The A-to-Z of Google Analytics for Content Marketers [Infographic]

What does Google Analytics (GA) have to do with infographics? Perhaps the most important thing to understand about infographics that are actually shareable is that the definition of “shareable” changes depending on the audience.

Not everyone likes the same content. People respond to different things in different ways. You need to take the time to truly know your audience; what they’re looking for and why they want it on an intimate level. Otherwise even the best infographics in the world won’t get you what you’re after.

Enter Google Analytics.

You need Google Analytics to understand an audience on that deep, organic level. It helps you discover the true insights beneath the surface. In many ways Google Analytics offers the best form of self improvement. It gives you accurate, insightful, and actionable information for reaching your audience the best possible way.

Behavior

To know your visitors and why they respond to certain types of content—and avoid others—requires behavioral insight. Which pages are they visiting? What types of items do they spend the most time on? How do they arrive at your website? Where do they go once they’re there? What causes them to leave, and how long are they staying? These are all questions Google Analytics helps answer.

Action, Action, Action

The goal of all marketers can be summed up in one word: conversions. Simply put, is the content you’re creating compelling enough to prompt your visitors to take action? (Check out how to convert more visitors through lead value optimization.)

Whether that’s sharing content with their friends on social media or making a purchase doesn’t matter. What matters is if they’re motivated enough to take the next step you want them to take. Google Analytics gives you much of the reporting you need to measure activity against your site’s goals.

Funnels

The idea of the sales funnel is familiar to all marketers. But not all know how Google Analytics can help you create these funnels.

Analytics allows you to set up a series of pages as goal posts. These allow you to see which processes a user is engaged in and how far along the process they made it. It’s a valuable tool for optimizing multi-step processes, with e-commerce checkout being just one example.

Finally, you can gain superior visibility over the funnel, and the end user’s experience of traveling across the funnel. (Learn how to Make Sales From Stories With a Content Conversion Funnel.)

Mobile

We live in a mobile world. Increasing numbers of people use smartphones and tablets as their primary means of getting online. Worldwide, mobile Internet traffic has already overtaken desktop traffic as of November 2016.

With Google Analytics, you can see not just how many of your visitors are using mobile devices. You can see what types of mobile devices. And how those mobile device users are responding in their own unique ways.

These are just some of the benefits of Google Analytics:

The A-to-Z of Google Analytics for Content Marketers Infographic

The Content Marketer’s A-to-Z Guide to Google Analytics

This infographic was created with Visme for Orbit Media Studios. To create your own infographic, download the Beginner’s Guide to Creating Shareable Infographics. To better understand analytics, download The Comprehensive Guide to Content Marketing Analytics & Metrics eBook.

The post The A-to-Z of Google Analytics for Content Marketers [Infographic] appeared first on Curata Blog.

5 Essential Skills Marketers Need to Succeed This Year [Infographic]

2017-Marketing-Skills-compressor.jpg

The marketing landscape evolves at what often seems like a bewildering pace. There are changes in consumer preferences. There are updates to search algorithms. And, we can’t forget the frequent updates and features added to various social media channels.

For that reason, being a successful marketer today might appear to require a never-ending list of skills. Where do you need to excel — content creation, social media, web analytics, or all of the above … and more?

Relax. In a perfect world, it would be possible to constantly maintain all of these skills at an expert level. But in reality, it’s okay — and helpful — to prioritize. The question remains, however: What skills do marketers need the most to both keep up with the industry, and be good at their jobs?

Luckily, the infographic below from TEKsystems outlines five crucial skills — largely digital ones — that marketers need to succeed this year:

  • Digital Advertising
  • Social Marketing
  • Website Design/Development
  • Content Development
  • Mobile Marketing

It’s a helpful guideline for marketers who want to help their brands stay up to speed, as well as job seekers and recruiters who want to know which knowledge is the most valuable in today’s landscape. We’ve elaborated a bit on each one below the image — so read on, and learn more about the skills you need to start, continue, or foster a lucrative marketing career.

2017-digital-marketing-trends-infographic-850x2233.jpg

5 Essential Marketing Skills to Succeed in 2017

1) Digital Advertising

Many marketers are trained to draw a bold line between marketing and advertising. But the latter, in its digital and analytical form, has become the work of the savviest marketers. That includes things like creating strategic ads on different social media channels, as well as pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns. According to TEK systems, some of the other specific skills that fall under this umbrella are:

  • Search engine optimization/marketing (SEO/SEM)
  • Digital business analytics — data like Google Analytics and Facebook Insights
  • Digital project management

2) Social Marketing

Long gone are the days of simply posting the occasional photo or update on social media. Social marketing has become far, far more complex — so much so that many brands dedicate full-time roles to it. Within this realm, you might see many overlapping skills with digital advertising, like understanding the same analytics and managing PPC campaigns.

While there’s a detailed subset of skills required in social marketing, the major ones fall under strategizing and managing social media posts and presence, according to each channel. That’s one form of content strategy, which we’ll get to.

3) Website Design/Development

As the infographic puts it, “The website is the face of your brand.” It’s often the first line of interaction that a customer will have with your company — that’s why an optimal user experience is imperative. After all, that’s one of the core principles of inbound marketing: Create the content that’s going to draw and benefit your buyer personas.

For that reason, here’s yet another area where — like most of these five skills — understanding content strategy is going to be important. But that’s not the only knowledge required here. TEKsystems also identifies the following top skills sought after by marketing hiring managers:

  • UX design
  • Front-end development
  • Web development
  • Consumer and behavioral analytics
  • Product management

4) Content Development

Finally — content gets its own category. Of course, understanding how to develop the best content for your various distribution channels is important. But then, there’s understanding how to develop consumable content that doesn’t necessarily reside on your social networks or website copy, like reports, or other downloadable items. And in addition to being well-produced and informative, it should be sharable, and a content developer needs to understand how to create something of that nature. Related skills, therefore, include:

  • Analytics
  • Project Management
  • SEO/SEM

5) Mobile Marketing

Mobile is gradually becoming the primary way we consume online content — 48% of consumers, for example,  start mobile research with a search engine, while 26% start with a branded app. That’s why mobile marketing has become such a valuable skill, from understanding how customers use mobile, to how a brand’s digital presence and content can be optimized for that platform.

And while mobile marketing might be a bit different from mobile development — the latter is a bit more technical — it doesn’t hurt to at least understand how that (and app development) contrasts from traditional web development. Additionally, valuable skills here include:

  • Mobile traffic analytics
  • E-commerce analytics
  • Mobile design

The More You Know

We’re not suggesting that marketers need to become experts in every single one of these areas. However, if there’s a specific area of marketing that interests you the most, or into which you’d like to move, understanding where you’ll need to excel can help you get there that much faster.

Plus, as your brand and the landscape continue to evolve, this list can serve as a good reference when you feel like you might need to brush up on certain skills, or at least become more aware of them when it’s necessary. That way, in addition to honing your own skills, you can understand where you might need to focus team-building efforts.

What are your most sought-after marketing skills? Let us know in the comments.

This post was originally published in January 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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6 Cover Letter Examples That Got Something Right

Let’s face it: A job search is, typically, anything but fun.

It’s almost as if it carries its own stages of grief. At first, there’s denial of its demoralizing nature. Then comes the anger over either radio silence or rejection from prospective employers. Of course, there’s bargaining — “I promise to never complain about work again, if I can find a new job!” That’s often followed by depression, and the idea that one is simply just unhireable. Then, there’s acceptance: “This is awful, but I have to keep trying, anyway.”

But we have good news. It is possible to have a little fun with your job search — and maybe even make yourself a better candidate in the process. The magic, it turns out, could be in your cover letter.

