How to Create Social Media Guidelines for Your Business

Can you remember the first time you got into trouble with your parents? Perhaps you were standing on the kitchen table with muddy shoes on. Maybe you had just given the family dog an impromptu mohawk. You might have been fighting with your sibling and broken a family heirloom. Before you could mumble “wasn’t me” your parents had scolded you and if you had a middle name, it was being used. However, with this reprimand probably came some advice and encouragement for the behavior that was expected of you. This was your earliest introduction to social media guidelines.

Like parental guidance, a good set of social media guidelines can help you not only understand what was done wrong, but hopefully help your brand avoid mishaps in the first place. Of course mistakes happen, but social media guidelines work to prevent avoidable online catastrophes. Continue reading to see how you can create a set of comprehensive social media guidelines to establish organization-wide expectations without ever uttering the phrase “I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.”

The difference between a social media policy and social media guidelines

Social media policy and social media guidelines are the kinds of terms that commonly get used interchangeably. When you get started with your social media guidelines, you may feel inclined to call them a policy, but you need to know some key differences.

While similar, creating and providing social media guidelines for your business will offer you a more flexible experience and room for edits along the way. Social media guidelines act more as principles to guide employee and company behavior on social media. Guidelines are also positioned more as best practices and suggestions.

On the other hand, policies are concrete and usually mandatory for employees to follow. You don’t mess around with a policy without facing consequences. For more on this, check out our previous post How to Write A Social Media Policy for Your Company.

Why your business needs social media guidelines

You may be thinking that a social media policy is enough, but guidelines can provide much more in-depth information and context for your brand’s strategy. Your employees hold a lot of power, and you want to make sure this power is being used for good. By creating comprehensive social media guidelines, you can:

  • Encourage compliance across your organization so that employees and executives know what is expected of them on social media
  • Equip your employees with the confidence to effectively engage on social media
  • Give context to your overall social media strategy
  • Make it easier to measure where things fall short when they don’t adhere to these guidelines
  • Educate those in your organization on social media best practices—skills that they will be able to take with them throughout their career
  • Help to protect your brand’s reputation on social media

Now that you know a few benefits of having social media guidelines, it’s time to start thinking about how you are going to establish some of your own.

Social media guidelines your business needs to have

If you started thinking about all of the different areas of social media that you could create guidelines for, you’d quickly find yourself overwhelmed. Think about the information your employees need to know the most, and what you would like to convey to them. Consider:

  • What are your brand’s priorities?
  • What kinds of social media activities would disrupt your brand’s social media strategy?
  • Are there any sensitive areas you need your employees to know about?
  • What kind of image and brand voice do you want to convey?

Getting into the nitty gritty of social media guidelines could be an endless task, but there are definitely some specific areas you should focus on.

Social media guidelines for interacting with influencers

An obvious core function of social media is to connect with others. However, it can sometimes be difficult to know exactly how to do this. As a brand, you also want to ensure that your employees know how and when to connect with others on social media—especially when they are dealing with influencers. There’s nothing worse than accidentally burning bridges with a key influencer in your industry, especially when it could have been prevented through some general social media guidelines.

The first thing you want to outline with your influencer social media guidelines is whether you want your employees engaging with influencers at all. This might seem brash, but if you have a dedicated team of social media marketers who are specialized in doing this and have built meaningful relationships, you might want to discourage your other employees from trying to jump into online conversations. Carefully outline the team members who are permitted to connect with influencers, and explain why. Not only will this save you from potential mishaps, but it will take the pressure off of employees who may have felt as if they should be engaging with certain influencers on social.

However, for those who are going to be interacting with influencers on social media, you definitely want to set some guidelines. A good place to start is by thinking about the areas you want to cover. For example, communications and PR firm Ogilvy and Mathers has created a very thorough set of social media guidelines that specifically touch upon interacting with influencers. They outline these in five core areas:

1. Disclosure

Ogilvy works on behalf of clients in the social media realm, so they want to ensure that they are always disclosing themselves as Ogilvy whenever corresponding with influencers and fans. There also needs to be a clear purpose, as they explain, “In our communication we will convey why we think an influencer or fan, in particular, might be interested in our client’s product, issues, event, or message.”

2. Transparency

Working with social media influencers can be a tricky game, so Ogilvy makes sure they clearly outline expectations and transparency. They state that influencers, and those who represent them, are never expected to create positive content for them or their clients, no matter what the influencer status. Additionally, “We won’t pretend to have read an influencer’s blog or other content if we haven’t, and we’ll always get to know an influencer before we reach out to them.”

3. Relevancy

Social media influencers get an overwhelming number of emails and social media messages, so you better make sure that your company’s offer is relevant. Ogilvy’s social media guidelines states that they will ensure that they, as a company, will always know who they are trying to engage and not aimlessly contact influencers.

Ensure your employees are always thinking about how they can add value to, and benefit from a partnership with a social media influencer. As Ogilvy’s social media guidelines respectfully state “We will seek to present influencers with a range of opportunities to work together around a campaign, so that he/she can create the best experience possible for their audience. We acknowledge that, when it comes to knowing their audience, they are the expert.”

4. Value exchange

When it comes to creating a set of social media guidelines that involve others such as influencers, you will find that there are a lot of ethical aspects at play. Ogilvy sums this up by saying “If we reach out to an influencer about a product, campaign or issue, we will not provide monetary compensation (e.g. cash, cash cards, similar cash-like offers) for them to produce positive content about the product, service or brand, because we believe it is bad practice to ‘buy’ favorable reviews and do not want to appear as if we are.”

Consider what the right thing to do is, and how you want your employees to conduct themselves. Your social media guidelines are the perfect place to outline these values.

5. Privacy

When dealing with influencers, privacy is the most important area you need to outline in your social media guidelines. For Ogilvy, this means that, “Before we email an influencer, we will check out the site/blog’s About, Contact and Advertising page in an effort to see if he/she has said he/she does not like to be contacted by PR/Marketing companies.”

Make sure that your employees know how to respect an influencer’s privacy, and preferred mode of contact. There’s no better way to burn an influencer bridge than by ignoring or breaching these guidelines.

By outlining these areas in your social media guidelines—as well as any others you think are relevant for your brand—you are helping your employees make the most valuable connections possible.

Social media guidelines for social customer service

Social media customer service, or social customer care, can help you understand your audience and customer on a deeper level through their pain points, concerns, questions, and needs. The first thing you want to clarify in your social media guidelines, is that the customer’s needs are a priority. Make sure employees across the organization are on the same page here, as you’ll face big problems if not.

