Have you ever wondered why people love eating at buffets?

It’s not because all-you-can-eat options are better for your wallet; in fact, economists have proved ordering traditional dishes is actually cheaper.

Humans crave variety. With a buffet ticket, you can try the dumplings, the salad, the spare ribs, brussels sprouts, and the pasta—and that variety makes you feel good.

This principle of variety definitely applies to social media content: It’s easier to surprise and delight your followers when you’re not always serving up the same things. By continually introducing new content types into your social media lineup, you’ll keep your audience members on their toes and engaged.

If you’re eager to explore, but not sure where to start, check out this list of seven awesome types of social media content you can be creating right now.

1. Custom GIFs

Create your own animated GIFs to boost engagement and tell a story

A great GIF is worth a thousand words. Along with driving massive engagement, GIFs help you explain difficult ideas, add some visual variety to your feed, and have some fun with your audience.

There are tons of awesome GIFs already floating around (in fact, we’ve got a stocked moodboard you’re welcome to pull from). However, creating your own guarantees you’ll have unique, eye-catching content. And good news: You can whip up a GIF in mere minutes.

A few of our favorite GIF-making tools include:

If you need inspiration, check out NASA’s Twitter. NASA’s content is already visually compelling; after all, it doesn’t get more beautiful than the solar system. However, the agency takes things to the next level by animating things like shuttle take-offs, planets in rotation, and shots from space.

NASA also makes GIFs for its recurring social features. Its monthly “What’s Up” post, which showcases the coolest things happening in the night sky, gets a custom GIF for Twitter promotion. You can check out the June version below.

What’s up in the sky this month? Saturn, plus good views of Mars, Jupiter & Jupiter’s moons: https://t.co/DtqLrkzAwS pic.twitter.com/TBhvLY5H6d

— NASA (@NASA) June 11, 2016

InVision, a wireframing and prototyping tool, has an admirable GIF strategy as well. For every 10 blog posts the company shares on social media, one or two will have accompanying GIFs that illustrate a concept from the post. Not only are the snippets semi-mesmerizing, but they allow InVision’s followers to get value without having to click on the link.

(Here’s a complete tutorial of exactly how Invision makes its GIFs, using a combination of ScreenFlow and Photoshop.)

“The details are what separate the good UX designers from the great.” https://t.co/af4LanSzjM by @realjoet pic.twitter.com/dHRhtzXtVF

— InVision (@InVisionApp) June 15, 2016

Finally, GIFs are a handy way to quickly educate your followers. Take a look at Trello‘s tweet (explaining its email-to-board option) to see this idea in action.

Did you know you can send emails directly to Trello boards? We’ll show you how: https://t.co/GYQHkvkOyc pic.twitter.com/NQQhovrMtI

— Trello (@trello) June 16, 2016

To take things to the next level …

Make cinemagraphs.

A cinemagraph has the same file format as a GIF; however, rather than a series of images playing in a loop, it’s a static image with movement in one part of the frame. Cinemagraphs are, as designer Jason Winter puts it, “scroll-stoppers.” 

They’re also really effective: this one from Coke got 80,000 notes on Tumblr in 14 days.

Tumblr-Coke-GIF

These types of GIFs require a bit more Photoshop skill to create; here’s a good guide on getting started.

2. Snapchat Stories

Use captions, filters, stickers to build stories that stand out

Snapchat’s stratospheric engagement stats (to the tune of 100 million users spending a half hour on the platform per day) make it compelling for any brand.

Nonetheless, many companies still aren’t biting—err, snapping. According to research firm L2, only 40% of B2C businesses have accounts, compared to 93% for Instagram. Even fewer B2B companies are on Snapchat.

It’s normal to feel a little intimidated by the app’s unfiltered format, yet that authenticity and spontaneity actually make Snapchat a prime marketing opportunity. You can invite your audience into your world and even get a peek into theirs.

To see how a brand (and a B2B one, no less) can fully optimize this platform, follow DocuSign (@docusigninc). Every week, the company posts a literal story, usually riffing on a well-known children’s book or movie. A couple weeks ago, for example, Mary Poppins discovered the magic of electronic signatures. The week after that, the Lorax learned how DocuSign can save trees.

The stories are a blend of drawings, emojis, and captions. Not only are they creative, but they feel totally unlike any other promotional materials out there.

IMG_9539

Shopify (@shopify) uses all sorts of creative Snapchat features to make their stories stand out. The snap below uses captions, filters, and stickers in a unique and eye-catching way.

snapchat story

 

The Shopify team was generous to write about some of their best Snapchat tips. Their list includes:

  • Creating title cards for longer Snapchat stories
  • Doing Snapchat takeovers with celebrities or partners
  • Using shortened URLs for links
  • Adding music over your snaps

Anthropologie (@anthropologie) is a strong example of a company doing Snapchat well in the B2C sphere. The brand mostly uses Snapchat to provide behind-the-scenes access to its photoshoots, future products, and employee life. Plus, Snapchat just launched shoppable snaps—now it’s even easier for consumers to buy the products they see featured.

Check out our post on everything you need to know about Snapchat, and of course, follow us at buffersnaps!

To take things to the next level …

Create on-demand geo-filters.

Whenever I’m in a new place, I love taking Snapchat photos and adding a custom geo-filter so people can see where I am.

And I’m definitely not the only user who loves using these location-based overlays. As Brian shares in his handy guide to on-demand geo-filters, you can generate tens of thousands of impressions for under $50.

Here’s an example of some that Gary Vaynerchuck has created:

snapchat geofilters

This feature is still only a couple months old—so if you get in on the action now, you’ll have a major competitive advantage.

3. User-Generated Content (UGC)

Drive engagement with outstanding content from others (works great on Instagram!)

Okay, so technically your users are the ones creating the content. But you’ll still need to collect, curate, optimize, and publish what they’ve produced.

Even though it might be easier to, say, upload your own photo to Instagram rather than finding one from a customer, UGC has some incredible and unique benefits.

  1. You make your customers the heroes of your story—exactly as it should be.
  2. You can give your posts some (usually much-needed) variety.
  3. You’ll help your followers trust you: research shows millennials trust user-generated content 50% more than other media.

Starbucks definitely uses UGC to rack up loyalty points with its followers. Roughly one-third of its Instagram photos are regrams from other accounts, which lets Starbucks show how different people are enjoying its drinks around the world.

Some of the corporation’s most-favorited posts come from users. Even better, people are motivated to upload shots of their orders to Instagram, in the hopes they’ll be shared.

Instagram Photo

Using the same strategy, the Buffer Instagram account shares user-generated content once or twice every week, averaging nearly 200 likes and comments on each photo (at the upper-end of the benchmark for Buffer Instagram engagement).

And getting started was quite smooth: Reach out to community members 1:1 whenever you spot a great image, mention the users when you share the post, repeat. You may even notice users sending content your way all on their own!

Some weeks, the UGC content can be 50 percent of what’s posted to Buffer Instagram:

User generated content on Instagram

To take things to the next level …

Run social media contests.

Waiting for your users to spontaneously upload photos is fine—but with a contest, you can capture a ton of content in a short time frame. Even better, contests are fun for everyone involved: the participants, your audience, and of course, the winner.

National Geographic and MySwitzerland.com, for example, partnered on a fantastic UGC contest to promote travel to Switzerland. To enter, people posted their favorite shots of the country to Instagram with the hashtag #LoveSwitzerlandContest. The winner received a 10-day National Geographic Expedition to Switzerland.

Love Switzerland

The contest was a big success, generating almost 9,400 posts. Plus, 70% of the visitors to the contest hub page clicked the CTA for more trips.

4. Infographics

Pictures + text = 25% better comprehension

If you count early cave paintings as infographics, then humans have been making and consuming this type of content for the past 32,000 years. And for good reason: adding pictures to text makes your message 25% more comprehensible, not to mention far more engaging and persuasive.

There’s an infographic—or five—for every topic you can think of. But the ones that get the most mileage tie back to their brand’s product or space. Real estate app Movoto, for example, created this infographic pairing famous cities with their font personalities.

It’s humorous and unexpected, which shows you Movoto isn’t your typical real estate company.

What Font Is Your City?

If the thought of building your own infographic seems like a bit much, there are some neat tools that can help make the process easier, particularly for non-designers.

To take things to the next level …

Make your infographics come to life.

Animated infographics (a.k.a. gifographics) have been around for a couple years, but they’re still relatively rare—which means they’re a fantastic option if you want your content to stand out.

Neil Patel was one of the early adopters of gifographics. His primer on Google proves the attention-grabbing power of animation.

How Google Works

5. Concept Visualizations

Self-explanatory visuals, charts, and graphs spread far

Infographics are one of the most powerful tools in a marketer’s kit. But designing a great one is hard work; plus, you need enough data to tell a story.

Here’s where concept visualizations come in. Because visualizations typically illustrate a single idea—rather than multiple stats and facts—they’re much smaller and more digestible than infographics. And they’re also quicker to create, meaning you could potentially pump one or two out for every blog post.

Here’s an example from Wistia:

The longer a viewer sticks around, the more likely they are to be a strong lead: https://t.co/MHtyMY4Qon pic.twitter.com/sWjVDTx4B1

— WISTIA (@wistia) June 15, 2016

As you can see, the team took an interesting concept from one of their blog posts and turned it into a simple graph. Then, they used it to promote the post.

Having an embedded graphic that’s useful on its own makes Wistia’s tweet highly shareable. In addition, it really drives home why time-on-site is an important metric.

Along similar lines, data visualization app Visme produced the chart below to go along with a job search article.

slide1

This chart is both interesting and easy to read. Note that Visme got the data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics—even if your company doesn’t have unique data, you can always visualize information from another source (just remember to give them credit!).

If you want more inspiration, head on over to Information Is Beautiful or Flowing Data.

And when it comes to creating these visualizations yourself, one of the fastest ways is with a simple Google Sheets chart. You can enter the data into a spreadsheet, build whatever style chart feels best, and take a quick screenshot of the result:

medium reads chart

To take things to the next level …

Use your own data.

While this move can stretch out the creation process a bit, it gives you the opportunity to position yourself as a thought leader.

You can visualize data you already possess; for instance, Boomerang analyzed more than 40 million emails its users had sent to find out the optimal message length, then turned the results into a cool graphic:

Boomerang Email Length

Alternatively, get data from a survey. SurveyMonkey, Wufoo, or Twitter polls are all solid options for gathering audience insights.

The final option? Conduct your own research. This New York Times visualization is an excellent example: it uses simple photography and copy to show the impact each piece of produce has on California’s drought crisis.

NYT Drought

6. Shareable Quotes

Easy to curate and create; just as much (or more) engagement

There’s something about a great quote that sticks in your mind for days, weeks, months, or even years. As marketers, we have the opportunity to share the best ones with our audience—and simultaneously inspire them and boost our brand.

Teachable, a platform for creating online courses, has made quotes a cornerstone of its social media strategy.

When you look at its six most recent Instagram posts, half are quotes. These visuals get just as much (and often more) engagement than the traditional images.

Teachable Instagram

General Assembly has its own quote strategy. Like Teachable, GA uses a specific hashtag for its quote visuals. It also uses a consistent format and style to make sure its followers link the inspiration to the source.

Instagram Photo

If you don’t want to design your own template, take advantage of Buffer’s Pablo image creator. You can pick out the perfect background photo and add your text in a minute or less; plus, you can download different sizes for the various networks.

To take things to the next level …

Combine concept visualizations and quotes. Once you’ve started making both separately, it’s only a short step to putting them together.

This example from Visual.ly demonstrates how cool the results can be. The quotes and the pie charts play off of each other quite nicely, each providing separate but related information. The juxtaposition of text and charts is also well-done.

Quote Concept Visualization

7. Facebook Live

Live videos are watched 3x longer and shown more in News Feed

Facebook’s live video streaming service is still in its infancy, but it’s already one of the top ways to form real connections with your audience. Live is informal—and by definition, unscripted—which means viewers feel like they’re getting a more intimate experience. You can see the effect on engagement: according to Facebook, people spend 3x longer on real-time video.

Facebook has even decided to push up Live videos in user News Feeds. That means when you’re broadcasting, you’ll get an organic traffic boost.

Benefit Cosmetics is taking full advantage of this new medium. Every Thursday, the brand live-streams an episode of “Tipsy Tricks with Benefit!” The hosts sip on wine, exchange playful banter, and answer beauty questions from their audience. The last installment received 29,000 views, 655 reactions, and 100-plus comments.

To take things to the next level …

Create multi-channel live campaigns.

Facebook Live is great, but it’s not the only live-streaming platform in town—to maximize your live content, distribute it across multiple apps.

For instance, Land Rover and The Brooks Brothers have joined forces on #LiveTestDrive, a Periscope and Facebook Live campaign. Every Friday, the team puts the car through its paces in on-road and off-road environments. Viewers get an up-close-and-personal look at how the Land Rover drives; plus, they can participate in live Q&As by using the hashtag #LiveTestDrive.

Since Facebook and Twitter have different demographics, broadcasting on both extends the campaign’s reach.

Over to you

Exploring new types of content can be challenging—but also really fun (especially when it pays off).

What do you think of these seven ideas? And which content types would you add to the list?

It’d be great to hear your ideas in the comments!

Image sources: Pablo, WOCinTech

A few months ago, Leo and I decided that we really wanted to step up our Medium game to truly understand how the platform worked and how we can provide the best value to our audience there. Truthfully, I was pretty clueless to begin with, and logging into the Buffer account was likely my second time on Medium but I was super excited to take on the challenge and learn everything I could.

