The 11 Best Tools and Apps for Snapchat

Over 160 million people a day use Snapchat to send or view videos, photos, and messages. That makes it one of the most popular social networks, especially with millennials.

These and other users love Snapchat’s immediacy and sense of fun. It’s easy to share and comment on rough and ready, snack-sized pieces of content—or Snaps—with groups of friends throughout the day. Snapchatters can also discover content and Stories from their favorite brands.

And marketers? Some brands have been doing some pretty interesting things on Snapchat.

Want to do more with Snapchat? The good news is that if you want to get as many of those 160 million pairs of eyeballs to swivel in your direction and open wide, there are plenty of tools and apps for Snapchat out there. (If you’re wondering, there are no integrated Snapchat third-party apps. The platform doesn’t allow them.)

Here’s our list of the best apps for Snapchat marketers to keep an eye on or give a try. We’ve grouped our apps into categories that reflect what marketers are most interested in.

By the way, if you want a primer about using Snapchat in business, have a read of our guide to Snapchat. And here are some Snapchat hacks to add to your toolbox.

11 of the best Snapchat apps

Story creation apps

1. Fastory

Create engaging mobile stories

Creating Snapchat Stories is a way for brands to share content, create awareness, and build relationships. Fastory, still in Beta, lets marketers craft elegant visual Stories for mobile devices. The key thing is that you can give your Stories a unique look and feel to make them stand out from the crowd.

For example, a travel company can put together a branded Story around a destination to bring it to life for the audience and enable them to engage with the story. A farm-to-table restaurant can tell the story of how customers’ food got to their plates. The Fastory platform lets you integrate contests, games, video, and contact forms into your Stories.

Snapchat management apps

2. Casper

A pocket workhorse to help you manage Snapchat

Casper is a do-it-all Android app for Snapchat that bills itself as “an alternative Snapchat client.” Its main selling point is that it lets you get around the Snapchat feature that deletes Snaps after viewing. You can save content without the sender knowing. This is great for research if you want to save content for inspiration, as part of a campaign, or as insights into your audience.

Casper also lets you forward Snaps and Stories, add filters, stickers, captions, and other creative effects to content. If you are at an event, Casper’s features make it easy for you to enable attendees to contribute to a Story of the event.

3. Mish Guru

Complete Snapchat management solution

Mish Guru is a web-based Snapchat management and analytics dashboard. It lets you create and upload Snapchat content, and schedule it to be published, as well as providing a suite of analytics tools.

You can automatically capture incoming Snaps and add them to Stories or post them to other social networks.
Apps to discover new accounts and influencers

4. Narativ

Connecting brands to Snapchat influencers

Narativ is a campaign management platform that connects brands to Snapchat stars, so they can partner up on campaigns. You can find a few examples of brands they work with on their website.

A major success story was a campaign with ABC Family for their show “Pretty Little Liars.” Narativ connected ABC to a Snapchat artist who created content around the show, ultimately attracting 1.3 million followers.

5. GhostCodes

An App Store-style discovery tool

One of the trickier things about using Snapchat is finding people to follow (and getting people to follow your account).

GhostCodes to the rescue. It’s possibly the easiest way to find influencers and other accounts to follow.

Search for Snapchatters by over 40 categories—from “comedians” to “college life” and from “foodies” to “fitness.” Click on a category and you get a list of the most popular Snapchatters in that category. Except they call them “Ghosties.”

6. Peek

Find and follow interesting Snapchatters

Peek archives Stories from popular Snapchatters, and lets you browse for content through their iPhone app.

It’s a great way to find content for inspiration, research potential influencers, and find the best content on Snapchat.
Analytics and measurement apps

7. Delmondo

Analytics and audience insights for Snapchat

In the absence of an integrated Snapchat analytics tool, marketers need to find other ways to track key Snapchat metrics.

Delmondo aims to fill this gap by working with brands to optimize their social media campaigns, including on Snapchat. It can connect brands to influencers, create video content, and provide a suite of campaign reporting tools.

8. Snaplytics

A Snapchat management platform

It’s not the easiest name to say, but Snaplytics offers a complete suite of Snapchat management tools, including analytics, publishing, and competitor analysis.

You can track and measure the performance of your Stories, including the number of opens and screenshots, gain insights into your followers, and measure yourself against competitors.

9. Storyheap

Manage and measure your Snapchat Stories

Storyheap provides a central dashboard for managing your Snapchat Stories. You can use it to upload and schedule your Story, and Storyheap Studio lets you create Stories.

Storyheap also offers a range of analytics and publishing tools. You can gain insights into how a particular story performs, with the ability to track open rates, engagement, and other key metrics.

One interesting feature is Autopilot, which enables you to post videos to both Snapchat and Instagram.

Geofilter creation tool

10. PepperFilters

Create custom geofilters in minutes

Everyone loves Snapchat’s geofilters. It’s a neat way to do some location-based marketing or add a flourish to your content. For example, you can promote that you are in a particular location for an event, or ask followers to enter a contest by sharing photos containing a custom geofilter you created.

PepperFilters is a marketplace for Snapchat geofilters. You can design a unique geofilter using their range of backgrounds and templates, graphics, and text effects.

Promote your account app

11. Unofficial Snapchat button

It’s a Snapchat button and it’s unofficial

Make it easy to create a Snapchat button for your website so people can follow you. This handy website lets you create a button and generate code to paste into your website.

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.

WhatsApp Marketing for Business: A Guide to Getting Started

When you think of social media, sites like Facebook and Twitter probably come to mind immediately. But messenger apps have actually caught up to social networks in terms of users. And increasingly messenger apps are being used for marketing.

The leader in most of the world is WhatsApp (a pun on the phrase “what’s up”), with 1.2 billion monthly active users around the world.

That kind of market penetration can’t be ignored. But how can you effectively use WhatsApp for marketing? Like all relatively unexplored frontiers, there are equal measures of risk and reward for early adopters. Here’s our marketer’s guide to WhatsApp.

What is WhatsApp?

WhatsApp is a free mobile app that uses your phone’s internet connection to let you chat with other WhatsApp users, without SMS text message charges. The app also lets you share files and images, and supports free voice and video calls.

Its support for a wide range of phones has made it especially popular in areas with high SMS charges, including Brazil, Mexico, and Malaysia—where 60 percent of the population uses WhatsApp. In fact, it’s the most popular alternative to SMS in 109 countries, or 55.6 percent of the world.

While Facebook acquired WhatsApp for US$19 billion in February 2014, it’s been operating as a separate entity since then, and hasn’t yet seen the same marketing-friendly features as Facebook Messenger.

How to use WhatsApp

WhatsApp has versions for iPhones, as well as Windows phone, the Nokia S40, BlackBerry, the Nokia S60, and the BlackBerry 10. There’s also a web app and desktop versions for Mac or Windows PCs, but you need to have it installed on your mobile phone first, since each WhatsApp account is tied directly to a single phone number.

Once you download and install the app, you need to confirm your country and enter your telephone number. To set up your profile, you can either import your Facebook information with a single click, or manually add an image and add a profile name (which you can change later).

WhatsApp uses the phone numbers from your phone’s contact list to show you an up-to-date directory of WhatsApp users who you already know. Anyone who has your phone number in their phone’s address book will automatically see your listing, too, unless you change your privacy settings.

There are three basic ways to share messages, photos, and videos using WhatsApp.

One-to-one chat

Like other chat programs, you can chat directly with another user who is in your phone’s contact list. You can also call or video call them, or even record snippets of audio to text to them.

Broadcast lists

When you send a message to a broadcast list, it will go to anyone in the list who has your number saved in their phones’ address book. They’ll see the message as a normal message, similar to the BCC (blind carbon copy) function in email. If they reply, it will appear as a normal, one-to-one message in your chats screen, and their reply won’t be sent to anyone else in that broadcast list. Broadcast lists are limited to 256 contacts.

Groups

Group chats let you message with up to 256 people at once, sharing messages, photos, and videos. Everyone in the group chat can chime in and also see everyone else’s responses.

Why should you use WhatsApp for business?

The best reason to use WhatsApp for business is that many of your customers are probably already using it. More than 50 billion messages are sent through WhatsApp every single day.

Surprisingly, users of WhatsApp and similar services are willing to engage with businesses. According to Nielsen’s Facebook Messaging Survey, 67 percent of mobile messaging app users said they expect to use chat more for communicating with businesses over the next two years. What’s more, 53 percent of respondents say they’re more likely to shop with a business they can message directly.

If your customers and prospects are young, they’re more likely to be comfortable using messaging apps for their day-to-day communication. A study by Pew Research Center shows that 42 percent of smartphone owners between 18 and 29 years old use messaging apps like WhatsApp, compared with only 19 percent of smartphone owners who are 50 or older.

Plus, messaging apps like WhatsApp have incredible engagement rates: 98 percent of mobile messages are opened and read, with 90 percent of them getting opened within three seconds of being received.

WhatsApp may already be a key way for your audience to share content via dark social—a term to describe when people share content through private channels such as email or chat apps like WhatsApp, as opposed to more public networks like Facebook.

In fact, a huge majority of sharing online—84 percent—now takes place on private channels like messaging apps, so even if you’re not using WhatsApp to market your business, your prospects are likely using it to extend your content’s reach already.

