It seems like a great portion of the social media research we do at Buffer often comes back to a few big questions for social media sharing.

How do I get more followers?

What should I share?

When should I share it? 

And how often should I be sharing?

Social media frequency is one that we’ve enjoyed experimenting with a lot at Buffer. How many times per day should we posting? Is it different for individuals versus companies? I personally share to Twitter four times per day, and we share to Buffer’s Twitter account 14 times per day. Do these frequencies make sense?

Fortunately, we’re able to check in with a bunch of great research on frequency to get a baseline for what might be best practice for a social media schedule.

We’re incredibly grateful for our friends at SumAll for placing all this awesome research into a beautiful infographic that makes the question of “how often to post” a breeze to answer.

Infographic: How Often Should You Post on Social Media?

Click to enlarge. And check out the instructions at the bottom if you’d like to embed this graphic on your website.

infographic how often to post twitter facebook social media

Share this image on your site!

The SumAll blog posted an accompanying blog post with the data and infographic seen here for social media frequency. Head on over to the blog post to read their take (and to check out their other great content).

SumAll is one of our favorite social media tools. They do social media tracking better than anyone we’ve found—all your data, all in one place, for free. It’s been awesome to collaborate with them on this project as well as others.

Best practices for when to post on social media

To recap what you see in the infographic here at Buffer and over at SumAll, I’ve placed each of the best practices for social media posting frequency below.

Twitter – 3 times per day, or more

Engagement decreases slightly after the third tweet.

Facebook – 2 times per day, at most

2x per day is the level before likes & comments begin to drop off dramatically.

LinkedIn – 1 time per day

20 posts per month (1x per weekday) allows you to reach 60 percent of your audience

Google+ – 2 times per day, at most

The more often you post, the more activity you’ll get. Users have found a positive correlation between frequency and engagement. When posting frequency wanes, some have experienced drops in traffic up to 50%.

Pinterest – 5x per day, or more

The top brands on Pinterest have experienced steady growth – and in some cases rapid or sensational growth! – by adopting a multiple-times-per-day posting strategy.

Instagram – 1.5 times per day, or more

Major brands post an average of 1.5 times per day to Instagram. There’s no drop-off in engagement for posting more, provided you can keep up the rate of posting.

Blog – 2x per week

Companies that increase blogging from 3-5X/month to 6-8X/month almost double their leads.

Key research for how often to post to social media

The above best practices are super clear and simple if you’re interested in getting started with a frequency framework for your social sharing. As with all research-backed best practices, I’d encourage you to use these as a starting point for your own tests to see what’s best. Your individual scenario may call for more or less than what’s recommended.

Also, I know many are interested in where these recommendations come from (we dig this type of stuff, too!). Here’s a bit more about the research and resources that have helped to establish the baselines for how often to share to social media.

Twitter – 3 times per day, or more

“Engagement decreases slightly after the third tweet”

During the summer of 2013, Social Bakers took a random sample of 11,000 tweets from top brands and found that a frequency of three tweets per day was the point where brands saw their highest engagement.

In the chart below, Total ER (total engagement rate, in blue) and Average Tweet ER (average engagement rate per tweet, in purple) meet in the sweet spot right around the third tweet.

A 2012 Track Social study found that the per-tweet engagement peaks at around five tweets per day.

Does three to five tweets per day seem a bit … low?

Perhaps.

Interestingly, in the same Track Social study mentioned above, per-day engagement—the total number of interactions that occur throughout the day, regardless of how many times you post—showed a steady rise all the way to 30 tweets per day. In other words, you could post up to 30 times and still continue to see positive effects on engagement—effects that might not top the maximum per-tweet levels at five tweets per day, but still worth exploring.

Tweet engagement frequency

Facebook – 2 times per day, at most

2x per day is the level before likes & comments begin to drop off dramatically.

A lot has changed for the Facebook News Feed in the past couple years, so it’s worth noting that the best research on Facebook frequency comes from a Track Social study from 2012 and a Social Bakers study from 2011.

These studies conclude that it’s best to post to Facebook 5 to 10 times per week, or 1 to 2 times per weekday.

From the Track Social findings:

When a brand posts twice a day, those posts only receive 57% of the likes and 78% of the comments per post. The drop-off continues as more posts are made in the day.

LinkedIn – 1 time per day

20 posts per month (1x per weekday) allows you to reach 60 percent of your audience

As part of the LinkedIn small business guide, the network shared an interesting stat that relates to how often you should be sharing to LinkedIn. Share 20 times per month to reach 60 percent of your audience.

Twenty times per month divided by four weeks per month equals five times per week. Five times per week fits perfectly with a once-per-weekday posting schedule, ideally suited to reach the audience on LinkedIn, which is full of professionals who figure to spend their most time on LinkedIn during business days.

Google+ – 2 times per day, at most

Stone Temple Consulting’s Mark Traphagen and Socialmouths’ Daniel Sharkov each shared graphs from their own sharing on Google+. Their takeaway:

The more often you post, the more activity you’ll get. Users have found a positive correlation between frequency and engagement. When posting frequency wanes, some have experienced drops in traffic up to 50%.

The 50 percent drop in particular was mentioned by Sharkov. He noticed a large portion of traffic coming from Google+ when he was sharing more to the network; when the sharing stopped, so did the traffic.

google plus traffic frequency

Pinterest – 5x per day, or more

The top brands on Pinterest have experienced steady growth – and in some cases rapid or sensational growth! – by adopting a multiple-times-per-day posting strategy.

In 2013, visual marketing service Piqora interviewed big-time brands like Whole Foods, Lowes, LL Bean, and more to see what they had experienced on Pinterest. The brands shared the correlation they’d noticed between frequency of pinning and traffic growth, with spikes in growth occurring most between “a few pins a week” and “3 to 10 pins per day.”

pinterest frequency

Instagram – 1.5 times per day, or more

Major brands post an average of 1.5 times per day to Instagram. There’s no drop-off in engagement for posting more, provided you can keep up the rate of posting.

Social media analytics site Union Metrics spent time analyzing 55 of the most popular, active Instagram brands to learn the best practices for timing, frequency, and more.

They found that most brands share once or twice per day to Instagram. 

Some shared as much as 10 times per day and did not notice an appreciable loss in per-post engagement. This hints that it may be possible to post more often—waaay more often—to Instagram than it seems, provided the quality of the post is still present.

Blog – 2x per week

Some of the best research into the effect of frequency on blogging comes from a 2012 HubSpot study of over 7,000 businesses. Among the many interesting benchmarks and takeaways from the study, there was this fascinating note:

Companies that increase blogging from 3-5X/month to 6-8X/month almost double their leads.

Six to eight times per month would equate to 1 to 2 times per week.

Summary

How often should you post to social media?

We’re grateful for all the amazing research out there that gives us some answers to the question of frequency. These answers are great opportunities to start discovering what’s  ideal for your unique situation.

Use these guidelines as a jumping off point for your own tests. And feel free to share the results! We’d love to know what works and what doesn’t. :)

Image sources: SumAll, Placeit, Track Social, Social Bakers, SlideShare, Socialmouths, Placeit

The post Infographic: How Often Should You Post on Social Media? All the Latest Facts & Figures appeared first on Social.

Do you have a favorite author or blog whose content is always so amazingly useful that it earns an automatic read every single time something new comes out?

Rand Fishkin is one of those authors for me. And Moz is one of those blogs.

Rand’s slide deck on content marketing is one of our favorite content resources here at Buffer. His article about individual contributors has been hugely impactful for the way I view my role at Buffer. Moz’s blog posts on measuring social media success and sorting blog posts have had an incredible influence on the way we organize our marketing efforts.

What’s the secret to creating consistently awesome content the way that Rand and Moz do? 

Rand was so generous to share with us a bit about his story and his strategies, how culture and values play a huge role in the company he’s built and the content he creates. 

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Rand was incredibly kind to share about his journey with Moz in an interview with us at Buffer. He went into great detail on how the values of Moz came to be and how these impact so many different elements of the company and the content. We’ve pulled out some highlights in the article here, and we’ve included the full audio and transcript from the interview below, if you’re interested. :)

5 unique ways to create remarkable, Rand-like content

Over the course of our interview with Rand, a few key elements began to take shape in how he’s gone about creating content and building Moz.

Here are the five ways that stood out for creating remarkable, Rand-like content.

  1. Practice, practice, practice
  2. Establish your values
  3. Be transparent
  4. Strive to be empathetic
  5. Discover your passions

Here is a bit more detail on Rand’s personal story and on how each of these five elements have played a part along the way.

The value of long-term growth and practice, practice, practice

Becoming one of SEO and social media’s foremost personas did not happen overnight for Rand.

In fact, he began his journey at a time when social media as we know it didn’t exist, and he began in web design and consulting before moving to SEO. Becoming an influential voice for online marketing has been over 20 years in the making.

His first experience with computers and the web came in high school in 1993, and he spent a portion of time in the late 1990s building websites in Microsoft FrontPage. While pursuing a finance degree at the University of Washington, he served as the web expert for his mother’s Seattle-based advertising firm, joining her to work full-time just before finishing his degree.

Through these experiences, Rand steadily built an expertise in search marketing. He dug into online content and SEO forums, learning from others and then posting and sharing from his experiences. Eventually, the content he shared outgrew the places he posted. In 2005, he built a home for his content, reports, data, and tools, and this home eventually became Moz.

Rand Fishkin whiteboard

This long-term growth process—20+ years in websites, strategy, marketing, and search—provided a huge number of opportunities to learn and to practice, and Rand made the most of these chances.

His current content strategy owes a lot to this learning phase.

Kevan:

Could you take us back to when you began sharing on social media? Did you have any vision for what it might become or what you would use it for? How has it had an impact on you at this stage?

Rand:

Well, I think that we were very lucky in a lot of ways when it comes to social media as a business, and I am as well, from a professional standpoint, because social media, even before the popularity of Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, etcetera, SEOs and folks in the web marketing world were very active on nascent social media platforms—places like Digg and Reddit, the forums, the blog comments. We had these kinds of gamified platforms for sharing.

I would say my whole professional career has been lived in social media of one form or another.

Granted from 2001 to 2007, it was pretty different than it is now, but a lot of the fundamentals were the same.

How do you attract people and engage them?

How do you maintain authenticity and transparency while still being useful and relevant and interesting?

How do you stand out in a crowded field?

What kinds of content are people actually going to care about?

We lived and breathed this, and I lived and breathed this long before I had a team. I think that’s made a lot of folks in SEO and web marketing very strong social media marketers as well.

One of the key ways that Rand learned about content early on was through the process of creating content and contributing to forums and blogs. Moz itself began as a blog before transitioning into a SaaS tool.

Kevan:

What got you into SEO originally?

Rand:

It was one of those things where we were like, A) we didn’t the have money to keep paying SEO consultants, and B) we weren’t getting the levels of performance where we could just easily sub-contract the work.

So it was like ‘Rand, go figure it out yourself!’

And I spent a lot of time doing that. I would say it was a good two years, day in-day out, of me trying to link build and cue up research and SEO optimize and figure out all these ranking signals and stuff before I got a sense of it

The SEO Moz blog, the original incarnation of what then became Moz the company, started as a result of that investigation and learning process. So I struggled tremendously to learn, and part of my learning process was to create my own blog and put some of this information out there and help other people, hopefully, not have to struggle to learn the basics the same way I did.