Everything was started from scratch, with researching, creating spreadsheets, and experimenting at a rapid rate. I spent my time studying other brands on Medium and looking for posts that detailed what strategies and tactics worked for getting more traction.

The start of every day for me was Medium, I would import a story from the Buffer blog and edit it before publishing and then spending some time updating all of the tracking spreadsheets with the latest numbers, hoping for an indicator of what was working and what content should be posted tomorrow.

What follows are the 10 biggest experiments and how each one went. I hope it gives you some inspiration and ideas for what you might try next on Medium!

Our Best Medium Marketing Tips: Here’s Everything We Tried

I’ll go into great detail further on in the post about each of these strategies. Off the top, here’s a quick list of what we tried, what worked, and what didn’t.

Our top three Medium strategies were:

  1. Repost older, evergreen content
  2. Send Medium letters
  3. Experiment biweekly

These three strategies felt like positive changes, though we weren’t able to tie them to a direct impact on reads, views, or followers:

  1. Tie a custom domain to your Medium publication
  2. Design your Medium publication’s layout for maximum impact
  3. Experiment with finding the best publication title

And this list of strategies didn’t perform the way we were expecting:

  1. Posting on weekends
  2. Sharing to Buffer’s main social media accounts
  3. Writing thoughtful responses to other articles
  4. Publishing content from an individual person, rather than a brand/business

I’d love to share more on each of these. First off, here are the Medium marketing strategies that led the biggest results for us.

1. Repost olderevergreen content from your blog archives

Result: A 1,000% increase in views!

With our initial Medium strategy last fall, we focused on republishing our latest articles onto Medium, like many other companies and brands. We would wait about two weeks after the original piece was published on our Buffer blog, then republish it to our Medium publication.

And it worked okay — we didn’t quite see hypergrowth, though we were able to build a solid foundation of followers and reads.

What might’ve held us back?

One theory was that we were hitting the same people twice with the same content. Since a lot of Medium followers are usually similar to Twitter followers, it’s possible that two weeks after the blog post has been published, people had already read it on the Buffer blog or seen it promoted a few times on our Twitter account.

We switched to republishing Buffer pieces from a few years ago — articles that our Twitter audience had potentially never read or at least not read in a little while —  hoping the audience was more likely to read it.

And this is what happened:

medium-spike

That big spike in the chart above shows our views jumping from 528 one day, to 12,226 two days later — a 1,215% increase!

The only thing I changed was posting older, evergreen content. I didn’t change the day of the week or the frequency, just the content. And we were amazed at the results!

How can you implement this?

We’re lucky at Buffer to have been writing lots of high-quality content for a few years now, so it’s easy to dig back into the archives and pull out old popular pieces. If you also have older, evergreen content you can get from your archives, that’s perfect!

To find this content, you can:

  1. Dive deep into the pagination of your blog and look for evergreen content. For most WordPress blogs, you can navigate to a specific page by entering a URL like https://blog.bufferapp.com/page/14
  2. Filter your Google Analytics results to show your top posts from a year ago. Go to Behavior > Site Content and change your date filter to see a full year (for instance, July 2014 to July 2015). Here’s a look at ours:

google analytics results

If you’re republishing from a newer blog, I think part of the lesson here is that people might not want the same content from your blog on Medium again so soon, especially if they are already reading your blog and following you on Twitter.

One idea could be to try publishing different content on Medium than on your blog, at least for the first little while, to make sure you’re not hitting your audience with the same content so regularly.

2. Send Medium letters to your followers

Result: A 3x increase in views

I remember the day I figured out you could send newsletter-style emails to all of your publication readers, I was so excited to see what would happen when I pushed the magical button that put the post I wrote into everyone’s inbox.

The results? Hmm, not very many people read my first ever Medium letter.

medium-first-letter

And yet, the conversion rate of those that did open and read it was awesome at 83%:

medium-letter-reads

So while it wasn’t a terribly large spike in reads or recommends to either the letter or the post I was promoting, it was an intriguing start, and it definitely showed enough value for us to try it again.

Here’s what happened when I sent my second Medium letter:

medium-letter-two

We say our daily views triple on the day we sent the letter and quintuple (5x!) the day after.

A couple of things I changed from Letter No. 1 to Letter No. 2:

  • Added a lot more visuals
  • Included links to more than one post
  • Added a personal touch with my name

And then my third letter kept the momentum going: Another spike in traffic on the day that we sent it.
Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 7.26.57 AM

Sending regular Medium letters is a powerful strategy for us. Like any newsletter, it’s best to be consistent to keep your audience engaged, and seeing these results from our early experiments with letters has encouraged us to make letters a weekly habit for our Medium strategy.

How can you implement this?

If you’re thinking of sending a Medium letter, these are the letter themes we’ve tried out so far

  1. Changes to our Medium publication and trending articles (did really well)
  2. Top articles to read
  3. Publishing a new post (did not go so well)

I’m going to keep sending roundup-style posts via Medium letters to give readers a couple of post options and see what they’re most interested in.

Some people have regular newsletters that express opinions or share updates that readers can only get by email. You can get very creative with Letters as well, check out this beautiful example by Bright:

bright-letter

To send a Medium letter:

  1. Visit your Medium publication
  2. Click the Manage button at the top
  3. Choose “Letters” from the drop-down list
  4. Start writing, and hit Send when you’re done!

3. Run weekly or biweekly experiments (here’s a list to get you started)

Results: 10% monthly growth in reads

medium reads chart

When I first got started with growth experiments, Leo sent me this talk called “Growth Machine” by Brian Balfour that models a lot of how we look at marketing experiments at Buffer.

Based on this framework, I ran one Medium experiment every two weeks and tracked all of my stats in a spreadsheet.

Here’s a list of the 15 growth experiments and hypotheses I used. You’re totally welcome to steal to get yourself started to see what works for you on Medium.

  1. If we post to Medium on Saturday and Sunday, then we will rise to the top of the recommends list more quickly because there are less posts to compete with (less people post on weekends).
  2. If we post to only publications with more followers than us, then our posts will get more reads and recommends due to the larger reach (top 11 publications on Medium here).
  3. If we put a CTA in the post asking readers to recommend our post, we’ll get additional recommends because we’ve asked for them.
  4. If we ask our CEO to tweet our Medium articles, we’ll get increased reads because he reaches a large audience.
  5. If we ask the whole team to recommend our Medium posts right after they go live, we’ll get more reads and recommends because we’ll be featured more prominently on the Medium front page.
  6. If we promote our Medium posts across our social media channels, we’ll get additional reads because the Buffer social channels reach a wider audience than the Medium channel.
  7. If we send out Medium subscribers a newsletter to let them know we have new posts, we’ll get increased reads and recommends because we’re taking subscribers directly to our posts.
  8. If we post evergreen content from the blog that hasn’t been on Medium before, we’ll get more reads from people who follow the blog and are already caught up there, so we’ll get reads from a different audience because it’s varied content.
  9. If we post only pieces that are a 7 minute read, we’ll get increased reads and recommends, because that’s one of the optimal lengths for Medium.
  10. If we post only articles that touch on self-improvement, we’ll get increased reads and recommends, because that’s what a lot of the most popular content is on Medium.
  11. If we go back to posting three times a week, we’ll increase reads and recommends, because the lifespan for content on Medium is quite long.
  12. If we post a piece about Medium to our blog, we’ll increase followers, because of the link back.
  13. If we write really thoughtful responses to top performing articles, we’ll increase followers because we’ll show right at the bottom of these high-performing stories.
  14. If we post new stories from the author (rather than from our brand), we’ll increase reads and followers because Medium shares author stories with the authors’ followings and we’ve observed other publications getting good results from sharing content written by a person (rather than a brand).
  15. If we mix up our posting and post to both our own publication, as well as publications with a different audience, we’ll get more reads because we’re posting more often and reaching more people.

How can you implement this?

Everything that works for us might not necessarily work for you. I think the first two tips I’ve shared above (evergreen content, Medium letters) are absolutely actionable for everyone, but it’s essential to find out what your audience wants.

Every audience is likely to be slightly different. We wouldn’t have found out what doesn’t work until we tried it. Some of the things that didn’t work for us (listed further below) might work for you.

If you’re interested in implementing some of the experiments here, the best thing to do is go for it! Here’s a sample spreadsheet to get you started and make it easy to track results.

And if you’re looking for more inspiration, these posts have been helpful as we got started with the brainstorming process:

Which experiments didn’t quite work out for us?

1. Posting on weekends

Here’s the hypothesis I thought up: If we post to Medium on Saturday and Sunday, then we will rise to the top of the recommends list more quickly because there are fewer posts to compete with (less people post on weekends).

For us, our posts on average had far fewer reads and recommends on weekends — presumably because people aren’t on Medium on weekends! So we went back to weekdays only.

2. Sharing Medium articles on Buffer’s Twitter account

The initial hypothesis was that if we promote our Buffer medium posts across Buffer social media channels, we’ll get additional reads because the Buffer social channels reach a wider audience than the Medium channel. 

Yet these posts ended up having less reads than the ones we didn’t promote at all. Sharing on Buffer’s social profiles didn’t seem to have much of an impact on the posts themselves. What I’m thinking here is that a lot of our Twitter followers were potentially our Medium followers and had already seen the post, or were most interested in recent content (since these were still evergreen pieces.)

3. Write really thoughtful responses to trending articles

This one is based on a common content marketing practice, whereby you comment on top pieces to get noticed. Here’s what our results looked like:

medium-responses

In theory, we should show up right at the bottom of these top-performing posts on Medium to gain some traction there. It looks like though, the only way that your response is easily seen is

  1. If the person reading the article already follows you; and
  2. If the author recommends your response.

I’ve read a few posts about Medium being unhappy about people leaving too many responses that feel like comments. While mine were all pretty lengthy and I put a lot of thought in them, they still weren’t their own stories so I felt this might not be the best strategy given Medium’s changes.

4. Sharing articles from the original author

This is one we’ve seen lots of other successful brands on Medium do. The brands specifically post from the original authors (like the image below) instead of posting from “Buffer”.

original author posting

Other than the aesthetic part of this, our theory was that when we do this, the posts will get a larger reach because the author’s followers will also see the content.

We tried this with three posts, and here were the results:

medium-guest-post

(One thing to note is that within your publication you don’t directly have access to the stats for these authors , you have to ask them to share the stats with you.) 

These posts were very social media focused, which usually does pretty well with our audience. On average, these posts had about 64 reads whereas the average for all of June was 292, so these posts performed 78% less well than the other posts from that month.

Quick Wins To Get Your Publication Looking Sharp

When I first took over our Buffer Medium publication, I made a couple of tweaks to start pulling things together, while I’m not sure if they directly led to any increased following or reads, these simple tricks can help make your publication look like the real deal:

1. Get a custom Medium URL 

We migrated from a longer medium.com URL to stories.buffer.com, which felt a lot more clean.

Medium makes this whole process really simple. To start, kick off a ticket requesting to set up a custom Medium domain. After that, there’s a bit of technical know-how required to get everything set up properly (we grabbed an engineer to help with the A records, CNAME, and DNS).

2. Change up the design

I hadn’t realized how flexible and beautiful the Medium design really is!

There is tons you can do there. Here are a few things we changed up:

We added a larger, centered logo and larger publication title right at the top of the publication. We also added tags to our homepage to make navigation easier.

medium-design

The tags were totally inspired by Slack’s beautiful Medium account:

medium-slack

We also changed up the articles so that they would appear as images in big blocks.

medium-buffer-stories

No need to do exactly as we did here, Medium offers a ton of flexibility for you to organize and showcase your posts in a way that looks great for you. Moving things around to see what kinds of design tweaks feel best for your publication can go a long way.

3. Play around with the publication title 

In efforts to get more creative and unique on Medium, we went from Social Media Tips → The Queue → Stories by Buffer. 

I love Slack’s Several People are Typing, and Basecamp’s Signal v. Noise

Over To You

Are you on Medium? If so I’d love to know any of the Marketing tactics you’re using! What’s working and what have you learned? 😄

Excited to hear from you in the comments.

Image sources: Unsplash, Pablo

If you’re anything like me, there are only a handful of things more exciting for a social media marketer than when a Tweet “goes viral.”

Tina Fey sums up the feeling nicely:

Tina Fey excited, viral tweet, successful tweets

And so I set about with the audacious goal for this post of trying to unravel the great social media mystery of virality: Figuring out the formula for Twitter’s most successful tweets.

Better yet, I hoped to determine the formula for Buffer’s most successful tweets so that I could repeat the process and share what I’ve learned with marketers everywhere.

Now that info would make for a great tweet!

I didn’t quite find the holy grail for tweeting, though I did discover several elements that lead to successful tweets. I’d love to share all my findings with you and how you can replicate their success by understanding the psychology behind why they work.

The 10 best Buffer tweets top tweets for your brand and others

To gather the data for this article, I used MyTopTweet to pull together Buffer’s 10 most successful tweets and attempted to create a best-practices guide on why our top tweets worked and how marketers can repeat our success.

First, I’d love to run through the key elements of each tweet and then I’ll go into a bit more detail about each element and how you can utilize them in your own Twitter strategy.

After looking at the different types of Buffer tweets and also researching a variety of tweets from top brands, I found that there is no magic formula for virality, but there are elements to successful tweets. In other words, recurring themes continually appeared in many of the tweets that I studied.

Here are the top 10 Buffer tweets and the elements that made them great:

1. 

— Buffer (@buffer) January 15, 2014

Key Tweet elements

  • Self-explanatory image
  • “Ah-ha” moment
  • Relatable and insightful topic
  • “Wow” factor

2.

