The Future of Video Storytelling: A Bufferchat Recap

Jeremy Goldman stopped by #bufferchat this week to share his insights about the future of video storytelling. During the chat, our community discussed creative ways to tell stories through videos, the best tools to use for creating high-quality videos, their thoughts for what marketing videos will look like in 10 years, and much more!

Read on to discover all of the amazing ideas and thoughts that were shared during the chat.

Catch our weekly Twitter chat, #bufferchat, at TWO times every Wednesday for valuable industry insights and networking with nearly 400 other smart marketers and community managers. Same topic, same place, just at different times – feel free to join in to whichever chat time works best for you!

For our community in Asia and Australia (or anyone in other timezones that like this time the best!): 4 pm AEST (Sydney time, UTC+10)

For our community in North/South America, Europe and Africa (or others!): 9 am PT (California time)

Bufferchat on September 14, 2016: The Future of Video Storytelling

This week’s stats:
1st Bufferchat: 73 participants; 394 tweets; reach of 960,254
2nd Bufferchat: 232 participants;1,618 tweets; reach of 1,336,720

Q1: Why is video storytelling a powerful part of brand marketing?

From Jeremy:

  • A video is *invaluable*, with some (Forrester) saying it’s worth as much as 1.8 million words.
  • Know your objectives. Heading into 2017, here’s what top video marketers are focused on. [see image here]

From the community:

  • “People may not remember what you said but they always remember how you made them feel.” @thedavepepper
  • “It is the quickest way to create connection and intimacy with an online audience. People engage.” @WendyMaynard
  • “In a visual world, text is everywhere. Video storytelling brings personality and differentiation.” @keeganlanier
  • “Video is disruptive and distracting; perfect for drawing attention. It’s only powerful, though, if the content is powerful.” @SJAbbott
  • “Video engages a number of senses all at the same time, allowing those who use it to create an immersive story experience.” @kookypixel

See all the great answers to question 1 here!

Q2: What are creative ways to tell a story through video?

From Jeremy:

  • Challenge yourself to create a video that’s unique. Don’t just emulate something that’s been done 900 times already.
  • If all a marketer ever did was study emotions, they’d 100% be better at video development.

From the community:

  • “There are SO many ways you can tell a story through video! Vlogging, parody, stop-motion, interview, animation, and more!” @winniegiang
  • “Believe Dove set standard with its groundbreaking ‘Real Beauty’ video many years ago. (Female and Canadian creative, btw!). The original (now viewed more than 18.7 million times) was called ‘Evolution’.” @jgombita
  • “I love the “second-a-day” videos to show progress / process / developments in cool projects!” @CDRecruits
  • “Show in your video the process before the finished product, not just the final unveiling.” @martinjason
  • “Authenticity is powerful. Compile user generated content, draw out personal stories, connect people in ways they can relate.” @steveTjohnson

See all the great answers to question 2 here!

Q3: What are the key tools you need to make high-quality videos on social media?

From Jeremy:

  • Sound & lighting are the 2 most under-appreciated facets of A+ videos; brands that win at video invest in those categories.
  • Quality vs. quantity. There’s going to be a glut of video content & the better quality stuff will win out. Invest.

From the community:

  • “More important than resolution of the video: AUDIO CLARITY. Invest in a decent mic. Audience is unforgiving of poor sound!” @The_ChrisBryant
  • These four are best video tool for high-quality videos. @Magisto, @Splice, @Animoto, @Videoshop.” @QLTechAustralia
  • “Good mic, you can even start with your phone. An @iOgrapher is handy when recording w/phone.” @pjervis
  • “Natural lighting + clear audio/environment sounds are more valuable than most think–It makes phone video great!” @joeallam
  • “As long as i can see/hear clearly, content of video matters a LOT more to me than video production.” @aiaddysonzhang

See all the great answers to question 3 here!

Q4: Should the content of videos change on different social media platforms? Why and how, if so?

From Jeremy:

  • To win, brands MUST adapt videos to each platform; organic reach, sound on/off, length must all play to a platform’s strengths.
  • The secret to getting ahead with video? Become goal-oriented. Nobody should whip together a thousand videos just become some guy on the Internet said so. Video has to serve a very specific purpose in your strategy.

From the community:

  • “Message should be very similar, but delivery, execution and LENGTH should be appropriate for the media platform.” @Russ4Google
  • “Absolutely! Different platforms have different demographics. I wouldn’t post a Snapchat bitmoji-laden vid on LinkedIn.” @RoundedConcepts
  • “Users behave differently on all platforms. Content shouldn’t change, but the presentation should. Short vs long videos.” @cindymedran0
  • “Yes. Facebook is more timeless, better for a story and rapport. Twitter for impact and snapchat for behind the scenes.” @shoplo_com
  • “It’s alright to use some content across multiple channels, but creating content unique to a platform can drive engagement.” @RCPatchett

See all the great answers to question 4 here!

