7 New Twitter Features (and 4 Others You May Have Missed)

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In an industry fixated on rapid growth, any slowdown in user acquisition or monetization sounds alarms. And Twitter, whether it likes it or not, has been sounding a lot of them lately.

After a few years of stagnant monthly active user growth and disappointing the market, Twitter has been on an upswing thus far in 2017 — beating investor projections by generating more money and adding more new users than initially anticipated.

In the face of a negative narrative, the company has been quick to take action and focused predominantly on changes geared toward the user — and it seems to be working. New Call-to-action

Over the last year, Twitter has made a number of changes, small and big, to drive user engagement and improve the overall onboarding and experience of the platform. But we know how tough it can be to keep up with these types of updates, which is why we put together a list of the more notable features and changes below. Marketers, take note.

7 New Twitter Features

1) The End of Vine … and the End of Periscope?

When technology companies are struggling to grow, as was Twitter for much of 2016, they will usually do one of two things — cut staff to make financial ends meet, or develop new innovations to attract and engage users.

In Twitter’s case, it did both — Twitter sunsetted Vine and launched an in-app live video streaming feature — thereby eliminating the need to stream from Periscope for many users.

Vine paved the way for the popular short-form and infinitely-looping videos we see on Snapchat and Instagram today (like this one), and in the fall of 2016, it was ultimately shuttered as Twitter shifted its focus to live video content.

Vines are still available to share and watch (and rewatch), but now, six-second looping videos must be recorded and shared directly to Twitter or saved to the creator’s camera roll.

Then, in December 2016, Twitter launched its own in-app live video streaming and recording function — effectively eliminating the need to live-stream from within the Periscope app.

Twitter hasn’t discontinued Periscope the way it did so with Vine, so users can still download the app and live-stream videos to their audience there. But these changes in such rapid succession disappointed a lot of avid fans and users — and reflected Twitter’s growing need to keep users within its app.

It’s no secret that video is no longer just popular — it’s also a requisite element of any successful social media platform. Twitter is trying to innovate its video creation, broadcasting, and sharing tools to give users the types of content they want — short-form, looping, and live broadcasts — to compete with other platforms, attract new users, and keep existing users engaged.

We haven’t seen Twitter jump on the bandwagon of creating an ephemeral video stories feature like most of the major social media platforms — yet. But we should expect more features and announcements — like Twitter’s deals to live-stream professional sports and breaking news — that signal its continued emphasis on video content in the future.

2) A New Layout

In June 2017, Twitter completely redesigned its desktop site and mobile app to make Twitter feel “lighter, faster, and easier to use” in response to user feedback:

Twitter’s user base has been slowly growing — and sometimes dipping — over the past few years, and these UI and UX innovations could help attract people to Twitter, while also preventing users from leaving it.

how-many-users-does-twitter-have_large.pngSource: The Motley Fool

Here’s a rundown of the changes:

  • Decluttered UI: Twitter now offers a sidebar menu where users can more easily navigate to their profiles, lists, and personal settings — instead of having to tap through the app more than once.
  • Real-time reply, retweet, and like counts: Users can now watch the engagement numbers with tweets increase in realtime within the app, instead of refreshing and reloading tweets.
  • Clearer typography and iconography: Twitter changed the in-app font, made some headlines bolder to attract attention in the busy feed, and changed the “Reply” button to a conversation bubble (so it didn’t look like a back arrow anymore).
  • Round avatars: Profile images are now round instead of square.

And here’s what these changes look like in action:

Check-new-look-iOS Refresh Full Walkthrough.gif Source: Twitter

Most of the changes were widely panned by users, but this is the internet, after all — and Twitter will never make everyone happy. Some users pointed out that cosmetic UI changes are not nearly as important as improving users’ abilities to report and challenge abusive language on the platform — and that’s next on our list.

3) More Comprehensive Anti-Harassment and Cyberbullying Features

One of the biggest complaints against Twitter is how easily harassment can spread and exacerbate on the network — and there was no better test of this hypothesis than political rhetoric surrounding recent global elections. Historically, tweets aimed at threatening or scaring individuals on Twitter have gone unfettered and caused a number of users to delete their accounts or even fear for their safety — as blogger Ariel Waldman has chronicled.

Twitter Rules prohibit the kind of abuse we mean here — threats, hate speech, bullying, and harassment on the basis of users’ race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, age, ability, disease, or nationality. However, until as recently as March 1, 2017, there haven’t been a lot of options for users report and stop abuse they were experiencing in real-time. Twitter has begun to respond to harassment and threats on the network with a series of features and services aimed a keeping people safe. These additions include:

  • Notification filtering: Users can specify which accounts they don’t want to receive notifications from. For example, you can filter out notifications from accounts without profile photos and with unverified email addresses.
  • Mute option: Users can mute specific keywords and phrases, and they can choose how long they don’t want to see that type of content.
  • Reporting transparency: Users now receive notifications when — and if — Twitter intervenes on an abuse report the user files.
  • Time-out: Users who are reported are sometimes temporarily put in “time-out” while Twitter investigates the report to prevent the further dissemination of abusive content.
  • Safe search: Machine-learning technology will prevent users from being served potentially abusive content when they search for tweets on the platform.
  • Hiding abusive tweets: Twitter has started identifying low-quality tweets from potentially abusive accounts so users see high-quality content first. The tweets will still be on Twitter — they’ll just be harder to find.
  • Preventing new abuse: Twitter has started preventing reported and flagged users from creating new accounts with the same contact information in an effort to prevent repeat offenders on the platform.

These updates are critical to ensuring Twitter stays a welcoming place for all users. In a leaked memo last year, former Twitter CEO Dick Costello underscored the importance of this move, saying:

I’m frankly ashamed of how poorly we’ve dealt with this issue during my tenure as CEO. It’s absurd. There’s no excuse for it. I take full responsibility for not being more aggressive on this front. It’s nobody else’s fault but mine, and it’s embarrassing.

We’re going to start kicking these people off right and left and making sure that when they issue their ridiculous attacks, nobody hears them. Everybody on the leadership team knows this is vital.”

4) Moments for Everyone

Twitter introduced Moments — curated tweets about a single topic or story, all in one place — back in 2015. Moments allowed publishers and brands to pull together their tweets and tweets from other users about a topic to tell a story in one story collage — and in August 2016, Twitter opened up Moments to any user who wanted to create them. Here’s what they look like:

Now, whether you want to feature your own tweetstorm, content from other people on the platform, or both, anyone can easily make a shareable Moment to tell a story. You can go into the Explore tab (or the Moments tab on Twitter’s desktop site), and create a new Moment there. Or, you can find a tweet you want to feature and create a Moment while you’re scrolling or on your own profile:

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Moments present another opportunity for users to get discovered and shared on Twitter, so opening this publishing capability up to everyone was a smart move.

5) Explore Twitter

In January 2017, Twitter axed the Moments tab and created the Explore tab on the mobile app, which combined Twitter trends, Moments, and search — all in one place.

It was a simple new feature that combined features already in existence, but by putting these all in one tab, Twitter made it easier for users to find and engage with new content on the platform — and hopefully, stay in the app longer.