In celebration of 500K followers on Twitter, we’re giving away a Buffer Water Bottle! Retweet this to enter! 🎉😄❤️ pic.twitter.com/vwsNzklNYa

— Buffer (@buffer) March 14, 2016

Key Tweet elements

  • Giveaway promotion with a branded prize
  • Easy-to-follow CTA
  • Self-explanatory image
  • Asking for engagement

3.

— Buffer (@buffer) November 2, 2015

Key Tweet elements

  • Giveaway promotion with a branded prize
  • Easy-to-follow CTA
  • Self-explanatory image
  • Asking for engagement

4.

— Buffer (@buffer) May 23, 2016

Key Tweet elements

  • Relatable and insightful topic
  • Curated content
  • Self-explanatory image

5.

— Buffer (@buffer) July 23, 2014

Key Tweet elements

  • Self-explanatory image
  • “Wow” factor
  • Relatable and insightful content

6.

— Buffer (@buffer) June 18, 2016

Key Tweet elements

  • “Wow” factor
  • Self-explanatory image
  • Curated content

7.

— Buffer (@buffer) May 16, 2016

Key Tweet elements

  • Timely, trending news
  • “Wow” factor
  • Curated content

8.

— Buffer (@buffer) August 9, 2014

Key Tweet elements

  • Relatable and insightful content
  • Curated content
  • Self-explanatory image
  • “Aha” moment

9.

— Buffer (@buffer) September 7, 2014

Key Tweet elements

  • Self-explanatory image
  • “Wow” factor
  • Relatable and insightful content

10.

— Buffer (@buffer) May 4, 2016

Key Tweet elements

  • Self-explanatory image
  • Curated content
  • Timely, trending news

Let’s dive in to each individual element a bit further so that we may be able to get closer and closer to a successful tweet formula.

Did you notice any trends throughout that were different than what we’ve identified? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!

6 Key Psychological Elements in the Most Successful Tweets

Analyzing our most successful tweets was a great exercise because it reminded me that many times great Twitter marketing is all about the basics.

I often get caught up in over-thinking the exact wording of a tweet, what image to use, or how many hashtags are appropriate, and I forget to put our audience first.

If there’s one thing that marketers can take away from all of this is that audiences are looking for value in what they choose to share on Twitter. That can be anything from educational value to humorous value to good ol’ plain fun.

Like this Tweet from Ellen DeGeneres, the most popular tweet of all time:

— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) March 3, 2014

1. Use self-explanatory images so your message is easily understood

Using imagery to communicate messages and stories dates back to 35,000 B.C. when our pre-historic ancestors were drawing pictures on cave walls. We’ve been communicating with visuals 10x longer than we have with words.

Visual communication is wired into our DNA, as this infographic from Mammoth shows:

Visual History of Learning, Successful Tweet, Tweeting, Twitter

When it comes to successful tweets, a picture is worth 140 characters in quickly capturing the attention of your audience.

For that matter, you can get even more mileage with a picture that tells a complete story.

That’s where self-explanatory images enter. These are images that can stand on their own to completely explain a concept or idea, without the person needing to read any additional text.

explanatory vs abstract

For self-explanatory images, users don’t have to click any links, read any captions, or visit another Twitter page to digest the information in the Tweet. This is one of the reasons that made it highly shareable. People respond well to the passing and sharing of information with no barriers.

Many times a quality stock photo will suffice (as those often tell a story as well), but other times images that include data, facts, quotes, etc. help to drive home the message in a much quicker and effective way.

Try asking these three questions:

  1. Would this image make sense with no caption at all?
  2. Does this image contain relevant or insightful content?
  3. Would I share this content myself on Twitter?

If the answer to at least 2 of the 3 questions is yes, you’re in a great place.

2. Choose a relatable and insightful topic that your audience will naturally share

No matter how good your images may be, if the topic isn’t something that people want to share then it’s going to be a tough sell for your audience.

But your audience wants to like it and they want to share it with their friends.

There’s only one catch … They have so much content to choose from.

This eye-opening study from Excelacom shows just how much online content there really is. To give you an idea, here’s how much content is produced on social media every single minute:

What Happens in a Social Media Minute

So how, in all of this content, do you produce successful tweets on a consistent basis?

You get inside your audience’s head. You make your content so compelling and so unique that they want to be the first to share it among their friends and family.

There are several key psychological reasons behind why people share great content, but let’s explore two of the most important reasons so that you can experiment in your next campaign. 

1. People share to entertain friends and family

According to a 2016 study from Fractl, the number one reason people share content on social media is to entertain. Of the 2,000 people that were surveyed, an overwhelming 43% of people share content that they “think their friends will find entertaining.” 

Sharing content that aims to entertain serves two key purposes.

  1. It helps people to build and nurture relationships with those that are close to us
  2. It helps people to connect with those they may not otherwise stay in touch with

Creating content with the ultimate goal of entertainment can be an extremely powerful lever in your social media strategy.

2. People share to express personal feelings or beliefs

We’ve all been here.

We see something that we like or that we personally believe in and feel compelled to share. Though most of us don’t end up sharing anything at all, an incredible study back in 1966 by the Harvard Business Review found that 64% of sharing is about the sharer themselves. 

We share content that helps to define who we are.

Supporting a cause, getting involved, and defining ourselves are all behaviors in expressing personal feelings or beliefs and are important to consider when creating content for social media. 

3. Piggyback on timely or trending news (that is already on people’s minds)

Publishing timely or trending news is something we’ve been experimenting with a lot here at Buffer in the last few months. We’ve experimented with writing about trending stories like F8, Snapchat 2.0, and Instagram Business Tools along with a handful of other timely topics.  

Three out of 10 of our most successful tweets are tweets in which we leveraged trending news. 

Being the “first to the scene” works extremely well in terms of traffic and shares when we seem to have found the perfect angle on the topic. If you’re able to find that angle it is much more likely to get shared by your audience on social media. 

Usability with trending news and updates can be a key factor in sharing.

Trending news on social media

Remember that the goal is to create content that people believe will entertain their friends or content that fits within their belief system. That’s a bit tougher to do when writing about a timely or trending topic because several other publishers are talking about the same thing. 

And so the key is to find a unique angle that no other brand or publisher is talking about. 

Here are some examples of angles that we took on trending stories using compelling headlines to help us stand out from the crowd.

F8 Conference

  • The Verge: “F8 conference 2016: the biggest news from Facebook’s developer event”
  • Buffer: “F8 Update: 10 New Facebook Features Every Marketer Should Know”

Snapchat Geofilters

  • MarketingLand: “Up close: How the new Snapchat On-Demand Geofilters work”
  • Buffer: “Everything You Need to Know About Snapchat Geofilters (And How to Build Your Own)”

It’s important to point out that all of these headlines worked well in terms of shares and so there’s no “right or wrong” here. However, ours performed alongside top publishers because of the added value we provided.

4. Run social media giveaways because people love free things

Turns out that, when faced with several choices, we gravitate towards the item that is free, regardless of its economic value.

In Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, Duke professor Dan Ariely writes:

Most transactions have an upside and a downside, but when something is FREE! we forget the downside. FREE! gives us such an emotional charge that we perceive what is being offered as immensely more valuable than it really is.

And so when looking at our 10 most successful tweets, it’s no surprise that No. 2 and No. 3 were giveaways on Twitter. Giveaways offer brands an inexpensive way to drive shares on social media while also giving back to a loyal community.

Before starting a Twitter giveaway, consider what you would like to achieve with your promotion. Is it more traffic to your website? More followers to your Twitter account? Or is it simply an opportunity to give back?

Prismologie Twitter Giveaway

Social Media Examiner has an awesome 4-step checklist for running successful Twitter contests, which we’ve used several times to guide our strategy. Overall, remember these common elements before starting yours:

  • Schedule contest teaser tweets in advance to build interest.
  • Include an image or visual to attract attention and increase engagement.
  • Choose a single, clear call to action for best results.
  • Post clear terms and conditions.
  • Announce the winners and thank everyone for taking the time to enter when the contest ends.

5. Add a “Wow” factor to stimulate the brain

There are only a few things that get people to share quicker than lighting up their brain with instant stimulation. When people see something that is particularly incredible or shocking, their brain immediately thinks “share.”

Just like you as marketers can create a “wow factor” with audiences through excellent customer service, you can create that same “wow factor” with information and content.

When’s the last time you were scrolling through your feed on Twitter and saw something that made you stop in your tracks?

That is the sort of content you can aim to create or curate in your most successful tweets. 

One surefire way to deliver the “wow factor” to your audience is through statistics and data which is both visual and interesting. Take these two graphics for example that each garnered more than 300 shares on Twitter:

Active Users by Social Platform (4)

Startup Marketing, Marketing Channels, startups, marketing

Each one took about 20-30 minutes to create but paid huge dividends in terms of social media ROI.

Always be on the lookout for areas in which you can uncover interesting or useful data and turn it into social media content.

6. Curate content

A whopping 6/10 of our most successful tweets are made up of curated content.

Which begs the question: why? 

There are two key factors at play here which I think make a huge difference in the shareability of a brand’s content.

  1. It’s a huge challenge to create amazing content on a consistent basis.

    Curating content allows marketers to take the best content from around the web and use it to develop their brand as an industry thought leader while building relationships with the original publisher.

    Over time your audience will begin to go to you for quality information about industry news and insights.

  2. The psychological principle of Mere Exposure Theory.

    This principle states that, “the more we are exposed to something, the more we like it.”

    The more quality content that you are able to produce on social media the better. Curating quality content will not only increase your exposure to new audiences, but it will increase your frequency of success.

Content Curation Importance

In a study conducted by Content Marketing Institute, 77% of the participants said they would curate more content in 2016 than they did in 2015 – signaling the fact that brands are seeing results from content curation.

Over to you! 

What psychological elements make up your most successful Tweets? 

Are you seeing success with giveaways? How about curated content?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments about your secret Twitter sauce and how you’ve found success in the past.

Across the globe, there are over 500 million Instagrammers — more than 300 million of whom use Instagram every single day, sharing an average of 95 million photos and videos per day.

Those are huge numbers. And no matter who your audience is — age, gender, occupation, anything — you’ll be sure to reach them through Instagram. So the question becomes …

Where do you get started with Instagram?

How can you stand out among the other 95 million photos posted each day? How can non-designers and amateur photographers create beautiful content for Instagram?

These are all questions we’d love to help you answer in this guide.


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We recently launched one of our biggest product enhancements, Buffer for Instagram, to help you plan, track and amplify your Instagram marketing.

get-started-with-buffer-instagram

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The Complete Guide to Instagram for Business

Everything you need to know to create a killer Instagram marketing strategy for your business. 

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Contents:

Why Instagram?

Keys to a successful profile

How to create a content strategy

The 7 elements of high-performing Instagram content

How to increase growth and engagement

How to measure results

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First things first: Why use Instagram for business?

IG-for-business-bg@2x

Boasting over 300 million daily active users, Instagram has huge potential for marketers. But the potential in Instagram lies more in the user behavior than the numbers.

Instagrammers like to connect with brands.

Research shows that brands enjoy a number of distinct benefits and advantages on the network:

  • Instagram, brands enjoy regular engagement with 4 percent of their total followers. On networks like Facebook and Twitter, engagement is less than 0.1 percent. (source: Forrester)
  • 70% of Instagram users report having looked up a brand on the platform (source: Iconosquare)
  • 62% of users follow a brand on Instagram (source: Iconosquare)
  • Only 36 percent of marketers use Instagram, compared to 93% of marketers who use Facebook (source: Selfstartr)

Social media has been proven to influence purchase decisions. And if you can find the right mix of content, your audience will soak it up – and even buy from you – without the need for a hard push or sales pitch. It’s the marketers dream.

 

Still need convincing? Let’s take a look at what marketers have to say about the platform.

What marketers are saying about Instagram

The numbers and research above all sound great, but what are marketers  – the people who use Instagram to drive business results – actually saying about the platform? Here’s what marketers from brand like Birchbox, and Ben & Jerry’s have to say about the platform:

IG-quote-final@2x

Mike Hayes, Digital Marketing Manager of Ben & Jerry’s“Since its launch, Instagram has provided us with an amazing platform to connect with our fans and tell our story visually.” 

Jessica Lauria, Director of Brand Communications Chobani: “Instagram is a great platform for Chobani. It allows us to show how people actually use our product and inspires new ways to savor.”

Rachel Jo Silver, Director, Social Marketing & Content Strategy, Birchbox: “Instagram has been an incredibly effective engagement-driver among our current customers.”

The formula for Instagram success

Success for businesses on Instagram relies on more than simply publishing a few nice-looking images. You need to also have these elements:

  • Clear vision and strategy
  • Consistent frequency
  • Familiarity with your audience
  • Clear visual style

When you combine together these ingredients, Instagram can deliver huge results for your business.

Take Madewell, for example. The fashion brand has amassed a hugely engaged audience on Instagram (over 700,000 followers and 7,000 to 10,000 likes per post). The platform has become a key marketing channel for them, enabling them to connect with thousands of potential customers on a daily basis.

madewell-IG

So, how do Madewell and other successful brands stand out on Instagram? We put together this guide to help you craft your own Instagram marketing strategy that’s based on a clear vision and results that you can measure.

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How to Create an Instagram Marketing Strategy

IG-strategy@2x

Why are you on Instagram? Choose 1-to-2 main goals

Whether you’re completely new to Instagram and preparing to share your first post or are already established and looking to boost your presence on the platform, it’s important to start with clear goals in mind.

Setting goals will help you to define your strategy on Instagram and create content that will help you to achieve your targets.

