February Social Media News: Weather on Facebook, SNL on Snapchat & More

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We spend a lot of time on social media sites — globally, it’s around two hours per day. But for all of that time spent social networking, we may not always know what’s going on behind the scenes with the sites themselves.

To help you save time while staying informed, we’re launching a monthly social media news roundup.

This month, we’ll discuss Snapchat’s growth and content diversification, Google’s step into live-streaming, and other changes worth knowing about. The list isn’t exhaustive, but you can expect to learn the major highlights in the social media space this month — what was launched, what changed, and what these stories could mean for marketers.

10 of the Biggest Social Media News Stories This Month

1) The Washington Post starts curating content for Snapchat Discover.

The Washington Post announced it would become Snapchat’s first editorial partner to provide breaking news updates on the platform. The Post will publish multiple times per day as headlines break in its print and online newspaper editions so Snapchatters can easily consume the content in a more visual way. Snapchat is all about innovative visual content, and this step moves Snapchat in the direction of becoming a content destination site instead of just a content sharing site. Here’s what it will look like on the Discover tab (when a Snapchat user swipes to the left):

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Source: The Washington Post

2) Saturday Night Live produces its first skit exclusively for Snapchat.

NBC’s Saturday Night Live produced its first short comedy sketch published exclusively on its Snapchat Story. Snapchat plans to produce a series of shorts from Saturday Night Live and other shows on the network. To watch the next short, add Saturday Night Live on Snapchat (@nbcsnl).

SNL is a viewewship juggernaut — almost 11 million people watch it each week. If it sees success with posting original content on Snapchat outside of its regular distribution strategies on YouTube and other social media platforms, marketers might consider producing their own “shorts” on Snapchat and seeing how they perform.

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Source: Saturday Night Live via Snapchat

3) Snap Inc. files for $3 billion initial public offering (IPO).

Snapchat’s parent company, Snap Inc., filed for a $3 billion IPO on February 2nd. After rebranding as a camera company and launching Snapchat Spectacles in September 2016, marketers eagerly waited to hear what they would do next.

Snap Inc. now faces intensified competition from other social media platforms with larger user bases that have adopted features similar to Snapchat’s. For example, Instagram launched its own version of Stories last year, and it currently has more users making Stories than all of Snapchat’s total user base. Marketers should keep an eye on how Snapchat evolves and which platform is better suited for ephemeral content for their audiences.

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Source: Securities and Exchange Commission 

4) Snapchat launches first original reality show on A&E Network.

Snap Inc. announced its forthcoming partnership with A&E to produce “Second Chance,” an unscripted reality television show about breakups on Snapchat. The show will diversify audiences for both Snapchat and A&E and get existing Snapchat and A&E audiences on the other platforms. Marketers who aren’t already advertising on Snapchat may want to start doing so as it grows its audience even further with original content.

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Source: Deadline

5) YouTube launches mobile live-streaming for creators with 10,000 subscribers or more.

YouTube took a big step toward competing in the live streaming video space by launching mobile live video recording for users with over 10,000 subscribers at the beginning of February. YouTube hopes to beat out the competition — Facebook, Twitter, Periscope, and Instagram have similar live streaming features — by providing higher quality to the thousands of creators already publishing frequently on the platform. Given the searchability of YouTube videos in Google Search, marketers might consider broadening their video strategy to include live video on YouTube, too.

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Source: YouTube

6) Facebook adds a weather tool to desktop and mobile apps.

In early February, Facebook started rolling out its in-app weather tool that lets users see five-day forecasts on their Facebook News Feed. Additionally, users can receive notifications about weather alerts at specific times — like before they leave the house in a rainstorm. Facebook continues to make the site a destination, one-stop shop for users, so marketers should make sure to dedicate strategy and budget toward producing content and ads for the platform with a massive, engaged user base.

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Source: TechCrunch

7) Facebook cracks down on discriminatory advertising.

On February 8th, Facebook updated its advertising policies to explicitly prevent discrimination on the platform. Previously, it was possible for advertisers to target based on race, ethnicity, and other demographic traits. In recent months, Facebook has taken steps to be more responsible to its community of users — by starting the Facebook Journalism Project in part to prevent fake news, for example. Marketers should make sure to review the new advertising policies to ensure that ads aren’t potentially discriminatory against users.

facebook_ad_policies.pngSource: Facebook

8) Instagram experiments with publishing photo albums.

At the beginning of the month, Instagram started beta-testing the ability to publish up to 10 photos in a single post on the platform. It’s only being tested with a few Android users for now, but when it’s rolled out to all users, the Instagram news feed will start looking more like Facebook’s if users can publish photo albums, or galleries. If your audience is highly engaged on Instagram, or if you market physical products, galleries could be a unique approach to generating engagement. Here’s what uploading looked like in one user’s app:

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Source: Twitter

9) Medium announces new subscription service.

Medium CEO Ev Williams announced that Medium would launch a subscription product to develop additional revenue streams apart from simply advertising. This news came shortly on the heels of the layoffs of 50 Medium staff members to move toward a model where storytelling quality is prioritized over clicks and shares. Medium publishers should keep their eyes peeled for updates on any algorithmic changes coming with this new direction that could impact their readership.

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Source: TechCrunch

10) Pinterest adds Visual Discovery to search through your camera.

Pinterest launched new visual search tools that will enable users to point and shoot their camera and receive suggested Pins based on photos they capture. Users capture photos through Pinterest Lens, the in-app camera, and the app starts suggesting Pins related to their search. For example, Pinterest says that if users take a photo of a pair of shoes, the app will suggest clothing Pins that could work as an outfit with the shoes. This tool makes visual discovery much easier, and users might be more willing to purchase from the app when their ideas have context from suggested Pins. Marketers and sellers on Pinterest should improve Pinterest strategies to fully take advantage of the ability to be found as a result of this update.

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Source: Pinterest

Did we miss any big social media stories? Share with us in the comments below.

Social Media at Every Stage of the Funnel

ICYMI: An Animated Guide to Google’s Biggest 2016 Algorithm Updates [Infographic]

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Sometimes, it seems like keeping up with a search engine’s algorithm is like learning a new language. Only, it’s a language that keeps updating over time and changing with things like technological advances, evolving topic interests, and constant improvements to user experience. And often, it seems like those changes are quiet — like there’s no way to find out about them unless you, say, subscribe to a blog that keeps you in the loop.

While many marketers make the time to do that — which is great — there are days, weeks, and months when constantly keeping up with Google’s algorithm is a task that gets pushed to the wayside. But SEO is more important than ever, and has many implications for inbound marketing, especially as mobile usage continues to rise. It’s not just about traffic anymore. SEO and its accompanying algorithm updates are soup-to-nuts measures of user experience.

But what pieces of the user’s experience are reflected in these algorithm changes? And is there a way to keep up with them in manageable chunks, as many people like to do when they’re learning a new skill? Yes — starting with the infographic below. Stop wasting time on SEO strategies that don't work with the help of this free PDF guide >>

You see, some years, the algorithm undergoes more changes than in others, and 2016 was a big one. Luckily, the folks at E2M compiled the major Google algorithm updates from that year into this visual, animated representation. So relax — you’ve got this, with a fun, informative image to help.


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seo myths 2017

5 Services Your Agency Shouldn’t Offer in 2017

The success of a marketing agency isn’t just tied to what you do (and do well) but also to the services you don’t provide.

The services we’re going to discuss today are — in our judgment — firmly in the “don’t” column. They’re either paths that have already been well-trodden by other big players, obsolete tactics that are starting to lose relevance, or services that don’t fit well into the modern marketing playbook.

If you’re thinking of adding any of the following four services in 2017, it might be time to change up your agency’s approach this year.

5 Services Your Agency Shouldn’t Offer in 2017

1) Facebook Killed the Video Ad

Video is touted as an excellent way to engage customers and convert leads, but it can also be relatively expensive and inconvenient to produce. If you agency hasn’t yet made the leap into video production, consider your next move carefully — investing in digital video capabilities is a high-risk, high reward strategy.

