Social Media News You Need to Know: June 2016 Roundup

June was yet another busy month on social.

Twitter released a lot of new changes—a lot a lot—longer video, Promoted Tweet Carousels, and two new companion apps.

Meanwhile, Facebook released its own set of emoji and Instagram hit 500 million users.

Find out all the social media news worth knowing from all the major platforms in our June 2016 roundup.

Twitter

Pre-roll automation tools

On June 2, Twitter announced that they’re rolling out an easier way for advertisers to “serve pre-roll ads of any length in front of the most premium mobile videos.” Twitter pre-roll now supports Video Ad Serving Templates (VAST) through select Ads API partners. David Regan, Twitter’s group product manager of video, explained in the announcement blog post: “Today’s launch makes Twitter the only social platform that allows advertisers to systematically deliver pre-roll ads against video content from top sports, TV, and digital publishers.”

Promoted Tweet Carousel

On June 3, Twitter announced they’ve begun testing the Promoted Tweet Carousel. In the announcement blog post, Andrew Bragdon, revenue product manager, explained that it’s “a new ad unit that gives marketers a rich canvas for brand storytelling using their own Tweets or Tweets about their brand by users who have given permission to the brand.” The new feature will allow advertisers to curate multiple Tweets into a single swipeable ad unit. Promoted Tweet Carousel is currently being tested as a limited alpha (an early version of the product that may not contain all the features planned for the final version) to accounts in select global markets.

Twitter Insiders program

On June 8, Twitter announced a new program for consumer and market research. Twitter Insiders is a network of more than 12,000 Twitter users, aged 16 and up, who participate in research studies, acting as an “anonymous virtual panel from across the U.S. and U.K.” The program is intended to be “a one-stop solution for recruitment, design, and collection of live research.” Agencies and their clients can work directly with Twitter Insiders or design studies in conjunction with CSpace, “a team of consultants who specialize in fostering collaboration between companies and their customers.”

Social Media News You Need to Know: June 2016 Roundup | Hootsuite Blog
Image via Twitter.

Android design refresh

On June 7, Twitter rolled out a redesigned version of the app for Android. Changes include:

  • A tab bar with swipe functionality at the top of the screen to allow for quick switching between timeline, notifications, direct messages, and other functions
  • A navigation menu (with access to your profile, highlights, lists, etc.) that slides out from the side
  • A new floating action button so that users can easily send a Tweet from any part of the app.

The redesigned Android Twitter app rolled out globally on June 7.

Easier to embed timelines

On June 7, Twitter announced that they’ve made it easier to embed timelines to websites and other content management systems (CMS). New functionality includes:

  • Factory functions so users can easily generate timelines for any web app
  • oEmbed API which will allow seamless integration of profiles, lists, likes, or collection timelines directly into a CMS.

The change also eliminates the need to create and save widgets.

Social Media News You Need to Know: June 2016 Roundup | Hootsuite Blog
Image via Twitter.

Emoji targeting

On June 15, Twitter announced the ability to target emoji keywords for Twitter Ads.

This feature will allow advertisers to target users who have recently tweeted or engaged with Tweets featuring emoji. Neil Shah, Twitter product manager of the ads API, explained in the announcement blog post: “This new feature uses emoji activity as a signal of a person’s mood or mindset—unlocking unique opportunities for marketers.” To access emoji targeting functionality, advertisers must reach out to one of Twitter’s official partners.

Social Media News You Need to Know: June 2016 Roundup | Hootsuite Blog
Image via Twitter.

Periscope Live button

On June 15, Twitter made its Live button for Periscope available to everyone using its Android and iOS apps, reported Engadget. Now users have the option to select Live when composing a Tweet to begin broadcasting video.

Twitter Engage

On June 21, Twitter introduced Twitter Engage, a new companion app. Twitter Engage provides real-time data and insights to help users quickly understand, engage with, and grow their audience. The app:

  • Indicates a user’s most important follows and @mentions, such as those from influencers or advocates
  • Outlines account performance and audience using key stats (like Retweets)
  • Track post-by-post performance

Twitter Engage is available for iOS users in the U.S.

Social Media News You Need to Know: June 2016 Roundup | Hootsuite Blog
Images via Twitter.

Longer video

On June 21, Twitter announced longer videos, alongside other video updates. Previously videos on Twitter were limited to 30 seconds. Now users can tweet videos up to 140 seconds long. Additionally, Twitter added a new full-screen viewing experience and the ability to see more videos via suggested video and Vine Tweets. The updates will roll out soon on Twitter for iOS and Android.

Stickers

On June 27, Twitter introduced #Stickers. Users can add the new, Snapchat-like stickers to photos on Twitter. The rotating library features hundreds of accessories, emoji, and props which users can resize and rotate. Once a photo Tweet featuring stickers has been sent, it becomes searchable in “a new visual spin on the hashtag.” Stickers will roll out over the coming weeks for Twitter iOS and Android users. Users can also view and click stickers on Twitter.com.

Twitter Dashboard

On June 28, Twitter introduced Twitter Dashboard, a new app to help businesses connect with customers. Twitter Dashboard is a free tool that gives businesses the ability to monitor what’s being said about them, schedule Tweets, and glean performance insights. The app will also offer tips on what businesses should share. Twitter Dashboard is available to all U.S.-based businesses as an iOS app and a desktop web experience.

Social Media News You Need to Know: June 2016 Roundup | Hootsuite Blog
Images via Twitter.

Facebook

Facebook emoji

On June 1, David Marcus, Facebook’s VP of messaging products, announced a Messenger custom emoji set. In order to ensure consistency across platforms (iOS, Android, and the web)—and bridge the long-standing emoji divide—Facebook decided to create its own set of emoji. Emojipedia called the new designs “stunning.” See the complete library of new Facebook Messenger emoji on Emojipedia.

360 degree photos

On June 9, Facebook introduced 360 photos. Now users can shoot a panoramic image on their phone (or capture a 360-degree photo using a 360 photo app or camera) and share it to Facebook. The image will be converted to a 360-degree photo that other users can explore, similar to 360 videos. The new images will be designated by a compass icon on the right-hand side.

On mobile, users can simply tap and drag or move their phone to see different parts of the image (web users can view them by clicking and dragging). In addition to News Feed, 360 photos can be viewed using Samsung Gear VR. They’re available on Facebook via the web and the latest version of the Facebook app on iOS and Android.

Offline ad tracking

In June, Facebook announced that they’d be introducing ways for advertisers to measure the effectiveness of online ads, reported AdWeek. The new measurement tools will allow businesses to find out how many people visited a store location after viewing a Facebook campaign. The store visit metric will be based on information collected from users who have location services turned on. The feature is expected to roll out in the next few months.

Social Media News You Need to Know: June 2016 Roundup | Hootsuite Blog
Image via AdWeek.

SMS in Messenger

On June 14, David Marcus, Facebook’s VP of messaging products, announced the ability for users to send and receive SMS messages from Messenger. Marcus explained: “A lot of Android texting apps didn’t keep up with the evolution of messaging, so we felt like we truly had to make Messenger the best SMS client for Android.” In addition to standard texting features, the fully-integrated messaging app allows users to send voice clips and stickers, as well as share their location.

