When it comes to writing text for your blog and social media posts, many marketers wonder, "But what's the character limit?" It's never a simple question -- sometimes, it's answered by parameters established by certain channels. And on other occasions, it's more a question of what's ideal.
For example, you probably know the character limit for a tweet is 140, but did you know that the ideal length is actually less than that? (Hold tight -- we'll explain why.)While we've written before about optimizing your actual content, we thought it would be helpful to gather the numbers of character limits -- both enforced and ideal -- for different online channels, all in one place.
Below, you'll find a more detailed guide to character limits and ideal character counts for posts on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, SnapChat, and YouTube.
The Length & Character Count for Everything on the Internet
1) Blog PostsSource: Medium
When it comes to the length of blog posts, there are a few different items to consider. For example:
That means that this ideal word count can address goals around both readability and SEO. But that's just the actual body of the post. Plus, when we looked at our own blog on organic traffic, we found that the sweet spot was 2,250–2,500 words.
But that's just the post body -- let's have a look at the other areas of text that comprise a full blog post.
The length of your title depends on your goals, and where it will appear.
Let's start with SEO. Do you want this post to rank really well in search? It turns out, that often has to do with the dimensions of each entry on a search engine results page (SERP). For Google, titles of search results are usually contained at a length of 600 pixels -- which Moz measures as being able to display the first 50-60 characters of a title tag. So, if you don't want your title to get cut off in the search results, it might be best to keep it under 60 characters. But when in doubt, you can double-check the length of your meta description and title tags with this handy tool from SEOmofo, or you can use Moz's title tag preview tool.
Then, there's optimizing your title for social sharing. On Twitter, for example, consider that each tweet has a limit of 140 characters -- however, if you include an image, that doesn't count toward the limit. But consider that even the average shortened URL takes up about 23 characters -- that leaves you with about 116 characters left for the title and any accompanying text.
In our own analysis at HubSpot, we found that headlines between 8–12 words in length got the most Twitter shares on average, while headlines with either 12 or 14 words got the most Facebook Likes.
A meta description refers to the HTML attribute that explains the contents of a given webpage. It's the short description you see on a SERP to "preview" what the page is about.
Moz notes that Google seems to cut off most meta descriptions -- which are sometimes called snippets -- after roughly two lines of text -- though there's some conjecture that, like title tags, it's actually based on pixel count. In any case, it amounts to about 160 characters, though this particular outlet recommends keeping it at 155.
Again, you can double-check the length of your meta description and title tags with this handy tool from SEOmofo.
Facebook's character limit on status updates is 63,206. However, that's far from ideal, says HubSpot Social Media Marketing Manager Chelsea Hunersen. "The social gurus will throw around the number 40 characters. That data seems to be backed up by BuzzSumo's ranking of HubSpot's own Facebook Page."
But why 40, specifically? "Ideally," Hunersen says, "you'll want to use the copy in a status update to provide context for whatever you're linking to." That said, she notes, the copy of the status update itself isn't as important as the copy in the meta title or meta description that gets pulled in when you insert a link into your post. That's right -- social media posts have their own meta data too.
"Often, people look at the image of the article and then directly down at the meta title and meta description for context clues," she explains. "A lot of people don't realize you can change those."
Even on Facebook, it's still best to keep your meta title to fewer than 60 characters, and to 155 for meta descriptions. There are some resources available to those familiar with coding that let you play around with social media metadata character counts, like these templates. But unless you're a developer, we recommend keeping it short and sweet.
While Facebook allows a maximum of 120 minutes for videos, we wouldn't advise posting anything that long, unless you're doing a special, social-media-only screening of a full-length film.
According to research conducted by Wistia, two minutes is the "sweet spot" -- even a minute longer than that shows a significant drop in viewership. "Engagement is steady up to [two] minutes, meaning that a 90-second video will hold a viewer's attention as much as a 30-second video, the research reads," so "if you're making short videos, you don't need to stress about the difference of a few seconds. Just keep it under [two] minutes."Source: Wistia
Regardless of the length of your video, Hunersen reminds us that all Facebook videos start without sound, meaning users have to make a conscious decision to stop scrolling through their feeds and unmute the video. Facebook videos should be visually compelling from the get-to, make sense without sound, and be engaging enough to encourage the user to stop and watch.
Length of Tweets
Marketers everywhere rejoiced when Twitter finally eased up on its character count parameters, and such media as images, videos, and polls, as well as quoted tweets, ceased counting toward its 140-character limit.
Still, the "Quote Tweet" feature remains available, providing even greater character-saving measures. That happens when you press the rotating arrow icon to retweet a post, and then add a comment in the text box provided. You've still got 140 characters all to yourself to comment.
Ideal Length Overall
Like so much of what we've covered, it seems that when it comes to the overall length of a tweet, aim for short and sweet. (See what we did there?) That's resonated in research conducted by social media scientist Dan Zarrella, who found that tweets with 120-130 characters showed the highest click-through rate (CTR):Source: Buffer
The same goes for hashtags. While they can technically be any length up to 140 characters, remember that people will want to accompany the hashtag with other copy. Short hashtags are always better. Ideally, your hashtags should be under 11 characters -- shorter if you can.
Also, in a single tweet, stick to one or two hashtags, and definitely don't go over three. Buddy Media found that all tweets with hashtags get double the engagement metrics than tweets without any. But tweets that kept the hashtags to a minimum -- one or two -- have a 21% higher engagement than tweets with three or more.Source: Buffer
You can post a video on Twitter by importing a video or recording it using the Twitter app. In any case, the maximum video length is two minutes and 20 seconds.
Here's a handy list of some of LinkedIn's most important profile character maximums, according to Andy Foote:
With LinkedIn's publishing platform, users can now compose and share original written content with their networks, or publicly. Of course, that comes with its own character counts, according to Foote:
Since Instagram is, first and foremost, a platform for sharing photos and videos, the primary focus is typically your visual content. However, it's always helpful to provide some context, and let users know what they're looking at.
Given that, here are some helpful character counts for the text you include with your visual content:
While Instagram doesn't seem to specify a maximum total number of caption characters, it does note that, within users' feeds, the caption is cut off after the first three lines. For that reason, it's advised to limit captions to 125 characters. However, don't leave out important information just for the sake of keeping your entire caption visible. Instead, frontload it with crucial details and calls-to-action, leaving any hashtags, @mentions, or extraneous information for the end.
As for Instagram Stories, there doesn't seem to be a ton of detail on character limits there, either. However, because the text overlays the visual content -- which is the focus -- don't obscure too much of the photo or video with a caption.
Speaking of not obscuring visual content -- that brings us to Snapchat.
Instagram Stories was, many believe, an effort to emulate the features of Snapchat, to create an opportunity for users to share quickly-disappearing photos and videos. And again, because the focus here is on the visual, you'll want to prevent distracting viewers from it with too much text.
According to Teen Vogue, Snapchat's character limit is 80 per post, which is more than double its previous 31-character limit. And, if you're looking for more guidance, just look to this particular app's name, and remember the "snap" element of it -- a word that implies brevity -- and try not to ramble. Here's a great example of how SXSW uses its captions efficiently:
Here we have yet another network that's focused on visual content, leading some to incorrectly assume that accompanying text -- like titles and descriptions -- don't matter as much.
That's not entirely false -- as a video-hosting platform, YouTube should primarily be used to showcase a brand's quality videos. However, like any other visual content, it needs context. People need to know what they're watching, who it's from, and why it matters.
Unfortunately, YouTube doesn't appear to provide any specific parameters over its character counts -- except for your channel description, which according to the official help site is limited to 1,000 characters. But other than that, it seems that the only guideline available is the alert display that lets you know, "Your [title or description] is too long," if you've entered too much text in either of those fields.
In this case, we would advise taking the same approach as adding text to support your visuals on Instagram and Snapchat. Like the former, a video's description is cut off after the first line or two, so frontload the most important descriptors and CTAs, leaving extra details for the end.
Show Your Character
As you set out to determine the length of your text, regardless of the platform, remember to do so with the user in mind. Many of these channel-mandated character limits are established for that reason -- to keep audiences from getting bored or overwhelmed.
Like anything else in marketing, however, it's never an exact science, despite the best data. We encourage you to follow these guidelines, but don't be afraid to experiment if they don't always work. Test different amounts of text within your various channels, and keep track of how each post performs. From there, you can make decisions about which types of content, as well as its accompanying titles and descriptions, are the most well-received from your audience.
How do you approach text with different online channels? Let us know in the comments.
This post was originally published in January 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
via Blogger The Character Count Guide for Blog Posts, Videos, Tweets & More
In the first few years of business, small companies come up against a lot of different challenges. Some are harder than others to overcome -- and according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 20% of small businesses fail by the end of their first year. By the end of their fifth year, 50% go under; and by the tenth year, that number rises to 80%.
