which does not easily lend itself to strategy, evaluation and impact measurement.

Of course strategy is important and there are many useful guides available; the recently released book Measuring the Networked Non-profit being one of the most valuable. But overall I agree with Kevin Wolfe, philosophy is more important than strategy.

The single biggest mistake I’ve seen is organizations that dive into strategy without first committing to the social media culture. Adopting a social media–friendly business culture means adopting values such as engagement, immediacy and transparency.

Those sound like great values until you realize that their opportunity costs are a loss of branding control, precision in messaging and the ability to only put your best foot forward. Tough tradeoffs. It’s worth a conversation, and given the rapid turnover of social media networks Kevin described, more important to discuss than your newest network-based strategy.

Jennifer Amanda Jones helps non-profits and businesses create effective, values-based and strategic social media policies.

#16: Dark Social: We Have the Whole History of the Web Wrong

Jim Tobin

With so much great content produced daily, it’s tough for one blog post to really stick with you for long. But Dark Social: We Have the Whole History of the Web Wrong, has stuck with me in the 9 weeks or so since I first read it.

It resonated for two reasons. First, it was data that I’d never seen before, thoughtfully analyzed. Second, it supported the theory that the best social media marketing is developing content that resonates. Not ads. Not tricks.

I’ve always believed that. And Alexis Madrigal‘s data showing that most sharing is not counted really cemented it.

Jim Tobin, president of Ignite Social Media.

#17: Did You Know You Can ‘Bookmark’ Tweets to Use as Social Proof?

Liz Lockard

I love this post from Alicia Cowan.

It’s one of those head-slapping insights you can implement right away.

I had no idea you could embed tweets on a page, or that it would be so simple.

I’m always getting forehead-slapping, I-can’t-believe-it’s-that-simple-but-oh-my-god-that’s-brilliant advice from Alicia. But this was one of my favorites.

Liz Lockard, a Google Analytics geek, who loves helping entrepreneurs uncover insights from their data.

#18: Why Google Authorship Matters to Your Business

Marc A. Pitman

The best social media blog post I read in 2012 was Why Google Authorship matters to your business.

I’d read enough posts on the importance of Google’s authorship verification that I was convinced I needed to do it. Claiming authorship helps Google know you’re the author and increases the likelihood that your own article will show up in Google searches.

If this is done correctly, even if your article is republished, Google will point people to your site.

Earlier in 2012, I’d even started using the ?rel=author tag. But this post broke down how to use the Authorship Markup and tie it to my Google+ account. He made it so easy that I cleaned up my blog and G+ profile to take advantage of this tool.

Google Authorship is free. But putting the tips in this post into practice will help me generate income for years to come!

Marc A. Pitman, founder of FundraisingCoach.

#19: This Is What Happens When You Abuse Facebook Promoted Posts

Prafull Sharma

This post provides great insight into Promoted Posts.

And more importantly, it shows how users look at the content in their news feeds.

When using Promoted Posts on Facebook, it seems obvious to target friends of fans, but you need to be really careful there.

Prafull Sharma, co-founder of HireRabbit.

#20: The Dark Side of Content Marketing

Rich Brooks

I love Tom Webster’s post because it draws attention to something that a lot of content marketers don’t like to face: a lot of content marketing is just noise.

It puts into question whether a content or editorial calendar is even needed, and whether it can be harmful to a company or brand. (Having never worked off a formal editorial calendar for flyte, I feel vindicated!)

It also caused me to think about when I’ve put mediocre content out there, and made me focus harder on only creating content that’s worth sharing.

Rich Brooks, president of flyte new media, founder of AgentConference.

#21: Fixing the Engagement Gap

Sara Hawkins

Like many of you, I read a lot. I also read on many different topics. And despite not sitting at the “social media strategist” table, I found an article about the social media engagement gap—one I kept going back to throughout the year.

Written back in February, 10 months in social media time can either be an eternity or a micro-second. Maybe that’s why this article has maintained its relevance.

As much as social media changes, the one thing everyone talks about constantly is engagement. How to get it, how to fix it, when it’s best, why we need it and so forth.

I love Fixing the Engagement Gap for several reasons. Part of it is that I appreciate the author’s ability to talk to me like a professional. Part of it is even though we’re both professionals, he understands that what’s common sense to one person isn’t always to everyone else.