Social Media News You Need to Know: June 2016 Roundup | Hootsuite Blog
Image via David Marcus on Facebook.

Messenger layout changes

On June 16, Facebook announced changes to Messenger’s layout. Users will still see recent messages at the top of their screen, however those will now be followed by a new Favorites section which highlights people frequently messaged by the user. The new layout also includes a Birthdays section and an Active Now section.

Disappearing posts

In June, Facebook began allowing users to post to News Feed and not timeline. While Facebook have previously offered the option to hide posts from timeline, this new update means posts can be shared to News Feed and bypass timeline entirely. Initially reported by CNET, this feature is currently available on Facebook on the web only, not mobile.

Social Media News You Need to Know: June 2016 Roundup | Hootsuite Blog
Image via CNET.

Updates to Live

At VidCon on June 23, Facebook announced plans to update Live. Fidji Simo, Facebook’s director of product, confirmed that the company plans to integrate MSQRD masks (similar to Snapchat animated filters) into Live. The platform also plans to add the ability to “drop-in” to a live broadcast to ask questions, a feature that would enable live Q&A sessions and real-time interviews with participants in different locations. Facebook is also planning to add waiting rooms for live broadcasts, where attendees can assemble in advance of the broadcast so that broadcasters can start with an established audience.

Redesigned Social Plugins

On June 28, Facebook introduced new versions of Social Plugins. The platform’s Like buttons have swapped out the Facebook logo for an easier-to-understand thumbs-up icon and the other plugin buttons have been updated. The new designs—which are backwards compatible with all previous iterations—features color consistency, flat design, and Like and Share counts. In the coming weeks, the new plugins will also be available to add to Instant Articles.

Social Media News You Need to Know: June 2016 Roundup | Hootsuite Blog
Image via Facebook.

Chrome extensions

On June 28, Facebook introduced two new Chrome extensions: Share to Facebook and Save to Facebook. With the Save extension, users can easily save articles, videos, products, and other links while browsing the web. With the Share extension, users can share any link on the web to their timeline, a friend’s timeline, Groups, Events, Messenger, and on Pages they manage. Yue Cai explained on Facebook’s Developer News blog: “Sharing and saving great content are two things that people love to do when browsing the web. Improving this experience for people drives greater engagement and distribution of content for sites and keeps visitors coming back for more.”

News Feed update

On June 29, Facebook announced changes to the News Feed to prioritize content posted by “the friends you care about.” What effect will this have on content posted by Facebook Pages? Lars Backstrom, Facebook engineering director, explained in a blog post: “Overall, we anticipate that this update may cause reach and referral traffic to decline for some Pages. The specific impact on your Page’s distribution and other metrics may vary depending on the composition of your audience.” This change will be implemented over the coming weeks.

Instagram

Share extensions

At the beginning of June, Instagram enabled iOS share extensions, reported AdWeek. Share extensions allow users to share photos and video from other apps directly to Instagram without opening the flagship app. Users will be able to add captions via share extensions, but in order to use photo filters or other photo editing features, they’ll need to open the flagship app.

Social Media News You Need to Know: June 2016 Roundup | Hootsuite Blog
Image via AdWeek.

4 years of Instagram for Android

On June 20, Instagram celebrated four years of its Android app. In a retrospective post on Medium, Instagram Engineering shared that the original version of the app was built in just four months. Since then, they’ve added features such as video, direct messaging, photo maps, advertiser support, and more. Now nearly 30 engineers work on the Android app every day.

500 million users

On June 21, Instagram announced that their user base had hit 500 million. In their blog post, Instagram shared that more than 80 percent of those users live outside the U.S. The photo-sharing platform also shared that 300 million of their users use Instagram every day. The company wrote: “Thank you for your creativity, your openness, and your passion for sharing your worlds with one another. We can’t wait to see what you create next.”

Topic and Interest Channels

On June 23, Instagram introduced “Picked for You” channels in Explore. The new channels will feature videos grouped by a user’s favorite topics and interests. The announcement blog post explained: “You’ll see new channels filled with the best videos from around the world based on topics you find interesting.” The updates are currently available in the U.S. Instagram says it’s working to expand it globally soon.

Social Media News You Need to Know: June 2016 Roundup | Hootsuite Blog
Image via Instagram.

Pinterest

‘Pin it’ button becomes ‘Save’ button

On June 2, Pinterest officially changed the “Pin it” button to a “Save” button. The announcement blog post explained that the company decided to make the change because it made more sense to Pinners outside the U.S.—more than half their user base. Steve Walling, Pinterest product manager, wrote: “In spite of impressive numbers, we still really struggled with the decision to make the change. We have a lot of love for our Pin It button, which has served us well for so long. But the most important thing is for Pinterest to feel welcoming to everyone, and that’s why ultimately we went with the more understandable Save.”

Social Media News You Need to Know: June 2016 Roundup | Hootsuite Blog
Image via Pinterest.

LinkedIn

Premium Insights

On June 3, LinkedIn introduced Premium Insights. The brand new feature, which has been added to the premium experience, gives users unique and timely data about the companies that interest them, such as:

  • Total employee count
  • Employee distribution by function
  • New hires
  • Notable alumni
  • Total job openings

Premium Insights is available with Business Plus, Sales Navigator, and select Talent Solutions subscriptions.

Social Media News You Need to Know: June 2016 Roundup | Hootsuite Blog
Image via LinkedIn.

Personalized insights for job seekers

On June 7, LinkedIn added more personalized insights to LinkedIn Jobs. The new insights will highlight a job seeker’s key connections at a company. When job seekers open their LinkedIn Jobs homepage, LinkedIn will recommend any jobs where the data signals the user would be in the top 50 percent of applicants, based on the role and the experience and skills the user lists on their profile. The new feature will also highlight companies that are growing quickly for professions similar to the user’s, based on company hiring trends over the past 12 months.

[INSERT SLIDESHARE]

Snapchat

Discover redesign

On June 7, Snapchat rolled out a new design for Discover, reported Mashable. The new layout is more magazine-like with tiles that provide a preview of each media partner’s content. The redesign brings with it a new subscribe feature, which allows users to subscribe to channels within Discover. Users can subscribe to a channel by pressing and holding on the publisher’s tile. Once subscribed, that channel will appear on the user’s Stories page as well as first on the Discover page.

Social Media News You Need to Know: June 2016 Roundup | Hootsuite Blog
Image via Mashable.

Ads API

On June 13, Snapchat launched an advertising API called Partners, reported AdWeek. The API means that Snapchat ads will be sold by third parties, a first for the platform. Partners is divided into different types of collaborators: Ads Partners, Creative Partners, and Measurement Partners. Ads Partners will develop software for Snapchat advertisers to enable them to buy, optimize, and analyze campaigns. Creative Partners includes organizations with expertise in social content in general and with Snapchat’s vertical-video format in particular. API inventory will be sold through an automated, auction-based system.

Social Media News You Need to Know: June 2016 Roundup | Hootsuite Blog
Image via AdWeek.

New ads options and changes

On the same day that it revealed its ads API, Snapchat also announced changes to ads, reported TechCrunch. New ads options and changes to Snapchat ads include:

  • Snap Ads between Stories
  • Expandable Snap Ads
  • Ads API
  • All ads reviewed by Snapchat
  • Partners program for Ads, Creative, and Measurement
Social Media News You Need to Know: June 2016 Roundup | Hootsuite Blog
Image via TechCrunch.

