July Social Media News: Snapchat Links, Instagram Photo Replies & More


In the age of the 24-hour news cycle, it’s tough — scratch that — it’s impossible to keep up with every single story that comes out.

And that’s especially true of social media, where new features and apps are launched at a speed that leaves social media marketers wondering, “So … where should I post today?”

That’s why we’ve written this monthly news roundup — to help you keep up and start testing out new features, new products, and stay up on trends. New Call-to-action

From Facebook to Snapchat, from new product launches to small tweaks, here’s a list of what’s new in social media this month. The list isn’t exhaustive, but you can expect to learn the major highlights — what was launched, what changed, and what these stories could mean for marketers.

9 of the Biggest Social Media News Stories This Month

1) Snapchat adds links to posts.

One of Instagram’s biggest competitive advantages over Snapchat was the ability to drive traffic: Brands and verified users could add links to Instagram Stories to drive followers to landing pages, blog posts, and purchase pages. This feature made Instagram a more formidable traffic and lead generation tool — and social media marketers could tie social media efforts directly to traffic generated.

But now, Snapchat offers the same capability — and it’s available to all users, not just a select few.

Users can add links by filming a Snap and tapping the paper clip to add a link, like so:

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(HubSpot customers: We recommend creating a tracking URL when adding links to Instagram and Snapchat Stories so you can calculate direct traffic numbers from the post. Learn how to set one up here.)

2) Snapchat users can add voice filters, change colors, and film multiple Snaps at once.

Another big rollout from Snapchat this month came in the form of expanded filming and editing capabilities.

Now, users can record up to six 10-second Snaps at the same time by holding down the recording button (so as not to interrupt filming) and can quickly and easily post the Snaps all at once. Try this feature out by holding down the record button for as long as you’d like and you’ll see the recording turn over after each 10-second video. Then, the snaps you’ve filmed will show up on the side of your screen that you can pick and choose from when it comes time to post. If you don’t like a Snap, you can click and drag it into the trashcan:

Snapchat licecap.gif

Other new features include the Tint Brush, which lets users change the color of elements of a Snap, and backdrops, which let users choose a fun background, and then highlight a part of their Snap they want to be in the foreground. To access these fun editing tools, tap the scissors icon once you’ve recorded a Snap:


Finally, you can now change the way you sound in Snaps with voice filters, too. Once you record a video, tap the volume icon to choose a squeaky animal voice, a robotic monotone, or an alien accent:

snapchat-licecap-voice filters-1.gif

3) Instagram users can now reply to Stories with photos and videos.

In an effort to keep up with Snapchat, on the other hand, Instagram launched the capability to reply to Instagram Stories and direct messages with photos or videos.

This feature has been in place for a while on Snapchat, so it’s a smart (and competitive) move to roll out a comparable camera feature. This will allow users to connect with friends and brands in the way they please — whether that’s with text, photos, or videos. Neater still — users can add a sticker of the story they’re replying to in order to make it extra meta:

  instagramphotoreply1.png instagramphotoreply2.png  

Source: Instagram

4) Facebook is rolling out custom audiences based on interaction with Instagram Business pages.

Facebook has started the rollout of targeting audiences on Facebook based on their prior interactions with Instagram Business profiles. Advertising on Facebook and Instagram was already advantageous, because advertisers could analyze user interactions with different topics and types of content — but soon, Facebook advertisers will be able to see which business pages specifically convert well. Then, advertisers can target users — and curate ad content — accordingly.

FacebookCustomAudiencesInstagramBusinessProfile-1.jpgSource: Adweek

5) Users can broadcast on Facebook Live in Spaces, Facebook’s VR communities.

Remember when we announced the launch of Spaces earlier this year? Facebook launched a new capability with Oculus that lets friends connect 1:1 or in groups of friends — in full virtual reality (VR).

Depending on your opinion of social media eroding in-person relationships, Spaces is a unique way to connect and engage in a high-tech way. And now, users can broadcast from Facebook Spaces using Facebook Live, so their entire Facebook audiences can see what they’re up to.

For brands and individuals who’ve seen success and engagement using Facebook Live, this could be a cool way to stand out in the busy News Feed. Check it out in action below:


6) Facebook may begin testing a subscription service with publishers this fall.

facebook instant articles bee-1.png Source: Facebook

The Street reported this month that Facebook would be launching a subscription service with publishers later this year.

Tests will begin in October, and the service will involve Facebook’s Instant Articles — the already successful and popular publishing platform on the social network. Facebook and publishers will create a paywall after users read 10 articles per month, at which point they’ll be directed to a landing page encouraging them to subscribe.

This announcement is part of Facebook’s ongoing partnership with publishers as part of the Facebook Journalism Project, a Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch. This move will be sure to make publishers happy — especially considering 66% of Facebook users get their news from the site.

7) Twitter users can mute new accounts and people they don’t know.

In another step toward improving user safety and preventing harassment, Twitter added a capability that lets users mute newly registered accounts, or accounts that don’t follow you. If an abusive user is blocked or suspended from tweeting, they might simply open a new account to continue harassing other Twitter users, and this measure lessens their visibility and prevents targeted users from seeing abusive content.

8) LinkedIn launches native video.

LinkedIn started rolling out a native video feature in a nod to the growing popularity of this content format across platforms. My colleague, Ryan Bonnici, noticed this on his LinkedIn feed recently, and once it rolls out to all users (it’s currently being tested among a few users and brands), we’ll give you a full rundown of how to use it.

ryan bonnici linkedin native video.png

9) Amazon launches Spark, the shoppable social network for Prime users.

In a nod to the popularity of shoppable Instagram posts and lifestyle content on Pinterest, Amazon launched a social sharing platform for Amazon Prime subscribers. It’s available within the Amazon mobile app, where users can share visual content and tag different products available for purchase — where else? — on Amazon.

Download the Amazon mobile app and check it out:

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Did we miss any news this month? Start a discussion in the comments below.

free social media content calendar template

How We Increased the Readership of Buffer’s Blog to Over 1.5 Million Visits

Every company is a media company these days, and Buffer is no different.

We started the Buffer Social blog in January 2011 and since then it has been a key component in the success of the company. We have published more than 1,000 posts—and we’re honored to receive more than 1.5 million visits every month.

It’s been a long, challenging journey, though.

We first hit one million sessions in a calendar month during March 2015—a full 4 years after launching—and after months of floating around 1.1 to 1.2 million sessions, and struggling to break out, we hit 1.5m sessions in May 2017.

You can check out our growth below:

During our journey from zero to more than 1.5 million monthly visits, we’ve learned a ton and would love to share some of our lessons with you today.

Ready to jump in?

run buffer blog header image

The 3-step system behind our blog growth

In this post, we’ll draw back the curtains and share the three step process we use to grow this blog:

  1. Audience
  2. Cadence
  3. Promotion

Feel free to click on the bullet point that interests you the most to skip to that step.

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1. Audience

Understanding what content our audience craves

The content you read here is as likely to be about the evolution of social media, how to create amazing social media content, or little-known tips and tricks as it is about the latest Buffer developments and features (we also share all our culture related content on our Open blog, too).

Our hope is that these posts reflect the needs of our customers as well as the perspectives and views of the writers, editors, and strategists that make up Buffer’s marketing team. And in turn, we hope a few readers would become Buffer customers, eventually.

Before thinking of blog post ideas, it’s helpful to understand what your readers want from you. Otherwise, you’re shooting in the dark and hoping everything works out.

After several iterations of our content and through studying our blog posts data, we uncovered that our audience enjoys our long-form, educational blog posts.

Knowing that has helped us to decide what types of blog posts to write. And no matter what type of post we’re creating, the aim is to help marketers and small businesses to become more successful on social media.

Try this

To find out what your readers want, you could study the performance of your existing blog posts or ask your readers directly through on-page surveys like Hotjar Polls.

How we come up with blog post ideas

It can be challenging to continually create high-quality, valuable pieces of content on a weekly basis.

As an established blog, you can run the risk of dropping your standards or hoping that creativity can be scheduled in order to hit a certain number of posts in any given month.

At Buffer, we do our best to avoid that way of thinking.

Although we aim to publish twice per week (more on how we decided on that cadence a little later), we always strive for the utmost quality and the sweet spot between content we know will get traffic and content that delivers value to our readers (and Buffer).

For example, we might write about the latest social media trends or platform features, but you won’t see us commenting on a potential Mark Zuckerburg presidential run just for some quick traffic.

Here are the various ways we come up with blog post ideas:

Keywords: Ranking for keywords around social media marketing, such as “social media analytics”, has gradually become a top focus for us. We tend to research keyword opportunities and then come up with ideas around them.

Inspiration: We keep an eye out for popular discussions in the industry such as falling organic reach on Facebook and brainstorm ideas around each topic.

News: Whenever a social media platform launches a new feature such as Instagram Stories and Facebook Stories, we like to help our readers understand what the update means for their business.

Past experience: We come up with ideas based on posts that have performed well. For instance, when our post on headline formulas performed well, we thought of ideas like copywriting formulas and storytelling formulas.