Here are some common ones that brands, teams, and individuals tend to choose:

  1. Showcase your products or services
  2. Build your community
  3. Increase awareness of your brand
  4. Showcase your company culture and values
  5. Advertise to potential customers
  6. Increase brand loyalty
  7. Share company news and updates

It’s best to choose one or two goals for your Instagram profile, either from the above list or a custom goal of your choosing. To help decide which goals make sense for you, it can be good to consider the following questions:

  • Why are you using Instagram?
  • How can Instagram assist you in achieving your overall marketing goals?
  • How much time or budget can you commit to Instagram?
  • How does Instagram offer you something different to other platforms?

Here at Buffer we have two main goals for our Instagram marketing strategy.

Our top goal is to build and nurture an engaged community of Buffer users and supporters.

To ensure we reach that goal we have a set target of reaching out to and featuring the work of four-to-six Buffer community members per week. If we do that 52 weeks per year that’s between 208-to-312 people that we’ve connected with one-on-one.

The second goal for our Instagram marketing strategy is to continually increase engagement on every one of our posts.

Currently, our engagement rate (avg. engagement per post/number of followers) is about 1.75% which is a bit higher than industry standard. We’re focusing on producing the highest quality Instagram content so that our engagement rate stays at or above this benchmark.

Which members of your audience are on Instagram? Search the demographics


Marketing is all about delivering the right message, to the right people, at the right time.
Click To Tweet


And understanding the demographics of a platform is an important part of ensuring you’re hitting your target audience.

Pew Research released a breakdown of Instagram demographics and I’d love to share the key findings with you here.

Instagram user demographics - Pew research

Age and gender of Instagram users

Roughly half of internet-using young adults ages 18-29 (53%) use Instagram. Here the full breakdown of age groups:

  • 53% of 18–29 year olds use Instagram.
  • 25% of 30–49 year olds use Instagram.
  • 11% of 50–64 year olds use Instagram.
  • 6% of people 65+ use Instagram.

Also, slightly more of Instagram’s users are female:

  • 29% of online females use Instagram.
    22% of online males use Instagram.

Location of Instagram users

  • 28% of Instagram users live in urban areas.
  • 26% of Instagram users live in suburban areas.
  • 19% of Instagram users live in rural areas.

Instagram education demographics

  • 31% of Instagram users have some college experience.
  • 24% of Instagram users are college graduates.
  • 23% of Instagram users are high school grads or less.

Instagram income demographics

  • 28% of adults making less than $30,000
  • 26% of adults making over $75,000
  • 26% of adults making $50,000–$74,999
  • 23% of adults making $30,000–$49,999

Now that you have your goals in mind and know which members of your audience are active on Instagram, you can get started on building out your presence on Instagram. First step: optimizing your profile.

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How to optimize your Instagram profile

Keys to getting the most lift from your profile picture, bio, and link

IG-profile-bg@2x

Your Instagram profile is essentially your homepage on the platform. It provides you with space to share a little information about your business and also gives you the chance to drive some traffic back to your website. In this section, we’ll guide you through how to maximize your Instagram profile and drive as much value as possible from it.

Your bio/description

Your description is very personal to your brand, what you choose to share here should be representative of your business and show your followers what you do as a company. Most businesses tend to include either (or both) of the below:

  • Brand slogan or tagline (e.g. Nike’s “Just Do It”)
  • An outline of who you are and what you do

Some large brands also choose to include a brand hashtag within their bio (for example, Nike Basketball below).

Here are a few examples:

Unbounce:unbouce-IG

Nike Basketball:nike-ig

Sheraton Hotels: sheraton-ig

Profile picture

Your profile picture is one of the most important parts of your Instagram profile. When someone views one of your posts or clicks on your profile, it’s great if your brand is instantly recognizable. For many brands this tends to mean using one of three options:

  • Logo
  • Logomark (the logo, minus any words)
  • Mascot

At Buffer, we keep it simple and use our logomark over a plain white background on Instagram and all other networks:

buffer-ig

Your link

Unlike many other social networks, Instagram doesn’t allow you to add links to every post. Instead, you only get one link, and that’s the one in your profile.

Most businesses tend to use this link to drive traffic back to their homepage, and this link can also be a key way to drive traffic from Instagram to campaign-specific landing pages or individual pieces of content.

Gary Vaynerchuk does this to great effect on his Instagram feed. Whenever he publishes a new piece of content online, he’ll share a relevant image or video to Instagram and update the link in his bio to reflect it.

gary-v-ig

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Coming soon: Instagram business profiles 

A First Look at New Instagram Business Tools (And What They Mean for Your Business)

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Creating a content strategy for Instagram

How to build content pillars for the type of content you share to Instagram

IG-content@2x

Content is the heart of Instagram. The 95 million photos and videos shared daily to the platform are the reason more than 300 million people open the app every day. And content should be at the core of your strategy, too.

But what should you post about?

Before you get into thinking about your visual style, it’s good to have a clear vision for the type of content you’re putting out.

Some brands focus on their products. For example, Nike Running often make their trainers and running equipment the focal point of their content:

nikerun-ig

Whereas other brands, such as WeWork, put more focus on their community and culture:

wework-ig

At Buffer, our Instagram marketing strategy is to post consistently quality content that aims to build Buffer’s brand while also connecting on an individual basis with our community members. We believe strongly in the power of one-on-one interactions and connections.

In that spirit, we’ve created the hashtag #BufferStories which allows our community to tell a story about what they’re passionate about both personally and professionally. Instagram is a tremendous medium for short-form content, but there’s also the possibility for relevant, long-form content. Our audience has responded quite well to the passionate stories of others.

buffer-ig-post

There’s no hard and fast rule for the best angle to take when it comes to your strategy — it’ll vary from business to business. What’s important is to focus on creating content that aligns with both your audience and your goals. This starts with defining your content pillars.

Build your content pillars

The foundations of any strategy are built on solid content pillars or themes.

Every business, no matter its size, industry or location has a wealth of potentially brilliant content to share on Instagram. Whether it’s stories from your employees, culture-focused content, or product-led demos, there’s a whole host of opportunities and worthy subjects for your videos and photos.

Some example content pillars include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Behind the scenes content
  • User generated content
  • Product demos / showcase
  • Educational (e.g. the best social media tips)
  • Culture focused (showing the human side of your company)
  • Fun / lighthearted
  • Customer stories
  • Get to know the team
  • Team member takeovers

What I love to do when it comes to defining themes is to open up a notepad and throw around some ideas. Starting with some key company values, I then scribble down everything that comes to mind. From these notes, you can then start to formulate ideas for your key content pillars.

For example at Buffer, here are the themes we work with:

  • User generated content
  • Digital nomad lifestyle
  • Productivity and motivation

buffer-pics

3 successful brands on Instagram and their content pillars

1. Saturday Night Live

Saturday Night Live’s Instagram feed focus on two key pillars: Taking fans behind the scenes of the show and sharing exclusive clips. When fans check Instagram they can expect to see a fun-filled photo or video of their favorite SNL stars or get a sneak peek at what goes on behind the cameras to get the show out there.

snl-ig

2. FedEx

FedEx’s feed consists of photos based around the theme of FedEx’s delivery drivers, vans and planes out in the wild. they often feature images shared with them by followers, too – a great way to keep their fans on the lookout for FedEx vehicles to photograph. Their feed also gives off a vibe of high-end, artistic photography.

fedex-ig

3. Oreo

Oreo put their product at the heart of their Instagram content and manage to do so in a way that’s fun and highly engaging. They often use entertaining copy within the images themselves and use solid, vibrant backgrounds to make their posts stand out within the Instagram feed.

oreo-ig

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Further reading: How to manage multiple accounts on Instagram

Early in 2016, Instagram opened up one of its most requested features, giving users the ability to switch between multiple accounts. This guide will help you get up and rocking with multiple accounts:

How to Add and Manage Multiple Accounts on Instagram

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Creating a content plan

The 7 keys to cohesive content to drive exceptional results

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Once you have your content themes in place (you can always test and adapt themes to see what works best), it’s time to bring it all together into a content plan. A content plan should help you define the style and aesthetic feel of your posts, alongside how frequently you’re going to post to Instagram.

Let’s begin with a look at how to create your Instagram style guide.

1. Style guide

One of the most important parts of any social media strategy is the style guide. Why are they so important? They ensure consistency across all marketing channels and throughout every piece of content you produce.

Style guides contain all the necessary information for a piece of content from beginning to end — from the design and layout of post to the copy and hashtags that accompany it. When it comes to Instagram you should consider the following items:

  • Composition
  • Color palette
  • Fonts
  • Filters
  • Captions
  • Hashtags

2. Composition

Composition refers to the placement or arrangement of visual elements or ingredients in a work of art, as distinct from the subject of a work. Not every marketer is an expert photographer, so it can be great to define a few quick composition rules.

These can include things like:

  • Solid background color
  • Main focus of the picture set to the Rule of Thirds
  • Extra space at top/bottom for text

Amy Tangerine, a company that shares “a slice of the sweet life” through an array of scrapbooking products and lifestyle services, is a great example of a clear visual style and composition. Its posts often feature a solid background color or texture allowing the focal point of the composition to stand out clearly.

tangerine

3. Color palette

Picking out a color palette will help keep your feed consistent and focused. Having a palette doesn’t mean that you can strictly only use these colors, but it will help your posts have a nice consistent, familiar feeling. It can feel great to keep your color palette in line with other areas of your brand, too.

Frooti, the largest-selling fruit drink brand in India, uses Instagram to showcase their distinct brand personality. A key part of this aesthetic is the vibrant color palette used by the brand:

frooti

In contrast, Everlane uses a much softer color palette across Instagram, staying true to their brand’s signature grey/black/white look:

evernote

4. Fonts

If you’re going to post quotes or text overlays on your Instagram images, you should try to keep the fonts consistent with your brand by choosing the same fonts you use on your website or other marketing materials.

Headspace is a great example of keeping fonts consistent across posts. The mindfulness app regularly shares text-based posts, and by keeping the font in-line with the rest of their brand, followers can instantly recognize Headspace’s content within their feed.

headspace

5. Filters

Instagram filters can make amateur photographers feel like pros. And if you don’t have high-end photography equipment or editing software, they’re a great way to enhance photos with just a few taps. Filters can drastically change the look and feel of a photo or video, so it’s important to use only a few that you feel best represent your brand — and stick to the few you’ve chosen. Using a different filter for every post can quickly make an Instagram feed feel a little disjointed.

6. Captions

Instagram captions are limited to 2,200 characters, and after three lines of text they become truncated with an ellipsis.

Captions are a chance to enhance your content further and there are plenty of ways brands use them. Some choose to treat captions as a place for sharing stories and micro-blogging, others use them to add a short, snappy headline to a post and others use captions to ask questions and encourage replies. The possibilities are endless. What’s important is to ensure the copy is aligned with your brand.

Mailchimp is well known for its unique brand voice – they even had a website dedicated to it — and their fun-loving tone is carried through into their Instagram captions, too:

mailchimp-ig

Everlane is again a great example of how to use Instagram captions. The brand uses captions to convey a funny, familiar voice that their buyers can relate to. For example, the below post (shared in winter time) is captioned: “About how cold we feel right now.”

everlane2

7. Hashtags

Hashtags have become a uniform way to catagorize content on many social media platforms. Hashtags allow Instagrammers to discover content and accounts to follow. Research from Track Maven found that posts with over 11 hashtags tend to get more engagement. 

track-maven

Top Tip: If you would like to avoid adding too many hashtags to your caption, you can also add hashtags as comments. For example, you can see below how Amy Tangerine adds additional hashtags to the photo in the comments:

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When it comes to choosing the right hashtags for your content, it’s best to do your research and see which hashtags people in your market are using and which are most active.

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Make your Instagram posts stand out: Master design with these great tips for non-designers

If you’re looking to take your Instagram images to the next level and become a better marketer, check out this design dictionary for a crash course on how to better understand design:

Why Every Marketer in 2016 Needs to Be a (Part-Time) Designer: 53 Design Terms and Tips to Level-Up

Further reading: 

How to Create Engaging Images for Social Media: A Simple Guide For Non-Designers
Images have never been more important in social. They’re the key to driving greater online engagement, much like a great headline in advertising. This post shares 3 key design principles that will help you create engaging social images every time:

Click here to read now >

47 Amazingly Talented Artists and Designers to Follow on Instagram
To help provide you with some creative inspiration, we’ve curated a group of 47 super-talented artists specializing in a range of disciplines. Follow these insanely accomplished artists and designers to stay ahead of the curve and inspired day-after-day.

Click here to read now >

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How to find your best frequency and timing on Instagram

Best practices and data tips for maximizing your chance for success

There’s a lot to be said for consistency on social media. Consistency and publishing frequency can help your audience learn when to expect new content from you, and keeping a consistent schedule makes sure you maximize engagement without hitting any lulls or stretches without updates.

A study by Union Metrics found that most brands post to Instagram daily. In fact the average was 1.5 posts per day. The study also found — and this was really interesting — that there was no correlation between increased frequency and lower engagement, meaning brands that posted more than twice per day didn’t see any ill effects.

Our best advice here is to aim to post at least once per day on Instagram and experiment with additional posts to find what works best for you.

What time should you post to Instagram?

With Instagram’s recent change to an algorithmic timeline, timing is now one of many elements considered by the algorithm when it decides what content to show you. So it’s important to post at the times when your content is likely to pick up the most engagement. Our hunch here is Instagram’s algorithm may then determine this post should appear near the top of your follower’s feeds.

CoSchedule collected research from 16 social media studies to come up with these best practices for Instagram:

  • Mondays and Thursdays drive the most engagement
  • The time of day with the most engagement is 8:00 to 9:00 a.m. Eastern

It could be best to treat these best practices as guidelines and times to test out since the best time to post can rely on a bunch of factors and vary from profile to profile. For example, we’ve found that our best time at Buffer is 11:00 a.m. Pacific.