TAGFEE and the beginning of a company culture

As Moz began to find its footing (the blog and company was known as SEOMoz at the time), company culture became a consideration for Rand and his team. At the time, Moz was a company of six or seven. The team got together to come up with a set of values that would be guiding principles for the company, its communication, its strategies, and its voice ever since.

The result of these discussions was TAGFEE, an acronym for the six core values that guide all that Moz creates and cultivates.

  • T – Transparent
  • A – Authentic
  • G – Generous
  • F – Fun
  • E – Empathetic
  • E – Exceptional

TAGFEE - moz

Kevan:

Could you share a bit about TAGFEE and how it came about? Were there certain influences in the past that led you toward creating these values in particular for Moz?

Rand:

TAGFEE actually was a pseudo semi-formal process for us. I had read Jim Collins’ Good to Great and Built to Last, and both of those books identified companies that have strong core values—that stick to those core values and are values-driven—as being the companies that are outstanding and last a long time and do really amazing things.

We went through one of the exercises I think he had on his website, this form you can download and answer questions about things that matter to us and things that don’t matter to us.

We gave that to, strangely enough, my wife, Geraldine. And she basically took the results of those exercises, compiled them, and wrote out TAGFEE. She came up with the acronym. She distilled the things that we had said were important to us—the things that we believed—into these six values: transparency, authenticity, generosity, fun, empathy and the exception.

And that really stuck. I think it resonated with us internally. We shared it out with our community, in our blog, and it resonated with them too. We started using the language in meetings and when we were making product decisions, business decisions of all kinds, and started using it in recruiting and it’s been with us ever since. I think it’s something very unique and powerful.

How TAGFEE influences marketing and social media

Creating a company culture that informs all the decisions you make is bound to have an effect on marketing strategies and social media messaging. Not only do values influence the voice and tone of your content (a huge factor in creating a successful social media strategy), they also impact the types of content you choose to create and the strategies you adopt.

For Rand, the core values in TAGFEE are apparent in the way he’s built his company and in the way he creates content. Take Whiteboard Fridays, for instance. The weekly video series allows Rand to share his thoughts on a marketing topic (transparency, generosity) via a new and entertaining medium (fun, exceptional).

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(Here’s the archive of great Whiteboard Friday content if you’re looking for a place to get started.)

Kevan:

How does your marketing strategy coalesce with TAGFEE? How much do the two go hand in hand for you?

Rand:

Marketing is kind of the window that you can see into the soul of a company.

If you’re curious you could find a lot of TAGFEE things in what happens on the big data team, too, for instance. But, you know, that isn’t something that people usually go digging into. I think the marketing is sort of pushed out and that is up front.

I would also say that there’s some unique aspect of TAGFEE—particularly transparency and empathy—that just lend themselves phenomenally well to social media.

Fun as well, right?

Maybe all of them, right?

Being the exception to the rule means you stand out from the crowd.

Being generous means that people feel an obligation and a sense of reciprocity with you and therefore, you get that give and take.

So there’s just a lot that’s built into our culture and how we do everything that we do, but especially marketing, that works really well in a social media type of environment. I think we’ve benefited, almost unfairly, from the way that our values are. If we were more like a company like Apple and our thing was very strict, founder-driven culture, a very secretive culture, a secretive culture by nature, and intentionally secretive, a very tough driving culture, and performance and results driven, rather than being okay with serendipitous types of unmeasurable, positive outcomes, then I don’t think that that would work very well for the kinds of marketing that succeeds on social media today.

How to create content based on transparency

A common thread throughout Rand’s story, through his experiences in jobs before Moz and through the founding ideals for Moz itself, is transparency.

Rand-and-Geraldine
Rand with his wife Geraldine.

One of Rand’s goals with Moz is to “make the operations of search engines and social networks in marketing platforms on the web more transparent.”

Transparency not only forms the path for the company, it also helps greatly in creating content to share on social media and the blog. Rand’s thoughts on transparency and content involve other elements of TAGFEE, too—generosity, empathy. In one way, transparency seems to grant a sort of permission to share anything and everything that might possibly be helpful to the Moz audience. Transparency allows all topics to be fair game.

Kevan:

How do you think through the content that you create? Where does transparency fit with content?

Rand:

I think there’s a balance, right? There’s some content that is purely, ‘I’m sharing because I can’t resist sharing. I’ve found something I discovered I really want to share it with folks.’ And there’s something that’s more strategic, that’s more a ‘What are the big questions out there? What’s going to be a question that really helps marketers succeed?’

We have a fundamental belief that the more our content helps marketers succeed, the better it will help Moz perform. So we don’t necessarily need to come at content from a ‘Hey, what’s going to help people come check out Moz and use our tools and sign up for a subscription?’

It works much better if we say, ‘Hey, what’s going to help marketers the most with the problems they’re facing on the web?’

And then you know what, the rest will come. And that’s been a very successful strategy for us, which is almost the reverse of what you’d expect, right? You don’t put out there the thing that you think is going to help you succeed, you put out there the thing that is going to help your customer succeed. And then in a weird twist of fate, that helps you the most.

How to create content based on empathy

Empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, has been another value with a strong effect on community-building and content strategy. In many ways, it comes down to seeing things from your audience’s perspective and understanding their problems, workflows, needs, and desires.

One of my favorite examples of how Rand used empathy for content is in his slide deck about “Why Content Marketing Fails.” The lessons he shares come from a place of empathy, explaining how many people view content marketing and what we could all possibly fix to get back on the right track.

Rand:

I think a big part of content strategy and content marketing day-in and day-out is empathy. It’s being able to put yourself in the shoes of other people and say, ‘Okay, I’m a practitioner of this, I’m a customer of that, I have this. I’m going to imagine these 50 SEO folks that I’ve met or I’m going to imagine these 100 people who share on social media that I know and I’ve studied and we’ve hung out together, e-mailed. I’m watching them doing their training.

‘These are the things they need, and here’s how I can help.’

How to create content based on passion

One of the unique elements of Rand’s story that might differ from those of other founders and entrepreneurs is in the way his role has changed at Moz.

Instead of pursuing a C-level title and more management responsibilities, Rand chose a different path. He chose to invest his time in the areas that he’s passionate about, choosing to step down from the CEO role and to become an individual contributor.

In the spirit of transparency, Rand wrote about the transition, sharing in great detail his thought process behind everything.

Here’s a small taste of what went into his thinking about the differences between individual contributor responsibilities and management responsibilities.

ics-vs-pws-large

The change in role has led to opportunities for Rand to get stuck into the aspects of Moz he enjoys most—“getting in a room, solving some problems, doing some white boarding.” The company benefits from Rand’s wholeness. Rand’s content grows from a place of passion and interest.

Kevan:

How has the individual contributor role evolved for you? What spurred that decision? How has it been for you since you made that change?

Rand:

I saw this problem come up, not just at Moz, but company after company. Certainly we felt the pain too of people thinking that management is the only way up in their career, that if you don’t become a manager, if you don’t have people reporting to you, then you don’t have the opportunity to grow and learn and succeed and get a better title and get a raise and all this kind of stuff. And that’s such a terrible, broken model.

Not everyone is built for management, not everyone loves management, not everyone is inspired by managing other people, but also, companies need way more individual contributors, operating at a high level, than they need managers operating at a high level. You need one manager or executive or director or officer or whatever for every what, 10 to 50 people?

You need individual contributors. That’s what makes a company go round.

Moz felt that pain a lot where we’d have individual contributors complain that they wanted to grow their careers, that there wasn’t an opportunity. So we created these two different paths:
One is the management track and the other is the individual contributor track.

People management, especially in a bigger company, was not my passion or interest, so I stepped into this individual contributor role. I think it’s gone well. It has its frustrations, for sure, but I am much more comfortable with, and I much more enjoy the work of getting to do individual contributor work versus management work.

With individual contributors, it’s like ‘Hey you’re giving great product ideas, and you’re building a little system to test something and you’re writing blog posts and doing social media, you’re going out and speaking.’ And that’s much more meaningful to me than the management track.

The interview

Rand was so kind to share his time with us for this interview and to allow us to pass along the audio from the chat (there’s another TAGFEE element, generosity!). Check out the audio recording below for the full 30-minute conversation.

And if you’re interested in a full transcript of our chat with Rand, you can download the text here. Thanks to Rev for the transcription.

Get to know Rand even better

In researching this article, I came across a number of amazing, generous interviews and AMAs he’s given over the past several years. If you’re interested in getting to know any aspect of his story better, I think these might be some awesome places to start:

Summary

Rand has built an incredible, admirable company at Moz, and he’s consistently one of the most influential voices in SEO, social media, and digital marketing.

How has he done it?

Values and experience have been huge driving factors in Rand’s success. And he’s generously helped lay out some of the tips that have helped him achieve great things online.

Practice, practice, practice – Spend the time to learn, experiment, and grow in your position. Success doesn’t happen overnight.

Establish your values – Develop a system of core values and a voice and tone for your communication

Be transparent – Hold nothing back. Share everything you’ve got.

Strive to be empathetic – See things from the perspective of your audience, and deliver content that is helpful

Discover your passions – Find what it is that you love to do, and make a point to invest in these pursuits

What takeaways did you have from Rand’s interview? Which elements of TAGFEE might work for you and your social media sharing? I’d love to hear from you in the comments about anything you learned here!

Note: Rand will be visiting the comments to answer followup questions you may have about content, social media, or his story!

Image sources: Moz, Who and Whom, BizJournals, EverywhereistPatricia S

The post How to Build a Company and a Content Strategy Based on Values: Inside Rand Fishkin’s Journey With Moz appeared first on Social.

“How cool would it be to have 1 million Facebook fans?”

This is how I tend to go about setting social media marketing goals. I pull an aspirational number out of the air and go for it.

Would it be cool to have 1 million Facebook fans? Absolutely!

Is this the right way to set goals?

Coming up with goals for our Facebook page and other social media channels has often been a bit haphazard for me. Imagine having a system of goal-setting to help create rational, achievable goals. This set me out on the research path to look into other popular goal-setting strategies and frameworks that exist and seeing how these might work for social media marketing.

Keep reading below to see five amazing strategies that I found. And feel free to share any thoughts on the way that you’ve gone about setting strategies for your social media marketing.

how to set marketing goals

5 Popular Goal-Setting Strategies for Marketers to Try

What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.

– Henry David Thoreau

I love this quote from Thoreau because it emphasizes the process over the end result.

I often find myself wondering what exactly is the best way to set goals … or if having no goals at all might be a possibility!

One interesting bit of research I came across is that a study found a 33 percent increase in the completion of goals among those who wrote their goals down, created an action plan, and shared with a friend. These people achieved 76 percent of their goals by having a specific goal-setting strategy. 

So with this in mind, I thought it’d be interesting to dive into five of the most popular goal-setting strategies used by marketers and see if any of the ideas here might resonate with you and your social media marketing.