Intuition: Sometimes you just have to trust your gut. Occasionaly we’ll come up with post ideas based on the intuition we’ve built up over years of running the blog.

blog post ideas

How we decide which posts to write

We come up with many ideas but they don’t all get published on our blog.

When assessing an idea, we think about the following questions:

  • Is this relevant to marketers or small business owners working on their social media?
  • Does this help them solve a challenge they face at work?
  • Has this been written before? If yes, can we add more value to the topic?
  • Is there interest in this topic? (Sometimes, that means looking at the search volume for the keyword or Google Trends data)

When we can answer “yes” to these questions, we would pick that idea and move it to the “Pipeline” column on our Trello board.

Try this

Come up with a set of criteria relevant to your blog goals. Writing only blog posts that meet your criteria can help to keep the quality of your content high.

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2. Cadence

Finding the right cadence to meet our goals

Over the years we’ve realized the importance of editorial cadence and heading into 2017, we decided it was something we wanted to focus on heavily.

After some experimentation, we realized we needed to do the following:

  • Publish consistently: We had tried publishing four or five times per week, but found that our standards were dropping and we were on the losing side of the quantity vs quality battle. We’ve found that two new blog posts plus our podcast show notes per week feels like the perfect amount of content.
  • Plan ahead: By planning our content up to four-six weeks ahead of publishing, we have plenty of time to research and plan how each new piece of content will be promoted.

To aid us with this, we use a handy Trello calendar power-up that displays cards with due dates in a weekly or monthly format. We use the monthly calendar to help us organize our editorial schedule and give us a quick overview of the following few weeks.

Planning ahead and giving ourselves more time to edit our content has been one of the key factors in unlocking our growth and reaching the 1.5-million milestone. This has enabled us to take the utmost care with every post to ensure the quality is right when we want it to be when we hit ‘publish’.

Try this

I would recommend experimenting and finding a suitable editorial cadence based on your content goals and the amount of time you have. There is no one right editorial cadence. HubSpot publishes several articles a day while Backlinko publishes less than once a month.

2 ways we streamline our editorial communication

1. Keeping everything in one place 

Slack, email, Discourse…

Communication can get a little overwhelming at times. To counter this we have all the key discussions in the respective blog post Trello cards. Even if we discuss something related to a blog post in Slack or on video calls, we’ll make a note in the Trello card.

This serves two purposes:

  1. Single reference point: Instead of having to look through Slack or trying to remember what we discussed five days ago on the video call, we know we can find all the key information about an idea on its Trello card.
  2. Information transparency: By having the information on Trello, we can keep the relevant team members in the loop even if they missed the Slack or Zoom conversation.

key information in one place

Try this

Find a tool that suits your content system. For us, it’s Trello.

If you are already using a tool for your content system, lean into it and use it to store all the key information about your content.

2. Making time to chat face-to-face

Ash, our blog editor, and I have a weekly meeting every Tuesday where we talk about all things related to our blog.

This is a practice that content crafters at Buffer have been doing since the start of the blog. These recurring meetings encourage us to reflect on our recent work and think how we can improve.

Here’s what Ash and I usually do during our content syncs nowadays:

  • Review recent blog post performance
  • Discuss blog post ideas that are being worked on now or that are planned for the next few weeks
  • Discuss interesting social media or marketing news
  • Share well-written blog posts we read recently
  • Brainstorm new blog post ideas

You don’t have to keep to the same agenda but I would recommend at least reviewing the results your recent blog posts and refining your content strategy.

Try this

Have a content sync with your editors and writers at least once a week. If you are the only writer, you could meet with your team lead or a teammate who is keen.

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3. Promotion

Focusing on content promotion, not just creation

Derek Halpern of Social Triggers likes to spend 80 percent of his time promoting his content:

“It’s smarter to find another 10,000 people to consume what you’ve already created as opposed to creating more.

“Or, in other words, create content 20% of the time. Spend the other 80% of the time promoting what you created.

We are far from spending 80 percent of our time promoting our blog posts but here are two things we do to share our content with more people.

4 ways we promote our content

1. Repurposing blog posts for social media

We repurpose our blog posts into content suitable for each social media platform. For instance, here’re some things we do:

  • Brian Peters, our Digital Marketing Strategist, creates Instagram stories with the key points of the blog post and invites our Instagram followers to check out the full post on our blog.
  • He also creates short videos using the content in the blog posts to share on Twitter and Facebook. We found that videos have been receiving more engagement and, consequently, more reach on social media than links.
  • I republish our blog posts on Medium, often with a different headline and shorter content.

Instead of simply sharing a link to each social media platform, we found that customizing the post for each platform such as adding videos for Facebook has generated more engagement from our fans.

While doing this might not always drive traffic to our blog, I believe it helps our followers gain trust in the content that we create. And next time, when they are looking for help on social media marketing, maybe they will think of the Buffer blog first.

2. Building a loyal newsletter following

Despite the rumors, email is not dead (and I can’t see it dying anytime soon).

Our email list is often the #1 driver of traffic to our content on the day it’s published and provides us with a way to get our content in front of our most avid readers.

We are grateful that many people have signed up to receive our blog newsletter over the years, even after we stopped growing our email list actively. We send them an email whenever we publish a new blog post or once every week.

With about 100,000 subscribers, each of our new blog posts gets about 1,000 to 2,000 visits from these subscribers on the first day alone. (The conversion rate is definitely something we can work on.)

Try this

Having a newsletter following has allowed us to share our content with a group of readers who would read our new blog posts whenever they are published. If you wish to build a loyal readership and grow your blog, consider growing an email list for your blog.

3. Paying attention to long-term traffic (SEO)

Often, our content ideas come from an amalgamation of the methods listed above. And in most cases, we aim to generate long-term search traffic for each of the posts we publish.

Our blog post on Instagram algorithm is a great example. We knew it’s a popular topic among social media marketers, and people are searching for “instagram algorithm” on Google (about 4,000 searches per month).

By understanding the term people are searching for on Google for this topic and writing a well-researched, high-quality piece, the blog post was able to rank on the first page of Google and has been bringing in 600 to 800 views per day since we published it.

Long-Term Traffic Example

We believe this focus on bringing in long-term search traffic to new posts has helped unlock growth for the blog in the recent months.

Try this

If you want to generate long-term search traffic for your blog posts, learning how to do keyword research is a great place to start. Here are a few resources to get you started:

How To Do Keyword Research – The Beginners Guide to SEO by Moz
Keyword Research for SEO: The Definitive Guide by Backlinko
How To Do Keyword Research in 2017 by Ahrefs

4. Craft headlines that attract readers

A great headline can bring people to a blog post from RSS feeds, social media, and search engines.

David Ogilvy, once wrote, “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy”. In fact, we found that as many as 78 times more people read the headline on Twitter than read the blog post.

Inspired by Upworthy’s editorial process of writing 25 headlines per article, I would come up with at least 20 headline ideas for each blog post. Not all of them are great but each of them helps me come up with a better headline.

I often refer to this blog post on headline formulas to help me brainstorm. We also use YoRocket, a WordPress plugin that analyzes and suggests improvements for our blog post headline.

The 20 headlines also come in handy when we want to share the blog post on social media more than once. I would share those headlines in the Trello card with Brian Peters, our Digital Marketing Strategist, who would promote the blog post on social.

headline ideas

Try this

For each of your blog post, brainstorm at least 20 headlines before settling on one. Here are some of our go-to headline formulas:

Headline + Headline (E.g. Understanding the Instagram Algorithm: 7 Key Factors and Why the Algorithm is Great for Marketers)
Item and Item: Listicle (E.g. Optimal Timing, Videos, and More: 10 Easy Ways to Boost Your Instagram Reach)
The Complete / Ultimate / Beginner’s Guide to ____ (E.g. A Complete Guide to Instagram Marketing: Get the Playbook That Drives Results for Instagram’s Top Profiles)

Bonus: Relaunch older posts to boost traffic

Many topics we cover on the blog such as social media tools or social media marketing budget are evergreen topics.

But as things change quickly in the social media landscape, the information in a blog post can become outdated quickly.

So instead of just writing new blog posts, we also update existing blog posts on evergreen topics that have outdated information or even more potential for traffic through search. This keeps our blog posts relevant and useful for our readers.

For example, when we updated our social media analytics tools post in March 2017, the daily traffic more than doubled from about 300 to 700:

content relaunch

(The two spikes of traffic came from our RSS feed and email digest).

Try this

Briefly, here’re the 3 steps of a content relaunch:

1. Identify underperforming content: Brian recommends looking for posts that rank 7th to 15th on Google, posts where organic traffic has fallen, posts that underperformed, and posts that are good but could be better.

2. Improve and update that content: Some of Brian’s suggestions are updating the images and screenshots, improving the post’s structure, and adding a new case study.

3. Republish your post: The last step is to update the “Published” date in WordPress to today (the day of the relaunch). That will bring the blog post to the top of your blog.

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If you’d like to get traffic from social media by sharing your blog posts there, we’d love to help you. Try our 14-day free trial and experience the difference today. 