Here’s what it looks like (if you haven’t already noticed it):

Explore-Screenshot1.jpg.img.fullhd.medium.jpg Explore-Screenshot2.jpg.img.fullhd.medium.jpg Source: Twitter

6) More Characters to Reply

Twitter made a big change to the way users can directly reply to one another. Whereas before, users had to @mention the account they wanted to reply to, the mention is now built directly into the reply button. This gives users more characters with which to reply, because they don’t have to type in the username and cut into their precious 140 characters. Check it out:

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This change has been met with some criticism, though — because users can’t specifically one-off reply to particular people. So if you’re included in a tweet with multiple other users, everyone will get a reply notification — even if the reply isn’t specified for them.

But while Twitter is giving users more room to express themselves, it might also give them the ability to communicate with too many other users — especially if bullies and abusers are replying-all to tweets.

7) Safer DMs

If you receive private Direct Messages from users you don’t follow, users now have the option to approve or deny the request to connect — and report the message if it’s inappropriate.

This feature is a win on a couple of levels. It helps users better screen for and identify abusive content — and choose if or when they want to engage. It also prevents the need for a tweet back-and-forth of asking someone to follow you before you reach out to them via DM. Instead, you can simply shoot them a message — and they’ll approve it if they wish.

4 More Twitter Features You May Have Missed

I wrote the original version of this blog post back in 2016 with a different set of new features, and wanted to make sure you still knew about those neat new(-ish) capabilities, too.

1) The 140-Character Count Loophole

As far as debates go, Twitter’s 140-character limit is about as contentious as the Oxford comma. Some say the character limit on tweets is essential to Twitter’s identity. It secures Twitter in place as one of the fastest available ways for ideas to spread. Others are ready to see it lifted, arguing that removing the 140-character cap would open Twitter up to a new and engaging range of content and possibly new users. One area where the pain of the character cap is particularly sharp is in adding media to your tweets.

By default, media links used to take up 23 characters in a tweet, which is about 16% of your allotted characters — no small portion. That said, images are a boon for interactivity on your tweets: HubSpot conducted a study and found that tweets with images resulted in 18% more clickthroughs and 150% more retweets.

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Last year, Twitter announced that media (e.g., images, polls, videos) attached to tweets would soon no longer count against your 140-character count. The same rule would apply to the @handle when replying to someone else’s tweet.

This update makes a couple of changes to the way replies and retweets are handled. Users will no longer have to add a character prior to a reply — for example, “.@meghkeaney” — to ensure their reply is seen by all followers. Not to mention, users will be able to retweet their own content if they want to add a thought to a previous post.

2) Accessible Images

Back in October of 2015, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey made a public appeal to developers to submit ideas for product enhancements:

One of the ideas generated out of that invitation focused on making Twitter more accessible to users who are visually impaired. In other words, people using Twitter’s iOS and Android apps can now add alt text descriptions to images within tweets. Websites have long used alt text to help visually impaired visitors understand the messages conveyed by images, using assistive technology like a screen reader or Braille display.

The accessible images feature has to be set up at the user level, a drawback for it gaining mass adoption, but it’s easy enough to set up. In an Android or iOS device, go to your Twitter settings (the gear icon) and follow these steps:

  1. Tap Accessibility.
  2. Next to Compose image descriptions, turn that feature on.
  3. From there, when you add an image to your tweet just tap Add description to insert descriptive text.

Adding accessibility may seem like a smaller win, but it’s a best practice across the board for businesses and organizations looking to grow their audiences and do the right thing.

3) Native GIF Search

Even though this list isn’t weighted for significance, it took real willpower not to place this at number one. As someone whose reliance on GIFs is beyond description, this feature release was a big one for me. In 2015, people shared more than 100 million GIFs on Twitter. When you think about the steps it previously took to share an animated image on Twitter, that number is even more impressive.

Previously, you had to leave Twitter, search for the appropriate GIF on any number of GIF search engines, save that image, go back to Twitter, recompose your tweet, and finally, upload the image. Today, with Twitter’s new GIF feature, you just click a button and conduct the search there — no saving or uploading needed.

Gif Search on Twitter Source: Twitter

(By the way, if you like GIFs, I highly recommend this post by my colleague. It’s a fascinating history and analysis on why exactly GIFs became so popular.)

4) The Switch to Uncropped Photos

Twitter may have started as a text-based platform, but images are a source of some of its top engagement. That’s why the news that Twitter had adjusted its image size requirements to not force-crop most images came with such praise. The resulting experience means that Twitter is more visual and engaging right off the bat. See the before and after shots provided by Twitter below:

Source:  Twitter

Along with the uncropped photo update, Twitter also introduced a new view for multi-photo displays. This update allows users to see even more of the individual photos included in a collage.

new_look_for_twitter.com_photos_2.jpg Source: Twitter

In all the punditry on the current and future state of Twitter, most of the narrative to this point has focused on the competition. Twitter’s response, however, has been largely focused on its users. While some of these updates may seem small, in aggregate, they signal a move to a much more intuitive user experience fed largely by user feedback. Time will tell if this focus on fan-favorite features amounts to a measurable increase in usage and revenue.

What do you think about Twitter’s latest features? What else would you like to see? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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

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Top 10 Powerful Moments That Shaped Social Media History Over the Last 20 Years

Do you remember your first social media profile? Or, how about your first social media post?

My first profile was on Myspace, my first friend was “Tom from Myspace,” and my first post was something like, “Myspace is awesome!”

The rest is history.

Social media has changed and evolved so much since the early days, it’s almost hard to believe how far we’ve come. How people use social media has changed as well. Gen Zs (now beginning to enter the workforce) only know a world with social media, compared to their counterparts – Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers – who can still fondly remember back to the days of snail mail and dial-up modems!

In light of #SMDay (6/30/2017), we’re teaming up with Bitly to share stories and celebrate the positive impact that social media has had on individuals, businesses, and the globe over the last 20 glorious years – all using the hashtag #impactofsocial. Check out the details at the bottom of this post about how you can join in on the fun!

Here’s a look at 10 powerful moments that shaped the social media history.

Let’s dive in!

10 Powerful Moments That Shaped Social Media Over the Last 20 Years

Top 10 powerful moments that shaped social media history

There have been so many wonderful moments over the last 20 years on social media that it was quite a challenge to boil them down to just 10! But since we’re celebrating the positive impact of social media on people’s lives and on the world for this campaign, these are all particularly meaningful and important moments in the social media history.

Feel free to jump to a certain moment(s) in the social media history!

Let’s count down to the top moment in the social media history!

10. The Birth of Facebook


Facebook, the social media network that has an incredible two billion monthly active users (nearly a third of the earth’s population), is the only network that I’ll mention in this post for moments-sake. Given its sheer size, the impact it has made on families, friends, businesses, and world events, I felt as though I might be remiss without a mention of Facebook somewhere!