1. S.M.A.R.T.

S – Specific – The more specific you can be with writing down your objective, the easier it will be to clearly see what it is you need to accomplish. Often, answering the five “W” questions—Who, What, Where, Why, and Which—can help you achieve greater specificity.

M – Measurable – Can your goal be measured? How will you know when you’ve achieved your goal?

A – Attainable – Another way of putting this is “realistic.” Is it possible to achieve the goal you’ve set for yourself?

R – Relevant – For businesses, a relevant goal means that it has the potential to impact your business objectives, vision, or values.

T – Time-bound – Give your goal a deadline.

SMART goals are one of the longest-lasting, most popular goal-setting frameworks for business. Peter Drucker, the founder of modern business management, often is credited for coming up with the basis for SMART, and the specific mnemonics can be traced back to mentions as early as 1981.

SMART has been a successful goal-setting framework for a long time because it is easy to understand, to act on, and to follow up with.

For example:

Let’s take Facebook page growth for instance. If you want to set a goal to grow your Facebook page’s likes, here’s what that might look like with the SMART framework.

  • Specific – Who? What? Why? “I would like to grow our Facebook page likes because Facebook is a key social media platform that we can learn about and help others grow along with us.”
  • Measurable – Choose a specific number for the growth
  • Attainable – Make sure the number is realistic
  • Relevant – Does growing your Facebook page support your business’s objectives, vision, or values?
  • Time-bound – What deadline will you set?

Goal:

“I wish to grow the Buffer Facebook page from 35,000 likes to 100,000 likes by May 31, 2015.”

2. Locke and Latham’s 5 Principles of Goal-Setting

1. Clarity – Similar to the specificity from SMART goal-setting, clear goals help immensely with understanding the task at hand, measuring the results, and achieving success.

2. Challenge – The goal should be difficult and challenging enough to prove motivating, but not so challenging that it’s impossible to achieve. Using the Inverted U method is a good way to test for appropriate challenge levels.

3. Commitment – Get your teammates to buy into the goal. Involve them in the goal-setting process.

4. Feedback – Measure your progress and seek advice throughout the pursuit toward the goal.

5. Task complexity – Be careful in adding too much complexity to your goals as complexity can impact morale, productivity, and motivation.

locke latham goal setting

In the late 1960s, Drs. Edwin Locke and Gary Latham performed much of the research that has informed our theories of goal-setting, showing how goals and feedback can be huge motivating factors for business employees.

Through their research, Locke and Latham settled on the five principles of goal-setting mentioned above.

In one of the studies, Locke performed an analysis of 10 years’ worth of lab and field studies on the effects of goal-setting. For instance, he looked at cases of people being told to “do your best” versus “try to beat your best time.”

The specific and challenging goals led to higher performance 90 percent of the time.

Locke and Latham’s research showed that the more difficult and specific a goal is, the harder people tend to work to achieve it.

For example:

Let’s try out our Facebook page example again.

  • Clarity – Set a clear goal for what we want to achieve with Facebook page growth.
  • Challenge – Does the task fall into the sweet spot between low pressure (not challenging enough) and anxiety-inducing (too much pressure)?
  • Commitment – Get buy-in from team members who may be helping with the project.
  • Feedback – Seek advice in creating the goal and in progress throughout. Check the stats periodically to see how you’re doing.
  • Task complexity – What is involved in growing a Facebook page? Limit the complexities by focusing on a set number of specific growth strategies.

Goal:

The Buffer marketing team aims to grow our Facebook page to 100,000 page likes in the next 90 days by trying out strategies with video, optimal timing, and tagging.

3. OKRs

Objectives & Key Results

Objectives – This is what you hope to accomplish. Objectives usually take the form of broad goals that are not measurable (that’s what the Key Results section is for).

Key Results – Based on objectives, the key results are almost always defined with a specific number.

okr example

A concept invented by Intel and used with amazing success by Google, OKRs help set strategies for teams and individuals and allow a way to evaluate these strategies and reflect on performance.

The simplicity of OKRs is particularly attractive: Name the objectives you want to achieve, and come up with a key number to strive for.

Google is probably the most notable proponent of OKRs for goal-setting. They’ve shared a lot about their processes, including this tip about how to come up with the key results.

At Google we are both encouraged and incentivized to go overboard with our goals.

One of the ways this works is that Google aims to reach 70 percent or more of their key results. One hundred percent would be stellar; hitting 70 percent of an overboard goal is still pretty great.

Others have come along with variations of OKRs that include additional detail in the form of Actions or To-dos that help define the path to achieving the Key Results.

OKRs plus to dos

For example:

Let’s go back to the Facebook page example.

  • Objective -What is it that we hope to achieve with Facebook growth?
  • Key result – What specific numbers can we aim for? (And feel free to go overboard!)

Goal:

Objective: Increase the reach of our Facebook posts

Key results:

Grow the Facebook page to 500,000 fans (70 percent would be 350,000 – still awesome!)

Attain 5 percent reach on each of our posts

4. BSQ

Think Big – Define your ultimate goal

Act Small – Identify the milestones that will help you achieve that goal

Move Quick – Come up with a timeline for achieving each milestone

BSQ goal setting

Organizational psychologist David Van Rooy came up with a simple framework for goal-setting, which he touches on in his book Trajectory. The three-part framework aims to distill the existing research and best practices for goal-setting into a simple set of rules.

If you sift through all of the research, goal setting can be boiled down to three main tenets:

1. A goal is better than no goal

2. A specific goal is better than a broad goal

3. A hard and specific goal is better than an easy goal

The result of these takeaways is Van Rooy’s BSQ system, which borrows elements from the others discussed in this list. “Think Big” has similarities to the Objectives in OKRs, for instance.

For example:

Let’s see how this might work with our Facebook goal-setting.

  • Think Big – What would be a major accomplishment for us on Facebook?
  • Act Small – Which steps would we need to take in order to achieve this goal?
  • Move Quick – What timeframe would work to achieve each of these steps?

Goal:

Have 1 million Facebook fans on our Buffer page

Develop new strategy – By end of the week

Grow to 100,000 – By end of May

Grow to 500,00 – By end of 2015

Grow to 1 million – By end of 2016

5. BHAG

Big

Hairy

Audacious

Goal

A bit different from the other goal-setting frameworks on this list, BHAGs (pronounced BEE-hags) tend to be big-picture goals with a visionary aspect. For social media goal-setting, these could be the overall goals you wish to achieve on a social channel or with your social strategy as a whole.

Authors James Collins and Jerry Poras were the first to mention BHAGs in their book Built to Last. From Collins and Poras:

A true BHAG is clear and compelling, serves as a unifying focal point of effort, and acts as a clear catalyst for team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal; people like to shoot for finish lines.

Instead of focusing on what you might achieve in the coming days or months, BHAGs focus on “audacious 10-to-30-year goals” that propel you toward your brand’s vision, according to Collins and Poras.

Examples from real-world companies include:

  • SpaceX: Enable human exploration and settlement of Mars
  • Microsoft: A computer on every desk and in every home
  • Blackpool FC: Reach English Premier League.

Here’s how BHAGs fit into the vison-based framework for Moz:

BHAG vision-based framework

For example:

Let’s try out our Facebook example again.

  • BHAG – What type of audacious thing are we hoping to achieve with Buffer?

Goal:

Set the bar for customer support

(This could possibly then inform our social media strategies about how we approach Facebook growth—reply quickly and happily to Facebook comments, share helpful content, etc.)

6. Growth Hacker goal-setting

  • Form Hypothesis
  • Select KPI (Key Performance Indicator)
  • Set Goal
  • Execute
  • Track Progress (adjust execution as necessary)
  • Socialize/Iterate (let everyone know how it worked)

growth hacker goals

This process shared by Anna Kegler at RJ Metrics involves many of the same stages we’ve touched on before, albeit with an emphasis on the complete process of goal-setting from start to finish.

This approach lacks the structure of the traditional, “goals-are-set-in-stone” approach. Instead, emphasis is placed on the entire process of goal-setting, instead of just the goal itself.

One of the unique elements of growth hacker goal-setting is the involvement from the whole team/audience via sharing your progress. We’ve seen the value of this each time we share transparently about what we’re working on at Buffer.

Growth works best when everyone is aligned around the goal, but 35 percent of marketers don’t share testing or growth wins with their teams. Share everything to align and motivate everyone towards a common goal.

 

For example:

If we were to apply this to our Facebook strategy.

  • Form hypothesis – If [variable], then [result] because [rationale].
  • Select KPI – Which stat will be key to measuring success?
  • Set goal – What feels like an achievable, challenging target?

The goal:

If we focus on video marketing, we will grow the Facebook page to 100,000 likes because we have seen higher engagement and reach on video content for our page.

7. What we’re trying at Buffer: Intriguing metric

We’ve written a bit in the past about how we’re aiming to set social media goals at Buffer. One of the keys for us to identify an intriguing metric that can have a big impact for our marketing.

The process for doing so involves fitting our metrics into one of four buckets (HT to KISSmetrics cofounder Hiten Shah for his advice here!):

  1. High traffic, low conversion
  2. Low traffic, high conversion
  3. High traffic, high conversion
  4. Low traffic, low conversion

The first two buckets are the ones where you find the biggest opportunities for growth. Bucket No. 3 isn’t half bad either. Bucket No. 4 is best to be left alone.

For example:

This type of thinking has been really helpful for how we might identify different social media metrics to pursue. For instance, with our Facebook page growth, we’ve noticed that we have a small number of people who view our Facebook posts (low traffic) but that a high number end up clicking through to our content (high conversion). We could then set up a goal to increase the low traffic by growing our Facebook reach, possibly by seeking more likes for our page.

Summary – Applying goal-setting to social media

One of the unique elements of social media marketing is that the goals and objectives can come in so many different shapes and forms, depending on your brand’s mission. The goals often change, too, as you grow your influence online.

Carter Hostelley, writing for CMS Wire, has a great way of breaking down social media goals into the following four categories:

  1. Activity-based goals
  2. Audience-building goals
  3. Engagement goals
  4. ROI goals

What might these look like on the different social networks? At Unbounce, Danielle Prager listed a number of measurable social media goals that you might consider setting for various channels. Here are her ideas for Twitter and Facebook.

  • Twitter – Follower growth, tweet frequency, overall engagement, engagement rate, mentions
  • Facebook – Page like growth, reach, engagement

How do you go about setting goals on social media? Do you use any frameworks to come up with your goals? Which stats do you focus on? I’d love to learn from you in the comments!

Image sources: IconFinder, Blurgrounds, Mind Tools, Startup OKRs template, Moz, Unsplash, RJ Metrics

The post 5 Popular Goal-Setting Strategies That Will Help You Achieve Great Things on Social Media appeared first on Social.

In February of 1999, Mari Smith needed a sign from the universe. It showed up in the form of … cake.

The Scottish-Canadian had arrived in San Diego on a borrowed round-trip plane ticket (“That’s how broke I was!”) with 50 British pounds in her pocket and a feeling that she was supposed to start her nascent seminar business in the U.S. instead of Scotland, her former home.

But she was running out of time. She could only come into the country for 30 days without all her immigration paperwork done, and her deadline was looming.