With survival rates like that, it's easy to understand why folks face the first few years of business with trepidation. But in fact, many common business problems and challenges are actually fixable, from difficulty finding customers, generating leads, and building an email list, all the way to hiring the right people and balancing quality and growth. Many times, you'll find you need to take a step back, take the time to understand the pain points you're feeling, and re-think your strategy.
Here are six challenges every small business faces, along with some tactical advice about how to fix them. (And if one of the challenges you're facing is growing your email lists and generating leads, then be sure to save your seat for our live workshop that's taking place on Thursday, April 27 at 1:00 P.M. EST.)
6 Small Business Problems & How to Fix Them
1) Finding Customers
This first one isn't just a small business problem. The marketers at well-known companies like Apple and Toyota and McDonald's don't just sit around waiting for the leads to come in: Even the biggest, most successful companies have people working hard every single day to find new customers.
But for small businesses that aren't a household name, finding customers can be particularly difficult. For example, there seem to be so many channels you can choose to focus on ... how do you know what to prioritize and where to allocate resources?
How to Fix It:
Finding customers starts with figuring how who your ideal customer actually is. Spraying and praying doesn't work for anybody -- you need to make sure you're spreading the word to the right people.
Craft an idea of what your target customers look like, what they do, where they spend time online by building your buyer personas. (Here are some free buyer persona templates to get you started.) Creating very specific ones can dramatically improve your business results. Once you've built your buyer personas, you can start creating content and getting in front of your target customers in the places they spend time online and with the messages that they care about.
2) Hiring Talented People
Hiring is often one of the biggest challenges for small businesses, especially since small business executives tend to feel under-resourced to begin with. Hiring new employees is a big deal and a complex process, and the cost of onboarding is an average of over $4,000 per new employee for most companies. And if you don't hire well, employee turnover can be very, very expensive.
But, as CEO of 2020 On-site Optometry Howard Bernstein said in our panel on how to start a business, it's impossible to know everything yourself. That's why finding and hiring the right people -- and the people who are really excited about what you're doing -- matters.
How to Fix It:
It’s easy to hire with a short-term mindset: send out a job description, screen applicants, and make a decision. But because of the high costs of hiring right, it's important to invest a significant amount of time in the hiring process. Don’t settle for good employees when you can find great ones, even if it takes longer. It's the great employees that will help your company get to the next level.
Just like you create buyer personas for your customers, create candidate personas for your job candidates. Your personas should be different for each new role that you’re hiring for, but will share some underlying traits around company culture.
Next, take ownership of attracting candidates to your company's brand and make them interested in learning more. This will help you build a recruiting pipeline that will give hiring the same predictability as sales. Then, turn those leads into applicants.
3) Spreading Brand Awareness
It can sometimes seem like today's biggest brands seemed to have popped up out of nowhere. How did they become a household name? How did they grow that quickly? Can your business grow like that, too?
Of course, most of these companies' hard work, failures, and rejections happened behind the scenes. But there are strategies for spreading the word about your brand and building a great reputation that you can start right away.
How to Fix It:
There are many ways to spread brand awareness, but the three I'll touch on here are PR, co-marketing, and blogging.
4) Building an Email List
As if it isn't hard enough to build an email list, did you know your email marketing database degrades by about 22.5% every year? That means you have to increase your email list by almost a quarter to just maintain it, never mind grow it. It's the marketing team's job to find ways to constantly add fresh, new email contacts to your lists.
But what many people call "building an email list" is actually buying an email list -- and buying an email list is never a good idea. I repeat: Never a good idea. Not only will your email deliverability and IP reputation be harmed, but it's also a waste of money. If your current strategy is to buy or rent email lists, then it's time to regroup and find better places to put those resources.
How to Fix It:
Instead of buying or renting lists, build opt-in email lists. An opt-in email list is made up of subscribers who voluntarily give you their email address so you can send them emails. One great way to build an opt-in list is by creating great blog content and making it easy for people to subscribe -- which, at the same time, will help you increase your online presence, build up search authority, and create evangelists from your content.
[Example of a subscribe CTA on Help Scout's blog.]
You can also revive older lists that you think are mostly decayed by creating an engaging opt-in message and sending it to your old list encouraging contacts who wish to re-opt-in and promising to remove all contacts who don't respond.
To learn more strategies and tips, register here for our live workshop on growing your email subscribers.
5) Lead Generation
Another problem most small businesses share is lead generation -- specifically, generating enough leads to keep the sales team happy. If that sounds like you, you're not alone: Only 1 in 10 marketers feel their lead generation campaigns are effective.
But generating leads that are both high quantity and high quality is a marketing team's most important objective. A successful lead generation engine is what turns website visitors into prospective customers and keeps the funnel full of sales prospects while you sleep.
[Lead generation is part of the "convert" stage of the inbound methodology.]
How to Fix It:
To make the lead generation process work for your business, you need to first optimize your existing website for leads. Your website is the most important tool you have for turning prospects into customers. Look through your website and ask yourself:
Prioritize the most popular pages on your website first. Most businesses have a few, specific pages that bring in the majority of their traffic -- often the homepage, "About" page, "Contact Us" page, and maybe one or two of your most popular blog posts. Read this blog post to learn how to figure out which pages to prioritize, and how to optimize them.
Finally, be sure to take advantage of free lead management software. Affording marketing in general is a big challenge in and of itself, so finding and implementing the most robust free marketing tools can be a game changer. HubSpot Marketing Free, for example, has features like a form-scraping tool that scrapes any pre-existing forms you have on your website and adds those contacts to your existing contact database. It also lets you new pop-ups, hello bars, or slide-ins -- called "lead flows" -- that'll help you turn website visitors into leads immediately.
6) Balancing Quality and Growth
"There's this mix of building scalability early, versus doing what you have to do to get it all done," Nick Rellas, co-founder and CEO of Drizly, told our panel of startup executives about starting his own business.
This is a tricky one, especially since every situation is different. You'll see this problem arise in all areas of business: in product development, in marketing and content creation, in hiring, and so on. For example, many business executives will push growth at all costs. But if you grow your company too quickly, you'll find yourself having to hire quickly. This can overwhelm your experienced team members because it takes a while to train people. And if you don't train people well, it can end up backfiring.
How to Fix It:
Unfortunately, there's no perfect answer here. "Depending where you are in your business' lifecycle," says Rellas, "the scale will tip one way or the other, but I do think you need both at different times."
What it comes down to is not obsessing over every detail, but obsessing over the right details. Obsessing over product perfection, for example, might not be as important as obsessing over customer service. It's better to put your fears aside and launch a product that isn't perfect because you can always update and improve it. After all, once your products are in the hands of your customers, you can learn much more quickly what's working and what isn't.
Obsessing over customer service, however, is worth the extra effort. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos puts it well in his 2016 letter to shareholders: "There are many ways to center a business. You can be competitor focused, you can be product focused, you can be technology focused, you can be business model focused, and there are more. But in my view, obsessive customer focus is by far the most protective of Day 1 vitality." ("Day 1" is what he refers to as a period of growth and innovation, whereas "Day 2" is stasis, irrelevance, and slow demise.)
While these are just a few of the many business challenges facing small businesses every day, there are many others out there. Are there other challenges your small business is facing that you want to bring up? Share with us in the comments below -- and don't forget to share your ideas for solutions, too!
via Blogger 6 Business Challenges Every Small Business Struggles With (And How to Fix Them)
Today I’m going to show you how we boosted our organic traffic by 43% over a 3 month period.
The best part is, we did it without publishing any new content, spending any more money on marketing or adding any additional resources to our team.
We call the strategy, The Mission Week, and I will tell you exactly how we do it.
But First, a Little Story ...
I am the founder of small business-focused job board called Proven.
In October of 2015, we made the difficult decision to completely forgo building a sales team and focus all our efforts instead on acquiring customers via content marketing and SEO.
We knew that given the price point of our product, it was not economically viable for us to have people make sales calls. We needed a lower cost solution to bringing in new customers.
This led us to seeking a content marketing and SEO strategy.
Like many companies new to blogging, we rushed into it full steam, cranking out tons of new posts. We started to realize that this was a doomed strategy. We had hundreds of posts, but were barely moving the needle on our overall traffic. We figured we could only get a traffic boost as long as we were creating new content.
In early 2016, we started to learn a lot more about content promotion and link building. This led to a number of content successes, like ranking in the top 5 on Google for the search term"job board", but after a while, this growth started to tail off.
Our content promotion was unfocused, lacked clear goals, and as a result, great pieces of content were not ranking well.
Finally, this all changed when our amazing Director of Marketing, Caileen Kehayas, invented The Mission Week.
What is a Mission Week?
Our Mission Weeks consist of choosing one piece of content that’s under performing and everyone on the team focuses their promotional efforts only on this piece of content.