How to ensure consistent posting on Instagram

Once you’ve determined your content themes and the frequency at which you’d like to post to Instagram, one of the best ways to ensure you stick to your strategy is to create a content calendar that tracks which posts will be shared and when.

The Instagram API doesn’t quite allow scheduling just yet, which means you cannot schedule posts directly on Instagram. To post consistently with Instagram, we schedule Instagram reminders in Buffer. Here’s how it works:

  1. Find, edit, and upload a beautiful picture to Buffer. Add a caption with hashtags, mentions, and emoji. Schedule for the ideal time.
  2. Receive a push notification on our phone at the scheduled time.
  3. Open the notification, select Open in Instagram, and preview the post.
  4. Make any final edits (filters, geolocation) and share from the Instagram app.

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Buffer for Instagram works by adding a post through Buffer and having a reminder pop up on a user’s phone when it’s time to send it out.

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Dive deeper: How to Find the Most Timely, Consistent Instagram Schedule with Buffer

Researching the best ways to get your brand seen on Instagram, we discovered a pair of common themes: Share your post at the right time to gain traction in the feed, and share to Instagram at a consistent rhythm. Here’s more on how we’ve maximized these two elements (plus 6 more):

Buffer for Instagram is Here: 8 Ways to Get Your Best Instagram Marketing Results with Buffer

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3 tips to help increase your growth and engagement

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1. Embrace user generated content

Instagram users provide a wealth of potential content for your business. Curating content from your followers can help you to build a vibrant and engaged community and user generated content can also incentivize your audience to share their own creative ways of interacting with your products, services or company.

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Must read: Learn how we used user generated content to grow our Instagram audience by 60%

In under 3 months, we grew our Instagram account by 60%  – 5,850 to 9,400 followers. A large percentage of this growth was down to user generated content and in this post, Brian shares our exact strategy:

How We Grew Our Instagram Followers by 60% with User Generated Content

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2. Include some faces in your posts to boost engagement

A study from Georgia Tech looked at 1.1 million random Instagram pictures and discovered these two really interesting bits of information. Pictures with faces get:

  • 38% more likes
  • 32% more comments

This is something HubSpot does very well in its feed to showcase the people behind the company:

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3. Try sharing your Instagram posts to Facebook

A Buzzsumo study of over 1 billion Facebook posts from 3 million brand pages found that images posted to Facebook via Instagram receive more engagement than natively published images:
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Must read: How to Gain a Massive Following on Instagram: 10 Proven Tactics To Grow Followers and Engagement

How to Gain a Massive Following on Instagram: 10 Proven Tactics To Grow Followers and Engagement

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Measuring your results

How to learn what’s working with your Instagram marketing

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Tracking your performance and results is essential to any social media strategy. This enables you to decipher which types of content your audience finds most engaging and allows you to optimize your strategy as you move forward.

Paying close attention to your audience growth, and the number of likes and comments your posts receive will give you clues as to what’s working and what could maybe be improved. If you’d like to dive even more in-depth, you can work out an engagement rate for each of your posts.

How to calculate engagement rate on Instagram

The engagement rate is calculated by taking the number of likes + comments and dividing that number by the number of followers your account had at the time of posting.

Here’s an example:

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The above post received 210 and 8 comments. At the time of posting, we had 12,343 followers. So the engagement rate would be worked out as follows:

  • 210 (likes) + 8 (comments) = 218
  • 218 / 12,343 (followers) = Engagement rate of 1.76%

Buffer for Instagram analytics 

Buffer’s analytics enable you to check in on your key metrics for networks like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. With Instagram analytics on Buffer paid plans, you can sort every post by the most popular, most likes, and most comments. You can also select any custom timeframe or from presets like 7, 30, or 90 days. This is a fantastic way to keep an eye on trends and what’s performing.

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Buffer’s Instagram analytics can also help you to find the perfect sharing frequency. Using the ‘Posts Per Day plus Likes’ function you can see how the number of posts per day affect your engagement. Here’s a quick snapshot from our account:

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In addition to these stats, you can also use Buffer for Instagram to:

  • Track post performance
  • Monitor Instagram trends
  • Track comments and hashtag usage
  • Measure audience engagement
  • Report across multiple profiles

Analytics can help you judge the effect of your content, schedule, and frequency of posting on Instagram and measure how it affects important Instagram metrics such as likes and followers.

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Over to you

As you progress with your Instagram marketing strategy, you’ll begin to notice some trends and what types of content help you to reach your goals. It’s never easy to build a loyal, engaged following on any channel, but with the right approach and enough experimenting you’ll find a great fit for your brand.

I hope you found this guide useful and I’d love to continue the discussion about Instagram marketing in the comments below. What are your thoughts on Instagram?

Instagram has fast become one of the largest, most lucrative social networks: 300 million people use the app every day and Instagram’s users spend more in purchases than any other major social network.

That’s a huge audience and a huge opportunity!

We’re thrilled at the chance to help you succeed there.

There are many different tactics and strategies for finding success on Instagram—timing, consistency, hashtags, links, and more. Being able to act on these strategies and to do so in a streamlined way alongside your other social media marketing can be a huge difference maker as you seek results on Instagram.

We’re so excited to announce today that we’re setting out to help you achieve this with the launch of Buffer for Instagram!

As you may know, Instagram does not allow outside apps to post directly to Instagram. So while Buffer can’t do the posting for you, we’re excited to help you at every step. Buffer for Instagram works by sending a notification to your phone when it’s time to post.

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1. Find your best time to post to Instagram

Like most other social networks, two of the most important factors for success with Instagram content are …

  1. When you’re posting
  2. How consistently you’re posting

With Buffer for Instagram, you can make good on both (read more about consistency in point #2 below).

Here’s how to find your best time to post to Instagram, with Buffer:

 

  1. Visit Buffer’s Analytics section for your Instagram profile
  2. Click on the Posts tab
  3. Click to sort your Instagram posts according to the Most Popular (a combination of likes and comments)

The sorting works just like Buffer’s support on our paid plans (Awesome & Business) for networks like Facebook and Twitter. With Buffer for Instagram, you can sort every post by the most popular, most likes, and most comments. You can also select any custom timeframe or choose from presets like 7, 30, or 90 days.

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Once you’ve sorted, do you notice any trends?

If the same time keeps coming up on your top posts, you can feel confident knowing this might be a time to focus on with your future posts. This tip works great when you test multiple times, say a best practice like 8:00 to 9:00 a.m. Eastern plus an outlier like 9:00 p.m.

Using this method, we’ve found that our best time at Buffer is 11:00 a.m. Pacific.

2. Post consistently to Instagram

After timing, the next consideration to make is how to post consistently.

What feels best for a consistent rhythm on Instagram?

Union Metrics put together data on brands and Instagram (note: data came prior to the change to an algorithm), finding that most brands post 1 to 2 times a day on Instagram (the actual average was right in the middle, 1.5), and — this was really interesting — that there was no correlation between increased frequency and lower engagement, meaning brands that posted more than twice per day didn’t see any ill effects.

The takeaway: Post often on Instagram. Brands that get in a regular flow with Instagram posts tend to see the best results.

To post consistently with Instagram, we schedule Instagram reminders in Buffer. Here’s the process:

  1. Find, edit, and upload a beautiful picture to Buffer. Add a caption with hashtags, @-mentions, and emoji. Schedule for the ideal time.
  2. Receive a push notification from the Buffer mobile app at the scheduled time.
  3. Open the notification, select Open in Instagram. This loads the photo into Instagram, with the caption saved to the phone’s clipboard, ready to be pasted.
  4. Make any final edits (filters, geolocation) and share from the Instagram app.

The Instagram API doesn’t quite allow scheduling, so Buffer has made it possible to plan in advance by adding a post through the Buffer dashboard on web or mobile and having a reminder pop up on a user’s phone when it’s time to send it out.

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Here’s a look at how things appear from the web dashboard:

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And this is the look from a mobile device:

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To see the effect of a consistent Instagram presence, you can dig into the advanced analytics for your Instagram account in Buffer (available on our paid plans). Here’s how:

  1. Visit Buffer’s Analytics section for your Instagram profile
  2. Click over to the Analysis tab
  3. View Posts Per Day plus Likes or Followers

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The combination of these stats can help you judge the effect of a consistent schedule on important Instagram metrics like likes and followers. If the spikes in engagement match the spikes in posting, you can have visual evidence of a strong correlation between the two.

3. Track and sort through your Instagram history

Right now, when you connect an Instagram account to your Buffer, all of your past Instagram posts will appear in your analytics dashboard, giving you loads of great data on what’s working best for you on Instagram.

Then each successive time you share to Instagram, all your stats will be integrated directly into the Buffer dashboard where you can sort, compare, and analyze.

What this means: You don’t have to wait until a week from now to start analyzing what’s been working for you on Instagram.

You can get insights, today, on what’s worked well yesterday, last week, last month, and beyond.

When I connected my Instagram account, the first thing I did was visit my analytics and sort my past photos to see my most popular Instagram posts. Having that knowledge helped me prep and plan for the next one (in my case, hashtags proved quite key).

Speaking of hashtags …

4. Add a hashtag (or 11) to your caption

Buffer for Instagram cannot post directly to the app for you — but it can get you 95% of the way there!

You can plan nearly every detail from the Buffer dashboard, including the full caption you wish to use with your photo. And as part of this caption, we’ve found that hashtags work extremely well on Instagram.

Hashtags have become a uniform way to categorize content on many social media platforms, especially Instagram. Hashtags allow Instagrammers to discover content to view and accounts to follow.

Research from Track Maven found that posts with over 11 hashtags tend to get more engagement.

To find your best hashtags, we recommend a tool like hashtagify.me, which ranks and analyzes all sorts of different hashtags. This is what we typically look for:

  • Hashtags used by others in your industry
  • Hashtags that are the most popular (by volume of posts)
  • Hashtags that are the most active (trending)

When you’ve chosen your hashtag, you can add it to your caption and set your Instagram notification in Buffer. Later, when it’s time to post, you can open the reminder notification from your phone to have your photo automatically added to Instagram and your full caption copied to your phone’s clipboard.

5. Include emoji in your caption

Along with hashtags, you can also include emoji in your captions (there’s even a bonus 3rd thing you can include, if you keep reading).

Why might you go with an emoji? Well, they’re popular, they’re expressive, and they might just be the new way we communicate online.

Plus, they’re a key part to the language of Instagram, so much so that Instagram itself commissioned an emoji study on their network. What Instagram found is that many popular emoji have meanings in-line with early internet slang and have been adopted as a way to replace these words.

Here are a few emoji and the slang Instagram found them to represent:

  • 😂 : lolol, lmao, lololol, lolz, lmfao, lmaoo, lolololol, lol, ahahah, ahahha, loll, ahaha, ahah, lmfaoo, ahha, lmaooo, lolll, lollll, ahahaha, ahhaha, lml, lmfaooo
  • 😍: beautifull, gawgeous, gorgeous, perfff, georgous, gorgous, hottt, goregous, cuteeee, beautifullll, georgeous, baeeeee, hotttt, babeee, sexyyyy, perffff, hawttt
  • 👍: #keepitup, #fingerscrossed, aswell, haha, #impressed, #yourock, lol, #greatjob, bud, #goodjob, awesome, good, #muchlove, #proudofyou, job, #goodluck

If you’re keen to get emoji into your next Instagram caption, we have a couple quick ways to do it from a desktop:

  • Cmd+Ctrl+Space on a Mac
  • Windows touch keyboard on a PC

6. Reference the link in your bio

There’s only one place on Instagram where you can add a link: in your bio.

The way that savvy marketers have skirted this limitation is by changing that bio link often, and referencing the bio link in the caption of new photos. It’s as simple as writing a caption like this:

“… Click the link in our bio to read more.”

“…Check out the link in our bio!”

(or the super short Gary Vaynerchuk method)

“… Link in bio.”

This tip works even better if you use a shortened URL with tracking information as the bio link. Tools like bitly let you shorten a URL that contains UTM parameters: you can track the links to your bitly URL and also analyze the UTM information in Google Analytics for deeper insights.

We manage all this via Buffer for Instagram by using the “link in bio” language in the captions that we compose. The Buffer app notification to post also serves as a reminder to update our bio!

7. Post the same picture + native content to each network

Many brands choose to post natively to Instagram, opening the app each time they wish to send a message.

This was the way we had done it for quite some time at Buffer, too.

We’re happy to be using a more streamlined workflow now. All of our Instagram posts begin in the Buffer dashboard, right alongside our posts for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+.

One key benefit we notice from this: We have a coordinated presence on all networks while also being free to honor the individuality of each.

Let’s say we have a team photo that we’d love to share with our social media followers. We can share it to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all from the same dashboard without needing to log in to any extra places. We can coordinate the time so it all posts in sync. Plus, we’re able to create custom messages on each network, speaking in Instagram’s language (hashtags + emoji) on Instagram, speaking Twitter on Twitter (brief + 140 characters), and Facebook on Facebook (personal + fun).

8. Mention other users

A lot can happen in an Instagram caption, and we’re excited to let you do it all. In addition to hashtags and emoji, another key inclusion for growing your Instagram marketing is to use @-mentions in your caption.

Every time you @-mention a brand or person (for example, @buffer or @kellybakes), they receive a notification. This has a number of neat effects:

  • It feels good to be mentioned! When you’re acknowledging a contributor, partner, or friend in your feed, you’re passing along a bit of social media karma.
  • It might help your post spread! There’s a bit of viral “pay it forward” when it comes to @-mentions. Many influencer strategies start by mentioning the influencer in a post.