Q5: What are secrets to “showing” not “telling” in a video?

From Jeremy:

  • Cut out text entirely, whenever possible, as well as audio voiceover. Those are crutches.
  • I’m *very* pro making all content accessibility-friendly; I’m just saying always challenge yourself to visually show. Always.

From the community:

  • “Watch without sound. Does it still convey the message? 85% of FB video is watched on silent.” @modsquad
  • “Keep the central feeling/goal for audience in mind (happy, informed, etc) & build messaging/narrative around that.” @TheKerriLu
  • “Look through audience eyes and ask yourself: “If I had a question about the subject, what would answer it?” Think usability.” @EvynnTyler
  • “Behind the scenes + Day in the Life videos pack a bigger punch than saying you know your stuff.” @TennileCooper
  • @StoryBrand method – Show your targets how you can guide them to be the hero instead of telling them you’re the hero.” @milestech

See all the great answers to question 5 here!

Q6: In 10 years, how do you envision brands will be using video for marketing?

From Jeremy:

  • 10 yrs? Impossible to predict ? But by that point winning brands will providing immersive AR/VR experiences.
  • In 10 years, our definition of video will have shifted so dramatically it won’t even be that recognizable.
  • At @firebrandgrp we futureproof brands from changes in marketing – we focus on next 3 years b/c 10 years is nigh impossible.

From the community:

  • “No clue. Tech wise probably will super evolve, but it will still need the “human” factor & ability to convey your message.” @ZalkaB
  • “Augmented reality will be hot and VR and holograms will make real-time video the future in marketing.” @PRnetaNY
  • “It’s possible we’ll have stock video as readily available in 10 years as we do stock photography today.” @steveTjohnson
  • “But if we’re being honest, I think video chatting with customer service would be huge. Think Best Buy or Comcast help.” @DerekReimherr
  • “In 10 years? Ha! In 10 years, we’ll be past whatever comes after VR and AI. Video will be so 2016. ;-)” @martinlieberman

See all the great answers to question 6 here!

Q7: What is one of the most impactful, story-rich videos you have seen?

From Jeremy:

From the community:

See all the great answers to question 7 here!


Thank you so much to Jeremy for sharing all of his awesome insights, and to everyone who participated in this chat!

Catch #bufferchat each Wednesday at 9 am PST, 12 pm EST, 5 pm BST (GMT+1) OR at 4 pm AEST (Sydney time, UTC+10). Join our Slack community with over 2,000 members to continue these awesome conversations all week long!

Do you have any comments or answers to these questions? Leave your thoughts in the comments! We’d love to hear from you!

Image sources: UnSplash

How to Create a YouTube Channel to Make the Most of YouTube’s Billion-User Network

YouTube, the Google-owned video network, boasts over a billion users — almost one-third of all people on the Internet — and every day people watch hundreds of millions of hours on YouTube and generate billions of views. On mobile alone, YouTube reaches more 18-34 and 18-49 year-olds than any cable network in the U.S.

What’s amazing, though, is that only 9% of small businesses in the U.S. are actively using YouTube, and my hunch is that figure would be pretty accurate worldwide, too.

So why aren’t businesses investing in YouTube?

In short, because video is harder to produce than a blog post or an image.

Or at least that’s the perception many of us have.

In reality, though, video is becoming much easier and cheaper to create. This means there’s a huge opportunity for your business on YouTube.

If you’ve been debating getting started on YouTube or have maybe experimented a little and not yet found your feet, this post is for you. Throughout this post we’ll dive into:

  • The basics of getting your account set up
  • How to create a YouTube channel
  • How to create the perfect channel art
  • Top tips for optimizing your channel.

Ready to start? Let’s go.

youtube-feature

How to create a YouTube channel

Creating a YouTube channel using your Google account

If you have a Google account, you can watch, share and comment on YouTube content. However, Google accounts don’t automatically create YouTube channels. Getting a new channel set up is a simple and quick process, though.

1. Go to YouTube and sign in

Head over to YouTube.com and click ‘sign in’ in the top right corner of the page:

youtube-sign-in

Then log in using the Google Account you’d like your channel to be associated with:

google-account

2. Head over to your YouTube settings

In the top right corner of the screen, click on your profile icon and then the ‘Settings’ cog icon.

youtube-settings

3. Create your channel

Under your settings, you’ll see the option to “Create a channel,” click on this link:

create-a-youtube-channel

Next, you’ll have the option to create a personal channel or a create a channel using a business or other name. For this example, we’ll choose the business option:

youtube-channel

Now, it’s time to name your channel and select a category. The channel options available include:

  • Product or Brand
  • Company Institution or Organization
  • Arts, Entertainment or Sports
  • Other

youtube-channel-name

Note: a new Google+ page will also be created for your brand.