Starting tech magazine

On June 17, Snapchat announced plans to launch a tech magazine. Titled Real Life, the publication will be headed up by Nathan Jurgenson, a Snapchat employee and social media theorist. The magazine’s home page explains: “Real Life is a magazine about living with technology. The emphasis is more on living. We publish one essay, advice column, reported feature, or uncategorizable piece of writing a day, four or five days a week.” The magazine is funded by Snapchat, but the home page states that it operates with editorial independence and without ads.

Social Media News You Need to Know: June 2016 Roundup | Hootsuite Blog
Image via Real Life Mag.

Tumblr

GIF messages

On June 9, Tumblr rolled out the ability to send GIFs in messages. To add a GIF to a message, open a conversation, tap the GIF button, and type in the search box. Tumblr explains: “This three-step process is especially useful for starting conversations, ending conversations, and as word-alternatives in the middle of conversations.”

Social Media News You Need to Know: June 2016 Roundup | Hootsuite Blog
Image via Tumblr.

Live video

On June 21, Tumblr announced live video. Users can post live videos using third-party apps YouNow, Kanvas, Upclose, and YouTube. Live videos do not disappear once the broadcast is complete and they can be reblogged like any other post. Tumblr will notify users when someone they follow goes live and their video will be pinned to the top of the dashboard.

Social Media News You Need to Know: June 2016 Roundup | Hootsuite Blog
Image via Tumblr.

Vine

Longer video

On June 21, Vine announced that they’re expanding the length of videos. In what they’re calling #beyondtheVine, the platform’s offering users the ability to share videos up to 140 seconds in length—quite a step up from six seconds. Now users can choose to have a six-second Vine serve as a trailer that points directly to a mini-movie, something Vine says users have been requested. This feature is in beta.

Social Media News You Need to Know: June 2016 Roundup | Hootsuite Blog
Image via Vine.

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How are beacons going to affect search marketing?

Recently I’ve been reading a lot about the effects beacons and proximity marketing may have on search strategy.

(I actually work for a company that makes beacons and management software, so it’s not just me being boring).

I’ve found little doubt that it will bring some very fundamental changes to the way we reach customers, and the type of targeting and data management we’ll need to master in order to do things properly.

Although perhaps not in the way you might think…

edgelands barbican

Improving proximity results

Search Engine Watch has spoken about beacons a lot in the past, but just in case you need a refresher, a beacon is a tiny device that can transmit a signal to any Bluetooth device in range – phones, fitness bracelets, headphones, smartwatches etc.

Usually this happens through an app (although Google in particular are taking steps to remove this friction and enable direct device communication), and before the privacy police wade in, it’s all completely opt-in.

It certainly has some obvious ramifications for local search.

beacon

In the past, we’ve largely been limited to areas defined by map coordinates for localisation. These are fine for locating buildings, but not so hot once people actually enter a space.

Beacons have a big advantage here because they get that location down to an area a couple of metres across, and they allow you to transmit and receive data in realtime. If I’m standing by the apples in your supermarket, you can fire me a coupon.

I’m using that example on purpose by the way, and I’ll explain why in a moment.

Beacons don’t need to be interruptive

For marketers, there seems to be an assumption that beacons are an interruptive marketing tool.

Retail couponing is the most obvious use-case after all, but just as early ecommerce sites learned, couponing is no way to build a successful business. And as the publishing industry is learning, interruptive marketing… just isn’t very good really. People don’t like it in most cases.

As I say though, this is only an assumption. The real value of beacons is actually almost the complete opposite of interruptive.

It is in contextual interactions, which usually rely on either an active request from a user, or passive scanning and data aggregation by the person deploying the beacons.

In other words, if I visit a museum, download it’s app and enable push notifications while I’m there, then I’m actively searching for information abut my location.

If not, then I can still be monitored as an anonymous device that is moving around the museum. Once this data is collected, there is a lot of potential value. Maybe it’s time to move that Rodin statue to a more prominent position (possibly next to the gift shop).

Search will need to become hyper-relevant in an open beacon marketplace

So what does this mean for search?

Currently, a lot of local search isn’t that great. There are plenty of fine examples, but there is certainly an adoption curve, particularly for small businesses.

Do a quick search for something like ‘Bike shop, Shrewsbury’ and you can usually see which businesses have a lot of low-hanging SEO fruit that they just aren’t optimising for.

This is a missed chance, but it is usually being missed because of a lack of familiarity and time. People who are busy running a hardware store don’t often have time or money to really concentrate on good SEO.

As beacon deployment becomes more widespread (and it is going to be), this situation is going to change for the user on the ground. App networks and beacons deployed as general infrastructure in more locations mean that local optimisation is opened up to more players, with more resources. Why should our local bike store be wasting time optimising when Raleigh can be doing it for them?

Local SEO will begin to be a wider concern not for the locations themselves, but for the companies that sell through those locations. And those companies have the resources and processes available to start doing a really good job.

There is however, still a place for the location itself in all this, and that is in adding contextual value, which may not come from purely commercial campaigns.

Recently I visited Edgelands at the Barbican in London, where one of our clients has deployed beacons that guide visitors around the interesting (and slightly confusing) internal space.

The interesting thing here is that it occurs through sound, so that visitors are able to view their surroundings, rather than keeping their eyes glued to their phone screens. It adds context while keeping the visitor engaged with the physical space, rather than having the two vie for attention.

With the rise of experience stores, this is going to become a more important point of differentiation over the next few years. Customers won’t want distracting alerts and pop-ups, they’ll want something that provides a richer experience.

From the marketing side, providing these will become a way to deepen brand affinity as much as increase immediate sales.

Search is about to leave its silos behind

This makes location a strange, mixed bag for search. On one side, brands providing advertising through app networks and beacon fleets owned by third parties (in my opinion, telcos are currently best placed to handle and benefit from large scale deployment, as they already have large data networks and physical locations).

In many cases, this will be about hyper-localised PPC campaigns. On the other, locations providing realtime SEO, with a shifting set of keywords based on whatever is currently happening in-store (or in-museum, or in-restaurant for instance).

It means that we’ll have to get better at aligning our data and working out which signals really matter, and we’re going to need to get insanely good at management and targeting.

I hate to use this word, but search will need to become more holistic, and even more aligned with marketing. There’s a huge opportunity here for search marketers, customer experience, data management and more.

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Hootsuite’s Ryan Holmes Talks Digital Transformation with RBC CEO Dave McKay

What do roadkill, Facebook at Work and the CEO of one of the largest banks in the world have in common? They’re all in the first episode of “Hootcast,” Hootsuite’s new podcast!

In the half-hour pilot episode, Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes and Royal Bank of Canada CEO David McKay have a 10-minute conversation about digital transformation. The two executives cover everything from how leaders are engaging a workforce of digital natives, to the way social media is changing customer service.

Press play to hear the show in its entirety, or if you don’t have a set of earbuds handy, read the transcription of Holmes’ and McKay’s conversation below (starts at 20:12 on the audio file).