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Thinking about vanity metrics and 1.5 million thank you’s

Having over a 1.5 million visits per month is great but you could also argue it’s a vanity metric. And you’d probably be right.

As content crafters at Buffer, we’re in the business of selling software. We don’t take a direct, hardline approach to this, but our content is essentially here to increase our reach, build our brand, and in-turn drive Buffer’s sign ups and revenue figures in the right direction.

Alongside traffic, we also pay close attention to the number of Buffer customers referred by the blog, and the monthly recurring revenue figures generated by those customers.  These metrics give us a better sense, in quantitative terms, of how the blog is providing business value.

In our case, increased traffic seems to correlate pretty well with some of our more meaningful metrics like sign ups—as our traffic grows, so does the number of signups and revenue generated. That said, we’re keen to do a bunch more to optimize these flows and see how we can maximize the value of every visit we receive to the blog, without compromising reader experience.

Overall, we’re happy with the progress of the blog, and we hope you found this blog post useful. If you have any questions about our editorial process, feel free to ask them in the comments section below.

And, finally, thanks a million for being one of our readers. We truly appreciate it 🎉

How Not To Respond to Marketo’s Fail, Starring Act-on

Yesterday was a painful day for Marketo customers—Curata included. For nearly an entire business day, we were left waiting for Marketo services to come back online. It impacted not only the marketer, but their end goals: generating leads and revenue through digital experiences. It hurt. Bad.

Even worse? It seems the issue stemmed from forgetting to renew the marketo.com domain.

Facepalm GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

I could just see the counter vigorously ticking away at the number of f-bombs that must have been collectively dropped across MKTO HQ yesterday. How embarrassing.

Not surprisingly, there was a TON of online activity around the matter.

Reactions to Marketo Going Down





There was also a slew of email and online advertising campaigns that came my way. One in particular generated a colorful dialogue between my team and our CEO. The below email came from Act-On, a Marketo competitor Curata reviewed when it first launched in 2013.

Act-on's not so classy marketo email

I’ll give it to Act-on, they moved fast, but it really rubbed me the wrong way. And this is coming from a former Eloqua employee who lived and worked through a very passionate rivalry with the big purple guys in the early 2000’s where finding new and better ways to out-market each other was a non-stop extreme sport!

Here’s why I didn’t like it:

  • My mom always said, “Do unto others…” We all have bad days. Will Act-On be looking over their shoulders from now until their bad day comes?
  • The channel was wrong. How effective is this mass email to existing Marketo customers going to be? Yes, yesterday was painful, but would I be willing to uproot arguably the core of my marketing tech stack over one bad day?
  • There were so many better ways Act-On could have leveraged the #MarketoFail. Here are three that sprang to mind during a sleepless night.

Three Ways Act-On Could’ve Played the #MarketoFail Better

  1. Be Helpful and Add Value—like RevEngine Marketing did with their blog and email effort, “What Should You Do Once Marketo is Back?
  2. Share a Good Laugh and Generate Social Buzz—Clearly Act-On knows some Marketo customers. Imagine if they had local employees drop off a handful of puzzles or board games to local Marketo customers with a subtly branded note card that read “Use these instead of twiddling your thumbs while Marketo’s down.” For those not reachable physically—email a gift certificate to the iTunes or Google Play store to download a premium game. I don’t know about you, but if I got that message, I would’ve laughed and told my team about it. Then I would’ve snapped a pic and posted it to our social channels as a great (and clever) marketing campaign and logged Act-On as a company with a smart marketing machine.
  3. Use a Spear, Not a Net—I’m not that naive. This kind of major mistake is like striking oil for a sales team. So arm them to use it. Have them call their open opportunities and offer that helpful and value-adding content from idea #1 as a connect point. Heck—consider offering a promotional discount to the known Marketo opportunities who are considering moving.

Not everyone had the same reaction to the Act-On email as I did. My CEO thought it was quite clever! But what’s your take? Was Act-on’s email smart or stupid?

[End rant]

The post How Not To Respond to Marketo’s Fail, Starring Act-on appeared first on Curata Blog.

How to Decide What to Blog About: 6 Data-Driven Tactics for Choosing Blog Topics

blog-topics.pngHave you ever written a blog post you were sure was destined to go viral? You spent hours crafting each sentence — positive that your audience would devour each word, shared it on every possible social platform, and knew it would propel to internet fame in a matter of mere hours.

You even thought about changing your LinkedIn headline to “Marketing Guru” — because why not? You were about to become one.

Sadly, your digital utopia was just a fantasy. The post — as some inexplicably tend to do — tanked. But while you were writing it, you would’ve bet your life it would break the internet. So what the heck happened?

As marketers, we often succumb to a cognitive bias called the overconfidence effect. Since we’re technically experts, we tend to overestimate our industry knowledge and our ability to predict content performance.

This can lead us to rely on our intuition more than data when we brainstorm new blog ideas. Since we like our own ideas, we think our audience will too.

But just because we like our own post, doesn’t mean our audience wants to read it.

Instead of relying on our own personal taste, we need to let our audience’s behaviors and preferences drive our new blog ideas — or else we risk publishing irrelevant content.

Analyzing audience data before ideation is crucial for crafting desirable content. Take a look below to learn six data-driven tactics for choosing the topics your audience actually wants to read.

6 Data-driven Tactics for Choosing Blog Topics

1) Find Out What’s Already Working for You

The most accessible data source that can inform your blog strategy are your own metrics. You just need to tag each of your blog posts with their respective topic first. By categorizing your blog posts, you can measure each topic’s performance with data analysis tools like excel or HubSpot’s Content Strategy tool.

The performance metrics you decide to track depend on your marketing goals. At HubSpot, page views largely determine a topic’s success, but other metrics like time on page, subscribers gained, or leads generated can also indicate whether a topic resonates with your audience or not. It’s crucial to determine a key business objective you want your blog to serve and monitor the metrics that indicate its success.

It’s also valuable to take into account how many posts you publish on each topic. You want to make sure you’re serving your audience’s true interests and not overlooking potentialy fruitful topics.

For instance, let’s say HubSpot’s blog posts about display advertising and video marketing generate the same amount of total traffic. On the surface, it seems like our audience enjoys these topics equally, right?

But a particular topic’s total traffic might not tell the full story. What if we publish display advertising posts three times more often than video marketing posts?

This means publishing 30 display advertising posts produces the same total traffic that 10 video marketing posts produce. In other words, video marketing posts are three times more effective than display advertising posts.

By cutting display advertising out of our content mix and writing more video marketing posts, we’d serve our audience’s interests better and generate more traffic with less content.

Here’s a concrete example of what I’m talking about:

Old Blog Strategy

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New Blog Strategy

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When you analyze your blog topics, use the average or median views per post to paint the clearest picture of your audience’s preferences. Looking at a topic’s total traffic without accounting for post quantity could make you prioritize a topic that your audience doesn’t really care about.

2) See What Works For Your Competitors

Odds are, you and your competitors have a very similar audience. This means their most popular content could potentially be your most popular content too.

Consider using a tool like BuzzSumo or EpicBeat to analyze your competitor’s most shared topics. Are they writing about something that would interest your own audience?

Once you discover their top performing content, ask yourself how you can improve upon their work. It’s fine to cover the same overarching topics as a competitor, but you should offer your own unique perspective and provide new insights to your audience.

3) Read Your Audience’s Conversations Online

As a writer who blogs about inbound marketing, I constantly comb through Inbound.org and the Content Marketing Institute LinkedIn group because they’re full of fodder for my best blog ideas.

Marketers post questions to these sites every day. And since they publicly display their professional information, you can tie their inquiries to your buyer personas. This helps clarify your personas’ needs and makes it easier to personalize content for them.

On Inbound.org, I like to scan the Discussions section where the top marketing questions of the week live. When someone posts a question about a topic we want to cover, I check to see if that person’s role aligns with one of our buyer personas. If so, I write down a blog post idea that answers their question and pitch it at our monthly brainstorm.

If you don’t blog about marketing, then you can search for your audience’s questions on Quora. Just type in your topic and you’ll find loads of relevant questions. If an overwhelming pile of questions presents itself, then just check out your topic’s top followers and read the questions they’ve answered about your topic.

Check out the tutorial below if you need more clarification.

4) Leverage Google’s People Also Ask Box

If one of your chosen topics resonates particularly well with your audience, and you want to keep leveraging its popularity, Google it to discover related search terms. When you search for a term in Google, you’ll see a “People Also Ask” box pop up beneath your entry, like this:

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Think of these queries as high-demand topics that branch off of your main topic. If your audience loves consuming content about your main topic, then they’ll likely devour content about its related topics.

5) Survey Your Blog Subscribers

Is there a better way to capture your audience’s reading preferences than surveying your own audience?

Before you send out your surveys, though, you should know that not all your subscribers will pounce at the chance to provide feedback. But that’s where incentives come in. Consider offering respondents the chance to win a prize, like a gift certificate, to encourage feedback.

Every time we incentivize subscribers to complete our blog surveys, we see much more participation than when we don’t dangle any carrots.