Congratulations! You’ve just created a new YouTube channel ?

youtube-channel-complete

Next, let’s fill out all the information and create some channel art to get your page looking awesome (click here to jump to the next section).

How to create a YouTube channel if you don’t already have a Google account

If you don’t already have a Google account set up, you’ll need to create one before you get started on YouTube. To do this, simply follow the below steps:

  1. Head to YouTube.com
  2. Click ‘Sign In’
  3. Now, choose the option to create a Google account
  4. Follow the steps to create your Google account

Now, you’re all set up with a Google account and can follow the above steps to create a YouTube channel.

How to create YouTube channel art

YouTube channel art is essentially YouTube’s version of the Facebook cover photo. Channel art features in a prominent place on your YouTube channel, which means it’s absolutely vital for any YouTube channel to use customized art to share your personality or more about your brand with your audience.

Here’s an example of Gary Vaynerchuk’s YouTube channel art:

gary-v-youtube

Gary is well-known for his public speaking at conferences and for sharing all he knows about marketing and building businesses with his audience. This is reflected in his cover photo, which displays Gary in mid-flow giving a presentation at what seems to be a large event. The inclusion of his handle @garyvee helps users to identify him on other social chanels and his signature branding makes the art feel personal.

Here’s what you need to know to create striking YouTube channel art…

The perfect sizes for YouTube channel art

The best place to start with your channel art is with the optimal image size that works across multiple devices. For the best results, YouTube recommends uploading a single 2560 x 1440 pixel image.

  • Minimum width: 2048 X 1152 px. This is the “safe area”, where text and logos are guaranteed not to be cut off when displayed on different devices.
  • Maximum width: 2560 X 423 px. This means that the “safe area” is always visible; the areas to each side of the channel art are visible depending on the viewer’s browser size.
  • File size: 4MB or smaller recommended.

YouTube also supplies a

Here’s an example of how I used this template to create some channel art for the Buffer YouTube account:

buffer-youtube-channel-art

And here’s how it looks across various platforms:
channel-art

2 top tips for YouTube channel art

1. Ensure any text and logos are within the safe area

The text and logo safe area is the 1546 x 423 pixel space at the center of the YouTube channel art template. This is the area that will be displayed on YouTube when your channel is viewed on desktop screens.

Be careful to ensure any important information such as branding, text, taglines, and key images are within this space so that it’s always displayed as part of your channel art across every device.

2. Consider your channel links

YouTube enables you to add links to your channel and these are displayed in the bottom right corner of your channel art. For example, check the bottom right of the channel art below:

channel-links

When creating your channel art, it’s important to think about the space these links take up and ensure you don’t have anything important (such as logos) occupying that space within your design.

How to add art to your YouTube channel

If you’re just setting up your YouTube channel, you’ll notice the channel art space is blank with a clear call to action to add your art:

blank-channel-art

Once you’ve clicked this link, you’ll see a popup window that gives you the option to upload your own custom channel art. If you’d like to, you can also choose to use one of YouTube’s templates from the “Gallery” or choose to upload one of your photos from Google+.

upload-channel-art

Adjusting the crop

Once you’ve uploaded your channel art, YouTube allows you to adjust the cropping of your image so that you can ensure it’s all lined up correctly.

This crop screen is very handy for checking how your design will look on various platforms. The clear section in the middle of the grid shows you the content that will be displayed on mobile and desktop and the rest of the image shows the image that will be displayed on TVs.

art-adjust-crop

Once you’re happy with the way your cover art looks, click “Select” and your channel art will be added to your channel and saved.

Changing your current channel art

If you already have some channel art in place and would like to update it, head over to your channel homepage. From here, move your mouse over your cover art and you’ll notice a little edit button appear in the top right-hand corner:

edit-icon

Once you’ve clicked on this icon, you can update your channel art.

This video from YouTube also explains how to add and edit your channel art:

[embedded content]

How to add your channel icon

Each channel also has space for a profile icon.Your channel icon shows over your channel art banner. It’s the icon that shows next to your videos and channel on YouTube watch pages. The key here is to select something that will look good at very small resolutions – many brands opt to use their logo here.

Your channel icon should be 800 x 800 pixels and one of the following formats: JPG, GIF, BMP or PNG file (no animated GIFs).