It’s amazing to imagine what the world might be like if Facebook had never captured the hearts and minds of so many people the way it did. One of my favorite Facebook moments, in particular, is during an early 2004 interview on CNBC with Mark Zuckerberg:

The anchor asks: “Now there’s a new form of cyber matching making, college networking websites. Is this perhaps the next big thing? The Facebook. Mark, if someone was to put the question to you about the magnitude of what you’ve launched; how big do you think your product or service is?”

We all know the rest!

A short six years after this interview (2010), Zuckerberg would go on to become Time’s Person of the Year along with many other accolades along the way. Facebook has changed the way we interact and communicate on all levels and only time will tell if another network will come along and take its place in social media history.

9. Miracle on the Hudson


It was January 15, 2009 when U.S. Airways Flight 1549 took off from LaGuardia Airport in New York and struck a flock of birds on the way up. Moments later, both engines were lost and Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, along with his co-pilot, Jeff Skiles, were asked to pull off the miraculous landing.

When the plane finally landed safely in the frigid Hudson River waters, all 155 passengers on board were safe. The “Miracle on the Hudson” has been called the most successful ditching in aviation history.

But something else happened that day… Jeff Krums tweeted:

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Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey told CNBC in 2013 how that changed Twitter and the way people get news.

It changed everything. Suddenly the world turned its attention because we were the source of news—and it wasn’t us, it was this person in the boat using the service, which is even more amazing.

One small tweet began the Twitter revolution. Hundreds of millions of people now turn to Twitter as a source of news, a place to build a following, a place to share your stories and connect with others.

Twitter is also the platform that our co-founder, Joel Gascoigne, successfully built Buffer on back in 2010! This powerful moment in social media history has a special place in our hearts.

8. Going “Viral”


How many of you have sat around with friends or family and binge-watched several classic YouTube videos in a row? I know I have!

What is now one of the largest social media networks on the planet (more than 1.5 billion people log in every month), started with a few viral hits and began a trend that today we might call, “going viral.” This launched YouTube into a massive entertainment hub – complete with TV streaming, movies, music videos, tutorials, celebrities, vloggers, and of course, viral videos.

Let’s take a look at three early videos that helped to shape the viral side of social media history:

Charlie Bit My Finger (Published: 5/22/2007 – 851,140,074 views)

“Chocolate Rain” (Published: 4/22/2007 – 113,787,749 views)

Numa Numa (Published: 12/11/2006 – 26,800,130 views)

Honorable Mention: “Lazy Sunday” 

In December of 2005, the first “viral video” appeared online under the name “Lazy Sunday.” It was the second-ever SNL Digital Short aired and featured cast members, Chris Parnell and Andy Samberg. Following its appearance on SNL, the video appeared on YouTube and was viewed more than five million times until February 2006 when NBC Universal asked the site to remove it.

7. Ellen’s Selfie (and #NuggsForCarter)


Ellen DeGeneres’ selfie that took the social media world by storm is the epitome of everything that is awesome about social media.

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First, it is the fact that this photo is in “selfie” form which has come to be a staple of how photos are taken and shared across social media platforms. Two, it shows just how light-hearted, yet powerful social media can be. A smiling group of beloved actors, actresses, and performers has the ability to touch the lives of the more than 3,400,000 people who retweeted it and the millions more that saw it. For more than three years, Ellen’s selfie held the title of the most retweeted tweet of all time.

That was until Nevada teenager Carter Wilkerson’s plea for free chicken nuggets from Wendy’s went viral.

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The world watched as #NuggsForCarter swept Twitter like wildfire – eventually passing Ellen’s selfie as the most retweeted tweet of all time. And although the #NuggsForCarter tweet never quite reached 18 million, Wendy’s still awarded Carter free nuggets for a year anyways. A win-win!

In my experience, we as social media managers tend to take social media very seriously. But if we can learn anything from Ellen’s selfie and #NuggsForCarter, it’s that social media is meant to be a fun and sprightly place for people to share stories, connect, and be themselves.

If you’d like to hear more about the “Nuggs Guy” and how entrepreneurs and small businesses use social media, check out episode #47 of The Science of Social Media where we chat with Paul Jarvis

6. NASA’s #YearInSpace


Named one of the most influential social media campaigns of 2016 (and maybe of all time), NASA’s #AYearInSpace demonstrates the wildly powerful ability of social media to document the human condition.

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What made the mission so unique is that NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly has an identical twin brother he was to be compared with (physically) upon his return in hopes to uncover what happens to the human body after long exposures in space.

Astronaut Kelly tweeted continuously using the hashtag #YearInSpace, which was followed closely by millions of intrigued spectators. While tumbling around in zero gravity aboard the ISS, he even hosted an AMA session on Reddit!

This was a powerful moment in the social media history because we were able to experience space first-hand from the comfort of our own homes. People from all over the world chimed in using #YearInSpace to express their support, marvel in the wonder of the cosmos, and share an interconnectedness of human activity.

5. ALS Ice Bucket Challenge


The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was a wonderful testament to the power of social media to make a charitable impact on an important cause. Since 2014, largely due to social media, the ALS Association has raised more than $115 million for research towards Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

It drew the attention of hundreds of thousands of people, including celebrities like President Obama, LeBron James, Lady Gaga, Sergey Brin, Sheryl Sandberg, and Bill Gates. Within the first 15 days of the campaign taking off, the ALS Association had received $15 million in donations from 307,600 new, first-time donors.

What followed was an interesting study into viral content and how organizations might be able to repeat this virality in the future. And while no definite conclusion was made from Facebook’s study and visualization, many attribute the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge success to former Boston College baseball player, Pete Frates, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2012 (helping to explain the concentration).

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Graph

The Ice Bucket Challenge can help to act as a guide or blueprint for achieving viral success via social media. As TechCrunch author, Sarah Perez writes, “Simply ask the selfie generation to once again turn their cameras on themselves, but infuse that act with a higher purpose” and you have a recipe for success.

4. #BlackLivesMatter


Over the past several years, social media has become an important communication tool for political groups and social movements to organize and take action. One of those social movements, #BlackLivesMatter, has become one of the largest in the social media history. Used more than 12 million times, the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter is the third most-used Twitter hashtag around a social cause.

Analysis of #BlackLivesMatter Hashtag

#BlackLivesMatter is an incredibly powerful example of how a social media hashtag can ignite action in the real world and be tied directly to a major movement. The implications for something like this are huge considering that we are all only becoming more digitally connected by the day.

A quote from Bijan Stephen in WIRED helps to sum it up perfectly:

“In the 1960s, if you were a civil rights worker and you needed to get some urgent news out to the rest of the world, you would likely head straight for a telephone. If you’re a civil rights activist in 2015 and you need to get some news out, your first move is to choose a social media platform.”

3. Arab Spring


I’ll never forget the digital marketing course I took in college that examined social media’s impact on the Arab Spring. It was then, back in 2011 as a student, that I realized the true power and potential implications of social media. Up until that point, I thought social media was only for sharing pictures with friends and family!

There has since been a strong debate over the role and influence that social media played in the Arab Spring. Researchers at the University of Washington examined more than three million tweets, gigabytes of YouTube content, and thousands of blog posts and found that social media played a central role in shaping political debates in the Arab Spring.