But how high is that reward, exactly? Late last year, Facebook drew ire when it revealed it had been artificially inflating video viewership statistics since 2014. If major video platforms have a history of inaccurately reporting views, it raises some big questions about the dependability of video ROI. 

If concerns about ROI don’t give you pause, think about this: specialized video marketing agencies have been doing video longer, know the marketplace better, and will have larger budgets. They’re also beginning to build in advanced features, such as interactive video, and 360-degree video ads. As a video neophyte, you’re unlikely to be able to offer these capabilities if you’re building a video service from the ground up in 2017.

2) Hang Up on Appointment Setting

Appointment setting has always been a weird fit in the marketing universe. Essentially, it’s like running a sales bullpen as a service (SBaaS?), which really has nothing to do with the typical content generation and placement duties of a traditional agency. Therefore, it’s going to be difficult and expensive for any agency to boot up an appointment setting service from scratch — and again, what’s the benefit?

The ROI of cold calling has always been low — and it’s been getting lower. A survey from the middle of last year shows that a large majority of sales professionals think that the effectiveness of cold calling has shrunk dramatically over the last several years.

A lot of people just don’t have phones at their desk any more, and most will simply hang up on numbers that they don’t already know. That’s why it’s probably a good reason to hang up on appointment setting in 2017.

3) Market Research: Don’t Compete, Collaborate

For your dollar, it’s nearly always going to be more lucrative to partner with an existing market research service than to build one of your own. As with video, the incumbents are going to rule — they’ve been around longer, know their subject better, and have more money to burn. In this case, however, it’s better to adopt that old maxim, “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”

There’s absolutely no shame in collaborating with a pre-existing market research agency. In fact, marketing collaboration has increased across the board. Last year, most client-side marketers (52%), collaborated with external agencies. The most common reason for this was a skills gap. If client-side marketers know that it’s okay to collaborate in the case of a skills gap, agencies should know it too.

4) Approaching the Link Building Apocalypse

Remember the “Mobilegeddon?” A new revision of the Google search algorithm set to raise the visibility of mobile sites at the expense of their desktop-bound competitors. The effect wasn’t initially epochal, but it did cause several major sites to drop in the rankings. Soon, link building may undergo a similar collapse.

Back in September, a new update to the Google algorithm known as Penguin went online. Its goal has been to find and penalize sites that operate in ways designed to game SEO. Link building isn’t shady by definition, but many companies have been using it in shady ways.

One example is by building private blog networks (PBNs) with no purpose except to link back to agency generated content. This Fall’s Penguin update — plus a secretive update that launched in February — appears to be specifically targeted at PBNs. Now, the black-hat link building community has been thrown into turmoil.

As with most of the services listed above, if you’ve been link building for a while, and you’ve been doing it in a balanced and organic manner, you’re probably in the clear. If you haven’t been link building at all, and don’t know where to begin, 2017 probably isn’t the best year to start.

Stick with What Works

To make it as a marketing agency, you don’t necessarily need to break new ground — but agencies should probably avoid the well-trodden paths. In the examples above, the marketplace of ideas is either so crowded that a new player can’t really get a toehold, or the edifice is beginning to crumble. Black-hat SEO tactics never have a great deal of longevity, and even venerable tactics such as cold-calling are seeing their last days.

With that in mind, the principles for agency success still haven’t changed. Iterate on successful strategies. Collaborate when necessary to aid in the success of your clients. Keep on like this, and when you find the idea that does put you over the top, Facebook-like success may not be out of reach.

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11 Storytelling Formulas to Supercharge Your Social Media Marketing

Legendary marketer, Seth Godin, describes marketing as  “the art of telling a story that resonates with your audience and then spreads.”

If you look at some of the biggest brands around, you might notice that they are often amazing storytellers.

  • Apple tells stories of people challenging the norms
  • Nike tells stories of people doing the impossible
  • Airbnb tells stories of travelers living in homes around the world and belonging anywhere.

But how do you tell compelling stories? How do you tell stories that your audience wants to hear? And how do you tell your brand story?

While researching on the topic of storytelling, I discovered several tested-and-proven storytelling formulas —  formulas used by companies like Pixar, Apple, and more.

These formulas can be applied to your company’s overall marketing, content you produce, social media updates, copy on your website, and more.

Ready to jump in?

11 Storytelling Formulas to Supercharge Your Social Media Marketing header image

11 storytelling formulas to supercharge your social media marketing

1. Three-Act Structure

Setup — Set the scene and introduce the character(s)

Confrontation or “Rising action” — Present a problem and build up the tension

Resolution — Resolve the problem

The three-act structure is one of the oldest and most straightforward storytelling formulas. You might recognize this structure in many of the stories you come across.

In the first act, set the stage and introduce the character(s) of the story. In the second act, present a problem faced by the character(s) and build up the tension. In the third act, deliver the climax of the story by resolving the problem (with your product or service).

Example:

Emily turned her passion into a business. She enjoys every moment of it... apart from the bookkeeping, financial statements, and taxes. But, she doesn't have to do them herself.

2. Freytag’s Pyramid: Five-Act Structure

Exposition — Introduce important background information

Rising action — Tell a series of events to build up to the climax

Climax — Turn the story around (usually the most exciting part of the story)

Falling action — Continue the action from the climax

Dénouement — Ending the story with a resolution

The Freytag’s Pyramid is created by Gustav Freytag when he analyzed the stories by Shakespeare and ancient Greek storytellers.

It is a more elaborate form of the three-act structure, which puts emphasis on the climax and the falling action of the story as much as the other parts of the story.

Example:

As a fast-growing startup, we work on many things at once. Emails and personal to-do lists were great when we were smaller. As we grew, collaborations became messy. Where's that file? What's the progress of this project? Who's working on this? Then, we discovered Trello! Now, we have everything in one place — comments, files, to-do lists, and more. Team collaboration has never been better before.

3. Before – After – Bridge

Before — Describe the world with Problem A.

After — Imagine what it’d be like having Problem A solved.

Bridge — Here’s how to get there.

This is our favorite storytelling and copywriting formula. We have been using it for our blog post introductions but it can be applied to social media updates, email campaigns, and other marketing messages.

Set the stage of a problem that your target audience is likely to experience — ideally a problem that your company solves. Describe a world where that problem didn’t exist. Explain how to get there or present the solution (i.e. your product or service).

Example:
Creating great social media images takes time. Imagine taking only 15 minutes to design one. With Canva, you can make stunning graphics in just a few clicks.

4. Problem – Agitate – Solve

Problem — Present a problem

Agitate — Agitate the problem

Solve — Solve the problem

This is one of the most popular copywriting formulas, which is great for storytelling, too.

The structure is quite similar to the Before-After-Bridge formula. First, you present a problem. Second, instead of presenting the “After”, you intensify the problem with emotional language. Finally, you solve the problem by offering your product or services.

Example:

Video calls aren't always fun. Distracting background noises, no video images, and poor connection. Unless you are using Zoom.

5. Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle

Why — Why the company exists

How — How the company fulfills its Why

What — What the company does to fulfill its Why

Simon Sinek’s TED talk, How great leaders inspire action, is one of the most viewed TED talks ever, with more than 30 million views so far. He explained that great companies like Apple inspire people and succeed because they use the Golden Circle formula.

Always start with your Why — Why are you in this business? What motivates you? Then, explain how your company will achieve your Why. Finally, describe in tangible terms what your company does to bring your Why to life (i.e. your products and services).

Example:

At Basecamp we want to do everything we can to help restore work-life balance. Work has a way of encroaching. Work calls on Friday at 9 pm or pings on Sunday at 6 pm as you’re sitting down for dinner with the family. It’s time to take a stand. So we’ve built a feature into Basecamp 3 we call Work Can Wait™.

6. Dale Carnegie’s Magic Formula

Incident — Share a relevant, personal experience

Action — Describe the specific action taken to solve or prevent a problem

Benefit — State the benefits of the action

How to Win Friends and Influence People is one of our favorite books at Buffer. After studying many great leaders, the author, Dale Carnegie, developed this simple three-step storytelling formula that can help you persuade your audience.