Q&A with RBC CEO David McKay

Ryan Holmes: To start off with, David, thank you for joining us today. Maybe you can just tell the audience who you are and what you do on a day-to-day basis.

Dave McKay: My name is Dave McKay and I’m president and chief executive officer of RBC, which is the largest bank in Canada and largest company right now in Canada. We have 80,000 employees working in roughly 40 countries around the world serving 16 million customers. It’s an exciting job that presents new challenges every day.

RH: When I first met up with you, I had a perception and maybe a bias on who I would be meeting. I was expecting the leader of a large, 80,000-person financial organization. I was expecting a three-piece suit, very buttoned up, but I met somebody much different then I was expecting to meet. I think you have an interesting lens in terms of your work history and where you’ve come from in the business. Maybe you could just share a little bit of your background and how you got to where you’re at today.

DM: Sure. I have a bit of a unique background and very proud of my heritage as a computer programmer and coder, which was my first job with RBC, out of the University of Waterloo, computer science and math faculty. That was my first role. So I have an affinity for technology and innovation. I also went to Ivy School of Business to kind of round out some of the core skills I needed in the finance sector.

And I would say those skills are particularly useful with all the change that’s going on. Having that background I worked my way through the organization doing many different types of roles in Canada and overseas a little bit. But it’s really the foundation of the technology, I think, those are the skills that I’m leaning on quite significantly right now.

RH: I really am a big fan of this. I often talk about leaders needing to know enough to be dangerous. You know, having a Swiss army knife kind of skill set and being able to know a little bit about marketing, a bit about finance, a bit about a number of different areas. So I had a chance of connecting with you a few months ago and I thought you had a really fantastic insight into digital transformation. I wanted to ask you, to start off with, what is the critical skill that you see leaders needing today?

DM: That’s a really important question, and I think as the world exponentially increases its cadence of disruption, I think a leader’s job increasingly becomes to put context to your team of what’s going on around you—what you’re trying to achieve. And increasingly the need for a strong vision is so important. You can get lost in everything going on, you can lose your focus trying to run after all the change that’s going on and all the rabbit holes there are. So what teams really need is context and vision.

I think the other thing leaders have to do is get the right people in the right jobs. You’re only as strong as the team around you. That’s more true today than it has been over the last one hundred years. And traditional businesses are looking at their workforce and they’re saying this is a team that’s done exceptionally well over the last two or three decades.

When I think of design capability and designing process, designing experience, designing customer journeys, and thinking along the lines of how a digital process or a digital experience has to happen, those are things that we haven’t done as a team. So I think those are all things that challenge leaders in all contexts and all sized companies—but particularly larger companies.

RH: Vision is obviously a big bullet point of what leaders are needing in today’s market, and I absolutely appreciate that and see that in our organization. Talk a little bit about employees for me. They’re being affected by digital technology. What do you see as being the most critical skills for employees in the workforce and in this evolving kind of technology workforce that we see in the future?

DM: I kind of put three down when I think of that, and it changes sometimes, but curiosity is a skill that I look for in all employees, and particularly in leaders. A question that great employees and leaders have to ask is not only why weren’t we successful in something, but more importantly why were we successful? And understanding the drivers of what we do and whether it’s repeatable and sustainable.

So curiosity about customers, trends, technology, is a really important overall capability set for employees. Increasingly we’re solving problems as teams in an agile workforce, so collaboration and teamwork goes without saying.

That requires in itself good communication skills, good partnering skills, an ability to not negotiate as much, but find common ground on issues. So curiosity, collaboration, commitment. Commitment to the organization and commitment to a cause is something that we look for. It’s interesting, I was reading through the Netflix manifesto.

RH: Love that. I’ve read it several times.

DM: They make some very interesting observations about how they think about their values, what they look for in an employee. It’s accountability for a high performance and continually raising the bar and stretching yourself. And the ability to collaborate with others to drive the higher performance of a team—to commit to your goal, to your vision, to your cause. That consistency and that commitment is critical.

RH: Love your thoughts there. I am a huge fan of intellectual curiosity in our team, and that has been a make or break for several hires that have joined our team, and our executive specifically. Just seeing that spark as I’ve talked with people.

DM: It’s contagious.

RH: It really is. Since 2011, millennials have been the biggest cohort of employees in the workforce. Digital natives. They are not only changing businesses from a consumer and buyer perspective, they are also going to be the biggest group and contingency of employees that you have. So how do you communicate with this cohort, and how are you fostering that communication with the millennials and digital natives? I’d love to hear about any other thoughts and strategies around this as you plan for your workforce into the future.

DM: The things that we have to do to maintain an engaged employee base and workforce is, one, you have to flatten the organization from a communication perspective at a minimum, but also from an organizational structure perspective. Employees want to be connected to the leadership team, the want to understand the strategy. They have a deep need to know that they can influence that, and be part of it. And they want to give feedback on what’s going on. We just collapsed the organization over the last two days where I did jams with our employees. It was an Ask Me Anything session and there was a wide range of topics.

Largely the participants were millennials. And they really want to know what’s going on, why we’re doing certain things. So collapsing the organization, frequency of communication from the top down, intent, how we’re doing, what they can do to contribute to that—is really important. And in too many cases, large matrix-based organizations work through infrequent committees and try to move too many things in parallel, and are inefficient.

And that disengages all employees, but particularly disengages the digital natives and the millennials who want to focus on something, want to deliver it, want to feel the accomplishment of that creation and work as a team, in a very agile, open environment.

And the third thing I would say that is absolutely critical for employees is they want an employer to help them change the world. They want an employer that’s engaged in their community—and not just philanthropically engaged and donating money. They want to make a difference. They want to get actively involved in changing the world, changing the community, making the environment better. Social stability, diversity and inclusion. As an employer, you have to provide the mechanism and the path to that.

RH: That is wonderful to hear. You’re doing all the right stuff there and you know. We see this from our workforce, candidates that come in, millennials candidates that come in. And that is an ask, the ‘What are you doing from a CSR perspective?’ And so I wanted to talk a little bit about the impact of social—how social media has changed your company’s relationship with not just your employees, but your customers. There is a lot of content and a lot of ideas that are getting created internally, and also a lot of interactions with your customer. What is the opportunity there for you?

DM: Obviously the environment that we operate in and the social media channels that are continually invented and reinvented, I think you’re communicating with clients more increasingly through social media channels. And how we interact in those channels from managing the information flow and making sure the information flow is correct in those channels, about our service, products, capabilities. Certainly our employees communicate increasingly through social media channels.

Email is almost a channel of communication of the previous generation, believe it or not. And how we think about advertising and telling our story is fundamentally transformed, and we’ve shifted the majority of our media budget, as many firms and industries have, from traditional print, radio, television media, to online and increasingly social media platforms where you have a much better chance to connect with a relevant message at the right time, in a much more sophisticated, relevant timely way. And I think it greatly increases the opportunities and the return on investment.

RH: Dave, I just want to say thank you so much for your time today.

RH: Great talking to you.