To update your channel icon, head to your channel homepage and hover over your current channel icon until you see the edit icon appear. Click on that icon and you’ll be able to upload a new icon:

edit-channel-ico

5 ways to enhance your channel

1. Optimize your description

YouTube gives you a space on your channel to write a little about your brand and the content you share on YouTube. The description is limited to 1,000 characters, so you have a little room to be creative here.

The copy in your channel description won’t just appear on your channel page. It’s indexed by search engines and can also be featured across YouTube in suggested channel categories. A good tactic is to include some relevant keywords and CTAs within the opening lines of your description.

2. Add links to your channel

channel-links

We briefly mentioned channel links earlier in this post and I’d love to share with you how to add these links in 4 super-quick steps:

1. The first step is to head to your channel homepage and click on the ‘cog’ icon next to your subscriber count:

settings-icon

2. Next, you’ll see a Channel Settings lightbox appear. Here you need to toggle on the option labeled “Customize the layout of your channel”:

channel-options

3. Now that you’ve enabled customizations on your channel, pop back to your channel homepage and you’ll now see the option to “Edit Links” under the settings menu on your cover art:

edit-links

4. Click the “Edit Links” option and you’ll then be taken to the “About” section of your channel. Here you’ll have the option to add links and choose how many are displayed over your cover art:

edit-links

3. Add a channel trailer

As soon as visitors land on your channel, you want to give them a picture of the type of content your channel covers and why they’ll want to subscribe and check out your videos. A channel trailer is the perfect way to do this.

A short, to-the-point channel trailer can be a great way to introduce people to your content. A channel trailer should grab attention as soon as it starts and also represent the type of content you create on YouTube.

It’s also important to think about the description you add to this video as it features prominently on your channel homepage.

(These trailers only appear for people who are not yet subscribed to your channel.)

Here are a couple of great examples:

Gary Vaynerchuk

[embedded content]

SoulPancake

[embedded content]

4. Add your contact details (email address)

If you’re using YouTube as a business or a creator, it can be great to have your contact details on hand for anyone who is interested in your work. YouTube has a section on each channel profile for you to list your contact details for business inquiries.

This can be found under the “About” section of your channel. To find it, go to your channel homepage, click “About” from the navigation and then scroll down to “Details.” Here you’ll see the option to share your email address:

email-address

Over to you

Thanks for reading. It’s been great fun to dive into how to create a YouTube channel and I hope you picked up one or two tips from this post. If you create a YouTube channel of your own or already have one up and running, I’d love to hear from you and learn from your experience in the comments below.

Do you have any tips to optimize your YouTube channel? ?

How to Curate Content: The Secret Sauce to Getting Noticed, Becoming an Influencer, and Having Fun Online

How great is the Internet! One of the most impactful, viral, influential services you can perform online is to read stuff and tell people what you like.

It’s true!

If you’re looking for a competitive edge, a way to establish your authority, a way to get more followers, one of the best, proven paths to online success is content curation.

It’s both as simple and as difficult as finding great content and sharing it with your audience. The difficult part is that there is a lot that goes into a world class content curation strategy. Where do you look for content? How do you find the best stuff? How do you find the time to find the best stuff? And then of course, what do you do with it all once you find it?

These are fantastic questions, and they’re just the type of challenges we’d love to help you solve. We’ve partnered with the folks at Pocket, who’re a huge part of our curation process, to share our research and lessons with you about how to build a remarkable (and remarkably effective) content curation strategy.

We’ll be talking a lot about great curation tools in this post. Our two must-haves are Pocket for reading and Buffer for sharing. Feel free to grab a forever-free subscription from each. We’ll be mentioning them a lot below. ?

The Ultimate Guideto Content Curation

What we hope you’ll learn in this post

Content curation is a favorite topic among us on the Buffer team, and we’re so happy to have a chance to share our best tips with you. To make it easier to find the parts of this resource that are most helpful, here’s a look at all we’ll cover.

Click to jump to any section:

  1. The one-a-day formula for great content curation
  2. Content curation tools
  3. Where to find great content
  4. Advantages of being really good at content curation
  5. Who does it well: Curation heroes
  6. Curation automation

The one-a-day formula for great content curation

Successful curation can be split into these three areas:

  1. Discover
  2. Read
  3. Share

How to Curate Content (1)

From a high level, those three elements are all you need to master in order to get really good at content curation. Exciting, right? That’s not too much to ask! Of course, the really great content curators know that a detailed, comprehensive, strategic approach to each of those three steps is really what sets apart great curation from the rest.

I’d love to share how to get this comprehensive, strategic approach for yourself.