Your social media customer service guidelines should also outline:

  • Those within the organization who are authorized to address social customer support inquiries
  • How the company wishes to deal with complaints (such as how many social media interactions need to take place before the conversation is brought offline, etc.)
  • The target response time for social media customer service inquiries
  • A set of key messaging for dealing with the most common general inquiries
  • Next steps once the inquiry is addressed

Satisfied and happy customers are the backbone of your business, and with social customer support becoming a more and more common way of providing this, you need to ensure everyone has a clear understanding of what is expected.

Social media guidelines for image use

A picture’s worth a thousand words, so you need to make sure that those in your organization know how to properly (and legally) use images. You will want to start with two main sets of social media image guidelines—one outlining the legal aspects of copyright and image licenses, and another area outlining best practices and social network-specific tips and sizing restrictions. Your employees should take away from your guidelines:

  • The best image size for each social media platform
  • How to choose an effective social media image
  • The differences in licenses and what image licenses they are permitted to use and work with
  • Where to find Creative Commons images (hint: 20 Free Stock Photo Sites for Your Social Media Images)
  • The types of images that work with your brand voice

Advertising guidelines

If your social media strategy includes paid opportunities, you will want to set advertising guidelines for your team. In addition to general advertising guidelines, include information on:

  • Budgets and expected costs
  • The advertising copy and design process
  • The goals of your brand’s advertising efforts
  • Projected timelines and advertising campaign lengths

You will also want to include platform-specific information in your social media advertising guidelines. The following links from each core social media platform offer the key areas you will want to include.

While there are countless areas you could create social media guidelines for, the above offer a solid place to start. A good set of social media guidelines will equip your employees with the information they need to succeed online, and keep your brand’s reputation in-check.

Put your social media guidelines to use with Hootsuite.

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Why mobile commerce sites should be designed for context

man's hands with smartphone

If you want your m-commerce project to deliver the results you’re expecting, context should be front and centre of your design.

Across all industries, mobile traffic is eating into PC web traffic in a big way, even in economies which have a large installed base of consumer PCs.

But ecommerce sites aren’t seeing mobile web visitors, particularly those who use smartphones, converting to mobile shoppers with the same success as PC shoppers.

As Andy Favell writes in ClickZ Intelligence’s new report, ‘The DNA of a Great M-Commerce Site Part 2: The 12 Pillars of Mobile Design’:

“It is fair to conclude that conversions would be higher if the m-commerce experience on the web was better designed with smartphone users in mind. M-commerce sites that crack this will sell more.”

One of the most consistent mistakes made with mobile site design is a failure to take into account the differing circumstances, needs and intentions of smartphone users; in other words, their unique context.

The difference between smartphone and PC users isn’t just a smaller screen size – it’s a whole new set of variables.

An image of a stick person holding a mobile phone with the words "I want to..." underneath. To the right is a list of 16 options for things the mobile user might do, such as "Send a text message", "Watch a video", "Check the weather", "Call Mom" and "Listen to a song." At the bottom is a credit to Google Search Quality Guidelines.

Google’s guidelines for its search quality evaluators emphasise the importance of taking context into account for mobile users.

So how does context impact the way you cater for m-commerce customers, and what can you do to tailor your design to their needs?

Why design for context?

A customer using a PC to access your website is likely to be doing so in a limited number of settings. Most often they’ll be at home or at work, possibly in an internet café, or using a laptop somewhere like an airport or coffee shop.

Even if you imagine that they might be out and about, there are still relatively few plausible scenarios in which they could be logging in, and they don’t differ from one another that wildly.

But with mobile, and particularly smartphones, the number of possible scenarios suddenly increases exponentially. Your customer could be travelling, working, moving around the house and multi-tasking, walking to your location, walking to a rival’s location…

In each case, the context drastically alters the way in which this customer might be approaching and interacting with your site.

Andy Favell explained in a recent article for ClickZ, ‘When will responsive websites respond to user context?’ why cross-platform homogeneity – taking the same approach to design across differing platforms – doesn’t make sense.

“Cross platform homogeneity forgets two massive things:

  • The requirements of the desktop and mobile user are often different
  • The requirements of the same mobile user (more importantly) vary depending on whether they are at home, at work, commuting, on route to the location, on site, in a rival’s location and so on.

And that’s just the start of it. Now consider:

  • How context varies by time of day, day of week, time of year.
  • What about the trigger that causes the visit to the site e.g. something on TV, snapping QR code in a print ad, tapping through from an email, social media etc.?”

Taking a user’s context into account is considered to be a no-brainer for targeted advertising, and the conversions it delivers prove that targeting works.

Facebook has achieved great success from advertising thanks to its ability to fine-tune its adverts according to who a user is and what they might be doing.

Three smartphone screens displaying Facebook mobile advertisements in a user's news feed.Image by Bablu bit, available via CC BY-SA 4.0

Google is increasingly using the data it collects on users and their search histories to contextualise the results it provides them and make them more relevant. And programmatic advertising is currently making waves with the promise of being able to determine at high speed who to target based on digital cues received about the user.

The online world is increasingly trending towards high levels of personalisation as our ability to gather and interpret data about users improves. And for m-commerce, this also seems like the logical next step.

As Favell writes in ‘The DNA of a Great M-Commerce Site Part 2’:

“If adtech has the ability to target ads on mobile websites at visitors, surely m-commerce sites should use the same types of technology and listen to the same digital signals in order to prioritise the most appropriate content, offers and services, and make the user journey as easy and frictionless as possible?”

How to design for context in m-commerce

In part two of the ‘DNA of a Great M-Commerce Site’ report, Andy Favell gives a series of tips on how to personalise your mobile offering to users whilst not over-targeting to the point that users find it irritating. He advises:

  • Prioritising content, rather than selecting which content to show to the exclusion of others
  • Suggesting entries in search or form fields, such as postcode or ZIP code in a search box
  • If your website defaults to departments based on previous behaviour – for example, ASOS will open the men’s or women’s store homepage based on what the user has browsed previously – make sure it is clear how to return to the general homepage
  • Facilitating the buying process with options to save for later, save a favourite address, save a favourite meal
  • Encouraging a trust relationship by explaining how personalisation works and how it benefits the user
  • Making it easy to opt in or out of personalisation

The epitome of a personalised m-commerce experience is a site that adapts fully to user context, based on signals such as who a person is, where they are, what device they are using, what they like and what they are doing.

While there are very few examples of websites who are doing this well at the moment, the concept isn’t too far-fetched.

A handful of retailers in the US have already invested in developing native apps which deliver a different experience to the user when they are away from a store versus when they are in-store.

The most innovative of these will switch to “Store mode” as the shopper enters a store location, activated by geotechnologies like bluetooth beacons.

A person uses their smartphone to scan a number of barcodes on the side of a green file folder.