This is episode one of what will be a regular podcast. We are still in the experimentation phase and would love to hear what you think of the show. Do you like the format? What would you like to hear more or less of? Please send your questions, feedback, and suggestions to: podcast@hootsuite.com. Alternatively you can tweet us using the hashtag #hootcast or leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

How to Get Your Brand on Instagram’s Explore Page

In 1989, a fitness instructor wore a beer company’s t-shirt to a local football game and scored some time on the company’s sponsored jumbotron. After the game, the beer company received so many inquiries about the jumbotron star that they hired her as a spokesmodel. Pamela Anderson had been discovered.

Getting discovered can either be the result of being in the right place at the right time à la Pamela Anderson, or putting in the work until you’re a household name. Rising from obscurity to notoriety is the ultimate goal for many businesses, but it’s something that usually takes a lot more than just plain luck. Instagram’s Search and Explore page is a true testament to this.

Landing your branded content on the Instagram Explore tab is a goal for many, but figuring out how to do this can be a struggle. To help you out, we put together the following guide—no jumbotrons involved.

What is the Explore tab?

If you find yourself baffled by what the Explore tab is, or how content is chosen for the page, you’re definitely not alone. Up until 2012 this area of Instagram was called the “Popular” page and featured the most liked content on the network.

While the page kept this function for some time after revamping it as “Explore,” in 2014, it evolved to become tailored for each user. As an Instagram spokesperson told Mashable at the time of this change “We’ll show you a variety of content that people you follow have liked, as well as content that is trending in the Instagram community.”

To access the goldmine of content that is the Explore tab, open up Instagram and click on the magnifying glass icon in between the home and camera icons. Explore is connected to Instagram’s search function, and, as Instagram explains, it is here where “you can find photos and videos that you might like from accounts you don’t yet follow. You may also see curated topics we think the Instagram community will enjoy.”

Images and videos appear in Explore automatically based on things such as who a user is following or the posts they like. As of June 2016, Instagram started rolling out the “Picked for You” channels within Explore, which features images and videos grouped by users’ interests. Video channels are also shown here, “which can include posts from a mixture of hand-picked and automatically sourced accounts based on topics” Instagram thinks the user will enjoy.

Now that you have a better understanding of what Instagram’s Explore is all about, you probably want to know how to get your business’ content to appear there. The next section will guide you through this process and give you some actionable tips you can put to work straight away.

How to get your content on the Instagram Explore page

Know your audience

You wouldn’t try and sell a briefcase to a baby (unless it’s this CEO baby), and tailoring your message to your Instagram audience is just as important. To get started with your Explore page audience strategy, think about the following questions:

  • What kinds of people do you want to see your content?
  • What kinds of things interest them?
  • What are their own Instagram accounts like?
  • Who do they follow?

Think about whose Instagram Explore page you’d most like to appear on. What kinds of things would this person like? A great idea is to create a persona for this individual and use this as a guide to help you tailor your content. If you need help with this, our post How to create audience personas comes in handy.

Once you have an idea of who your desired audience is, you can find and get to know this target audience through some carefully crafted social media listening.

Listen closely

Social media listening can make the difference between your content being ignored or shared. You need to pay attention to your audience and the content they are engaging with in order to tailor your strategy to them. In looking at what your audience is liking and interacting with, you can recognize themes in the content that interests them.

If you want to simplify the process, you can use a tool like Geopiq for Instagram which helps you “monitor posts on Instagram by location, hashtag, or username, or combine your search terms for powerful targeting.” For example, you can see what kinds of posts are popular in your geographic location, and then create similar content (with your brand’s own twist, of course), or engage with this content to attract the attention of your target audience as well as the Instagram account it was posted from.

As you are most likely following accounts relevant to your industry and business—as well as your customers—taking a look at your own Explore page will give you insight into what your community is interested in. Some general tips for using this information to get yourself on your audience’s Explore pages, include:

  • “Listen” to the general feel of your own Explore page. What are some themes that emerge here? What is the dominant aesthetic? What are those in your community liking? These are all things to keep in mind.
  • Use the Search feature to see what kind of content is popular in your geographic location. Click on ‘Places’ and then the most accurate geographic tag and note the content genres here.
  • Check out your ‘Following’ feed (found by clicking on the heart icon at the bottom of the Instagram app and then selecting ‘Following’ at the top) and see what content the users you are following are liking, and the kinds of accounts they are liking content from.

Use Hashtags

While hashtags seem to be the cilantro of social media—people either love them or hate them—they are essential for marketers. Hashtags are the number one way you make your content discoverable and keep your Instagram images from getting lost in the flood of content. They allow the content you worked so tirelessly on to be found by those searching. Hashtags essentially help your target audience come to you, making your job way easier.

Through having your target audience liking and engaging with your Instagram content, you raise your chances of appearing in the Explore pages of other relevant users. However, it’s important that you know the right and wrong way of using hashtags on Instagram and ensure your best chance of success. Our post The do’s and don’ts of how to use hashtags advises that brands:

  • Do be specific when using hashtags
  • Do cater hashtags to the social network you’re using. For Instagram, focus on a “description of the photo and the tools used to take it than on a broader story or theme.”
  • Do come up with relevant, unbranded hashtags
  • Don’t go too long or too clever
  • Don’t have more hashtags than words
  • Don’t hashtag everything

Hashtags are like a magic wand—they hold great power but have the potential to be used for good or evil. Keep the above guidelines in mind when crafting your hashtag strategy and you should find yourself in some valuable Explore tabs in no time.

Getting discovered on Instagram is a goal of many brands and businesses, and in following hashtag best practices, participating in social media listening, and knowing your audience, you have the key ingredients for Explore page success.

Get discovered by simplifying your Instagram strategy. Start scheduling your content today!

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Google’s Joris Merks on the importance of leadership for digital transformation

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Joris Merks is Head of Digital Transformation, Northern Europe at Google, and works with companies to embed digital-first thinking into their strategies.

He’ll be participating in a Google Squared webinar tomorrow (June 30), looking at how to drive a culture of innovation in your company.

Can you tell us a little about your role at Google?

I am EMEA Head of Curriculum design in the Google Digital Academy team. That means I work with a team and vendors to build workshops and education initiatives that help Google’s advertisers understand what the impact of digital is on their business and help the feel equipped for digital transformation.

What does digital transformation mean to you?

I look at digital transformation as a chain reaction of experiments that continuously helps companies to understand how to make the best use of new technology.

In this way they stay in tune with their customers, who are also using digital technology, keeping their businesses ready for the future.

What should the first steps be in a process of digital transformation?

It starts with a clear vision from company leaders of where technology is going and how that could affect the business.

Then these leaders need to give strong signals to people in the company about which challenges need to be fixed and a culture that rewards experimentation and entrepreneurship needs to be created.

Without this culture, people aren’t very likely to invest in new experiments. This is because any experiment with new technology is always more work and more risk compared to just doing what you always did. People won’t be wiling to pick up more work and risk if there is nothing in it for them or if they might even risk losing their job or bonus when an experiment fails.

Should companies centralise digital functions, or should these be distributed across various teams/departments? What are the pros and cons?

I think it depends on the stage of development a company is in and on the type and size of company. Companies with a digital-focused business model obviously should have centralised digital functions.

Smaller companies tend to have functions where digital and traditional marketing are embedded in the same teams.

Large companies that have heritage in the offline world and are in transformation tend to start out with specialized digital teams, which is good to make sure you ramp up fast enough. However, at some point in the digital transformation new and old teams must break through their silos because they are in the end serving the same customer and should provide a seamless journey across channels.