Let’s start by looking at a sample curation day (it just so happens to be my day), and all the different detail that goes into the Discover-Read-Share formula.

Discover Read Share

Discover

  1. Check your newsletters for interesting stories. Add to Pocket.
  2. Check Feedly for interesting stories. Add to Pocket.
  3. Check Twitter for interesting stories. View by list and hashtag. Add to Pocket.
  4. Check Facebook for interesting stories. Add to Pocket.
  5. Check aggregation sites like Inbound.org, Growth Hackers, Hacker News, Panda, Digg, etc. Add anything interesting and relevant to Pocket.

Read

  1. Read everything in Pocket
  2. Mark shareworthy content as “favorite”

Share

  1. Favorite content is automatically added to Buffer via an IFTTT recipe
  2. Browse the Buffer feed to adjust titles, images, hashtags, and mentions.
  3. Schedule or share

Total time (once you get in a good flow): 1 to 2 hours each day.

As you may know, reading articles online can take far more than one to two hours per day. It can take all day! (And what glorious days those are.)

However, there are very few of us who are able to curate content full-time for a living. We’re likely curating as a guilty pleasure, while the other demands of the job beckon us. So it’s vital to be ruthlessly efficient with your curation strategy.

How?

Here are some tips for each of the three key parts to a daily content curation workflow.

Tips on how to discover content, fast

  1. Curate from curators – newsletters, communities, etc.
  2. Have a list of 25 (maximum!) go-to content sources
  3. Follow interesting people and make it easy to see what they share
  4. Give new content sources a probationary period

Seventy-five percent of any curation strategy is discovery.

In fact, you should be spending 95 percent of your time in discovery and reading; only 5 percent should be spend on sharing. (More below on how to make this a reality.)

content curation percentages

With discovery being the bulk of the curation process, it’s okay if it feels like it’s taking more time than it should. Give yourself the time and space to discover. This is where the true content curation all-stars shine: They find the stories that no one else is finding. They guard their secret sources like family jewels and are always willing to spend the extra few minutes diving deeper into a rabbit hole in hopes that a new wonderland is in there.

1. Curate from curators – newsletters, communities, etc.

One of the biggest hidden secrets of curation superstars: They curate from curators. They subscribe to newsletters full of hand-picked links from peers and neighbors. They browse communities where stories are gathered and upvoted — crowdsourced curation, more or less. If you’re in the marketing space, newsletters like Teachable’s MakeChange and sites like Inbound.org are curation gold.

Here’re a few interesting places to look if you might be keen to find curators in your niche (more on these places below):

Curating from curators helps to build a good base of discoverable content.

Then you have to go a bit deeper.

You have to have your own go-to places to find content that few others have found. These are your go-to sites — maybe an unknown blog, or a low-traffic section of a major news site. For instance, I adore the writing on Post Planner, and I love reading the New York Times’s tech blog. (Whoops, there go my secrets.)

To discover places like these, it helps to keep an open mind for curation when clicking through newsletter links or community upvotes. Do the sites themselves seem to resonate with what you’re wanting to find? Here are some questions to ask:

  1. How often do they publish new content? (or, how old is the article I’m reading now?)
  2. If I like this author, does she contribute often, or is this a guest post?
  3. How well is the article formatted? (This hints at a certain level of content quality.)
  4. How well is the site designed?

And then of course, once you find these hidden spots, make it easy to visit them daily.

The bookmarks hack: This one’s a bit old school but super lo-fi and simple. Once you’ve found a handful of go-to content sources, star them all with a bookmark in your browser, and organize them into a folder. Then each day, start your curation by going to your bookmarks, right-clicking the folder, and opening all the sites at once. It’ll look like this:

content-curation-bookmarks1

2. Have a list of 25 (maximum!) go-to content sources

While you’re building out your Top 25, make sure to keep it at no more than 25. Yes, there may be more than 25 great sites out there, but remember that your ultimate goal with discover is finding the best, original stuff — and your secondary goal is speed and efficiency.

If you have more than 25 sites, you’ll be too busy filtering and hunting. Besides, if your list is more than 25, chances are they aren’t all sites that are original to your discovery. Other curators are probably curating them, in which case you can curate those curators.

Feedly, an awesome RSS tool we’ll cover more below, is where I keep track of my list of sites to follow. Currently I follow 25 total blogs on writing and marketing.

Marketing blogs to follow

3. Follow interesting people and make it easy to see what they share

Along with unique sites, it helps to follow unique people. Take Matt Navarra of The Next Web, for instance. Here is a sampling of recent tweets. The man is a cornucopia of fascination:

There are unique people like this in almost every industry (Matt just so happens to be in social media) — and if there aren’t, then wow what a great opportunity for you to be the first!