6) Ask Sales and Success About Your Customers’ Pain Points

Sales and customer success help consult your prospects and customers everyday, so they have the firmest grasp of your audience’s actual needs and pain points. Collaborating with these teams is the best way to pinpoint your readers’ most pressing issues.

To better understand your prospects and customers’ struggles, you could set up a monthly meeting with sales and success or ask them to jot down the most common problems and the content recommendations that would likely solve them.

How do you research new blog ideas? Tell us in the comments below!

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AI in Marketing: 10 Early Use Cases


Just a short while ago, robots were the stuff of fiction.

Sure, artificially intelligent beings graced movie screens and the pages of novels, but the robot revolution hadn’t arrived yet. Maybe in another few decades, along with flying cars.

But the truth is, artificial intelligence is already here, and you probably engage with it more than you think.

As it turns out, you’re not alone. We surveyed more than 1,000 consumers and determined that 63% of respondents were already using AI technologies — they just didn’t realize it.

And that’s because AI technologies are being developed, in part, to help make humans’ lives easier by independently — and intelligently — completing tasks for them.

AI is already in use in a myriad of marketing use cases. From content curation, to SEO, to email marketing, different tools are already being used by brands — not only to make human marketers’ lives easier, but to make them better at their jobs. When processes are optimized and made faster by technology, not only can businesses achieve better outcomes, but humans also have more time freed up for critical thinking, data analysis, and long-term planning when they aren’t bogged down with more rote tasks.

Here’s a rundown of how forward-thinking brands are already using AI in marketing.

10 Marketing Use Cases for AI

1) Website Design

AI can assist marketers in a variety of use cases — even from the very beginning of the marketing process — including the building of the website.

The Grid uses AI named Molly to design websites, and a few creators are already using platforms “she” has built.

The Grid’s value proposition? Molly can build websites at a fraction of the time — and cost — it would require hiring a team of developers and software engineers to complete the same task. The Grid starts at less than $100 per year for one website — a bargain compared to a salary.

Creators can input content into The Grid — like images, text, and calls-to-action — and Molly builds the site using the power of AI. Check out the demonstration below:

2) Content Creation

Content writers might think jobs are safe from being replaced by AI, and for now, that’s mostly true. But tools like Wordsmith and Quill are already being used by the likes of The Associated Press and Forbes to create clickable news content. Using templates and fill-in-the-blanks to enter relevant data and keywords, these tools can generate unique written content that actually reads like it was written by a human. (Maybe not a Pulitzer Prize-winning human, but the sentences and stories make sense.)

Here’s an example from The Associated Press:


Then, marketers can edit AI-generated content using Hemingway App, a simple AI that makes prose bolder, clearer, and more concise by highlighting complex sentences and suggesting different word choices, as shown below:


3) Content Curation

There’s nothing worse than the moment when you finish an amazing new series on Netflix. But luckily, you can usually start binge-watching another show right away — thanks to the power of AI.

Brands like Netflix and Amazon are already using AI to curate recommendations to keep customers engaged and consuming and continuing to subscribe. Using AIs like IBM Watson, brands can learn more and more about consumers by analyzing their behavior — and providing curated content and recommendations for them.

Under Armour uses data from Watson to customize emails it sends to its app users, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art uses an “artbot” that answers requests to see specific types of art with curated photographs and paintings. I tried out the artbot below — send it a request at 572-51:


4) Search

AI has already had a tremendous impact on the way users conduct online searches, and, in turn, that’s changing the way marketers create and optimize content.

Two big AI advances have changed online searches — and search engine optimization: voice search, and Google’s RankBrain.

Innovations like the Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple’s Siri, and Microsoft’s Cortana make it easier for people to conduct searches with just the press of a button and voice command. That means the terms they’re searching for are changing, too — now, instead of typing in “restaurants in Boston,” users can ask a device, “where should I go to dinner tonight?” 

RankBrain is Google’s machine-learning algorithm that was created to deliver more relevant search results. It interprets queries and, using the power of AI, serves up the best possible results according to what it interprets from the language. For example, if you searched for “president” on Google in the United States, RankBrain might interpret that you wanted information about the current president and would serve you information about the individual — and not just the office of government. 

Conversational search queries and algorithms are changing thanks to AI — and, in turn, these changes are forcing search engine marketers and content creators to adapt. Long-tail keywords have been replaced by conversational keywords, and writing blog post after blog post about every topic imaginable has been replaced by the topic cluster keyword strategy, as outlined in the video below. In fact, we’re adapting our blogging strategy to this new model here at HubSpot — and that’s partly because of AI.

5) Marketing Automation

Brands are using the power of AI to customize marketing emails based on customer preferences and behavior to engage them more and — hopefully — prompt them to convert or make a purchase. 

Using tools like Boomtrain, brands can send out customized email newsletters based on previous interactions recipients have had with content. AI helps send customized, personalized content recipients might be more likely to interact with — and click through.

Online lingerie brand Adore Me used Optimove‘s AI to segment its customer list into different types of prospects and customers to increase purchases and subscribers to its membership pricing program. The AI automated the segmentation process and started sending customized content based on each recipient’s lifecycle stage via email, text messages, and in-app notifications. Segmenting customers and contacting them on different platforms helped Adore Me increase its monthly recurring revenue (MRR), average sales price (ASP), along with doubling its active customer base.

When it comes to marketing automation, AI can free up valuable human marketers’ time — and quickly create more targeted marketing materials that convert better among customers.

6) Social Media

What’s wonderful about social media is its ability to connect people from around the world to talk about and share topics or stories they care about. It’s something users have clearly gleaned to — considering that global social media users number in the billions.

Of course, that also means advertisers want to capitalize on social media’s popularity — and not all advertisers are good advertisers.

So platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have made it easier for social media users to hide ad content they don’t like or derive value from — and this information helps customize the user experience for them while providing advertisers and publishers with more audience insights on the platforms.

Here’s an example of an ad I can hide on Facebook — and I can even choose a reason why I don’t want to see it:

linkedin-hide-ad-2.png  linkedin-hide-ad.png

Platforms use these insights to algorithmically curate a news feed better suited to user preferences, and ad buyers don’t have to waste money serving ads users have already indicated they don’t like.

Facebook is using AI to mitigate and prevent websites from sharing content that provides a bad user experience. It’s training artificial intelligence to identify and recognize patterns in low-quality sites — things like little original content, clickbait headlines, and multiple disruptive ads. These low-quality links — and the original domain — will be penalized in the News Feed and likely result in significant decreases in traffic for the publisher.

7) Images

Do you like playing around with neat filters and facial lenses that turn you into a dog, a bumblebee, or a cat on Snapchat? These augmented reality capabilities are powered by AI image recognition.

Using neural networks to recognize and identify shapes and faces, Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram have made it possible for you to barf rainbows, turn into a cute animal, or swap faces with your friend — to horrifyingly funny results.

cat-snapchat-faceswap.jpgSource: BoredPanda

These disappearing messaging platforms are used by millions of people worldwide — not only for private communication with friends, but also by brands trying to connect with audiences on a more authentic and personal level. Through the power of AI, brands can connect with people in unique and personal ways where audiences are spending time online — namely, on social media.

8) Advertising

If you’ve purchased keyword ad space using GoogleAdWords lately, you’ve already used AI — in the form of its automated bidding system. Advertisers can automatically bid for the lowest possible cost per click (CPC) to efficiently and effectively capture traffic from Google results.

And now, Adgorithms has AI that they want to take over entire advertising campaigns — named Albert. Programming advertising will make up the majority of ad buying going forward, but Albert will handle the bidding, integration, management, and execution of ad campaigns across platforms — from email, to search engines. to social media.

Human marketers and business leaders tell Albert about a campaign’s desired outcome, target audience, and geographic area, and “he” handles the rest. And because Albert is AI, he works a lot faster than people, and he can identify different audience niches and buying patterns by analyzing data, too.

Harley-Davidson of NYC started using Albert, and “he” made triple the sales the in-person dealership typically made in a single week. The brand credits Albert for its 40% motorcycle sales growth and 566% growth in website visits.

9) Chatbots

Lots of brands have started communicating with customers using messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Slack. It’s fast, customers are already using these tools to communicate with friends and coworkers, and let’s face it — sometimes, you just don’t want to hop on a phone call to get an answer.

And chatbots seek to make that process even easier. GrowthBot seeks to provide answers to commonly-asked questions about marketing and sales professionals — without them having to hunt down the information themselves. 

Here’s how GrowthBot works in action on Slack: Users can ask specific questions about different industries and brands, and the highly technical answers are served up quickly without having to track them down:



Chatbots’ wealth of information — like GrowthBot’s — helps marketers and salespeople quickly find and analyze information about their industries and competitors to get their jobs done more efficiently. Neat, huh?

10) Sales Handoff

And finally, once marketers have successfully created content that’s generated leads ready to work with a salesperson, AI can assist with the handoff process.