Open your story with a personal experience relevant to your point to grab your audience’s attention. Describe the actions you took chronologically, showing that a change was needed. Wrap up the story by connecting the change to its benefits. (This could be a customer’s testimonial, too!)

Example:

I've tried many to-do list apps, and none have ever worked for me. Then I discovered Omni-Focus thanks to a recommendation from a highly-respected startup founder. My productivity has skyrocketed since I started using it, and I now feel calmer and happier at work, too!

7. Dave Lieber’s V Formula

Introduce the character

Bring the story to its lowest point

Turn it around and finish with a happy ending

Dave Lieber is a keynote speaker and the Dallas Morning News Watchdog columnist, who has been telling stories for almost 40 years. In his TED talk, The power of storytelling to change the world, he shared the story formula he has been using for his stories.

Once you introduce the character of the story, describe how things went awful for her, using emotions to draw your audience into your story. At the lowest point of the story, turn things around, describe how things improved, and end the story on a high note.

Example:

Jane was an accountant for 20 years. During the recession, she lost her job when her company went bankrupt, and she couldn't find a job for months. What started as a much-needed way to stay afloat, became a new way of living. Airbnb connected her with the world and inspired her to become a tour guide, sharing the wonders of her city with visitors from around the world.

(Inspired by a true Airbnb story)

8. Star – Chain – Hook

Star — An attention-getting, positive opening

Chain — A series of convincing facts, benefits, and reasons

Hook — A powerful call-to-action

This formula is developed by, I believe, a Chicago consultant, Dr. Frank W. Dignan.

The star grabs your audience’s attention. The chain turns your audience’s attention into a desire. The hook gives them something actionable to fulfill their desire.

Example:

Learn to code and build your own app in 30 days. 100 other students learning together. Exclusive access to a private Slack channel. More than four hours of step-by-step video guides. Reserve your spot now!

9. Pixar’s award-winning formula

Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

Former Pixar storyboard artist Emma Coats shared 22 narrative rules she had learned during her time at Pixar. Among the 22 rules was this simple storytelling formula that has helped Pixar win countless awards, including 13 Academy Awards, 9 Golden Globes, and 11 Grammys.

You don’t have to follow the wording exactly. The idea, as I see it, is to introduce a character or a group of character, describe their usual routine, present a twist that disrupts their daily lives, explain how they overcome it, and celebrate!

Example:

Buffer is a fully-distributed company with team members all around the world. To keep track of who's on leave, they created a shared Google calendar where team members can add their vacation dates. In 2016, the company grew more than three times to almost 100 people, and the shared calendar system broke. It's a struggle to find out who's away and for how long. They needed a better system that can handle the growing team. After trying several solutions, they found Timetastic. Now, requesting and tracking time off is a breeze. They even know who's away from within Slack by using the Slack integration to pull the information in. Here's to a better work-life balance!

10. The Hero’s Journey

Departure — A hero receives a call to go on an adventure, receives advice from a mentor, and heads out on her journey.

Initiation — The hero meets a series of challenges but eventually completes the mission.

Return — The hero returns and helps others with her new found power or treasure.

The original hero’s journey is made up of 17 stages which are organized into the three acts described above. This formula is used by many of the greatest storytellers including George Lucas for his Star Wars films!

The hero of your story would often be your customers. They experience some tricky situations in their lives or work but eventually solve the problems with your product or service, improving their lives or bringing results to their company.

Example:

Everyone in the team knows that social media is important and fun. But no one really likes doing it as a job. Posting across platforms takes time and reporting the results is a nightmare. You are different. You read several helpful articles and learned about social media management tools. You know you can schedule your posts across channel easily and know your performance through the analytics. You adopted the tool for your team. Traffic from social went up. Leads poured in. Your manager loved the reports you created and even asked you to build a social media team. Social media management is never the same in your company again.

11. Nancy Duarte’s secret structure of great talks

What is — The status quo

What could be — The future that could be possible

Go back and forth between the two and end off with a …

New bliss — The wonderful future with your idea/product/service adopted

Nancy Duarte’s TED talk, The secret structure of great talks, has been viewed more than a million times. In her talk, she revealed the secret formula that Steve Jobs and Martin Luther King might have used for their famous speeches.

Start by describing the current situation and then contrast that with a future that’s way better. Make the present unappealing and the future attractive. Go back to the present and then point to the future again. End the story with the new state where your product or service is adopted.

Example:

Email. Imagine if there was a saner way to communicate. Receiving endless email chains when the discussion is no longer relevant to you, and missing important discussions because you were not CC-ed in the conversation. Only if you can control what you want to receive. Yes, you can. Slack brings all your communication together — collaborations, file sharing, integrations, and chat history. Here's how the best companies communicate in the 21st century.

5 storytelling tips from amazing storytellers

Armed with these 11 storytelling formulas, you are ready to tell your brand stories. To help you tell even better stories, I curated advice from several amazing storytellers. Here’re five tips from them:

1. Don’t complicate things

(by Lindsay Smith via Buffer)

Lindsay Smith is a producer at National Geographic Travel, who was awesome to join us for a podcast episode recently. National Geographic Travel has more than 25 million fans across their social media accounts.

One thing that’s very important for social media and storytelling in general, is to not complicate things unnecessarily. While we want to be very thoughtful about the stories and posts that we’re sharing, we don’t want to muddy that story up with irrelevant information. What’s important is that you keep it simple.

(Emphasis mine)

2. The 3 things to ask

(by Lindsay Smith via Buffer)

Here’s another advice from Lindsay that I love:

To tell a great story you must ask three things:

  1. Is this story going to be interesting? (Gut Check)
  2. What is the best way to tell this story? (Format)
  3. How do people want to see this story and how are they going to consume it? (Visual Element)

 

(Emphasis mine)

// To be updated: In terms of storytelling format, here’re 20 creative ways to use social media for storytelling for your inspiration (link).

3. Create detailed imagery to craft the setting you want

(by Gregory Ciotti via Sparring Mind)

Gregory Ciotti is one of my favorite marketers. When he was at Help Scout, he helped grow the company blog to almost 4 million unique visitors per year.

In his article, The Psychology of Storytelling, he shared the importance of storytelling, ways to create better stories, and characteristics of highly persuasive stories. Here’s my favorite advice from his article:

Creating detailed imagery helps craft the setting YOU want

Want to get people swept up in your stories?

Tell them what they are getting swept up in to, and they will respond.

Could any of us relate to the heroic deeds in tales like those of the Lord of the Rings without Tolkien’s exquisitely detailed descriptions of the dangers of Mordor or the perils faced by Frodo and Sam?

The imagery paints the picture of any good story, we could say that [Spoilers if you haven’t read/seen Lord of the Rings] “Frodo and Sam fight a giant spider,” but Tolkien spends an entire chapter on the ordeal, taking the time to help the reader visualize the ferocious nature of the enemy and the bravery of our heroes who persevere despite their many weaknesses (doubt, fear, dismay, etc.)

Implementing the “real” into a fantastic setting often helps create a better connection with the reader.

I don’t know the feeling of encountering a spider the size of a house, but I do know what terror feels like, and I also know how hard it can be to persevere in the face of immense doubt of your abilities.

These “all-too-real” elements of a fantastical story make it easier to relate to.

(Emphasis mine)

The awesome thing about storytelling on social media is that you can use multimedia such as images and videos to complement your words. Instead of asking your audience to imagine, you can show it to them.

4. Parachute in, don’t preamble

(by J.D. Schramm via Harvard Business Review)

J.D. Schramm is a lecturer on Organizational Behavior at Stanford Graduate School of Business, where he teaches effective communications.

In his Harvard Business Review article, A Refresher on Storytelling 101, he shared seven advice on successful storytelling, and this is my favorite:

Parachute in, don’t preamble. The best storytellers draw us immediately into the action. They capture our attention and set the tone for a unique audience experience. Avoid opening with “I’d like to tell you a story about a time when I learned…” Instead, drop us into the action and draw the lesson out later.

As people on social media tend to have short attention span, your stories have to grab their attention immediately or they might just scroll past your post.

5. Get Personal

(by Kathy Klotz-Guest via Convince & Convert)

Kathy Klotz-Guest is the founder of Keeping It Human, which helps companies create compelling stories.