One way to find them is with a hashtag search. If you have a particular keyword or two that is central to your brand or area of expertise, look for people sharing content with that keyword. Sort by most followers if you can.

Another way to do it is to see who is sharing the articles that you think are pretty great. If someone else has found your secret best stuff, then they probably are a good one to follow. To do this …

  1. Enter a URL into BuzzSumo
  2. Click the “View Sharers” button next to the article’s title on the results page
  3. Voila! See who has shared this content

(Viewing sharers is a BuzzSumo Pro feature that you can try out for free with a trial.)

And if all else fails, you can try following people with a similar job title or from particular companies you admire or compete with. This’ll make sure that you’re staying on top of the stories that are relevant to people like you.

Of course, following all these folks is one thing. Being able to see their content in the stream of all content is another. You can do the bookmark hack and travel directly to their feeds every day (not a bad idea). You can try a tool like Nuzzel, which emails you a digest of what your Twitter friends and Facebook friends have shared the past 24 hours (ranked by virality).

Nuzzel screenshot

Or you can make yourself a second profile.

The fake profile hack: Create a new profile for yourself on Facebook or Twitter by entering a new email address. If you’re a Gmail user, you can create a new email from scratch by adding “+” to your current email (e.g., [email protected]). Then follow your interesting folks from this fake account, and log in with the fake account in a separate Chrome profile for easy switching.

Switch person Chrome

4. Give new content sources a probationary period

As you come across new websites and publications, definitely feel free to add them to your repertoire — eventually. In my experience, I’ve found that a site might look promising for a day or two, though it takes at least two weeks before you can know for sure if it deserves to be a place you visit every day.

Likewise, it’s beneficial to be quick to cut any sites that aren’t quite passing muster for you lately, too.

Your time is valuable! Being a great curator means staying cutting edge with where you look and how long you look there.

Tips on how to read content, fast

  1. Get a read-it-later app (like Pocket)
  2. Stop reading as soon as you know if it’s a yes or no
  3. If it doesn’t hold your attention, it won’t hold your reader’s
  4. It’s okay to skim, within reason
  5. Sometimes images make the best text

Good news is, the hard part (discovery) is behind you. Now you get to read!

1. Get a read-it-later app (like Pocket)

First things first. One of the toughest things you can do when it comes to curating content fast is to read every article on the site itself. You need a read-it-later app.

This plays into the concept of batching.

Batching (or batch processing) is the act of grouping similar tasks together that require similar resources. Doing so streamlines the process and helps you get more done, faster.

It’s a concept you might be familiar with from Tim Ferriss’s Four Hour Workweek or articles like this: How Batch Processing Made Me 10x More Productive. It’s a popular lifehacking and productivity tip, for sure! And it works great with curation.

Batch the tasks that require similar resources.

  • Do all your content discovery at the same time, while your brain is in the hunting mentality.
  • Do all your reading at the same time, while your brain is feeling reflective and choosy.

And in order to read in a batch, you need to have a tool that lets you save the articles you find in order to read them later.

I use Pocket for this. It has a neat card layout to quickly see everything I’ve saved. It strips out all the extra sidebars, styles, and ads so that you’re just reading what the author wrote and intended. And it has a wonderful browser extension that lets me save new articles to Pocket with one click from any page on the web.

The extension hack: Bonus! If you’re using the Pocket browser extension on Twitter, you can add any tweeted link straight to Pocket. Just below the link blurb is a row of icons, one of which is for Pocket. If you click this, the article is added automatically, and it even includes the tweet text from the original share.

pocket-tweet

2. Stop reading as soon as you know if it’s a yes or no

Now that all your content is flowing in through Pocket or another read-it-later app, you can start the process of reading. And apologies if I seem to be mentioning ruthlessness a lot in this article. You’ll want to be pretty ruthless here, too.

As soon as you know if it’s a yes or a no, you must stop and go onto the next one.

Here are some reasons why it can be a yes:

A really great article! ????

An amazing image or graphic ???

A fantastic quote ??

An interesting statistic ?

Here are some reasons why it can be a no: Everything else.

3. If it doesn’t hold your attention, it won’t hold your reader’s

If you find your attention faltering, stop reading. You are likely the most invested person in the world in this article. If it can’t hold your attention, it won’t hold the attention of a far less invested reader!

If you realize it’s not as actionable or interesting as you thought, stop reading.

If you’ve read something similar elsewhere, stop reading.

In general terms, these are some factors that make for a really great, curate-worthy article:

  • It’s unique
  • It’s interesting
  • It’s useful

(These go by the vowel-heavy initialism UIU.)