Arab Spring Map Overview

“Our evidence suggests that social media carried a cascade of messages about freedom and democracy across North Africa and the Middle East, and helped raise expectations for the success of political uprising,” said Philip Howard, project lead and professor at the University of Washington. “People who shared interest in democracy built extensive social networks and organized political action. Social media became a critical part of the toolkit for greater freedom.”

2. Community Support during World Tragedies


Social media can mean the difference between a few minutes or even a few seconds, and in unforeseen often-desperate situations, a few seconds can mean the world.

Moments after the tragic events in Brussels, friends and family members turned to Facebook and Twitter for information regarding anyone they might have known to be involved.

Following the Boston Marathon bombings, one-quarter of Americans looked to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites for information, according to The Pew Research Center. Boston community members offered complete strangers a warm bed, food, and a shower when roads and hotels were closed (via a simple Google Doc).

Boston Marathon Google Doc

Social media also provides essential communication channels after these tragic events. Thinking back to Paris in 2015, social media helped to give many people a feeling of comfort, of solidarity, and of solace knowing that they would not have to face this alone. It acted as a support system even though we were all thousands of miles apart.

1. Natural Disaster Relief


One of the biggest strengths of social media is the speed at which it can disseminate important information to a large number of people in a very short amount of time. For example, after a 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, non-profits and relief groups used social media to mobilize rescue efforts and support the community in various ways.

According to a CNN report, social media – Twitter specifically – became a pivotal tool in the fundraising efforts that raised millions of dollars in aid for the country. By the end of the week, the use of social media helped to raise more than $8 million in relief.

Haiti Earthquake 2010

Photo: Yale Economic Review

Haiti is just one of many cases where social media played an integral role in disaster relief. The earthquake and tsunami in Japan (2011), Hurricane Irene (2011), Superstorm Sandy (2012), and the earthquake in Nepal (2015) are examples of the power of instant communication. During Sandy, 10,000 Instagram photos (#sandy) were uploaded per second, many complete with geo-tagged locations!

Social media provides real-time, first-person information so that people and organizations can make informed decisions about where to focus their efforts. A critical piece in ensuring that relief is provided where and when it is needed most.

Over to you

It’s quite hard to fathom that social media is only 20 years young and that the majority of growth and innovation has happened over the last few years. It’s even harder to believe that we’ve likely only just begun! As the world population continues to increase, communities become more connected, and the internet becomes available for more and more cities around the world, we will undoubtedly witness a deeper integration of social media into our everyday lives.

This list doesn’t even begin to cover the hundreds of amazing moments throughout social media history. And so it’s up to all of us to celebrate its positive impact on our lives whenever we can. Let’s encourage each other to not take this incredible tool for granted!

Here’s to 20 more years of powerful, wonderful, and world-changing social media history (and beyond!)

Feeling inspired? We’d love for you to share your story!

How has social media positively impacted you? On June 30th (#SMDay) and throughout the weekend,  share your social media story with us using the hashtag #impactofsocial! We’ll be retweeting some of our favorites and picking a few winners to receive some special Buffer swag. We’re also hosting five exclusive Facebook Live chats throughout the day, check out the awesome schedule we have planned below!

Facebook Live #impactofsocial schedule (Tune in Here!)

  • Tom Redman (Product Manager at Buffer) – 7:00am PT, 10:00am ET
  • Arielle Tannenbaum & Hailley Griffis (Community & PR at Buffer) – 8:30am PT, 11:30am ET
  • Mark Josephson (CEO at Bitly) – 10:00am PT, 1:00pm ET
  • Brian Fanzo (iSocialFanz) – 12:00pm PT, 3:00pm ET
  • Courtney Seiter (Director of People at Buffer) – 1:30pm PT, 4:30pm ET

17 Examples of Fabulous Explainer Videos

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Feel intimidated by the notion of creating an explainer video? There’s no need to be — they just represent another excellent way to get your content out to your target audience.

Besides the really big brands that we are all familiar with, a lot of lesser-known companies and even small startups are using them.

Even if you believe your product isn’t “cool” enough to become a fancy, interesting explainer video, there’s probably someone out there with a problem that can be solved by what you have to offer.

Sometimes a quick, easy, explanation is just what someone needs to help clearly understand how your product solves a problem.

Download this free ebook for more examples of effective product videos.

Think you need a professional production team to create a worthwhile explainer video? Think again. Compiling an explainer video doesn’t have to be more complicated than putting together a slide deck in a Powerpoint presentation. You decide what to say, find some relevant graphics to jazz things up, and record a voiceover. 

Explainer videos should generally be 30-90 seconds in length, which translates into a written script of around 200 words or less in most cases. To get a good feel for crafting your own video, start by gathering some inspiration from brands doing it right. You’re bound to find something that resonates with you as a good example for brainstorming your own.

Here are 17 fabulous explainer videos across a wide variety of industries, media outlets, and publications to jumpstart your own project. You should have no trouble getting inspired to make an explainer video part of your marketing strategy.

17 Examples of Fabulous Explainer Videos

1) Unroll.Me

 

2) What is AI? (HubSpot)

 

3) PandaDoc

 

4) Yum Yum Videos

 

5) Dollar Shave Club

 

6) What is an API? (MuleSoft)

 

7) Mint.com

 

8) Spotify

 

9) How Deep is the Ocean? (Tech Insider)

 

10) SafeDrive

 

11) Final

 

12) Ethical Coffee Chain

 

13) Pinterest

 

14) BriefMe

 

15) Munzit

 

16) Stitch Fix

 

17) Water Mark

 

Seen any great explainer videos lately? Let us know in the comments.

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11 Effective Ways to Use Social Media to Promote Your Content

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You’ve spent hours researching, analyzing, and finally creating compelling content to help you reach your content marketing objectives. And like book authors, you need to spend as much, if not more time promoting your content as writing it. Where better to promote your content than where we spend more than 25 percent of our online time: social media. Eighty percent of marketers are already promoting their content in social media–but are they doing it effectively?

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Before we get deep into social media tactics, ensure you’re planning out your content—and social media updates—on an editorial content calendar. This ensures every piece of content is properly promoted in an organized manner. Download this free editorial calendar template to start planning today.

Now it’s time to take your social media promotion to the next level.tweet-this

Here are 11 effective ways to promote your content using social media you probably aren’t doing enough of.

Embrace The Visual

 

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We all know tweets with images get more engagement. We’ve known for a while that photos on Facebook get more engagement. Even images on LinkedIn get more engagement. Three of the “newest” social networks—Pinterest, Instagram, and Snapchat, are based entirely on images. So why aren’t you leveraging the visual when promoting your content? Don’t just create a branded “featured image” to share with your post. Create separate images for each of the main points in your content. Use these when you repeatedly post to social media (see below for more on this point). Check out my post on top social media for business quotes for an example that clearly illustrates how to leverage the visual.

Headlines Matter

You’re writing great content, but are you writing a title worthy of grabbing someone’s attention in social media? If not you either need to:

  1. Create better titles that help your posts to be more promotable in social media or…
  2. Create a new title specifically for sharing your content in social media.