To add an @-mention to your Buffer for Instagram caption, simply type it as you would any other text, and when pasted into Instagram’s text field on your device, Instagram will recognize it as a mention.

Questions and Answers on Buffer for Instagram

Is this for all users or is it a paid feature?

This feature is for everyone! Any user can connect one Instagram account. The Awesome plan and above lets users connect more than one account.

What happens if I miss a reminder?

If for whatever reason you miss a notification, you will be able to find the posts you missed by clicking on the “View past reminders” link in your Buffer dashboard, and you’ll still be able to share them on Instagram or reschedule them from there.

How can I access Instagram reminders?

This feature has been rolled out to everyone! If you are already a Buffer user, you can head to your Buffer dashboard here, and if you haven’t yet signed up, you can do so here. Composing a post for Instagram is available on the Buffer web app, as well as Android and iPhone apps.

How do I add a post?

You can add an Instagram Reminder from within the Buffer dashboard on the web (https://buffer.com) or from any mobile device. Since Instagram is a mobile-first social network, to complete the process of posting to Instagram, you’ll need to have a mobile device with the Buffer app (for receiving reminders) and the Instagram app (for posting).

Any restrictions on content?

The content shared to Instagram through Buffer still needs to comply with both our own terms at Buffer, and Instagram’s own terms around content.

Get Buffer for Instagram! Start amplifying your Instagram marketing today

With Buffer for Instagram, we’re excited to be giving you the power to manage your social media marketing from one central location, and we’re eager for you to have the tools you need to plan, track, and amplify your Instagram marketing.

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We’d love to hear what you think!

We’ll be hanging out in the comments here to answer any questions, and you can get in touch with us any time at hello@buffer.com.

Happy Instagramming!

It’s easy to get tunnel vision as a marketer.

You’ve got lots of goals to achieve, and only so many hours in the day to get there. So you put your head down, get focused, and get results.

At the same time, it’s important to let yourself be inspired by others

Our industry can be creative, groundbreaking and a lot of fun. If you’re in need of a marketing recharge, here are 28 amazing marketing campaigns and experiments—and the amazing people who dreamed them up. Read on, and get inspired to add your own innovative contribution to this list!

Best Marketing Campaigns 2016

1. Marketing himself, after a high-profile layoff

Marketer: Sree Sreenivasan

Innovation: If I were laid off from a high-profile job, I imagine I’d be pretty quiet on social media. But Sreenivasan,, former chief digital officer at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, wasn’t—he shared the news far and wide on Facebook, and asked for advice on what he should do next, even linking to a form inviting friends to give advice. In return, he racked up hundreds of likes, encouraging comments and more—proving that vulnerability can turn a low point into an opportunity.

2. The newsroom as marketing

Mattermark editorial

Marketer: Danielle Morrill

Innovation: To be an authority on your topic, you’ve got to know it inside and out. At Mattermark, which collects and organizes information on the world’s fastest growing companies, CEO Morrill takes authority one step further: The company basically set up a small, independent newsroom (led by former TechCrunch reporter Alex Wilhelm) within the team, producing reporting and analysis on financial trends, the venture capital space, startups and more.

3. The trend caller

Marketer: Mary Meeker

Innovation: No slide deck is more anticipated every year than Meeker’s giant analysis of digital trends from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. In the 2016 Internet Trends Report, Meeker breaks down why Snapchat video marketing works, what motivates Millennials and so much more.

4. The foolproof formula

Marketer: Bamidele Onibalusi

Innovation: Busy marketers love surefire formulas. We love it even more when someone lets us in on a secret they could have kept to themselves. Onibalusi covers both in his actionable and thorough step-by-step opus on writing content that gets more than 100,000 views—every time.

5. Bringing more fun to newsletters

distro snack email

distro snack gif

Marketer: Susan Su

Innovation: Is your inbox full to bursting? Mine too, but somehow there’s still room for newsletters that surprise and delight. Su’s Distro Snack, from 500 Startups, is one such delight, a beyond-quick read that consists of a daily startup growth tip and a “delightful GIF alongside.”

6. No more forms

Marketer: David Gerhardt

Innovation: Imagine a content marketing landscape with no gated content. No content upgrades. No more forms or hurdles to getting to what you want. At Drift, CEO David Cancel and Marketing Lead David Gerhardt are going all in on the idea of taking marketing back to its roots. Sensing a shift in the air toward true authenticity and connection above ROI, they’ve removed all forms from the site.  “All of the content we create and share from here on out will be free,” they announced. Talk about turning the funnel upside down!

7. Startups 101 on Snapchat

Suster on Snapchat

Marketer: Mark Suster

Innovation: Does Snapchat marketing have to look like emojis and rainbow vomit filters? Not necessarily. Suster, a venture capitalist in Los Angeles, uses Snapchat to deliver what he calls “Snapstorms”—mini lectures across many video snaps that offer the inside scoop about startup challenges like hiring, power dynamics among boards, CEOs, and shareholders; and how to write a great email. Follow him here:

Suster snapchat

8. The surprise mixtape

Marketer: Toki Wright

Innovation: While most brand’s April Fools Day jokes are forgotten within 24 hours, Hamburger Helper produced an April 1st “prank” that’s a cut above: a shockingly good mixtape called Watch the Stove. The project started as a Twitter joke, but after General Mills enlisted music veteran Toki Wright and the students at McNally Smith College of Music, the project took on new heft—and then took the Internet by storm.

9. The videos taking over Facebook

Marketer: Andrew Gauthier

Innovation: You’ve seen them on Facebook: Quick, mouthwatering recipes that you experience from beginning to end over the course of 30 seconds to a minute (sound optional!). The source is often Gauthier’s project Tasty, a year-old pilot from BuzzFeed that has amassed more than 62 million Facebook fans (and taken over your feed). BuzzFeed followed up Tasty’s success with TastyJunior as well as Nifty, a hacks and DIY site with an even bigger following.

10. The automation experiment

Autotweet results

Marketer: Tami Brehse

Innovation: Always be testing is our marketing mantra. So we were inspired by Brehse, who did just that by automating her Twitter posts for a full month to find out what would change (spoiler alert: the all-green stats above are hers!)

11. The DIY marketer

Annie Cushing DIY

Marketer: Annie Cushing

Innovation: OK, we all know SEO is important. But getting from that basic understanding to the intricacies of site audits and technical SEO can be a huge hurdle—unless you’ve got Cushing in your corner. After years of educating the public through speaking, she now offers resources that bridge the gap (site audits! analytics basics! Excel dashboards!) that turn any marketer into a technical marketer.

12. The authenticity revolution

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Marketer: Mack Fogelson

Innovation: When is a rebranding more than a rebranding? For Fogelson’s company, formerly known as Mack Web, rebranding was a chance to tie deeply felt values into their services. In doing so, the brand now known as Genuinely created a manifesto for a new marketing era:

“The way our world has evolved has completely changed how companies must shape and market. People not only interact differently with businesses, they expect more. A ‘brand’ isn’t about generating a virtual identity through websites, emails, social media, and being found at the top of Google. Great brands are real and human and they follow through.”

13. Virtual reality that connects an audience

Day in the life: What The New York Times’ first VR editor does

Marketer: Jenna Pirog

Innovation:  In November 2015, The New York Times distributed more than 1 million Google Cardboard viewers/glasses to Sunday home delivery subscribers. Since then,VR Editor Pirog has been in charge of innovating in storytelling’s newest platform: virtual reality. Viewers have explored everything from Pluto to SXSW thanks to Pirog’s pioneering work in a new medium.

14. Arts and crafts on Snapchat

Soul Pancake Snapchat

Marketer: Soul Pancake

Innovation: Far beyond selfies and landscapes, Soul Pancake is turning Snapchat into a true hub of creativity and community. On the day I wrote this, snaps focused on creating a doodle self-portrait and featured tons of community examples. Even better, lots of their coolest experiments are on YouTube in case you missed them on Snapchat. Follow them for more:

soulpancake

15. The newsletter that loves you

CB Insights

Marketer: Anand Sanwal 

Innovation: Ever wondered who’s really paying attention to the emails you’re sending? Sanwal, founder and CEO of CB Insights, a private market intelligence firm, did. So he changed tactics, adding conversational tidbits readers wouldn’t expect into his daily emails (each one is signed with an “I love you”). The result? The newsletter has nearly 200,000 subscribers and has “taken the tech industry by storm.”

16. The political mythbuster

Rhea Drysdale

Marketer: Rhea Drysdale

Innovation: When you name your company Outspoken Media, you set the bar high. But even for an outspoken marketer, Drysdale has been on a roll. Her honest account of being a pregnant CEO opened industry eyes and set the stage for her to debunk a political rumor involving Hilary Clinton and Google. When you know your stuff well enough to correct news outlets, you’re going to get lots of attention—deservedly so.

17. The real-time case study

Marketers: Devesh Khanal and Benji Hyam

Innovation: The co-founders of Grow & Convert are racing against the clock to hit a goal of 40,000 monthly unique visitors—and they’re doing the whole thing in public. (What can we say, we’re suckers for transparency!)

18. Simplifying remarketing

Marketer: Elizabeth Marsten

Innovation: Remarketing can be a big annoyance to your audience—unless it’s done right. In the presentation Make Your Remarketing More Than an Echo, Marsten lays down the context and strategy to make sure your remarketing hits all the right notes.

19. Inside views with Facebook Live

Marketer: Christine Dwyer

Innovation: Have you harnessed the giant potential of Facebook Live yet? Dwyer has. The fitness trainer and speaker uses Live to take viewers inside her classes on Facebook, with engaging results. No wonder she’s one of Facebook guru Mari Smith’s fave follows.

20. Email + video = success

Marketer: Ellie Mirman

Innovation: Video isn’t just for social media—it can also be highly targeted and optimized to convert just the right customer. Find out how with Mirman’s presentation from WistiaFestHow to Use Video to Nurture Leads through the Marketing Funnel. 

21. A heatmap for your Google Analytics

SEER heatmap

Marketer: SEER Interactive

Innovation: Google Analytics’ heatmap feature lets users visualize metrics, like users or revenue, over time. But you can’t have it in a report—until now.  The analytics team at SEER built a custom Google sheet that allows you to create a heatmap metrics and identify growing or hot trends over time.

22. Social with personality

US: DID IT WORK?
You: Did what work?
US: YOU KNOW, THE #NIGHTMARKETING?
You: No of course it didn
US: PLEASE BUY SMOOTHIES
You: [Sigh]

— innocent drinks (@innocent) July 5, 2016

Marketer: Helena Langdon

Innovation: Whether she’s live-tweeting the Euro 2016 semi-final or finding the humor in Brexit, Langdon, the social voice of Innocent Drinks, keeps followers enthralled by innovating on the medium daily. We’re also fond of Innocent’s compliment generator. It’s our kind of weird. 🙂

23. A Tumblr of Internet ephemera

Cyberspace Culture

Marketer: Juan Buis

Innovation: Honestly, I think I’m too old to understand what’s going on with The Next Web’s Tumblr, expertly curated by Buis. But I do know I couldn’t stop staring at it for quite a while.

24. She knows what we want to see

trend report

Marketer: Pam Grossman

Innovation: Where do stock photos even come from? Someone has to be dreaming up all those women laughing with salad, and that person is Getty’s Director of Visual Trends Pam Grossman (well, the salad thing probably wasn’t her idea). What visual trends are on her radar for this year? “People who push the envelope and visuals that break with tradition,” along with meaningful consumption and surreal imagery.

25.Keeping it weird on Facebook

Marketer: Sarah Burton

Innovation: How do you get an increasingly overstimulated audience interested in reading the news? What if you read it to them in a sultry whisper? BuzzFeed’s Burton has been experimenting with “ASMR News”—that’s “autonomous sensory meridian response,” for those not in the know, a kind of “brain orgasm” triggered by sounds such as scratching and whispering. “Right now we’re keeping it weird, but simple,” Burton told NiemanLab. “We’re trying to see what people respond to.”

26. Don’t skip the ads on this podcast

Another Round

Marketers: Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton

Innovation: There’s only one podcast whose advertisements I never, ever skip, and it’s Another Round, a “boozy podcast that covers everything from race and gender to squirrels and mangoes.” Heben and Tracy (and the whole “pod squad”) make sure to put thought into every single moment of their time on air, which means even ads become hilarious drinking games and pop quizzes.

27. Letting the community call the shots

Marketers: Benefit Cosmetics

Innovation: Another great Facebook Live example! We love Benefit’s”Tipsy Tricks” series every Thursday. Viewers have learned to count on this series, and know that  they’ll get the chance to ask questions, make requests, and generally take the lead in how the video will go.

28. Curation with care

Make Change

Marketer: Ashley Hockney

Innovation: Curated content works great because it’s not all about you. Hockney’s weekly “Make Change” newsletter from Teachable is such a great example of sharing the love and building authority and trust as a result.

Bonus: 75 more examples!

Siege marketing-examples

Marketer: 

Innovation: In case this post isn’t quite enough to get you inspired, Siege Media’s Heinz has curated an incredible resource of 75 content marketing examples, grading each one on a scale of elements that includes traffic, revenue, UX, design and interactivity.

Over to you!

It was so much fun to see all the cool ways folks are innovating with their marketing. I bet you know of many more incredible examples and marketers, and I can’t wait to hear them. Share your top picks for marketers doing awesome things in the comments and add to our inspirational list!

Image sources: WOCinTech, Pablo

Did you know: Over 6 billion emojis are shared every day!

Clearly, using emojis within messages, tweets, and all kinds of communication has become very popular over recent years, particularly on mobile devices where emoji buttons and keyboards have become quite ubiquitous.