It may be true that 63% of recruiters have deemed cover letters “unimportant,” but that doesn’t mean yours has to contribute to that statistic. In fact, it might be that cover letters are deemed insignificant because so few of them stand out. Here’s an opportunity for you to exercise your creativity at the earliest stage of the recruitment process. Personalization, after all, goes beyond replacing the title and company name in each letter you send to recruiters. Boost your resume and join 30,000 marketers by getting inbound marketing-certified for free from HubSpot. Get started here. 

What does that look like in practice, and how can you make your cover letter stand out? We found six examples from job seekers who decided to do things a bit differently.

Note: Some of these contain NSFW language.

6 Cover Letter Examples That Nailed It

1) The Short-and-Sweet Model

In 2009, David Silverman penned an article for Harvard Business Review titled, “The Best Cover Letter I Ever Received.” That letter contained three complete sentences, as follows:

short-and-sweet.png Source: Harvard Business Review

One might argue that this particular letter is less than outstanding. It’s brief, to say the least, and the author doesn’t go into a ton of detail about what makes him or her qualified for the job in question. But that’s what Silverman likes about it — the fact that the applicant only included the pieces of information that would matter the most to the recipient.

“The writer of this letter took the time to think through what would be relevant to me,” writes Silverman. “Instead of scattering lots of facts in hopes that one was relevant, the candidate offered up an opinion as to which experiences I should focus on.”

When you apply for a job, start by determining two things:

  1. Who might oversee the role — that’s often included in the description, under “reports to.” Address your letter to that individual.
  2. Figure out what problems this role is meant to solve for that person. Then, concisely phrase in your cover letter how and why your experience can and will resolve those problems.

The key here is research — by looking into who you’ll be reporting to and learning more about that person’s leadership style, you’ll be better prepared to tailor your cover letter to focus on how you provide solutions for her. Not sure how to learn more about a leader’s personality? Check out any content she shares on social media, or use Growthbot’s Personality Profile feature.

2) The Brutally Honest Approach

Then, there are the occasions when your future boss might appreciate honesty — in its purest form. Livestream CEO Jesse Hertzberg, by his own admission, is one of those people, which might be why he called this example “the best cover letter” (which he received while he was with Squarespace):

Brutally honest.png Source: Title Needed

As Hertzberg says in the blog post elaborating on this excerpt — it’s not appropriate for every job or company. But if you happen to be sure that the corporate culture of this prospective employer gets a kick out of a complete lack of filter, then there’s a chance that the hiring manager might appreciate your candor.

“Remember that I’m reading these all day long,” Hertzberg writes. “You need to quickly convince me I should keep reading. You need to stand out.”

3) The One That Says “Why,” Not Just “How”

We’ve already covered the importance of addressing how you’ll best execute a certain role in your cover letter. But there’s another question you might want to answer: Why the heck do you want to work here?

The Muse, a career guidance site, says that it’s often best to lead with the why — especially if it makes a good story. We advise against blathering on and on, but a brief tale that illuminates your desire to work for that particular employer can really make you stand out.

Why Example.png Source: The Muse

Here’s another instance of the power of personalization. The author of this cover letter clearly has a passion for this prospective employer — the Chicago Cubs — and if she’s lying about it, well, that probably would eventually be revealed in an interview. Make sure your story is nonfiction, and relatable according to each job. While we love a good tale of childhood baseball games, an introduction like this one probably wouldn’t be fitting in a cover letter for, say, a software company. But a story of how the hours you spent playing with DOS games as a kid led to your passion for coding? Sure, we’d find that fitting.

If you’re really passionate about a particular job opening, think about where that deep interest is rooted. Then, tell your hiring manager about it in a few sentences.

4) The Straw (Wo)man

When I was in the throes of my own job search and reached one of the later stages, a friend said to me, “For the next job you apply for, you should just submit a picture of yourself a stick figure that somehow represents you working there.”

Et voilà:

AZWstrawCoverLetter.jpg

I never did end up working for the recipient of this particular piece of art, but it did result in an interview. Again, be careful where you send a cover letter like this one — if it doesn’t match the company’s culture, it might be interpreted as you not taking the opportunity seriously. Be sure to pair it with a little bit of explanatory text, too. For example, when I submitted this picture-as-a-cover letter, I also wrote, “Perhaps I took the ‘sense of humor’ alluded to in your job description a bit too seriously.”

5) The Exercise in Overconfidence

I’ll admit that I considered leaving out this example. It’s rife with profanity, vanity, and arrogance. But maybe, in some settings, that’s the right way to do a cover letter.

A few years ago, Huffington Post published this note as an example of how to “get noticed” and “get hired for your dream job”:

THE-EPIC-COVER-LETTER.jpg Source: Huffington Post

Here’s the thing — if the Aviary cited in this letter is the same Aviary I researched upon discovering it, then, well, I’m not sure this tone was the best approach. I read the company’s blog and looked at the careers site, and neither one indicates that the culture encourages … this.

However, Aviary was acquired by Adobe in 2014, and this letter was written in 2011. So while it’s possible that the brand was a bit more relaxed at that time, we wouldn’t suggest submitting a letter with that tone to the company today. That’s not to say it would go unappreciated elsewhere — Doug Kessler frequently discusses the marketers and brands that value colorful language, for example.

The point is, this example further illustrates the importance of research. Make sure you understand the culture of the company to which you’re applying before you send a completely unfiltered cover letter — if you don’t, there’s a good chance it’ll completely miss the mark.

6) The Interactive Cover Letter

When designer Rachel McBee applied for a job with the Denver Broncos, she didn’t just write a personalized cover letter — she designed an entire digital, interactive microsite:

Source: Rachel McBee

This cover letter — if you can even call it that — checks off all of the boxes we’ve discussed here, in a remarkably unique way. It concisely addresses and organizes what many hiring managers hope to see in any cover letter: how her skills lend themselves to the role, why she wants the job, and how to contact her. She even includes a “traditional” body of text at the bottom, with a form that allows the reader to easily get in touch with her.

Take Cover

We’d like to add a sixth stage to the job search: Experimentation.

In today’s competitive landscape, it’s so easy to feel defeated, less-than-good-enough, or like giving up your job search. But don’t let the process become so monotonous. Have fun discovering the qualitative data we’ve discussed here — then, have even more by getting creative with your cover letter composition.

We certainly can’t guarantee that every prospective employer will respond positively — or at all — to even the most unique, compelling cover letter. But the one that’s right for you will. That’s why it’s important not to copy these examples. That defeats the purpose of personalization.

So get creative. And, by the way — we’re hiring.

What are some of the best cover letters you’ve seen? Let us know in the comments.

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Why Agencies That Conduct Market Research Grow Faster

You’re a busy marketer. Your days are full of client meetings, brand research, marketing strategy sessions …

Who has time to do market research for their own marketing agency?

If you think market research is for clients only, better think again. As a marketer, it’s equally important for you to understand your market, its wants and needs, the state of your competition, and your place in the marketing ecosystem and pecking order.

Make no mistake — market research for your own firm is no purely-academic exercise. Think of it this way: the better you know your audience, the more easily you can turn prospects into clients. Incredible as it may seem, most professional services firms, including marketing agencies, don’t know their audiences as well as they should. As a result, they’re missing out on opportunities to gain more clients and get more business out of current ones.

So why don’t more marketing firms do research? Well, because many think, for some reason, their clients are “different” so that the input won’t yield any insights. Others think research simply won’t impact growth.

We beg to differ.

We’ve conducted our own research on research (yes, really) and discovered that there are some significant benefits for marketing firms. Firms that regularly research their client markets (at least quarterly) grow more than ten times faster than firms that don’t conduct research. 