We gamify the process by assigning points to different types of promotional activities.
For example, sending an outreach email might get you 1 point, you can earn 2 points for broken link building and 5 points for writing a guest blog that links to the article. Each person must accumulate 20 points to complete their mission for the week.
Regardless of your role in our company, you can participate. If you aren't comfortable writing articles, you can earn points through outreach emails, discovering linking opportunities or responding to relevant questions on Quora.
As part of the promotion, we will do minor content updates and perhaps update the title and meta tags of the article.
The weekly point goal is small enough that it doesn’t take up so much time that it becomes overwhelming. Team members can easily earn enough points without compromising their regular workloads.
Involving everyone at Proven -- even those outside of the marketing team -- helps create more dynamic and diverse supporting content. We all have different backgrounds and skill sets, and everyone is focused on promoting the same piece of content. With everyone participating, it’s a great opportunity for team building across different departments.
A Mission Week Case Study
In January 2016 we published an article called How to Interview: The Definitive Guide. After being live for 10 months on our blog, it never cracked the top 10 for Google search results for any high value set of keywords.
We chose this article back in late October as our first Mission Week.
This article now ranks 5th on Google for “how to interview”, and has 49 backlinks from 27 domains.
So, how did we do it?
Resource Link Building
Each participant was awarded 1 point for an outreach email sent to a site that was linking to similar content. Primarily, we use a resource link building strategy that I wrote about previously.
During this week, each person on the team sent an average of 18.5 outreach emails to sites linking to similar content.
To research 15 to 20 different possible sites and send them an email doesn’t take up too much of a person’s week. However, if someone was left doing all this outreach on their own, it becomes a huge tedious job that eats up a large portion of their week.
Each participant was awarded 5 points for writing an article that contained a link to this blog post.
During this week, our team produced 7 related articles that our Director of Marketing helped publish to different sites.
Again, writing one support piece is not too bad, but writing 7 is completely unreasonable for our small team.
We updated the title of the article to How to Interview Job Candidates (The Definitive Guide), because adding brackets to your title can help increase CTR on Google. We also updated the introduction and gave the design of the page a bit of a face lift.
All of these things help to improve CTR, bounce rate and dwell time, which are all ranking factors for Google.
As part of the mission, we schedule promotion of the article on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+. We typically schedule up to 8 tweets for a single article, changing up the text and hashtags we use. If one tweet is performing really well, we will re-use it again and again on different days and different times.
Each participant was awarded 2 points for finding and answering a relevant Quora question. Although these are no-follow links, it does help to create brand awareness, referral traffic, and authority in the industry.
During the week, we had one team member answer 5 questions on Quora.
As mentioned, this article now ranks 5th on Google and went from delivering close to zero organic traffic to now being one of our top performing pieces.
We’ve seen consistent movement in our Google rankings for every subject of a Mission Week thus far. Following the same process outlined above, we did a Mission Week for this article about job ads.
Organizing Our Missions
Each week, our marketing director chooses the article with the most SEO potential that is under performing.
She puts together a document outlining the following:
Separately, we track in a shared spreadsheet all the outreach emails we send so that we don’t accidentally email the same person. This is also good for historical reference because it’s sometimes worth revisiting and following up with any outreach emails that get sent.
Transforming The Way We Promote Content
Mission Weeks have completely transformed the way we actively promote our content. Prior to having the Mission Weeks, we used a lot of the same promotional strategies, but it was not focused and many team members didn’t have clearly defined weekly goals to work towards.
Now, every week, everyone knows exactly what they need to accomplish. Marketing, engineering, customer support and the executives of Proven all participate, driving towards the same goal of accumulating 20 points. We brag to one another over Slack when we complete our missions or land a new link, which is typically followed by a barrage of GIFs.
Not only has The Mission Week process grown our organic traffic, it's increased our new customers significantly in a short period of time.
I strongly encourage you to give it a try. You can play with the point system and weekly goal based on the needs and resources of your company.
Would you consider running a Mission Week at your company? Share your thoughts in the comments.
via Blogger How We Grew Our Organic Traffic by 43% Without Publishing a Single New Blog Post
I already know what you’re thinking. You saw the words content marketing and strategy together in the headline and thought, “Oh, cool, another article telling me how important it is to have and actually write down my strategy -- just what I need.”
Don’t worry, that’s not what this is.
You already know that having and documenting your strategy is important because you’ve probably read the same reports and case studies that my team and I have read. But there’s a pretty big difference between knowing you should do something and knowing how to do it -- which might explain why 89 percent of B2B marketers use content, yet only 37 percent have documented strategies.
The marketing team at Influence & Co. spent the last couple months of 2016 carefully researching, planning, and creating a content marketing strategy for this year. What follows is an exploration of exactly which elements our team determined a successful plan must include to drive results, empowering you to create your own documented content strategy.
How to Document Your Content Marketing Strategy
Part of what makes a documented strategy so powerful is that every person on your team -- from your content creators to your senior-level directors and everyone in between -- can see what, why, and how your company is communicating.
This alignment makes it easier to get buy-in, crowdsource content, and pull employees into the distribution process, and it makes your efforts stronger because it extends your reach beyond the marketing team.
For your strategy to be helpful to your whole company and not just your immediate marketing team members, it has to address a few major questions, like:
If you start with these questions in mind, the actual pieces of your strategy should come easily. In fact, each of the following components of your strategy should help you clearly answer those questions, align your team, and hold you accountable. Here are seven key elements your content marketing strategy must include:
1) Overall Mission
Before you get too far into the weeds, ask yourself, “What’s the real reason we’re investing in content?” And if the answer is anything close to “Well, we just know we should be doing content,” stop immediately and spend more time thinking about why you’re making this critical, valuable, and time-consuming investment in the first place.
If you do have a well-thought-out answer, write it down. Are you preparing to use content so your marketing team can generate leads and attract new customers? Are you trying to build brand awareness and credibility?
No matter your reason for investing in content marketing, it needs to take a prominent place at the beginning of your strategy; that overall mission will guide the rest of your document and keep your team on track when it’s time to execute.
2) Target Audience Personas
You may have included some general ideas about your audience members when you outlined your mission, and while that’s a helpful place to start, it’s not nearly detailed enough to start creating content for them.
Before you craft any content or develop any distribution plan, you have to know who you’re trying to reach. You aren't creating content for the general public, you’re creating it to attract specific individuals who can contribute to your company’s goals.
You need to research and create detailed audience personas. If your personas inform the content you create, your content will do a much better job of speaking to the exact audience you’re targeting.
3) Content Mix Plan
Once you know why you’re creating content and for whom, you can determine what type to create. Depending on what your marketing funnel looks like, you’ll need a couple different types: content that educates and engages prospects at the top of the funnel and encourages them to learn more, as well as content for the bottom of the funnel that answers very specific questions and addresses objections to working with you.
That content can take any number of forms, from guest-contributed articles on online publications to blog posts, white papers, email campaigns, sales enablement materials, and more. What’s especially important here is thinking through the variety of earned, owned, and paid media you’ll need to keep prospects moving through this funnel.
4) Content Creation Process
You could follow each of the above steps exactly and still fall flat on your face when it’s time to actually put pen to paper. Creating content of your own and turning your company leaders into content creators takes time and effort.
So before you dig into executing your content plan, determine which processes, workflows, and resources make the most sense for your team. Perhaps taking advantage of content creation tools will make your job easier, or partnering with an agency to help may be a better solution.
5) Editorial Calendar
Consistency is key in content marketing. It’s your opportunity to build trust with your audience members, nurture them, and become a resource for them. Once you know what kinds of content you need to create, it’s time to develop a calendar or schedule to make sure you deliver.
Your editorial calendar should detail how often you need to publish to keep your audience engaged and when you’ll distribute your published pieces. Mapping out your target deadlines for different pieces will keep your process on track.
6) Distribution Plan
Distribution is all about getting your content to the right people at the right time. That can mean publishing articles in publications your target audience members are already reading, using a paid distribution plan on social to attract readers to your white paper, or simply including your content in your email newsletters.
Your distribution plan should be part of your documented strategy because knowing where and how you plan to distribute your content informs the type of content you create, how often you do it, and which processes you utilize. It’s a key part of your content marketing strategy, so don’t start executing the strategy until you’ve thought it through.
7) ROI Calculator
Remember when you identified your overall mission at the beginning of this document? You need to identify from the beginning how you’re going to measure success with this campaign, and now’s your chance to match metrics to your goals to gauge how well your content is helping to achieve that mission.
Set some benchmarks you want to hit concerning traffic to your website, leads generated, or opportunities created through content, and set up a plan for tracking this using anything from your own modest spreadsheets to a robust software package.
