Member Spotlight

We support our members and we plan to spotlight one member each month.

Meet SMA Board Member Lauri Christiansen Wegener! Lauri received a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing and English from Penn State and a Master of Business Administration in Marketing from Hofstra University. She started her career in an editorial function at John Wiley and Sons and held corporate marketing roles at firms including Honeywell, MSC Industrial, Interline Brands and various other B2B companies. Today, as president of B2B Marketing Strategies, LLC, her professional approach is to always be proactive; live in the solution, not the problem; and always act with integrity. Learn more about Lauri’s professional journey and her views on the ever-changing social media marketing landscape.

What is your best marketing skill?

My ability to build a marketing department from the ground up.  Most recently, I built the digital and direct marketing function at SmartSource Rentals to include a staff of marketers focused on driving revenue growth via lead generation, email marketing (marketing automation), content development, product and SaaS launches, advertising, public relations, webinars and presentations, social media, partner marketing, as well as managing supplemental out-sourced agency partners and writing teams.

Earlier in my career, I built value-added programs and services at MSC Industrial and traveled the country training the sales force.  As a subject matter expert, I worked with the field to secure new business, including seven new national accounts and overall growth of 60% within existing accounts and managed all marketing activities.

How has SMA influenced your career?

 Social media is a significant portion of my current writing and design work and I have managed social media vendors over the years. There is always a lot more to learn and SMA gives me the opportunity to learn from, and network with, other social media professionals. It is always interesting to hear about new approaches and current trends spanning B2B and B2C marketing.

What are the most critical skills a digital marketer needs to be successful?

 Be a strong communicator, data driven and willing to learn new technologies. I have certificates in digital marketing from the Digital Marketing Institute and General Assembly and I am a Certified PMP.  It is important for marketers to keep up to date with the latest marketing trends and technologies.

What impact does Social Media have on a business?

In the early days (2004ish), social media traction was slow and the B2B audience just was not there. B2C lead the way and B2B eventually followed. Today social media is a key strategy for building a brand, reaching a target audience with relevant content and building an audience. Tips I would give businesses looking to build their brand through social are:

·         Focus on a mix of content that gets the most engagement (technical, human interest, etc.)

·         Develop an editorial calendar, create interesting content and find your tipping point (optimal number of posts per week)

·         Encourage your sales team and other internal influencers to share company posts (and to not only promote their personal brand)

·         Experiment and try new approaches (influencers, paid content)

Connect with Lauri on Twitter @LauriAnnC and on LinkedIn.


Meet Social Media Association Founder, President ex-officio, and current Board Member, Hilary Topper. Hilary is the CEO of HJMT Public Relations, Inc. ( ), a firm she started in 1992. She is also a blogger with HJMT Media Company, LLC, where she writes two blogs – and She also is an avid podcaster with, where she interviews leaders to help business owners grow both personally and professionally.

Learn more about the Hilary’s inspiration for creating the Social Media Association in this month’s Member Spotlight. 

Where did you start your career? I started my career working for Ogilvy & Mather PR.

What are some career highlights/what are you most proud of/what is your best marketing skill? I’ve published two social media books, was an early adopter of social media, Founded SMA, placed clients in national media outlets and act as an influencer for many brands.

Why did you join SMA? I founded SMA because there was a need. I wanted to form a group to discuss social media tactics and strategies with likeminded people.

How has your involvement with the SMA influenced your career? I founded the organization and worked as its president for many years before passing over the reins.

Did you know the potential of social media when you first start using it for business? What were your initial thoughts on social media? I knew immediately that there was validity to social media having had reporters friend me on Facebook and other outlets.

Social media is constantly changing. What are the biggest changes you have seen in the last five years? That influencers are more important than ever. They help shape the way people buy and spend money.

What is the most beneficial/fastest growing B2B or B2C social media platform in your opinion? Instagram and TikTok.

What do you think are three social core social media benefits for businesses? Be authentic, given a forum to have exposure and visibility.

What tip would you give businesses to get better social media engagement? Use hashtags. Don’t be about yourself but make it about others.

What are the most critical skills a digital marketer needs to be successful? Good writing, good communication skills,

What marketing/social media/digital marketing/marketing resource (book, blog, podcast, quote, class, website) would you recommend that keeps you on the pulse of the industry? Branding in a Digital World, written by me. Available on Amazon. Also, listen to Hilary Topper on Air, my small business podcast where I interview marketing people and entrepreneurs.