WhatsApp marketing strategies and tips

Since WhatsApp doesn’t sell ad space or have any business-specific features (yet) you have to be innovative in your marketing approach.

While WhatsApp is different in its reach and features than other messenger apps, it’s important to develop your WhatsApp strategy alongside your general messaging app marketing strategy.

There are a few limitations you need to address when developing your WhatsApp marketing strategy. First of all, there is no such thing as a business account, so if your brand is creating an account it faces the same limitations as any other user.

Since each WhatsApp account is tied directly to a single mobile phone number—and you can only message with up to 256 WhatsApp users at once—it isn’t a good choice for large-scale, one-to-many marketing. So your chances of success are higher when you use its limitations to your advantage.

Remember that, like other mobile messaging services, part of the power of WhatsApp is that it’s tied to our phones, which tend to seem more personal to us than our computers—they’re not shared and we carry them everywhere. So any marketing campaigns you tackle should reflect (and respect) the personal aspect. This is where consumers interact with their friends, so trust and creativity is key.

Not surprisingly, some of the best examples of effective WhatsApp campaigns hail from regions with the highest penetration, including South America. Here are some case studies of brands who have made an impact using WhatsApp for marketing.

Create a brand persona to chat with users and build buzz

When Absolut Vodka launched their Limited Edition Absolut Unique bottle collection in Argentina WhatsApp was a natural place to try and build buzz, since 84 percent of the country’s mobile phone users were on the app at the time.

For the launch they decided to host a very exclusive party. The catch? There were only two invitations available to the public. Anyone wanting to win these tickets had to use WhatsApp to contact an imaginary bouncer named Sven and convince him to let them go.

The campaign generated over 1,000 unique images, videos, and audio messages people created to convince Sven, and built buzz in the community.

Offer one-on-one help to inspire new uses for a product

Hellmann’s in Brazil wanted to inspire people to think of mayonnaise as a cooking ingredient, not just a condiment. So they invited visitors to their website to submit their phone numbers along with a picture of the contents of their refrigerator. They were then connected through WhatsApp with real chefs, who came up with a recipe using Hellmann’s and the other ingredients in their fridge. The chefs even taught the users how to cook the meal through pictures, videos, and other WhatsApp features.

The results? A total of 13,000 participants spent an average of 65 minutes interacting with the brand, and 99.5 percent of them approved of the service. The brand was so happy with the results from the Brazilian campaign, they rolled it out to Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay.

Offer discreet advice and service to high-value customers

High-end lingerie brand Agent Provocateur has been using WhatsApp to offer their top clients updates on new arrivals and events at the brand’s stores for a while now. Customers can also ask advice from the privacy of of the messenger service.

The approach was so popular with VIPs that Agent Provocateur’s launched a similar WhatsApp promotion named Ménage à Trois for all customers last Christmas. WhatsApp users could invite a personal shopper into a group conversation with their partner to discuss what they wanted for Christmas. Agent Provocateur’s team of style advisers answered the questions manually, engaging with each couple.

While it was a small campaign—with 112 conversations taking place—31 percent of the chats resulted in store visits and 61 percent converted to website traffic.

WhatsApp Marketing for Business: A Guide for Getting Started | Hootsuite Blog
Image via Digiday.

WhatsApp marketing tools

Since WhatsApp doesn’t offer any business tools or an API yet, small-scale targeted campaigns like the examples above are the best strategy. To start engaging with people, you need to have them add your number to their phone’s contact list. WhatsApp does provide a way to add a click-to-chat link to your website, email signature, or social media pages that makes it easy for people to start a conversation with your brand.

Keep in mind that the expectation in messaging is for near-instant replies, so make sure you have the resources to manage the chats, or—like Agent Provocateur did—limit availability to specific windows of time.

There are third-party WhatsApp marketing tools and services offering to set up multiple WhatsApp accounts and groups for marketers, but using them can lead to you being blocked temporarily or banned entirely from the service. Plus, mass messaging in this type of environment can do a lot of damage to your brand.

The good news is that WhatsApp is busily working on features to help businesses engage with their users.

The future of WhatsApp marketing

While WhatsApp isn’t as feature-rich as Facebook Messenger for marketing, it is moving in that direction.

The company has announced it is working on business-friendly features: “In the future, we will explore ways for you and businesses to communicate with each other using WhatsApp, such as through order, transaction, and appointment information, delivery and shipping notifications, product and service updates, and marketing. Messages you may receive containing marketing could include an offer for something that might interest you.”

Until then, marketers who create campaigns that work with—not against—WhatsApp’s unique characteristics will have an advantage. The lack of advertising and corporate presence on WhatsApp means that early adopters can really stand out—if you do it right.

Social media moves fast and keeping up with the rate of change—new platforms and shifting best practices—can be tough. Learn the fundamental social media marketing skills you need to stay ahead of the pack with free training from Hootsuite Academy.

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What we learned from SEO: The Movie

Have you ever wished for a nostalgic retrospective on the heyday of SEO, featuring some of the biggest names in the world of search, all condensed into a 40-minute video with an admittedly cheesy title?

If so, you’re in luck, because there’s a documentary just for you: it’s called SEO: The Movie.

The trailer for SEO: The Movie

SEO: The Movie is a new documentary, created by digital marketing agency Ignite Visibility, which explores the origin story of search and SEO, as told by several of its pioneers. It’s a 40-minute snapshot of the search industry that is and was, focusing predominantly on its rock-and-roll heyday, with a glimpse into the future and what might become of SEO in the years to come.

The movie is a fun insight into where SEO came from and who we have to thank for it, but some of its most interesting revelations are contained within stories of the at times fraught relationship between Google and SEO consultants, as well as between Google and business owners who depended on it for their traffic. For all that search has evolved since Google was founded nearly two decades ago, this tension hasn’t gone away.

It was also interesting to hear some thoughts about what might become of search and SEO several years down the line from those who’d been around since the beginning – giving them a unique insight into the bigger picture of how search has changed, and is still changing.

So what were the highlights of SEO: The Movie, and what did we learn from watching it?

The stars of SEO

The story of SEO: The Movie is told jointly by an all-star cast of industry veterans from the early days of search and SEO (the mid-90s through to the early 2000s), with overarching narration by John Lincoln, the CEO of Ignite Visibility.

There’s Danny Sullivan, the founder of Search Engine Watch (this very website!) and co-founder of Search Engine Land; Rand Fishkin, the ‘Wizard of Moz’; Rae Hoffman a.k.a ‘Sugarrae’, CEO of PushFire and one of the original affiliate marketers; Brett Tabke, founder of Pubcon and Webmaster World; Jill Whalen, the former CEO of High Rankings and co-founder of Search Engine Marketing New England; and Barry Schwartz, CEO of RustyBrick and founder of Search Engine Roundtable.

The documentary also features a section on former Google frontman Matt Cutts, although Cutts himself doesn’t appear in the movie in person.

Each of them tells the tale of how they came to the search industry, which is an intriguing insight into how people became involved in such an unknown, emerging field. While search and SEO turned over huge amounts of revenue in the early days – Lincoln talks about “affiliates who were making millions of dollars a year” by figuring out how to boost search rankings – there was still relatively little known about the industry and how it worked.

Danny Sullivan, for instance, was a newspaper journalist who made the leap to the web development in 1995, and began writing about search “just because [he] really wanted to get some decent answers to questions about how search engines work”.

Jill Whalen came to SEO through a parenting website she set up, after she set out to bring more traffic to her website through search engines and figured out how to use keywords to make her site rank higher.

Still from SEO: The Move showing a screen with a HTML paragraph tag, followed by the word 'parenting'.

Rae Hoffman started out in the ‘long-distance space’, making modest amounts from ranking for long-distance terms, before she struck gold by creating a website for a friend selling diet pills which ranked in the top 3 search results for several relevant search terms.

“That was probably my biggest ‘holy shit’ moment,” she recalls. “My first commission check for the first month of those rankings was more than my then-husband made in a year.”

Rand Fishkin, the ‘Wizard of Moz’, relates the heart-rending story of how he and his mother initially struggled with debt in the early 2000s when Moz was still just a blog, before getting his big break at the Search Engine Strategies conference and signing his first major client.

The stories of these industry pioneers give an insight into the huge, growing, world-changing phenomenon that was SEO in the early days, back when Google, Lycos, Yahoo and others were scrambling to gain the biggest index, and Google would “do the dance” every five to eight weeks and update its algorithms, giving those clever or lucky enough to rank high a steady stream of income until the next update.

Google’s algorithm updates have always been important, but as later sections of the documentary show, certain algorithms had a disproportionate impact on businesses which Google perhaps should have done more to mitigate.

Google and webmasters: It’s complicated

“Larry [Page] and Sergey [Brin] were fairly antagonistic to SEOs,” Brett Tabke recalls. “The way I understood it, Matt [Cutts] went to Larry and said… ‘We need to have an outreach program for webmasters.’ He really reached out to us and laid out the welcome mat.”