I read her article, 7 Ways to Make Your Business Storytelling Awesome, and this point stood out for me:

3. Get Personal

Great, emotional brand storytelling must be told through the lens of a person: a specific customer, a passionate employee, or a dedicated partner. Every great company story must be anchored in a human story and told through a personal human lens. Anchor your stories through real people, and you’ll see a big difference in your storytelling.

(Emphasis mine)

This reminds me that the stories we tell should seldom have our company as the main character or the hero. The hero of our stories should be our customers and community. The best example is the stories told by Airbnb, which are often about their hosts or guests.

What’s your favorite way of telling stories?

Whenever I write, I often find it easier when I have a structure in mind already. I hope these storytelling formulas help you in the same way when you craft your amazing social media stories.

I’m sure there are many other ways of telling stories. Would you be up for sharing your favorite way? Thanks!

Some of the icons in the header image are from Iconfinder.

A Comprehensive Guide to Content Marketing Software

The right content marketing software can make the difference between you being the New York Mets of content marketing—and you being the New York Yankees of content marketing. But there are currently over 5,500 marketing technology solutions for marketers. Imagine if you had 5,500 of any other thing to choose from. 5,500 ice cream flavors? How about 4,000 flavors, 500 toppings, 500 candy coats, limited budget, and you need to choose at least one of each?

This example isn’t nearly as high stakes as spending thousands of your company’s dollars on software. But it’s easy to see how walking out of that ice cream shop without anything might be the easiest option.

Counting marketing technologies is like counting stars in the sky—there’s always a higher resolution at which you could see more. – Chief Martech

The sheer volume of technology solutions, the variety of possible combinations, and confusion about how the different options play together makes choosing content marketing software a difficult process. This guide shows you what to look for and which steps to take when choosing content marketing software.

Martech list

What exactly is content marketing software? Unlike other software categories, you can’t easily compare content software to other content software in a simple “which one is cheaper, better, more effective” kind of way. This is because the software options within this category are so disparate.

When you examine all the myriad of products offered under that umbrella—production, workflow, curation, distribution, resource markets, analytics, etc.—you quickly realize they aren’t apples-to-apples: there are oranges, bananas, pears, and a whole exotic fruit basket in there. – Chief MarTech

Categorizing marketing software can feel like trying to define the latest craft beer style when your usual drink of choice is Bud. There’s a constant evolution of marketing categories, along with a lack of definition around content marketing software.

This guide defines which aspects of a content marketing software tool to look at when you’re selecting. It also covers how you can use these aspects to develop your ideal tech stack, the questions to ask a sales rep, why they’re important, and an overview of several types of content marketing software. There’s also the key players in a given category, and their biggest strengths and weaknesses.

Understand: What Is Content Marketing Software?

To determine what falls under the umbrella of content marketing software, let’s first look at the definition of content marketing:

Content marketing is the process of developing, executing and delivering the content and related assets needed to create, nurture, and grow a company’s customer base.

Content Marketing technology
Content marketing software, then, is software that helps with these functions. Content marketing software should assist with the creation, distribution, consumption, or analytics for your content.

Some examples of content marketing software functions include:

  • Content sourcing
  • Editorial calendars
  • Content sharing and distribution
  • Curating content
  • Content optimization (think SEO)

The ways these software solutions can help are varied and broad. But the general benefits to having content marketing software in your arsenal include:

  • Speed up creation
  • Better creation
  • More creation
  • Assistance with ideation
  • Simplified collaboration
  • Easier scheduling and planning
  • Distribution to multiple channels
  • Data analyzed for you

What is your content marketing challenge

The tools that will win going forward are those that aren’t in silos. 
– Amanda Kahn, 6Sense

Evaluate Your Needs

If you’re a content marketer, you need some form of software to support your content marketing. There’s a 124 percent higher response-to-win rate when using content marketing software, and a 44 percent higher conversion rate. This makes it hard to ignore the merits of using software to support your content marketing strategy.

Investments in content, process and technology are replacing media as the place marketers are spending to save money to innovate. – Matt Heinz, Heinz Marketing

Here are some points to consider when determining which software will most benefit your organization.  

Content Marketing Goals

Don’t start shopping for software before you determine your broader marketing goals, content goals, and content strategy. Once your strategy is complete, look at the biggest goals for your team and compare that against your biggest gaps to determine need. Some of these goals might include:

To increase site traffic

  • Produce more content
  • Increase lead volume
  • Improve lead quality

The focus shouldn’t be to always stay ahead of technology. The speed and succession in which the platforms change is mind-boggling. The focus should be aimed at making sure that you are investing in the technology that makes the most sense for your specific business and customers. —Michael Williams, former CMO of Grand Prix of America, Formula 1 

Formula 1 Grand Prix cars

Photo: Morio

Content Marketing Gaps

The first way to evaluate software is based on your marketing team’s gaps. Start with one of the four main processes of content marketing: creation, distribution, consumption, and insight. While many content marketing tools do more than one (or even all four) of these things, knowing where your weakest area is can help you determine what to look for.

4 Parts Content Marketing

Luckily, it’s becoming less and less difficult to determine which solutions are the best fit for your organization.

Technology must become an extension of how marketers work on a daily basis. – Dale Zwizinski, KiteDesk

Point or Platform Solution

Today, there are many content marketing platforms available. While these are very helpful for organizations that already have a strategy in place, some fledgling content marketing teams might benefit from a point solution first (or in conjunction with a platform) to get their content marketing off the ground.

You could also mix in content recommendation engines like BrightInfo and personalization software like Optimizely that enhance or improve those experiences, or data enrichment software like DemandBase or ReachForce to fill in the information gaps on your leads. There are numerous platforms and point solutions that touch or “own” a portion of content experience management, much like there are ones that touch or own other buckets within the other pillars.” Convince and Convert

Integrations

Only 21 percent of sales people consider their CRM software’s integration capabilities with marketing software or other tools to be high quality. Integrations are important if simplifying processes and reducing time spent on housekeeping tasks is a priority. Poor integrations will cause your team to become bogged down by sharing and comparing data in more than one platform.

Company Reputation and Establishment

There’s pros and cons to this one. Knowing how long a company has existed, its credibility, and its reputation is important in determining if a software solution is right for your company. An established, widely adopted technology provides a level of stability and assuredness in selecting it. However, a new solution can help position you as an early adopter, and enable you to be a ground breaker in a new method or technology for achieving your goals.

Budget

Budget

Determine how much budget you have to spend before you start shopping. It’s easy to get sucked into all the bells and whistles of an enterprise level solution, but chances are if you don’t have the budget to buy it, you probably don’t have the bandwidth to fully use it.

Tech Management

Even an all-star marketing and content marketing team can sometimes hinder the success of your marketing technology implementation. Consider your team’s experience implementing and managing technology before determining which software solution you want to implement. While technology should simplify, a lack of understanding of technology or experience managing a robust platform can sometimes hinder your team’s success.

Most brands and marketers only utilize 15 percent of technologies and capabilities they are already paying for, so the focus should not be in the number of technologies that need to adopted, but in “applying” them to solve business needs and changing consumer behaviors. —Mayur Gupta, SVP, Head of Digital Capabilities & OmniChannel Business, Healthgrades

Evaluate Types of Content Marketing Software and Options

For the purpose of this post, we’ll focus on software that ties specifically to the four main parts of content marketing. For a more complete look at content marketing tools, check out The Ultimate List of Content Marketing Tools.

Content Creation Software

Key Functions: Assisting with the creation or scheduling of content.

  • Curation
  • Outsourcing
  • Ideation
  • Planning
  • Outlining
  • Calendaring

Examples include:

Percussion
Percussion simplifies the content creation and publication process. It enables content contributors without technical skills to take content from zero to live quickly, and provides tools for measuring effectiveness and improving SEO.

WordPress
WordPress is the most popular content management system (CMS) in the world. It is a powerful publishing platform that allows marketers to create and maintain websites and blogs.

Content Distribution Software

Content Marketing Distribution Software

Key Functions: Whether helping you push out via email, social channels, or some other medium, it helps you distribute your content. While the examples listed below focus on the act of distribution, platforms such as SlideShare could also be included in this category.