If you’re willing to go all-in and conduct research on a frequent, more-than-quarterly basis, your firm can really take off, compared to agencies that do no research. Our research confirmed that more than one-third of high-growth firms conducted target audience research regularly and at least once a quarter (see below chart). Virtually none of the no-growth firms conducted frequent research.

Data from Hinge’s 2017 High Growth Research Report

Research not only drives growth, it also impacts profitability. For instance, when Hinge studied the effects of research on growth and profitability, we found that firms that conducted frequent research realized 19.9% profitability, whereas firms that did not conduct research reported only 11% profitability.

What makes research so effective? There are a number of ways that firms become better positioned to secure prospects and grow their client relationships through research. These include:

  • Having a clear understanding of emerging issues and trends in order to determine which services to develop and offer.
  • Uncovering areas in which your firm has misjudged or misread their clients, such as what market influences are keeping them from growing their relationship with your firm.
  • Identifying purchasing or other types of patterns that you haven’t noticed since you are so deeply engrossed in your day-to-day interactions with your clients.

As Hinge has done research for ourselves and our clients, we’ve identified ten research questions that can drive growth and profitability. Below is a sample of the questions we have found to have a big impact for our clients.

Why do your best clients choose your firm?

Understanding what great clients find appealing about a firm can help the firm attract others like them.

What are those same clients trying to avoid?

This is the flip side of the first question and offers a valuable perspective. The answer can provide clues as to how to avoid being ruled out during the early rounds of a prospect’s selection process. The answer can also help shape business practices and strategy.

What is the real benefit your firm provides?

Firms are often surprised to hear the true benefit of their service, as viewed through their clients’ eyes. Once they understand this, they are able to enhance or even develop new services with other real benefits.

So what’s the best way to conduct research?

Believe it or not, Rule Number One is do not do it yourself. That’s right. Have someone else do it for you. Why? Because respondents are more likely to provide honest answers to a third party. If you insist on doing the research yourself — which is better than doing no research at all — be aware that you may capture only a portion of the overall picture.

Here are three more tips for conducting effective research:

1) Phone interviews are best. 

Nothing beats a live interview. Even reluctant participants will open up to a skillful interviewer. In fact, the greatest insights are often volunteered outside the scope of the questionnaire.

2) Online surveys are second best—but they don’t have to be second rate. 

An online survey will never capture the same insights as an interview, but a well-crafted online survey can still reap valuable information. Surveys also tend to be easier and less expensive to implement. Just remember, your response rate is likely to be very low.

3) Don’t limit it to your current clients. 

Cold prospects are more difficult to get on the phone, but they provide—by far—the most accurate picture of your marketplace. Clients who got away offer invaluable insights into your weaknesses. Similarly, lapsed clients can help you understand how to become more relevant and engaged.

And what should we do with all this research?

There are any number of ways you can use it, limited mostly by your goals and imagination. Here are just a few ideas on how you can use your research to enhance your reputation, generate leads and bring in more clients:

  • Tweak or redefine your positioning to differentiate your firm from competitors.
  • Introduce new services that prospects have indicated want.
  • Use it as an entrée to bring former clients back into the fold.
  • Offer new services to current or former clients.
  • Anticipate clients’ needs.

Most important, you can boost your credibility with your target market and increase your visible expertise by pulling data and results from your research findings to write blog posts and articles that address urgent market challenges, to publish a research study, and as fodder for speeches, seminars, and webinars.

So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get researching. The sooner you get started, the sooner your firm will reap its rewards.

agency-compensation

You Have $100 to Spend on Social Media Marketing. Here’s One Way to Spend It.

How big is your social media budget?

I’ve heard of companies that spend millions on marketing and others who spend zero (we skew toward the zero side at Buffer).

Regardless of how much you spend, you aim to spend it well. That’s why a hypothetical situation like — what would you do with $100 to spend on social media marketing? — can be an extremely valuable exercise.

I have some ideas on what I’d do with the $100, ways to wring the most value out of every penny. I’d love to hear any thoughts you have also.

Social Media Budget

Giveaway: New Social Media Strategy Class + 2 Months of Skillshare Premium

We’re excited to launch our new social media strategy class on Skillshare this week. You’ll learn everything from expert content curation strategies to getting started with paid advertising, from our Digital Marketing Strategist, Brian Peters.

The class is free for all Buffer customers for the next 28 days. After that, you can access the class as part of Skillshare’s library.

Also, we’d love to offer our Buffer users and community members two free months of Skillshare Premium, which you can use for our class and over 15,000 other classes! Just click on the button below to get started.

Take the free class

The average social media budget

Before we get into some answers and ideas, I thought it’d be interesting to see just how much social media takes up in an average marketing budget.

The answer:

The industry average settles between $200 to $350 per day.

This average comes from an analysis by The Content Factory, looking at the cost to outsource social media marketing services. They found that $4,000-$7,000 per month was the industry average, which works out to the above per-day costs.

As a percentage of the total marketing budget, The CMO Survey found that social media spending is at 11.7% in 2016 — a three-time increase since 2009.

Social Media Spending Trend by the CMO Survey

How does this compare to yours? Is your budget higher or lower?

At Buffer, our marketing budget consists mainly of the tools we use. We have also recently started exploring Facebook ads to increase our brand reach and social engagement.

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Imagine: You have $100 to spend on social media

Here’re the three possible ways to spend your $100:

Plan A: The all-in-one social media budget

Plan B: Invest in education

Plan C: Advertising-focused

Let’s dive in!

Plan A: The all-in-one social media budget

One of the first qualifications of spending $100 on social media is that the way you spend is likely to be quite unique: Everyone has their own specific niche and audience to serve, and most social media profiles are at varying degrees of completeness.

With this in mind, I’ve aimed to share some thoughts here that might fit the majority of profiles. Feel free to adjust as needed for your particular situation.

Graphics/photos/videos – $40

With visual design carrying such a large emphasis on social media, it feels great to put your best foot forward on the visuals front.

This can mean:

We’ve written some fun tutorials on what to do with certain resources — how to turn photos and graphics into ideal social media images. It’s possible that you’ll be able to create these images for free with the great, free tools out there. Two of our favorites are Unsplash for free high-resolution photos and Canva for quick graphic design.

If you choose to spend in this area, here’s one direction that your money could go.

  • Animoto for simple video creation ($8/month) – Quickly create short social videos with pre-built storyboards.
  • Fiverr for quick, small designs ($15) – Projects on Fiverr run $5 apiece, if you need a little extra hand with a certain design. They have a complete section for help with images and logos.
  • Add some funds to Creative Market or IconFinder or The Noun Project ($17) – Each of these sites is a digital marketplace for designers to sell the cool things they make such as icons, website themes, templates, photos, graphics, and tons more.

Animoto

Advertising – $40

If you’re just starting out and looking to grow your influence on social media, advertising can help build an initial audience. Even for established brands, it can be a great option.

Social media advertising is a huge topic with lots to consider. To help you get started, we have written guides on Facebook and Instagram advertising.

The takeaway: Test and see what works! Spend $5 per day on Facebook or Instagram ads for a little more exposure.

  • Facebook or Instagram ads ($40) – Run an ad for several days to see if it’s a channel worth investing more in.

A study by Nanigans, a Facebook marketing partner, found that while Instagram ads cost less for impressions and clicks, Facebook ads have higher click-through rate.

Instagram Ads vs Facebook Ads

Social media management – $10

Our top time-saving tip for social media managers is to manage your social media with a tool like Buffer. You can manage one social account per platform — Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Google+ — for free forever.

If you want to manage more accounts, the Awesome Plan is just $10/month. With Awesome, you can manage your brand’s accounts plus keep your personal queues full, too.

