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Social media professionals gather at Social Fresh conference in Tampa

Published Apr. 19, 2013

TAMPA — About 300 professional tweeters and Facebook posters gathered Friday to hear from industry leaders about how they can better use social media to boost their brands and businesses.

Don't keep chasing the shiny and new, said Chris Brogan, an author and prominent consultant on social media marketing. Emails, blogs and podcasts are more relevant than ever.

Don't overspend on Facebook ads, said Jim Tobin, president of Ignite Social Media. "Organic'' free posts and promotions are just as effective, if not better.

Don't focus on money, focus on the content and building relationships, said Ted Rubin, chief social marketing officer at Collective Bias. Content drives engagement and, ultimately, leads to sales.

The Social Fresh conference in Tampa drew digital marketing gurus from social media agencies and major corporations such as JetBlue and Dunkin' Brands. Adam Kmiec of Campbell Soup talked about how the company successfully marketed its new Go Soup and Skillet Sauce products.

Held at the Doubletree Hilton Hotel, the conference was Tampa's fourth annual and the 16th nationwide. Social Fresh founder Jason Keath said the Tampa area has had a particularly active social media community based partly on its proximity to Disney, Publix and other large companies with a strong digital presence. Nearly all of the conference attendees work full-time in social media, up from just 10 percent a few years ago.

"Our goal is to inspire people to take more chances with their marketing,'' he said. "It's about investing in it and putting money behind it.''

Ryan Cohn, vice president of social/digital operations for Sachs Media Group in Tallahassee and Orlando, urged attendees to encourage CEOs and other C-level executives to get more involved in social media to better communicate a company's message and recruit employees. Only 16 percent of CEOs are on social media, he said, despite surveys showing that 82 percent of consumers are more likely to trust a company with leadership that engages with social media.

"When they see their kids on phones all the time, that's their perception of social media,'' he said. "We've got to deconstruct that perception. It's not just about youth.''

Adam Nerland, a designer and developer for Social Forces, a social media and marketing company in Ybor City, said the insight would come in handy when creating websites and Facebook apps for clients, which have included Circle K, Aveda and Red Bull.

"Social is absolutely where brands are going,'' he said. "There are people here doing a lot of exciting things.''

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