An expert in his field, Blanchard doesn’t talk to me like I’m an idiot. Sure, there’s sarcasm and irreverence sprinkled throughout. But I think that may just be what draws me back, making it as relevant today as the day he wrote it. And will likely remain relevant to both newbie and veteran social media professionals.

Sara Hawkins, a lawyer, blogger and doer.

#22: How Guest Posting Propelled One Site From 0 to 100,000 Customers

Aaron Lee

One of the most valuable social media blog posts I read in 2012 was How Guest Posting Propelled One Site From 0 to 100,000 Customers. The article shared how Leo Widrich was able to build a great startup company using guest posting.

This article inspired me because it showed just how powerful, and humbling, social media can and should be. Leo wrote over 150 guest posts in a short period of nine months; which not only built awareness for Buffer, but also drove traffic to their blog and propelled Buffer to where it is today.

The article taught me an important lesson about marketing: every marketing rule is meant to be broken.

What Leo did was in total opposition to how marketing supposedly is. Instead of approaching people to write about Buffer, Leo went to their sites and offered to guest post instead. This not only added value for the sites’ owners, it also helped promote and build Buffer. On top of that, he definitely made many supportive friends throughout his nine-month stint.

Aaron Lee, social media consultant and marketing guy at Binkd.

#23: 3 Ways to Build Links Through Social Media

Tim Gray

As we all know by now, social media has become an integral tool for online marketers and an invaluable way to engage target audiences.

However, it’s also an excellent platform that can be used in any link-building strategy. And that’s precisely what this WordTracker post details—a step-by-step guide to using social media to increase your rankings with tips for navigating the most popular platformsFacebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

If you want to ramp up your link-building efforts, WordTracker suggests using KnowEm to search hundreds of networks.

Leveraging these networks can yield some amazing link-building opportunities and this post details the steps necessary for doing that.

Tim Gray, social media strategist with Blue Fountain Media.

#24: Google+ Isn’t Just a Social Network, It’s an “Identity Service”

Jeff Korhan

I found this blog post to be especially significant for a number of reasons, with the most important being it better positions the capabilities of Google+ for how it’s evolving, and that can be useful for all social media.

Let’s say that the characterization of Facebook in the film The Social Network is accurate—that it’s cool.  Google+ is not cool, at least not in a social networking sense, so defining it as just a social network limits its effective use and potential.

By effectively merging social graphs across the numerous Google properties and multiple websites and networks, Google+ can indeed become much more than a social network. Such Google+ identity features as Google Authorship already provide a richer and more social web experience.

As social media practitioners, thinking of Google+ or any of these other social media networks in terms of what they can be will enable us to more effectively use them to accomplish our business objectives.

Jeff Korhan, professional speaker with over two decades of small business ownership.

#25: 29 Content Marketing Secrets and the Secret Agents Who Shared Them

Ian Cleary

This post, which includes an ebook, was created to promote Content Marketing World in Ohio in 2012.

It contains 29 great tips from leading influential people involved in content marketing.

It was a great idea to promote the event, but it also has some great content. For example:

  1. Ann Handley talks about how you should be able to remove all visual branding from a blog post and still recognize that it is yours. So that really makes me think about my personality and how it translates online.  Each person is an individual, and should have his or her own individual style.
  2. Mark Schaefer gives a tip encouraging people to use LinkedIn Groups if they are in the B2B space. I had previously ignored LinkedIn Groups, but since I’ve started using them, LinkedIn is now the second-biggest source of traffic for me.
  3. Heidi Cohen talks about the requirement to get into the habit of writing. Since reading this, I write every day, which has opened up huge opportunities for me writing for my own blog and guest posting on other sites.

Ian Cleary, founder of RazorSocial.

#26: Do More Comments Make Your Blog Stronger?

Jason Miller

It’s a fascinating read and probably the most detailed post I have come across that answers just about every question you could possibly have regarding blog commenting. It covers strategy, tactics, SEO and everything in between.

The author takes an interesting look at the psychology behind how different people comment and then debates the idea that blog commenting is evolving into social sharing and updates.

It’s easy for bloggers to get frustrated and judge the quality of their work by the number of comments and social shares. This post reiterates the fact that the number of comments on your blog does not necessarily determine the quality of the content.