Don’t just settle for one title. You should be posting your content multiple times. Create multiple titles, and perform A/B testing to see which headlines most effectively promote your content on which social networks. Use a tool like BuzzSumo to help you research effective titles for the same type of content per social network. (See Curata’s post about curated content for more tips about creating new titles.)

Customize For the Platform

When sharing content, utilize the customizable posting features on each social media platform. This includes the headline, image, and a description of the content you’re sharing. Every marketer and social media user is competing to catch the user’s eye. The more optimized your post is for a particular platform, the more effective your social media promotion will be.

For example, if you share a link to Facebook, you have the opportunity to create a post that truly stands out. All you need is an attention-grabbing headline, a clean, relevant image that piques interest (which might be different from the featured image), and a short, compelling description.

With this formula, you can entice readers to click on your content. In the same manner, appending your content with hashtags helps make it more discoverable for those social networks that support them. See this tweet by former Curata CMO Michael Gerard for an example of using hashtags and an image:

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Share at the Right Time

Though this tip may seem like common sense, many content marketers overlook this simple concept. For maximum engagement, the content you’re sharing needs to reach as many people as possible. So you have to go where the crowd is—and when they are online and active. Then you can compile a posting schedule to ensure you post during a certain time of day.

Keep in mind that different social media platforms may not have the same peak times. While there are many infographics telling you the best time to post in social media, some of it simply comes down to understanding how users engage on each social network, and experimenting. Some social media platforms have features designed to aid you in this process, such as Facebook Insights. In addition, third party tools such as FollowerWonk help estimate the best times for some platforms.

Don’t be Afraid to Post Multiple Times

Numerous data studies suggest you will be more effective by promoting the same content multiple times on social media. Use multiple images and multiple headlines for your content. This way you engage with your followers without them even knowing you’re reposting the same content. Social media users don’t see most of your posts on any given day anyway. So posting multiple times ensures your audience has a chance to see your content.

Ask Questions

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Don’t just drop links. Drive social media users to communicate with youand increase the chances they engage with your contentby asking for questions and feedback. Social media was made for people; not for businesses. So you should always be striving to create a human connection with social media users.

The beauty of social media marketing is that it can improve both your public relations and content marketing, simply by asking for a response. To generate feedback and promote engagement on social media, include a question with your content that compels readers to respond. Better yet, create questions for some of your headlines and test the waters. Questions are a great attention grabber, and help foster a community of connection that results in more effective social media promotion.

Share on the right platform

With so many social media sites constantly sprouting up and vying for attention, it can be hard to keep up. Just when we thought we knew everything with the emergence of Ello, now comes Tsu. Having accounts on various sites can be advantageous for fostering innovation and staying creative. But it can also be difficult to choose which platform to post your content to.

To reiterate, since different sites serve different purposes and audiences, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the major social media platforms your target audience uses. Avoid redundancy and simply “dumping” content across all channels. Concentrate on the platforms where you have the highest chance to engage with your audience. Use this list of content promotion tools to see which platform best fits your needs.

Once your social media promotion is successful on these platforms, use that information to start embarking on a new platform. Don’t forget to share your multimedia content to social networks like Slideshare, iTunes, Soundcloud, Stitcher and, of course, YouTube.

Pay to Play

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Why pay for Likes or Follows when you can promote your content to a micro-targeted audience in social media? Paid Social is mainstream, meaning you can pay to promote your content into the news feeds of social media users, where you are guaranteed visibility from a relevant audience. If you haven’t done so already, try shifting your budget to experiment, whether on Twitter, Facebook, or another network.

Maximize Your Brand Advocates

Does your company have an employee advocacy program? Employees or partners are likely already sharing your content socially. Get more of them to do so more regularly to help promote your content. There are many tools that make it easy to manage and measure social media sharing by brand advocates. See the aforementioned list of content promotion tools for a full breakdown of different advocacy tools, such as GaggleAMP and SocialChorus.

Leverage Communities

An employee advocacy program is one way of leveraging communities. It allows you to utilize the strength in numbers approach to promote your content to more social media users. However, you first have to have a community in order to do so. There are already more than two million communities within LinkedIn alone. Not to mention additional communities in the form of Twitter chats, Google Plus communities, shared Pinterest boards, and even Facebook Groups.

Joining and becoming an engaging member of relevant communities allows you to promote your content to a very targeted audience of social media users. Such groups could be in the hundreds, thousands, or even morethe largest LinkedIn Group has more than one million members! (There’s even a community for content marketing and promotion: The Content Marketing Forum.)

Experiment With Content Creator Communities

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I saved this for last because it is not everyone’s cup of tea, but there are a number of other communities such as Triberr, Social Buzz Club, and Viral Content Buzz. They exist outside of social media for the sole purpose of bringing together content creators and enhancing your social media promotion. If the content you discover on one of these sites is something you would considering curating, then this might be a good site to consider promoting your own content on.

What’s Next

When it comes to promoting content, social media is one of the most powerful tools available; however, most content marketers fail to truly maximize its potential. Utilize one or all of these 11 ways to promote your social media content, and you’ll generate significantly more traffic for your precious content.

Which of these 11 methods have worked for you? Any others that you would add to the list? Please chime in below in the comments!

For more information about promoting blog content, download Curata’s eBook, Business Blogging Secrets Revealed.

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The post 11 Effective Ways to Use Social Media to Promote Your Content appeared first on Curata Blog.

20 of the Worst Typos, Grammatical Errors & Spelling Mistakes We’ve Ever Seen

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“How long did you take to revise this?” “A couple of sec, I mean minutes … ”

“Did you use any editing tools?” “Yes … the red and green squiggly lines in Word.”

“Please tell me spell check is somehow broken. ” “ … I haven’t used that since 2008 … ”

Whenever the internet devours brands for making typos more cringeworthy than my parents’ joint Facebook account, I picture these conversations ensuing between writers and supervisors.

Because even though they have access to a stockpile of grammar and spelling tools, they still let typos or poor grammar creep into their copy.

Download our free writing style guide here to eliminate typos and grammatical errors from your own writing.

I empathize with these unlucky writers, though. Typos are inevitable. Sometimes, they tiptoe into my blog posts, and there’s nothing I can do about the embarrassment except lock myself in the nap room and wail into a pillow.

But the 20 pen slips below were so hilarious and shocking that my laughter pierced through all my colleagues’ noise-canceling headphones. I couldn’t stop chuckling at these editing blunders.

So, although our hearts sting for these writers, we decided to share their hysterical typos and grammatical errors. Hopefully, they’ll forget the pain and laugh with us too.

20 Funny Typos, Grammatical Errors & Spelling Mistakes

1) We’re having a little trouble imagining this.

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Image Credit: 11 Points

2) Just found out The Purge actually happened.

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Image credit: ViralNova

3) “When I grow up, I want to be a technincian!”

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Image Credit: WCPO

4) If you think about, it is original.

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Image Credit: Slice

5) Best headline since “Headless Body in Topless Bar”.

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Image credit: The Guardian

6) Ironic Twitter shaming: a dish best served cold.

7) The few and the proud.