But what if you’re working from a desktop and hoping to add an emoji or two to a message?

We’ve got a little-known emoji tip just for you — one that is easy to remember and quick to use. In this post, we’ll cover the little-known shortcuts to share emojis from Mac and Windows desktop as well as sharing how to use emojis to boost your social media posts.

Get ready for some fun!

The little-known shortcut for adding emojis on Mac and Windows

How to add emojis on Mac (keyboard shortcut): CTRL + CMD + Space

Add-emoji

1. Click on any text field

Position your cursor in any text field where you’d like to add an emoji. For example, you can do this in a Buffer post:

emoji-step-1

2. Press Command + Control + Space

Press the Command and Control keys on your Mac keyboard and then press Space:

mac-keyboard

3. Choose your emoji from the list

You’ll now see the emoji keyboard palette launch within your screen:

emoji-palette

You can scroll through all the available emojis and categories (People, Nature, Food & Drink, Celebration, Activity, Travel & Places, and Objects & Symbols) or search the full list of emoji from the search box at the top of the window.

scroll-emoji

4. Click to add the emoji to your text

Once you’ve found the emoji you’d like to add, click on it and it’ll appear in your text box to the left of the cursor:

emoji-added

 

How to add emojis on Windows: Touch keyboard

1. Open the Touch Keyboard

Click on the Touch Keyboard icon in the bottom right corner of your screen:

touch-keyboard

If you don’t see the Touch Keyboard option on your desktop, this guide will help you to enable it.

2. Click on the smiley face emoji icon

One the keyboard window has opened up, click on the smiley face icon next to the Control button.

windows-8-touch-keyboard

3. Choose your emoji

Your keyboard will now switch to an emoji keyboard and you can select the emoji you’d like to add to your text field:

emoji-keyboard

How emojis can impact your social media content

Emojis are incredibly fun, and they can also help increase the reach of your social media posts and boost engagement.

For example, internet marketer Larry Kim ran a quick experiment where he split-tested the same promoted post with and without emojis to the same targeting group at the same time. The results of this experiment were pretty impressive. The emoji version had 25.4% higher engagement (11.06 percent vs. 8.82 percent) and a 22.2 percent lower cost per engagement ($0.18 vs. $0.14)

larry-kim

3 simple-yet-effective ways to use emojis in your marketing

1. As a response

Emojis can be a great way to respond to people on social media. Instead of simply ‘liking’ or ‘favoriting’ a post, an emoji can convey a specific emotion. For example, if something made you laugh, the :joy: emoji could be a great one to react with 😂.

This article is the best! 😂https://t.co/4hG8gwwKve

— Not the Real Kevan (@fakekevan) July 5, 2016

2. To represent a topic

No matter the topic, there’s probably an emoji you can use to represent it. For example, if you’re sharing a video on social media you could use the video emoji to highlight that fact 📹.

Here’s an example of how we used emojis when we shared a design-focused post on Facebook:

3. To summarize your status

In some ways, emojis are enhancing our language.

What used to take a few sentences can now be summed up using a few icons. In our social media updates, we regularly use emojis at the end of sentences to summarize the topic we’re talking about.

In the below example we used the ⏰ and 💰emojis to essentially say “time is money.”

Over to you

The Mac emoji shortcut has saved me a ton of time since I discovered it and I hope these tips can help you save a little time and enhance your social media posts, too.

I’d love to hear any thoughts you may have in the comments below. How do you use emojis in your marketing? 

Further reading 📖

Image sources: Unsplash, Getemoji

I often think I have a lot to do with managing my own social profiles. But managing 60? (mind blown)

The team at Creative Click Media manages 60 social profiles for their clients, driving big results in traffic, leads, and sales with their team of three.

How do they pull it off?

Adam and Amanda from Creative Click were kind to share their workflows and processes for driving these results: everything from how they save time with social media management to how they iterate on blog posts and top tweets. Keep reading for our full interview with Creative Click, and learn some of their top secrets for success on social.

Creative Click Media team

Kevan, Buffer:

I’d love to learn how you view social media and what have been some of the key approaches, from a high-level, for Creative Click Media.

Adam Binder, Creative Click Media:

Social media is so vast and ever-changing. There’s so much that goes into it and so much time that is required to get it right.

Buffer as a tool — and really the word “buffer” — is great. It serves as a buffer and a bridge between the complete authenticity of being online 24/7 and also planning everything to a T.

I love the fact that social media can be scheduled. It really helps us stay authentic while also being able to grow our business, scale our business. Scheduling really helps us bridge the gap between automation and authenticity. You can tell with a lot of accounts that it’s scheduled and it wasn’t done with care, but Buffer really allows us to accomplish both authenticity and efficiency.

onlinestore.com

Kevan:

Are there any specific tactics that you try to make things authentic? 

Amanda Erdmann, Creative Click Media:

We really use the team members section of Buffer to involve the clients, so they know what we’re posting and we know what they are posting. That helps a lot.

We are able to post a lot more with Buffer. We’ve expanded Twitter usage, and posting more on Twitter definitely helps brands be more active and engaging on there. We’re saving a ton of time by doing that. I would say working with the clients is probably the best way we stay authentic and using several team members here to post different things so that you get those different voices while also sticking with the brand.

Adam:

We’ve got the really large Buffer for Business account with 25 users. We’ve added some of our more savvy clients as users so they can work in real-time to collaborate with us.

One good case study would be the Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation. They are a non-profit. They do wonderful things for the local community. We work with them to come up with an overall strategy, and we come up with content. We put it in Buffer, we schedule it out, but their day-to-day operation is very nimble. They are doing a lot of things. They are out and about, and because they have access to Buffer they can move our posts around. If they have something more timely or pressing, they can switch things around to put out the current stuff immediately.

Teachers design the project, students create the solution. https://t.co/vMoVt7fCMq #Arts #Education #STEAM

— Grunin Foundation (@JLGrunin) June 1, 2016

Some clients are doing a lot on their own, and some clients may have busy moments. For the most part, we manage everything, and then they feel comfortable having the access to review what we have and to move it around if something pressing comes up. It allows us to be really nimble.

Kevan:

I’d love to learn a bit more about how social fits within your business plan or structure at Creative Click? Looks like you offer a lot of different, amazing services. How does social fit within that larger ecosystem of everything that you provide?

Adam:

Social media is really becoming very intertwined with SEO which is very intertwined with web design. Really, it all works together. I like to make an analogy with an electrical circuit. You can’t break it or else the whole thing won’t work. Social media is expanding rapidly. It is a ranking factor for Google now. Social signals definitely affect SEO. We can see, for the clients who opt in for our social media services, that they are definitely getting better benefit from SEO.

And social is great PR. Done correctly, it really can enhance your brand and it can boost your bottom line.

Creative Click Media started as a web design agency, and social media followed very quickly after. Then when we added everything else: social, SEO, videos and now PR. We’re going to continue to grow and I say diversify our portfolio of offerings. Everything is changing so rapidly.

Kevan:

That’s great. I’d love to learn a bit about how your team structure is set up. How many are on the marketing team and how many touch the social media channels ?

Amanda:

I’m the project manager, and I oversee everything; then I have two writers for various accounts for social media. They have access to Buffer. I have access to Buffer. Adam has access, too.

We use the analytics to find the optimum times to post, and we set the schedules for the clients. When it makes sense, as Adam mentioned before, we add the clients themselves if they want to see what we’re doing or if they want to schedule posts around them. We really work together because they have a lot of events so it makes sense for them to see and prioritize which events should go out.

Kevan:

When it comes to finding the best times to post, how are you finding out that data

Amanda:

We mostly use optimal timing on Facebook. Twitter is kind of trial-and-error, though the Twitter accounts tell you now when you get the most activity. We’ve been trying to look at that more. We’re trying to work with Facebook more also, to find those optimum times. I love that Buffer lets you set one schedule and keep it. It makes everything very consistent which is definitely one of the best things about it.

And Buffer tells you the optimum time to post to an account, which definitely makes things easier.

Kevan:

When it comes to analytics too, I’m curious to learn a bit about the reporting relationship you have with clients. How do you communicate with them how things are going on social?

Amanda:

Other analytics tools we used before were really pretty and graphical, but most of our clients didn’t understand what they were looking at. I like that Buffer very much simplifies it. You can compare two different things at once which is really awesome. You can show them exactly, “You gained this many likes and this is how your engagement also went up.” We try to keep it simple with clients and show them their best so they understand exactly what’s going on.

buffer analytics

We do this with screenshots, mostly. We will make reports. I will export the Excel file to really find the best post that the client had, and we will try to optimize those, to recreate them so we can use them again.

Adam:

One thing we’re looking into is creating custom infographics for clients, but it takes a little time to get that right. I think that would be a very boutique way to deliver the results and we’re working on it.

Kevan:

Have there been any kind of challenges that you find with doing social media for clients? 

Adam:

I think finding the brand voice is a big one. It’s something we’re very good at, but it’s a moving target. As clients’ businesses evolve, constant communication is really important.

I think images are always something that is needed.

Time is the number one resource that we seem to never have enough of.

Amanda:

I was just going to say, Buffer has helped us save a lot of time which is one of the main reasons we switched over to it. Scheduling with our previous tool, you had to do one post at a the time. Now we can upload a ton at once. We have 60 social media accounts on Buffer all for different clients, so being able to have one schedule and stick to it and upload as many as posts we want to has helped us save a lot of time.

We use Bulk Buffer for the bulk upload, and it works great with Buffer.

Kevan:

Where do you tend to pull those bulk updates? Is there a certain workflow that you use?

Adam:

Most of the updates we share for our clients come from content that we’ve created on our clients’ blogs. Basically, the blog feeds the social media.

We don’t only share our own stuff or our client’s stuff. We mix it up certainly and are careful to follow the 80/20 rule or better. We’re not overly promotional because that never works. We try to mix sharing of other people’s stuff, but a lot of the stuff, a lot of the social content, comes from the blogs.

We are careful to dissect the blogs into bite-size pieces for social media and we drive a lot of traffic that way. This is really why it intersects with SEO and why it’s so critical for SEO success. We drive a lot of traffic through Twitter. We don’t drive a lot of sales through Twitter, but I know it’s very helpful for SEO. We drive a good amount of traffic and leads and sales through Facebook.

onlinestore.com (1)

Kevan:

How have those numbers grown and evolved for you since you switched to Buffer?

Adam:

Twitter has exploded for us because we’re able to post 8 to 10 times a day instead of 1 to 3. The life of a tweet is 12 minutes, I read somewhere, maybe even shorter now. it’s probably old data. Your timeline just flies so quick. We drive a lot of traffic from Twitter, and Buffer has been an integral piece of that.

Kevan:

What other tools do you find useful with your social media efforts for your clients?

Adam:

We use Canva for graphics. We use hashtagify.me for hashtag research. Bulk Buffer for bulk uploads.

Facebook ads we do right in Facebook.

I’ve tried Twitter ads a couple of times for myself and for clients. They’re okay. I think the thing with the Twitter ads, like I said, we don’t really get a lot of leads from Twitter. I just think it’s the nature of the platform. Things are going by so quickly, but it’s great for sharing information and driving traffic. Again, I’m saying no one that contacts us says, “Hey, I found you through Twitter.” That doesn’t mean that they haven’t. They kind of got hooked into a piece of content and then followed us for a little while. We’re really not too sure about that. I know that the Facebook ads are huge, and they are definitely a revenue driver.

For lead tracking, I’m using the HubSpot CRM, which lets us track pretty much everything. We always keep detailed notes on everything. We always make sure that we ask our clients, if it’s a phone call, how they found us. A lot of times it is through our website — and they could just say website, but really it was the website via Twitter.

Want the smoothest social media experience for your team and clients?

Start my free trial

Creative Click Media and hundreds of other agencies use Buffer to manage social media profiles, content, analysis, and more for each and every client. With Buffer, you’ll get straightforward pricing that scales along with your business, 24/7 customer support, and an agency-first approach to the features that matter to you.

Join Creative Click and 5,000+ other brands and business with a free 30-day trial of Buffer’s most powerful social media features!

The goal of Facebook’s News Feed is to show people the stories that are most relevant to them. That’s no small task when you have over 1.65 billion people to keep happy and over 1,500 stories per day to prioritize for each of those individual users. Now, Facebook has announced one of their most significant News Feed shuffles.

On Wednesday, Facebook shared that the News Feed algorithm is going to shift so that it will more favorably promote content posted by the friends and family of users.

These changes are likely to mean that content posted by brands and publishers will show up less prominently in News Feeds. In the announcement, the company explained their priority is keeping you connected to the people, places and things you want to be connected to — starting with the people you are friends with on Facebook.

Back in April 2015, Facebook made a similar algorithm update trying to ensure that stories posted directly by the friends you care about will be higher up in News Feed, so you are less likely to miss them. But based on feedback, Facebook understands that people are still worried about missing important updates from the friends.

This update is likely to affect all types of content posted by brands and publishers, including links, videos, live videos and photos. Facebook said it anticipates that this update may cause reach and referral traffic to decline for many Pages who’s traffic comes directly through Page posts.

The update will have less of an impact, however, if a lot of your referral traffic is the result of people sharing your content and their friends liking and commenting on it. Links or Page content shared by friends or content your friends interact with frequently will still appear higher in the feed.

For example, the post from my personal Facebook account (on the right below) would be more likely to appear above the post from Buffer’s Page (on the left) in the News Feed:

newsfeed

What do users expect from the News Feed?

Facebook’s success is built on getting people the stories that matter to them most.