If this documented strategy seems like a lot, that’s because it is. Nobody said that content marketing was simple, but it’s well worth the investment, especially when you set yourself up for success. And with these seven must-have elements detailed in your documented content strategy, your team will be off to a fantastic start.
via Blogger 7 Steps to Documenting a Content Marketing Strategy That Works
If you are creating great content, more followers — and non-followers — are going to see it.
But how does the Instagram algorithm work?
In this post, we’ll break it all down for you. We’ll go through the factors that could influence the ranking of your content on your followers’ feed and explain why the Instagram algorithm is actually great for marketers.
How does the Instagram algorithm work?
The short answer is… it’s complicated.
While we might not know exactly how the Instagram algorithm works, I’d love to help you decipher the mysterious Instagram algorithm (as much as I can). I dug into several sources and distilled my findings into the following seven key factors.
Here’s a quick overview of the seven key factors we’ll go through below:
1. Engagement: How popular the post is
According to Michael Stelzner, CEO and Founder of Social Media Examiner, when a person or brand publishes a post, social media algorithms would typically show the post to a sample audience and see how the audience react to it. If the audience reacts positively to the post right away, the algorithm would show the post to more people.
This implies that a post with more engagement is likely going to rank higher on your Instagram feed. The types of engagement that the Instagram algorithm considers can include likes, comments, video views, shares (via direct message), saves, story views, and live video views.
If someone you follow has engaged with a post, too, Instagram might also assume that you could be interested in that post and included it within your feed.
Here’s the great news: An Instagram spokesperson told Business Insider that ranking of Instagram posts will not be a popularity contest. Posts with less engagement but which are more relevant to you can still appear right at the top of your feed.
2. Relevancy: The genres of content you are interested in and have interacted with
When the algorithmic timeline was annouced, Instagram mentioned that it would show you content that you’ll likely be interested in first:
This implies that content that is relevant to your interests will likely rank higher on your feed. But how does Instagram know your interests? One way could be to look at the genres of content (e.g. travel, food, fashion, sports, etc.) you have interacted with in the past.
With the level of photo recognition technologies available now, I believe it’s possible for the algorithm to categorize posts into simple genres such as travel, food, fashion, and more — and possibly even more sophisticated genres. The algorithm could also look at the hashtags used.
3. Relationships: The accounts you regularly interact with
In its second announcement about the new feed, Instagram stated the following:
Just like Facebook, Instagram doesn’t want you to miss important posts from your friends and family, such as a post about your friend’s engagement. This implies that content from your “best friends” likely ranks higher on your feed.
Since Instagram is owned by Facebook, Instagram could use data from Facebook to determine your relationships — family, friends, schoolmates, colleagues, etc.
I also believe that the Instagram algorithm studies your past interactions to determine your “best friends”. In a talk about designing and implementing the Instagram algorithm, Thomas Dimson, a software engineer at Instagram, shared how they could have determined the people you care about:
While these might not be the exact criteria used in the Instagram algorithm, they give us a hint that Instagram probably considers the accounts you frequently interact with as “people you care about”. And it would rank their content higher on your feed.
4. Timeliness: How recent the posts are
The next key ingredient in the Instagram algorithm, as suggested by Instagram, is timeliness.
Instagram wants to show you posts that are recent and, consequently, more relevant.
Something from last week might not interest you as much as something from an hour ago, so Instagram will likely show you more recent posts rather than posts from a few days or weeks ago — even if the older post had received a lot of engagement.
This implies that recent posts likely rank higher in your feed and that the timing of your post is still relevant.
According to Thomas’s talk and my personal experience (admittedly, a sample size of only one), it seems that the Instagram algorithm re-orders only the new posts between your current visit and your last visit.
For example, I visited Instagram at 11 PM last night and again at 9 AM this morning, and there were 50 posts created in between. The algorithm would sort only those 50 posts created and not include posts from before 11 PM last night. Based on my personal experience, if I were to scroll past all those 50 posts, I’d see the same posts in the same order as when I last visited (11 PM last night).
(If your personal experience is different from this, it’d be great to hear from you!)
If this is true, it could mean that the best time to post is when your followers are most active as there would be less competition (e.g. between 9 to 10 AM in the image below).
(Image from Thomas’s slide deck)
5. Profile Searches: The accounts you check out often
An Instagram spokesperson said to Business Insider that profile searches are a signal Instagram looks at when ranking posts in your feed. When you search (regularly) for certain profiles, it likely indicates that you are interested in the account’s posts and might not have seen them on your feed.
Instagram might then rank their posts higher on your feed so that you don’t have to search for their profiles to see their posts, improving your Instagram experience.
Thomas from Instagram also mentioned in his talk that when they experimented with the new algorithm, the number of searches went down. They took it as a good sign as it meant that people are seeing the posts they are interested in without having to search for their favorite profiles.
6. Direct Shares: Whose posts you are sharing
Instagram has made it really easy for users to share a post they see on their feed with their friends. According to the Business Insider article, direct shares through Instagram is also another signal Instagram looks at to understand your interests.
There are two parts to this. One, sharing a post shows that you are probably interested in the posts by that account. The Instagram algorithm would then consider this when ranking posts on your feed.
Two, it sounds like Instagram would also consider the people you have shared the post with. Going back to factor two, relationships, the act of sharing a post with another person informs Instagram that you care about the person so Instagram might rank her posts higher on your feed.
7. Time Spent: The duration spent viewing a post
It’s possible that the Instagram feed algorithm shares some similarities with the Facebook News Feed algorithm since the aim of both algorithms is to show you the posts that you care about the most.
Facebook discovered that if “people spend significantly more time on a particular story in News Feed than the majority of other stories they look at, this is a good sign that content was relevant to them”, even if they didn’t like or comment on it. More specifically, Facebook said the following:
If this factor is included in the Instagram algorithm, when you spend more time on an Instagram post than other posts, Instagram will surface posts similar to that Instagram post higher up on your feed.
While there isn’t confirmation about this factor, it wouldn’t be surprising if Instagram included this factor in its algorithm.
There are probably a whole bunch of other signals that the Instagram algorithm considers, and the algorithm changes constantly to give its users the best experience possible. (For context, Facebook’s algorithm takes into account hundreds of factors.)
Stef Lewandowski of Makelight put together a list of other signals that the algorithm might consider:
Why is the new algorithm great for marketers?
As the number of users on Instagram increases, the number of posts will likely increase, too.
When users follow more people, the number of posts in their feed will increase. The natural result of this is that the impressions (or organic reach) of each post will fall — unless every user spends more time on Instagram looking at all the additional posts.
The reality is that people usually don’t see all the new posts when they visit Instagram. A study by Instagram themselves found that, on average, users miss 70 percent of the posts on their feeds when the posts were arranged in a reverse-chronological order.
But as long as you are creating engaging, relevant, and timely content, the algorithm is actually an advantage to you. It will help to surface your great content to more of your followers than when posts were arranged reverse-chronologically.
(Graphic inspired by Thomas’s slide)
Here’s another way to look at it: Without this algorithm, one quick way to get your Instagram followers’ attention would be to post many times a day. If most brands follow this strategy, the number of Instagram posts would increase dramatically, and the organic reach of each post would fall proportionally — even if it’s a quality post.
With this algorithm, brands are encouraged to post only their best content, and the quality of their content will determine their reach. Brands with the best content overall will stand out more easily now than without the algorithm.
Here’s a bonus: The Explore tab also uses an algorithm to surface content based on the user’s interests and past behaviors. It is another brilliant way for your great content to reach more people!
10 ways to increase your Instagram organic reach
While the Instagram algorithm might be rather mysterious and complicated, it is a brilliant way to help brands with great content reach more of their followers than before.
Once you have learned about the Instagram algorithm, we thought you might be interested in getting some actionable tips to increase your organic reach through the algorithm. If you want the tips, simply hit the button below:
It’d also be great to learn from your experience as I’m sure I’m missing many other key factors of the Instagram algorithm. What other factors do you think the Instagram algorithm considers when ranking posts?
Image credit: Unsplash
via Blogger Understanding the Instagram Algorithm: 7 Key Factors and Why the Algorithm is Great for Marketers
Since Instagram started sorting posts on users’ feed with an algorithm, many marketers have noticed a decline in their organic reach and engagement.
But that doesn’t have to be the case for you. In fact, it could be possible for you to reach more of your followers now than without the new Instagram algorithm.
In this post, we’ll share 10 straightforward ways you can use to increase your organic reach on Instagram today.
Understanding the Instagram Algorithm
Here’s a quick side-note: Understanding how the Instagram algorithm works can be helpful in figuring out how to increase your organic reach in the algorithmic-feed world.
We’ve dug into the Instagram algorithm and broken down the seven key factors of the Instagram algorithm. If you’d like to learn about the algorithm and how it ranks content on users’ feed, feel free to hit the button below to read the post first.