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Image credit: ViralNova

8) The one-two typo punch …

First, the poster:

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Image credit: JimRomensko.com

Then, the apology tweet:

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Image credit: The Chronicle of Higher Education

9) We wouldn’t take one.

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Image credit: Cheezburger

10) Did someone actually name their kid Sport?

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Image credit: Flickr

11) Well, at least they admit to their mistakes.

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Image credit: Jazarah!

12) Did they edit this ad in a New York minute?

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Image credit: Engrish and Funny Typos

13) The ultimate silver lining.

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Image credit: ViralNova

14) Apparently, floor cloth won him seven Tour de Frances.

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Image Credit: Slice

15) Is it proper grammar?

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Image Credit: The Huffington Post

16) We’d buy it.

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Image Credit: Pleated Jeans

17) What would happen if you pressed no?

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Image Credit: Pleated Jeans

18) She doesn’t know it yet, but she’s talking about herself.

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Image Credit: ViralNova

19) We hear he’s a little dramatic under water.

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Image Credit: Pleated Jeans

20) Throwback to Googing things.

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Image Credit: Flickr

What’s the worst typo or grammtical error you’ve ever seen? Share your stories in the comments below!

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in June 2013 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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Is Facebook Messenger the New Email? 3 Experiments to Find Out

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Let’s just come out with it: Email is becoming less effective for marketers. It might not be dead yet, but it’s not exactly the shiny new channel it used to be. Just think about your own inbox — how many marketing emails are you subscribed to that you delete without opening? We thought so.

It was with this in mind that we started experimenting with messenger apps. Facebook Messenger boasts 1.2 billion monthly users — clearly there’s appetite for the channel. Could this be a replacement for email? We decided to find out.

Here are three ways we’ve experimented with using Facebook Messenger instead of email in our marketing, along with early results (Spoiler: Get excited).

#1: Using Facebook Messenger as a Content Delivery Channel

Our demand gen team sends out emails on a regular basis featuring new content offers our audience might be interested in. These content offers are typically gated behind a lead form. After completing the form, the prospect is able to access the content immediately, and we also send an email with a PDF copy attached for easy reference later on.

For those keeping track, email is used twice here: first to promote the offer, second to deliver the content. We wanted to cut out one of these email touchpoints, so we decided to send the following offer promotion email as a test:

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We gave readers two options: to submit the form and receive the content immediately and via email — the traditional way — or to skip the form and get immediate access to the content in Facebook Messenger instead. Approximately 20% chose this latter option.

We then sent regular Messenger broadcasts to the people who had opted in, suppressed them from email sends, and studied their behavior.

After four weeks, the engagement metrics of the two channels showed a clear winner.

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The Facebook Messenger broadcasts had an average open rate of 80% and average CTR of 13%. That was 242% and 609% better than our email controls, respectively.

Takeaway for marketers: As a content delivery and consumption channel, Facebook Messenger delivers in terms of engagement.

#2: Getting Event Attendees to Participate Through Facebook Messenger

Have you ever tried to send an email to event attendees with important information? If so, I’m guessing you didn’t see great open or clickthrough rates. When people attend a conference or another type of in-person event, they’re typically off email and in learning and networking mode.

But they do have their phones on them — to check the agenda, answer texts and calls from other people on site, and follow live social streams. We hypothesized that Facebook Messenger might be a better way to get event attendees’ attention during our Grow With HubSpot Melbourne event. We decided to include a link to Facebook Messenger in our attendance confirmation emails, as well as place physical Facebook Messenger scan codes on seats at the event. Attendees could simply scan to start receiving real-time information and updates via the app instead of email.

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We tried two primary use cases:

1) Sales bot. If attendees confirmed their attendance inside Messenger, we set up a bot that would send an automated message on behalf of their local sales rep. The message contained a HubSpot Meetings tool link to the rep’s calendar in case the attendee wanted to set up time onsite.

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The results for this use case on the day of the event:

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The raw number of meetings booked isn’t astronomical, but the percentage by enrolled attendees is significantly higher than similar messaging via email. That percentage increases when we add in the number of meetings booked before the day of the event as well as afterwards. It’s also worth considering that these meetings — with highly qualified prospects — wouldn’t have happened if not for our Messenger usage.

2) Real time NPS. We asked attendees to rate their experience at GwH Melbourne via Messenger.

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The response rate was significantly higher than email controls.

Some other event use cases we’ve been trying out and that you might consider taking for a test drive:

  • View the event agenda in Messenger
  • Submit questions to a panel
  • Access the slides once the conference is over

Takeaway for marketers: Instead of using email to communicate with attendees onsite or direct them to take a specific action, try Facebook Messenger instead. One of Messenger’s greatest strengths is how it seamlessly connects offline and online engagement.

#3: Using Facebook Messenger in Place of Forms

Our team has a set budget for Facebook ads every month, which we typically use for lead generation. Our ads generally feature a piece of content interesting to our target audience. When someone clicks, they are taken to a landing page with a form. Filling out the form gives them access to the content immediately, and also triggers a follow up email with a PDF version attached.

This experience is less than ideal since the person has to leave Facebook to receive their content. We started thinking — what if the entire process, click to content delivery, happened in Facebook?

We tested out a path that used Facebook Messenger for the “form,” as well as the delivery mechanism. When someone clicked the ad, a bot would ask them the questions usually contained in our form:

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Once the questions had all been answered, the bot then provided a link to the content within the message.

The results here were even better than we anticipated. We saw a staggering 477% reduction in our cost per lead, while lead quality only slightly decreased.

Takeaway for marketers: It might take a little muscle to build a Facebook Messenger bot to collect lead information, but the effort is well worth it. Use Facebook ads plus Messenger as a powerful one-two punch.

We’re big believers in the power of Facebook Messenger and other messaging apps. Next up for us is a similar content delivery test in our North American market, studying how the order of questions impacts Facebook Messenger “form” completion rate, and creating a more seamless sync between the app and our HubSpot portal.

Have you been testing Facebook Messenger in your marketing? If so, what results have you seen? Share your experiments and insights with us in the comments below.

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16 Video Marketing Statistics to Inform Your Q4 Strategy [Infographic]

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As marketers find more innovative ways to attract audiences, video has become a meaningful part of the strategic conversation.

Video is long past the status of an “up-and-coming” marketing tactic. It’s here, and it’s an increasingly powerful way to communicate your brand story, explain your value proposition, and build relationships with your customers and prospects. 

The most recent statistics show that video content isn’t just effective — the demand for it is growing at an impressively rapid pace. Did you know, for example, that 43% of people want to see more video content from marketers? Or that 51.9% of marketing professionals worldwide name video as the type of content with the best ROI?

To learn more about how video marketing can help convert customers and increase engagement with your brand, check out the infographic below from Vidyard (and for even more information, check out its Video in Business Benchmark Report). It breaks down 16 compelling video marketing statistics in the context of viewing platforms, distribution channels, business video consumption habits, and more.