“I absolutely knew I wasn’t going to go back,” she recalls. “I remember saying to the universe: ‘It’s been 4 weeks. I know I’m supposed to stay here. Just give me a sign.’”

Two hours later, a local bakery whose door Mari had knocked on (her father was a baker, from whom she had picked up a few tips as well as attending confectionery classes for a few years) called to see if she could come in and decorate cakes before the Valentine’s Day rush.

To this day, “I’m a sucker for cake,” she says.

It was just the sign the driven entrepreneur and gifted natural networker was looking for—and just the unlikely break she needed to become the future marketing guru we know today.
Mari Smith

A portrait of Mari Smith

This story is just one of the many pivotal moments the social media marketing expert recalled recently, when I had the privilege of sitting down with her (with an occasional cameo by Baby, the 10-year-old Bengal kitty that Mari calls her “cat engagement officer”).

Our Skype session covered her passions, what keeps her up at night and her social media philosophy.

Read on to learn more about the Facebook queen—and how she became social media royalty.

You are known as the Queen of Facebook. Did you choose Facebook, or did it choose you?

It was a mutual choosing. Facebook kind of landed in my lap at a time that was perfect for how I was evolving my business and my talents. It was really a beautiful unfolding, a beautiful merging of two primary themes throughout my whole career: my love of people, my love of technology.

In the early 2000s I was working successfully as a business consultant. In 2007 I got an invitation to be on a beta test team of an app called Podclass, a site where you can take and teach classes.

To be honest, I was a little reluctant at first. When Facebook came along, I was like, not another social network!

But when I opened up the site, I have to tell you it was one of those defining moments in life.

I could feel the vibe jumping off the screen. I thought, wait a second.  This is nothing like mySpace, it doesn’t feel like Linkedin. This feels unique and different.

What excited me more than anything is that people who I’d long admired for years, read their books, famous people, people I really looked up to, all of a sudden I’m befriending them on Facebook and we’re chitchatting and I was able to interview them.

Today, Facebook now encompasses such a comprehensive range of skills that marketers need to have that it’s caught people by surprise.

It’s not just about creating good content or driving them to your site. Now it’s got to be good sales copy, you’ve got to be good at crafting ads, you’ve got to get people to click, and you also have to have a super compelling landing page, a compelling offer, and you’ve got to be reaching the right market. There are a lot of components that people have to wrap their arms around.

You made the decision to become an entrepreneur and to move to the United States kind of all at once. What was driving you?

Mari Smith at age 14
Mari Smith at age 14

Growing up, my family never really had much money. I had four sisters and my dad raised five girls by himself. It was intense.

I left school at 15, I never went to college. All my life I’d been an employee. I had my 16th birthday at my first job.

I just had this fire in my belly to go out in the world and create my own livelihood. Since my teenage years, I’ve always had a thirst for knowledge, love of personal development and spiritual growth.

My dad was an entrepreneur all his life. He was a baker and always had his own business. But I don’t think it really spilled over for me until my early 30s, in 1998, when I made the decision I was going to start my own business.

I was going to offer seminars, a seminar training business. I studied presentation skills, took classes in body language reading, went to Toastmasters a lot. I took almost the whole of 1998 to put together the business plan, make the brochures and business cards and build a website.

I was just going to the bank to get a small business loan for my marketing when the opportunity to come to San Diego fell in my lap. A long-lost friend said “Hey Mari, are you in a place where you could move to San Diego? I think you’d really like it here.”

I just knew. When I got the invite, I thought, I’m supposed to go. Even though I was flat broke at the time, I just packed everything up. My friend even bought my plane ticket, that’s how broke I was!

I love the definition of luck that says it’s where preparation meets opportunity. I had spent almost a year putting together a business plan and the universe was like, “Uh, you’re not supposed to do this in Scotland. Here, come over to San Diego and then get on with it.”

Mari newly arrived in the U.S. in 1999
Mari newly arrived in the U.S. in 1999

You’ve described yourself as an “overnight success 10 years in the making.” Share a bit about those 10 years.

From ’99 to 2009 I was married, with a nice lifestyle doing marketing consulting. And it was clear that my marriage was coming to an end right around the same time I got introduced to Facebook and decided to switch from online marketing to Facebook marketing

My ex and I had moved out of our house and started traveling around in an RV—mostly the West Coast, we spent 3 months in Alaska.

Mari built her business from an RV! Here she is at the RV park
Mari built her business from an RV! Here she is at the RV park

I started a blog about our travels, and I started to develop this following. You know, “Where in the world is Mari? What’s your view right now? Are you really running your business from the road?”

And it evolved and evolved to the point where it was clear I was not meant to be married anymore.

We had an amicable parting, but people would tweet things like,”Hey, how is your husband?” when I hadn’t seen him for 6 months

I figured, I need to be really transparent. I’m going to write up a blog post, let my whole online world know, here’s where I’m at. You can still find it online today.

Mari's transparent post
The post that changed Mari’s life and career.

I was so freakin’ nervous. I had a lot of different friends read the post before I published it. And it was probably one of the most cathartic things I’ve ever done. it was very healing. I got hundreds of comments from people who were inspired about making a choice that served their inner desires.

And that was my purpose in writing the post, to tell people whatever’s in your heart, go for it.

So I had been laying the foundation and the groundwork, and that tipping point was when I chose to step into a whole other level of my own self, listening to my own intuition and heart. And the universe rewarded me for that.

The moment I chose to get divorced, stop traveling in the RV and move to San Diego, my business just blew up. I made half a million dollars in one week.

I just got real. And people were like, “Whoa, we love you even more! Now you’re showing you’re human, not superhuman.”

You do an amazing job of staying on top of Facebook news and sharing from a variety of diverse sources. How do you get around the web?

I do have help. I never used to like to admit to this because I wanted people to think I was superhuman.

Everything was single-handedly managed by me for a long time because the integrity of my voice was more important than anything else. I’d rather not tweet than just have anybody put any content up for me. It took me a long time before I was able to develop a system, a solid “I promote this kind of content for these reasons” framework.

I don’t endorse content for the sake of monetizing through ads, there has to be more meat and substance and heart to a site.

I particularly love to put the spotlight on up-and-coming companies and bloggers.

I don’t tend to include big sites like Mashable, Huffington Post or my very dear friends at Social Media Examiner because they have such a vast following already. I don’t want to be another me-too tweeter.

So I’ve developed a criteria over the years that is very specific to me, my values and my company. And my online content manager, Ana, does an amazing job. She really gets how I select content.

She and I are always going to have our eyes and ears out for new sources. I love to be able to support people. I know that I can drive traffic, and I take that as a great responsibility. It’s a beautiful thing.

Ana finds the content. She’s the one who reads the sources she and I have agreed upon—she goes through a good couple hundred sources every day—and she’ll craft the tweet and put it in there. I will always read it—nothing goes out without me checking it.

This is the way I leverage my time because I’ve got to sit at my desk and say, “What is the highest and best use of my time today?” Finding content to put on Twitter is not a revenue-generating activity.

Sometimes for a sole proprietor it can be very challenging to think, “How can I delegate that?” There are certain aspects of your business that you can delegate, but then you always want to put your own personal spin on it.

For example, I never delegate the engagement component. If you see me using first person, it’s always me. Nobody’s ever having a dialogue with me and it’s not me.

Bonus: Mari shows us her home and home office!

What tools help you work more efficiently?

We use tools like Feedly, Content Gems and Pocket to be able to identify and curate content. I use Hootsuite—scheduling tools are crucial.

And I use a calendar—a giant wall-sized, floor to ceiling, year at a glance planner so every year I can see the whole year to a glance. We use a color coordinated system of little sticky notes and Post-its to map out and plan ahead.

I’m also my own well informed source. I’ve got my Twitter list, I’ve got my Facebook list with 130 different sources of news, which I look at at least 3 times a day if not more. I check all the Facebook blogs, I’m in a Facebook media group, and I’m often the first to hear about things.

Sometimes it still keeps me awake at night. Like, what if some major big thing happened in the social media world and I didn’t know, if I was the last to find out? Then I say, “Oh Mari, come on.” That’s just the monkey mind.

What’s the No. 1 question you get asked as you consult and speak?

I would say the No. 1 question is regarding reach on Facebook. The small business owner is really hurting, only because they just didn’t see it coming. We had it good for so long with this wonderful organic reach. Back in the day you were reaching 50, 60 70 percent of your fan base. Now you’re lucky if it’s 3 or 4 percent.

I think the challenge is that people are not having enough of a shift of mindset being able to just accept, “OK, Facebook is pay-to-play now. I need to get smart about ads, I need to get some training, set aside a budget for it.”

It’s almost like the definition of insanity—doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. They’re saying let’s try more content, less content, try different times, all trying in vain to get that organic reach.

Then they get frustrated and say, “Well, Facebook doesn’t work anymore. I’m going to Twitter.” And they’re shooting themselves in the foot because Facebook is still the number one social network.

We’re all in the same boat, and my audience knows they can turn to me for a really straight answer. I can say, “This particular post got good reach, and here’s how I did it.” I will lift the hood up and tell people; I don’t have any secrets I don’t share.

I have been at the mercy of the lowering reach as well. I’ve just had to adjust my training to always include components of Facebook ads, at least the basics.

That’s one element. And the other is making sure that people aren’t just relying on Facebook, that there are other social media channels and an integrated strategy.

Do you have an intuition about where Facebook is headed these days?

I think Facebook is realizing that big brands with agencies and mega budgets have no problem mastering Facebook and the ads.

But the small to medium business owner, who’s struggling to figure it out themselves or they’ve paid someone to do their ads and it’s not working, there’s such a gap in the knowledge that’s needed. Where Facebook is headed in the next several years is much better education for its business users on how to use the product better.

Something else that’s shifting is that page owners have up to this point been very reliant on the news feed, getting your content in the news feed. Even before organic reach dropped, very few people—5 percent, I think I saw—would come back to your page once they liked it.

But there are two major improvements to the pages that are changing this: The call to action button and the featured video. They’re smack right there on the landing page. So Facebook is making the page a little bit more of a destination, where you can drive people to come and consume content more and more.

I think we will see more features like that, that will enhance the page as a destination but won’t take away the need to pay for newsfeed reach.

I know they’re competing for real time news. Facebook did a big push with the Super Bowl recently. They’re going up against Twitter, which really has a corner on the market of real time, trending, hashtags.

So Facebook set up a destination for the Super Bowl where you could see a real-time stream with trends and hashtags. They want to be that second screen for all major TV events, and they probably will do that.

Do you see a next big emerging social media network that could compete with Facebook or be acquired by Facebook?

There’s not going to be some major new social network that will trump Facebook. Facebook has become an ingrained, psychological daily habit.

I got optimistic that Google+ could do really well and be a fierce competitor in this space, but no. If your family members, your mother, your brother and your school friends aren’t going to move, then forget it.

I recently was looking at a list of Facebook acquisitions on Wikipedia, and speech recognition was their last big acquisition.

A couple major things they’re also working on are artificial intelligence and virtual reality. Obviously those are separate from Facebook, but I guarantee there’ll be some kind of a Facebook integration. Facebook is where they gather all the user data and have the social graph.

What are some quick wins on Facebook most of us are not taking advantage of?