Almost everyone in the search industry knows the name of Matt Cutts, the former head of Google’s webspam team who was, for many years, the public face of Google. Cutts became the go-to source of information on Google updates and algorithm changes, and could generally be relied upon to give an authoritative explanation of what was affecting websites’ ranking changes and why.

Still from SEO: The Movie showing Matt Cutts holding a whiteboard marker next to a blank whiteboard, mid-explanation of a concept. The credit in the bottom right corner reads 'Source: YouTube/Google Webmasters'.

Matt Cutts in an explanatory video for Google Webmasters

However, even between Matt Cutts and the SEO world, things weren’t all sunshine and roses. Rand Fishkin reveals in SEO: The Movie how Cutts would occasionally contact him and request that he remove certain pieces of information, or parts of tools, that he deemed too revealing.

“We at first had a very friendly professional relationship, for several years,” he recollects. “Then I think Matt took the view that some of the transparency that I espoused, and that we were putting out there on Moz, really bothered him, and bothered Google. Occasionally I’d get an email from him saying, ‘I wish you wouldn’t write about this… I wish you wouldn’t invite this person to your conference…’ And sometimes stronger than that, like – ‘You need to remove this thing from your tool, or we will ban you.’”

We’ve written previously about the impact of the lack of transparency surrounding Google’s algorithm updates and speculated whether Google owes it to SEOs to be more honest and accountable. The information surrounding Google’s updates has become a lot murkier since Matt Cutts left the company in 2014 (while Cutts didn’t formally resign until December 2016, he was on leave for more than two years prior to that) with the lack of a clear spokesperson.

But evidently, even during Cutts’ tenure with Google, Google had a transparency problem.

In the documentary, Fishkin recalls the general air of mystery that surrounded the workings of search engines in the early days, with each company highly protective of its secrets.

“The search engines themselves – Google, Microsoft, Yahoo – were all incredibly secretive about how their algorithms worked, how their engines worked… I think that they felt it was sort of a proprietary trade secret that helped them maintain a competitive advantage against one another. As a result, as a practitioner, trying to keep up with the search engines … was incredibly challenging.”

This opaqueness surrounding Google’s algorithms persisted, even as Google grew far more dominant in the space and arguably had much less to fear from being overtaken by competitors. And as Google’s dominance grew, the impact of major algorithm changes became more severe.

SEO: The Movie looks back on some of Google’s most significant updates, such as Panda and Penguin, and details how they impacted the industry at the time. One early update, the so-called ‘Florida update’, specifically took aim at tactics that SEOs were using to manipulate search rankings, sending many high-ranking websites “into free-fall”.

Barry Schwartz describes how “many, many retailers” at the time of the Florida update suddenly found themselves with “zero sales” and facing bankruptcy. And to add insult to injury, the update was never officially confirmed by Google.

Fast-forward to 2012, when Google deployed the initial Penguin update that targeted link spam. Once again, this was an update that hit SEOs who had been employing these tactics in order to rank very hard – and moreover, hit their client businesses. But because of the huge delay between one Penguin update and the next, businesses which changed their ways and went on the metaphorical straight and narrow still weren’t able to recover.

“As a consultant, I had companies calling me that were hit by Penguin, and had since cleaned up all of their backlinks,” says Rae Hoffman.

“They would contact me and say, ‘We’re still not un-penalized, so we need you to look at it to see what we missed.’ And I would tell them, ‘You didn’t miss anything. You have to wait for Google to push the button again.’

“I would get calls from companies that told me that they had two months before they were going to have to close the doors and start firing employees; and they were waiting on a Penguin update. Google launched something that was extremely punitive; that was extremely devastating; that threw a lot of baby out with the bathwater… and then chose not to update it again for almost two years.”

These recollections from veteran SEOs show that Google’s relationship with webmasters has always been fraught with difficulties. Whatever you think about Google’s right to protect its trade secrets and take actions against those manipulating its algorithms, SEOs were the ones who drove the discussion around what Google was doing in its early days, analyzing it and spreading the word, reporting news stories, featuring Google and other search companies at their conferences.

To my mind at least, it seems that it would have been fairer for Google to develop a more open and reciprocal relationship with webmasters and SEOs, which would have prevented situations like the ones above from occurring.

Where is search and SEO headed in the future?

It’s obviously difficult to predict what might be ahead with absolute certainty. But as I mentioned in the introduction, what I like about the ‘future of search’ predictions in SEO: The Movie is that they come from veterans who have been around since the early days, meaning that they know exactly where search has come from, and have a unique perspective on the overarching trends that have been present over the past two decades.

As Rae Hoffman puts it,

“If you had asked me ten years ago, ‘Where are we going to be in ten years?’ Never would I have been able to remotely fathom the development of Twitter, or the development of Facebook, or that YouTube would become one of the largest search engines on the internet.”

I think it’s also important to distinguish between the future of search and the future of SEO, which are two different but complimentary things. One deals with how we will go about finding information in future, and relates to phenomena like voice search, visual search, and the move to mobile. The other relates to how website owners can make sure that their content is found by users within those environments.

Rand Fishkin believes that the future of SEO is secure for at least a few years down the line.

“SEO has a very bright future for at least the next three or four years. I think the future after that is more uncertain, and the biggest risk that I see to this field is that search volume, and the possibility of being in front of searchers, diminishes dramatically because of smart assistants and voice search.”

Brett Tabke adds:

“The future of SEO, to me, is this entire holistic approach: SEO, mobile, the web, social… Every place you can put marketing is going to count. We can’t just do on-the-page stuff anymore; we can’t worry about links 24/7.”

As for the future of search, CEO of Ignite Visibility John Lincoln sums it up well at the very end of the movie when he links search to the general act of researching. Ultimately, people are always going to have a need to research and discover information, and this means that ‘search’ in some form will always be around.

“I will say the future of search is super bright,” he says. “And people are going to evolve with it.

“Searching is always going to be tied to research, and whenever anybody needs a service or a product, they’re going to do research. It might be through Facebook, it might be through Twitter, it might be through LinkedIn, it might be through YouTube. There’s a lot of different search engines out there, and platforms, that are always expanding and contracting based off of the features that they’re putting out there.

“Creating awesome content that’s easy to find, that’s technically set up correctly and that reverberates through the internet… That’s the core of what search is about.”

SEO: The Movie is definitely an enjoyable watch and at 40 minutes in length, it won’t take up too much of your day. If you’re someone who’s been around in search since the beginning, you’ll enjoy the trip down Memory Lane. If, like me, you’re newer to the industry, you’ll enjoy the look back at where it came from – and particularly the realization that there some things which haven’t changed at all.

Related reading

Flat design vector illustration concept of financial investment, analytics with growth report. Calculations and graphs of gains on the stock market and real cash earnings.

The Definitive Guide to Content Curation: Strategies, Tips, and Tools

Many of us are curating content without even thinking about it.

We’re sharing that quirky New York Times article on Facebook. We’re quoting celebrity tweets and making funny (well, funny to us) quips on Twitter.

What is content curation?

Content curation is all about mining the internet for material that can be shared on your social networks. It’s about finding great content and presenting it to your social media followers in a way that’s organized and meaningful.

The thing is, you’re probably not thinking strategically when you’re scrolling through your phone and posting from bed in the morning.

Content curation strategy is what makes the difference between mediocre and exceptional content curation in business.

Strategy is a must when it comes to content marketing, which includes content curation.

Content marketing vs. content curation

Content marketing is all about getting material out into the world that helps strengthen your brand in one way or another. That could mean writing blog posts, making YouTube videos, or Snapchatting Stories.

But it takes a lot of creative juice to constantly make new things while still keeping up with the demands of a business.

And that’s where content curation comes in.

It’s all about finding something that stands out online instead of creating something new.

Why should brands curate content?

1. It alleviates the pressure to create

You might not have the time to make enough fresh content to keep the conversation going on social. Content curation helps fill that need.

2. You lessen the ‘me, me, me’ factor

When someone’s talking about themselves all the time, it gets old real quick. Curated content helps with that.

3. Online networking opportunities

UpContent’s Marissa Burdett says that sharing curated content can help you make connections with leaders in your industry. She also explains that it could spark conversation with your social media audience in general.

4. You become seen as thought leader

If you’re sharing posts about the latest trends in your field, it shows that you’re engaged on a deeper level.

5. Grow your business

Braveen Kumar writes all about this in a Shopify blog post on using content curation to grow your ecommerce business. This can happen through things like strengthening your email list and defining your brand online.

How to curate content

If you’re worried about this whole mining-the-web thing, there’s no need to be. You’re not in the dark with one headlamp. You have a whole mining crew, thanks to a variety of content curation tools, which we will get to later.

The steps in this article will help you master content curation like a ninja.

First you’ll need to figure out what topics you want to search through using these tools. Once you find material, you’ll have to decide what to share.

Here’s a list of questions to help you with that:

  • Is this content on brand? Is there a reason why my company would share this? You’ll need to know your target audience to decide on this.
  • Can I trust the source?
  • Is it offering something unique to my readers?
  • Is it entertaining or useful in some way?

You also need to schedule these posts in an appropriate way so that you’re offering variety to your readers.

When you’re doing this, you should think about the so-called Social Media Rule of Thirds:

  • One third of what you share should be about personal brand promotion.
  • One third should be curated content.
  • One third should be about the conversations that are happening on social.