A number of US retailers have personalised their m-commerce offerings with a dedicated “store mode”, which includes features such as scanning products to check pricing and availability | Image by Intel Free Press, available via CC BY-SA 2.0

DMI’s 2015 ‘In-store Mobile Experiences’ report sets out why a properly personalised in-store mobile experience can be so beneficial to retailers.

According to the report, 82% of high-income shoppers said that an improved mobile in-store experience would make the shopping experience better. And 74% of young people aged 18-35 said that they would spend more money at a store that provided an improved in-store mobile experience.

Standout performers in the US – which included Walgreens, Home Depot, Nordstrom, Walmart, Target and American Eagle among other brands – offered in-store features such as scanning products to unlock information on pricing and product availability; integrating loyalty programs into the in-store experience; in-store mapping; product recommendations; and reserving a dressing room.

These are all location-dependent personalisation features, but there are other mobile signals you can use to divine information about your user’s context and tailor your m-commerce site to them in subtle ways.

In ‘The DNA of a Great M-Commerce Site Part 2’, Ronan Cremin, CTO of DeviceAtlas, writes:

“Apart from the really obvious one (location) there are other possibilities like detecting if a user is literally on the move or not (accelerometer), is the battery low etc. etc.

One important point about all of these contextual cues is to use them as hints rather than hard deciding factors because the cost of getting things wrong based on an incorrect assumption is high.

It’s really dangerous to make assumptions about what a user wants, so I think that the best thing to do is make prioritization decisions over ordering of features rather than adding/removing features entirely.”

A picture of a smartphone tucked into someone's jeans pocket with its screen showing a low battery symbol.Subtle cues about a user’s state like battery level can be used to personalise your m-commerce site | Image by Martin Abegglen, available via CC BY-SA 2.0

As both Favell and Cremin point out, it’s important not to go overboard with personalisation, as too much can risk alienating the user, especially if wrong assumptions are made.

But don’t let this put you off trying altogether. Context is everything in mobile design, and even small adjustments can go a long way towards creating a frictionless user experience and improving your m-commerce sales and conversions.

You can read the full ClickZ Intelligence reports here:

This article has been adapted from a post originally published on our sister website ClickZ: Why context is king in m-commerce.

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Five common keyword research mistakes you need to avoid

ThinkstockPhotos-107924780

Before you dive into keyword research for your site, you should know about these common mistakes that many businesses and SEO firms make.

Avoiding these mistakes can save you time, help you re-think your marketing strategy, and drive the right customers to your site.

1) Picking keywords that are irrelevant to your customers

People often pick keywords with high search volumes in their field, but don’t pay enough attention to the relevancy of these keywords to their target customers. You need to choose keywords that match your customer’s concerns.

For example, if you’re targeting affluent families who are searching for good schools for their kids, you shouldn’t pick keywords like “low cost public schools ny” or “affordable schools ny”. These families aren’t searching for those keywords. Instead, you should optimize for keywords such as “best schools ny” and “elite boarding schools ny”

Each of your target customers have different needs and concerns, and they use different words when they search. You need to understand your customers and the language they use. Remember, each searcher has an intent, and is looking for something. Your page needs to provide the answer.

2) Focusing on too specific keywords

If you have a large site with lots of possible keywords combinations, you might be tempted to optimize for every little combination you can, in an attempt to cover them all. For example: type, color, price, size, etc. Do the math. This can lead to an unlimited amount of possible keywords.

Many of these lengthy combinations have low search volumes, with no one even searching for them. Also, targeting too many keywords can distract you from most important keywords.

Focus on the keywords that have good search volumes and the potential to drive business. Keyword quality is more important than keyword quantity.

keyword research

Don’t aim at generic keywords, or too specific keywords. It’s best to start with niche keywords that people use to search and buy your products/services.

These are the “low-hanging fruit” keywords that lead to customers who are easiest to close first. What are the highly specific long-tail keywords that pertain to your industry? Google calls this the “I want to buy” moment.

Once you have your best keyword groups, you can always expand them to target broader groups with various search intents.

art class search page

Example of a niche keyword: “art class for kids”

3) Selecting only a few big keywords

Another mistake that large websites often make is focusing on only a few top keywords. You only see this kind of approach in black-hat SEO claims, like “get top rankings for 30 big keywords” because black hat tactics (such as link networks) are often used to push rankings for a single keyword at a time.

leather womens shoes ppc

Trying to compete for “leather womens shoes” would be a waste of time for many businesses

An online marketplace with over 100,000 pages of content once asked us to do SEO for their list of 30 keywords. This SEO strategy just doesn’t make sense. 100,000 pages should be optimized for 300,000 – 500,000 keywords, in order to drive a big amount of traffic and grow the business.

We often follow a simple rule of thumb: each page should be optimized for 3-5 keywords, so the number of keywords is roughly planned by the amount of content.

4) Finding keywords based on existing site structure

When beginning keyword research, most people look at the main pages and major sections of their website, and then start to look for keywords for those pages.

They then optimize those same pages for the keywords they found. The problem is that you can miss out on a lot of great keywords that the current site structure and site content hasn’t covered.

The purpose of good keyword research is to find all possible keywords that your prospective customers are using to find you, and that has nothing to do with your site structure.

Your customers might be looking for very relevant content to your business, that’s not on your website at all! When doing good SEO, you should actually have to modify your site structure, and create entirely new sections and pages that are better optimized for the right keyword groups.

For a school consulting website, we found many strong keywords for a specific audience, like “boarding school for boys” and “boarding school for girls” which were not on the site at all.

We created new sections and pages for these important keywords. Had we relied on the existing site structure, we’d miss out on many of these valuable keywords.

keyword allocation part one

keyword allocation

5) Putting the wrong keywords on the wrong pages

Once you’ve grouped your keywords, you need to figure out where to place them on your website. This process is called keyword allocation, and it’s a critical step in the keyword research process.

A common mistake is adding irrelevant keywords to pages whose content doesn’t match the keywords, or pages that don’t match the search intent.

For example, users who search for “boarding schools in usa” are usually from overseas. Therefore, the page optimized for that keyword should indicate the value for international families who want to send their kids to US schools.

On the flip side, users who search for “top private schools in upper east side nyc” are usually people who understand the neighborhood, so the page content should adhere to their different needs. The keyword “boarding schools for girls” should be allocated to a page that concerns school girls.

It’s not simply about putting keywords on a page, it’s about matching each keyword with search intent and web page copy.

Mike Le is the Co-Founder and COO of CB/I Digital, a digital agency in New York that offers digital marketing and digital product services for clients. You can connect with Mike on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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How to make speed a core part of your traffic and conversion strategy

speed

Speed can make more of a difference to the success of your online business than anything else, yet very few people talk about it.

If you can increase the speed of your site, traffic can increase and conversion can double.