Video: The psychology of autoplay

Let’s talk about video: Facebook is absolutely taking traffic from Youtube right now with video.

Video probably stumps people more than any other type of content, especially if they think they have to come on camera. But there are so many wonderful ways to create video without having to do to-camera pieces.

There are tools like Screenflow, Camtasia, FlipagramAnimoto, Magisto to help you make just short, simple videos.

What happens with autoplay, it’s all psychology. They come in through your newsfeed, start to see a tiny bit of movement, boom, it draws them in. They’ll stop and play your video. Make it short, quick and easy, with a call to action.

Content buckets: Inform, entertain or CTA

Also, I encourage people to really be thinking through when you’re creating their content what it’s for.

I put it in three buckets: Inform, entertain, or CTA, which is driving them somewhere, you want them to sign up for something or you’re selling something.

The ideal is it fits into all 3 buckets: It’s informative, it’s entertaining, and it has a strong call to action.

Otherwise, people get confused and they start to look exclusively at numbers like reach, shares and likes. Those are kind of the glue that holds everything together; you want to have some engagement.

But do you want just engagement? Engagement doesn’t pay the bills. Be strategic: get the leads and convert the leads to paying customers.

What brands do you see really doing it right on social media and providing a great example for others?

Individual: Richard Branson

On the individual level, I love Richard Branson. He’s of course a big celebrity but love his style of supershort narrative with a video or an image. It’s compelling, well-written and drives people to his website. It’s really well done.

Richard Branson Facebook

Brand: Oreo

As far as brands, Oreo is doing doing a whole series of little animated videos that are just a brilliant example. Just looking on their page,  they got 300,000 views in 8 hours on this little video.

If Oreo can get this amount of content out of a cookie, one little cookie, then for a bigger business with a vast range of products and services and results they help people create, there’s just no limit.

If anything, what ends up happening is that people are faced with that paradox of choice: “There’s too many options, how do I narrow it down?”

You’ve shared a stage with many leaders and celebrities. Is there anyone who has particularly inspired you?

Mari-Smith-and-Eckhart-Tolle
Mari Smith and Eckhart Tolle

Eckhart Tolle is at the top of that list. Shaking his hand and looking in his eyes, you felt like you were the only person that existed on the planet, just for a fleeting moment. All the light flowing out of his eyes. That experience was profound; I’ll never forget it.

From a business point of view, I would say one of my fave people I’ve ever met and now have the great pleasure of calling a friend is Mike Stelzner of Social Media Examiner. He and I have a wonderful, supportive relationship. He’s so humble, one of the most humble people I know.

What are some books that have changed the way you see things?

So many to choose from! The first one to pop into my mind is The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy, who is the publisher of Success Magazine.

Compound Effect

It’s a simple, short book that just really helps people to realize that success is not created overnight. Everything in life—whether it’s your health, fitness, money, goals you’re working on—it’s all a matter of chipping away. And the microdecisions you make every day add up; it compounds. Even having that as an attitude in life makes a difference.

Sometimes when I find myself getting real frenetic and hurried, there’s a 90-minute audio I listen to of Eckhart Tolle’s called The Illusion of Time. It makes you realize that the more you’re in your head thinking about the future, the more you take away from the present moment. So let’s just be here now and everything will somehow take care of itself.

Thanks, Mari!

Thanks so much to the very busy and gracious Mari Smith for opening up to us about her life, her passions and her social media secrets.

You can find Mari on Twitter, on Facebook of course, and on her website, as well as catch her speaking at events around the world.

For even more Mari, feel free to listen to the audio file of our entire interview that’s the foundation of this piece–including a fun detour into cat talk. :)

What do you think of Mari’s incredible story, and who else would you like to read more about here? Let us know in the comments!

The post The Rise of the Facebook Queen: How Mari Smith Went From $50 in Her Pocket to 500K Followers appeared first on Social.

When you sign up for a new app, what are the first steps you take?

Customizing your settings?

Installing add-ons and extensions?

Setting up your profile pic? (<– this is a personal favorite)

The steps you’re asked to take—click here, customize this, try that—are referred to as onboarding, the process of helping a new person get accustomed to a new place.

You’re likely to experience onboarding in many different cases. There’s onboarding in the new apps you download and services you use. There’s onboarding when you start a new job or take on a new role.

There may even be a subtle type of onboarding in the way that you organize social media marketing campaigns to support the content you create. Can content be considered a type of onboarding? And if so, how might we be able to help a new person get accustomed to a new piece of content? I’d love to explore these questions further—and to hear from you about any thoughts this brings up!

content design

What we learn from how new users experience an app

The idea of content as onboarding struck me as I was reading through some onboarding research that Buffer co-founder Leo Widrich had shared with our team. He looked at the routes taken by individual Buffer customers in their first several interactions with the product. For example, here’s one person’s route:

  • First day
    • signed up via email
    • skipped onboarding
    • connected facebook
    • connected Twitter
    • changed their schedule
    • connected bit.ly
  • Second day (3 days later)
    • changed schedule some more
    • shared update through dashboard
    • played with queue editing, twitter auto-complete, etc.
    • added lots more updates

It’s fascinating detail to know! And it helped me remember back to when I first started using the product, too. (If you have similar memories, it’d be really cool to hear your first steps also!)

Looking through this research, a couple of big thoughts surfaced:

  1. A lot of my assumptions were wrong about how people come on board with Buffer.
  2. Onboarding is quite the non-linear flow.

In my mind, I had an idea about how people may first use the product, going progressively from adding content to adjusting the schedule to editing the profile, all on the first day. My assumptions were wrong. The awesome people who use Buffer have their own unique way of starting out with the product, likely influenced by things like past experience and even how their day is going.

Can these lessons from product onboarding relate to how your audience consumes your content?

How readers find your content

What is your audience’s first touch point for your article?

When someone lands on a piece of content, they must have arrived from somewhere.

  • Via social media
  • Via an email newsletter link
  • Via a search results page
  • Via an RSS reader

What I find most interesting is that the way someone arrives at the content I write is very seldom the same way I arrive at my content. I view my content by clicking on the Preview link inside my blog post editor or by navigating directly to the blog post URL itself. In doing so, I may be missing out on a chance to empathize with my audience’s experience and perspective.

They’re likely not finding my articles via the URL I use to preview my writing—unless I could somehow sneak into all my readers’s homes and add the URL to their browser window before their next Internet session.

A reader must take an action before finding an article.

So in trying to see things from the reader’s perspective, here is a bit more detail about the different ways someone can find an article and the different factors that may be taken into consideration for whether they click through or not.

Via social media. This could mean being enticed by a headline in a social media stream, a photo/visual/image, the social proof of a lot of likes or comments, or something as simple as seeing your name + “new content.”

fb-annotated

Via email: The reader must be intrigued enough by either a) the subject line or b) the “From Name”. And then, in the body of the email, there must be a further connection to your content: a headline, a thumbnail photo, a button.

buffer email

Via an RSS reader. Depending on format of the RSS reader, this touch point could be a headline or a photo/visual/image. Here’s what a list of posts looks like in Feedly’s list view.

moz-titles only

Via your blog or website homepage. Some folks might bookmark your home page and come back daily, weekly, frequently, etc. They’ll see your headline or thumbnail however you might have this designed on your blog. Here’s a sample from the Wistia blog:

wistia blog

How do people read your posts?

For that matter, how do you read blog posts?

When I write a new post, I get absorbed into the flow and minutiae of the words. I pore over the details. I observe my content from a deep, thorough perspective, which is super great for creating high-quality content—yet it’s likely to be quite different from how an average reader experiences things.

The way I view my content as the writer may not be the same way someone views my content as its reader.

I like to think of this with a cooking analogy. We writers are the chefs, and blog posts are our entrees. We fuss over the perfect ingredients, seasonings, and pairings. Meanwhile, a huge handful of the people we serve might eat the salmon and push the spinach off to the side, or say it tastes “good” without recognizing any of the subtleties, or pick off all the capers and take 3/4 of it home in a doggy bag to microwave later.

Point being, there are a million different ways to consume content, including the way we writers consume it ourselves, which is quite often different than how our reader does.

For instance, here’s an “onboarding flow” for a recent post I enjoyed.

  • First day
    • See an interesting link mentioned in a newsletter.
    • Save to my Pocket account to read later.
  • Second day (5 days later)
    • Notice the image + headline in my Pocket.
    • Remember why I wanted to read this in the first place.
    • Open the story in Pocket.
    • Read the first heading after the intro.
    • Get intrigued by heading, read the first part of the section.
    • Start scanning.
    • Find an ordered list and start reading.
    • Get hooked.
    • Read the rest of the story.
    • Mark the story as favorite in Pocket, which turns on an IFTTT recipe to add the story to my Buffer.
    • Revisit the story in my Buffer queue to change the text of my status update and to check on imagery.
    • Share.

To a certain extent, it’s possible to find these unique onboarding flows for your content by looking at your website stats and social media stats and by using a few helpful tools.

For the stats, you can dig in to categories like referrals to see how people are getting to your website. In Google Analytics, you can find this report by going to Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals. The results you get will show the URLs that someone visited before landing at your website, and these URLs will include social networks like Facebook and Twitter, tools like Feedly, and other websites that may have linked to you.

(Note: You can tell if someone visited from a mobile version of Twitter or Facebook by noticing the URL. If you see t.co in your list, this is a mobile Twitter visit. If you see m.facebook.com, this is a mobile Facebook visit.)

Another neat way to learn how people read your articles is with tools like CrazyEgg and Inspectlet.

One interesting takeaway from these tools is the heatmap feature, which shows you much of your page is being viewed on average. Here’s an example of a page from my personal website.

blogpost heatmap

Inspectlet also has a way to record the sessions of your website visitors so that you can see exactly how someone scrolls and where they move their mouse (or finger, for mobile devices). Here are a couple examples.

On desktop.

Screen Recording 2015-02-13 at 10.34 AM

On mobile.

inspectlet mobile

How to design your content to best help your audience

Jakob Nielsen’s 1997 article on how users read on the web continues to be relevant and true even to this day.

In general, people don’t read on the web, they scan. 

I like the modern take, written this past year, by Zana Fauzi and Dahlia Ahad of Stampede Design as they describe how people consume online articles and content.

The way users read on the Web is different from the way they read printed pages. People rarely read word-by-word on the Web. Internet users scan a page until they find something of interest, and then they read.

This is a hugely helpful reminder for me as I think about not only the way that I write content but also the way that I design content. It seems a bit odd to talk about “designing content,” but as you might notice from the way that people actually look at your website (thanks to tools like Inspectlet), it’s clear that a well-designed article carries great value.

Here are some elements to consider as you’re designing your content and helping your audience find nuggets of interest.

The headline

Does your reader really look at your headline? Or, better put, does the headline on your article’s page make a difference on whether the reader keeps reading?

Quite possibly not. They’ve already seen a headline on social media or email or RSS. They might very well skip it here on your post. Headline writing remains a super important part of a quality piece of content. However, it may be that the most important headline you write is the first headline that your audience sees—and increasingly, those headlines appear in social media streams and email subject lines.

The meta information

Here’s another area that might often get skipped by a reader … unless it catches the reader’s eye for the wrong reason.