10 Ways to Boost Your Instagram Reach Today
So how can you increase your organic reach on Instagram? Here are the 10 powerful ways you can do that:
1. Find your optimal posting times
Even though Instagram uses an algorithmic timeline now, optimal posting times are still relevant as timing is a factor in the algorithm.
Posting at the right times can help generate an initial round of engagement on your posts which can, in turn, prompt the Instagram algorithm to push your posts higher on your followers’ feed.
If you are using an Instagram Business Profile, you can check your Instagram Insights to find out when your followers are most active by the day of the week and the time of the day.
To access your Instagram Insights (link to Instagram analytics post), tap on the profile tab in the Instagram app and then the bar chart icon () on the upper-right corner. There will be a section for your followers’ activity information, and you can tap on “See More” to see more detailed insights. Here’s an example of what you’ll see:
2. Experiment with videos
Several studies have found that photos tend to get more overall engagement (i.e. likes and comments) than videos on Instagram. On first look, it might seem that photos are better than videos for engagement — and it could well be!
On closer examination, we might draw a different conclusion. News Whip studied the Instagram accounts of 31 news publishers and made an interesting discovery. While photos, on average, get more likes (and overall engagement) than videos, videos generate more comments than photos. In fact, videos, on average, received more than twice the amount of comments than photos!
It is not certain if the Instagram algorithm values likes and comments equally or one more than another. But since commenting requires more effort from a user than liking, it’s possible that the algorithm values comments more than likes and would rank posts with more comments higher than posts with more likes.
Last year, Instagram found that the video watch time on Instagram increased by more than 40 percent over a six-month period. At this growth rate, it could be great to experiment with videos to see if it increases your engagement and organic reach on Instagram.
3. Host contests or ask questions to encourage engagement
Asking questions or calling for an action is one of the fun ways to encourage your followers to interact with your Instagram posts. We found that hosting a giveaway contest is an effective way to engage our followers.
Some of the call-to-actions we have tried are:
While giveaway contests usually generate more comments than usual posts, we try to give it a few months in between each contest to keep things fun and exciting.
4. Curate user-generated content
Brian Peters, our digital marketing strategist, grew our Instagram account following by about 500% (4,250 to 21,000) in under six months. His secret? User-generated content.
Curating user-generated content can encourage those users to engage with and share those content. Since the Instagram algorithm considers users’ relationships when ranking content on their feed, building relationships with your users through Instagram might also help your content rank higher on their feeds.
Apart from organic reach, Crowdtap found that user-generated content is 35 percent more memorable and 50 percent more trusted than traditional media and other non-user-generated content. This makes user-generated content a valuable strategy to try.
5. Tell Instagram Stories
In our State of Social Media 2016 report, we found that while 63 percent of marketers surveyed use Instagram, only 16 percent have created Instagram Stories. There’s a great opportunity to stand out before it gets too crowded!
Instagram Stories take a prominent position on the Instagram app — above the feed. This allows you to stay on top of your followers’ feed and grab more of their attention. If your followers view your Stories regularly, it could possibly even help your Instagram posts rank higher on their feeds.
It’s worth noting that the Stories are also ranked by an algorithm; possibly one very similar to the feed algorithm. Spend the time to craft great Stories to help them rank better.
6. Go live on Instagram
A similar “trick” is to go live on Instagram. When you use live video, you will appear right at the front of the Stories feed, assuming no one else is live at the same time. The “LIVE” logo also makes your profile photo more prominent in the Instagram app.
Social Media Examiner found that the more they went live on Facebook, the more their non-live content received exposure. Michael Stelzner said that one reason might be their brand is in front of their fans more often so the fans might go to their Page to see their content more — even if the fans don’t watch the live video.
This effect could play out on Instagram, too. Seeing your logo at the top of their feed might encourage your followers to check out your Instagram profile.
From our State of Social Media 2016 report, we concluded that live video has yet to hit mass adoption as only 27 percent of marketers surveyed had created live video content. While the percentage might be higher today, I believe live videos aren’t mainstream yet. So it’s another perfect way to stand out and deliver great content!
7. Use Instagram ads
This might sound a little counter-intuitive but Instagram ads can be an effective way to grow your organic reach.
If you have an Instagram Business Profile, you can promote your existing posts from within the Instagram app. (Here’s how!) By boosting an existing post and selecting the appropriate target audience, you can drive more engagement to the post and help it rank better on your followers’ feed. The paid reach can eventually help to drive organic reach!
So which post should you promote?
Here’s a quick way to pick a good post to promote:
8. Post less
When explaining social media algorithms, Michael Stelzner encouraged marketers to re-think your posting strategy.
Sue B. Zimmerman also gave a similar advice for marketers who want to overcome the Instagram algorithm.
I believe this is about the allocation of your resources and time. Instead of publishing 20 posts a week, use the same resources and time for just one or two posts and make them great.
9. Create specifically for Instagram
One way to create quality content is to create content specifically for Instagram. Instagram, being a very visual platform, has a greater focus on the photo or video itself than the text. So a post that would do well on Instagram is probably different from one that would do well on Twitter or Facebook.
For smaller social media teams or solo social media manager, it can be challenging to always create unique content for each platform. Crossposting and repurposing content from other platforms can be great, too. If you are doing that, it’d be best to craft specific caption for each social media platform as your followers likely follow you for a different reason for each of the platforms.
We are in the process of rolling out our new Multiple Composer which will allow you to write customized captions for each social network. We’re hoping that this feature would encourage you to be (even) more creative with your social media posts and would help you drive more engagement.
10. Be a great Instagram user
This last point might be a little vague but it nicely wraps up many of the points above.
Social media algorithms are built to encourage genuine, positive behaviors on the platforms such as sharing, showing appreciation, quick replies, and more. Often, they would also try to discourage abuse or hacks.
My gut feeling here is that being a great Instagram user will help you grow your organic reach over time. That includes:
What’s your Instagram strategy?
The main objective of Instagram (and most social media platforms) is to make users happy and let them enjoy the experience. As brands on Instagram (and social media), I think we can do a lot to create great experiences for our followers — which will, in turn, benefit ourselves.
I’d love to learn from you, too! What’s your strategy on Instagram? Is anything in particular that is working well for you on Instagram? Thanks.
Image credit: Unsplash
via Blogger Optimal Timing, Videos, and More: 10 Easy Ways to Boost Your Instagram Reach
In 2011, Coca-Cola launched its Share-a-Coke campaign. It allows people to customize Coke cans and bottles with names, nicknames, and personalized messages. The Share-a-Coke campaign remains a brilliant example of a highly successful user generated content (UGC) campaign.
Content marketers are increasingly incorporating UGC campaigns as part of their content marketing strategy due to the benefits UGC provides. These include:
This post provides a brief overview of what user generated content is, and explores some of its primary advantages and challenges. It considers crucial points to keep in mind when designing a UGC campaign. Additionally, it looks at some campaigns that have been particularly successful in generating unique, traffic-driving content.
What is User Generated Content?
User generated content is essentially any content created by unpaid contributors. It can include anything from pictures, videos, and blog posts to testimonials and discussion boards. User generated content is typically created or uploaded online, where it is easily shared.
Source: Brian Solis and JESS3, Wikimedia Commons
The annual Lay’s “Do Us A Flavor” competition asks users to submit their idea for the next potato chip flavor. (If you are familiar with it, please don’t pretend you haven’t spent at least five minutes brainstorming this…)
Or recall Hootsuite’s #IWorkFromHere campaign where followers upload photos of unique places they work from.
These are only two examples of user generated content campaigns. Both have enjoyed huge results.
Why is User Generated Content Effective?
One of the unique elements of UGC is that it taps into consumer trust and relationship building. Yes, that’s right—the days of trust falls with prospective and existing customers are over!
Authenticity and Credibility
So, does this mean that a lo-fi, flip-phone photo uploaded by Frank Meyers of Wickliffe, KY will be more convincing than an HD shot coming straight from Toyota’s website?
Well, kind of—yes.
The above scenario may be an exaggeration. (Although, who’s to say, Frank Meyers might have an exceptional eye for auto photography.) But research consistently shows consumers are more likely to trust a peer review or word-of-mouth account over content created by a brand or organization.
As consumers, we’re jaded about traditional marketing content and messaging. We like hearing what people like ourselves have to say.
Real accounts, and real experiences = more authenticity, and more credibility.
Think about it this way. An organization gives up an element of control when handing over the reigns to consumers to provide content. But consumers’ voices are perceived as more objective--there’s no foolproof predictability in terms of what the consumer will say or create.
Keep this in mind as we’ll make our way back to this point. But first, let’s expand on some of the advantages of UGC.
Key Advantages of User Generated Content
According to Curata research, content marketers consistently cite insufficient resources as their greatest content marketing challenge. UGC can save your organization time and financial resources by outsourcing content creation to users.