MailChimp
An email marketing platform that assists with distributing and automating emails to promote and share content.

BrightCove
A video media platform dedicated to improving engagement and supporting video online.

Content Experience Software

Key Function: Impacts the way your audience experiences the content you’re creating. This could mean assisting in creating an interactive experience, personalizing your content, or something else.

Here are some examples.

Evergage
Evergage’s real-time personalization platform enables digital marketers to improve visitor engagement, customer experience, and conversion rate optimization.

Ion Interactive
Creates interactive customizable landing pages for your content.

Content Marketing Analytics Software

Key Functions: Offer content marketers greater insight into how they can improve their marketing based on data, analysis, and insights.

Here are some software examples.

Acrolinx
Acrolinx helps improve your content by analyzing your content for style, readability, and SEO. It helps ensure your content is on brand and on target.

Rival IQ
In-depth content analytics that offers insight into your content’s performance whether it’s your website, social media, or SEO.

Content Marketing Platform

Content Marketing Platform

Key Functions:  A software solution that helps marketers drive awareness, leads, and revenue from content. This platform enables a data-driven, scalable, and multi-channel approach across four process areas: strategy, production, distribution (publication and promotion), and analytics. 

Here are some examples.

Curata CMP
Curata Content Marketing Platform integrates with your marketing automation software and CRM. Features include an editorial calendar, the ability to track content (both gated and ungated) directly to revenue, and track performance by author, topic, content type, and more.

Kapost
Offers advanced calendaring, and designed to support planning, executing, distributing, and analyzing full-funnel content.

NewsCred
Helps outsource writers, calendar, and analyze content process. Task management, brand governance, security.

Looking for a content marketing platform to supplement your content marketing strategy? Learn How to Select a Content Marketing Platform Vendor.

Talk to Sales

So, you’ve narrowed it down to two or three software options. Now it’s time to talk to sales. Here are some questions to ask, and some some tips for getting a better understanding of the software.

Talk to sales

1. Ask Questions

When doing research, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will my team actually use this?
  • Is this useful for other departments?
  • How flexible is the vendor in price, implementation, etc.?
  • Is the software flexible? Are there varied use cases?
  • Will this software scale with my company?
  • Can it generate custom reports?
  • Does it allow for easy external/internal communication?

2. Check Out The Vendor’s Content

The vendor’s website and content are a good indicator of how you could use the software and the type of content you can create with it.

3. Look at Reviews

Screen Shot 2017-02-27 at 10.56.26 AM

Consider these options for online software reviews:

4. Read Customer Testimonials and Case Studies

Most software companies include testimonial and case studies on their website. If you’re looking for something specific, reach out to sales.

5. Speak to an Existing Customer

You can do this before or after your demo call. Speaking to an existing customer can give you a more thorough idea of how the software has performed for other organizations beyond the information shared on the vendor’s website.

Don’t just ask for customer references. Go on blogs and review sites to get an unbiased variety of customer experiences.

After researching vendor options, pick your top two or three content marketing software choices and schedule a demo. This will show you what the interface looks like and how your team could benefit from the software.

Questions to Ask During a Demo

When examining a new product and learning what you’re getting yourself into, be thorough. Ask the following questions during your software demo: 

  • Does your software integrate with XYZ software?
  • What training/onboarding is involved, and is it included?
  • What kind of support will I get after onboarding?
  • Is there a limit on the amount of content/leads collected/customers/ etc. before having to pay more?
  • Are you able to customize your software to my specifications (if there’s an added feature or change that would make the platform more attractive to your organization)?
  • How often do you update this platform? What updates are in the pipeline?
  • Why should we choose you over your competitors?

It’s also beneficial to make a list of key features/processes you want the vendor to cover in the presentation and create scorecards based on the priorities you outlined above.

Pick Your Software

content marketing software selection

Modern marketers like you will want to choose vendors and solutions that are best-in-class for their respective function, rather than buying into false hopes of all-in-one suites. —Convince and Convert

Choosing content marketing software requires significant due diligence. You need a clear understanding of what content marketing software is, how it aligns to your organization’s goals, and the key features you need.

One of the most important things content marketing software should offer is granular analytics capabilities that allow you to measure exactly how your content is performing. Learn how to use data and technology to optimize your content marketing ROI with The Comprehensive Guide to Content Analytics and Metrics eBook below.

Analytics and Metrics eBook

The post A Comprehensive Guide to Content Marketing Software appeared first on Curata Blog.

Social Media Algorithms: How They Work and How to Use Them in Your Favor – Michael Stelzner [SSM032]

Social media algorithms are a lot like “Dog Years.”

They seems to progress and change at a rate of seven years for every one year on the human calendar.

We’ve seen first-hand the dramatic declines in traffic and organic reach over the last two years as so many businesses have.

But despite the challenges that marketers face with social media algorithms, there is still a way to overcome them and share your content with the world.

Michael Stelzner, CEO and Found of Social Media Examiner, has been in the business of social media since 2009 (when organic reach and traffic numbers were going strong). We had the pleasure of chatting with Michael all about how social media algorithms work and how marketers and businesses can implement strategies to use algorithms in their favor to get great content seen.

A huge thank you to Michael for jam-packing this episode with actionable wisdom and takeaways for social media managers and marketers alike looking to understand how and why social media algorithms are in place and how to use them in their favor.

How to listen: iTunes | Google Play | SoundCloud | Stitcher | RSS

This episode is available on:

In this episode, here’s what you’ll learn:

Michael Stelzner shares all of his insider secrets and knowledge on how social media algorithms work and how you as a marketer or business owner can overcome them. You’ll also learn tips like:

  • Why algorithms are important for consumers
  • What Live video is the darling of algorithms right now
  • How the Facebook and Twitter algorithms work
  • How to overcome social media algorithms
  • Michael’s most important steps for small businesses and brands

Social Media Algorithms: How they Work and How to Overcome Them

3 Key Takeaways for Marketers Looking to Use Social Media Algorithms in Their Favor

In Michael’s words…

1. Rethink

Rethink is the keyword here. Rethink your posting strategy on social media – Less is actually more!

2. Live video is the flavor of the day

Live video is currently the flavor of the day with algorithms and so figure out a way to do it. We have nearly 13 sessions on live video at Social Media Marketing World 2017. We’ve got some preliminary research that marketers are all in on live video and so it’s time to do it – do not delay.

3. Refocus

Refocus on the reason why you have a social community in the first place. There’s a community there and so it’s important to refocus on community development. Stop worrying about the numbers and stop worrying about the traffic. Start focusing on cultivating the right people to build a strong affinity and relationship with your business so that they become evangelists.

A Great Moment

Michael Stelzner Quote on Social Media Algorithms

“The moral of the story is that there were the “good old days,” but the good old days are over. They’re never coming back and we need to accept that.”

– Michael Stelzner

Awesome People and Stuff Mentioned in the Show

Favorite Quotes

  • Traffic has been going down, down, down and down. For years! That’s the challenge – you’re not getting the reach or visibility and we have to be OK with that reality.
  • With the algorithms in place, high-quality content can be seen at any time. This is important.
  • The old mentality of ‘scheduling when people are there’ has been thrown out the window. The whole idea of algorithms is that posts are not in linear order… these are like radical re-thinking strategies.
  • Due to the implementation of algorithms over the last year or so, we’ve completely gotten rid of our evergreen reposting strategy on Twitter and LinkedIn and only selectively repost to Facebook.
  • We know that the more we go live, the more our non-live content get exposure in the Facebook News Feed.
  • We are refocusing a lot of our efforts on community development with social media. We are actively doing things with our community to provide value to them.
  • Facebook is like the Hotel California – you can come anytime you want, but you can never leave. And they don’t want you to leave, marketers!
  • First and foremost, if you’re a small business with little traction on social media or on your blog, you have to figure out your email acquisition strategy.

How to Say Hello to Michael (and us)

Michael Stelzner is the go-to resource for everything social media – especially when it comes to staying on top of the latest trends. You can follow along with Michael on Twitter here or check out Social Media Examiner on Facebook here. And don’t forget about Social Media Examiner’s Award-Winning Blog.