Conversica created AI named “Angie” to work for CenturyLink, one of the world’s largest telecommunications providers. CenturyLink needed help identifying hot leads among the thousands of leads it generates every day from its large presence online and in media. Angie sends initial emails to new leads to determine if they’re ready to talk to a human sales representative — which saves reps time and effort, more efficiently segments leads, and saves CenturyLink money on hiring another human being.

At CenturyLink, Angie can identify 40 hot leads per week, and for every dollar spent on “her,” she brings in $20 in revenue. The AI can understand 99% of email replies sent when “she” reaches out to leads — which saves the company time and helps leads communicate on their desired platform.

What About Me?

At this point, learning about all of the use cases for AI in marketing might be giving you a bit of anxiety about your own job security. If that’s the case, you’re not alone.

While it’s true that part of the appeal of using AI is its low cost and high levels of efficiency, there are only so many things AIs can replicate. In fact, some of the best use cases for AI in this blog post involve AIs and humans working together to solve problems and achieve goals faster and more efficiently. So don’t think of AI like a robot trying to steal your job — think of AI like technology that will make your job easier, much like computers and internet did over the last century.

If anything, the growth of AI in marketing might make you excited about a future where you have more time freed up for higher-level projects, and more rote tasks are taken off your plate. Learn more about how AI is used and the future of artificial intelligence from new HubSpot research.

Which AI technologies will you consider implementing? Share with us in the comments below.

AI Story

AI and Big Data Are Changing Our Attention Spans


What catches your attention?

The business of answering that question attracts hundreds of billions of dollars every year. As long as there have been things to buy, there’s been a market for human attention.

Long ago, capitalizing on human attention consisted of little more than the call of a street vendor over the din of a crowded village market.

Much later, the first one cent copies of The Sun hit the streets of New York, inspired by the realization of its editor that it was much more valuable to sell each reader’s attention to advertisers than to make money off newspaper sales directly.

Today, that concept has been taken to an extreme. Thousands of algorithms on millions of servers auction off your every click and tap, anticipating which emails you’ll open, which search results you’ll read, even how your eye might dart around the page.

Google and Facebook rely almost exclusively on directly reselling human attention. Machines are starting to help optimize email subject lines and article titles based on what might catch your eye. The playbook is simple: attract human attention with cheap or free stuff — cheap newspapers, Google search, interesting reading material — and optionally resell that attention to the highest bidder.

Where are we headed? In the face of this transformation, what can we expect? Answering these questions is hard. To go any further, it’s important to understand how attention works.

How Attention Works

Your attention is like a spotlight cast on a stage. You’re the spotlight operator. You can point the spotlight at specific things on stage, but you can’t control what actually appears on the stage.

The stage is your awareness, and it contains the sum total of information accessible to your mind at this moment. That includes the words on your screen, the sensation of pressure from your chair, and background noises in your environment, as well as the never-ending stream of random thoughts that pop up in your head.

As you read this, you are volitionally casting your spotlight on the words you’re reading. You’ll keep this up for a little while, but inevitably, the spotlight will move without your permission, attracted by an unexpected noise behind you, or someone walking into your field of view, or a stray thought about what you want for lunch.

This is the nature of attention. It darts around, scanning continuously for what’s interesting. This was an invaluable benefit in our ancestral environment. It was rare we might need to focus on one thing for more than a few moments at a time, but essential not to miss that snarling predator lurking in the bush.

As a result, if you try really hard to pay attention to only one thing, you’ll quickly find your attention elsewhere. In fact, usually, your brain decides to change the subject of your attention without your conscious input, much less your permission. You might have already drifted off into a different thought a few times as you read this. Your brain expects a little hit of feel-good neurotransmitter every time your attention jumps to something interesting. Novelty feels good.

This is precisely what makes it hard to reliably capture people’s attention. Generally, people themselves don’t understand what catches their attention or why. Most shifts in attention are unconscious, so it’s impossible for people to articulate why their attention does what it does. They only notice what it does after it has happened. Certain colors of call-to-action buttons work better on a landing page than others not due to any conscious decision by anyone, but due to the unconscious preferences of billions of brains.

Certainly, there are some things that work very well on all of us: bright colors, flashing objects, and attractive scantily clad people are all widely used to great effect. For a new parent, there’s nothing better than an iPad to quell a tantrum from a cranky toddler, and that’s because looking at colorful moving images feels good.

But beyond the obvious, the target of your attention is largely determined by neural mechanisms cultivated over decades of interacting with the world and anticipating the reward from different stimuli. Your brain is constantly moving about the spotlight of attention on the lookout for potential sources of pleasure and pain.

Attention in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

The best approach we’ve developed for understanding what captures people’s attention is empirical. We record as much as we can about what’s in their awareness — or what’s on stage. We then try to record where the spotlight is cast  — by recording a clicked link or opened email. Then, we look for patterns.

Each of those components is going to evolve dramatically over the next few years. The environments where we spend our time increasingly facilitate data collection. Algorithms for working with language, audio, and video are rapidly becoming more sophisticated. Hardware and cloud service improvements are accelerating research and discovery in artificial intelligence. There are several implications:

1) We’ll have more data on both attention and awareness.

Eye-tracking has long been used in psychology, marketing, and consumer research, in both academia and business. It works great for studying cognitive development in infants and can even be used to A/B test their preferences.

Shops already use realtime facial expression APIs to track ad viewers’ age, gender, mood, and interest level. Google’s Project Soli is a miniature solid state radar that can detect the movement of your hand and other objects near your phone. We appear comfortable with inviting Amazon Echo’s Orwellian always-on microphone into our homes.

How long before we see Amazon announce Prime Plus, requesting permission to occasionally activate your front-facing camera, Echo microphone, and motion tracker in exchange for free 30-minute drone delivery?

2) The arms race for attention will expand.

Attention is zero-sum, because every click your competitor gains, you lose. This accelerates competition. That’s why your email inbox is a battleground of people vying for your attention. So is the results page for every Google search. This will be increasingly true of everywhere you spend your attention.

3) Screens will remain the primary conduit of human attention.

Screens are everywhere. Not only did our glossy paranormal hand rectangles become globally ubiquitous in just 10 years, they’ve fundamentally transformed how humans interact with the world. While technology often advances unpredictably, screens are probably likely to persist for a while. That’s because out of the five senses you have — the five ways of putting information into awareness — vision has the highest throughput to the brain. We are multiple breakthroughs away from anything faster.

4) Humans will spend huge amounts of time in virtual worlds.

The $100 billion video game industry continues to boom. Games will become dramatically more immersive as virtual and augmented reality go mainstream. People will routinely spend time in deep and engaging virtual environments with limitless content to explore and hundreds of millions of other real and simulated people to interact with. That could transform how we spend our leisure time, how we learn, and how we meet other people.

Content in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

Think of “content” as all things that attract human attention that can be represented as data. That includes almost anything online that humans make, from blog posts and dance music to short stories, video game livestreams, entertaining social media posts, and more. The more quality content you can produce, the more attention you can scoop up, continuing to sate our limitless thirst for customization and novelty.

1) Generative algorithms for text, images, sound, and video will improve dramatically.

Machine vision, automatic speech recognition, and natural language processing have made tremendous advancements in the past five years. Algorithms can already generate extremely convincing content from scratch.

The next generation of photo and video editing tools will make it trivial to rewrite any record of reality, replacing pixels using algorithms that are aware of what they’re looking at.

Adobe claims to be working on a Photoshop for audio, making it easy to generate an audio clip of anybody’s voice saying anything at all.

Today, you can ask a neural network to hallucinate arbitrarily many images of bedrooms or cats or sailboats, most of which look real enough to fool people. Or you could use a neural network to create a language snippet to insert into an email by reading a company’s website.

Eventually, you might ask a machine to produce a fantasy novel. Say you theme it similar to Harry Potter … but with a Game of Thrones flair. And let’s maybe have the bad guy win this time.

This is a very a long way off, past multiple breakthroughs in semantics and discourse, but current techniques can already generalize well enough to spit out a cohesive and useful paragraph of text.

2) Machines will help us produce content.

Machines will play a much bigger role in helping us produce the content that captures human attention. We’ll see a proliferation of collaborative agents in products that assist us in our workflows. Machines will suggest assets to include in the content you’re making, or subsets of content to include. Executive control will remain with creators, but the ideation and production process will become increasingly automated. Think Clippy the Microsoft Office Assistant, but with a much bigger brain. 

3) To cut through greater noise, humans will keep innovating.

Demonstrating that content was created by a human will become much harder. There’s no way you can imagine this article having been written by a machine, but one day, that won’t seem so ridiculous.

Machines are cheap, so as machines contribute more to creating content, the places where we consume content will be flooded. Early adopters of those techniques will benefits, but the late adopters will find that to stand out, they’ll have to produce content that is demonstrably beyond machines’ capabilities in an effort to keep attracting interest.

4) Machines will help us allocate our attention.

Work will become increasingly symbiotic. You’ll spend more of your time deciding among things and less collecting and preparing things. Machines will find relevant documents and emails, do Google searches in the background, and perform other functions that can be defined as a semi-structured set of tasks. As the deluge of content on our screens grows, tools will emerge to stem the flood. 