What advice would you give someone who wants a career in social media marketing? Be persistent.

Julie Allegretti is Community Relations Director at Russo Law Group, where she organizes both public and professional seminars and supports community events to raise awareness of the firm. She also oversees and maintains the firm’s social media accounts, website, blog, and email marketing campaigns. Learn more about Julie and how she incorporates social media into her business strategy.

1. What are some career highlights

I am honored to have received numerous awards for my charitable work and community involvement. I recently received the prestigious Long Island Business News (LIBN) Corporate Citizenship Award; LIBN 2016 Millennial Award and LIBN Excellence in Communication Award. I also received a 30 Under 30 Award from the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce and a citation from the Nassau County Executive’s Office.

2. Social media is constantly changing. What are the biggest changes you have seen in the last five years?

The landscape of social media has been different because of the societal changes we are experiencing. We have been propelled into a world where technology and electronic communications serve an even greater purpose than ever before. Video content has exploded and has been the most engaging content on all platforms. This allows the business community to have an even wider base of clients/customers on a much larger scale.

3. What do you think are three social core social media benefits for businesses?

Social media brings various benefits to businesses, including visibility, access, and relationships. Social media increases visibility across different platforms to reach a wider potential client base. It also offers 24/7 access to your business. You can connect any time. Social media platforms offer new and different ways to connect and build relationships with your clients and potential clients. Nurture those new relationships by sharing positive experiences, expertise, and even personal anecdotes to relate to your clients in a unique way.

4. What tip would you give businesses to get better social media engagement?

Be your most authentic, true self…especially online. Your clients will respond when sharing content that is relevant and meaningful to them. Share about things that both you and your customers will relate to and enjoy. Social media is an online representation of you and your business, but in a virtual way.

5. Why did you join SMA?

I have been a member of SMA for more than 10 years. I joined near its inception and watched the organization grow to what it is today. Social media was new and on the rise for businesses when I joined. I was interested in learning as much as I could about the different platforms and the best ways to use them. SMA has always prided itself on bringing cutting-edge platforms and the latest changes to its members. We have such knowledgeable and creative members, so even if the topic of an event is something you know in-depth, you can always learn something new from others when you attend an SMA event.

6. How has your involvement with the SMA influenced your career?

Being a member of SMA has helped me stay on top of the newest changes on all of the different social platforms. Not only do we learn about social platforms, but also we learn about different, upcoming tools. Learning about what others are using and how they are using it is a great advantage and often helps to make it easier to understand.

Meet Social Media Association Board Member Jillian Weston.  Jillian started her career working for a local hotel after college. The company did not have anyone managing its social media program, so she happily volunteered to put together a strategic plan – and the rest is history.  She is now founder/owner of full-service online marketing agency Jillian’s Circus. We talked to Jillian to delve deeper into the current state of social media and her passion for social media.

 What are some of your career highlights?

  • Renting my first office that was a 9×12 tiny square in 2015! I spent $300 putting in new carpeting, which felt like so much at the time.
  • Winning Long Island’s Best Social Media Marketing Company in 2016 and 2017
  • Running for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Woman of the Year in 2020

Why did you join SMA?

To collaborate with other professionals in the digital marketing industry and learn from them.

How has your involvement with the SMA influenced your career?

SMA taught me new skills; opened up a new network of professionals I can ask questions about industry changes; and has given me confidence in my company and skills.

Did you know the potential of social media when you first start using it for business? What were your initial thoughts on social media?

I always loved social media for personal use and once I used it for a business, I knew right away that it had a huge benefit for them.

Social media is constantly changing. What are the biggest changes you have seen in the last five years?

The biggest challenge with constantly changing platforms is employee training, company process consistency and managing client expectations.

What is the fastest growing B2B or B2C social media platform in your opinion?

TikTok and YouTube – 100%, but it really depends on your industry and goals. For instance, if you want to network with professionals, look to LinkedIn. If you want to sell a product, Instagram or Pinterest is a great option. If you are an artist, then it could be Tik Tok. Your social media platform of choice should fit the needs of your business.

What are three social media benefits for businesses?

  1. Access to billions of people and the ability to hyper-target the individuals you want to get in front of.
  2. The ability to test content, interact with, and receive real-time feedback from your customers/ clients.
  3. The ability to do #1 and #2 for free. Literally, not one dime.

What tip would you give businesses to get better social media engagement?