Analytics – $10

Your social media management tool likely has a good deal of analytics already built in. There are also many free social media analytics tools out there. To stay super lean, you could stick with these free options and move more of your money into design or advertising.

If you’re up for spending a little to learn what’s working on social, here’re some great options:

  • Iconosquare for Instagram analytics and management ($9/month) – Iconosquare provides some advanced Instagram analytics and management features, allowing you to understand and improve your Instagram marketing.
  • Chartbeat real-time analytics for your site ($10/month) – Useful for seeing in real-time which visitors on your site have come from social media. Recommended for websites big enough to have multiple people visiting at once.

Audience research – Free

One of the key things we’ve learned about social media is that it’s hugely helpful to listen to the people you’re talking with online. What are their needs? Their problems? Their favorite things? A lot of this falls under the umbrella of audience research.

Many elements of audience research can be had for free. If you find one that works well for you, that could be the one worth spending a bit of your $100.

  • Followerwonk for Twitter research (free) – Managed by Moz, this tool lets you dig into your Twitter audience: Who are your followers? Where are they located? When do they tweet? The basic version is free, or you can upgrade by snagging a Moz Pro subscription ($99/month).
  • Facebook Audience Insights (free) – The robust audience creation tool from Facebook lets you create any sort of target demographic—by region, by age and gender, by interest, by Page Likes, and more—and shows you the breakdown of the audience slice you’ve chosen.
  • Instagram Insights (free) – The analytics in the Instagram app provides a wealth of information about your followers such as their demographics and the times and days when they are most active.
  • Typeform for surveys (free) – Send out simple surveys with TypeForm to get to know your audience better. It works great to post these survey links to social.

Typeform Survey Tweet

Sharing buttons – Free

For your website or blog, you can boost your social media marketing by making it easy for others to share your content. If you’re after something a bit more customizable and premium, you might like one of the following tools.

Sumo Share Widget

Total spend: $100

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Plan B: Invest in education

The inspiration for the $100 question came from a post on Inbound.org, asking what you’d do with $1,000 to start an online marketing strategy. (Tons of great answers there, too, if you’re curious!)

One of the takeaways I learned there is that it can sometimes be best to invest your money on educating yourself.

Here’re some options for how to spend $100 on social media education.

Great books – $80

We’re incredibly grateful for the chance to learn from so many good books. I read a cool quote from author Ryan Holiday:

I promised myself a long time ago that if I saw a book that interested me I’d never let time or money or anything else prevent me from having it.

It’s great advice, and we’ve taken it a bit to heart here with these book recommendations.

Helpful ebook and blogs – Free

Great communities – Free

Being able to tap into the shared knowledge of a big group of experts or like-minded peers is a huge advantage and privilege. In terms of social media marketing, these few communities have some of the best advice and most knowledgeable participants:

Miscellaneous resources – Free

Total spend: $80

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Plan C: Advertising-focused

Let’s say you have a good grip on your social media marketing workflows. You’re in a groove with your scheduling, content, follow-up, and reporting. Maybe you’d just like to grow with a little paid promotion.

Here are some options for spending the $100 toward advertising particularly.

Facebook ads – $40

With Facebook, you have many different ways of approaching an ad campaign, and all these ways can typically fall within these four  categories of benefits:

  • Reach: Expand your reach to new potential customers who can interact with your content.
  • Interaction: Having your ad right on the News Feed allows users to interact with it like they do any other piece of social content.
  • Followers: Brands also report a notable increase in followers through social advertising since brand visibility increases significantly.
  • Traffic and leads: You can use ads to drive traffic to your landing pages or blog or to generate leads directly.

(The same goes for Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn ads, too. And since the creation of Instagram ads and Facebook ads are very similar — through the Facebook Ads Manager, you can spend this amount on Instagram ads instead if you think your audience are on Instagram more than they are on Facebook.)

For small budgets, you’re likely to get the most bang for your buck with boosting reach.

Facebook Ads Objectives

Twitter ads – $40

Like Facebook, Twitter gives you a number of ways to get your content in front of more people. Here’s a list of possible paid routes with Twitter:

  • Drive website clicks or conversions
  • Get more followers
  • Maximize brand awareness
  • Increase tweet engagements
  • Promote your video
  • Drive app installs or re-engagements

Twitter Ads Objectives

Many of these advertising options have to do with Twitter cards, which are a media-rich version of a standard tweet.

LinkedIn – $20

LinkedIn gives you the options of

  • sponsoring existing content (similar to boosting a post)
  • creating a text ad (which will appear on the top or the right side of many LinkedIn pages)
  • sending an InMail directly to your target audience

LinkedIn Ads Objectives

Total spend: $100

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Big-picture ideas on how to spend money

1. Spend your money on what you can’t do well

If you lack a certain expertise in an area, this could be a great signal that it’d be worth it to pay someone else to take over.

2. Spend your money on what takes you the most time

Time is money, as they say. Your time is super valuable, especially if you’re juggling all the many tasks of a social media manager by yourself.

Look at what takes you the most time to do. Can you spend a bit of money to make these processes a bit easier?

3. Spend money in such a way that you can make more money to spend

Especially when you’re first starting out, it’s likely that money might be a bit lean. The idea here is that you’d spend your budget on only those activities that could lead directly to you making more money. If you have $100 to spend, it’d be great to have a way to get $100 to spend again the following month.

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Your plan

Over to you: How might you spend $100 on social media marketing? 

I’d love to hear your ideas, or maybe even how you’ve spent it in real life, too! Any insights you have would be so great to hear.

How to Repost on Instagram: 4 Easy Ways to Reshare Content

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Where most social media feeds are almost distractingly busy — full of photos, videos, and text updates from friends and brands you follow — Instagram is different because you can only look at one post at a time.

And while this simple, clean interface makes to easy to focus on the beautiful photography and interesting videos on Instagram, it also leaves something to be desired: the ability to easily repost other users’ content.

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But fear not: for every problem, the internet has afforded a solution. We tested out four different ways to repost content on Instagram in a few simple steps. All of these methods are free, but some require you to download an app from the iOS App Store or Google Play first.

How to Repost on Instagram: 4 Methods to Try

1) Use Repost for Instagram

Download Repost for Instagram for iOS or Android devices to share content from other Instagram users from your mobile device. Here’s how to do it:

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Open your Instagram app, and find a photo or video you’d like to reshare.

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(Psst — do you follow HubSpot on Instagram?)

Tap the … in the upper-right hand corner of the post. Then, tap “Copy Share URL.”

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Open Repost for Instagram. The post you copied will automatically be on the homepage.

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Tap the arrow on the right-hand side of the post. There, you can edit how you want the repost icon to appear on Instagram.

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Tap “Repost.” Then, tap “Copy to Instagram,” where you can add a filter and edit the post.

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Tap “Next.” If you want to include the original post’s caption, tap the caption field and press “Paste,” where the original caption will appear with a citation.

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When you’re ready to share the post, tap “Share” as you would a regular Instagram post. Here’s how the post appears on your Instagram profile:

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2) Use InstaRepost

Download InstaRepost for iOS or Android devices to share content from other Instagram users from your mobile device. Here’s how to do it:

Open InstaRepost, log in using your Instagram credentials, and authorize it to access your account information.

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InstaRepost will only show you a small selection from your Instagram feed. If you know what post you’re looking for, head to the search magnifying glass to look at the Explore tab or enter a username.

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Once you’ve found a post you want to reshare, tap the arrow in the lower right-hand corner. Then, tap “Repost,” then “Repost” again.

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Navigate to your Instagram app, and tap “Library.” The post will be saved to your camera roll.

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Add a filter and edit the post as you would any other. Then, tap “Next.”

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Tap the caption field to paste the original caption. The repost won’t include a citation, so we suggest adding one by typing “@ + [username].” Then, press “Share.”