Content curation best practices

Read, watch, listen

There are so many services that help you find material, but you need to check it all out before you share it.

Ensure it’s relevant

If it’s not relevant to your business in some way, quash it. An article from Search Engine Journal says you should ask yourself the intent behind each of your posts.

Make sure it’s trustworthy

Find things that are come from reputable sources that you can trust.

Personalize

You need to bring a piece of you to what you’re sharing. You could tell readers why they might be interested, or add some sort of value to the piece.

Provide value

What you share must be interesting or entertaining to your audience.

Mix up what you post

Share different perspectives from your niche.

Schedule your content

Use a content calendar to map out what you’re going to post. You can also use a program such as Hootsuite to schedule your posts so you don’t have to remember to post throughout the day.

Cathy Habas, the managing editor for Coquí Content Marketing, advises: don’t schedule too far in advance because you want curated material that’s topical.

Give credit

You need to credit the creator of the content you are sharing wherever possible. That could mean using an @mention in a tweet, or tagging them in a Facebook post, for example.

Engage in social listening

You should be looking to see what’s working and not working when it comes to your content curation. Christina Newberry wrote a Hootsuite blog post about social listening that could help you figure this out.

For more on content curation best practices, check out this video from Hootsuite Academy.

Learn how to get even more out of Hootsuite with free social media training from Hootsuite Academy.

Content curation tools

Here are some of the tools that are out there to help businesses with social media content curation.

BuzzSumo

BuzzSumo lets you search the most shared content on a specific topic in the last few hours, or months. You can see the top 10 influencers for a topic and what they’re sharing.
Buzzsumo ranges in price from $79 monthly to $559 monthly, with cheaper rates if you purchase by the year.

Right Relevance

This service finds relevant content and influencers in a field, and gives them a score and a rank… So if you’re into numbers, it could help you decide what to share—and who to share it from.

Right Relevance starts at $500 per month.

RSS readers (like Feedly)

With programs like Feedly, you can follow your favorite feeds and organize articles in one spot. You can also keep track of internal information, and when your business is mentioned online.

The cost ranges from free to $18 monthly.

If you use Hootsuite to manage your social media presence, you can add an RSS feed to save yourself time curating content.

Hootsuite

Beyond RSS integrations, Hootsuite is a great tool for content curation as it allows you to keep track of and organize your social media feeds by network, topic, keywords, hashtags, Twitter lists, and more.

Reddit

Reddit is an online community where posts get upvoted or downvoted. You can follow specific interests, called subreddits. People also comment on these posts, which could help you understand your niche—and what posts resonate with that audience—better.

UpContent

UpContent uses an algorithm that pulls news articles and blog posts for you based on things like social influence and recency. Then you can curate that content on your site by using the UpContent Gallery tool.

UpContent ranges from free to $10 per month.

Pocket

Pocket is a place to put things you find on social. So you can stop texting and emailing stuff to yourself to keep track of it (and losing it anyway).

Plans range from $4.99 a month to $49.99 a year.

Scoop.it

Scoop.it lets you find things and put them together in a topic hub page that can be shared. You could also publish this curated content elsewhere, such as your blog. For individuals, this service ranges from free to $67 yearly.

Sniply

Sniply is all about what’s called a call to action (CTA). When you use Sniply to reshare something that directs followers to another site, a little box pops up on that webpage with a message from you. That message could include your web address.

Sniply ranges from $29 to $299 a month.

Curata

Curata listens to what you’re interested in and provides you with sources based on that. You can also crowdsource material from across your business.

Then you can use Curata to publish on your website.

You can call Curata to get a quote on the service: 617-229-5529.

PublishThis

This content curation tool “indexes, tags [and] centralizes content from the web’s best sources,” according to its website.

There’s no price listed, but there’s a forum on the website to get in touch.

Trapit

Companies can put their own social marketing content on Trapit, and pull in other content to curate. This can be sent to employees to share with customers. There’s also an analytics system that measures how well it does.

You will need to contact the company to get a cost quote.

Hootsuite can help with your content curation for social media. Find content to share, schedule it to publish on your social channels, and track your success—all from one dashboard. 

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Everything you need to know about visual search (so far)

Visual search is one of the most complex and fiercely competed sectors of our industry. Earlier this month, Bing announced their new visual search mode, hot on the heels of similar developments from Pinterest and Google.

Ours is a culture mediated by images, so it stands to reason that visual search has assumed such importance for the world’s largest technology companies. The pace of progress is certainly quickening; but there is no clear visual search ‘winner’ and nor will there be one soon.

The search industry has developed significantly over the past decade, through advances in personalization, natural language processing, and multimedia results. And yet, one could argue that the power of the image remains untapped.

This is not due to a lack of attention or investment. Quite the contrary, in fact. Cracking visual search will require a combination of technological nous, psychological insight, and neuroscientific know-how. This makes it a fascinating area of development, but also one that will not be mastered easily.

Therefore, in this article, we will begin with an outline of the visual search industry and the challenges it poses, before analyzing the recent progress made by Google, Microsoft and Pinterest.

What is visual search?

We all partake in visual search every day. Every time we need to locate our keys among a range of other items, for example, our brains are engaged in a visual search.

We learn to recognize certain targets and we can locate them within a busy landscape with increasing ease over time.

This is a trickier task for a computer, however.

Image search, in which a search engine takes a text-based query and tries to find the best visual match, is subtly distinct from modern visual search. Visual search can take an image as its ‘query’, rather than text. In order to perform an accurate visual search, search engines require much more sophisticated processes than they do for traditional image search.

Typically, as part of this process, deep neural networks are put through their paces in tests like the one below, with the hope that they will mimic the functioning of the human brain in identifying targets:

The decisions (or inherent ‘biases’, as they are known) that allow us to make sense of these patterns are more difficult to integrate into a machine. When processing an image, should a machine prioritize shape, color, or size? How does a person do this? Do we even know for sure, or do we only know the output?

As such, search engines still struggle to process images in the way we expect them to. We simply don’t understand our own biases well enough to be able to reproduce them in another system.

There has been a lot of progress in this field, nonetheless. Google image search has improved drastically in response to text queries and other options, like Tineye, also allow us to use reverse image search. This is a useful feature, but its limits are self-evident.

For years, Facebook has been able to identify individuals in photos, in the same way a person would immediately recognize a friend’s face. This example is a closer approximation of the holy grail for visual search; however, it still falls short. In this instance, Facebook has set up its networks to search for faces, giving them a clear target.

At its zenith, online visual search allows us to use an image as an input and receive another, related image as an output. This would mean that we could take a picture with a smartphone of a chair, for example, and have the technology return pictures of suitable rugs to accompany the style of the chair.

The typically ‘human’ process in the middle, where we would decipher the component parts of an image and decide what it is about, then conceptualize and categorize related items, is undertaken by deep neural networks. These networks are ‘unsupervised’, meaning that there is no human intervention as they alter their functioning based on feedback signals and work to deliver the desired output.

The result can be mesmerising, as in the below interpretations of an image of Georges Seurat’s ‘A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte’ by Google’s neural networks:

This is just one approach to answering a delicate question, however.

There are no right or wrong answers in this field as it stands; simply more or less effective ones in a given context.

We should therefore assess the progress of a few technology giants to observe the significant strides they have made thus far, but also the obstacles left to overcome before visual search is truly mastered.

Bing visual search

In early June at TechCrunch 50, Microsoft announced that it would now allow users to “search by picture.”

This is notable for a number of reasons. First of all, although Bing image search has been present for quite some time, Microsoft actually removed its original visual search product in 2012. People simply weren’t using it since its 2009 launch, as it wasn’t accurate enough.

Furthermore, it would be fair to say that Microsoft is running a little behind in this race. Rival search engines and social media platforms have provided visual search functions for some time now.

As a result, it seems reasonable to surmise that Microsoft must have something compelling if they have chosen to re-enter the fray with such a public announcement. While it is not quite revolutionary, the new Bing visual search is still a useful tool that builds significantly on their image search product.

A Bing search for “kitchen decor ideas” which showcases Bing’s new visual search capabilities

What sets Bing visual search apart is the ability to search within images and then expand this out to related objects that might complement the user’s selection.

 A user can select specific objects, hone in on them, and purchase similar items if they desire. The opportunities for retailers are both obvious and plentiful.

It’s worth mentioning that Pinterest’s visual search has been able to do this for some time. But the important difference between Pinterest’s capability and Bing’s in this regard is that Pinterest can only redirect users to Pins that businesses have made available on Pinterest – and not all of them might be shoppable. Bing, on the other hand, can index a retailer’s website and use visual search to direct the user to it, with no extra effort required on the part of either party.

Powered by Silverlight technology, this should lead to a much more refined approach to searching through images. Microsoft provided the following visualisation of how their query processing system works for this product:

Microsoft combines this system with the structured data it owns to provide a much richer, more informative search experience. Although restricted to a few search categories, such as homeware, travel, and sports, we should expect to see this rolled out to more areas through this year.

The next step will be to automate parts of this process, so that the user no longer needs to draw a box to select objects. It is still some distance from delivering on the promise of perfect, visual search, but these updates should at least see Microsoft eke out a few more sellable searches via Bing.