Good news: UGC falls within the content curation family. Content curation involves sourcing, annotating, and sharing the best and most relevant third-party content with your audience.
If you’re not already familiar with some of the benefits of content curation, here’s a few to get you up to speed:
If you want to learn more about content curation, or want to devise a content curation strategy, download Curata’s Ultimate Guide to Content Curation eBook.
Social Media Reach and Growth
Social media platforms work great for UGC campaigns, given both are typically based on dialogue. So executing a UGC campaign on social channels such as Facebook and Twitter is an excellent strategy to strengthen brand/customer relationships.
It’s crucial for an organization to respond to user content. This facilitates more meaningful interaction and encourages other users to submit content.
These interactions are mutually beneficial for both organization and customer. Sprout Social reports that, “75 percent of people are likely to share a good experience on their own profile.”
Additionally, designing a social media-based UGC campaign increases social traffic, which results in:
UGC campaigns can boost SEO value. According to Kissmetrics, “25 percent of search results for the World’s Top 20 largest brands are links to user generated content.” Positive customer reviews can raise your SEO ranking. And analyzing the most frequently used words and phrases your audience uses can improve your keyword optimization research.
This advantage of UGC is often overlooked. You can gain key insights by analyzing the content your audience shares. This helps you better understand your audience and what they find engaging. And when applying the principles of a data-driven content marketing strategy, these insights help generate leads and increase sales.
The first step is to conduct an audit of the content your audience generates. If it’s reviews, notice what customers are complaining about—and improve on it. Is there a discernible theme in the photos Twitter followers are uploading? Do they align with how your organization or brand wants to be perceived? User generated content is a gold mine filled with nuggets of content data.
Your audience will produce (often markedly) different content from your marketing team. This is a significant advantage. It offers audience members a fresh perspective and a varying point of view. It keeps content interesting and encourages users to stay engaged.
Personalization can be another key advantage of UGC. Michael Brenner of Marketing Insider Group argues that the only way to get your target audience to notice and engage with content is to understand what resonates with them. Then you can align a UGC campaign strategy accordingly.
Personalization shouldn’t be limited to what your content is about. Consider the nuances of different channels and formats of a UGC campaign to ensure your audience is motivated to contribute. For example, an Instagram photo competition might not work as well for a B2B SaaS company as say, hosting a Twitter chat.
Source: Dell IdeaStorm
IdeaStorm allows users to submit suggestions on how to improve existing Dell products, as well as ideas for new ones. Within its first five years, Dell received nearly 15,000 suggestions, and applied 500 of them in the form of various refinements.
IdeaStorm offers Dell’s audience a platform for providing feedback on each other’s ideas. Users can submit votes, comments, and participate in what’s called “Storm sessions.” Crucially, the company shows its audience that it’s listening by including a tally of how many ideas have been implemented. The ideas clearly aren’t just floating into the dark abyss of an automated system.
Challenges of UGC
Be conscious of these challenges when designing a UGC campaign.
Allowing users to submit original content almost inevitably brings an undesirable side effect: unsavory content. It is crucial to carefully monitor content and comment sections, and to deal with inappropriate content in a timely manner.
However, note that allowing and encouraging healthy discussion and debate makes for valuable, interesting content. Organizations can ensure that discussions remain productive by steering and moderating conversations.
Deleting all negative comments made about your organization will make your brand seem inauthentic. A better approach? Ensure that negative comments are responded to. Take appropriate action to remedy a situation whenever possible.
Ensure that your content marketing team has clearly communicated ownership and usage rights to users to avoid sticky legal situations. Given the relative newness of UGC, navigating copyright laws can take a bit of extra research and work. This can be time consuming, but it’s worth it if your users create awesome content.
Credibility of Sources
Remember that you don’t actually know who the contributor behind the screen is. In the case of forums or advice discussion boards, there’s no guarantee submitted information is factual or well informed. Perhaps this is more of a challenge for users and something they must keep in mind. However, if you’re running a forum plagued with false information and Internet trolling, it could reflect poorly on your brand.
Top UGC Campaign
So, who makes the cut for top UGC campaign? There are thousands to choose from. But OfficeMax’s “Elf Yourself” campaign has made it onto countless “Top UGC Campaign” lists.
The campaign has been running since 2006. Users submit photos of themselves and their friends. They’re then superimposed onto a virtual dancing elf and shared as a holiday eCard.
It’s hard to ignore the fact that an office supply company managed to engage up to half a billion people as of 2011 (and by “engage” I mean convert them into elves).
Start a User Generated Content Strategy
Think of “Elf Yourself” as a textbook example of the point of difference and creative advantage a UGC campaign can bring to a content strategy.
Discover what makes your audience excited to create content and engage with your company. It’ll help you develop an online community that strengthens the customer/brand relationship.
When planning a user generated content campaign, check out Curata’s Content Marketing Pyramid: A Framework to Develop & Execute Your Content Marketing Strategy eBook. It will allow you to seamlessly align it with your overall content marketing strategy.
The post User Generated Content – Great for Content Marketing appeared first on Curata Blog.
via Blogger User Generated Content – Great for Content Marketing
Have you ever learned how to do something with the help of an internet search?
The answer is most likely a resounding “yes.” Most recently, I taught myself how to fold a fitted sheet with a helpful video from homemaker extraordinaire and friend of Snoop Dogg Martha Stewart.
Videos are an especially compelling way to learn how to do something online because, well, the video shows you exactly how to do it. I’m not alone here, either -- 4X as many customers would prefer to watch a video about a product, rather than read about it. So if you’re among the many marketers producing more video content this year, there could be a lot of value in making videos specifically for those in your audience who are trying to learn how to do something, too.
In this post, we’ll explore just how popular these searches are on YouTube and what you can learn from eight how-to videos about how to make great teaching videos of your own.
How-To Video Searches Are Popular
How-to searches are incredibly popular. Think about just in your own life for a moment, and reconsider my question at the beginning of this blog post.
As it turns out, 91% of smartphone users consult their various devices seeking help completing a task. But these searches aren’t all happening on Google. People are searching for videos to learn how to do things on YouTube.
According to Think With Google, how-to searches are increasing 70% year-over-year on YouTube, and more than 100 million hours of how-to videos were watched in North America alone in recent years.
8 How-To Videos on YouTube to Learn From
1) How to Fold a Fitted Sheet
You may recognize the title of this how-to video -- it's the one I mentioned earlier in this very blog post. Are you always gets stymied when putting away fitted sheets on laundry day like me?
What I love about this video is how it showcases personality. It's a simple how-to video of humans demonstrating how to do something, without any animations or high tech features, but it's still extremely effective at teaching the viewer. Stewart and her guests make jokes about how hard it is to fold the sheet -- Stewart even joking that her inability to do so led to her divorce -- and they show the viewer how easy it is to get tripped up in the process. Stewart and her guests also have empathy for the viewer and show exactly how to avoid pitfalls along the way.
Takeaway for marketers: If you want to create a how-to video "hosted" by a real, live human, make sure they act like a human. Videos are an easy way for brands to showcase personality, so put yourself in the shoes of your viewer, and infuse humor, sincerity, and empathy into your instructions. If the concept you're explaining is complicated, tell the viewer that. If you had no idea how to use your product at first, share that. Speaking like a human -- instead of reading off a script like a robot -- will make your video memorable, effective, and enjoyable, too.
2) How to Cook Perfect Pasta
Tasty on BuzzFeed shares cooking and recipe videos that frequently go viral on YouTube and other social media and reach millions of people every month. But this video isn't one of Tasty's trademark recipe videos -- it's one of several how-to videos that break down common or difficult cooking skills step-by-step.
In this video, Tasty uses hyperlapse to speed up the cooking demonstration and get the viewer the information they need as quickly as possible. This fast-paced filming style is eye-catching if it starts auto-playing in a social media feed, too. Tasty chose a smart how-to search term, too -- there's a ton of search volume around the phrase "how to cook pasta."
Takeaway for marketers: Viewers prefer YouTube videos on the shorter side, so sped-up hyperlapse filming helps conserve time and creates a neat visual effect. Work backward and conduct keyword research to learn what terms your audience is searching for to find a topic to make your video about.
3) How to Escape Quicksand
Evidently, Princess Buttercup's tragic fall into quicksand in The Princess Bride wouldn't have been quite as terrifying in real life.
In this how-to video, Tech Insider uses captions and animations to break down a complicated concept. I wasn't exactly searching for information on how to escape quicksand when I found this video, but the unique subject matter made me instantly click, intrigued. What's more, the sound isn't required -- although it does add dramatic effect -- which might make people more likely to click and watch all the way through, since many social media videos are watched on mute.