Broader Implications

Attention is an essential currency in the global transaction ecosystem. Understanding it is critical for anybody in sales and marketing. Despite the fact that attention is zero-sum in any given transaction, it’s important to remember that the pie is growing dramatically.

Leisure time has grown by seven hours per week since the 1960s, and we will unlock much more free time as we shift toward self-driving vehicles. Economists from the National Bureau of Economic Research published a paper suggesting that high-quality video games are contributing to an increase in unemployment among young men.

Uber, Upwork, and Crowdflower support the emergence of a global market for part-time, on-demand work at a variety of price points. Y Combinator and Elon Musk are calling for a universal basic income plan.

To connect these dots, it’s not hard to imagine a future in which wealthy corporations and governments support a basic minimum wage, and in return, people spend their time and attention generating training data and validating models. It would generally be simple tasks, easily performed on a phone, and would involve only skills or data that machines don’t have yet.

Data on human attention exposes the unconscious information locked away in our minds. That information is valuable and important, because in the aggregate, it is an encoding of everything humans want — not just of our buying preferences and creature comforts, but also of our ethics and values as a species. We want machines to understand us, and monitoring human attention may be a good way to collect the necessary data.

With the curtain pulled back on how powerless we are to control our attention and how valuable it is to everyone, perhaps we’ll all find ourselves being a bit more careful with how we spend our attention.

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The Best Time to Post on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+ [Infographic]


Social media is one of the best ways to amplify your brand and the great content you’re creating. But it isn’t enough to just post content to social whenever you feel like it. Some times are better than others.

So, which one is best?

Unfortunately, there’s no perfect answer. Different businesses may find different days and times work best for them. In fact, timing often depends on the platform you’re using, how your target audience interacts with that platform, the regions and corresponding time zones you’re targeting, and your goals (e.g., clicks versus shares).

Learn how to use social media to amplify your content marketing by taking HubSpot's free Inbound Certification course here. 

That said, there is ample data out there on the best times to post on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. Earlier this year, the great folks at CoSchedule looked at a combination of its own original data and more than a dozen studies on this very topic — from the likes of Buffer and Quintly, just to name a couple — and compiled it into the infographic below.

Bookmark this post as a go-to set of guidelines, and refer to it next time you need to find the optimal posting times for your business.


The Best Times to Post on Social Media

With many businesses facing a growing global audience, varying time zones have become a growing concern, especially when it comes to the best times to post.

To start, let’s take a look at the U.S. About half of the country’s population is in the Eastern Time Zone, and combined with the Central Time Zone, that accounts for over 75% of the total U.S population.

Given that sizable share, if you’re targeting a U.S. audience, try alternating posting times in Eastern and Central Time Zones — we’ll get into those specific times in a bit.

If you’re targeting users outside of the U.S., conduct some research to find out where they live and which social media channels they’re using. That kind of data is available through studies like Smart Insights’ Global Social Media Research Summary, or We Are Social’s annual Digital Global Overview.

1) Best Time to Post on Instagram

Instagram is meant for use on mobile devices. Half of its U.S. users use the app daily, though it would appear that many engage with content more during off-work hours than during the workday.

  • In general, the best times to post on Instagram are on Monday and Thursday, at any time other than 3-4 p.m.
  • The best time to post videos is 9 p.m.-8 a.m., on any day.
  • Some outlets have reported success on Mondays between 8-9 a.m., correlating with the first morning commute of the week for many.

2) Best Times to Post on Facebook

People log in to Facebook on both mobile devices and desktop computers, both at work and at home. How it’s used depends heavily on the audience.

  • On average, the best time to post is 1-4 p.m., when clickthrough rates have shown to be at their highest.
  • Specifically, 12-1 p.m. is prime time on Saturday and Sunday.
  • During the week, the same goes for Wednesday at 3 p.m., as well as Thursday and Friday between 1-4 p.m.
  • The worst times are weekends before 8 a.m. and after 8 p.m.

3) Best Times to Post on Twitter

Like Facebook, people use Twitter on both mobile devices and desktop computers, both at work and at home. How it’s used also depends heavily on audience — but people often treat it like an RSS feed, and something to read during down times like commutes, breaks, and so on.

  • Good times to tweet average around 12–3 p.m., with an apex at 5 p.m. — which makes sense, given that it correlates with the evening commute.
  • Weekdays tend to show a stronger performance, though some niches might have more active audiences on the weekend.
  • If your goal is to maximize retweets and clickthroughs, aim for noon, 3 p.m., or 5–6 p.m.

4) Best Times to Post on LinkedIn

Roughly 25% of U.S. adults use LinkedIn, largely for professional purposes, during weekdays and the work hours. It’s used with slighly less frequency than some of the other channels on this list, with more than half of users visiting less than once a week

  • Aim to post toward the middle of the week, between Tuesday-Thursday.

  • When aiming for a high clickthrough rate, post on these days during times that correspond with the morning and evening commute — roughly 7:30-8:30 a.m. and 5-6 p.m. — as well as the lunch hour, around 12 p.m. 

  • Some have also seen a positive performance on Tuesdays, between 10–11 a.m.

5) Best Times to Post on Pinterest

Pinterest users skew heavily female, and 25% of users are active on this channel daily.

  • Interestingly enough, Saturday evenings are said to be the best time to reach users, especially between 8-11 p.m.
  • Some have also seen a strong performance on the later side of Friday afternoon, around 3 p.m. 
  • Contrasting many of the other channels we’ve listed here, evening commutes tend to be some of the worst times to post to Pinterest. That could be due to the fact that it’s not as “browseable,” with many pins requiring navigation away from the channel.

6) Best Time to Post on Google+

People love to debate whether or not Google+ is a social media channel worth investing in — though according to my colleague Chris Wilson, some marketers have experienced success with it.

But if you’re going to use it, you might as well do so effectively — which includes posting at the optimal times.

  • People seem to be most active on Google+ during the start of the workday, between 9-11 a.m.
  • That’s especially the case on Wednesdays, around 9 a.m.
  • Some marketers have also seen success during the lunch hour, posting between 12-1 p.m.

There you have it, folks. Happy posting, tweeting, and pinning.

What days and times have proven to be the most successful for your business? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2014 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.


The Complete Guide to Creating Effective Snap Ads with Snapchat Ad Manager

In the past, if you wanted to run Snap Ads (Snapchat’s full-screen video ads), you would need to go through one of their ads partners. Now, though, you can create Snap Ads yourself through Snapchat’s new self-serve ads tool, Snapchat Ad Manager.

Snapchat has even included a video creation tool in the Snapchat Ad Manager to make creating engaging, awesome-looking vertical videos a breeze.

We’re thrilled by the possibilities that Snapchat Ad Manager has brought about for marketers. And we would love to help you get started with creating your very own Snap Ads and measuring their performance.

Here’s everything you need to know…

The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Snapchat Ad Manager

What you’ll learn in this guide

Here’s a brief look at what will be covered in this Snapchat Ad Manager guide. Feel free to click on the quick links to jump to the respective sections.

First up, what are Snap Ads?
The benefits of Snapchat Ads?
Quick overview of Snapchat Ad Manager
How to create an effective Snap Ad with Snapchat Ad Manager
Beyond Snapchat Ad Manager: Good-to-knows

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First up, what are Snap Ads?

3-10 second full-screen vertical video ads

Snap Ad Example

Snap Ads are full-screen vertical video ads that can be up to 10 seconds long.

Snapchat users (or Snapchatters) can swipe up, anytime when the video ad is playing, for more — watch a longer video, read an article, install an app, or visit a website.

Snap Ads appear in between friends’ stories and Snapchat curated content such as Snapchat’s stories or publishers’ stories.

Where Snap Ads Appear

Snapchat also offers two other types of advertising: Snapchat Geofilters and Lenses. But these cannot be created in the Snapchat Ad Manager just yet. You can create Snapchat Geofilters online or on the mobile app, while you have to work with a Snapchat partner to create Lenses.

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The benefits of Snapchat Ads

Distinct audience, powerful targeting, and immersive experience

Snap Ads are an exciting, largely untapped advertising channel for marketers.

Here are just three of the benefits that make Snap Ads attractive:

  • Active user base: The 166 million Snapchatters who use the app daily, on average, spend over 30 minutes in the app and open the app more than 18 times per day.
  • Distinct audience: Huge percentages of Snapchat’s U.S. daily users cannot be reached on Facebook (35 percent), Instagram (46 percent), Twitter (81 percent), and other major social platforms, according to App Annie. Similar trends were found in the U.K.
  • Powerful targeting: With Snapchat’s data, which includes data from Oracle Data Cloud, you can reach Snapchatters based on their demographics and their online and (even) offline interests and behaviors. You can also use your own data to reach your customers and similar Snapchatters on Snapchat.

Who Snapchatters Are

If you are still a little unsure if Snap Ads are effective, especially in comparison with other social media ads like Facebook ads and Instagram ads, perhaps these statistics could convince you.