Thanks for listening! We’d love to connect with you at @buffer on Twitter or with the hashtag #bufferpodcast.

Enjoy the show? It’d mean the world to us if you’d be up for giving us a rating and review on iTunes!

About the Show

The Science of Social Media is a podcast for marketers and social media managers looking for inspiration, ideas, and results for their social media strategies. Each week, we interview one of the very best in social media marketing from brands in every industry. You will learn the latest tactics on social media, the best tools to use, the smartest workflows, and the best goal-setting advice. It is our hope that each episode you’ll find one or two gems to use with your social media marketing!

The Science of Social Media is proudly made by the Buffer team. Feel free to get in touch with us for any thoughts, ideas, or feedback.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Infographic Typography [Free Guide]

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The following is an excerpt from Do’s and Don’ts of Infographic Design, a free guide we created with our friends at leading graphic design software company Venngage. If you’d like to access the full guide, click here.

One of the most important, but least considered parts of designing an infographic is typography. After all, picking the right fonts is exceptionally hard. Besides the fact that there are thousands of options, finding the “right” font is actually really subjective. Different designers have different fonts tastes, and any designer could any number of fonts in their designs.

Getting good at choosing the fonts for your designs is difficult, but here are a few guidelines to get you started.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Infographic Typography 

DO: Stick to the primary categories of font families.

If you don’t know much about typography, here’s the biggest thing you need to know: there are three main categories of font families: serifs, sans serifs, and display fonts. Each has different purposes and common uses among designers.

Serif fonts are fonts that have small lines or embellishments attached to the letters. These embellishments are called “serifs.” Common fonts such as Times New Roman and Merriweather are examples of serifs.

How are they used? One common argument is that serif fonts should be used as body text because it’s easier to read them in large blocks of text. However, this preference mostly stems from historical precedence: we’re used to reading Times New Roman in books and white papers, therefore there is the precedence that the font type is generally “easier to read” in large bodies of text. When you’re first starting out, it’s a good idea to keep this use in mind.

DosDontsTypography1.png

Sans serifs are fonts that do not have small lines or embellishments attached to the ends of letters. Some of the most popular fonts in this family include Roboto, Helvetica, and Arial.

How are they used? While serif fonts are considered to be best for body text, sans serif fonts are considered to be better for section headers, captions, lists and titles in your infographic. Still, many designers on the web tend to use them for body text as well, so it’s mostly a matter of preference and trend.

DosDontTypography2.png

Display font families are fonts that are more playful by design. The might be cursive or handwriting fonts or just funky fonts meant for specific types of design.

How are they used? Generally speaking, most designers agree that you should really only use display fonts as headers to set the mood and theme of your design. Typically, display fonts are used as a focal point in a design so that it draws the reader’s eye to one spot. Some popular display fonts include Lobster, Alfa Slab One, and Unica One (see below).

DosDontsTypography3.png

When it comes to choosing fonts, there are millions of options. That said, experienced designers tend to have strong preferences for which fonts to use and which fonts not to use. If you’re not sure where to begin, try using a tool like Font Pair to get designer-recommended font groupings.

DO: Match the theme of the infographic.

The first step to picking fonts is to think about the theme or topic of your infographic. Are you trying to convey a playful or serious tone? Humorous or dark?

Then think about the audience and intent of your infographic. If the goal of your infographic is to share data, you probably want to make the infographic look more professional than cartoonish. Alternatively, if your infographic is meant for kids, it might be more appropriate to use cartoonish display fonts.

Sometimes, it helps to take a look at other infographics to grasp how you should think about thematic design.

In the example below, the author decided to use sans serif fonts throughout. The result is a very minimalist and futuristic design that correlates well with the topic: online learning.

DosDontsTypography4.png

In contrast, the creator of the next infographic used a mix of serif fonts and sans serif fonts, creating a very sleek, classic look that pairs well with the topic of cooking.

DosDontsTypography5.png

The next infographic showcases a different serif font. Through the use of bright colors and easy-to-read fonts, the infographic feels very whimsical. Could the author have used a different font family in it? Of course! The point is the font that was chosen subjectively, by the designer, to fit the theme they were aiming for.

DosDontsTypography6.png

There’s no right answer when it comes to picking fonts for your infographic. Instead, try to think about typography as a complementary element of your whole theme. Choose with purpose, not just because you like a font you see in a list somewhere.

DO: Pick a font palette & stick to it.

It’s not enough to just pick a few fonts and use them however you want. To make a well-designed infographic, it’s important to establish for yourself what sizes, weights, and fonts you’re using throughout different sections. In other words, creating a font palette will keep your design consistent and improve the overall look of your infographic. Just like choosing a color palette, you need to find fonts that work together and then assign them to different parts of your infographic.

No idea where to start? Here a few tools to help:

Google Font tool: Made up of about 800 different font choices and shows you what particular fonts will pair well together.

For example:

DosDontsTypography7.png

Font Pair: This blog makes finding fonts that go well together (by font category) easy by showing you examples in action on a simple browser.

Once you have a few font options in mind, you can start creating your font palette. In general, most infographics will have about five parts to a palette.

Note: this does not mean you need five different fonts. Here’s an example of how a font palette might be broken up based on the organization of your infographic:

  • Main Title
  • Section Title
  • Headers
  • Descriptors
  • Body Text

In general, you shouldn’t be using more than 2-3 different font families. Instead, use different weights and colors for different sections, but keep the fonts consistent.

In this next example, the font palette uses two different fonts with different weights and cases to create five unique parts of the palette:

DosDontsTypography8.png

Here is an example of font palette you could use to create your own hierarchy.

DosDontsTypography9.png

DO: Match fonts with icons.

Picking icons to use with your headers and fonts can be another area of difficulty for first-time designers.

When it comes to icons and fonts, great pairings can be achieved just by keeping the style consistent throughout.

For example, take a look at the infographics below:

DosDontsTypography10.png

The infographic on the left conveys a certain feel of professionalism because the strong title font contrasts with the minimalism of the icons. Additionally, all of the fonts match each other, which helps to create an organized structure. The example on the right, on the other hand, uses four different fonts that don’t have the same level of contrast with the icons.

Here’s a good rule of thumb: if your icons are minimalist, light, and thin, trying using strong fonts in contrast.

Alternatively, if you’re using bolder, fuller icons, use a minimal font in contrast. Here’s an example demonstrating that effect:

DosDontsTypography11.png

In the next example, the font icon on the left has good contrast because the icon is meant to stand out. The version on the right, however, doesn’t have the same level of contrast, making the focal point harder to navigate.

DosDontsTypography12.png

DO: Align everything.

Design alignment refers to how you place similar elements in proximity to one another. Poor element alignment makes for a poorly-designed infographic and can be distracting to the viewer.

Alignment is a part of placing every single graphic, text, header, and element on your infographic. When you’re in the design process, have a mental checklist:

  • Are all of my headers aligned in the same vertical axis (left, right, center)?
  • Is there the same amount of space between my headers and body text elements?
  • Is there the same amount of space between my sections?
  • Do my lines end and begin in the same proximity to the elements they’re placed next to?

Here is an example of how elements should be lined up for consistency and elegance:

DosDontsTypography13.png

Make sure to place the same types of elements — body text, headers, graphics, etc. aligned in the same position relative to the other object within and outside of its section. If you have three sections with a header and body text, each header should be aligned with the other headers, and the same is true for the body text. In addition, there should be equal amount of space between the three different sections.

Here’s an example of an infographic with perfect alignment:

DosDontsTypography14.png

The reader can quickly flow from one piece of information to the other without alignment distraction.

Want to learn what not to do? Click here to access the complete guide: The Do’s and Don’ts of Infographic Design.

Dos and donts of infographic design

How LinkedIn Uses LinkedIn for Marketing [Infographic]

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If you’ve applied for a job within the last several years, you’ve probably used LinkedIn somewhere along the way. Whether you’re updating your resume, applying for a role, or communicating with a recruiter, LinkedIn has become a huge part of the modern job search.