Google Lens

Google recently announced its Lens product at the 2017 I/O conference in May. The aim of Lens is really to turn your smartphone into a visual search engine.

Google Lens logo, which looks like a simplified camera with a red and yellow outline, blue lens and green flash.

Take a picture of anything out there and Google will tell you what the object is about, along with any related entities. Point your smartphone at a restaurant, for example, and Google will tell you its name, whether your friends have visited it before, and highlight reviews for the restaurant too.

This is supplemented by Google’s envious inventory of data, both from its own knowledge graph and the consumer data it holds.

All of this data can fuel and refine Google’s deep neural networks, which are central to the effective functioning of its Lens product.

Google-owned company DeepMind is at the forefront of visual search innovation. As such, DeepMind is also particularly familiar with just how challenging this technology is to master.

The challenge is no longer necessarily in just creating neural networks that can understand an image as effectively as a human. The bigger challenge (known as the ‘black box problem’ in this field) is that the processes involved in arriving at conclusions are so complex, obscured, and multi-faceted that even Google’s engineers struggle to keep track.

This points to a rather poignant paradox at the heart of visual search and, more broadly, the use of deep neural networks. The aim is to mimic the functioning of the human brain; however, we still don’t really understand how the human brain works.

As a result, DeepMind have started to explore new methods. In a fascinating blog post they summarized the findings from a recent paper, within which they applied the inductive reasoning evident in human perception of images.

Drawing on the rich history of cognitive psychology (rich, at least, in comparison with the nascent field of neural networks), scientists were able to apply within their technology the same biases we apply as people when we classify items.

DeepMind use the following prompt to illuminate their thinking:

“A field linguist has gone to visit a culture whose language is entirely different from our own. The linguist is trying to learn some words from a helpful native speaker, when a rabbit scurries by. The native speaker declares “gavagai”, and the linguist is left to infer the meaning of this new word. The linguist is faced with an abundance of possible inferences, including that “gavagai” refers to rabbits, animals, white things, that specific rabbit, or “undetached parts of rabbits”. There is an infinity of possible inferences to be made. How are people able to choose the correct one?”

Experiments in cognitive psychology have shown that we have a ‘shape bias’; that is to say, we give prominence to the fact that this is a rabbit, rather than focusing on its color or its broader classification as an animal. We are aware of all of these factors, but we choose shape as the most important criterion.

“Gavagai” Credit: Misha Shiyanov/Shutterstock

DeepMind is one of the most essential components of Google’s development into an ‘AI-first’ company, so we can expect findings like the above to be incorporated into visual search in the near future. When they do, we shouldn’t rule out the launch of Google Glass 2.0 or something similar.

Pinterest Lens

Pinterest aims to establish itself as the go-to search engine when you don’t have the words to describe what you are looking for.

The launch of its Lens product in March this year was a real statement of intent and Pinterest has made a number of senior hires from Google’s image search teams to fuel development.

In combination with its establishment of a paid search product and features like ‘Shop the Look’, there is a growing consensus that Pinterest could become a real marketing contender. Along with Amazon, it should benefit from advertisers’ thirst for more options beyond Google and Facebook.

Pinterest president Tim Kendall noted recently at TechCrunch Disrupt: “We’re starting to be able to segue into differentiation and build things that other people can’t. Or they could build it, but because of the nature of the products, this would make less sense.”

This drives at the heart of the matter. Pinterest users come to the site for something different, which allows Pinterest to build different products for them. While Google fights war on numerous fronts, Pinterest can focus on improving its visual search offering.

Admittedly, it remains a work in progress, but Pinterest Lens is the most advanced visual search tool available at the moment. Using a smartphone, a Pinner (as the site’s users are known) can take a picture within the app and have it processed with a high degree of accuracy by Pinterest’s technology.

The results are quite effective for items of clothing and homeware, although there is still a long way to go before we use Pinterest as our personal stylist. As a tantalising glimpse of the future, however, Pinterest Lens is a welcome and impressive development.

The next step is to monetize this, which is exactly what Pinterest plans to do. Visual search will become part of its paid advertising package, a fact that will no doubt appeal to retailers keen to move beyond keyword targeting and social media prospecting.

We may still be years from declaring a winner in the battle for visual search supremacy, but it is clear to see that the victor will claim significant spoils.

Related reading

Hands holding smart phone with search engine optimization (SEO) concept on screen.

4 under-the-radar UX flaws that are killing your conversion rate

As all business owners who operate an ecommerce website know, it can take a while to hit full stride in terms of conversion rate.

When results are underwhelming, the first instinct might be to make big changes across the board.

What a lot companies fail to realize is that a great deal of buying decisions take place subconsciously. Design errors can seem minuscule, but have a huge impact on the bottom line.

It’s very possible there are a number of UX flaws in your layout that are turning visitors off at first glance. Here are a few things you may have overlooked in your approach.

1. Lack of visual hierarchy

Web design is about so much more than just making a platform look pretty and appealing. The bulk of the process is about adhering to goal-based functionality. Using visual elements such as color, positioning, contrast, shape, size, etc. you can strategically organize the page so users get a strong impression of how important certain components are. Basically, it’s about where you want your customers’ eyes to be drawn to.

Here is MailChimp’s homepage:

Where is the first place your eyes went? Chances are, they went to the CTA in the center of the page. The button they’ve use is slightly offset from the rest of the color scheme and the message sticks out very prominently.

Based on the goals of your landing page, the desired action should be properly conveyed on the visual hierarchy scale and jump out to the visitor.

TechWyse did a case study on how certain landing pages attract attention. Here is the original landing page they used in the experiment:

Now, here is the landing page with a heat map of where visitors’ eyes were being drawn to:

You’ll notice that the place with the highest engagement was the vivid red “NO FEES” sticker. The problem with this is that it draws eyes, but has no click action or conversion related goal. Therefore, visitors are being diverted from the more important parts of the page.

A tool such as Zarget will help you identify the reading and scanning patterns of visitors to your site. It can also track browser interaction with moving and dynamic elements, as opposed to heat maps based on just snapshots (like the ones Crazy Egg gives you).

When you are designing landing pages, keep in mind your overarching objective for conversion. Is it to gain sign-ups? Promote a deal? Whichever you decide, be sure your visual hierarchy invokes the desired action and navigates users to a conversion.

2. Unclear value proposition

Keep in mind, not everyone wants to be sold to immediately. Showcasing your unique selling proposition right off the bat is a good way to entice visitors to see what you have to offer.

Your value proposition is what tells customers why they should choose you as opposed to the competitors. Regardless of what you sell, this needs to be apparent almost instantly. The widespread usage of Amazon makes this concept extremely vital to the setup of ecommerce websites. Why should a customer buy from you instead of the convenient retail giants?

The harsh truth of the matter is that a lot of online businesses struggle with clearly communicating their value proposition. Follow these steps when crafting yours:

  1. Identify the need – The most important thing to convey is that you understand the customer’s primary need. The value proposition should start by recapping it.
  2. Present the solution – This is where you need to highlight the main benefits of your service.
  3. Show differentiation – This part requires a bit of finesse. Simply bashing a competitor is not the solution here. Instead, subtly address the common objections customers have within the industry and your unique way of solving them.
  4. Provide proof – Lastly, it’s safe to assume that most customers will be skeptical of your brand messaging. With this in mind, it is always a smart move to validate your claims with proven recognition. Testimonials, case studies, and success stories are a great place to start.

Here is a great example from Less Accounting­:

Their entire homepage is devoted to expressing their value proposition. They take a common issue of the industry and spell out how they work to solve the problem. Below the fold, they show a video success story as well as the big name companies their platform is compatible with for validation.

A series of case studies conducted by Invesp found that a well-crafted value proposition can increase your conversion rates by 90 percent! In the vastly overpopulated ecommerce landscape, customers have no problem moving on to the next brand if your value proposition is murky.

3. Subpar checkout process

The checkout process is perhaps the most crucial piece of the ecommerce puzzle. Given that the average cart abandonment rate was 76.8 percent last year, it can be a very complicated design element to master. There is a plethora of reasons why people choose to abandon their carts:

Basically, your goal should be to eliminate as many hoops as possible that the customer has to jump through in order to buy. Each step means another chance to reconsider. Simplicity is very important here.

Now, having 1-click checkout options like Amazon may not be viable for all ecommerce platforms. But, there are many little design tweaks you can make and elements to add that will make the process easier.

First of all, there should always be a function where the customer has the option to checkout as a guest. Most people know that registering for a website means they will be bombarded with spam.

Also, be sure it’s very obvious what is in the shopping cart, as well as the total cost with all fees included. Here is an example of a cart from Asos:

They clearly show the total cost of the items and provide options for shipping so the user will not be hit with any unexpected extras.

Another great component to include is a progress indicator:

Adding this to your design will make the process seem more organized with a clear funnel to a conversion.

Everything you add to your ecommerce website ultimately leads to the checkout. If this section is poorly crafted, your conversion rate will suffer. Your choice of ecommerce platform will make all the difference – a customizable one like Shopify will ensure your shopping cart has the requisite functionality, without which the best design is meaningless.