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Here’s how the post appears on your Instagram profile:

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3) Use DownloadGram

DownloadGram lets Instagram users download high-resolution copies of Instagram photos and videos to repost from their own accounts. Here’s how to do it:

Open your Instagram app and find the post you want to repost. Tap the … icon in the upper-right hand corner of the post and click “Copy Share URL.”

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Navigate to DownloadGram and paste the URL into the field. Then, tap “Download.”

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Tap the green “Download Image” button that will appear further down the page.

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You’ll be directed to a new web page with the downloadable image. Tap the download icon, then tap “Save image.”

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Return to your Instagram app. The image will be saved to your camera roll, so edit it as you would any other Instagram post.

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The repost won’t include a citation, so we suggest adding one by typing “@ + [username].” Then, press “Share.” Here’s how the post appears on your Instagram profile:

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4) Take a Screenshot

This method doesn’t require any or other websites to repost on Instagram. It’s worth nothing that this method only works for reposting photos. Here’s how to do it:

Find a photo on Instagram you’d like to repost, and take a screenshot:

  • For iOS: Press down on the home and lock buttons simultaneously until your screen flashes.
  • For Android: Press down on the sleep/wake and volume down buttons simultaneously until your screen flashes.

Tap the new post button in the bottom-center of your Instagram screen. Resize the photo so it’s properly cropped in the Instagram photo editor.

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Edit and filter the post like you would any other Instagram post.

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The repost won’t include a citation, so we suggest adding one by typing “@ + [username].” Then, press “Share.” Here’s how the post appears on your Instagram profile:

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Do It For the ‘Gram

Now that you’ve learned how to repost on Instagram, you can diversify your profile with content sourced from friends, family, and brands. Use the methods above — being sure to cite the source of the original post — to quickly and easily reshare your favorite content. And if you’re looking for more ideas for sourcing and creating Instagram content for your brand, download our free guide to using Instagram for business here.

Do you use any of these methods to repost on Instagram? Share with us in the comments below.

how to use instagram for business

45 Engaging Examples of Interactive Storytelling in Content Marketing

As inbound marketers, content plays an important role in attracting attention to our company and building trust with our prospects. Our content can come in many different formats, and the format we choose can speak volumes about the research and ideas within.

Interactive content has become increasingly more popular as brands try to cut through the noise and keep prospects’ attention long enough to deliver a message.

So how exactly do you harness audience’s ever-decreasing attention span? By giving them an active role in their content consumption process by publishing stories with interactive elements. Such tools can increase engagement, on-site dwell time, and social share rates.

Free Download: 45 Interactive Content Examples to Inspire Your Next Content Project

HubSpot and Playbuzz joined forces to scour the web for amazing examples of interactive storytelling. Each industry poses its own obstacles and unique characteristics, but share one common denominator: Interactive content works for all topics and audiences.

Let’s take a look at a few examples from the ebook:

Interactive Content Examples from Real Brands

1) The Wall Street Journal

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Delivering a large amount of information is a challenge for content creators. This example from the Wall Street Journal does so using searchable, visual stats. The facts are arranged in a number of ways, including a recorded timeline for readers to hit “play” and simply watch.

How can you incorporate this into your content marketing? Search is an interactive action on its own and can be easily incorporated into your content. Using search provides readers with a task to keep them engaged while presenting a healthy amount of information in a positive manner. Adding search options very much depends on the content you create, but tools like FlippingBook and Viostream make even PDF and video content searchable.

2) National Geographic

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Some of the most inspiring forms of interactive content match the topics they address. This example allows readers to follow the ancient cave paintings as if they are touring a prehistoric cave, with color-coded topics to provide insights.

How can you incorporate this into your content marketing? Making history come to life can be a hard task. Don’t shy away from numbers and important facts, but don’t skimp on the imagery and engagement, either. Leave the canvas clear for creative imagery and video, while the text wraps the visuals but does not interfere.

3) Orbitz

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Whether or not your travel partner will make or break your trip is one question all backpackers ask themselves before embarking on a new adventure. Orbitz knew what was on their audience’s mind and created an online quiz that addresses this burning question — specifically for business travelers.

How can you incorporate this into your content marketing? Everyone loves interactive quizzes, but when creating one for your business, always think of what your audience would spend time in investigating. This is particularly true when you wish to exchange results for readers’ contact information.

How to Get Started with Interactive Storytelling

If you’re new to creating digital content, start small with a simple quiz or flashcards embedded in a blog post with Playbuzz. These assets perform well at the top of the funnel because they motivate the user to share and see how their peers stack up against their own experience. Experiment with new formats, topics, and which stage in the buyer’s journey your content serves.

When it’s time to build something more sophisticated, consider working with a developer to determine how to build the user experience and interactive elements you’re looking for. And remember to experiment. That means release early and often so you’re consistently collecting feedback and iterating on your interactive content.

Download the full guide here to learn from over 40 more examples of interactive storytelling, ranging in complexity and industry vertical.

What types of interactive content have you encountered around the internet? Share with us in the comments below.

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10 of the Best Ads from April: Hygge, Apocalypse, and a Robot Baby

Although we haven’t been fortunate enough to see more than a few scattered days of sunlight here in Boston, I’m told it’s technically spring.

In addition to rain, April also brought us some stunning new creative work from agencies around the word. Our monthly ad round-up features a German-produced animated short, a delightful Danish beer ad, and a clever insurance spot from Japan starring a rugby team from New Zealand. 

Did you miss any of these ads from April? Scroll down to check them out, and get inspired to tackle your next big project. 

10 of the Best Ads from April

1) AIG Japan

New Zealand’s national rugby union team, the All Blacks, hit the pedestrian-heavy streets of Toyko in this unexpectedly charming spot for AIG Japan. The three-minute ad opens with the uniform-clad players tackling seemingly random (and reasonably stunned) Tokyo residents — but things quickly take a heartwarming turn.

About half-way through the TBWA\Hakuhodo-produced video, it becomes apparent that the All Blacks were actually saving people from unpredictable disasters — a car running a red light, a pile of debris falling from a construction site, and a sudden laptop fire.

“[The ad] was an arresting way to show our fantastic relationship with the All Blacks, demonstrate the idea of risk prevention, and create a strong connection to the Japanese audience,” said Matthew Walker, AIG Japan’s senior vice president and regional chief marketing officer.

 

2) Carlsberg

Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen ponders the secret source of his home country’s enviable happiness in Carlsberg’s latest UK campaign. Produced by London-based agency Fold7, the ad follows Mikklesen as he peddles his way through Copenhagen, magically passing through hedges, into stylish, minimal apartments, and over a rustic table set for a hyggelig gathering.

His tour ends (where else?) at a Carlsberg brewery, where Mikklesen enjoys a cold Carlsberg pilsner and decides that this is the real secret of Danish happiness … probably.

 

3) Student Flights

If you’re young, you better enjoy traveling while you can — before you become an uncool, perpetually exhausted parent. That’s the message of this spot for Student Flights, a company that specializes in travel deals for the university set.

To really drive that message home, Johannesburg-based agency TBWA\Hunt Lascaris convinced a hip millennial to carry around a wailing, pooping “Babybot” for a few days at a music festival. The poor guy in question, Loyiso Madinga, is promised a free trip to New York if he can survive a weekend with Babybot unscathed. His initial assessment of the challenge? “How hard could this be … right?”

As expected, having a baby at a music festival isn’t super fun — even if that baby is Wifi-enabled and made of metal. 

 

4) Netto

Ever wonder where the Easter Bunny came from? European supermarket chain Netto teamed up with German agency Jung von Matt and production house Mill+ to share their whimsical imagining of the egg-laying rabbit’s origins (Hint: it starts with a hen and a rabbit meeting each other at a night club.)