Post genuine content and have genuine conversations with as many people as possible and as consistently as possible.

What are the best skills a digital marketer needs to be successful?

  • Creativity
  • Flexibility
  • The ability to relate to your audience
  • The ability to communicate in a friendly manner through writing
  • Being organized and focused enough to handle many small, detailed, tasks


Michele Biggart, Social Media Association Board Member

Michele started her career at the Burner Law Group, P.C. more than ten years ago as a receptionist, while attending graduate school pursuing a master’s in public policy and administration. Today, as the Director of Client and Business Relations, she leads the firm’s social media activities, seminar management and marketing programming. When businesses first began to use social media as part of their marketing initiatives, Michele realized that being online and leveraging social media to amplify her firm’s brand was the “place to be” and recognized the power of free social media platforms and online calendars to help raise awareness of her firm. Learning and getting up to speed on the latest digital marketing trends was challenging, but she also found it exhilarating. She says, “there is always a story to tell and, most times, through social media, you can tell it for free. Never miss the opportunity to share your brand’s story.” 

Learn more about the Social Media Association’s newest Board of Director in this month’s Member Spotlight. 

What is one career highlight you are proud of?
Being named a Long Island Business News “Top 30 Under 30” with other local Long Islanders under 30 years old for professional accomplishments and contributing to the community through public service is a professional milestone and honor that brings me great pride.  

What is a marketing skill you feel is most critical to success?
Seeing the big picture and constantly challenging yourself. It is important to stay on the cutting edge of social media and technology and sharing that information with other marketing professionals is particularly important. Constantly learning to stay on top of the “latest and greatest” in social media and sharing that information with others adds value to your professional reputation. 

What is the best professional advice you received?
Don’t end up bored in your work – stay challenged and innovative. 


Meet Sharyn O’Mara, Social Media Association (SMA) co-treasurer (along with Donna Rivera-Downey) and together they are immediate SMA past presidents. Sharyn has been a SMA Board Member for more than five years (and a member before that) and has seen a lot of growth and change in the organization. Sharyn started her career at Citibank in the bankcard marketing department and worked at corporations and at marketing agencies on clients including McDonald’s, Purdue Pharma (Senokot and Betadine), Weight Watchers, and United Media (PEANUTS, Dilbert, National Geographic) and more. Today, she is communications director at Wisselman, Harounian & Associates, P.C., a matrimonial and family law firm in Great Neck, NY and she continues to consult in the legal marketing arena.

Sharyn feels fortunate to have her big brand marketing and public relations background that she put to good use with local marketing efforts for a prestigious law firm with accomplished and caring attorneys. She has helped the law firm to grow with communications, public relations, Internet/website and social media efforts more than the 13+ she has been with the firm (and she wonders how that time went so fast!). Learn more about Sharyn’s passion for marketing as well as pickleball.

What are some of your key skill sets? My traditional marketing background combined with my desire to keep growing and learning about the newest tech available provide me with the solid basis to continue to evolve. The basic skills like strong writing and verbal skills, flexibility, resourcefulness, and optimism have carried me through a diverse and satisfying career so far!

What are some career highlights that you are most proud of? There are two highlights. One is being an adjunct professor at Farmingdale State College (and Adelphi University before that) and bringing the love of public relations to a new group of students each semester. The second is serving on the Board of SMA and serving on the Board of Public Relations Professionals of Long Island (PRPLI) for two years. When I was at the University of Arizona studying psychology, I would not have thought that teaching a college class or serving on a Board would have been possible. My former self would tell my current self “You’ve come a long way, baby.”

Why did you join SMA? When I first joined SMA, there were not a lot of educational opportunities to learn about social media and it was such an interesting area of marketing communications. Back then, I was in awe of the speakers and what they were accomplishing with their social media. It was almost like learning a foreign language and I was soaking it up.

What tip would you give businesses to get better social media engagement? Spend time with the social media platform before you start to engage. Lurk before you dive in. Even after you are active, continue to look at what other businesses are doing. You will be drawn to some and turned off by others, but you will notice trends and what is valuable. Stay positive, share and be helpful; just like the advice I would give in real life. And here is something I learned at a SMA event: Treat social media like a cocktail party you were invited to attend. You would not go up to someone at a cocktail party and start talking about yourself and your business nonstop without asking the person questions, so ensure you are not doing that on social media either.