So while you put the best shopping cart systems in place, implement all that advice out there on how to improve your checkout process, and keep an eye on your analytics all the time to see if you’re meeting your conversion goals, how much of those 76.8% abandoned carts can you actually expect to recover?

Neil Patel, co-founder of Crazy Egg, Hello Bar, and KISSmetrics, estimated the recovery rate at 10-30% in an article for Forbes. “The amount of sales that you can recover with rates like that really adds up,” he wrote.

4. Obsolete website theme

First impressions are everything in ecommerce. What is your first thought when you see this one?

If your website looks like it was designed back in the 90’s, consumers can easily jump to conclusions like a) you’re no longer in business, and b) your website won’t keep their valuable information secure. Both will cost you credibility and turn potential buyers away in droves.

Additionally, outdated websites do not typically fare well in the search rankings. Google updates their search algorithms hundreds of times a year, and values user experience over most other ranking factors. Rohan Ayyar, my fellow Search Engine Watch columnist and SEO guru, has this to say:

“It’s common knowledge that Google conducts frequent usability studies and scores of experiments to improve their own products. That’s how serious they are about UX. Your website will sink rapidly down the SERPs if you continue to ignore usability.”

Fixing your web design with a UX-first approach will require a bit of market research. Take a look at your competitor’s websites to get an impression of what is par for the course. Also, be sure you are keeping up with the latest trends in web design.

For example, simplistic homepages that do away with text heavy content are being used more often these days to serve as a powerful introduction to a website. Here is Vera Wang’s homepage:

The main focus of the landing page is a captivating video used for the first impression, rather than a wall of text leading to product listings.

Ultimately, if your website appears outdated, you are leaving money on the table. No matter how great your content is, visitors will be turned off at first glance. However, using conventional web design standards and practices doesn’t mean you have to conform to the latest design trends or adapt your layout to it.

Jeffrey Eisenberg, CEO of BuyerLegends.com, summed it up best when he advised webmasters to make their sites focus on “persuasion” instead of “conversion”:

“The ability to achieve truly dramatic improvements in conversion rates still requires a shift in conventional thinking. Design teams need to understand that while the goal may be conversion, the practice must be persuasion.”

This implies designers, developers, content creators and marketers will soon wind up on the same page in the not-too-distant future. In fact, the tools to help them do that are already here.

For instance, UXPin helps business owners and marketers collaborate with their design teams to rapidly create wireframes and prototypes, from which the designers and developers can work towards a finished website that meets all the required functionality.

Over to you

Designing a website is not rocket science. However, finding the perfect balance of elements that result in a healthy conversion rate will likely take some experimentation. The key is to always be testing and optimizing.

Each ecommerce platform will require different formulas for conversions. Don’t fall prey to these common blunders.

Related reading

10 Underappreciated Skills for Social Media Professionals

A social media manager is the ultimate jack-of-all-trades. Whether it’s copywriting, providing customer service, or shooting compelling video, social media managers have the skills needed to keep their audience engaged—and their business on top.

I’ve built a list of the top skills social media managers need to master and where to go to hone these talents. By the end of this post, you’ll know:

  • Why video skills are essential (and where to find a toolkit of resources to help you build this skill)
  • A few simple tips for improving your design skills
  • How to improve your ROI tracking and analytics skills with some resources

1. SEO

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is an essential skill for many web professionals. Bloggers, web developers, copywriters, and even designers need to take into account how their work will rank in search. Now social media managers need to know it too.

While Twitter had previously blocked Google from indexing tweets from the site, the stance has since softened. Most recently, Google announced they would once again crawl and index tweet data. For more information, see Stone Temple’s guide to Google’s indexing practices.

Google finds content faster if it gets a lot of traction on Twitter. This is important for SEO because the faster you can get your content indexed, the faster you’ll get rewarded through organic traffic to your site.

Social influence can also help boost your rankings. Google will rank your blog posts and website higher if it sees that you are a credible source, and social media influence (relevance, reach, and resonance) is a factor in determining it.

The faster you get your content indexed, the faster you’ll get rewarded with organic traffic to your brand’s website.

2. Customer service

When I have a complaint, the first place I go is to social media. I’m not alone, either. According to a study by J.D. Power, 67 percent of consumers use social media for service requests. Whether this means sending a question over Facebook Messenger or tweeting a complaint, social media is an invaluable resource for customer service.

As a social media manager, your customer service skills may include knowing:

  • How to navigate difficult conversations with customers online
  • When to take conversations offline
  • How to be proactive with your social customer service
  • How to be a brand expert and align with tone of voice
  • How to respond in a timely manner (and manage expectations)
  • How to find and monitor conversations around your brand (via social listening)
  • How to use data to inform future decisions

To boost your own skills, see our post A Beginner’s Guide to Social Media Customer Support.

3. Writing

Most social networks inherently involve writing. Even visual networks like Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube require you to write titles and captions. A well-written caption can make a massive difference in the success of your photo. The same can be said of your video title and description.

Learn how to use active verbs to your advantage. With the right words, you can tap into emotion and boost the shareability of your content. For more on perfecting attention-grabbing writing, check out our post How to Write the Best Instagram Captions: Ideas, Tips, and Strategy.

Basic training in writing can also open up other doors for social media professionals. LinkedIn is focused on promoting publishers, blog hybrids like Medium offer new reach, and a well-crafted answer on Quora can gain millions of free views. It’s clear: knowing how to write can extend your reach.

Honing your writing abilities also gives you an advantage when it comes to content sharing. When your business ends up having a day with no new content scheduled to publish on social networks, being able to write your own blog post is a solid asset.

4. Analytics and revenue tracking

Tying social media activities to actual revenue is a necessary skill for marketers.

With a tool like Salesforce, social media professionals can tag all the links they share on Twitter, Facebook, or any other social network. These tags act as a starting off point which will later allow you to attribute the leads or revenue gained from anyone who filled out your form, downloaded your app, or bought something from your online store.

When you can attribute revenue back to individual social media messages, you gain valuable insight into what content works for sales purposes.

You also have data which proves your value to your business or organization.

Learning the ins and outs of popular analytics tools like Hootsuite Analytics and Salesforce can really make an impact as you start a new social media job or ramp up the tracking at your existing one.

Learn how to get real-time analytics from your social media networks with this video about Hootsuite Analytics.

5. Photography

These days, you don’t need to be a professional photographer to share nice photos on social media. Knowing the ins and outs of shutter speed techniques or time lapse photography isn’t expected. And social networks are primarily used from mobile devices anyways, which relieves some of the expectation for professional quality photos.

But people still want to see photos that are well-lit and beautifully laid out—and a focus on interesting and shareable subject matter. So, when it comes to photography, a little knowledge goes a long way.

We all use stock images. But, for your regular day-to-day content, you should try using original photos. Check out An Epic Guide For Creating Social Media Visuals for all the tips and tricks you need to create stellar images for your posts.

6. Photoshop

Having the skills to edit and improve photos will help them stand out and increase shareability on social media. Photoshop skills allow you to emphasize the best parts of a photo, add text where appropriate, and make composite images—among countless other benefits.

When you share content to social networks, great visuals help you stand out amongst the flood of information. Photoshop helps you take average photos to the next level.

I recommend the Photoshop tutorials available through Lynda.com. In a few hours of coursework, you’ll learn the basics and know more than the average social media marketer.

7. Design

To complement photography and Photoshop skills, social media managers need basic design proficiency. People remember 65 percent of a message when it’s accompanied by an image and only 10 percent when it’s not. Boost your memorability with not just any image, but one that is backed by thoughtful design.

See what we did there?

Our post Expert Design Tips for Your Social Media Images offers the following tips:

  • Choose color carefully. Ninety percent of snap judgments made about a product can be based on color alone. For best results, align colors with your brand guidelines and voice.
  • Be consistent when it comes to text and typography. Typefaces need to reinforce your brand and should be clear and concise. Consistency helps your audience and customers recognize you right away—boosting brand loyalty.
  • Don’t skimp on space. When there is too much information in one image, it’s easy for the message to get lost. Use negative space (the area that surrounds objects in an image) to help bring balance and define the focus of the visual.

Check out the full post to help take your visuals to the next level.

8. Project management

Whether you work in a large international organization or a local start-up, people across the company are going to come to you first when they want social media content posted on their behalf.

You’re going to need to know how to strategically manage tasks and requests from a variety of individuals across the organization. You will have to act as a brand advocate to establish which post requests align with business objectives and which won’t make the cut.

Working with teams across the business, your project management skills will come into play during campaign launches and company-wide initiatives. You’ll be working with leaders in different departments to figure out the best way social can support these events and campaigns.

9. Video

Your organization may have a talented video team, but the creation of some social media video will be up to you. Social media managers need to know how to create compelling content such as Instagram Stories, Facebook Live broadcasts, and Snapchat Stories. With all the options out there, you’ll also need to know how to optimize video for all of your different social media channels.

Thankfully, you won’t need a ton of expensive equipment. There are many free and inexpensive social video apps and tools that businesses can use to create video content for their social media channels.

Check out our social video toolkit for a complete guide to tools that can help you save time and money.