Here I won’t just be talking about your website speed, but the overall “speed experience” of your online business.

A 2015 Microsoft study that surveyed 2,000 people and monitored brain activity of 112 additional people with EEGs, revealed that the average human attention span has reduced to eight seconds, from 12 seconds in the year 2000.

Interestingly, declining attention spans is affecting online transactions as well. Here are some interesting statistics on what happens when you delay people’s access to your website:

  • A one second delay in page load time will result in a 7% loss in conversion.
  • 40% of people will abandon your website if it takes longer than three seconds to load.
  • A study that monitored real time data from 33 major retailers found that improving a site’s load time from eight seconds to two seconds boosted conversion rates by 74%.
  • Slow loading sites cost the U.S. economy over $500 billion every year.

The above statistics point clearly to the impact site speed has on conversion and traffic, but it doesn’t end there. It isn’t a secret that Google now uses site speed as one of its ranking factors.

If you run an online business, making speed a priority can single-handedly double your traffic and conversions. Here are some tips for you:

1) Optimize your site load time

The very first step towards ensuring a faster experience with people who interact with your brand online involves optimizing your site load time.

As established by some of the stats listed above, website speed plays a core role in whether people stay on your website or buy from you.

In fact, an Akamai study found that 47% of people expect a web page to load within two seconds. Here are some ideas to make your site load faster:

  • Get a better host: Really, the foundation of your website is important; if you’re on a poor host, everything else I suggest here is useless. First ensure you’re on a good host. I created this comparison page to make it easy to compare web hosts based on speed.
  • Use a CDN: One of the core benefits of the internet is that it is universal. Someone from the most remote village in Bulgaria can access content from India as soon as it is created. Due to the distance and some other factors, this advantage can also be a disadvantage. Your site won’t load the same for everybody: Your website that is hosted in the US will be faster for people trying to access it in the US, but it will be slower for people trying to access it in China. Speed will vary based on the location of your users. Thanks to CDNs, however, your website can be distributed to servers in different parts of the world. This lets you serve the fastest version of your website to visitors depending on where they are trying to gain access from. This in turn results in a much faster website. CloudFlare and MaxCDN are great CDN options.
  • Disable unnecessary add-ons and plugins: Usability trumps being fancy any day. If you want a faster website, you should be ready to remove anything that is unnecessary; this includes plugins and add-ons that do not serve a purpose. If your website will work fine without a particular plugin or add-on, you don’t need it.
  • Compress images: When you take a picture, or download an image online, it is usually very large. This is especially true if it is a high resolution image. The issue is that the size of images displayed on your website adds to your site’s overall loading speed. A 2.4MB image could easily be compressed to 100KB, resulting in a significant reduction in page load time.

site speed images

  • Use caching: Anytime someone visits your website, their browser has to download files from your server before serving them your site. If this is done every time, not only will your site take a bit longer to load for users but it can result in a slower website if a lot of people try to access your website at once. With caching, however, the files is downloaded and saved by their browser during their first visit. Instead of requesting a new file from your server each time, unless you update your website, their browser will serve the version downloaded earlier. This makes your site faster for both old and new visitors.

2) Create a mobile (or responsive) version of your site

Many website owners focus only on desktop visitors and ignore mobile visitors. The interesting fact, however, is that there are more mobile internet users today than desktop internet users. This is why it is very important for you to create a mobile version of your website.

mobile friendly

Mobile devices do not have the same capacity as desktop computers, so websites – in the original form they are designed for desktop visitors – will take much longer to load on a mobile phone than on a desktop computer even with the same internet speed.

By creating a much smaller mobile site, or by optimizing your site to be responsive for all devices, you can deliver a much faster website to mobile users.

3) Use a completeness meter on your website

Research shows that 75% of people would love to have a progress bar, or some sort of indication of their level of progress, when using a website.

Even when you’ve done your best, you can’t control everything – issues happen when it comes to technology. Sometimes there will be a delay from your payment processor, or your website might just be unusually slow.

Regardless, people are more likely to leave your website – if it is slow – when they are uncertain of how long it will take for their issue to be resolved. The solution to this is to use a “completeness meter.”

A completeness meter, such as a progress bar, will let users know how much longer they have to wait before their issue is resolved; due to the fact that they are now certain about how long they have to wait, they feel a lot less impatient and are likely to continue with their transaction on your site.

4) Reduce your signup forms and pages

Most people think about site load time as the only factor to consider when optimizing a website for speed, but that’s far from it. Even your sign up forms and checkout pages matter.

If you want people to respond more to your offer, reduce the number of hoops they have to jump through; this mean you should reduce the number of form fields users have to fill, the number of questions you ask users, and the number of pages they have to go through. This will result in a much faster experience for your users, and less is more in this case.

5) Optimize your customer support response time

Most importantly, you should optimize your customer support response time.

Research shows that 53% of people expect brands to respond within an hour of reaching out to them on Twitter. Research also shows that people expect you to respond to their emails within 24 hours.

Usually, customers can still request a refund if they are not satisfied. Most importantly, disgruntled customers can do a lot of damage to your brand by spreading the word about their bad experience to others.

Speed optimization doesn’t just end with your website; it is important to maintain a quality attitude to speed even after people become customers.

John Stevens is the CEO of Hosting Facts. He’s a regular contributor to Entrepreneur, Adweek, Internet Retailer and SEW.

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Top Snapchat Demographics That Matter to Social Media Marketers

Snapchat may not be as familiar to marketers as Facebook and Instagram, but its dedicated user base can’t be ignored. Think about these two facts for a moment: The entire population of the world is 7.4 billion people. Snapchatters watch more than 10 billion videos every day. (That’s way up from the 2 billion per day they watched in May 2015.)

Of course, the entire world is not using Snapchat—yet—but more than 100 million people do use it every day (spending an average of 30 minutes a day inside the app), and there are 200 million active users worldwide. And Snapchat’s user numbers are still growing fast: eMarketer forecasts that by the end of this year, Snapchat will have a larger user base in the U.S. than either Twitter or Pinterest.

With all those people posting all that content, it’s important for marketers to get a sense of the most important Snapchat demographics segments so they can plan a marketing strategy that maximizes the app’s unique characteristics, rather than just getting lost in the noise.

With that in mind, we’ve pulled together the key details social media marketers need to know before they start Snapping.

Snapchat age demographics

Data from the Statistics Portal backs up the common assumption that Snapchat is still dominated by the young: 60 percent of users are under 25, and nearly a quarter (23 percent) have not yet graduated from high school.

By far the largest Snapchat age demographic is 18- to 24-year-olds. This age group makes up 37 percent of Snapchat users. But well-past-college-aged 25- to 34-year olds make up about 26 percent of Snapchatters, and about 12 percent of users are aged 35 to 54.