An untrustworthy profile picture. The eyes and brain make instant calculations about faces, so if there’s something off with your photo—if it’s tilted or skewed or you’re making a funny face or it’s just overall unprofessional—people will notice.

A wayback date. Occasionally, people will skip a post if the date is too old. Reading something from 2011 in 2015 could likely send people away.

The first paragraph

Adding a storytelling element to your opening paragraph could be huge for your reader retention. The blogging team at Groove saw a 300% rise in the number of people who scrolled to the bottom of an article when the article included a storytelling element.

story-no-story

The introduction—especially the first words of your introduction—figure to get the most attention by those reading your article. If you look at the heatmaps for your content, you’re likely to notice that the most viewed portions of your articles are the headlines and intros.

Headers

Use variations of headings. A mix of large headings and small headings (H2 and H3) are all you should need (if you end up going any deeper, use bold).

Images

Create awesome, eye-catching images. Make the images as self-explanatory as possible.

Captions

Here’s a crazy stat from Bnonn of KISSMetrics:

Captions under images are read on average 300% more than the body copy itself.

If you do captions, do them well. Add keywords and useful descriptions and nuggets.

The conclusion

I’ve recently started renaming some final sections on blog posts as Summary. I found this is often what people are looking for at the bottom of a post—Summary, Takeaways, Action Steps, TL;DR. Any of these will work.

The P.S.

The P.S., like captions, are a hugely popular spot to read. According to Michael Fortin, it is the second-most-read part of a sales letter. It is a “second headline.” If readers scroll all the way to the bottom while scanning, the P.S. leaves a great, small spot to make an impact.

Subheads, blockquotes, bullet lists, short paragraphs, etc.

Based on your headline, your readers have gained an expectation to receive a certain value from your post.

Give them this value. 

And make it easy to find.

If it’s a list of tools, make the tools easy-to-see with a heading. If it’s a lesson you’ve learned, bold your key paragraphs so the reader can find them. Make the value easy to find and locate without having to read every single word. And in the process of doing so, add additional nuggets.

A nugget can be anything useful, interesting, entertaining, or helpful that a reader takes from a post.

A nugget can be a teaser or a hook to draw people into reading more in-depth.

Here’s where the real content design and onboarding. As writers, we can do our best to guide readers from section to section throughout our posts. Readers aren’t obligated to follow, mind you. They might still skip around.

And in that case, we make it easy to skip. Subheads, blockquotes, bullet lists, short paragraphs, and bold font can do wonders for making a smooth reading/scanning experience for the reader.

Sometimes, I’ll cross my eyes when looking at a blog post I’ve written so that the words on the screen are slightly blurry and all I’m catching is the general layout and flow of a piece. For example:

how people view blog posts

It’s likely that some of your readers might see your posts in a similar way, seeking out the headlines and looking for a nugget to read deeply.

Summary: How do you put this all to good use?

Knowing how someone views your page—or at least considering the many different “onboarding flows” people may take to consume your content—should be helpful in thinking of your finished articles from a new perspective. Here are some tips I’m excited to try out on future Buffer blog posts.

  • Think of the first touch points for your article. Emphasize the headlines on social, email, and SEO as much as you do on the post itself.
  • Format your blog post with scanning in mind. Break up long paragraphs, add lots of headings and lists.
  • Share your most valuable nuggets. Place your key elements and catchiest taglines in easy-to-find places throughout the post. Guide the reader along.

Do you have any tips about what you’ve discovered with content? How do you feel about the whole concept of “content as onboarding” and “content design”? I’d love to hear your input. Feel free to leave any thoughts you might have in the comments!

A version of this post originally appeared on KevanLee.com. Check out the blog for more about what I’m writing and reading.

Image sources: The Noun Project, Blurgrounds, Unsplash

The post How to Fully Understand Your Audience’s Journey, From Social to Blog Post and Beyond appeared first on Social.

When it comes to social media, lately I’ve been surprising myself by how often I’m turning to LinkedIn. With the addition of LinkedIn Publishing, there seems to be more awesome content on the business social network than ever before.

And I don’t think I’m alone. LinkedIn has more than 347 million users across more than 200 countries and territories worldwide.

We’ve written before about some of the best practices to make the most of your LinkedIn marketing, but I’ve recently discovered even more vital facts and stats about the social network, particularly about making the most of your LinkedIn Company Page.

For instance, did you know that 80 percent of LinkedIn users say they want to connect with companies? Which is great news, because users are almost 50 percent more likely to buy from a company they engage with on LinkedIn.

I thought I would share all the stats I’ve found with you here in the hopes that we can fine-tune our LinkedIn marketing and improve our LinkedIn Company pages together.

LinkedIn 12 tips

3 Surprising LinkedIn Company page stats

1. Only 57% of companies are using pages

A first interesting fact about LinkedIn Company pages is that there’s still a bit of room to stand out by taking maximum advantage of yours.

Although LinkedIn reports that more than 3 million companies have created Company Pages, that doesn’t mean everyone has one.

In fact, Forbes reported that company page usage jumped from 24% to 57% in 2014—which means a growing but still relatively small number of companies are reaping benefits here.

“It is crazy to not create and use a LinkedIn company page,” LinkedIn consultant and expert Wayne Breitbarth says in the Forbes article, calling it “free money” for small- to mid-size companies.  (And a big win for search engine optimization, since Google crawls LinkedIn company pages and generally returns then in the first few page results).

A look at the Company Page features marketers are using most shows similar opportunity in terms of taking advantage of all the functionality LinkedIn provides:

company page feature usage

What it means: If you haven’t create a page for your brand yet, it might be a great time to set one up and begin to experiment with all the options there.

2. LinkedIn generates social media’s highest lead conversion rate

In a study of more than 5,000 businesses, HubSpot found that traffic from LinkedIn generated the highest visitor-to-lead conversion rate at 2.74%—277% higher than Twitter (.69%) and Facebook (.77%).

socialconversion LinkedIn

LinkedIn’s conversion rate also outranked social media as a channel overall—meaning that of all the traffic to these business’ websites via social media, .98% of that traffic converted into leads, compared to LinkedIn’s 2.74%.

What it means: While LinkedIn may not drive the most engagement on social media (see below), it does seem to drive targeted and qualified traffic interested in doing business.

3. Company Page updates see an average engagement rate of .054%

social media interaction rates

Forrester analyzed the top 50 global brands’ activities across social media platforms to determine that LinkedIn has an engagement rate of 0.054%. (Engagement rate is users’ interactions with a brands’ posts as a percentage of a brands’ followers)

That’s less than Facebook at 0.073% and  Google+ (0.069%), but greater than Twitter at .03%.

What it means: If you’d like to benchmark your social media efforts on LinkedIn, try for an engagement rate of .05 or higher. Then you’ll know your strategy is above average!

6 data-backed Company Page update tips

LinkedIn has shared in the past that the Company page updates getting “the most action” are company branding updates such as inside looks and interviews, followed by job postings, tip and fun facts.

Company page update best practices
Beyond those overall content categories, there are also some cool and really specific ways to up your engagement rates a bit. Here are the 6 best data-backed tips I was able to unearth.

1. “Top content” numbered lists get shared more

A LinkedIn study of company updates with at least 1,000 impressions showed that updates that included the words “top” and the numbers 3, 5, 10, 25, 30, 50, or 100 got almost 40 percent more amplification.

2. Link posts get higher engagement

LinkedIn has determined that updates containing links get up to 45 percent higher follower engagement than updates without links.

15-tips-for-compelling-company-updates-on-linkedin-3-638

3. Questions get double the comments

On average, status updates that contain questions receive almost 50 percent more comments.

P.S. We dive even deeper into the power of numbered lists AND questions in this post on 8 Winning Headline Strategies and the Psychology Behind Them.

4. Images get 98% more comments

Posting images has been shown to result in a 98% higher comment rate.

15-tips-for-compelling-company-updates-on-linkedin-5-638

5. Employees are 70% more likely to engage

LinkedIn found that employees are 70% more likely to engage with a brand’s company updates. Don’t forget to include and encourage your whole team in your social media strategy!

6. Share videos for double the amplification

Much in the same way that video is growing a ton on Facebook, it’s gaining on LinkedIn, too.

Links to YouTube videos, which play directly in the LinkedIn feed, can result in twice as many amplification actions (likes, shares, and comments) and a 75% higher share rate.

youtube compelling content on linkedin

One more great resource: Check out LinkedIn’s slide deck of the best Company Pages of 2014 to get more tips on what tactics and strategies are working best when it comes to Company Page updates.

3 overall LinkedIn marketing stats

Finally, here are a few overall LinkedIn marketing stats that might help guide your social media strategy on this important network.

1. Users are spending more time on LinkedIn

 One stat I uncovered researching this article is that users spend an average of 17 minutes on LinkedIn per month.

Then I discovered that more than 50% percent of LinkedIn users spent more than two hours a week on the site in 2014–a figure that’s up about 10% from the previous year.

time spent on LinkedIn

It seems like perhaps there are two different types of LinkedIn users: the check-in-infrequently type user and the very engaged, almost daily user.

This makes sense to me–in different stages of my career and work responsibilities, I’ve been a member of both of these groups. Have you?

2. Groups could be decreasing in popularity

Another element of the survey I mentioned earlier, reported by Forbes, focused on the popularity of Facebook Groups.

In 2013, 60% scored LinkedIn Groups as one of their favorite features of LinkedIn.

In 2014, “Posting and/or participating in Group discussions” was cited as helpful by 42% of those surveyed and “Searching for people in Groups” only by 26%.

popular linkedin features

Based on this survey, it seems as if Groups are perhaps losing a bit of their popularity. Have you noticed this at all?

3. Recent graduates are LinkedIn’s fastest-growing demographic

Have you ever wondered who’s not on LinkedIn? The site is so ubiquitous I sort of assume everyone is already there, but it continues to grow at a rate of more than two new members per second.

So who are these newcomers? Well, many of them are from outside the U.S.—the source of more than 75% of new members in the last quarter of 2014.

But LinkedIn’s fastest-growing demographic is students and recent college graduates. More than 39 million of them are on the site now!

What strategies, tips and tactics have worked best for you on LinkedIn and your LinkedIn Company page? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

The post Master The LinkedIn Company Page: 12 New Data-Backed Tips To Max Out Yours appeared first on Social.

Some of my favorite tools posts end up being the ones where people share the specific tools they use to get jobs done.

There’s power in knowing the tools that others find useful and important enough to make part of their regular workflow.

For content marketing, I seem to take a particularly keen interest because I’m always on the hunt for new and amazing products to try, and I also appreciate a thoughtful recommendation. When it comes to the tools we use for content marketing at Buffer—a topic we’ve yet to discuss in too much detail on the blog, until now!—I feel that we keep things quite lean. And we’re constantly learning from others about new and exciting ways to get more done in the same amount of time.

So I’ve done my best to collect all my learnings here in this post, both with the tools we use to do content marketing at Buffer and the most highly-recommended tools from others in the industry. I’d love to know which ones are your favorites, too!

content marketing tools

The 8 content marketing tools we use at Buffer

1. Trello for organization

Our main idea board and content calendar, Trello is where we find ourselves organizing our weeks ahead and storing potential blog posts full of notes, links, comments, and more.

trello

One neat feature we’ve yet to fully explore here is the potential of voting on Trello cards. A neat way to use this might be to ask for feedback and input from the whole team on which blog post ideas seem to resonate. The ones with the most votes move on to the writing stage!