10. Public speaking

Being a skilled public speaker is something that will come in handy throughout your career. As a social media marketer, you’ll need to be able to present your ideas clearly in order to create real relationships with your audience.

With the popularity of live broadcasting formats on the rise, social media marketers should be comfortable in front of a camera—and a large audience.

If you stumble on your words, can’t organize your thoughts clearly, or get physically uncomfortable (turning red, sweating, shaking, etc.) while speaking in front of people, you might want to seek out opportunities to increase your presentation skills.

Start small—with a presentation to your immediate team, for example—and work your way up to bigger public speaking opportunities like a company-wide meeting or a big Facebook Live broadcast.

For more advice on how to create a broadcast people will want to watch, find out what Hootsuite’s social media team learned in our list of Facebook Live tips.

Put your countless social media skills to use with Hootsuite. Try it free today.

 

Learn more.

How a Restaurant Chain Used Social Listening to Gain New Fans

North American steak restaurant chain The Keg uses social media to find and create new brand advocates and customers in any city that they are located in.

How do they do it? In this Hootcast episode, we chat with The Keg’s digital marketing manager May Yousif about how they find potential customers in unlikely places—and why social listening is core part of gaining new fans.

Later in the episode Hootsuite’s social engagement coordinator Nick Martin follows up with tips on how to create meaningful moments with your customers on social.

In this podcast you’ll learn:

  • How social media can lead to meaningful offline experiences
  • Tips for finding and creating fans with unbranded keyword searches
  • How to get advocates involved in future campaigns

Press play to hear the show in its entirety or, if you don’t have a set of earbuds handy, read the transcription of our conversation below.

Q&A with The Keg’s digital marketing manager May Yousif

To get started can you give us a little bit of a background on your role at The Keg and what your day-to-day is in your job?

My official title at The Keg is social and digital marketing manager. My day-to-day, for the most part, includes managing all our social media platforms and executing all our paid advertising on these channels and developing strategic proposals for all our online communications and social media activations.

This is done at both a local and national level because we are across Canada and we do have a number of stores in the states.

Speaking to your national campaign that you guys are running right now, can you tell us a little bit about your “Why Not Tonight?” campaign?

Yeah, so this one is really exciting for us. From research we know that we’re a place that people go to celebrate big occasions in their lives, whether it’s birthdays or anniversaries, weddings, and really everything in between. You know, we’re the go-to place.

But then when we really got down to it, we thought there are so many more occasions than just those big ones. Every day there are thousands and millions of occasions that are so small, and people might not recognize them as a celebratory moment. We realized that there’s something worth celebrating in these everyday occasions. That’s the “Why Not Tonight?” campaign.

In terms of the campaign objectives for the “Why Not Tonight?” campaign, what are some of your KPIs for that?

The “Why Not Tonight?” campaign is about getting the awareness out there and talking about these everyday occasions. One of the ways we do this is through surprise and delight. We use social listening and have streams set up where we monitor a mix of branded and unbranded keywords to find conversations or posts online that users are excited about.

When someone has had a small moment they’re celebrating, we reward them with a gift card to The Keg to celebrate that moment with them. For us it’s all about just finding those everyday occasions and then turning them into celebratory moments.

For our listeners who maybe aren’t familiar with the term surprise and delight, could you tell us what that means?

For us it’s a strategy in which we find groups or individuals and we randomly select them to receive a gift card that they can use at any Keg across the country, to enjoy that moment or occasion that we’ve just rewarded them for.

Is there anyone that you’re targeting in particular or you’re just looking across the board for a big range of different types of customers?

We definitely look at people who have engaged with us in the past because we know that they have some affinity for the brand. They already know what we’re about and who we are and they’ve been with us. For days like National Prime Rib Day we’ll actually go back and see what these people have been up to and invite them back for a prime rib on us.

We also look for people who really haven’t interacted with us before but are having a really great day or great moment. We saw this one where this guy got two chip bags out of the vending machine when he only paid for one, and it was the first time visiting Toronto and he was so excited about Toronto. So we thought why not elevate that even more and have this really great dinner experience on top of that?

Yeah, I love that you guys are looking at both people that are aware of your brand and that are advocates or customers, and then also looking at people that maybe don’t know who you guys are or aren’t regulars.

Yeah, for sure. We look at the ambassadors kind of like our bread and butter. They’re the ones that really look forward to joining us, and we still absolutely think that they deserve to be celebrated and that they should have their moments as well. So we love rewarding them at every opportunity we get.

In this campaign, why did you choose to include surprise and delight as such as key part of the strategy?

We wanted to be a bit more playful in the way that we were talking to our guests, and we didn’t want it to just be this one-way communication where maybe they were just using Twitter to say, “I didn’t have a great experience here,” and then we would talk to them that way. I think it was about taking our brand and taking the perception of we’re just a place to celebrate the birthdays or the anniversaries and really turning it into this everyday thing that we’re top of mind, of you just want to go out for a drink or you just want to have an appetizer.

We found that the people that we engage with who don’t expect us to engage with them, actually create more of a loyalty to us. You know, the first time we ever did a surprise and delight was for a CFL program that we were doing.

The person we rewarded has become our biggest advocate on Twitter. This person is literally retweeting, talking to us every moment they get. They’re one of our biggest advocates online.

Could you dive into that surprise and delight moment a little bit more? Like tell us how did it start, what did you do? What did the initial interaction look like?

We had a contest going on online and it was all around #KegSize. We had an overwhelming number of responses and we gave out a lot of tickets, but then we thought it would be kind of cool to look at the people who engage with the hashtag and started conversations on their own with a friend or something. Or maybe they were really excited about one aspect of the contest that maybe they didn’t enter, or whatever it was.

And I think this particular person was tagging his friends and making jokes and we thought wouldn’t it be cool to just give him a pair of tickets? He’s definitely not expecting it. The contest was over and we’d completed the contest, but we actually had a few extra tickets that had come up. We thought what better way to share those tickets than with this person who is just over the moon?

We gave him the tickets and invited him to The Keg. And now every year, when we have any sort of CFL event coming up, he’s always the first person I go to as an ambassador, because he loves The Keg so much and is a huge CFL advocate. So it’s just like the best of both worlds.

I love that social is a way for you guys to really personalize your brand. You’re able to extend those on-the-ground, offline experiences through social.

We also have another example which was pretty recent. There was a recovering cancer patient out in Halifax and he had tweeted something like “when I’m done my treatment, the first thing I want to do is grab a steak dinner.” And steak dinner is one of our keywords, so we were actually able to pick up that conversation using our stream on Hootsuite.

And I thought it would be really nice to just really simply and very humbly just extend a gift card to him, and invite him in for a dinner once the treatment was completed. So we did that, which is so easy for us to do but made a world of difference for him.

He ended up being a really big pillar of the community where he lives, and we had over 60 retweets when we reached out to him. We had people commenting back saying, “Wow, The Keg is a class act, we can’t wait to go there.” Even the managers from that Halifax location were reaching out to us, letting us know.

This isn’t happening all the time but when it does it’s certainly very exciting for us and really just hits home on what we’re trying to accomplish with this program.

That is a great example of what these moments can bring. You said you’re following some unbranded keywords for your gift card giveaways. What kind of keywords do you search for to find people, and what hashtags? What’s the strategy there?

Yeah, our biggest stream that we use, we search for words around “win.” So whether #win or #winning or #won, things like that, because we find that those are often the most common moments coming up. You know, got every green light on the way home, #winning.

We also follow things like birthdays and anniversaries, steak dinners, so there are a number of streams we have set up with words like that.

We use parameters on all the streams as well, so they’re set up to look at the cities that our Kegs are in. That way we’re not only just looking at keywords but we’re making sure that the people that we’re talking to are in fact are able to get to a Keg if we do give them a gift card. And so it just makes for a well-rounded campaign.

Do you guys have a criteria for picking a person or people to give a gift card to when you’re looking through all those streams?

You know, we really don’t. It’s just about those moments that they’re really excited about that maybe they don’t realize or warrant a celebration, and rewarding those. I think the unsuspecting users are the ones that truly make the biggest impact in the program.

But as far as a certain number that we have to hit every day or every week or every month, the sky is the limit. It’s as often as we see them and we go from there.

Nice, so you’re really looking at moments rather than kind of specific people, and just letting those naturally come up, and then engage with them when it makes sense to?

Yeah, absolutely.

How are you measuring your campaign’s success? Like what are the metrics on these things? 

We’ve seen a lift in engagement, especially on Twitter. One thing that is worth noting is that we are looking to have trackable gift cards created. So these gift cards that we’re sending out now are national ones, but we think it would be really great, especially as this program is growing and gaining legs, to create gift cards that are trackable, that way when we’re giving them out we can see exactly what was redeemed.

And that’s something that social teams are looking to do is really sell the ROI of social.

We’re always looking at share of voice online and we’re always looking at sentiment, which isn’t a perfect science. But just looking at generally how people feel towards us, especially in the social atmosphere.

So for any companies out there who are looking to humanize their brand through interactions like this, do you have any tips or can you speak to the value of adopting a strategy like this?

Yeah, I think you definitely have to be invested. I mean the monitoring for us, sometimes I look at it for half an hour on one day, and sometimes it can really just take up my entire day if we find stuff that we’re really, really excited about. And asking: how do we go beyond just giving a gift card?