Still, Snapchat is not currently a player in the Baby Boomer market: Only two percent of users are over 55.

Apart from how each age group is represented in the Snapchat universe, though, it’s worth looking at Snapchat’s penetration rate in each age category, since these numbers can tell a different story, especially since penetration in the older demographics is growing fast—more than half of new users signing up to Snapchat are over the age of 25.

Three years ago, hardly anyone over age 25 was using the app—just five percent of smartphone users aged 25 to 34 and a tiny two percent of those over 35. But today, well over a third (38 percent) of 25- to 34-year-old smartphone users and 14 percent of smartphone users over the age of 35 use Snapchat. They’re gaining fast on the 18 to 24 group, for which Snapchat’s penetration rate is 69 percent.

According to Snapchat’s own figures, on any given day, 41 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds use the app.

Marketers should keep an eye on changes to Snapchat age demographics and be flexible when planning a longer-term strategy. Variety reported that almost a third of the 13- to 24-year-old Snapchatters they surveyed said they used Snapchat specifically because their parents did not. As more parents start to use the app, marketers need to keep an eye on how the younger user base responds.

Targeting that large 18- to 24-year-old demographic and the growing population of slightly older users, FOX used a Snapchat sponsored lens to drum up excitement for its midseason Empire premiere. Superimposing Snapchatters with a pair of gold headphones, sunglasses, and a microphone, the lens also prominently displayed information about the show’s airtime. The campaign reached 27 million Snapchatters, who spent an average of 20 seconds playing with the Empire lens, creating a 16-point increase in brand awareness and an eight-point increase in tune-in intent. Empire was the most-watched show on its premiere night, and took top spot for the 18- to 49-year-old demographic coveted by TV advertisers.

Snapchat gender demographics

Snapchat does not publish gender information for its users, and reliable Snapchat gender demographics data can be hard to come by. But unless things have drastically changed in the last three years, you can bet most Snapchatters are women and girls. The Wall Street Journal reported in 2013 that roughly 70 percent of Snapchat users at that time were women, a figure that came from Snapchat co-founder and CEO Evan Spiegel himself.

A Harvard survey from fall 2015 confirmed that a significantly higher percentage of women use Snapchat than men, with 42 percent of the female 18- to 29-year-olds surveyed saying they had a Snapchat account, compared to 31 percent of male respondents. That survey also showed Snapchat was the fastest growing social network among all respondents, so those numbers have likely increased in the last year.

That high usage among young female users made Snapchat a natural fit when bareMinerals launched its Blemish Remedy acne product. With a campaign dubbed “Zit Happens,” the makeup company created a how-to Snapchat video showing girls how to hide their pimples. Thirty percent of the 1.9 million Snapchatters who saw the videos swiped up to learn more and spent an average of 30 seconds learning about the product. bareMinerals saw the search traffic for the Blemish Remedy product on its website double after the campaign.

Top Snapchat Demographics That Matter to Social Media Marketers | Hootsuite Blog
Image of bareMinerals Snapchat ad via Snapchat.

Snapchat location demographics

Snapchat has its highest penetration rate in Ireland, followed by Saudi Arabia and Sweden, according to the Global Web Index, with India, the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, Belgium, the United Kingdom, and France rounding out the top 10.

The Global Web Index figures, which are based on internet users aged 16 to 64, show that Ireland has a Snapchat penetration rate of nearly 20 percent, compared to about 10 percent in the United States.

If those numbers seem low, it’s because they include users up to age 64 (remember that only two percent of Snapchat users are over 55), and because they include users who only access the internet from a computer—putting the mobile-only Snapchat out of reach.

Back in 2013, AllThingsD reported that 25 percent of smartphone users in the United Kingdom used Snapchat, along with 50 percent of smartphone users in Norway, based on numbers from Snapchat’s Evan Spiegel.

With that diversified global reach, Snapchat is a good platform for campaigns with a global message, like (RED)’s global one-day-only Geofilters marking World AIDS Day. For each use of a Geofilter, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation donated $3 to (RED) for its work in the fight against AIDS.

The campaign reached 14 million Snapchatters and had 76 million total views worldwide—and those who saw the filter were 90 percent more likely to donate to (RED), even apart from the money raised by sharing the Geofilter itself.

This summer, (RED) launched another unique global campaign with The (RED) Kitchen Snapchat cooking show, in which celebrity chefs shared bite-sized cooking lessons with Snapchatters around the world as part of the Eat (RED) Save Lives initiative.

Other Snapchat demographics

The fall 2015 Harvard survey of young (18 to 29) Americans reveals a few more interesting Snapchat demographics that marketers should take note of:

  • College students are more likely to have Snapchat accounts: 53 percent of college students surveyed said they had a Snapchat account, compared to 46 percent of all 18- to 24-year-olds.
  • Snapchat users have no particular political affiliation: 39 percent of Democrats, 37 percent of Republicans, and 35 percent of independent voters said they had Snapchat accounts.
  • 40 percent of young Snapchat users identified as White, 25 percent identified as Black, and 34 percent identified as Hispanic.

Snapchat demographics takeaways

Snapchat users are young, female, and well distributed throughout Europe, North America, Asia, and the Middle East. While Snapchat use among adults up to age 55 is growing fast, Baby Boomers are still a tiny fraction of the Snapchat user base.

As Snapchat demographics start to shift, it will be interesting to see if the young people who currently love Snapchat as the social network their parents haven’t discovered yet continue their love affair with the app. For now, they’re highly engaged, posting like crazy, and willing to interact with brand content that speaks to them.

Now that you understand who’s using Snapchat, you can start using Snapchat for businessdevelop a Snapchat strategy to target your brand’s key demographic, discover some Snapchat hacks to make your Snaps stand out from the crowd, and learn how to craft the perfect Snapchat Story.

Hootsuite’s on Snapchat! Click this link on mobile to go directly to Hootsuite’s profile or scan the Snapcode below to add Hootsuite as a Friend on Snapchat.

hootsuite-snapchat-snapcode

How to use Facebook Ads to find and recruit new employees

How are you recruiting new employees?

Are you using job recruiters? If so, you know their finder fees are ridiculously high. Typically it will cost you 20% of your new employee’s first year salary.

Isn’t there a cheaper route? Why can’t we just find employees through social media?

When you think recruiting and social media, most people think of LinkedIn. Many companies believe this myth that you have to do all your recruiting on LinkedIn.

Honestly, LinkedIn is a site most people use only when they’re out of work and searching for a new job. So your search for employees on LinkedIn will actually end up excluding people who aren’t actively job-hunting.

