The latest State of Online Branded Communities  report from marketing analytics firm ComBlu shows that businesses across industries are improving their social media marketing techniques, and user-generated content spread across sites could be key to gaining a competitve edge.

The latest State of Online Branded Communities report from marketing analytics firm ComBlu shows that businesses across industries are improving their social media marketing techniques. For marketers, this means cohesive social strategies will be needed to stay competitive on social sites, and offering custom content that engages consumers and promotes community-generated content may be key.

The study shows that brands are becoming knowledgeable about social media marketing. Last year, ComBlu determined that just 11 percent of brands were "High Performers" in the social media space. This year, one-third of brands surveyed qualify as High Performers. This means more businesses are adopting what ComBlu calls best practices.

One of the best practices afiiliated with High Performers is brands' recognition of logins across social communties, giving users access to a business' entire social ecosystem. At the same time, ComBlu suggests that it's important to offer fresh content on all social sites and to allow user-generated content to be spread across every site when a consumer makes a post on one – this, ComBlu suggests, translates into deeper engagement and more compelling information for social users.

Even as brands are improving their social strategies, the site says there is room for growth. The study suggests stronger thought leadership may be needed across social sites. Just 20 percent of studied companies have experts serving as the voice of a brand.

Brands looking to be recognized as thought leaders on social media might consider content marketing with custom news. A recent CNN POWNAR study reveals that most online news sharing happens via social sites, and Brafton has reported that new technology, such as that offered on ThePulseOfTheTweeters.com, tracks updates on trending topics to alert consumers about who (or which businesses) to follow online.    

Katherine Griwert is Brafton's Marketing Director. She's practiced content marketing, SEO and social marketing for over five years, and her enthusiasm for new media has even deeper roots. Katherine holds a degree in American Studies from Boston College, and her writing is featured in a number of web publications.