The faster you can find U, I, or U, the better off you’ll be with your speed of curation.

4. It’s okay to skim, within reason

First and foremost, read every article. Only in emergencies, skim read.

Sometimes, you might find yourself really rooting for an article to succeed. And you just really want to get to the good stuff. Well, awesome – there is a time for skimming, and this might very well be it.

Of course, skimming comes with its risks. What if you skim over an offensive or inaccurate portion of an article, then choose to endorse it unwittingly? It’s not a great feeling (spoken from experience). One way to work around this hazard is to excerpt only the portions that you’ve read. For instance, you might say:

  • Great post! Loved this section on growth hacking in particular.
  • Wonderful line from this blog post: “”The reason that most of us are unhappy most of the time is that we set our goals not for the person we’re going to be when we reach them, but we set our goals for the person we are when we set them.”

This way, you’re only vouching for the parts that you did in fact read.

5. Sometimes images make the best text

Similarly, while skimming, it’s possible that a picture might catch your eye, rather than the text itself.

This is perfectly fine.

If you’re in the business of curating unique, interesting, and useful stuff, it matters little whether it’s sensational text or sensational images.

And as a bonus, skimming for great images is a breeze. Some read-it-later apps strip out the images from within the body of articles; Pocket grabs the article’s main image and uses it as a thumbnail on the post. Otherwise, you may be able to spot a great image well before you save to Pocket, during the discovery phase of curation.

Tips on how to share content, fast

  1. Get a social media scheduling app (like Buffer)
  2. Set up an automation workflow
  3. Invest in a good email solution

Like I mentioned above, the sharing of curated content needs to take only five percent of your overall curation workflow. If you spend an hour-and-a-half on curation, you can do all the sharing in as little as five minutes.

1. Get a social media scheduling app (like Buffer)

It starts with a solid foundation: a social media management dashboard. These are great for managing multiple social accounts on multiple channels, all in the same place. For instance, we use Buffer to manage our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+ accounts, plus the accounts of our individual profiles (like, in my case, all my Kevan Lee profiles).

What’s more, social media dashboards like Buffer also come with scheduling.

This is uber-important for a curator especially.

Picture this, you’ve just gone through the discovery and reading phases of curation, and you have 15 cool articles to share. What do you do with those 15?

You can share them all at once as a burst, which has been scientifically proven to lose you followers.

You can space them out over the course of the day by manually sharing one every 45 minutes (which has been qualitatively proven to be a pain).

Or, you can add them all at once to Buffer, and Buffer will send them for you at the pre-appointed schedule you’ve set. ?

Here’s a video that explains the calendar feature within Buffer:

[embedded content]

2. Set up an automation workflow

To make this even more powerful, you can set up automation workflows that allow for the bulk scheduling to happen seamlessly. I’ll get into lots more detail below about how this particular automation can happen.

Basically, you can use a tool like IFTTT or Zapier to connect your favorite read-it-later app like Pocket to your favorite social publishing tool like Buffer. Then, whenever you take a particular action while you’re reading — say, marking something as “favorite” — IFTTT or Zapier will tell Buffer to do a particular something else — say, add to your sharing queue.

In addition, there are some neat, native integrations with content tools like Pocket and Feedly and sharing tools like Buffer. For instance, from Pocket’s web app, you can share any article directly to Buffer. (The same can happen on mobile, with Buffer’s share extension turned on.)

Pocket share to Buffer

3. Invest in a good email solution

Similarly, if your curation strategy relies more on email for spreading your content, there are some awesome automation tools to help with email. There’s the IFTTT and Zapier automation flows for capturing favorite links, and there are even standalone tools that allow you to build an email newsletter as you read.

Speaking of tools, let’s get to know a few.

The content curation tools behind great newsletters, roundups, and lists

Great curation can vary widely, from the most manual of processes (copy-paste to spreadsheets) to the most automated (tool-connected tools). We lean a bit toward the tools side at Buffer, particularly when it comes to working as smart as possible.

These are the tools we use personally or can recommend highly. Hope you spot one or two that might work for you also.

1. Buffer – https://buffer.com

Social media scheduling, publishing, and analytics

buffer extension for content curation

Price: Free

Buffer is the key to our fast-sharing curation. We’re able to go in from Day One and set a custom schedule, based on when our tweets and posts tend to get the most engagement (Buffer tells you this; thanks, Buffer!). Then this schedule stays for as long as we like: All we need to do is fill a queue with the curated content that we find, and everything else takes care of itself.

The browser extension makes it easy to add content from anywhere, too. Just click the Buffer button on any page, or press Option+B, to open the Buffer window.