Social media is constantly changing. What are the biggest changes you have seen in the last five years? I feel like five months of social media is equivalent to five years in other places. Video has become more prevalent, casual and important. Recently, many people have become more active with the Internet, Zoom (or other video meeting service) and social media. While we are working remote more and socializing in person less, we still want to stay connected with colleagues, family, and friends and that is where the “social” part of social media comes in. There is more blurring between the different social media platforms of late. People used to remind LinkedIn users that it was a business platform if they veered from that, but I think people are more forgiving now and more open to seeing the personal side of their business contacts.

Aside from work and family, what are other activities you are passionate about? I feel a little nerdy saying this, but I am passionate about marketing. I enjoy learning about different topics, trends and winning case studies. I like to spread the power of marketing to our interns every semester, to adults in adult ed or library programs and to college students in my class and at other college programs. My family would have a different answer. They would probably say I am addicted to pickleball.

What is the best professional advice you received? It is a small world (made even smaller with social media) so be honest and authentic about who you are wherever you go…and play nice. It is light weight advice, but it is the heavy on truth.

Meet SMA Vice President and Secretary Beth Granger.  Beth started her career as an art director and graphic designer, but fell in love with all things digital because she found it to be the perfect mix of her skills and interests.  She became passionate about social media immediately after joining various platforms; recognizing its power to find, build and be part of diverse communities.  Today, Beth is CEO of Beth Granger Consulting: Intrepid Social, which focuses on helping organizations and individuals find and engage with prospects.  She credits Twitter and the communities she has been part of for changing her life and growing her business.  Beth explains more about the current state of social media and its power to connect and grow businesses.

What are the biggest changes you have seen in the social media space?  There have been so many changes, but the one that has been the most impactful for me is the ability to go live on LinkedIn. I have interviewed more than 50 people this past year!  The platform allows me to introduce people I know to my larger network just through 30 minute conversations. For my clients, the biggest change is their comfort with using social media.  Five years ago, people were more hesitant and now they realize the power of social media engagement.

What do you think is the best social media platform? I may be biased because I spend my day working with people to grow their business and professional brand using LinkedIn, but for people who build their business through referrals, LinkedIn it is THE place. It allows them to extend their networking efforts and stay in front of their connections.  Plus, breaking news… I am now addicted to a new platform called “Clubhouse.” It is an audio-only app that is the online equivalent of being at a conference as both a speaker and attendee. You can join rooms and listen, host rooms, and more.  I have already collaborated with so many interesting people that I would not have typically met.

How has your business adapted during COVID-19? A large part of my business has always been virtual – coaching, consulting with and training people all over the world.  The speaking part of my business has moved all virtual since COVID and I love that virtual events can be just as, if not even more, engaging than in person events.

What tip would you give businesses to improve their social media strategy? Share interesting content and pose interesting questions; engage with others; spend time developing original content and less regurgitating the same articles that everyone else is sharing.

What are critical marketing skills for those people just starting out? Following people and brands you admire to see what they are doing; belong to organizations like SMA; and do not be afraid to experiment.

What is your go-to marketing resource? For me, it is not a specific podcast or site, but rather the communities of marketing people that I belong to, including SMA.  I joined SMA to be part of a community of people who are involved in social media and marketing, to share ideas, learn and teach.

What are some career highlights are you most proud of? I am incredibly proud of starting my own business more than ten years ago, allowing me to work with so many wonderful organizations and individuals. Receiving the 2018 Innovation Marketing Super Panel, recognizing the best female speakers in marketing and becoming a LinkedIn Live host are also sources of great pride. 

Want to know more about Beth? Follow her on Twitter at @BethGrangerSays and connect with her on LinkedIn

Meet Social Media Association Board Member Larry Drago.  Larry started his career at Computer Associates (now Broadcom) in the early 2000’s and is now a marketing consultant, supporting his clients’ with marketing initiatives like developing email marketing campaigns, deploying social media content and growing their social media presence as well as focusing on segmenting databases and event planning.  He believes the best marketing skill includes being able to access a marketing situation and then create innovative ways to promote and market a product, company or service.  We talked to Larry to delve deeper into the current state of social media and his passion for marketing.

What is one of your career highlights?  Despite living in the “digital economy,” on-site and online events are still important to businesses.  I am most proud of starting a national trade show for an association I worked for in the packaging distribution channel and then helping make it profitable within its first year.  It was a lot of work, but building a marketing program from the ground up is very satisfying.