I believe eventually the differentiation between the two worlds will go away and all marketers will have a digital mindset. For the sake of ramping up fast it can however make sense to have a period where digital is a separate skill set in the organization.

How much of digital transformation is about technology and how much is about culture?

I’d say it is equally important and next to technology and culture there are also factors such as creativity, knowledge, organisational structure and strategic processes.

For example, if new technology arises, creative people are needed to find out what cool and useful things you can do with that technology.

The people that are our creatives and the people that understand tech are however often not the same type of people, so the art is bringing them together to come up with new ideas to experiment with.

The big trap with digital is that it can be treated too much as a technological development and that focus is a lot on data. With that focus digital will always stay a specialism in the company and the company will never have a fully digital mindset.

There are many obstacles facing brands as they examine new digital tactics and technology (e.g. legacy systems). How do you drive digital transformation in such an environment?

I think sometimes big tough decisions need to be made in many areas at the same time. That is definitely true for legacy systems.

For instance brand and digital departments might be using different tools to manage their campaigns. That means you can never have a single view on the customer, which again means you can never be customer friendly in your advertising.

Someone then needs to make the decision to go for one holistic approach. That will require short term investments of time and money but is a crucial decision in order to be ready for the future and not lose your business in the long run.

Those decisions typically require strong leadership and vision. Without that it is very easy to keep focusing on those things that deliver you short term business without making the efforts needed to keep your long term business.

Which companies do you see as great examples of businesses which have embraced digital? What are the common factors in their approaches?

There are many of such examples. I think the key thing they all have in common is strong visionary leaders.

If people we work with find it get stuck in digital transformation, that is almost always because the way they are incentivised, their targets, their bonuses and career opportunities are driven too much by short term business results.

Those are the companies that will one day get an extreme wake up call because a new competitor will come out of nowhere with a new business model using new digital technology in smart ways and winning customers at high speed.

Where does data fit into digital transformation?

Despite the fact that I think the focus has been too much on technology and data, data definitely is becoming more important. I think no one can deny that.

I always advocate the balance between data, mind and heart. Data to measure everything you can measure, mostly the proven successes so you can optimise them further.

Mind is needed to look ahead into the future, assess how your business may be affected by new developments and craft the right experiments to be ready for that future.

Data isn’t very good at helping you with that because data is always based on the past. Even when models make predictions they are always based on past data.  The heart is needed to recognise the moments when someone comes up with a great creative idea of something cool you can do with new technology.

On those moments you shouldn’t ask how much money you will earn from it. If the idea is fundamentally different from anything you tried, you can’t know. If, however, your heart starts pounding, that probably means it is a great idea worth exploring. You can bring the measurement in afterwards, but don’t kill the idea upfront due to lack of good data.

Joris will be taking part in a Google Squared webinar tomorrow, looking at the five fundamental limitations of data that create challenges in digital transformation. You can sign up for the webinar here

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Which kinds of links are most valuable for high rankings?

What does link-building look like right now? What tactics work? Is it all about quality content or do more shady tactics still get results? 

Glen Allsop of ViperChill posted another excellent article recently, distilling the findings from his own manual analysis of 1,000 search results.

He looks at the link structure of various sites, trying to ascertain the kinds of links that help some sites rank, the tactics (white hat and not-so white hat) used by sites to rank, and the effects of factors like number of links and word count.

It’s a monster of a post – more than 5,000 words I’d guess – but truly worth a read. All I’ll do here is list some of the key lessons from Glen’s analysis.

The most common backlinks are natural

Glen found that natural (i.e. earned) backlinks top the chart, which is as it should be.

prominent backlink types viperchill

However, the study also found that many high ranking websites have some very low quality backlinks. They are things like forum pages, blog comments, and non-English Blogspot blogs. They’re not earned, but can be easily created.

Indeed, a recent look at Skyscanner’s impressive search rankings revealed something similar. There are quality links there, but plenty which could be classed as ‘low-quality’. Perhaps these are the result of older link building efforts, who knows?

Link volume does not influence ranking

It’s about quality not quantity. As this chart shows, the volume of backlinks does not correlate with ranking.

backlinks number

Variety of linking domains helps

Obvious perhaps, but good to reinforce. A variety of links from different domains matters much more than volume.

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Longer content and high rankings

There have been a few studies suggesting a correlation between longer form content and higher search rankings.

It makes sense, as in theory, longer content can be more likely to satisfy the user (it’s detailed, covers key questions etc), and in turn more likely to attract links.

Glen’s data backs this point up. The average word count on all results was 1,762, and higher counts tended to correlate with higher rankings.

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Link building tactics that still work

A few weeks ago, we talked about another finding around sitewide footer links used by some sites, and how tactics like this help the ‘rich get richer’ in search (this was another finding from ViperChill).

In this article, Glen looks at how Houzz uses a widget to  mbed dozens of hard-coded links in the websites of those who host it. It seems this tactic is still in use.

Good content still works

Writing quality content to attract links is still an excellent tactic. Evergreen content is key to this.

The example used here is a beginners guide to the Paleo diet, from the nerdfitness blog. It has attracted links from 800 domains and continues to deliver traffic to this day.

paleo diet

Why does it still attract links? Four reasons:

  • High ranking. It’s up there right now, so when people look for resources to link to, there it is.
  • It’s a good article. It’s there because it serves a need. It’s also comprehensive which means people don’t need to look elsewhere.
  • Internal links. The sidebar on the homepage links to the post so it continues to accrue traffic.
  • Loyal audience. The site has an engaged audience who appreciate and link to the content.

Dodgy tactics can still work

There are still plenty of dubious tactics that are helping websites achieve high rankings.

For example, this .info site has 195,000 links from 242 domains, that’s more than 800 per domain. I’m ‘sure’ they’re all earned, natural links though…

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The study found less private blog networks than expected, but also finds that they still work.

In summary

I’ve only scratched the surface of the study here, so please check out the full article for much more. It is itself a great example of creating quality (and long-form) content that attracts links. I’m sure we won’t be the only site linking to it.

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Nine SEO techniques that take less than 15 minutes

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I know. It’s the 21st century equivalent of ‘8 minute abs’. But bear with me on this…

Search engine optimisation should be an ongoing process, mixing technical on-page techniques with quality content, good old fashioned marketing, plenty of research, tonnes of planning, masses of testing and all the while taking into account searcher intent, context, algorithm changes… I get breathless just thinking about all the work that needs doing…

Basically, SEO is a job that is never done.

But, if you are struggling with time and resources, there are SEO techniques that don’t have to consume your entire day.

The following can be done while sat down in the morning, enjoying a pastry, listening to some cool light-jazz and blissfully remembering that this is a much better use of your time than that other ‘resolution’ you toyed with doing four paragraphs ago.

Please note: we published a similarly titled guide to quick SEO tips, written by Josh McCoy, way back in 2012. This is an updated, rewritten version that reflects the subsequent changes and updates to the search landscape.

1. Check your site’s organic CTR, revise 10 of the lowest performing page’s title tags and meta descriptions

Head into your site’s Google Search Console, then click on Search Traffic>Search Analytics.