And while LinkedIn might not be your first thought when it comes to content sharing, there are 467 million users on the network — and that number grows every year. For marketers, this means a huge opportunity to reach an engaged community through sponsored content, messages, and campaigns. Download our free two-week planner on running LinkedIn Sponsored Content campaigns with ease. 

To help folks get a grip on how to effectively use the platform, the folks at LinkedIn published a guide that explores how they use their own marketing tools on the network. They’ve also distilled the results from various sponsored content tests they’ve run into the infographic below. Among their findings about successful advertisements on LinkedIn:

  • Posts containing a statistic achieved a 37% higher clickthrough rate
  • Shorter updates saw higher engagement rates
  • The words “research” and “guide” performed better than “ebook”

Check out the infographic to learn more insider tips about LinkedIn marketing straight from the source. And when you’re ready to launch your next ad, download our guide for more tips for success on LinkedIn.

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free planner: how to run successful LinkedIn ads

10 of the Best Ads from February: Offbeat Serenades, Great Hair, and a Potato

We’re recapping some of the best ads from February, and we promise they aren’t all Super Bowl ads you’ve already seen.

February brought us an impressive selection of 30-second spots, extended videos, and interactive campaigns. We even included a particularly clever banner ad.

Whatever projects you’re preparing to tackle next month, take a look through these hilarious, emotionally stirring, and unique advertising efforts and get inspired to meet your next big creative challenge.

10 of the Best Ads from February

1) Snuggle

When your mascot is a little creepy, you might as well fully embrace it and see where it takes you. That’s the key lesson from Snuggle’s Valentine’s Day campaign, which allows you to customize videos of the brand’s teddy bear mascot serenading photos of your loved ones (or just co-workers you really want to freak out). 

Since the animated plush toy’s first appearance in 1983, “Snuggle the Bear” has toed the line between cloyingly cute and nightmarish — and the fabric softener brand is enthusiastically willing to keep this unique form of delightful creepiness rolling along. The Valentine’s Day effort, produced by Detroit-based agency Campbell Ewald, is wonderfully tongue-in-cheek, interactive, and compulsively shareable. 

2) TV 2 Danmark

“Maybe there’s more that brings us together than we think,” this ad from Danish television network TV 2 muses. Released in late January, the three-minute video opens on a room full of Danes dividing themselves into boxes based largely on superficial traits — their professions, hometowns, economic backgrounds etc.

As they stand uncomfortably in their boxes, a man comes out and begins asking questions that dig a little deeper into who they are as people: Who was the class clown? Who are stepparents? Who’s seen a UFO? 

As the Danes form new groups based on their answers to the questions, the tension breaks — we begin to see smiles, laughs, and friendly pats on the back. It’s an honest, refreshing depiction of breaking artificial boundaries and discovering common ground in unexpected places.

3) Letgo

Letting go of our once-cherished possessions isn’t always easy. In this ad for online marketplace Letgo, a mother is deeply committed to keeping her daughter’s childhood rocking-horse — even with a tornado threatening to swallow her up. 

Developed by CP+B Miami, the spot is a follow-up to Letgo’s launch campaign, which won a Bronze Lion at Cannes in 2015. 

4) Ikea

Did you know over 60% of banner ad clicks are actually accidents? As this case study from Ikea Sweden’s latest digital ad campaign explains, most people clicking on your ads aren’t interested in what you have to say at all — they’re just victims of “fat thumb syndrome.”

To make a friendlier, more human banner ad, Ikea started experimenting with what they call “Perceptive Banners” — banner ads that when clicked, check to make sure your click was intentional. 

5) It’s A 10

Hair care brand It’s A 10 debuted their first-ever Superbowl ad this year — and they weren’t messing around. They enlisted the expertise of Oscar-winning director Bryan Buckley and agency Havas Edge to develop this diversely cast, unconventional take on a beauty product ad. 

6) The Climate Coalition

This ad from the Climate Coalition — a group of over 100 climate-related UK charities — combines stunning cinematic imagery with a heartfelt script from British poet Anthony Anaxagorou.

Starring Game of Thrones’ Charles Dance alongside actors Miranda Richardson, Jason Isaacs, and David Gyasi, “A Love Song” is both a foreboding call to action on climate change, and an uplifting tribute to natural beauty. The short film was created by RSA Films.

7) Spotify

Wieden + Kennedy New York created this clever campaign for Spotify, imagining literal interpretations of some very oddly named user playlists on the music streaming service. In the ad below, musical group DNCE appears hilariously baffled upon learning that one of their upbeat pop songs was included in a real user playlist called “play this at my funeral.”

8) T-Mobile

Comedian Kristen Schaal stars opposite a very confused Verizon support representative in this offbeat spot for T-mobile. Aired during the Super Bowl, the Publicis Seattle-produced ad shines with Schaal in all her usual quirky glory. 

9) Take Note

This ad for Toronto-based paper store Take Note might only clock in at three and a half minutes, but it manages to pack in a lifetime of emotions. The video follows a couple throughout the entirety of their relationship, shown only in the handwritten notes they leave each other. 

Created by BBDO Toronto, the surprisingly touching spot is a reminder of how powerful a simple handwritten note to a loved one can be. 

10) Cards Against Humanity

Did you just get tricked into watching 30 seconds of a stationary, silent potato during the Super Bowl? Yes, you did. 

This Cards Against Humanity spot is undeniably bad (It’s quite literally just 30 seconds of a potato), but the stunt was a clever, well-executed move consistent with the viral card game’s unusual brand. The ad itself contained no branding or references to Cards Against Humanity, but the company published a tongue-in-cheek Medium post called “Why Our Super Bowl Ad Failed” that hilariously recounts their misguided thought process behind the ad. 

social-networks-ads

How to Learn Excel Online: 12 of the Best Resources for Excel Training

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Like many marketers, I have a bit of experience with Microsoft Excel. I’ve used it to organize events, plan meals, and sort data — but I don’t have nearly the advanced knowledge I wish I did. And thanks to those limited skills, I’m constantly subjecting myself to the tedium of updating my spreadsheets manually.

I’m well aware that I’m missing out on a whole world of reporting automation that could save me hours of time. But when asked where they picked up their knowledge, even my most Excel-savvy colleagues told me things like, “I mostly learned from colleagues and friends,” or, “When I have a specific question, I ask someone or search on Google.”Fair enough. But as a beginner, I probably have a few too many Excel questions to rely on colleagues — or Google — to answer every one. Download our free Excel guide here for more tutorials to help you master the essential Excel skills.

I can’t be the only one out there who wants to master the world’s most popular data analysis and visualization solution — or at least learn how to create charts and graphs that’ll impress my manager. So in the spirit of becoming a more productive, data-driven marketer, I scoured the internet for the best online resources for learning Excel. Most of these are free, and the ones that aren’t might be worth the investment . Take a look, bookmark your favorites, and get that much closer to working more efficiently in Excel.

How to Learn Excel Online: 12 of the Best Resources for Excel Training

1) Microsoft’s Excel Training Center

Price: Free

When it comes to learning a new application, why not start at the source? After all, no one knows Excel better than the people at Microsoft.

In fact, they’ve done a great job putting together the Office Training Center: A resource hub for all Microsoft Office applications and services. The training center for Excel has a whole bunch of free tutorials, videos, and guides on Windows, Mac OS, Android, iOS, and Windows Phone that cover the latest version of Excel, as well as older ones.

Once you click into a platform, you’ll find resources divided by Excel ability: For beginners (like basic math and creating a chart), intermediate users (like sorting and filtering data, conditional formatting, and VLOOKUPs), and advanced users (like pivot tables, advanced IF functions, and how to password-protect worksheets and workbooks).

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Source: Microsoft

2) The Spreadsheet Page

Price: Free

Here’s a very well-organized site that’s chock full of helpful Excel tips, collected by an expert named John Walkenbach. Over the past thirty years, he’s written more than 60 Excel books for users of all levels, and around 300 articles and reviews for magazines like InfoWorld, PC World, and PC/Computing. At one point, he wrote the monthly spreadsheet column for PC World. In other words, the man knows his stuff — and he knows how to present it.