Did you know the potential of social media when you first start using it for business?  I knew social media would be a powerful marketing tool and always believed it could be utilized to drive website traffic.  I originally doubted it being used in the B2B marketplace, but I quickly realized how it could drive revenue by allowing businesses to reach wider audiences, showcase leadership and instantly communicate with customers and prospects.

What are interesting trends you are seeing in social media as we approach 2021?  More businesses are using social media because of the pandemic and leveraging digital activity to reach their audiences.  More and more of my clients are seeing the value of connecting with their customers and want to dive further into amplifying their content, making their social media platforms more effective and growing their social media audience.

Social media is constantly changing. What are the biggest changes you have seen in the last five years?  The biggest changes I have seen is the amount of people and businesses that are using it as a selling tool.  Instagram now has more than 112M users and, with 800M users worldwide, Tik Tok has experienced tremendous growth.  I am also excited to see video emerge as the leading way users consume content and believe it will remain so.  

What tip would you give businesses to improve their social media strategy?  I would caution businesses against aggressively selling on social media.  Instead, use the platforms to showcase your expertise and be a thought leader in your field.

What are critical skills needed to be a successful digital marketer?  As Bill Gates wrote in 1996, “content is king” and that still rings true today.  Good content always rules.  I encourage marketing students to learn how to write effectively, but briefly, and to always think of different audiences to connect with when writing to expand your following.

Why did you join SMA?  I joined SMA to learn from my peers and to network with other industry professionals. Our industry is constantly changing and the programs SMA offers are second to none. In addition to honing my craft, I am also meeting great people.  Networking is key to professional development!

What is your go-to marketing resource?  Brand United is a great resource, which focuses on offering brands, agencies and designers with strategies to maximize their campaigns, while creating a united brand experience.

What are your life rules?  I am an optimist and live by a simple code; work hard at what you want and you will achieve your goals. Believe in yourself and good things will happen.

Meet Social Media Association Co-President Peter Stein and this month’s Member Spotlight.  Peter started his career in the 1990s in the engineering space selling electronic components and transistors for a semiconductor company.  Today, he is a sales executive focusing on business development at Didit, a full-service marketing company.  Bringing new client and partnership opportunities to the agency by highlighting its rich resources and deep reach with a flexible, personal touch is his primary focus at the firm.  His professional goals are to not only delight his customers but to also be a resource to other sales and marketing professionals to help their businesses thrive. We talked to Peter for some insights into what drives him, how SMA has enhanced his career and trends in digital marketing. 

  1. What are some of your key skill sets?  In addition to sales and business development, my wheelhouse includes marketing strategy, creative development, campaign planning, database marketing, production and, most importantly, results analysis.
  2. What are some career highlights that you are most proud of?  I was privileged to be awarded a spot at President’s Club during my tenure at a former company for overachieving on my goals and quota.  It was a great honor to be recognized by leadership alongside my peers for my work.  It was an added bonus that the event took place in Palm Springs and the entertainment included a Beach Boys concert!  As a sales professional, it was a major career highlight and an experience I will never forget.
  3. Why did you join SMA?  When I joined SMA I was new to social media and wanted to learn best practices and be around industry leaders.  Since becoming a member, the organization has allowed me to learn from my fellow marketers and stay in the know on hot trends and topics related to social media due to our panel discussions, roundtable events, webinars and networking meetups.
  4. What tip would you give businesses to get better social media engagement?  Be authentic.  Don’t sell, tell.  The marketplace is currently saturated with content and getting attention from a prospect is trickier when you are competing for eyeballs.  The best marketing campaigns leverage effective storytelling to enhance branding and increase conversion rates.  Stories drive engagement because, when done right, you can create deep, strong and lasting connections with your audience. 
  5. Social media is constantly changing. What are the biggest changes you have seen in the last five years?  I see the emergence of paid social media and the targeting opportunities available to marketers as one of the most impactful trends I have seen over the last several years.  Paid media is a way to promote a company’s products and services, raise exposure and connect with people you would not ordinarily be able to reach organically. 
  6. Aside from work and family what are other activities you are passionate about?  I am committed to supporting the communities where I live and work.  In addition to the SMA Board, I serve on the Board of Directors at Girls Inc. and the corporate committee for the Light the Night walk for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. 
  7. What is the best professional advice you received?  Always conduct yourself with integrity.  As Napoleon Hill said, “When you are able to maintain your own highest standards of integrity – regardless of what others may do – you are destined for greatness.”