Set to a innocent, heart-wrenching rendition of “Beautiful, Always,” the animated short packs a surprisingly poignant punch. It’s sure to make even the coldest little hearts grow three sizes.

 

5) The New York Times

Oscar-nominated director Darren Aronofsky (of Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan fame) lends his talents to this Droga5-produced spot for The New York Times. The stark, one-minute ad series is part of the Grey Lady’s first brand-focused ad campaign in a decade.

Aronofsky met with several New York Times photojournalists, asking them to recount their experiences covering some of the most impactful stories from recent years. As the photojournalists discuss their fieldwork and motivations, images from the trips in question flash across the screen.  

 

6) Unilever

Pricey, trendy beauty products aren’t necessarily worth the hype, according to Unilever’s latest marketing stunt. Vice’s digital agency Carrot invited a group of real beauty influencers to try a fake new shampoo: Evaus (Spoiler alert: that’s just discount hair care brand Suave spelled backwards).

Packaged in a sleek, minimal bottle, Evaus products were a big hit with the influencers, who raved about how shiny and soft their hair felt after 10 days of using the line. When producers reveal that the “startup” hair care brand is really just $3 Suave shampoo poured into fancy schmancy bottles, the influencers are shocked — and then seemingly delighted at the great value.

“We found seven of 10 women think higher-priced brands are more trustworthy,” Jen Bremner, Unilever marketing director explained to AdAge. “That really was the inspiration. We wanted to peel back the labels and convert the skeptics.”

 

7) Entourage

To promote Entourage, a French app aimed at reconnecting neighborhoods with their homeless populations, TBWA\Paris decided to take an unconventional, offline approach to viral marketing: writing directly on banknotes.

The agency asked homeless community members to pen short messages directly on paper bills. Each hand-written note reveals something that homeless people wish everyone else knew. Take this example from the case study video below: “For me, Pierrot, homeless for 19 years, this bill has a lot of value, but not as much as a hello.”

The hope is that the simple messages with encourage Parisians to download the Entourage app, which helps people offer support and make social connections with homeless folks in their neighborhood.

 

8) SubHub

When the inevitable robot apocalypse finally spells fatal disaster for the human race, won’t you wish you shelled out to see that Sia concert?

Goodby Silverstein & Partners produced this cinematic, YOLO-fueled spot for StubHub, encouraging you to buy those concert tickets “before it’s too late.” The ad balances sleek, action-movie pacing with an unexpected, hilarious ending.

 

9) Pedigree

BBDO New York resurrected a little-known story from the Revolutionary War to promote Pedigree’s “Feed the Good” campaign.

In 1777, General George Washington and his troops were in the midst of a battle against British Forces Commander-in-Chief William Howe when one of Washington’s men discovered Howe’s dog wandering lost near the American camp. Instead of harming the lost pup (as some of Washington’s men reportedly suggested), Washington benevolently returned the dog to Howe with a kind note. The true story reflects Pedigree’s belief that dogs bring out the best of us.

 

10) Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Here’s one for the IT guy or gal in your office.

In this playful Publicis New York-produced ad for Hewlett Packard Enterprise, a sad, bobble-head IT employee named Brian is forced to deny his colleagues’ earnest requests due to inadequate legacy technology. That is, until his office gets Hewlett Packard Enterprise — at which point Brian transforms Pinocchio-style from a plastic bobble head doll into a guy who can finally say “yes.”

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The Character Count Guide for Blog Posts, Videos, Tweets & More

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When it comes to writing text for your blog and social media posts, many marketers wonder, “But what’s the character limit?” It’s never a simple question — sometimes, it’s answered by parameters established by certain channels. And on other occasions, it’s more a question of what’s ideal.

For example, you probably know the character limit for a tweet is 140, but did you know that the ideal length is actually less than that? (Hold tight — we’ll explain why.)While we’ve written before about optimizing your actual content, we thought it would be helpful to gather the numbers of character limits — both enforced and ideal — for different online channels, all in one place. New Call-to-action

Below, you’ll find a more detailed guide to character limits and ideal character counts for posts on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, SnapChat, and YouTube.

The Length & Character Count for Everything on the Internet

1) Blog Posts

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Quick reference:

  • Post length: 2100 words
  • Title: Under 60 characters
  • Meta Description: Under 155 characters

Post Body

When it comes to the length of blog posts, there are a few different items to consider. For example:

  • According to Medium, posts with an average read time of seven minutes captured the most attention.
  • The average reading speed of native English-speaking adults remains commonly cited as 300 words per minute, according to research conducted in 1990.
  • At that reading rate, the ideal post length is 2100 words.
  • That aligns with research previously conducted by serpIQ, which indicated that, on average, the top 10 results for most Google searches are between 2,032 and 2,416 words.

That means that this ideal word count can address goals around both readability and SEO. But that’s just the actual body of the post. Plus, when we looked at our own blog on organic traffic, we found that the sweet spot was 2,250–2,500 words.

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But that’s just the post body — let’s have a look at the other areas of text that comprise a full blog post.

Title

The length of your title depends on your goals, and where it will appear.

Let’s start with SEO. Do you want this post to rank really well in search? It turns out, that often has to do with the dimensions of each entry on a search engine results page (SERP). For Google, titles of search results are usually contained at a length of 600 pixels — which Moz measures as being able to display the first 50-60 characters of a title tag. So, if you don’t want your title to get cut off in the search results, it might be best to keep it under 60 characters. But when in doubt, you can double-check the length of your meta description and title tags with this handy tool from SEOmofo, or you can use Moz’s title tag preview tool.

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Then, there’s optimizing your title for social sharing. On Twitter, for example, consider that each tweet has a limit of 140 characters — however, if you include an image, that doesn’t count toward the limit. But consider that even the average shortened URL takes up about 23 characters — that leaves you with about 116 characters left for the title and any accompanying text.

In our own analysis at HubSpot, we found that headlines between 8–12 words in length got the most Twitter shares on average, while headlines with either 12 or 14 words got the most Facebook Likes.

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Meta Description

A meta description refers to the HTML attribute that explains the contents of a given webpage. It’s the short description you see on a SERP to “preview” what the page is about.

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Moz notes that Google seems to cut off most meta descriptions — which are sometimes called snippets — after roughly two lines of text — though there’s some conjecture that, like title tags, it’s actually based on pixel count. In any case, it amounts to about 160 characters, though this particular outlet recommends keeping it at 155.

Again, you can double-check the length of your meta description and title tags with this handy tool from SEOmofo.

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2) Facebook

Quick reference:

  • Status updates: 63,206-character maximum | Ideal length is 40 characters
  • Video: 120-minute maximum | Ideal length is two minutes

Status Updates

Facebook’s character limit on status updates is 63,206. However, that’s far from ideal, says HubSpot Social Media Marketing Manager Chelsea Hunersen. “The social gurus will throw around the number 40 characters. That data seems to be backed up by BuzzSumo’s ranking of HubSpot’s own Facebook Page.

But why 40, specifically? “Ideally,” Hunersen says, “you’ll want to use the copy in a status update to provide context for whatever you’re linking to.” That said, she notes, the copy of the status update itself isn’t as important as the copy in the meta title or meta description that gets pulled in when you insert a link into your post. That’s right — social media posts have their own meta data too.

“Often, people look at the image of the article and then directly down at the meta title and meta description for context clues,” she explains. “A lot of people don’t realize you can change those.”

Even on Facebook, it’s still best to keep your meta title to fewer than 60 characters, and to 155 for meta descriptions. There are some resources available to those familiar with coding that let you play around with social media metadata character counts, like these templates. But unless you’re a developer, we recommend keeping it short and sweet.