Search Console Search Analytics

Then click on the Impressions and CTR filters for Pages.

Here you can take a look at the pages with high visibility, but low CTR. Perhaps all they need is an improved meta description or title tag?

For a more detailed overview, check out How to improve CTR using Search Console.

2. Add Schema markup to your 10 most popular pages

You can add rich media to your search results by adding Schema markup to the HTML of your pages.

captain america civil war review rich snippet

If you have a particularly massive site with years and years worth of posts, the idea of adding rich snippets to your pages can seem terrifying. Instead, make a spreadsheet of your most popular posts, then every day go through 10 of them and implement schema markup. This should help gradually improve the CTR of your results.

3. Improve your site speed by optimising images

Site speed is a hugely important ranking signal, and you can check your site’s loading time on both mobile and desktop with this new site speed tool.

Obviously improving the performance of your site is a complicated job best saved for the tech team, but you can help…

Images are are by far the ‘heaviest’ element when it comes to page load. So why not spend a few minutes working back through your most popular posts and making your image file sizes smaller.

For example, if there’s an image on your page that’s 1024 x 683 pixels, but the user only sees it at a maximum of 420 x 289, you could ease the strain on your page by compressing the file size with very little noticeable difference.

Read this article for full details: How to optimise your page images to increase site speed.

4. Check the proper canonicalization of your domain

Are you aware that your site may exist in two different places? Without even knowing it, Google could be indexing your content from both www.example.com and example.com and therefore you may be cannibalising your own pages in search.

Luckily it doesn’t take very long to fix this problem.

You just have to tell Google which is the preferred version of your domain for all future crawls of your site and indexing refreshes.

As it states on their webmaster help page:

If you specify your preferred domain as http://www.example.com and we find a link to your site that is formatted as http://example.com, we follow that link as http://www.example.com instead. In addition, we’ll take your preference into account when displaying the URLs.

To change this, visit Search Console, click on your site, click the gear icon then click Site Settings. And in the Preferred domain section, select the option you want.

5. Verify your Google My Business page, make sure your details are up to date

Kevin Gibbons wrote some good suggestions for us when it comes to optimising your page for local search:

  • Claim your listing, as often many people don’t.
  • Ensure your details are up-to-date (previously you might not have accepted credit cards).
  • Double check your opening hours and phone number as these often change over time or the business has new owners or management
  • Check the business images you are using and consider refreshing them or uploading higher res versions.
  • Check no-one has made an edit to your listing and changed the businesses’s website to their affiliate link, have seen this too!

There are loads more tips here: How to optimise your Google My Business listing.

6. Check that you don’t have any duplicate meta description and title tags

This is a very easy one. Just head back into Search Console, click on Search Appearance>HTML Improvements, then you can see exactly which of your pages contain duplicate metadata and you can alter accordingly.

Search Console HTML Improvements

7. Keep on top of your image alt attributes

Google Image Search can drive a significant amount of traffic to your site, however you must remember that Google can’t ‘see’ your images, but it can ‘read them’.

Therefore describing your images accurately and concisely in the ‘alt text (or alt tags) section is very important.

Check back through your last handful of pages and make sure your images conform.

wordpress photo upload highlighting caption and description

You could even look at the alt tags at the same time as checking your image file sizes (see point 3).

For lots more information, check out How to optimise images for SEO.

8. Check your 404 error codes

404 pages occur when a Googlebot attempts to visit a page that doesn’t exist. Generally 404 pages are fine and won’t harm your rankings, but it is important to pay attention to them, especially if there’s a sudden increase.

You can check these in Search Console, under Crawl>Crawl Errors.

Then if anything looks to have been deleted accidentally, or a 301 redirect hasn’t been put in place properly, you can fix these straight away.

9. Keep on top of your internal linking

Regular and consistent internal linking to the most popular articles on your site is a key way to show search engines that your site has authority and that your content is ‘trusted’.

There are many different methods and tools to check which of your pages is the most popular for any search phrase, and therefore the ones you should be using to internally link for added SEO benefit.

Spend some time going back through your posts and ensuring that each post has a few internal links, paying particular attention to the anchor text used, and making sure they’re all relevant AND pointing towards pages you wish to see rank.

There’s an excellent, detailed best practice guide here: Internal linking for SEO.

So there you go. Nine quick things you can do to improve your SEO every day without taking up too much of your energy. Obviously this is far from an exhaustive list, but it’s definitely a start to getting the basics right.

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Google’s Keyword Planner tool just became even more inaccurate

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You’re probably familiar with the Keyword Planner tool, which is one of the best sources we have to spot opportunities and make the business case for an investment into paid or organic search campaigns.

One of the things it provides is guidance on the volume of searches for any given query. The numbers reported in the tool have always been somewhat vague. They are rounded up and numbers end with at least one zero. A pinch of salt has always been required when digesting the data.

It turns out that these numbers are now even more imprecise.

Jennifer Slegg spotted that Google has started to combine related terms, pooling them all together and reporting one (bigger) number.

No longer can you separate the data for keyword variants, such as plurals, acronyms, words with space, and words with punctuation.

As such it would be easy to get a false impression of search volumes, unless you’re aware of the change. No sudden jump in search queries, just an amalgamated number. Be warned.

Here are a couple of examples…

Bundling together anagrams and regional spellings

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Lumping together plurals and phrases without spaces

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The problem could be exacerbated by third party tools. Jennifer says:

“For those that don’t notice the change – or worse, pulling the data from tools that haven’t updated to take into account the change – this means that some advertisers and SEOs are grossly overestimating those numbers, since many tools will combine data, and there is no notification alert on the results to show that how Google calculates average monthly searches has been changed.”

So yeah, this isn’t exactly good news. In fact, I can’t think of any benefit to the end user, but Google has a history of obfuscating data, so perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

That said, it once again pushes the focus towards relevance and context rather than pure volume. Advertisers and content creators would do well to focus on optimising clickthrough rate and landing page performance, rather than just shotgun marketing.

Guesstimated data aside, you can use Search Console to make sense of actual performance. Map your page impressions to organic (or paid) positions and you’ll get a sense of how accurate the Keyword Planner data is for any given term.

It’s also worth remembering that there are seasonal factors at play with the reported data. Volumes shown are an approximate figure based on 12 months search data. You might get a better idea of more accurate monthly figures if you cross-reference data from with Google Trends, which will show seasonal spikes (February is a big month for flowers).

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Keyword Planner replaced Google’s Keyword Tool and Traffic Estimator about three years ago. Users of the old tools initially complained about missing the broad match and phrase match options. Now, they’re going to miss even more detail around keywords and data.

Proceed with caution, as ever.

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4 Unlikely Brands That Are Killing it on Pinterest (And How Yours Can Too)

Unless you’ve been live blogging from under a moon rock somewhere in outer space, by now you know that Pinterest isn’t just for arts and crafts. Top social media marketers use Pinterest to sell everything from pork to private schools.

When you think Pinterest, you might assume that this platform best serves women’s clothing retailers and wedding vendors. Not so, my friend. According to the company, one-third of all Pinterest sign-ups come from men. In fact, more men use Pinterest in the U.S. every month than read Sports Illustrated and GQ combined. The bulk (70 percent) of the platform’s 70 million users in the U.S. are still female, but in emerging international markets like India, Korea and Japan the split is closer to 50/50.