Takeaway for marketers: Your how-to videos don't necessarily need to be about a dry topic related to your industry. If you create a fascinating piece of content that goes viral, you'll generate interest in your brand that way. Animations and captions help to show -- rather than explain -- trickier concepts like quicksand, so consider these visual elements for high-level explanations. And if there's a way to make your videos volume-agnostic, do so. Some videos will require narration or other sounds, but the visual elements mentioned previously could do the talking for you.
4) How to Blow Out Curly Hair
Anyone who's ever gotten a blowout knows that it can be expensive and time-consuming to have it professionally done.
So Bustle cleverly made a how-to video that teaches viewers how to DIY and save money -- a motivating factor behind many how-to online searches, I suspect. This video is also short, which MiniMatters suggests for enticing viewers to watch videos all the way through. YouTube counts a view as once a video has been watched for approximately 30 seconds, so viewers with short attention spans might be more likely to stick around for that long if they see a video is shorter, like this one.
Takeaway for marketers: Almost everybody wants to save money where they can, so think about ways your how-to video could help viewers do that when brainstorming topics. When filming, try to keep videos as short as possible to attract viewers and keep them watching all the way through to steadily increase your number of YouTube views.
5) How to Add a Friend to a Group
In this short and sweet how-to demonstration video, Facebook infuses humor to provide context for the topic it unpacks. It gives the viewer a chuckle, and research shows that content that elicits strong positive feelings makes the material more memorable and sticky.
Takeaway for marketers: Don't be afraid to be humorous and silly in your videos -- even if it's a little dorky, like in this example. It helps place the lesson your video teaches in context for your viewer and shows off the more personable side of your brand.
6) How to Asana: Planning with Asana calendar
Asana cleverly brands its how-to video series as "How to Asana," and all of the videos in the series feature a consistent theme. All of the videos in this series are under two minutes in length, are hosted by the same person, and feature an eye-popping yellow background. The meat of the video consists of a screencast of someone using the Asana calendar tool, but these branding details bring life to what would otherwise be a rather boring video.
Takeaway for marketers: If you're thinking about creating a how-to video series, take the extra time to make it memorable and recognizable. These efforts will make videos look more professional and will make viewers want to keep tuning in for more helpful videos if they know they can expect more.
7) How to Create an Animated GIF in Photoshop
Who else here loves GIFs? That's right -- everyone loves GIFs.
But before I watched the video above, I had no idea how easy it was to make my own. That's the ideal reaction to a how-to video, by the way -- "that was so easy."
Adobe's how-to video is a great example of a software demonstration video because it zooms in on only the necessary information. Instead of confusing the viewer by showing the entire Photoshop interface, the video features magnified animations of only the buttons and tools they need to accomplish the task at hand.
Takeaway for marketers: If you're making a technology demonstration how-to video, consider how it will appear to any first-time product users watching. Try to minimize any confusion by only filming elements of the technology needed for your video so viewers can follow along on their devices.
8) How to Increase Your Facebook Reach and Outsmart the Algorithm
You might be hesitant to create videos to explain a complicated subject matter, but that could actually be the most effective medium to help your audience understand something.
In this video, my colleague Megan Conley breaks down the many nuances of Facebook's News Feed algorithm in a clear and concise manner. Then, graphics, animations, and screencasts supplement what she talks about with data visualizations to make the stats and figures more memorable for the viewer. Finally, the video ends with helpful next steps viewers can take to solve the problem outlined in the video. The video isn't about how to use HubSpot software at all -- it's only in the business of helping people get better results.
Takeaway for marketers: The most compelling how-to video might be one that doesn't mention your product at all. Think about what questions your audience might be asking and establish your brand as a thought leader with helpful videos that don't end with a sales pitch.
How to Make How-To Videos
Now that you have inspiration from real-life B2B and B2C brand videos, start thinking about how you could create helpful content for your audience.
Create buyer personas and use these to inform your strategy. What types of questions does your audience ask about your product? What questions do they ask about your industry? What problems does your product solve that you could demonstrate in a video? Use tools like Google Trends and HubSpot’s Keywords tool to learn more about the types of searches your audience is conducting and what content you could create to answer those questions.
What’s the best how-to video you’ve ever seen? Share with us in the comments below.
via Blogger 8 How-To Videos We Love (and Why)
Here on the HubSpot Marketing Blog, I haven’t exactly made it a secret that I went to business school. It was an experience that provided two years’ worth of fodder, lessons learned, and other actionables that I like to share here.
But there’s one question I have yet to answer, at least in this venue, about the time spent earning my MBA: Was it worth it?
It's a question I considered even before I began applying to different business schools, and one in which I'm certainly not alone. When I asked my colleagues if any of them had experienced the great “Should I get my MBA?” debate, there was a clamor of responses. Many of us -- all marketing professionals -- had experienced the same decision-making process, which made us realize how many other marketers out there must be going through the same thing.
While the topic seems to be eternally up for debate, we agree that there are instances when people should, in fact, go for an MBA -- but it’s important to have a clear idea of what those circumstances are, and if they really apply to you. And if they don’t, fear not: There are alternatives. We’ve outlined the factors that do make an MBA worth the investment -- and the other things you can do until that day arrives.
When an MBA Is Worth the Money
1) When you know exactly what you want out of it.
Before I began studying for the GMAT -- the required admission exam for most MBA programs -- I spent about five years deciding whether or not to apply to business school. I had a lot of questions, many of which were shared by my colleague, Mimi An, when she was faced with the same decision. For her, she told me:
According to Investopedia, the average cost of an MBA is $140,000 -- and $260,000 if you’re not working or earning any income while you’re in school. Think of it this way: Would you spend that much on a luxury car or new condo if you weren’t sure why you were buying it? That’s a big chunk of change to spend on something that you aren’t certain is going to benefit you in some way.
Of course, for many people, the answer to those questions is overwhelmingly “yes” -- in fact, they were for me. At the time, I wasn’t progressing in my career and I wanted to move, which are two fundamental reasons why I ultimately made the decision to go to business school. But not everyone will have the same responses to those important questions, nor do they come easily to anyone -- so be sure to put sufficient time into them.
2) When your work isn’t teaching you what you need to grow.
There’s an important point that An made in her quote above -- how much room for growth you have in your current career trajectory, whether that means you’re able to progress in your current job, or do it elsewhere.
If you’re not getting the right learning opportunities in your current workplace, but you’re also short on some of the skills to progress in another role or company, it might be time to think about getting an advanced degree. It’s what Jim O'Neill, HubSpot’s chief information officer, realized early in his career here, when he was also considering leaving to pursue an MBA.
“I couldn't get it out of my head that I'd be giving up more by leaving the company at that stage than I'd ever be able to learn in business school,” he said. “And while I still might want a graduate degree someday, I was lucky to stay, learn, and grow over the following six years.”
But again -- everyone’s experience is different. When O’Neill was contemplating this decision, HubSpot happened to be scaling up, which forced him to learn a lot of crucial business lessons as a byproduct of being in the throes of a company’s earliest stages. Not everyone will be in that same position, and some people will have to seek the lessons O'Neill learned elsewhere.
Depending on the program you choose, an MBA could be the best place to gain this knowledge. So when you’re making this decision, carefully evaluate where you are in your career, and how much you can learn on your current trajectory without an advanced degree.
3) When you actually have the time to dedicate to it.
During my first semester of business school, I was working full-time while also completing my coursework. Granted, most of my classes were at night, which on the surface seems like a convenient arrangement. But as any student will tell you, your academic work extends far beyond the hours you spend in the classroom. There are exams to study for, papers to write, and group projects to complete.
In other words, if you add that to your current professional workload -- your nights and weekends are pretty much toast. At least, that was my experience.
That may seem like a sacrifice you’re willing to make, but think about it, in the context of the previous points. Even if you’re certain of your reasons for pursuing an MBA, do you really have the time to dedicate to it? Will you also be able to sufficiently take care of yourself, and spend enough time with loved ones to maintain a measurable level of mental health?
It’s easy to think that the answers to those questions are “yes” -- in fact, I told myself that I would have plenty of time to work out between classes or before work in the morning, and to cook healthy meals ahead of time on the weekends. And while that was sometimes true, it required extremely strict time management, and left precious little time to actually relax.
My colleague, Karla Cook -- who’s working full-time while pursuing her master’s degree -- agrees. “I tell people the only reason they should work full-time while pursuing a graduate degree is if they get offered an opportunity that falls in the ‘dream job’ category,” she explains. “If that's not the case, then it's probably not worth completely killing yourself over, because you will have no free time.”
But the good news is, it’s temporary. Business school doesn’t last forever -- though it might seem like that while you’re going through it. But before you seriously consider going through this kind of program, have a clear idea of what’s going to make it “worth it” to you. Having that goal in mind gives you something tangible to keep you motivated during these stressful periods.
4) ... And when you have the money saved.