2. WordPress for blogging

I sometimes forget to think of WordPress in terms of a tool. It feels like so much more!

Still, it’s the tool that I use on a daily basis to compose and publish all the articles that appear on the blog. The Buffer blogs run on WordPress, and we feel very grateful for such a robust platform that allows us the flexibility to easily edit the design and to experiment with different plugins in a snap.

3. Buffer for distribution

At the core a social media management tool, Buffer has been useful for us in several content-oriented ways:

  • We use it to A/B test headlines by tweeting two different variations, comparing the stats, and going with the winner.
  • We use it to test out content ideas. We share a blog post multiple times and in multiple ways. If a particular element of a blog post performs well on social media, we might explore the topic further in a more detailed and fine-tuned article.

buffer

4. Hipchat + Zapier for community-building

For keeping track of new comments on our articles, we’ve put together an automation workflow with Zapier that pulls in all new comments into our content chat room in Hipchat.

hipchat

5. Canva for image creation

The majority of the images we create for blog posts come through screen capture or from Canva. In Canva, we build images based on their simple-to-use templates or with basic templates we’ve created before. It’s easy to copy over an existing image and tweak and adjust small things for each new post.

6. MailChimp for emailing

We’ve built our RSS email list using MailChimp, which we’ve found quite intuitive for easiliy creating automated RSS campaigns as well as weekly digests. The next step for us here is segmenting the list so that the emails we send are of the optimum relevance to those who receive them!

7. Google Analytics for traffic stats

The most widely used website analytics tool out there, Google Analytics gives us all the information we may ever need for figuring out what’s working well with our blog content. A few of our favorite reports include

  • Time on page
  • Social media sources
  • Search queries
  • New vs. returning visitors
  • Referrals

google analytics

8. Feedly for content ideas

Our idea curation process involves reading as many great blogs as we can. Feedly makes this possible. We subscribe to feeds for a huge number of blogs and get ideas and inspiration from the types of headlines and topics we see.

feedly

If you’re at all interested, you can subscribe here to my current list of Feedly favorites.

Content marketing tools used by the pros

The above short list of tools represents the ones we use most often at Buffer. It’s far from a complete list of what’s out there. Many other bloggers and content creators have found great benefit from a number of other tools. Here are some that get mentioned most often by pro bloggers.

For a complete list of other tools, you might consider checking out some of the helpful lists put together by KISSmetrics and the Content Marketing Forum and QuickSprout.

Analytics

  1. Chartbeat
  2. GoSquared
  3. MixPanel

gosquared

Perhaps the biggest draw of services like Chartbeat, GoSquared, and MixPanel is the simplicity of the data compared to tools like Google Analytics. These alternative analytics tools tend to focus on real-time information, social media shares, and simple dashboards.

Baremetrics founder and blogger Josh Pigford explains the benefits he gets from GoSquared (pictured above).

Real-time traffic data. A lot easier to find out where traffic is coming from than Google Analytics. I use this quite a lot when we publish a new blog post or send out a newsletter to get a feel for where traffic is coming from and how a given item is being shared throughout the day.

All-in-one services

  1. Kapost
  2. Newscred
  3. Rainmaker

rainmaker

Sometimes it’s great to find a tool that collects a large number of content marketing resources all in one place. The tools mentioned here offer a multitude of services like analytics, list-building, content creation, and more.

Blogger Chris Brogan recently switched his site over to the Rainmaker platform (pictured above), and here’s a bit behind the reason why:

Within Rainmaker, I can create all different types of content, like private membership forums, podcasts, and more. It’s just push-button simple to get most things started, and I’ve enjoyed exploring how each of these can work towards improving business with conversion stats, and the like. That’s the other part I like. I like really simple analytics. Truth is, I’m not clever enough to do much with more complex ones.

Image creation

  1. Share as Image
  2. Skitch
  3. CloudApp

share as image

We’re happy to get some use out of each of these image creation tools now and again, and we know they’ve been really useful for other bloggers as well. Share as Image lets you turn any text into a beautiful image or quote. Skitch is a favorite of ours when it comes to annotated screenshots. And CloudApp lets you create awesome GIFs of your screen.

Research

  1. BuzzSumo
  2. Quick Sprout
  3. Quora

quora

For coming up with ideas on what to write about (and how to craft a headline), it can be quite useful to look at the most popular content from a given topic (BuzzSumo), from a given website (QuickSprout), or for a particular audience (Quora).

Blogger Gregory Ciotti, who works on growth at Help Scout, shared his appreciation for Quora as an idea tool.

I’ve found Quora to be great for idea validation. If a topic is hot on Quora, it’ll make for a great article.

Organization

  1. Evernote
  2. CoSchedule
  3. Google Calendar

Creating an editorial calendar or collecting notes and ideas in a consistent place can be a huge help for content marketing teams (and individuals, for that matter). Tools like the above can help writers work together and share in a seamless way.

Optimization

  1. Open Site Explorer
  2. Yoast SEO
  3. CrazyEgg

crazyeggscrollmap

For SEO optimization and on-page adjustments, there are a great number of tools that can help with keywords, titles, layout, and readability.

Blogger and entrepreneur Neil Patel found great use with CrazyEgg in optimizing the readability of his blog posts.

Have you wondered how many people actually read your blog posts? With my blog at Quick Sprout, it used to be 40%…until I started using Crazy Egg.

With a few simple Crazy Egg tests, I was able to see how many visitors scrolled down and actually read each blog post. With a bit of testing, I was able to increase the number of people who read each post by 62.5%.

List-building and lead generation

  1. SumoMe
  2. HelloBar
  3. Bounce Exchange

spisumome

Getting people to take action on your website is often a key goal for content marketers. Often, the action is to join an email list or enter information or follow on social media. The tools listed here offer some great solutions for adding opt-in forms and CTAs to your blog.

Pat Flynn, blogger at Smart Passive Income, predicted SumoMe to be one of his most-used apps in 2015.

There’s also an image sharer function, list building tools, a heat map tool, contact forms, a “smart bar” tool, analytics, and a highlighter tool which allows people to highlight portions of your blog posts, and easily share that. Obviously a great price (free!), but also super easy to install, and useful too!

Summary

What are your favorite content marketing tools that you use on a daily basis?

We’re always eager to learn more about what tools work best for others. There are a ton of great ones out there, and it’s been fun to collect a big list of them here in this blog post. To recap, here are the ones that we use most frequently on the Buffer content team.

  1. Trello
  2. WordPress
  3. Buffer
  4. Hipchat + Zapier
  5. Canva
  6. MailChimp
  7. Google Analytics
  8. Feedly

I’d love to hear which tools would make your list! Feel free to share in the comments.

Image sources: The Noun Project, Blurgrounds, Unsplash, Rainmaker, Quick Sprout, Smart Passive Income

The post The Best Content Marketing Tools to Help You Work Smarter, Not Harder appeared first on Social.

We’ve been having a lot of fun hearing some of the amazing feedback on how many of you are using Buffer.

One of the key areas that we heard about where we felt we could improve was our social media analytics area. We then reflected and brainstormed with many customers about how we could make analytics better.

Today, I’m really excited to unveil one of a series of planned analytics improvements for paying Awesome and Business plan customers. If you don’t want to wait, you can go and log into Buffer right now and see your new analytics.

full-size-blog

Let’s dive into what’s new:

See your most clicked, retweeted, liked posts

When you head to the Buffer analytics area, as an Awesome or Business customer you can now choose to order your posts by the most clicks, retweets, likes, or whatever other metric you’d like to see:

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 4.30.59 PM

Buffer will then automatically sort your social media analytics by the metric you choose (here, I’m looking at the most-clicked updates):

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 11.53.44 AM

Sort by least-liked posts to fine-tune your posting strategy

If you’d like to know which of your posts didn’t do so well, you can accomplish the same thing and order your posts by which posts received the least clicks.

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 12.00.11 PM

Personally, I have always found this to be a great way to see what things resonate less with my audience so I can fine-tune my content. Especially if you’re running tests on your social accounts, seeing at a glance quickly what works and what doesn’t can be super handy:

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 11.59.31 AM

It looks like this was an update that people didn’t quite enjoy, great learning to do better next time! :)

Order your posts by type: images, link posts, quotes, etc.

Another feature that we got a lot of feedback and responses on was a way to filter your posts by type. We’ve previously learned that posting Tweets with images can have a tremendous impact on the performance of your posts.

Try checking on your own data whether you see the same by sorting by images, links, text only and comparing their engagement:

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 12.03.31 PM

You can then combine all these by saying “I want all the most-clicked, image-only posts I’ve recently shared”.

I’ve found this to give you a greater, more granular insight on what’s working well. In this case, I got the most retweeted, image-only posts from the last 30 days:

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 12.11.09 PM

Have fun exploring your most and least popular social media posts with these new data tools!

Pick your date range and export data for better reporting

To make this really robust and solid for reports and long-term views of your data, we’ve also added a date-picker and a reporting option, now available on Buffer for Business plans.

Once you’ve sorted by the metrics or post type of your choice, you can easily choose your date range from the post analytics tab or quickly export all your data:

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 12.16.56 PM

I hope that being able to dive into your data this way might save you a bunch of time and help you make better decisions in your social media efforts.

Just a reminder, these new features are available for those on Awesome and Business plans. If you’re not yet part of our paid plans, I hope you might give them a shot and see if you like them.

Give our new sorting in analytics a try if you like and let us know what you think of it. We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments here or via email or Twitter anytime!

large-button

The post Introducing New Buffer Analytics: Find Your Most Clicked, Retweeted or Liked Posts appeared first on Social.

It’s 5:02 a.m. on Friday as I am writing this. The dog is on the floor licking…something (he likes to lick a lot!) and my wife is asleep beside me in bed.

The last 10 minutes have gone something like this:

• What’s happening on Twitter? Boring.

• How about Facebook? Someone else got engaged. Yay for them.

• Any new emails? Delete. Delete. Inbox Zero!

• Hmm…

Then I opened up the Buffer iPhone app (forgot I even had that installed).

When you are looking for mindless wastes of time, you get desperate.

That’s when I ran across the analytics section of the app and had a light bulb moment.

See, writing has been harder lately. I’ve still been ‘hitting publish’ twice a week but it’s been a struggle.

There have been two core issues:

  1. Coming up with topics that my audience is interested in
  2. Beating writers block and writing above a 3rd grade level

blog post ideas

1. Enter…The “Buffer Validation Method” 

After spending 15 minutes in the app, I realized I could see the exact topics that my readers are interested in by looking at what they interacted with on social media.

For example:

Most of the tweets on my personal account get 3-5 clicks. They might get a retweet or the occasional favorite or two.

While I was thumbing through the analytics in the app, I ran across several anomalies.

Some of my Tweets were 5-10x more popular than others.

While most tweets got 3 clicks others received 15-30.

Here is an example:

The lightbulb moment was this: These traffic engagement spikes validate that my audience is interested in reading about this topic.