The most helpful part of his website is probably the Excel Tips tab, which has a long list of useful pointers on formatting, formulas, charts and graphics, and printing. The tips themselves include everything from working with fractions, to unlinking a pivot table from its source data, to spreadsheet protection FAQs.

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The Downloads tab is another particularly helpful section of Walkenbach’s site, where he’s added free, ungated download links to files he created, like free Excel workbooks and add-ins. For example, there’s one Excel workbook available for download that gives examples of custom number formats, which you can play with and tweak on your own time, and get familiar with them without having to start from scratch.

3) About.com’s Spreadsheets Page

Price: Free

Many of you are likely familiar with the content website About.com, but did you know it has its own spreadsheets subdomain — much of which is devoted to Excel? There are likely thousands of instruction sets on that site, most of which are illustrated, how-to posts. Plus, fresh content is added regularly.

Each piece of content is categorized according to everything from formulas and formatting, to videos, tools, and templates. If you want to stay up-to-date on the latest spreadsheet news and tips, you can sign up for a free newsletter. There’s just one caveat, which is that the site contains a good amount of ads — but if you can stand them, the content is worth it.

about.com spreadsheets

4) Chandoo.org

Price: Free

Purna “Chandoo” Duggirala, Chandoo.org‘s founder, says he has one goal: “to make you awesome at Excel and charting.” He started the blog in 2007 and, today, it contains over 450 articles and tutorials on using Excel and making better charts. He’s built the blog as a community, citing values like humility, passion, fun, and simplicity. He also works to make it a valuable resource for the folks for whom English is not their first language.

Most of his tips stem from forums, where people ask questions about Excel — about formulas, formatting, shortcuts, pivot tables, and so on — and anyone can answer them. Chandoo then uses some of the more helpful forum questions to create articles and tutorials.

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Source: Chandoo.org

But it’s not all so formal. For example, Chandoo once created a digital Easter egg hunt for a blog post, which included a downloadable Excel workbook containing seven hidden pandas. Readers were challenged to locate the pandas using clues, Excel techniques, and even “I-Spy” skills.

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Source: Chandoo.org

While the articles, forums, and other parts of the site are free, you can pay to join one of Chandoo’s structured training programs, like Excel School ($97 – $247), or VBA Classes ($97 – $347). Plus, there’s aways the option to buy one of his books — The VLOOKUP Book or Excel Formula Helper Ebook.

5) HubSpot Excel Reources

Price: Free

Seeing as Excel is one of the most in-demand skills for data-driven marketers — and because we want marketers like you to succeed — we’ve created some of our own educational content about Excel here at HubSpot. From free ebooks, to templates, to video tutorials, we aim to cover a wide range of Excel-relevant topics.

Here are a few of our best:

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6) MrExcel.com

Price: Free

Here’s a resource that puts we mere mortals in touch with Excel experts. MrExcel.com‘s claim to fame is its interactive message board, which is constantly monitored by its community of Excel gurus.

The board is organized according to subject, like general announcements, questions, and MrExcel.com products. When a user posts a question, a member of the MrExcel.com expert community will reply with an answer. The questions range from simplifying an Excel task, to solving urgent inquiries.

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Not a native English speaker? You can ask questions in your native language.

Aside from posting questions on the message board, you can also browse Mr. Excel’s “Hot Topics” — found on the left-hand side of its homepage — which includes things like finding the cumulative sum of even or odd rows, or removing the leading zero within a text field. The site also has a library of helpful Excel books and ebooks, and if you need help with problems that are more complex, you can even hire an Excel consultant directly from the website, for a fee.

7) Annielytics Video Tutorials

Price: Free

Annie Cushing, a web analytics data expert, created the Annielytics blog and YouTube channel to share her knowledge with the world. Don’t let the punny name fool you — both are chock full of really good, specific, and in-depth web analytics tips.

While the content here isn’t all Excel-related — much of it is about Google Analytics, for example — it does contain some great Excel video tutorials. Even better, they were created with marketing and web analytics in mind, so they’re directly applicable to things like marketing data reports. The Excel-specific videos can be found here, or by searching her YouTube channel for “Excel”.

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The Excel topics vary widely, from how to create interactive pivot tables, to how to add a scrolling table to your dashboard using the INDEX function. The videos also vary in length depending on topic complexity, ranging from two-and-a-half-minutes, to those over half an hour long. To give you an idea of what the videos are like, here’s one of our favorites, which covers a comprehensive overview of Excel charts:

8) Lynda.com’s Excel Training Tutorials

Price: Membership starts at $19.99/month | 10-day free trial available

If you’re willing to invest a little cash in your Excel training, Lynda.com is a worthwhile place to spend it. Members have access to thousands of courses on business, technology, creative skills, and software that’ll help you work toward your personal and professional goals.

Included are over 100 courses on Excel, and over 4,000 video tutorials covering every version of the program, at any level of expertise. They cover a broad range of topics, from something as general as “Statistics with Excel Part One,” to more niche topics, like “Data Visualization Storytelling Essentials.”

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9) Coursera

Price: Individual courses start at $79/each

While Lynda.com asks for a monthly all-access membership fee, Coursera charges on a course-to-course basis. Partnering with top universities and organizations worldwide, the site offers online classes on a number of topics, ranging from music production to coaching skills.

There are only a few courses pertaining to Excel, but if you’re looking for one that’s on a formally academic level, they could be a good fit for you. In fact, many of the Excel-related courses come from Duke University, such as “Excel to MySQL: Analytic Techniques for Business Specialization.”

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That said, these courses don’t come cheap — after all, they’re the same ones that are taught at top universities around the world. And like many real-world classes, each includes video lectures, interactive quizzes, peer-graded assessments, and the opportunity to connect with fellow students and instructors. Once you finish a course, you’ll receive formal recognition, along with an optional course certificate.

10) EdX Excel Courses

Price: Free

Here’s a more budget-friendly option for those in search of a more formal course, rather than a one-off tutorial. EdX is a nonprofit that provides free education for people around the globe — with an interesting model.

When users enroll in a course that’s marked as “Verified,” they have the option to pay a fee in exchange for an instructor-signed certificate with the institution’s logo, to verify the achievement and increase job prospects. Those fees are used to fund the courses, giving you the option to take them for free if you don’t mind foregoing the certificate.

Otherwise, there are some courses offered at a “Professional Education” level, for which the fee isn’t optional. One example is the Business and Data Analysis Skills course, offered for $60.

To help you choose the right one, each edX course includes reviews (with a rating up to five stars), and information on length and amount of effort, usually measured in hours per week. There are also details on the level of knowledge required, along with video transcripts.

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11) Khan Academy

Price: Free

When visitors arrive at the Khan Academy website, they’re greeted with two simple but powerful lines of text: “You only have to know one thing: You can learn anything.” And from algebra to astronomy, this resource offers a plethora of free courses on, well, almost anything — for free.

That includes a few video tutorials on Excel. Most of them are part of larger, multi-installment courses on broader topics, like statistics. A general search for “Microsoft Excel” yields what might look like limited results, but they actually explain some fundamental parts of using Excel, like distributions and fitting lines to data.

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12) Udemy

Price: $15

If you had six hours to spare, how would you use them? “Sleep,” “clean the house,” and “bake something” are some of the things that come to the top of my mind, but try this on for size — what if you could become an Excel expert in that amount of time?

That’s what Udemy promises in its “Microsoft Excel – From Beginner to Expert in 6 Hours” course — for only $15. Udemy is one of the most bountiful online learning resources out there, and its Excel courses certainly don’t end with that single option. In fact, when I return to the homepage, it displays several additional lessons on the topic, in case I want to explore my options.

Those options are many. In fact, just typing “Excel” into the search bar yields dozens of results, each one displaying a star rating, price, length, and level.

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Excel in Your Field

Ready to get started? With these tools, you’ll be using Excel with little-to-no-sweat, in no time. Plus, practice makes perfect — that’s why there are so many tiered levels of courses available. Start where you can, and as you begin using more functions and commands, you can continue to expand your knowledge.

What are your favorite online resources for learning Excel? Let us know in the comments.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

free guide: how to use excel

free guide: how to use excel