They say that “time is money” -- and just as you must be sure you’re willing to sacrifice the former, you also have to make certain that you have the latter. Remember those aforementioned dollar figures we cited about the true cost of an MBA? File this point under deciding what will make the degree “worth it,” with “it” being the hundreds of thousands of dollars that your degree will likely cost.
When you’re deciding whether or not to go to business school, ask yourself if you can afford to take on student loan debt. If you’ve just bought a house, paid for a wedding, expanded your family, or bought a car -- the answer might be “no,” unless you happen to have a lot of liquid funds at your disposal.
That said, loans aren’t the only answer. You should also see what other resources might be available to you, like scholarships or fellowships, some of which might even be available through the school you end up attending.
When you begin selecting which programs you’ll apply to, explore their respective policies on merit-based financial aid -- that’s the kind that you don’t usually have to repay. There are several guides to external merit scholarships available to MBA students, as well, like this one from GoGrad.org.
5) When the program’s career resources will actually help you.
At risk of sounding like a broken record, this point also speaks to the idea of what will make an MBA program “worth it.” Again, everyone’s priorities are different, but if you’re going to business school with the hope of advancing your career with a new employer, make sure the school you choose has the right resources to support your job search.
This factor is one that institutions know prospective students take seriously. In the Graduate Management Admission Council’s Alumni Perspectives Survey Report 2017, 91% of respondents indicated that they found their MBAs to be “professionally rewarding,” and many schools feel a lot of pressure to uphold that significant figure for their own students. For that reason, many graduate students have found advertised career services to sometimes be a bit embellished. Cook echoes that sentiment, and says she's come across many graduate programs that lack “any useful career benefits," despite what they claim.
In my own MBA experience, those services weren’t exactly embellished, but they were removed from the university’s budget after I had committed to the program. That wasn’t entirely negative -- experiences like those can teach some students crucial lessons on networking and other valuable job search skills. Evaluate the resources available to you through a very fine lens, and consider how much of a priority they are in selecting a business school.
6) When your employer will cover your tuition.
This one seems a bit obvious, but it requires some reading between the lines, so to speak. If your employer will reimburse your MBA tuition, it might seem like a proverbial no-brainer to take advantage of that benefit. But understand what will be required if you do.
First, understand that you’ll most likely have to pay taxes on any amount of reimbursement you receive over $5,250. Also, some employers require you to stay with the company for a certain amount of time upon completion of your degree as a condition of receiving this benefit. Once again -- ask yourself what your reasons are for pursuing an MBA. If they include progressing your career in a new work environment, taking a route that requires you to stay with the same employer for at least two years after you graduate might not be the most optimal one.
You might notice that many of these considerations work in tandem. For example, the point above about tuition reimbursement from your employer could be countered by having enough money saved to invest in the degree yourself, or being in a position to use student loans. That’s why we encourage you to spend ample time thinking about all of these factors -- getting an MBA isn’t a minor decision.
When an MBA Is Not Worth the Money
1) When you should get a different degree.
Maybe -- just maybe -- you’ve decided against getting an MBA because it’s simply not the right degree for your career trajectory, or for what you’re hoping to do. If you’re looking to specialize in corporate communications, for example, it might be worthwhile to look into graduate programs that specialize in it, and have the catered career resources to support it.
That idea re-emphasizes the importance of knowing exactly what you’re hoping to gain from an MBA. When you outline your goals, compare them to the standard coursework required of an MBA, and see if they align. If not, it might be time to look into a different academic concentration.
2) When you can work for an emerging or early-stage business.
Remember O’Neill’s great story of how much he learned from sticking with a company that was scaling up -- in lieu of pursuing an MBA? As we mentioned earlier, working with a company in its earliest stages often forces its employees, whether they like it or not, to learn a ton of business fundamentals.
In a valuable MBA program, you should learn such fundamentals as managing budgets, personnel, projects, and -- when the company really begins to take off -- scaling it to keep up with that growth. Sounds a lot like the type of thing that managers have to learn with a new, emerging business, doesn’t it? If that’s the type of work and knowledge you crave, it could be time to look for job opportunities with a company in these early stages.
3) When you can use individual courses to gain the skills you're missing.
When I was in business school, I was fortunate enough to have some truly great professors. But I also learned something else -- without naming names, I realized that while many academic instructors are experts in their respective fields, that doesn’t mean they excel when it comes to teaching.
That meant, for certain subjects, I sometimes had to seek outside resources to supplement classroom teachings -- most notably, Khan Academy, an online provider of free classes and courses. I found out about it through a classmate in a particularly difficult class, and once I started using it for that particular topic, I saw how much knowledge the site has to offer.
And while I wasn’t about to abandon my MBA to self-teach via this resource alone, it did make me realize that, for individual areas and skills, sites like these can be a tremendous help to those who aren’t ready to pursue a full degree, but want to improve their professional credentials. And Khan Academy -- despite offering a plethora of courses on subjects ranging from economics to art history -- is hardly the only resource of this kind. Our favorites include Coursera, edX, HubSpot Academy, Lynda, and Udemy. Even better, some of these sites, like Coursera, actually offer classes taught by faculty of some top-tier schools, including Stanford.
To B-School, or Not to B-School
Deciding whether or not to pursue your MBA is a pretty big decision -- it can be a significant investment of both time and money. But, for many, it’s worth it. And now, you have a checklist to help make that decision just a little bit easier.
And as for me -- the verdict is in. My MBA was worth it. In the thick of my coursework, I did sometimes question, “Why am I doing this?” Plus, I agree that there are many times when the investment just isn’t necessary. But in the end, I remain very happy with my decision to go to business school. I got to experience living in a new city, gain new skills, and figure out what I don’t want to do, which, to me, is a milestone in one’s career progression.
All in all, I think of it as a very productive use of my time -- and I want it to be for you, too. You’ll make the right decision. But please, don’t make it in a hurry.
What are your thoughts on pursuing an MBA? Let us know in the comments.
via Blogger Is an MBA Worth the Money?
Managing social media for a small business is a unique and sometimes overwhelming challenge for so many entrepreneurs and marketers.
On one hand, you have a business to run. On the other, you want that business to grow and flourish.
And although you know that social media has the power to be an important part of your overall marketing strategy, there’s tons of completely valid reasons why it never quite happens. Time, resources, energy, knowledge… the list goes on!
Marie Forleo has been helping small businesses with their online marketing strategies with incredilbe success for more than 15 years. We had the pleasure of chatting with her in episode #41 of The Science of Social Media.
Marie shares specific ways that you can use social media to build an audience, connect with your customers, and eventually, grow your business. Whether you’re just starting out on social media or you’ve been using social media for years, you’ll learn the best-practices that thousands of businesses have used to succeed online.
A huge thank you to Marie for packing this episode full of inspiration and actionable takeaways for entrepreneurs and marketers looking for solid social media strategies to grow their small business.
This episode is available on:
In this episode, here’s what you’ll learn:
Marie Forleo shares her expert insights into the strategies and tactics that she uses to help business achieve real growth online. You’ll also learn tons of other great things like:
Actionable Advice for Small Businesses to Looking to Rock Your Social Media Strategy
In Marie’s words…
1. Less is more. Quality over quantity.
Allow yourself the freedom to focus on one or two platforms and do it from a place of joyful creation – have fun with social media!
2. Is this a brand social media strategy or campaign
What you can do is think about if your real goal is more brand social or a single campaign. For example, how many times are you going to post to social media each week? Is this really good for your small business? Will it help you reach your goals? Or, do you need to create a social media campaign for a specific end purpose?
3. Continuously set boundaries and bumpers
Try and set boundaries and bumpers for yourself when it comes to how often you engage on social media. When it comes to social on your phone, if you don’t want to be addicted (and you’d like to help yourself be productive) try not to put social media icons on your homescreen. Make yourself swipe at least 3-5 screens to get to your apps, which will help you stop the addictive habit.
A Great Moment
Awesome People and Stuff Mentioned in the Show
How to Say Hello to Marie (and us)
Marie is always sharing incredible marketing and social media tips for small businesses across all of her platforms. If you’d like to follow along and learn from the best, you can find Marie on Twitter here, YouTube here, or on her own website at marieforleo.com.
Thanks for listening! We’d love to connect with you at @buffer on Twitter or with the hashtag #bufferpodcast.
Enjoy the show? It’d mean the world to us if you’d be up for giving us a rating and review on iTunes!
About the Show
The Science of Social Media is a podcast for marketers and social media managers looking for inspiration, ideas, and results for their social media strategies. Each week, we interview one of the very best in social media marketing from brands in every industry. You will learn the latest tactics on social media, the best tools to use, the smartest workflows, and the best goal-setting advice. It is our hope that each episode you’ll find one or two gems to use with your social media marketing!
via Blogger Social Media for Small Businesses: Less Is More – Marie Forleo [SSM041]