Often the best employees already have jobs. Some of the greatest employees we’ve hired actually weren’t even looking to change jobs!

facebook-recruiting-thatd-be-great

Can you recruit employees on Facebook?

Facebook is the platform where everyone spends the most time. More than a billion people log into Facebook every day.

You can encourage your employees to share job openings on their Facebook page. But this won’t accomplish much. Your organic reach on Facebook is limited to friends of your employees.

You need people who live near your office. You need people with certain skills.

The number of people who are actually qualified for any open job is low. It’s highly unlikely that your current employees will be connected with someone who is absolutely perfect for the job – and even if they are, that person could easily miss it in their news feed.

If you’re serious about adding top talent to your team (fast), you need to reach a bigger audience on Facebook. You need to use Facebook Ads.

Creating Your Facebook Recruiting Ad

Any great Facebook Ad needs great visuals. So my biggest goal was to make WordStream look cool to future employees.

I took some photos during a company party to help highlight our culture and show off a few of our people. In the ad copy, I said that WordStream was hiring for all departments, listed a few of our amazing perks, told people to message me if they were interested, and linked to our job page.

And then I posted it to my wall and boosted it with Facebook Ads:

larry-kim-wordstream-recruiting-facebook-ad

This is where the ad targeting comes in. People who have heard of you may not realize they’re in your key demographic and that you’re hiring.

Targeting Your Facebook Recruiting Ad

Facebook’s ad targeting is mind-blowing. You just have to know exactly who you’re looking for when you’re recruiting for new team members.

For most companies, location is critical. So you can do geographic targeting within a few miles of your office:

facebook-recruiting-location

Demographics are another critical element of Facebook ad targeting.

What age group are you targeting? If you want someone who is entry-level, you’ll want to target a younger crowd (early to mid-20s).

In addition, you can target your ads so they show based on a Facebook user’s employer, job title, industry, and office type:

facebook-recruiting-work-targeting

Want someone with a certain educational background? You can add education-level targeting.

Interests are another important aspect of Facebook ad targeting. You can target your recruitment ad to people who have certain interests.

For example, I targeted my ads to people who were interested in stuff like C++ programming, inbound marketing, and PPC, because people who are interested in these things would also be interested in finding and applying for a great new job that aligns with their passions.

facebook-recruiting-behavior-interests-targeting

You can even use remarketing to reach people who have visited your site before and are already familiar with your brand.

After all the targeting options for the ad I created, I narrowed down my market, and it was actually quite large (almost 40,000 people reached) plus super relevant.

My Facebook recruiting experiment: the results

First off, check out the relevance score on this ad: a 7 out of 10.

facebook-recruiting-relevance-score

The relevance score shows you how well your audience responds to your ad.

Engagement on this ad was awesome:

  • 83 likes
  • 14 comments
  • 15 shares
  • 773 clicks on the link to our jobs page
  • 15 new likes for my Facebook page

This is pretty incredible engagement for a recruitment ad!

On Facebook, engagement is the key. The higher your engagement, the higher your rewards from Facebook.

This is why you need to know exactly who you want to hire. Targeting your audience based on the demographics, interests, and behaviors that fit your open position will result in more relevant ads and higher engagement.

Had I simply targeted this same post to anyone with a Facebook account, the results would have been far less impressive. The engagement rate would be lower and the costs would be higher.

That’s because the higher your relevancy score, the lower your cost per engagement will be.

In addition to winning big with our new hire, Justin, the same Facebook ad attracted interest (and about 20 resumes) from several other good applicants.

Ultimately it was actually much cheaper in our case to have found our talented hire through Facebook rather than using a recruiter or LinkedIn ads. So next time you’re looking to fill a role in your company, give Facebook Ads a try.

Facebook ads + $200 and great targeting = awesome hires!

This article was originally published on the WordStream blog, it’s reprinted with permission: How to use Facebook Ads to recruit top talent.

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12 video SEO tips to help improve your search rankings

Camera lens

Video content has skyrocketed over the past few years, and therefore it’s time to examine how adding SEO to your videos can impact rankings.

Video is everywhere and this is both a blessing and a curse, especially if you’re trying to stand out from the rest of the crowd at the top of search engine results pages. So consider the following video SEO tips to help put you ahead of the competition…

1) Add value

As common as it may sound, your content should be relevant to your audience, adding value that will convince the users to dedicate the right time to watch your video. The more quality videos, the bigger the chances to serve as an authority, build a trusting relationship with your audience and increase the conversions.

2) Host video to your own domain

If you are creating video content to improve the ranking of your site, then you need to host the video to your own domain, in order to ensure that search engines don’t direct the traffic to another site.

Let’s say for example that you prefer to upload the video on YouTube and add a link back to your site in the description. This may be a good idea if you’re trying to expand your reach, but in terms of SEO, search engines will crawl the Youtube video first, rather than your site.

Moreover, it may be a good idea to create a new page for each video, as Google mentions that this makes the indexing easier.

3) Create interactive content

How about adding the necessary interactive elements to your videos to activate the viewers? Whether it’s the actual content, an annotation, or the caption, there are many ways that you can “gamify” a video to make it more interactive and engaging, helping grab the users’ attention.

You can even split the video into shorter clips, allowing your viewers to pick which one they prefer to watch, a strategy which has been implemented in many successful campaigns.

4) Create relevant metadata

Your video should provide the necessary details to help search engines index it and according to Google, the title, the description and the thumbnail are the most important pieces of information.

Metadata offers more details about the video title, the description, the length of the video and its file name.

Video title has to be short and concise, while the description may provide more details and keywords, boosting the ranking of your content.

Last but not least, make sure the file name of your video is relevant, instead of a generic one like “video415.mph”, as this is another way to describe your content for search engines.

Here’s more advice on how to optimise video for YouTube.

5) Optimise with keywords

Keyword research may also occur in video SEO and it may help you discover the most relevant content for your target audience. Is there a particular keyword, or phrase that could lead to better results? What’s the best way to describe your video?

Feel free to experiment with different keywords and always remember to create descriptive, but also legible content, helping both your audience, but also the search engines.

6) Focus on the thumbnail

The video’s thumbnail is among the first things that users will notice and it might affect their decision whether they’ll actually click on the video.

video SEO

How about picking a thumbnail that is clear and relevant to the content of your video?

7) Make “shareable” content

It’s not just about creating an interactive video, it’s also about producing content that your audience will appreciate.

“Shareable” content is unique, creative and adds value for its target audience, making the sharing easier and the reach bigger.

It’s the quality of your content that will make your video stand out from the rest, and a clear call-to-action may also affect your site’s authority, with new links and mentions.

8) Add a video transcript

A full video transcript is the written version of your video and it can be very useful if it also includes the right use of keywords, helping search engines learn more about your content.