Video

While Facebook allows a maximum of 120 minutes for videos, we wouldn’t advise posting anything that long, unless you’re doing a special, social-media-only screening of a full-length film.

According to research conducted by Wistia, two minutes is the “sweet spot” — even a minute longer than that shows a significant drop in viewership. “Engagement is steady up to [two] minutes, meaning that a 90-second video will hold a viewer’s attention as much as a 30-second video, the research reads,” so “if you’re making short videos, you don’t need to stress about the difference of a few seconds. Just keep it under [two] minutes.”

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However, optimal length can vary depending on the topic. “If you produce something as catchy as BuzzFeed and Refinery29 are putting out there, it can be up to five minutes long,” says Hunersen.

Regardless of the length of your video, Hunersen reminds us that all Facebook videos start without sound, meaning users have to make a conscious decision to stop scrolling through their feeds and unmute the video. Facebook videos should be visually compelling from the get-to, make sense without sound, and be engaging enough to encourage the user to stop and watch.

3) Twitter

Quick reference:

  • Tweets: 140-character maximum
    • Does not include images, videos, polls, or quotes tweets
    • Ideal length is 120-130 characters
  • Hashtags: No more than two
  • Videos: Maximum length is two minutes and 20 seconds

Length of Tweets

Marketers everywhere rejoiced when Twitter finally eased up on its character count parameters, and such media as images, videos, and polls, as well as quoted tweets, ceased counting toward its 140-character limit.

Still, the “Quote Tweet” feature remains available, providing even greater character-saving measures. That happens when you press the rotating arrow icon to retweet a post, and then add a comment in the text box provided. You’ve still got 140 characters all to yourself to comment.

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Ideal Length Overall

Like so much of what we’ve covered, it seems that when it comes to the overall length of a tweet, aim for short and sweet. (See what we did there?) That’s resonated in research conducted by social media scientist Dan Zarrella, who found that tweets with 120-130 characters showed the highest click-through rate (CTR):

Screen-Shot-2013-08-16-at-10.51.12-AM.png Source: Buffer

The same goes for hashtags. While they can technically be any length up to 140 characters, remember that people will want to accompany the hashtag with other copy. Short hashtags are always better. Ideally, your hashtags should be under 11 characters — shorter if you can.

Also, in a single tweet, stick to one or two hashtags, and definitely don’t go over three. Buddy Media found that all tweets with hashtags get double the engagement metrics than tweets without any. But tweets that kept the hashtags to a minimum — one or two — have a 21% higher engagement than tweets with three or more.

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Videos

You can post a video on Twitter by importing a video or recording it using the Twitter app. In any case, the maximum video length is two minutes and 20 seconds.

4) LinkedIn

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Profiles

Here’s a handy list of some of LinkedIn’s most important profile character maximums, according to Andy Foote:

  • Professional headline: 120
  • Summary: 2,000
  • Position title: 100
  • Position description: 2,000 (200 character minimum)
  • Status Update: 600 characters — however, Foote also notes that, “if you select to also post on Twitter from LinkedIn, only the first 140 characters will show on your Twitter post.”

Original Content

With LinkedIn’s publishing platform, users can now compose and share original written content with their networks, or publicly. Of course, that comes with its own character counts, according to Foote:

  • Post headline: 100
  • Post body: 40,000

5) Instagram

Quick reference:

  • Bio: 150-character maximum
  • Hashtags: Maximum of 30
  • Captions: Ideal length is under 125 characters

Since Instagram is, first and foremost, a platform for sharing photos and videos, the primary focus is typically your visual content. However, it’s always helpful to provide some context, and let users know what they’re looking at.

Given that, here are some helpful character counts for the text you include with your visual content:

Captions

While Instagram doesn’t seem to specify a maximum total number of caption characters, it does note that, within users’ feeds, the caption is cut off after the first three lines. For that reason, it’s advised to limit captions to 125 characters. However, don’t leave out important information just for the sake of keeping your entire caption visible. Instead, frontload it with crucial details and calls-to-action, leaving any hashtags, @mentions, or extraneous information for the end.

As for Instagram Stories, there doesn’t seem to be a ton of detail on character limits there, either. However, because the text overlays the visual content — which is the focus — don’t obscure too much of the photo or video with a caption.

6) Snapchat

Quick reference:

  • Character limit: 80 per post

Speaking of not obscuring visual content — that brings us to Snapchat.

Instagram Stories was, many believe, an effort to emulate the features of Snapchat, to create an opportunity for users to share quickly-disappearing photos and videos. And again, because the focus here is on the visual, you’ll want to prevent distracting viewers from it with too much text.

According to Teen Vogue, Snapchat’s character limit is 80 per post, which is more than double its previous 31-character limit. And, if you’re looking for more guidance, just look to this particular app’s name, and remember the “snap” element of it — a word that implies brevity — and try not to ramble. Here’s a great example of how SXSW uses its captions efficiently:

7) YouTube

Here we have yet another network that’s focused on visual content, leading some to incorrectly assume that accompanying text — like titles and descriptions — don’t matter as much.

That’s not entirely false — as a video-hosting platform, YouTube should primarily be used to showcase a brand’s quality videos. However, like any other visual content, it needs context. People need to know what they’re watching, who it’s from, and why it matters.

Unfortunately, YouTube doesn’t appear to provide any specific parameters over its character counts — except for your channel description, which according to the official help site is limited to 1,000 characters. But other than that, it seems that the only guideline available is the alert display that lets you know, “Your [title or description] is too long,” if you’ve entered too much text in either of those fields.

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In this case, we would advise taking the same approach as adding text to support your visuals on Instagram and Snapchat. Like the former, a video’s description is cut off after the first line or two, so frontload the most important descriptors and CTAs, leaving extra details for the end.

Show Your Character

As you set out to determine the length of your text, regardless of the platform, remember to do so with the user in mind. Many of these channel-mandated character limits are established for that reason — to keep audiences from getting bored or overwhelmed.

Like anything else in marketing, however, it’s never an exact science, despite the best data. We encourage you to follow these guidelines, but don’t be afraid to experiment if they don’t always work. Test different amounts of text within your various channels, and keep track of how each post performs. From there, you can make decisions about which types of content, as well as its accompanying titles and descriptions, are the most well-received from your audience.

How do you approach text with different online channels? Let us know in the comments.

This post was originally published in January 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

free social media content calendar template

free social media content calendar template

6 Business Challenges Every Small Business Struggles With (And How to Fix Them)

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In the first few years of business, small companies come up against a lot of different challenges. Some are harder than others to overcome — and according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 20% of small businesses fail by the end of their first year. By the end of their fifth year, 50% go under; and by the tenth year, that number rises to 80%.

With survival rates like that, it’s easy to understand why folks face the first few years of business with trepidation. But in fact, many common business problems and challenges are actually fixable, from difficulty finding customers, generating leads, and building an email list, all the way to hiring the right people and balancing quality and growth. Many times, you’ll find you need to take a step back, take the time to understand the pain points you’re feeling, and re-think your strategy.

Here are six challenges every small business faces, along with some tactical advice about how to fix them. (And if one of the challenges you’re facing is growing your email lists and generating leads, then be sure to save your seat for our live workshop that’s taking place on Thursday, April 27 at 1:00 P.M. EST.)

6 Small Business Problems & How to Fix Them

1) Finding Customers

This first one isn’t just a small business problem. The marketers at well-known companies like Apple and Toyota and McDonald’s don’t just sit around waiting for the leads to come in: Even the biggest, most successful companies have people working hard every single day to find new customers.

But for small businesses that aren’t a household name, finding customers can be particularly difficult. For example, there seem to be so many channels you can choose to focus on … how do you know what to prioritize and where to allocate resources?