So, if I write a post about this subject the chances of it getting traction are high.

Buffer analytics = Blog Post Ideas

Just schedule tweets in Buffer about topics that you THINK would be popular and measure the response.

The exact workflow to do that

I am playing around with the idea of doing an in-depth analysis post on Facebook Ads.

It would show you examples of 20 Facebook ads and break down the posts into a simple framework so you could create effective ads yourself.

It would also include a gigantic swipe file of 200+ Facebook ads as a giveaway.

Seems like a decent idea right?

But, what would it look like to validate that post before I spent all that time to write it?

  • Step 1: Goto Quora.com and find someone who has asked a question around that topic
  • Step 2: Buffer a link to that Quora post with their question as the body of the Tweet
  • Step 3: Wait a day and look at your analytics to see how many people interacted with it.

I put together a video showing you this process.

If there is above average interaction (2-3x normal), write the post.

If not, reform the question, pick a different headline and Buffer it again.

Do this 5-10 times until you find the right ‘hook’ to form the post around.

As soon as you see a spike in interactions, start writing.

2. Ok, great. But how do I write the freaking post?

Now you have a headline and are reasonably confident your audience will resonate with it.

But you still have a problem…writing the actual post.

As soon as you start to try to write, everything freezes up.

How can you fix this?

Don’t write.

Instead, answer questions.

Think about it like this:

If my wife asks me “Bryan, why do you think most people never act on their ideas?”

I would answer in less than 5 seconds with at least 3 minutes worth of dialogue.

No prep. No outline. No research.

However, If I were trying to write an article entitled “The 7 Reasons Your Idea Will Never Become A Business”

Gridlock. All dry. Words … are … hard.

There is something fundamentally different with writing about a TOPIC as opposed to answering someone’s specific QUESTION.

What if instead of writing ‘blog posts’ you just answered questions.

Then format those answers into blog posts.

(Seth Godin agrees.)

How do you turn a topic into a question?

Let’s use the tweets that I found in Buffer analytics and try spinning it into a question.

This was the original tweet.

Spinning that tweet into a question would give us something like this:

“What was the biggest influence in quitting your job and starting your own business?”

OR

“Is there a single thing you could identify that gave you the kick the butt to quit your day job?”

I can answer that!

To take it one step further I went to Quora to try to find an actual person with that exact problem.

Example question I found on Quora

Note: I’ve found that the more specific the person is and the more real they are in my head, the freer the words flow.

The absolute easiest way is to have an actual person ask you the question. However, answering peoples questions online can work just as well.

Now that I have a question how do I start writing?

Step 1: Don’t write, record

First, fire up your iPhone voice recorder app.

Next, have your wife or roommate ask you the question you came up with in the last step.

Last, press record and answer the question.

Just have a normal conversation about the topic. Give your answer, ask for questions and then answer those too.

Step 2: Transcribe your audio

Take all of the audio you just recorded and write it down word for word into a Google Doc.

It’ll take a few minutes, thats fine.

Step 3: Pretty it up

Edit out all of the “umm’s” and “ahh’s” and format it so it looks pretty (I’d suggest grabbing this $3 book to help you with that).

Include pictures to further describe the question.

Pro tip: If you don’t need pictures to describe what you are discussing in your post, go deeper until you do.

Step 4: Write 5 different headlines

Your headline is VERY important. Quality is huge but your headline is even more important.

Here is a simple process I use for coming up with headlines:

Step 5: Publish

You are done.

Proof it and hit publish.

I wanted to test this workflow on someone else

So, I enlisted Videofruit intern AJ and asked him to “answer a question” about a recent project he completed.

Instead of asking him to write about it, I flipped on my webcam and started recording.

Here is the raw footage:

Then he transcribed the video and cleaned it up. (see the transcription)

Next, he read this book and went through a short copywriting course.

He was able to go through the transcription and rearrange it to a blog-post-friendly format.

Then he brainstormed 5 headlines using the method I mentioned above.

  1. These 4 Easy Steps Will Have Your Logo Set In No Time
  2. How Logos Should Actually Be Created
  3. What Should Your Design Process Be?
  4. Creating What YOU Want: Cheap and Simple
  5. Steps Non-Creative People Take To Create A Design

He spent a total of 2 hours writing (and 3 hours on learning about copywriting).

This is the first draft: How to create a logo if you suck at design

Not bad for the first time to ever write a blog post.

Wrapping it all up into a pretty package

That’s a lot of stuff, so let’s review what we’ve learned:

  1. Use your Buffer account analytics to get post ideas by looking for engagement peaks.
  2. Don’t start your post by writing. That encourages writers block.
  3. Instead repurpose the ideas in Step 1 into a question then answer that question (record yourself).
  4. Transcribe your answer on paper and then reformat it and pretty it up.
  5. Press publish.

I have used the “record first” workflow for the past two weeks and it has been great.

It saves 1-2 hours per post and helps me to write even though I suck at writing.

PS: Do you have a writing hack that you use? Share it below. I need it!

This post originally appeared on Video Fruit. Check out the Video Fruit blog for tons of great articles on video, content, and marketing.

Image sources: The Noun Project, Blurgrounds, Death to the Stock Photo

The post How to Brainstorm and Write an Epic Blog Post in 4 Simple Steps appeared first on Social.

social media teams

Determine your strategy and structure

A survey by Altimeter discovered that the average number of people on a full-time social media team at a large (<1000 employees) company  is 11 professionals, working together in an organization chart that looks a bit like this:

definition-the-corporate-social-media-team-jeremiah-owyang

Depending how strictly regulated your industry is, this structure could also include occasional oversight from human resources, legal departments and lots more.

On a smaller team, maybe your organization looks more like this chart from Chief Marketer:

social media superteam

How do you keep everyone on the same page and in the loop? Creating a social media strategy everyone can agree on and reference easily is a great first step. This document might discuss your objectives for social media, your day-to-day process and your measurement goals, as represented in this neat framework from Advanced Human Technologies.

social media strategy framework

I really like Lisa Barone’s guide to creating a social media plan to help you through each of these steps.

Establish a consistent voice and tone

When multiple people are representing your brand and speaking in its voice, it helps to first make sure everyone knows what that voice sounds like. What’s your personality? What do you stand for? What is your purpose?

Establishing a strong and consistent voice and tone seem to be the keys to getting everyone on the same page here. At Buffer, we have a tone guide that is our North Star for talking with customers. It, in turn, is quite inspired by Mailchimp’s voice and tone guide.

Interested in coming up with your own? There are a few exercises we describe in our guide to finding your social media voice, namely this one:

Social Media Brand Voice

  • Character / persona – Who does your brand sound like? If you picture your social brand as a person (a character), here is where you can flesh out this identity with specific attributes that fit who you want to sound like online.
  • Tone – What is the general vibe of your brand?
  • Language – What kind of words do you use in your social media conversations?
  • Purpose – Why are you on social media in the first place?

Together, these four areas can help define the overall voice of your brand. It’s a helpful exercise to go through these steps to gain insight into each area.

Know how, where, and what you’ll post

It helps a great deal to chat with team members about which social networks are right for you, what categories and and types of content you’re going to post about, when and how often.

Will you focus on your specific niche only, or might you expand into more topics? Will you share only your content, or grow your thought leadership reputation by sharing a ratio of your content and great stuff by others?

Getting a focused view on these concepts helps to present your community with a consistent experience, but remember that your experiences here can evolve over time. Buffer started out by posting almost exclusively on Twitter tips and tools, and today we share from a diverse well of topics including social media, productivity, self-improvement, workplace culture and more.

Let your audience know who is posting

One big way to create a better feeling for the people you’re talking with on social media is to make sure they know that there are real humans behind that corporate social media account.

Particularly when you’re responding to questions or comments, it can be handy to identify who is posting. This immediately gives your replies a friendlier face and gives others the chance to engage with you as a person instead of just as a logo.

One popular method is to sign tweets with a carat (^) and your initials. Here, Southwest showcases that strategy:

Southwest signed tweets

This is a fairly understood convention by now, but there are lots of new people on Twitter every day with varying levels of awareness of all its ins and out. There are some people who may not know what your initials mean. What has worked a bit better for us is to sign each reply with our first names like so:

signed tweets

Since Twitter is a primary way for our customers to talk to us and ask questions, we use the tool Sparkcentral to funnel in and answer all @ messages, and this handy tools automatically our names with each tweet we send out.

For the other social networks like Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn, a small team of us do daily “drive-bys,” where we schedule a block of time each day to visit your social media profiles. During this time, we simply try to remember to sign our names as we drop by and talk with our community.

signed Google+

Another handy tip is to consider how you can add a human touch to your social media bios. You might think about mentioning the names of the team members who’ll be posting from the account, or linking out to a Twitter list with all your team members on it, or even use a picture of your team as your cover photo or avatar.

Delegate by shifts or networks

One of the most common issues that arise when working with a social media team is figuring out who is going to do what, when, without stepping on one another’s toes. In other words, “Are you going to respond to that message, or should I?”

There are a few different ways to create some structure here to help everyone work more efficiently. Since it’s not practical for one person to be “on” at all times, you might consider trying a shift system, creating a general schedule of times when team members will oversee the brand’s social presence. Especially if you normally have a high volume of messages to respond to, this makes sure that social media responsibilities are generally covered.

Another way to divide out the responsibilities is by which networks you and your teammates are most interested in. I enjoy hanging out on Google+, so I probably make more frequent visits to that network, while other teammates dig Facebook a bit more. Playing to each team member’s passions and strengths could be a great option for maximizing efficiency and creating more fun on your team, too.

As new social media networks pop up, you can also designate team members to dig into them and do some experimenting so you’re always in the know about the next new thing.

Use tools to make collaboration easier

Fortunately, there are many tools out there that help organize social media teams.

Larger teams with a bigger budget might opt for all-in-one solution, and smaller teams might want to go the piece-by-piece route.

Some great categories to think on when looking for social media tools for teams might be: listening, communicating, scheduling, responding and analyzing.

 Give everyone the right access

If we might focus on a particular category of tools for a moment, we’ve found that using a social media scheduling tool allows teams to be significantly more efficient when posting to social media together.

We rely on Buffer’s own social media scheduling and team member functionality to add posts into our social media accounts—if you’re a Buffer customer with either an Awesome account or a Business account, you can to add team members to your account, which is really handy to keep everyone on the same page. And there are lots of other great options as well, including SproutSocial and Hootsuite.

One thing you might want to look for in your scheduling tool is the ability to add team members at various levels of access.

With our Business plans, you can invite many team members to any of your social profiles, depending on which profiles you want them to have access to. as either a Manager or a Contributor.

  • A Manager can add updates to your Buffer account just like you can—they get added directly to your queue. They also have access to change your posting schedule.
  • A Contributor has more limited access. They can add posts to a profile, but the post won’t be added to the queue until you approve it.

In talking to to our customers, we’ve found that this arrangement allows everyone the right amount of access and keeps running smoothly.

Have you ever used social media as part of a team? What are your best tips on making it work?

Icon image via The Noun Project

The post Social Media Teams: Tips And Tools For Working Together Seamlessly appeared first on Social.