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in August 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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The Best New Type of Content to Support a Product Launch: A HubSpot Experiment

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Here at HubSpot, we obsess over our product — how it’s built, where it’s headed, and how we talk about it. Every update, from minor feature tweaks to major product launches, are pored over by a team. Developers and product managers handle the creation and vision of individual products. Product marketers own the story of the product, with the goal of creating the narrative that defines the product.

That story should explain why the product is important, who it was made for, how it can be used, and the value it adds. It’s these stories that bring to life campaigns across marketing and sales, and help us grow. Download our free planner to learn how to step up your SEO traffic in just 30 days.

To execute that well, we’ve had to build a well-established promotion playbook — a guide that outlines what to do, and when, for each type of launch. But a playbook alone doesn’t tell a compelling story: one that not only explains what the product is, but also contains valuable information that can help marketers in the long-term. That content is evergreen, and we thought, “Hey, maybe we should focus on that when we launch something new.”

One of those launches was for our Ads add-on. This is the story of that product — and how we shifted our content strategy playbook for it.

A Test of Evergreen Product Marketing Content and Organic Traffic

The Hypothesis

Content with an evergreen appeal will have more impact on a product launch than our standard, short-term traffic launch posts — even if the evergreen posts take more time and energy to create.”

A piece of content that stays relevant over time is more likely to perform better in organic search and continue to support a product launch for months without decay. In our previous experiments, for example, we’ve found that 92% of our monthly blog leads — not to mention, 76% of monthly blog views — came from posts of this nature.

old posts leads traffic

That contrasts with our typical product launch playbook, which generally includes a few short-term promotional blog posts and other content, the relevance of which has a briefer shelf life, and tends to receive the highest amount of traffic from email subscribers. For example, when we launched new Sales products at INBOUND 2016, we supported the announcement with this blog post, which receives 59% of its traffic from email — versus only 9.9% from organic searches. This month it’s received a grand total of seven views.

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It was the prospect of longer-term impact — which is often accompanied by a high organic search volume — that informed our objective: to build an amazing piece of evergreen content around a product launch that would continue to be useful to marketers (our target audience) for years, while also conveying the key messages of the product’s story. It would not only introduce readers to the value of the new tools, but might also engage our core audience by providing longer-term actionable insights and takeaways.

What We Did

Key Methods

First, we looked at what some of our favorite content creators were producing. One thing that particularly stood out to us was The New York Times “Rent or Buy” calculator: a half-content, half-web-app property that allowed readers to manipulate different quantitative properties on a sliding scale — like home prices or length of stay — but also contained accompanying copy to add context to the resulting calculations.

We needed something like that: a piece of written content that also served as a free tool, and could help people obtain the data they needed before getting the most out of our product. In this case, that product was our Ads add-on.

We knew from conversations with customers that marketers often longed for a seamless way to figure out how much to spend on ads before actually using a product that would measure and display the ROI of that spend. Sure, a free online ad spend calculator wasn’t exactly a new idea, but we wanted to build something different: a piece of content with sliders that allowed marketers to manipulate different inputs.

The Framework

This wasn’t going to be easy. It would require development work, prototyping, and content composition. It would be a considerable investment of time and effort — we estimated about 5X that of typical launch content. If it worked, the experiment would be valuable. But if it didn’t, there was the possibility that, considering the aforementioned resources, it might be a long time before we had the opportunity to test something like this again. It was a big bet — but it was one we were willing to place.

Ultimately, our plan was to launch a central site page that the ads calculator “lived” on, with other supporting initiatives around it. This included:

  • A small email campaign
  • Social media promotion
  • A blog campaign

Success — or the lack thereof — would be measured by the amount of traffic to the central ads calculator page. It launched in July 2016.

Ad Spend Calculator

The Results

Initially, we saw a big spike in the post’s overall page impressions, as well as requests for product demos that were driven by a call to action (CTA) placed at the bottom of the page: 

Ad Spend Calculator

But, there was a catch: It appeared that this spike was largely driven only by the supporting pieces — the email, social media, and accompanying blog promotions.

In the month following the launch, when those pieces were no longer timely, only 673 people visited the page, which was far below our projections and a number that could have been easily achieved from a “normal” blog post. Plus, only 200 of those views came from organic searches, which were generating less traffic than social referrals and direct visits. To say the least, it wasn’t exactly what we were hoping for.

But here’s the thing about evergreen content, and the organic search traffic that you hope will come with it: It’s called long-term traffic for a reason.

For that reason, we didn’t draw any conclusions after the post-launch month, and instead, continued to observe its organic traffic performance month over month. We had faith that our experiment would work, and with the tool working as it should, just left it alone. And sure enough — month over month — organic traffic began to grow.

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Each month, the tool continues to see more traffic. Organic search is now our second-highest source of visits, comprising about half of our best-performing month’s traffic — which was May 2017, close to a year after the launch. As of writing this post, we’ve seen 19,851 total views, over 30% of which are driven from organic searches. What’s more, the end-of-page CTA has generated close to 300 requests for demos of the Ads add-on.

In other words, people are finding the tool useful, coming back, and spending a significant amount of time with it. Each month, organic and referral traffic is growing, signaling that the tool — and the overarching content that accompanies it — can continue to serve a purpose to marketers in the long-term.

What We Learned

This approach to content can absolutely be followed. It is worth mentioning that we have access to front-end developers who were able to build this free tool — if you have those kinds of resources, we encourage you to consider which similar tools you can build that are relevant to your products and services.

But if you’re short on that kind of staffing, we also encourage you to take inventory of your current content, blog posts included, and determine if any of them can be repurposed to serve these same long-term goals. It’s an important question to ask as you create new content, as well as, “Will this still be relevant in a year?”

Often, taking this approach to what you create can extend its shelf life. Can your blog post about a current trend, for example, be broadened or repurposed to cover a larger, more macro trend that will maintain relevance beyond the immediate timeframe?

And while we don’t take this approach for all content, after the success of the Ads Calculator, we do actively seek more opportunities to build something evergreen. We feel strongly that our hypothesis was proven true: that sometimes, producing less, higher-impact, evergreen content works better than one-off posts. We also believe that could indicate a larger trend around different types of media consolidating, like embedded audio within blog posts, or more posts that combine applications with written copy. It’s interactive — and, it provides engaging value for the reader.

Have you used evergreen content in a similar way? Let us know about your best experiments in the comments –and hey, we might even feature it on our blog.

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The 7 Best Office Music Playlists for Productivity

office-music-compressor.jpgNot long after I first started at HubSpot, I was welcomed with a fresh pair of orange, noise-cancelling headphones. At the time, I had no clue that these headphones would carry me through many long work days and some of the deepest, darkest levels of writer’s block. 

Over two years later, they are truly the gift that keeps on giving.

You see, for me, listening to music while working is the secret to my productivity. All it takes is the right 

Beyoncé track, and I go from idle to uber productive. (Seriously, it works like a charm.)

The trouble is, finding the perfect playlist isn’t always easy. With endless streaming music possibilities at my fingertips, it can be hard to nail down just the right tunes to get the wheels turning. So, I did what we do best around here — a little research. Download our complete productivity guide here for more tips on improving your productivity at work.