You can either include a transcript to the audio portion of your video, or you may also add it to the description box, along with the HTML of the page. This not only helps search engines to discover your content, but also the readers who may prefer an overview of your video.

9) Create a video sitemap

A video sitemap provides all the necessary data about your video’s content and it provides the details the search engines need to get a clearer picture of its context.

video sitemap

A video’s sitemap is another way to present the video’s title, description, subject, duration and it may even provide more specific details, like an indication of the country restrictions, any expiration dates, platform restrictions or live streams.

It serves as an extension to your site’s general sitemap and although it may often be overlooked in video SEO, it is an important step to help your video’s ranking.

10) Repurpose video

There are many ways to use an existing video and this may extend its “lifespan” and its reach.

For example, you may create a 10-minute video on your site, offering tips about video SEO. Your goal is to push this page to the rankings and increase the awareness and the traffic to your site.

Instead of simply promoting the particular page, which you should do anyway, you may also upload a preview of this video to your Facebook page for example, leading your audience to your site for more details.

Moreover, you can create an infographic, a slideshow, or shorter videos, all leading to the main source of content: your site.

It is a great opportunity to reach a wider audience and promote your main content, helping them discover your page in the most interesting and relevant way.

11) Allow embedding of your video

If users want to embed your video to their site, or their blog, it means that they like it enough to include it on their page. This is already a win for your content and it may lead to a boosted page ranking on SERPs.

Thus, make it easy for your audience to embed your video, as you’re earning more inbound links to help your SEO efforts.

12) Share on social media

Don’t be afraid to promote your content as much as possible to all the relevant channels, as this is the best way to spread word about it and reach the right audience.

This may lead to more viewers, new links, bigger traffic and of course, better positioning on SERPs.

Feel free to reach the right people that may find your content interesting, or even to use your network to promote it accordingly. Even paid promotion may be useful, if you think that this can contribute to your goals.

Social authority cannot be overlooked and in fact, it may be a great way to boost your video’s SEO efforts.

Takeaway

There are numerous ways to apply search optimisation for your video content, but it all comes down to quality once again, as the starting point for your strategy.

It’s the actual content that will grab the audience’s attention and its optimisation can ensure that you are rewarded for your dedication with a higher position on SERPs.

Once you are creating relevant content of high quality, then it’s time to start applying the above tips to get your message noticed, both by users and search engines.

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Google to penalize annoying mobile interstitials

Last year, Google unleashed Mobilegeddon on the world in an effort to make the web more accessible by favoring mobile-friendly sites in the mobile SERPs. 

Now, Google is upping the ante by taking aim at sites that use intrusive interstitials.

Starting January 10, 2017, Google will update its algorithm so that sites “where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.”

In a post on the Official Google Webmaster Central blog, Google Product Manager Doantam Phan provided examples of techniques that Google isn’t a fan of:

  • Showing a popup that covers the main content, either immediately after the user navigates to a page from the search results, or while they are looking through the page.
  • Displaying a standalone interstitial that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content.
  • Using a layout where the above-the-fold portion of the page appears similar to a standalone interstitial, but the original content has been inlined underneath the fold.

annoying interstitials

Some common techniques won’t be penalized. These include legal notices, login dialogs on password-protected sites, and banners that don’t take up too much screen real estate and can be dismissed easily.

Reactions show rift between users and publishers

Not surprisingly, many cheered Google’s announcement, hoping that it will help bring about an end to tactics that frequently annoy end users.

But not everyone is thrilled. Rafat Ali, the founder of travel news site Skift, remarked on Twitter that “Now Google wants to define how publishers run our audience acquisition strategies. Will hurt email newsletters most.”

While he noted that the popup his site uses to invites readers to sign up for an email newsletter doesn’t appear on the first page a reader visits and therefore believes “we’re insulated for most part,” he also had some choice words for Google.

Obviously, publishers will want to monitor Google’s update carefully, lest they find themselves penalized.

But Google’s Phan noted that “this new signal is just one of hundreds of signals that are used in ranking” and added, “the intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.”

That suggests the penalty might not be significant, or won’t affect some publishers as much as others, so publishers will need to wait until next year to see how this update pans out.

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5 Features that Prove Myspace Was Way Ahead of Its Time

Those extreme side parts. Shaggy jet-black hair covering moody eyes. Above-the-head camera selfies. Teen angst. A lot of this *~*~*~*. Myspace is known for many things, but if we took the time to pull aside those side bangs of the 2000s, we would have revealed a social network that was way ahead of its time.

So much of how we use the internet today can be traced back to Myspace features from years ago. We didn’t fully appreciate the innovation of things like Myspace Bulletins until Snapchat Stories appeared, or Myspace Polls until we saw Twitter Polls introduced. By reflecting on the ways past platforms were ahead of their time, we have the opportunity to think about the current state of social media—and what it means for the future.

Groups

One of the most obvious benefits of social media is the ability to connect groups of people, no matter their geographic location. Online forums, groups, and collectives can give voices to those who feel as if they don’t belong anywhere in “real life,” and unite like-minded people in ways that weren’t possible before their existence.

In its prime, Myspace popularized the group format with Myspace Groups (RIP, 2003 to 2010). Users could choose to join groups from categories such as “Fashion & Style,” “Music,” or “Food, Drink, and Wine.” They could also join local or national groups to connect with Myspace users in their geographic location. When looking for a specific group, users could also search Myspace Groups to find what they were looking for.

In 2016, the group format is something that is used by millions of people around the world everyday. Facebook Groups, much like Myspace Groups, allow users to easily connect with likeminded individuals or businesses and brands they are interested in. As I explain in my post, Facebook Groups 101: Everything You Need to Know:, “They are a place for your customers and fans to come together to organize, express objectives, discuss issues, post photos, and share related content.”

The rules and best practices for Facebook Groups compared to Myspace Groups aren’t that different, and include the following tips for social media marketers:

Bulletins

The days of a town crier are gone, but Myspace Bulletins did a great job of bringing the group message online. Bulletins were posted to a “bulletin board” for all of your Myspace friends (hi Tom) to see, and allowed users to send a message to an entire list of contacts without having to contact each person individually. After 10 days, a Bulletin was deleted.

Today, Snapchat Stories have taken over as one of the best ways to broadcast a message to a group of friends, contacts, or customers. Snapchat Stories are a great way for brands to share creative messages with a large following—and continue to grow their following in the process.

As explained in my post Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Snapchat (But Were Afraid to Ask), you can build brand awareness with creative Snap Stories and influencer marketing, as they are the perfect medium for storytelling. “The highly desirable demographic of 12- to 24-year-olds are here, soif you want to build brand awareness, work on creating a series of Snaps that tell a story. Each Snap is like a piece of the puzzle, and people will have to keep coming back in order to get the whole picture.”