How to Fix It:

Finding customers starts with figuring how who your ideal customer actually is. Spraying and praying doesn’t work for anybody — you need to make sure you’re spreading the word to the right people.

Craft an idea of what your target customers look like, what they do, where they spend time online by building your buyer personas. (Here are some free buyer persona templates to get you started.) Creating very specific ones can dramatically improve your business results. Once you’ve built your buyer personas, you can start creating content and getting in front of your target customers in the places they spend time online and with the messages that they care about.

2) Hiring Talented People

Hiring is often one of the biggest challenges for small businesses, especially since small business executives tend to feel under-resourced to begin with. Hiring new employees is a big deal and a complex process, and the cost of onboarding is an average of over $4,000 per new employee for most companies. And if you don’t hire well, employee turnover can be very, very expensive.

But, as CEO of 2020 On-site Optometry Howard Bernstein said in our panel on how to start a business, it’s impossible to know everything yourself. That’s why finding and hiring the right people — and the people who are really excited about what you’re doing — matters.

How to Fix It:

It’s easy to hire with a short-term mindset: send out a job description, screen applicants, and make a decision. But because of the high costs of hiring right, it’s important to invest a significant amount of time in the hiring process. Don’t settle for good employees when you can find great ones, even if it takes longer. It’s the great employees that will help your company get to the next level.

Just like you create buyer personas for your customers, create candidate personas for your job candidates. Your personas should be different for each new role that you’re hiring for, but will share some underlying traits around company culture.

Next, take ownership of attracting candidates to your company’s brand and make them interested in learning more. This will help you build a recruiting pipeline that will give hiring the same predictability as sales. Then, turn those leads into applicants.

3) Spreading Brand Awareness

It can sometimes seem like today’s biggest brands seemed to have popped up out of nowhere. How did they become a household name? How did they grow that quickly? Can your business grow like that, too?

Of course, most of these companies’ hard work, failures, and rejections happened behind the scenes. But there are strategies for spreading the word about your brand and building a great reputation that you can start right away.

How to Fix It:

There are many ways to spread brand awareness, but the three I’ll touch on here are PR, co-marketing, and blogging.

  • PR: Public relations is less about paying for a spot in a news blog, and more about focusing your voice and finding your place in the market. I recommend reading this great post from FirstRound Capital on what startups and small businesses often get wrong about PR, which also includes some great, tactical tips on how to figure out who’s covering your industry, building relationships, and working with reporters. You can also download our free public relations kit to learn how to maximize your public relations efforts with inbound marketing and social media.
  • Co-marketing: Partnering with another brand will help you inherit some of their image and reputation and create brand evangelists outside your circle. It’s a fantastic way to gain a large volume of new contacts alongside your organic marketing efforts. You can read our ebook on how to get started with co-marketing for more helpful information.
  • Blogging: Running a consistently high-quality blog will also help you build brand awareness. Not only does a blog help drive traffic to your website and convert that traffic into leads, but it also helps you establish authority in your industry and trust among your prospects. Many people find out about HubSpot because of our blog posts. It’ll also help you build an email list, which brings us to our next point …

4) Building an Email List

As if it isn’t hard enough to build an email list, did you know your email marketing database degrades by about 22.5% every year? That means you have to increase your email list by almost a quarter to just maintain it, never mind grow it. It’s the marketing team’s job to find ways to constantly add fresh, new email contacts to your lists.

But what many people call “building an email list” is actually buying an email list — and buying an email list is never a good idea. I repeat: Never a good idea. Not only will your email deliverability and IP reputation be harmed, but it’s also a waste of money. If your current strategy is to buy or rent email lists, then it’s time to regroup and find better places to put those resources.

How to Fix It:

Instead of buying or renting lists, build opt-in email lists. An opt-in email list is made up of subscribers who voluntarily give you their email address so you can send them emails. One great way to build an opt-in list is by creating great blog content and making it easy for people to subscribe — which, at the same time, will help you increase your online presence, build up search authority, and create evangelists from your content.

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[Example of a subscribe CTA on Help Scout’s blog.]

You can also revive older lists that you think are mostly decayed by creating an engaging opt-in message and sending it to your old list encouraging contacts who wish to re-opt-in and promising to remove all contacts who don’t respond.

To learn more strategies and tips, register here for our live workshop on growing your email subscribers.

5) Lead Generation

Another problem most small businesses share is lead generation — specifically, generating enough leads to keep the sales team happy. If that sounds like you, you’re not alone: Only 1 in 10 marketers feel their lead generation campaigns are effective.

But generating leads that are both high quantity and high quality is a marketing team’s most important objective. A successful lead generation engine is what turns website visitors into prospective customers and keeps the funnel full of sales prospects while you sleep.

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[Lead generation is part of the “convert” stage of the inbound methodology.]

How to Fix It:

To make the lead generation process work for your business, you need to first optimize your existing website for leads. Your website is the most important tool you have for turning prospects into customers. Look through your website and ask yourself:

  • Do each of your webpages clearly guide visitors to take action, or do they leave them wondering what to do next?
  • Do you use a tool that automatically pulls the submissions from your forms and puts them into your contact database, like HubSpot’s free lead generation tool?
  • Are you creating custom landing pages for every single campaign that you run?
  • Do you have lead generation CTAs on each of your blog posts? (Do you have a blog at all?)

Prioritize the most popular pages on your website first. Most businesses have a few, specific pages that bring in the majority of their traffic — often the homepage, “About” page, “Contact Us” page, and maybe one or two of your most popular blog posts. Read this blog post to learn how to figure out which pages to prioritize, and how to optimize them.

Finally, be sure to take advantage of free lead management software. Affording marketing in general is a big challenge in and of itself, so finding and implementing the most robust free marketing tools can be a game changer. HubSpot Marketing Free, for example, has features like a form-scraping tool that scrapes any pre-existing forms you have on your website and adds those contacts to your existing contact database. It also lets you new pop-ups, hello bars, or slide-ins — called “lead flows” — that’ll help you turn website visitors into leads immediately.

6) Balancing Quality and Growth

“There’s this mix of building scalability early, versus doing what you have to do to get it all done,” Nick Rellas, co-founder and CEO of Drizly, told our panel of startup executives about starting his own business.

This is a tricky one, especially since every situation is different. You’ll see this problem arise in all areas of business: in product development, in marketing and content creation, in hiring, and so on. For example, many business executives will push growth at all costs. But if you grow your company too quickly, you’ll find yourself having to hire quickly. This can overwhelm your experienced team members because it takes a while to train people. And if you don’t train people well, it can end up backfiring.

How to Fix It:

Unfortunately, there’s no perfect answer here. “Depending where you are in your business’ lifecycle,” says Rellas, “the scale will tip one way or the other, but I do think you need both at different times.”

What it comes down to is not obsessing over every detail, but obsessing over the right details. Obsessing over product perfection, for example, might not be as important as obsessing over customer service. It’s better to put your fears aside and launch a product that isn’t perfect because you can always update and improve it. After all, once your products are in the hands of your customers, you can learn much more quickly what’s working and what isn’t.

Obsessing over customer service, however, is worth the extra effort. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos puts it well in his 2016 letter to shareholders: “There are many ways to center a business. You can be competitor focused, you can be product focused, you can be technology focused, you can be business model focused, and there are more. But in my view, obsessive customer focus is by far the most protective of Day 1 vitality.” (“Day 1” is what he refers to as a period of growth and innovation, whereas “Day 2” is stasis, irrelevance, and slow demise.)

While these are just a few of the many business challenges facing small businesses every day, there are many others out there. Are there other challenges your small business is facing that you want to bring up? Share with us in the comments below — and don’t forget to share your ideas for solutions, too!

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