The bottom line for me: Success can and should be interpreted differently from one blogger to the next. So set realistic goals for your blog and revisit them on occasion to make sure you are meeting them.

Jason Miller, social media manager at Marketo.

#27: 40 Items Tech Will Kill This Digital Decade

Jamie Turner

One of the secrets to remaining relevant in social media is to consistently stay on top of the newest digital trends. You don’t have to jump on every new trend, but being aware of the changes coming down the pike is an essential first step toward staying on top of all things social.

That’s why I found Erik Qualman’s post 40 Items Tech Will Kill This Digital Decade so helpful—it’s like seeing a roadmap of how society and digital technology will change in the coming years.

Jamie Turner, founder of 60 Second Marketer.

#28: Why I Will Be Posting Less

The most valuable blog post that I read in 2012 was from Michael Hyatt, entitled Why I Will Be Posting Less.

I appreciate Michael sharing his thinking with his readership as he so often does. He is always honest, clear and transparent about what he believes and why he believes it.

What I learned from Michael in this post confirmed what I always believed about blogging and content publishing: that quality trumps quantity.

However, it’s easy to get caught up in the pressure of having to produce content frequently as a thought leader, sometimes even at the expense of quality. We need to remember that we owe our audiences our very best, and sometimes it’s difficult to produce our best “on demand.”

I think we can rest assured that the quality will always find its way to the top and stop being worried that we’re just not doing enough, when in reality we are doing our best.

Stephanie Sammons, founder and CEO of Wired Advisor.

#29: Limitations: Your Key to Blogging Success?

Louise Julig

I loved this blog post because I saw myself in the Fear of Missing Out syndrome, and have seen the benefits of limiting actions to achieve greater clarity and focus.

I’ve been gradually cutting down on the list of things I subscribe to, projects I take on and tasks that don’t use my strengths, and as a result have felt more focused and clear about what I want to do.

It’s good advice, and will help you achieve greater success, either in blogging or almost any endeavor that is important to you.

Louise Julig, Social Media Examiner’s case study writer, freelance writer and former engineer.

#30: Did Facebook Decrease Pages’ Reach?

Andrew K. Kirk

If you’d asked me at the end of 2011 about the future of Facebook’s impact for your business marketing, I’d have sung its praises from the roof. But my feelings aren’t quite as enthusiastic going into the end of 2012. And I’m not alone. George Takei and Mark Cuban have publicly aired frustrations.

EdgeRank Checker’s article opened my eyes with data that showed a large-scale decrease across Facebook Pages’ organic reach, viral reach and engagement per fan.

That doesn’t mean we as marketers should give up on Facebook. With over 1 billion users, it is still an incredibly great medium to connect directly with your followers. Instead, we have to take the mentality that we can’t simply sit back and rely on the work we’ve done to gain our existing fans; instead, we need to continue to innovate in finding ways to engage fans.

Andrew K. Kirk, founder of Face The Buzz Marketing.

#31: The Death of Link-Building and the Rebirth of Link-Earning

Brian Casel

Like many of you, I read hundreds of blog posts throughout the year. But I think this video post from Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz nicely covers a major theme for the past year when it comes to building traffic to your website through SEO.

It’s part of his weekly “Whiteboard Friday” series of posts that I highly recommend you watch if you want a better understanding of how to do SEO the right way.

Don’t worry about the technical jargon in the beginning of this video. His main point is simple: If you want to build lasting streams of traffic to your website from search engines like Google, you must rely on creating highly valuable content. That is, in-depth, well-researched articles, videos, podcasts and/or blog posts that are packed with useful resources. Google rewards quality content now more than ever.

This served as a huge lesson for me this year in my work to build traffic using our blog and email newsletters. Thanks to this strategy, which I learned primarily from SEOmoz, I can report our site has made it to the first page of Google for several important keywords. It took many months of producing great content on a weekly basis—which we continue to do—but really, it works.

Brian Casel, founder of Restaurant Engine & Hotel Propeller.

What do you think?  Which one of these is your favorite? What social media blog posts published in 2012 did you find useful? Please share them in the comments below.


Cindy King is the director of editorial for Social Media Examiner. She spent 25 years abroad in international business development and then built her own international business from scratch by using social business networking.