Not only is Pinterest hugely popular, Pins last longer than media on other social platforms. While a Tweet has a half-life of only 24 minutes, and a Facebook post lasts about 90 minutes, Pins have a half-life of 151,200 minutes. What does this mean for your business? Say you publish a great blog post and Pin it this month. The post gets repinned over and over again. As a result, months from now Pinterest will still be referring traffic to your website. Many smart brands from a variety of industries have caught on to this marketing gold mine and are ready to get in the game.

But even a strong platform can’t help a company with bad content. One of the biggest mistakes that brands make is just pinning boring, salesy photos of their products. If your product lacks the appeal of say, an ice cream sundae, you’ve got to find a way to sweeten it up! Here’s a few unexpected companies who have found new ways to turn the mundane into magic.

1. Farmers Insurance

When you think of Farmers Insurance, you probably think of a responsible father (perhaps with a fatherly mustache) teaching his kid how to drive. Well, believe it or not, now dad’s on Pinterest!

Farmers Insurance is way ahead of the competition with boards like “A Smarter Commute” and “A Smarter Home” and even “A Smarter Vacation.” Farmers Insurance content is cleverly juxtaposed with Pins of dream homes and road trips—both of which you need insurance to secure.

Geico may have a gecko, but they sure don’t have a Pinterest board. Farmers proves you don’t need flashy gimmicks or a retail business to fit in on Pinterest. There’s enough Pins to go around.

2. International Delight

Coffee creamer company, International Delight may not have the same kind of brand recognition as say, Coffee-Mate, but their Pinterest boards are on fire. In 2014, the International Delight Pinterest page saw over 11 million impressions and reached more than 3 million consumers.

What is their creamy secret? Original, compelling content. Rather than pinning to tried and true content from other websites, International Delight hired their own bloggers and photographers to create content specifically for the Pinterest audience. Delicious photos, interesting recipes, and good writing resulted in one heck of an ROI for this coffee beverage enhancing business.

3. Mastercard

In addition to highly shareable food and shopping Pins, Pinterest is a great place to share inspirational messages. On an average day, one can find a flock of doves with the words “start each day with a grateful heart” Pin or a bouquet of balloons and the message “throw kindness around like confetti” Pin.

Mastercard tapped into this encouraging, supportive vibe on Pinterest when they launched their #AcceptanceMatters campaign. Playing on the idea that Mastercard is “accepted” everywhere, the credit card company applied this concept broadly to acceptance of humankind. Launching in conjunction with Pride NYC 2013, marketers developed inspirational word art and encouraged consumers to share why acceptance matters to them.

By creating visual, interactive content with an emotional message, Mastercard got great results. The company earned 24.5 million potential impressions, and more than 13,000 Repins in just nine weeks. Additionally, Mastercard gained 171 followers to the board, Pins continued to be shared by users and influencers alike. The takeaway? If it feels good, do it.

4. OnStar

Many companies have had success by shifting the focus from the product they are trying to sell to a related theme. OnStar, a company that connects people to help in a push of a button made great strides with this strategy. Rather than focusing on the service they offer, they created an OnStar Pinterest board around the theme of “connection.”

OnStar’s most popular Pinterest board (in terms of followers, clicks, Repins, and likes) is “Traveling with Kids.” The board offers road trip tips, mess free snacks, and game ideas to keep the kids from getting too restless. It is essential to note that this board does not center on OnStar, but focuses on life in and around your vehicle.

OnStar also developed an SEO-friendly Pin copy strategy, which includes hashtags for easier search within Pinterest, a verified business account, and categorized boards. As a result of this smart work and consistent upkeep, OnStar has kept average engagement rate on their Pins of above 10 percent and as high as 19 percent. The key to their success? Creating content that Pinners find relevant, interesting and worth taking the time to click through.

You can use the Tailwind for Pinterest app in the Hootsuite App Directory to schedule Pins and manage your Pinterest presence. Install the free app today!

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17 inspirational examples of data visualization

We can all collect masses of data, but it only becomes genuinely useful when we use it to make a clear point.

This is where data visualization comes in. Showing data in context and using creativity to make that same data tell a story can truly bring the numbers to life.

There are a whole bunch of data visualization tools out there to help create your own, but here are some existing examples for inspiration.

A day in the life of Americans

This excellent visualization from Flowing data uses information from the American Time Use Survey to show what Americans are up to at any time of day.

day

What streaming services pay artists

This from the wonderful information is beautiful website, looks at how the major online streaming music services compare in terms of paying the musicians.

streaming pay

Two centuries of US immigration

This fantastic visualization from metrocosm shows the various waves of immigration into the United States from the 19th century to the present day.

us immigration

US population trends over time

This gif from the Pew Research Center is a great example of how movement can be used to convey shifts and trends over time.

pew gif

Why you should take the bus

The German town of Münster produced this series of images back in 1991 to encourage bus use. It’s beautifully simple showing the relative impact of the same number of people (72) on bicycles, in cars, or on a bus.

munster

What happens in an internet minute?

This infographic from excelacom presents what happens online in 60 seconds, including:

  • 150 million emails are sent.
  • 1,389 Uber rides.
  • 527,760 photos shared on Snapchat.
  • 51,000 app downloads on Apple’s App Store.
  • $203,596 in sales on Amazon.com.

Excelacom_InternetMinute2016

US wind map

This moving visualization shows wind speed and direction in real time.

It looks great and is easy to understand, which is key to effect data visualization. This one comes from hint.fm.

wind map

Daily routines of creative people

I’ve always been pretty cynical about this ‘X things successful people do before breakfast’ stuff – as if by following this, people are suddenly going to become Steve Jobs or Albert Einstein.

However, this one from podio showing daily routines of creative people is very interesting. It won’t turn you into a great composer, but it’s a fascinating insight nonetheless.

routines

The impact of vaccines

This is a series of visualizations from the Wall Street Journal, which shows the impact of vaccines on various infectious diseases.

It’s striking stuff, which clearly demonstrates the incredible positive impact of vaccination programs in the US.

vaccine impact

London food hygeine

This is a great use of freely available data to provide useful information for the public.

london hygeine

The one million tweet map

This uses tweet data to present a geographical representation of where people tweet about topics. The example below is for ‘Brexit‘.

1m tweet map

The fallen of WW2

This, from Neil Halloran is a cross between data visualization and documentary.

ww2

There are two versions of this. The video version you can see embedded below, and an interactive version.

People living on earth

A simple but very effective visualization of the world’s population, and the speed at which it increases.

earth

The ultimate data dog

This, again from Information is Beautiful, uses data on the intelligence and other characteristics of dog breeds, plotting this against data on the popularity of various breeds from the American Kennel Club.

data dog

How much did band members contribute to each Beatles album? 

This from Mike Moore, shows the relative writing percentage for each Beatles album, as well as the contribution over time.

The Beatles

A day on the London Underground

From Will Gallia, who used data from a single day’s use of the London underground to produce this timelapse visualization.

Fish Pharm

This is from way back in 2010, and illustrates the fact that antidepressants and other pharmaceuticals are now showing up in fish tissue.

fishpills

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