MediaScience did some research (commissioned by Snap Inc.) and found that Snap Ads are more effective than most social media ads in several ways:

  • Persuasion: Users are much more likely to purchase a product after seeing a Snap Ad than most other social media ads — over two times more lift in purchase intent.
  • Attention: Snap Ads are shown full-screen, and as such, receive up to two times more visual attention than most other social media ads. (Instagram Stories ads were not considered in this study.)
  • Engagement: Snap Ads’ swipe up rate (or the rate at which users check out your website, video, or app) is five times higher than the average clickthrough rate of other social media ads.
  • Sound: Over 60 percent of Snap Ads are played with audio on. (In comparison, 85 percent of Facebook videos are watched without sound.)

Snap Ads create higher purchase intent

If you are a little more interested in Snap Ads now, let’s learn more about the Snapchat Ad Manager.

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Quick overview of Snapchat Ad Manager

Before we go through how to create Snap Ads, let’s first get familiar with the key sections of the Snapchat Ad Manager.

Snapchat Ad Manager

On the left side of the screen you can navigate to the key sections of Snapchat Ad Manager:

  1. Dashboard: This is where you create, view, and manage your Snap Ads. You can also see the metrics of your ads as a graph and in a table.
  2. Creative Library: This is where you view, edit, and create ad creatives.
  3. Custom Audiences: This is where you can create lists of Snapchatters (which you can use for targeting) using your customer data.
  4. Help Center: This is where you can find guides on how to do various things in the Ad Manager and get help from Snapchat.

Now the fun part begins…

Let’s go through the steps of creating a Snap Ad and assessing its performance with the Snapchat Ad Manager.

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How to create an effective Snap Ad with Snapchat Ad Manager

Below, you’ll learn how to create a Snap Ad and evaluate its performance using the Snapchat Ad Manager in this section.

If you are familiar with the Facebook Ads Manager, the Snapchat Ad Manager is very similar. If you’ve not used Facebook Ads too much, you’ll get the hang of it quite quickly.

Feel free to set up your business account on Snapchat here, log in to your Snapchat Ad Manager here, and follow along!

Snap Ads use the same structure as Facebook ads — campaign, ad sets, and ads. To create a Snap Ad, you’ll work your way down the structure: create a campaign, an ad set, and then the ad.

Snap Ads Structure

(For now, you can only create one ad set and one ad at a time.)

If you haven’t created a Snap Ad before, a pop-up will prompt you to create a campaign once you log into your Snapchat Ad Manager. You can also click on “+New Campaign” to get started.

1. Choose an objective for your campaign

Choose campaign objective

First, decide what you want Snapchatters to do when they see your Snap ad. You have four options:

  • Drive traffic to your website
  • Drive install of your app
  • Grow awareness
  • Drive video views

Note: To take any of those actions, Snapchatters will have to swipe up while viewing your ad.

Then, set a schedule for your campaign. You can either start the campaign immediately and run indefinitely or define the start and end dates. You also have the option to set the status (active or paused).

Finally, name your ad campaign. To make finding your ad campaigns easier, you might want to think of a simple naming convention. Here’s a naming convention you could use:

(Objective) – (Schedule) – (Team member’s name)

If you manage several clients, you could also specify the client in the name in your ad campaign name.

Hit “Next” to move on to creating your ad set.

Note: Try to finish setting up your ad in one sitting as Snapchat doesn’t seem to auto-save during the ad creation process. If you quit the process halfway through, you’ll have to start from the first step again.

2. Set the audience, budget, and schedule of your ad set

First, name your ad set according to your naming convention. Here’s a suggestion:

(Audience details) – (Budget) – (Goal) – (Schedule)

Then, there are three main sections to fill up for your ad set — Audience, Budget & Goals, and Schedule.


Set audience

The “Audience” section contains five main parts that allow you to specify the audience you want to reach:

  • Geography: You have to select a country you want to target. You can then make your location targeting more specific by including or excluding certain areas of the country.
  • Demographics: You can specify the people you want to reach by their age, gender, language, income, parental status, and more.
  • Audiences: You can even target people based on what they like, what they’ve bought, what they’ve watched, and where they’ve been. You can also target your customers on Snapchat (i.e. Snap Audience Match Audience) and Snapchatters that are like them (i.e. Lookalike Audience).
  • Placements: You can choose if you want your ads to appear in only Snapchat curated content such as Snapchat’s stories and publishers’ stories (“Content Placement”) or all of Snapchat including between friends’ stories (“All Snapchat”).
  • Devices: Finally, you can define the devices you want to target based on the operating system (Android, iOS, or both), connection type (cell, wifi, or both), and service provider (AT&T, O2, etc.)

While you are only required to select a country at the minimum, setting more specific target audience will help you achieve better results—bear in mind that Snapchat do not allow ad sets to reach less than 1,000 people.

Here are some targeting best practices from Snapchat:

  • Keep your audience size less than 20 million people for the same creative
  • Create an ad set for each unique group of people you’re trying to reach
  • Test Lookalike Audience for prospecting and finding new customers
  • Try using multiple ads per ad set so you can see how different creatives perform with the same audience

Budget and Goals

Set budget and goal

The “Budget & Goals” section allows you to state your daily budget, goal, and bid amount.

The minimum amount for the daily budget seems to be $100. Any lower and you won’t be able to click “Next”.

The delivery of your ads will be optimized for the goal and the bid amount you specified. But you will be charged based on the number of times your ad is served.

For example, you set your goal as app install and your bid as $10. Snapchat will use your bid of $10 to compete against other advertisers’ bid in an auction. Snapchat will then show your ad to the people it thinks will most likely install your app, over ads of advertisers with a lower bid.

But Snapchat will not charge you $10 each time someone installs your app. It will charge you based on the number of times it has shown your ad. So each app install could cost more or less than $10.

It is recommended that you set the bid amount to how much each goal action (e.g. app install) is worth to you. If you are not getting the results you want, you could try increasing your bid.


Set ad set schedule

The “Schedule” section allows you to set the schedule for that particular ad set (which is different from the ad campaign’s schedule in the previous step).

As you can run multiple ad sets within each ad campaign, the ad sets can have a shorter schedule than their ad campaign.

Once you’ve set the audience, budget, and schedule of your ad set, hit “Next” to move on to creating your ad.

3. Select an ad type and upload a creative

Now you’re ready to create you Snap Ad. First, you’ll need to select your ad type:

Choose ad type

Fill in the basic information (such as the creative name) and select the ad type you what.

There are four ad types available on Snapchat at the moment:

  • Top Snap only: A Top Snap is the three to 10-second video ad that Snapchatters will see. There won’t be a swipe up call-to-action for this ad type since there won’t be any video or link attachment.
  • Web view: This ad type allows you to drive traffic to your website (remember all traffic will be mobile) to take your intended action: purchase a product, make a booking, read an article, etc.
  • App install: This ad type helps you to drive traffic to your app page in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store so that the Snapchatter can easily install your app.
  • Long-form video: This ad type acts as a trailer for your long-form video that can be up to 10 minutes long.

Note: The article ad type (which links to a multimedia page) doesn’t seem to be available in the Snapchat Ad Manager yet. A workaround, for now, is to use the web view ad type.

Upload or create your content

Create Snap Ad

There are a few tiny details to complete before uploading or creating your ad creative.

  • Brand name: Enter your brand name (maximum of 25 characters, including spaces). This will appear in the upper-left corner of your Snap Ad.
  • Headline: Enter your headline (maximum of 34 characters, including spaces). This will appear right below your brand name.
  • Call to action: Select your preferred call-to-action from the list. The options available will depend on the ad type you have chosen. This will appear at the bottom of the Snap Ad.

Top Snap Example

“Media File” is the vertical video you want to use for your Snap Ad. If you have created it already or prefer to use a third-party software to create it, simply hit “Upload” to add it to your ad.

If you are not sure how to create vertical videos, Snapchat has this sorted for you! Hit “Create” and you’ll be brought to Snap Publisher, Snapchat’s online video editing app.

Snap Publisher

You can either create a video from scratch here or edit one of the nicely-designed templates. The Snap Publisher feels quite intuitive and allows you to do basic to advanced video editing. Here’s a short three-minute video by Marketing Land on the things you can do with the Snap Publisher:

As for the content of your Snap Ad, selfie videos are a great option to start your ad, according to Liam Copeland, Director of Decision Science for Movement Strategy. Perhaps because they look like stories from friends and make the ad experience less disruptive to Snapchatters.

The trick is to film videos on iPhones using the front facing camera with the talent front and center — and with no branding until three to five seconds in, according to Copeland.

“The more organic the ad feels and the later the branding appears, the more likely a user is to swipe up to view long-form content or web content,” he said.

For more tips on creating great Snap Ads, check out Snapchat’s Help Center where they listed the specifications and offered advice for each ad type. Here are just some of the best practices listed there:

  • Use voiceover call to actions to encourage swipe up
  • Three to five seconds is the sweet spot for Snap Ad length to drive action
  • Provide an offer message, if available, by second two or three

The final step of Snap Ad creation is to fill up or upload your attachment — the website, app page, or video that you want Snapchatters to see when they swipe up.