Today Snapchat Stories are used to broadcast messages showcasing things like: special events, behind the scenes content and employee interviews,Q&As, and sneak peeks of new products and services

While Myspace Bulletins may no longer be the broadcast medium of choice for most social media users, Snapchat Stories have picked up where they left off.

Myspace Polls

Getting to know your audience and customers is an important part of any social media strategy. Polls make this process as easy as possible. Polls are obviously a big part of internet culture this year from a political standpoint, but the social media use of polls has been present for years.  

While an original feature of Myspace, the polling feature was temporarily discontinued until 2008 when it was brought back once again to Myspace users. Users could post polls on their profiles and share them with others, gaining valuable information on their contacts and friends in the process.

As a form of social media listening, polls are alive and thriving in 2016 as a key feature of Twitter. My post, 5 Ways to Use Twitter Polls for Your Business shares a few ideas for your Twitter Poll uses, such as conducting market research and getting content feedback—things that you could have done with your Myspace Polls back in the day.

Myspace provided great beginnings to the polling culture that runs rampant in 2016. Top companies know that social intelligence and happy customers go hand-in-hand, so take a page from Myspace’s book and start polling.

Moods

As hard as it is for me to admit it, sometimes you need more than words to convey a message. It can be difficult to get a tone or emotion across without an image of some sort—whether it be an emoji, GIF, photo, or video. Myspace tapped into this early on in the internet’s evolution with the introduction of Myspace Moods. Moods were little emoticon images that were added to a user’s status update and helped show the individual’s current mood.

In 2016, we are given more ways to show emotion and reactions online every day. Facebook introduced their Reactions feature in February 2016, which allowed users to respond to a Facebook post with either a traditional Like, or a “Love, Haha, Wow, Sad, or Angry” face.

Image via Facebook
Image via Facebook

Another effective way of showing emotion and adding to your message is with GIFs. If you haven’t incorporated GIFs  into your brand’s social media strategy, it’s time to start. As our Ultimate GIF Guide explains:

  • GIFs show that you’re paying attention to internet trends
  • GIFs show that you and your brand have a fun side
  • GIFs can add more context to a shorter message, post, or Tweet
  • GIFs get your message across in a shorter amount of time
  • GIFs are easily shareable
  • GIFs convey emotions better than text or photos alone

Using visuals such as Reactions and GIFs with your content adds a touch of emotion that further works to humanize your brand.

Social video

In 2006, Mashable said that Myspace Video had really begun to pick up steam and was growing faster than any of its competitors (such as YouTube). In 2007, Myspace changed the name of Myspace Video to MyspaceTV, similar to YouTube (which Myspace banned the sharing of clips from due to competition). In 2009, however, the name reverted to Myspace Video.

Myspace Video unfortunately hasn’t been able to keep up with other video-centric sites. Today Facebook and Snapchat have both surpassed 8 billion daily video views and YouTube’s 1 billion-plus users are watching hundreds of millions of hours of online video every day. Social video is a key part of any good social media marketing strategy, so it’s important that your brand knows how to properly incorporate the medium into your plan.

If you don’t know where to get started, Hootsuite’s senior director of brand Cameron Uganec shares nine crucial tips for your social video in our post A Guide to Social Video, and Where it Fits in Your Marketing Plan.

  1. Design it to be shareable from the get-go.
  2. Create a mission statement for each video platform.
  3. Use the power of storytelling.
  4. Make the customer the hero, and engage them.
  5. Emotions lead to sharing.
  6. Shorter is (almost) always better.
  7. Always start strong (The first 30 seconds are the most important).
  8. Don’t ignore search.
  9. Your distribution strategy is critical. You need to build momentum.

Myspace might have reached its peak long ago, but it has left a legendary impact on social media today.

Voice UI and intelligent assistants: trends to watch out for next

Earlier this year, a report from Consumer Intelligence Research partners (CIRP) pegged the sales of Amazon’s Echo at more than 3 million units.

Echo of course uses Amazon’s cloud based AI “Alexa” to answer questions, play music/games, control smart devices including home automation systems and of course re-order products off Amazon.

More importantly, awareness of this device and others like it continues to accelerate.

51XeN2UYoyL._SL1000_

In fact, according to CIRP, awareness of Echo more than doubled though the course of last year from 20% in March 2015 to more than 50% by year’s end.

While an aggressive and memorable ad effort featuring Alec Baldwin, Dan Marino, and Missy Elliot may have contributed to Echo’s increasing awareness and popularity, its value proposition, robust and growing functionality and perceived promise are ushering in a new era – the AI, Machine Learning and voice UI era.

Here are a few trends and predictions to look for as we prepare for this exciting wave which will most certainly become ever more present in our everyday lives and tasks.

Trends in intelligent assistants

Listening to Amazon’s Charles Kindel at the Eniac M1 Summit confirms, Amazon has big plans for its cloud based omnipresent AI technology.

Those plans include how this intelligent assistant can be integrated into and can interact with other IOT devices and services be it your smart phone/watch/home, gaming/music systems and even cars, as is the case with Ford SYNC.

Clearly Amazon believes Echo and “Alexa” is so much more than just a product, it’s a framework and platform that will be open to a growing number of outside developers.

Expect tens of thousands of developers to jump on the bandwagon in the coming years as they look to integrate Alexa into their own products as this technology moves quickly into the mainstream.

But don’t be fooled, Amazon won’t be alone and it’s not the only game in town.

Both Apple with its Siri, Microsoft with its Cortana and Google with the Google Assistant and Google Home offering will compete aggressively here, particularly given their dominance on the mobile/smartphone OS front.

cortana

Given that advantage and footprint, it will be particularly interesting to see how Amazon will explore ways in which Alexa can be more deeply integrated into Apple, Google and Microsoft powered smartphones.

It should also not come as a big surprise if Amazon looks to both acquire and build solutions to support the continued adoption of its intelligent assistant Alexa.

The company’s strong track record to continually experiment and innovate remains part of its culture. Bigger and bigger successes, such as AWS and Echo/Alexa, will only fuel bigger bets and experiments, and rest assured, Alexa-related investments and innovations are forthcoming.

Finally, because these voice UI’s and intelligent assistants continually listen for key words and are collecting more and more info about its users to be helpful, privacy concerns have arisen.

Hopes and fears

While each company has assured users the data is not stored or shared, the always listening and learning capabilities can be unsettling.

Look for greater notice, data access and controls to be integrated into all solutions as our intelligent assistants become an increasing part of our lives.

We are on the threshold of a new era lead by AI, NL and machine learning and the emergence of the voice UI somewhat depicted in the Spike Jonze movie HER is yet another step closer to reality.

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