As it turns out, there are a ton of studies that explore the influence of specific types of music as they relate to your productivity levels. To help you find just the right mix, we’ve sourced and curated seven Spotify playlists designed with specific studies in mind. Whether you’re into Mozart or Chance The Rapper, we’re confident that there’s something on this list that will do the trick.

Note: Some of the playlists contain tracks with explicit language that might not be suitable for the office.

7 Science-Backed Office Music Playlists for Productivity

1) Classical Music

One of the most frequently cited studies related to music and productivity is the “Mozart Effect,” which concluded that listening to Mozart for even a brief period each day can boost “abstract reasoning ability.” The study — led by researchers Gordon Shaw, Frances Rauscher, and Katherine Ky — employed 36 Cal-Irvine students who were divided into three groups. Group one listen to a Mozart selection, while group two listened to a relaxation tape, and group three endured 10 minutes of silence. After the listening activity, all 36 students were issued the same test, in which the Mozart group averaged an eight-to-nine point increase in their IQs, compared to the remaining groups.

Since then, the “Mozart Effect” has been hotly contested, but many researchers have gone on to explore the mental benefits of learning and listening to classical music. One recent study, for example, found that elementary-school-aged children who participated in music composition education outperformed students in a control group on reading comprehension.

Think classical music might work for you? Check out this classical-influenced playlist to find out for yourself:

2) Video Game Soundtracks

“Choosing the right video game soundtrack to work to is all about understanding what type of music motivates vs. distracts you when you need to concentrate,” says HubSpot’s Director of Marketing Acquisition (and former video game marketing consultant) Emmy Jonassen.

“For example, if you’re the type who gets amped and focused listening to high-energy music, rhythm game soundtracks, like those from Thumper or Klang, could work well. Conversely, if you need calm to concentrate, the serene soundtracks from exploration games, like ABZÛ and Journey, may do the trick. With thousands of games releasing every year, including many independent titles, there is a soundtrack to suit everyone’s ear,” she went on to explain.

Think about it: Playing a video game requires a lot of focus. To make it to the next level, players commonly have to avoid traps, dodge obstacles, and discover secret tools that will help them progress to the next level. As a result, the music selection for video games is often very strategic, in that modern soundtracks tend to reflect epic, inspiring cinematic scores rather than just basic sound effects.

And while studies have revealed mixed results, there is evidence to support that gamers can experience improved performance by playing a game with the volume on. For example, when psychology professor Siu-Lan Tan and her colleagues John Baxa and Matt Spackman specifically honed in on the game “Twilight Princess (Legend of Zelda),” they found that participants who played with both music and sound effects off performed worse than those who played with it on.

Want to try it on for size? Check out the playlist below:

3) Nature Sounds

According to psychophysical data and sound-field analysis published in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, listening to “natural” sounds could enhance cognitive functioning, optimize your ability to concentrate, and increase your level of satisfaction.

Think: Waves crashing, birds chirping, streams trickling, and the like.

That could explain why more consumer-facing brands — from Google Home to the newer Noisli — are introducing such ambient sound features to help listeners relax or focus. It might also be behind Spotify’s multiple nature-themed playlists, like this soothing one:

4) Pump Up Songs

After observing that many athletes arrive at the stadium wearing headphones, Kellogg School of Management professor Derek Rucker and three of his colleagues — Loran Nordgren, Li Huang, and Adam Galinsky — set out to answer the question: Does listening to the right kind of music make us feel more powerful or in control?

So, back in 2014, the group of researchers set up a study to gauge how music might influence motivation and subsequent behavior. First, they played several songs for participants in a lab, and asked them — on a scale of one to seven — how powerful, dominant, and determined they felt after listening to each song. There were three “high power” winners: Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” 2 Unlimited’s “Get Ready for This,” and 50 Cent’s “In Da Club.”

Then, to gauge how the music would influence their behavior, they asked participants to listen to the music and then determine whether or not they’d like to go first or second in a debate. As it turned out, those who listened to the high-power playlist volunteered to go first almost twice as often as those who listened to a less powerful playlist.

The lesson? “Just as professional athletes might put on empowering music before they take the field to get them in a powerful state of mind,” Rucker explained, “you might try [this] in certain situations where you want to be empowered.”

Next time you’re looking to feel empowered before a big presentation, interview, or salary review, check out this roundup:

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/carlystec/playlist/7FrzPRe7xpGQb8rIWsRrfW

Want more? Check out my colleague Amanda Zantal-Wiener’s picks here.

5) Instrumental Songs

In 2015, Middle Tennessee State University researchers Carol A. Smith and Larry W. Morris discovered that students who listened to “sedative” music during a test scored higher than those who listened to lyrical music. (That somewhat contrasts their initial findings 39 years earlier, which showed that while music didn’t reveal an impact on test scores, those who listened to “stimulative music” showed a significant increase in worry and highly emotional reactions.)

That isn’t to say that it’s entirely impossible to cross things off your list while listening to songs with words — I actually prefer lyrical music, but my colleague, Amanda Zantal-Wiener, has joked about hip hop verses accidentally slipping into her first drafts when she listens to songs with words. If you’re like she is and find that lyrics are too distracting, you may want to experiment with some instrumental options.

For those times, check out these lyric-less tunes — we promise they won’t put you to sleep:

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/carlystec/playlist/20JBvAYLcKExNOuBKQBdC5

6) “Feel Good” Songs

Buried in deadlines? Trying to unearth yourself from an email mountain after some time out of the office? Regretting that you came back? Whatever’s bugging you, sometimes, the best remedy for productivity loss is a solid dose of “feel good” tunes — you know, the kind that make you spontaneously use a pen as a pantomimed microphone.

But scientifically speaking, music can stimulate the same part of the brain as delicious food and other physical pleasures. Researchers at McGill University, for example, discovered that when participants received the opiod-production-blocking drug naltrexone, they didn’t respond as positively to their favorite tunes as they might normally. The verdict? Our brains are trained to naturally produce these chemicals when we hear our preferred playlist.

And while “feel good” songs vary from person to person, a search for Spotify playlists with those very keywords yields dozens of results. That said, here’s one of our favorites:

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/carlystec/playlist/2MW0CRffl1TptUMYiqSgbH

Can’t get enough? Here are a few more suggestions from my colleague Amanda.

7) White Noise

According to the BBC, about 70% of us work in open-concept work spaces — myself included. And while it’s great to be able to turn our colleagues next door and ask, “Hey, what’s another word for … ?”, many find background chatter distracting.

If that’s the case, you’re certainly not alone — according to a study led by Yamaguchi University, “When carrying out intellectual activities involving memory or arithmetic tasks, it is a common experience for noise to cause an increased psychological impression of ‘annoyance,’ leading to a decline in performance.”

But without an office to call your own, what’s a writer or number-cruncher to do? Neutral, non-verbal background sounds like white noise, which is not the same as nature sounds, can help to block out these distractions — things like the din of a restaurant or shopping mall, an electric fan, or even laundry machines.

And in case you’re wondering — yes. Like all of the above, there is a playlist for that:

So go forth — focus, get pumped, feel good, and rock out.

What are your favorite songs for getting work done? Let us know in the comments.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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