You have to set up social listening. We couldn’t do it without it. So you really just have to figure out what the right words are, what the right conversation is, who you’re looking to engage with, and stick to it. Because there are days where we don’t find a ton of conversation that we’re excited about. But then there are days that it pays off in spades, so it’s the consistency, it’s the passion.

Yeah, that’s great. Social listening is something that we always recommend to our audience when we’re talking about strategy, because it’s just so important in terms of learning about your customers, who you should be talking to, when you should be talking to them.

Absolutely.

Well I think that’s all the questions that we have for you today, May. Thanks for joining us.

My pleasure.

Listen to the Full Episode

A Social Media Audit Template and Guide for Marketers

We’ve also put together this six-step guide on how to execute a social media marketing audit.

What is a social media audit?

A social media audit is a regular examination of social channels that represent your brand—including both your business’ owned profiles and imposter accounts.

The purpose is to ensure that each of your profiles are on brand and functioning correctly, identify and shut down any rogue or abandoned accounts, and ensure that you’re using the channels that make the most sense for your brand.

A 6-step guide to conducting a social media audit

Step 1: Create a social media audit spreadsheet

Your social media audit needs a home, which is why you need a spreadsheet. As you go through these six steps, you’ll see that the spreadsheet will start automatically adding new columns.

To start, create a column for each social network, URL to your profile on that social network, and owner. The “Owner” field may seem superfluous, but it’s actually really important to keep track of this information—it allows you to know who owns the password and who is in charge of posting and engaging with followers on that social profile.

A Social Media Audit Template and Guide for Marketers | Hootsuite Blog

Step 2: Go on a search for your social presence on Google

Go to Google and search your company name to see which social media profiles show up. This will allow you to see if there are any rogue accounts or imposters using your company name. It also gives you the opportunity to find out if the right social media profiles are appearing on in search results.

You can either create a separate spreadsheet to track the results of this search, or add a new column—labelled “Shutdown Y/N”—in the original spreadsheet. The purpose of this is to keep track of whether you need to track down an imposter to tell them to shut down their account, or contact the social network to ask them to intervene in the matter.

A Social Media Audit Template and Guide for Marketers | Hootsuite Blog

Step 3: Evaluate your social media profiles

This is an important part of your social media audit. As with your social media marketing plan, you need to constantly be evaluating your social media profiles.

During the evaluation process, create a mission statement for each profile. Make sure each profile aligns with your business goals and objectives. This will help you decide whether being present on that social network contributes to your overall strategy and whether or not it makes sense for your business to keep that profile.

A Social Media Audit Template and Guide for Marketers | Hootsuite Blog

Step 4: Make sure your social media profiles are on brand

Now that you know which social media profiles you’re going to keep, it’s time to check that each of these profiles meet your brand standards for imagery, style, etc.

This means making sure you have a proper profile photo, cover image, icons, bios and descriptions, correct URL, etc.

A Social Media Audit Template and Guide for Marketers | Hootsuite Blog

Step 5: Centralize the ownership of your passwords

The process of doing a social media audit can help you make sure that all your social media profiles are secure. One way to test this is by centralizing the ownership of the passwords for each profile. For example: you can have your IT department own the key to all the passwords for the social media profiles. Then use a password managing tool like LastPass to share access on a need-to-use basis.

A Social Media Audit Template and Guide for Marketers | Hootsuite Blog

Step 6: Create a process

Once you’re done your social media audit, it’s time to take what you learned and create an internal process when it comes to creating new social profiles going forward. Create a criteria and take note of who will approve the requests.

For example, take note of:

  • The requester
  • Who the target audience is
  • What type of content will be posted to this profile
  • Who is responsible for posting and engagement

Use the information you’ve discovered through your social media marketing audit to build a more robust social media strategy. Then, put it to work using Hootsuite to schedule posts, engage with followers, and monitor your efforts. 

The Guestblogalypse: How to get links without guest blogs

Guest blogs are a popular link-building strategy used by businesses all over the world.

And until recently, many were relying on guest blogging as their primary source of earned links. But a diverse link profile is essential to maintain ranking. So how can businesses achieve this?

“The landscape of SEO and link building is always changing, and today, the importance of building high-quality links has never been higher” – Paddy Moogan of Moz

Guest posts are an easy and effective way to build earned links. But on May 25 2017, Google issued a warning to sites against excessive guest posting.

“Lately we’ve seen an increase in spammy links contained in articles referred to as contributor posts, guest posts, partner posts, or syndicated posts,” Google stated.

Google even followed up with a nice list of what violates favorable link earning . . .

What are brands and businesses to do? Rely solely on natural link building through highly authoritative content? Well, this would be ideal for all. But let’s face it, this strategy may not be the most realistic given the vast amounts of content being produced daily and the difficulty of standing out from the crowd.

Guest blogging can still be a part of your link earning strategy. However, it should not be your only strategy.  It’s important to diversify your link profile so that it doesn’t constitute a large percentage of your backlink profile.

Here are a few fantastic link opportunities you can put into motion today.

 

1. Blogger reviews

If you have a product or service to leverage, you could leverage the blogger community to review your product, which can result in links. Even when bloggers disclose that you sent them free product to review, these reviews can earn in natural links when other bloggers learn about your products and decide to try, and review them!

How do you find bloggers willing to whip up a review? Use the power of Google. Let’s say your product is rugged cell phone cases. Open your Google browser and type in “cell phone case product reviews.”

You will see a wide-ranging list of sites that have done product reviews in your market niche. You can skip the Amazon reviews and the listicles. Look for the sites that focused on one product.

Next, begin compiling a healthy list of bloggers that you could reach out to. Your outreach email should be very short, concise, and to the point. Here is an example that has worked well in the past . . .

Hello (Blogger)

I noticed your review of (similar product) and wanted to connect. I just launched a new cell phone case that is rugged, waterproof, and great for travel and sports enthusiasts.

Presently it costs (dollar amount), but would love to send you a free phone case if you would happily review it and share it with your fans.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

(Your name, website, and contact information)

You may be wondering why there is no mention of a back link. Well, bloggers that do product and service reviews know the deal – typically there is no real surprise why you are giving them your product free, so there is no need to mention it.

 

2. HARO

HARO is a platform that provides journalists with a database of sources for stories (and an opportunity for sources to obtain media coverage).

There are some that think HARO isn’t worth the time. However, there have been instances when this little link building gem has produced serious results. The key is to keep your query answers focused on your niche, product, or expertise.

 

Once you have found a few HARO queries that fit your particular niche or expertise, you can send your detailed and expert insight. You will typically hear back from the journalists that are interested in your insight. The ones you will not get featured in, however, you will simply get no reply.

 

3. Capitalize on broken links

There are a lot of link opportunities if you know how to find broken links of businesses and companies in your industry. Here you will be looking for broken links on resource pages that will return a 404 message.

First you will need to pull up the different resource pages in your niche, industry, or expertise. If your site were devoted to alternative health, you would use a variety of Google search strings to find these resources, such as:

  • “alternative health”  + “resources”
  • “alternative health” + “recommended sites”
  • “alternative health” + “resource pages”

Using these Google search strings will bring up results like:

Next, you’ll want to identify the broken links.  Here are 3 ways to find broken links:

Once you find one, it’s time to email the site owner kindly asking to replace the broken link with your site’s URL.  If the broken link is on a page referring to a particular article or resource, consider recreating a similar resource on your site so the link is natural and makes sense.

You will be surprised how well this method works. No site owner wants a poor user experience, and getting rid of those broken links will make them happy you reached out.

 

4. Discover unlinked mentions

Another great way to easily earn links without toiling over guest blogging content for hours on end is to find unlinked mentions. When someone mentions your brand or business, you should get a link back right? Well, this is not always the case.

You can, however, put on your link detective hat on and find those mentions and ask the site owners for a link. Online tools like BuzzSumo, MOZ, and Mention allow you to set up alerts for this tactic.

The only downside is that you may need to sign up for a membership, or free trial to access this feature on most platforms. Nonetheless, it is a quick and easy way to earn links, especially if you had a piece of content go viral recently.

 

5. Use infographics

Infographics are a highly shareable asset to any link building strategy, but many businesses and brands still fail to see the power they possess.

You can pretty much create an infographic about anything. Infographics also have a very long shelf life for link building and are a fantastic way to differentiate yourself from the army of people offering free content.

The first thing to do after you have infographic in hand is list it on infographic sharing platforms like:

There are also a number of high authority news and blog sites you can list your infographic on as well, such as:

After you have submitted your infographics to the above sites, it is time to offer it to bloggers in your niche.

Similar to blogger reviews, you will be reaching out offering a high value item they can share with their audience. If you have a robust social media following, be sure to mention that you will gladly share their post across all your social media networks as well.

It is important to remember that building links the right way, to appease Google, is of great importance. You want to maintain a nice balance of do follow vs. no follow links, as well as a slow and steady link building strategy.

Make sure you are using a mixture of strategies so that your link profile remains diversified.  If guest posts are only one of several strategies you are employing, then you can continue to earn links without fear of seeing a negative impact on your organic traffic.

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