4. Run campaign

Click “Launch Campaign” and your ad campaign is ready! 🚀

If you have been following along, you have just set up your first Snap Ad campaign. Congratulations!

5. Monitor, optimize, and report

After you have launched your ad campaign, you might want to monitor its performance, edit the schedule or budget, or report your results. You can do all these easily in the dashboard of the Snapchat Ad Manager.

Snapchat Ad Manager Dashboard

Monitor your ad performance: The dashboard will display your overall and individual campaigns’ ad metrics. You can drill down to each campaign, ad set, or ad by clicking on its name and see the metrics for specific date range by updating the date selector.

The default ad metrics shown will change according to the objective of the campaign. You can customize the metric columns of the table by clicking on “Customize Columns” in the upper-right corner of the table.

(Here are the definitions of all the metrics you’ll see in the Snapchat Ad Manager)

Edit your ad schedule or budget: When you are viewing a campaign or ad set, an “Edit” button will appear in the upper-right corner of the page. Snapchat allows you to edit a few details of your campaign or ad set.


  • Campaign name
  • Daily budget (This has to be larger than 70 percent of the sum of daily budgets of all ad sets within the campaign.)
  • Schedule
  • Status

Ad set:

  • Ad set name
  • Schedule
  • Daily budget
  • Bid amount

Report your ad results: If you would like to report your ad results, you can click the download button beside “Customize Columns” to get a CSV file of the table you are viewing.

There’s also an option to break down your results by day, week, or month so that you can see how the ad has performed over time.

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Beyond Snapchat Ad Manager: Good-to-knows

Snapchat Mobile Dashboard

Snapchat Mobile Dashboard

Snapchat has made it very easy for you to monitor your ad campaigns — even on the go. With the Snapchat Mobile Dashboard, you can see the performance of your ads right within the Snapchat app. No additional app is required.

At the moment, it seems that you can only view your ad metrics but not edit the ads.

To access the Snapchat Mobile Dashboard, swipe down in the camera mode, tap on the gear icon, tap on “Snap Ads”, and select your account.

Snapchat Business Manager

Snapchat Business Manager

Snapchat Business Manager is where you manage your ad accounts (e.g. billing and access) and members (e.g. roles and permissions).

Each business account can have multiple ad accounts, and each ad account can have multiple members with different roles and permissions. Only the admins for the business account can invite members and assign roles to them.

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Have you tried Snapchat Ad Manager?

And that’s all you need to know to get started with creating Snap Ads and measuring their performance!

Are there any sections that you wish I had written more about? Let me know in your comments below.

If you have tried the Snapchat Ad Manager, is there anything I’ve missed in this post? What tips do you have for those who are going to use the ad manager for their first time?

Image credit: Snapchat, Marketing Land

The New Type of Landing Page That Increased Our Contacts by 69%


Welcome back. If you’re just tuning in, allow me to catch you up: This post is the second in a two-part series on our experiment to move gated offer content onto a site page, and test different conversion methods. If you missed Part I, check it out here.

Back in Part I, we saw significant increases in organic search traffic only on offers that already were performing well for search. Also, our Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) test failed. So in Part II, we turned our focus to running more CRO tests.

In order to avoid putting many more conversions at risk, we decided to test the offers we’d already experimented with to find a conversion method that worked well. We tested two of the three offers we experimented with in Part I, but this time, our approach was a bit different. Download our free guide to landing pages here to learn how to design landing pages that convert. 

Let’s walk through what we did for Part II of our CRO Test, followed by the results of both tests.

Does Un-gating Offers Improve Conversion Rate?

The Hypothesis and Objective

In Part I, we hypothesized that by partially gating the content on our newly-created HTML offer pages, we could provide a better user experience and still generate leads from it.

Screen Shot 2017-07-20 at 10.11.26 AM.png Standing landing page/form Screen Shot 2017-02-16 at 2.32.27 PM-1.png Partially un-gated offer/form

But in reality, page visitors:

  1. Decided the content was not valuable enough for them to exchange contact information to see the rest of it.
  2. Expected to be able to read the entire offer, and were put off by the experience of running into a form upon scrolling.

So, we took each of these findings and used them build two tests within Part II of the experiment, each with its own sub-hypothesis, but a shared objective: to increase net submission and contact numbers, so that they’ll surpass those of the original landing pages pointing to gated PDFs.

CRO Test #1

Hypothesis: By hiding all of the written content behind a partial gate template — with the blur effect pictured below — readers arriving at the site through search will be intrigued enough by the topic to convert on the page.

CRO Test #2

Hypothesis: By setting the expectation of a gated offer early on — by using a form that looks and reads just like our normal landing pages, but opens into an HTML page upon form submission instead of an offer download — more people will fill out the form.

The Experiment

With conversion rates way down on our previous CRO tests, we thought to ourselves, “If we want to get our conversion rates back to their original levels, let’s make the landing page look like it usually does, but with the organic gains of having the offer content on the page itself.”

So, we pitched the idea of a brand new, gated template that looks and reads just like our regular landing pages, with one key difference: When the user clicks the form submission button, the page opens into an HTML page, instead of leading to a thank-you page with a PDF download button.

My colleague, Patrick Wilver, built this template for us. Here’s a GIF of the template in action:

editorial calendar

You might be wondering, “But what about SEO? Can Google crawl and index that hidden content?”

The answer is a resounding, “Yes.”

While that HTML content exists behind a CSS layer initially blocked by the template, it turns out that Google is still able to successfully crawl and index it. Our theory was that, because Google has much more high-quality and optimized content to crawl on the landing page, organic traffic will still flow to the page. Plus, if you can increase organic traffic significantly to the landing page, while also retaining the high conversion rates of the original landing page design — jackpot.

The only other difference between this template and our normal landing pages is that this one uses a shorter version of our typical landing page lead generation form, requiring less information and investment from the user.


The Results

CRO Test #1

While the submission rates for this variation were still much lower than those of the original landing page, they were slightly higher than those of our CRO tests from Part I. So when push comes to shove, it seems, the partially-gated template is simply not effective for lead generation.

Screen Shot 2017-04-27 at 1.56.53 PM (1).png

It was time to move onto Test #2.

CRO Test #2

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner.

Using the new un-gated template, the two offers we tested both achieved significant increases in net organic submissions and contacts, compared with the original landing pages.

  • Organic submissions increased by 47.44% and 63.09%, respectively.
  • Organic contacts increased by 63.64% and 76.05%, respectively.

Screen Shot 2017-06-28 at 1.53.11 PM.png Screen Shot 2017-06-28 at 1.53.30 PM.png

In other words: The landing-page-style gated template is an effective one for lead generation.

By lifting conversions to their original rates — or better — while simultaneously getting that boost in organic traffic from the crawlable offer content, both offers achieved significant increases in net organic submissions and contacts.

What We Learned, and What’s Next

So … Is It Okay to Hide Content Like This?

We know that the offer content lives behind a layer of CSS, which blocks it from being shown to the user, but still makes it crawlable by search engines like Google. That’s clever and all, but as with every decision we make here at HubSpot, we had to ask: “Is this the right thing to do?”

We’ve mulled over this question, and we think the answer is, “Yes — it’s okay.” Here’s why.

1) We’re not tricking the search engine or the user.

There’s a black-hat SEO tactic that comes to mind here called “cloaking” — which refers to methods of manipulating SERP ranking, like hiding content written in white text with a white background, or serving different content to search engines than you do to your users.

But the key difference between cloaking and what we’re doing is that, once users actually open the gate, they seeing the exact same content the search engines see.

When you have a business need, we don’t discourage gating content — but we strongly advise against hiding in the ways we described above. However, content can still be gated in a way that provides a better user experience, which was part of the impetus behind this experiment.

2) Mobile favors hidden content, so Google has been relaxing its policies.

As web usage has shifted toward mobile, expandable and hidden content has become more acceptable. With more people searching on mobile devices than they do on desktops, Google has had to adjust its algorithm to accommodate the fact that mobile design actually favors hidden content. Better web designers hide content on mobile pages because it makes them look cleaner, and avoids bombarding visitors with masses of text, so that it’s easier for them to find what they’re looking for.

transition-2.png Source: Google

For that reason, if Google were to penalize hidden content, they’d effectively be penalizing mobile. But if, somewhere down the line, Google decides to stop indexing the content on these pages, that would call for a modified template design.

Next Steps and Recommendations

In Part I, we learned — much to our chagrin — that we could increase organic traffic by putting offer content onto an HTML site page only for offers that were already receiving strong search traffic. That reinforces to the idea of historical optimization: If a page already performs well in organic traffic each month, and you increase the depth of that content and optimize it even further for search, then odds are, you’re going to see outside returns.

For that reason, we recommend focusing on transferring only the offers from PDF > HTML that are already generating high organic traffic, and have pre-existing search authority. To begin prioritizing, try pulling a list of your most popular offers, and rank them by organic traffic.

In the meantime, we’ll continue putting our findings into practice, and will keep you posted on anything valuable that we discover along the way.

Have you ever conducted similar tests? Comment below with your best experiment — and hey, we might even feature it on our blog.

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