To help make sure you don’t miss the friends and family posts you are likely to care about, Facebook try to put those posts toward the top of your News Feed. The News Feed learns and adapts over time based on the content you interact with the most, too. For example, if you tend to like photos from your sister, they’ll start putting her posts closer to the top of your feed so you won’t miss what she posted while you were away.

Facebook research has also shown that, after friends and family, people have two other strong expectations when they come to News Feed:

  • The News Feed should inform. People expect the stories in their feed to be meaningful to them — and we have learned over time that people value stories that they consider informative. Something that one person finds informative or interesting may be different from what another person finds informative or interesting — this could be a post about a current event, a story about your favorite celebrity, a piece of local news, or a recipe. Facebook’s algorithm is always trying to better understand what is interesting and informative to you personally, so those stories appear higher up in your feed.
  • The News Feed should entertain. Facebook also found that people enjoy their feeds as a source of entertainment. For some people, that’s following a celebrity or athlete; for others,  it’s watching Live videos and sharing funny photos with their friends. Again, the company’s News Feed algorithm tries to understand and predict what posts on Facebook you find entertaining to make sure you don’t miss out on those.

The makeup of a successful social network (and why this update is essential for Facebook)

Despite its venture into publishing and partnerships with large news and entertainment brands, at its heart, Facebook is still a place for friends. And without solidifying our connections with those closest to us, Facebook could face struggles to keep its 1.65 billion monthly active users coming back.

To understand the inner-workings of social networks and what makes us keep using them, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology studied networks like Friendster and Myspace with the goal of figuring out what factors can be detrimental to a social network.

As explained over at Wired:

They found that when the time and effort (the costs) associated with being a member of a social network outweigh the benefits, then a decline in users becomes likely. If one person leaves, their friends become more likely to leave and as more people leave, this can lead to a cascading collapse in membership.

Networks like Friendster and Myspace were the Facebook of their day. Both had tens, and eventually hundreds, of millions of registered users, but what the study found is that the bonds between users weren’t particularly strong. Many users had very few close connections, and it appears there’s a direct correlation between how connected we feel to our friends and family and our affiliation with each network.

If Facebook users are worried about missing important updates from the people they care about most, then their affiliation with the network could begin to decline as they find other ways to stay connected. And once user begins to leave, or become un-engaged, it could have a waterfall effect on the network. David Garcia, a professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, explains:

“First the users in the outer cores start to leave, lowering the benefits of inner cores, cascading through the network towards the core users, and thus unraveling.”

You can see how a social network unravels in the below graphic (Friendster is used in the image):
social-network-connections

For Facebook, the News Feed is the most integral part of their product to make us feel connected with those we care about. And as such, it’s important for Facebook to keep the content we want to see the most at the top of the feed.

How will this update impact business Pages?

The changes will affect all types of content posted by Pages, including links, videos, live videos and photos.

In their “News Feed Values” shared alongside this announcement, Facebook made it clear that content from friends and family will come first. And the company also highlighted the importance of authentic communication and being inclusive of all perspectives and view points without favoring specific kinds of sources — or ideas.

We expect that this update may cause organic post reach and referral traffic to decline for some Pages. The impact will vary for every page and will greatly depend on the composition of your audience or the way in which your content is shared on Facebook. For example, if a lot of your referral traffic is the result of people sharing your content and their friends liking and commenting on it, there will be less of an impact than if the majority of your traffic comes directly through Page posts.

As with all Facebook algorithm updates, it may take a little time to determine exactly what will continue to work and how to increase organic reach (though Facebook feels like it’s shifting more towards a pay-to-play market for businesses). 

One tactic that could become increasingly important is the amplification of brand content. With Facebook favoring content shared by users rather than Pages, it feels essential to find new and innovative ways to encourage your audience to share your content directly to Facebook. Ensuring your content is discoverable away for the Facebook News Feed could be another key play as well.

It also feels important to keep a focus on what people are looking for from the News Feed. As mentioned earlier, aside from friends and family, Facebook users turn to the News Feed to be informed and entertained. With those goals in mind, it’s worth thinking about how the content you create for Facebook can satisfy those desires.

Over to you

In their announcement, Facebook says their work is “only 1 percent finished” so it feels like there are plenty more twists and turns ahead for the News Feed.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this update and how it may affect the way you use Facebook and the types of content your share? Please feel free to leave a comment below and I’m excited to continue the conversation with you. 

It’s an exciting time to get to know Instagram. The popular photo-sharing app is fun, simple and growing—Instagram has more than 300 million daily users and sky-high user engagement levels.

And for marketers, it’s an especially interesting time. The company just announced that it will open up a set of business tools including new business profiles, analytics and the ability to create ads from posts directly within the app.

With such brand-friendly features on the way, it seems like marketers might be more keen than ever to get acquainted with Instagram for their business. I know we are at Buffer!

Lately, we’ve been sharing, liking and trying new ways to grow Buffer’s Instagram account, and it’s been so much fun. Since Instagram is a platform we’re keen to focus on, we thought it would be fun to research some ways to grow a following there.

Update: We recently launched one of our biggest product enhancements, Buffer for Instagram, to help you plan, track and amplify your Instagram marketing.

get-started-with-buffer-instagram

Whether you’re growing your own personal account or working on behalf of a company, read on to find out the 10 best tactics (with tools and examples!) we uncovered that could help you grow a bigger, relevant audience on Instagram.

instagram-growth-new

Want to make your business stand out on Instagram? Check out our complete guide to Instagram marketing and get the playbook that drives results for Instagram’s top profiles.

Top 10 Instagram Growth Tactics

10 actionable ways to supercharge your follower growth on Instagram:

1. Post consistently (at least once a day)
2. Study and load up on quality hashtags
3. Share user generated content
4. Ask users to “tag a friend”
5. Use the right filters
6. Host a photo contest
7. Add some emojis
8. Cross-promote
9. Try video, too
10. Share the love

line-end

 1. Post consistently (at least once a day)

Social media analytics tool Quintly analyzed over 5,000 profiles in early 2015 to learn that the average Instagram account posts once per day.

More intriguing: Accounts with the highest number of fans tend to post a bit more than that–up to 2 or 3 photos per day on average. This data might allow us to say that “more successful” accounts tend to post with a higher frequency.

Quintly study Instagram

The key takeaway: Post often on Instagram. Brands that get in a regular flow with Instagram posts tend to see the best results.

Instagram is rolling out a Facebook-like algorithm based timeline and consistency feels like a key element to getting your posts seen and appearing at the top of the timeline. If your posts are shared on a regular basis and picking up good engagement, then our hunch is Instagram’s algorithm may then determine this post should appear near the top of your follower’s feeds.

line-section

Further reading: 8 Ways to Get Your Best Instagram Marketing Results with Buffer

Buffer for Instagram is Here: 8 Ways to Get Your Best Instagram Marketing Results with Buffer

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2. Study and load up on quality hashtags

We’ve explored hashtags a lot on the blog, but it seems that nowhere on social media are they quite as important as on Instagram. The right hashtags can expose your image to a large and targeted audience, and Instagram users don’t seem to get hashtag fatigue in the same way they might on other networks.

In other words, hashtags could be your best bet for growing a fast following on Instagram. Instagram allows for a maximum of 30 hashtags per post, and many power users max out this ability. For example, check out how many hashtags our recent Bufferchat guest, Jeff Sieh, used on a post of his:

insta-example

A TrackMaven study discovered that interactions are highest on Instagram posts with 11+ hashtags. instagram tips, instagram statistics, instagram statsWhich hashtags should you use?

It can be a little difficult to discover the right hashtags to add to your Instagram posts and I’d love to share a few tips with you here.

One method I use a lot is to look for hashtags on similar posts to mine. Here’s how I do it in a few quick steps:

  1. Add a couple of relevant and obvious hashtags to my photo before posting it.
  2. Then I’ll click through to search those hashtags and scroll through other, similar photos that share my hashtag to see what other tags those users have added that I might add, too.
  3. Then I go back to my photo and edit it to add all the additional relevant hashtags I’ve found.

You can do this process in a more formalized way by searching and recording hashtags relevant to your brand, in a similar way you might do keyword research for a blog post. Brands are using hashtags to run unique campaigns as well—here’s a look at just a few:

instagram hashtag campaigns

Another way to discover hashtags is to check out the top 100 hashtags from Websta here. (You can also use Websta to search relevant keywords and find popular accounts.)

3. Share user generated content

In under 3 months, we grew our Instagram account by 60%  – from 5,850 to 9,400 followers. And a large percentage of this growth was down to embracing and sharing user generated content.

The easiest way to think about user generated content is this: brands taking the best-of-the-best user content from around the web and featuring it on their own social media or other platforms while giving credit to the original creator (user).

At Buffer, we started the hashtags #BufferStories and #BufferCommunity to showcase the unique stories of our users. These hashtags have opened up a huge variety of content options from curated stories of digital nomads to social media tips from marketers. Each time we share a new UGC photo on Instagram we are sure to include these hashtags. Every once in a while we include a CTA along the lines of: “share your story using #BufferStories” to keep the campaign alive.

Buffer, Buffer Instagram, User generated content, UGC, instagram growth, instagram

Further reading: Check out our full guide to user generated content on Instagram here.

4. Ask users to “tag a friend”

I recently got a great Instagram tip from some new local friends who helped me out with marketing a non-profit food tasting event. They shared a food photo from a past event and asked their 11,000 followers to comment and tag a friend they wanted to attend with. The response was awesome, and exposed our event to a lot of people who wouldn’t have heard about it otherwise:

tag a friend

I’ve seen this tactic work well for lots more than events, too.

5. Use the right filters

All those filters Instagram gives you to use aren’t just fun—choosing the right ones can actually lead to more views and engagement. Researchers from Georgia Tech and Yahoo Labs analyzed millions of photos and corresponding data on how frequently they were viewed and commented upon to determine that filtered photos are 21% more likely to be viewed and 45% more likely to be commented on than unfiltered ones. What kind of filter works best? After examining five different types, researchers found that the top filters to increase chances of views and comments are those that create:

  • higher exposure
  • warm temperatures
  • higher contrast

Higher exposure was the most tied to more views, and warmth had the biggest correlation with comments.  Two types of filters had negative correlations: Saturation correlated to slightly lower views, and age effects led to lower comments. Curalate has a great infographic with even more specific pointers on optimizing the look of your image for greater engagement:

Curalate infographic Instagram

6. Host a photo contest

Instagram hashtags make it easy for to collect photos from followers around a theme, and many brands have had success and fun using this capability to host photo contests. Here’s an example of Instagram itself hosting a photo contest, asking users to recreate an iconic image and share it with the hashtag #recreatedclassic.

instagram photo contest

Instagram has a great blog post with some tips for getting your photo contest off on the best foot, and Social Media Examiner has an awesome primer on all kinds of Instagram contests.

7. Add some emojis

Emoji are becoming a universal method of expressionInstagram reports that nearly 50 percent of all captions and comments on Instagram now have an emoji or two. I know I’m drawn to them in posts and I’ve noticed some folks are even adding to their user names for a bit of extra pop.

Anthony Thompson explains over at PostPlanner how he earned 3x Instagram growth by calling on emojis to ignite engagement in both posts and comments—smart. He uses this adorable example from Sue Zimmerman to prove his point: suezimmerman insta emoji

8. Cross-promote

Make sure your existing fans know you’re on Instagram through cross-promotion. Instagram makes it simple to share your images to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, and Foursquare, which could be a great tactic to get some extra exposure. You can also try embedding Instagram photos in your blog posts (see the bottom of this post for an example) or adding an Instagram feed to your Facebook page for some additional discovery. Here’s a look atBuffer’s Facebook page with an added Instagram feed:

Facebook page with Instagram feed

A Buzzsumo study of over 1 billion Facebook posts from 3 million brand pages found that images posted to Facebook via Instagram receive more engagement than natively published images:

facebook-image-engagement

9. Try video, too

Instagram allows users to upload videos between 3-60 seconds in length, and when the feature was introduced, more than 5 million were shared in 24 hours. However, an April 2015 study from Locowise found that only about 10% of all posts on Instagram are videos right now, but they’re getting 18% of all comments. This shows there’s still plenty of room for you to focus on video and be one of the first!

10. Share the love

In our quest to grow our followers, it’s always helpful to remember what really matters in all of this: The friends we’ll talk to, the relationships we’ll create and the fun we’ll have.

An easy way to keep this principle central is to spend a bit of time each day just hanging out and enjoying Instagram. You might respond to comments, like photos, follow some new friends, and comment on awesome posts. If the “follow like like like” strategy above tells us anything, it’s that time spent showing and sharing the love can pay off in new followers. It also creates a better social media experience for everyone.

One last tactic: How to drive traffic from Instagram?

One of the challenges of marketing on Instagram (and possibly a part of its joy for users) is that you can’t quite add links for your viewers to click.

If you want to send your followers to a specific link, though, it seems that it’s becoming common practice to change the link in your Instagram profile and add the comment “link in bio” to a corresponding photo or video.

Wrapping it up: Anatomy of a perfect post

We’ve gone over quite a lot of tactics to remember and try! The kind folks at Made Freshly combined lots of these tips for growing a following into this fun infographic:

IG anatomy high res

Bonus: How to use Buffer to start amplifying your Instagram marketing today

With Buffer for Instagram, we’re excited to be giving you the power to manage your social media marketing from one central location, and we’re eager for you to have the tools you need to plan, track, and amplify your Instagram marketing.

get-started-with-buffer-instagram

What are your Instagram experiences?

We’d love to keep the conversation going—both in the comments here and on Instagram, of course! Lots of awesome friends shared their top tips for marketing on the photo social network, and we’d love to hear yours, too! Add your thoughts below!