The Twitter scraper hack: It’s not a hack, really. It’s more of a feature! If you’re sharing an article to Twitter, Buffer will grab all the images on the page and suggest them as possible images to add to your tweet. It works from the dashboard, too. Say you want to edit some posts that were added via automation. Click to edit the tweet, type a space at the end, and all the images pop up.

buffer-twitter-images

Other options:

Hootsuite, Sprout Social, Sprinklr

2. Pocket – https://getpocket.com

Read-it-later app with social content

pocket for read it later curated stories

Price: Free

This is the reading app for online content. What we do is save everything we find to Pocket and then set aside time to read it all. Each post is stripped of all superfluous design so we can concentrate on just the words. And it’s super easy to share from Pocket with its many social social features and integrations.

You can even Recommend items with others on Pocket, and cross-post to Twitter and Facebook at the same time. Recommendations on Pocket will appear on your Pocket profile and in your followers’ feeds when they’re looking for great content to read, like and repost.

If you’re ever strapped for time (or doing other tasks), Pocket will even read the articles to you. Yup! You read that right!

Other options:

Instapaper

3. Feedly – http://feedly.com

Robust RSS reader with content discovery

Feedly

Price: Free

Feedly is the heir to Google Reader, and it’s improved the RSS formula in some neat ways. You can 1) search Feedly for topics to find the content you want to subscribe to. You can 2) integrate Feedly with other apps in order to make it easy to send stories to places like Pocket or Buffer. You can even do cool things like publicize your feed collections and check the virality of content based on its shares (great for curating in a pinch).

The viral Feedly hack: If you’re strapped for time, you can quickly spot the most viral stories in your Feedly by switching to Index view (via the Preferences link in the sidebar), then hunting for the biggest share numbers. These numbers appear just before the headline. Numbers in the hundreds and orange numbers (trending) are great.

feedly-virality-gif

Other options:

Digg Reader, The Old Reader, Flipboard

4. Nuzzel – http://nuzzel.com

See what your friends are sharing on social media

Nuzzel

Price: Free

Nuzzel searches the feeds of your friends on Facebook and Twitter to find the content that they’re sharing. Everything gets ranked, then emailed to you once a day so you’re always in the loop. The top three stories make up the start of the email, then Nuzzel goes the extra mile with a Friends of Friends section with even more content. And if you’re wanting to go beyond the email, you can click through to the site to see everything that was shared that day.

The Nuzzel hack: You probably follow a lot of people, right? And not everyone may be the most relevant to the topic you’re curating. What we’ve done is to set up a fake Twitter account, follow just the people whom you want to monitor, then sync Nuzzel with this account. Bingo! All your Nuzzel recommendations are hyper-targeted to just these folks who curate great stuff.

Other options:

Refind

5. Goodbits – https://goodbits.io/

Ready-made email newsletters from the content you discover

Goodbits

Price: Free

Goodbits removes the middleman/woman/spreadsheet from the flow of collecting great content and emailing links to great content. With Goodbits, you simply collect the content using their browser extension, and all the content is placed automatically into a pretty email that you can send to your subscribers. Goodbits integrates with popular email platforms like MailChimp and Campaign Monitor, and you can tie in RSS feeds directly to the Goodbits interface so you don’t even have to go looking for the content.

Other options:

Curated.co

6. TinyLetter – https://www.tinyletter.com

Straightforward newsletter building and sending

TinyLetter for email curation and newsletters

Price: free

One of the absolutely minimal ways for sending a newsletter is with TinyLetter. It’s completely no-frills, which means no barriers for entry. With TinyLetter, you get a straightforward landing page to collect emails and a clean and simple interface for writing your newsletter. And that’s it! There are some simple stats, but beyond that, all there is to do is write, send, repeat.

Other options:

Campaign Monitor, MailChimp

7. Letterlist – http://letterlist.com

A list of the best, curated newsletters out there

LetterList

Price: free

Remember the tip to curated from fellow curators? Well Letterlist collects the best curators for you. From the Letterlist website, you can subscribe to dozens of great newsletters.

It’s a curated list of curated newsletters, in order to help you curate.

images

Here are some more ideas of where you might find great content to curate …

Where to find great content: 17 vetted sources

Like we’ve talked about, the most important job of a high-quality curator is finding fantastic content. We’re lucky — there’s a lot of it out there!

Here are a few of our favorite places to look, both specifically (the sites themselves) and generally (the bigger-picture places). It’s important for me to remember that not everyone will be wishing to curate content based on startups, productivity, social media, or writing. Hopefully seeing some of our process might trigger some ideas for your particular industry.

1. Newsletters

I get a ton of value from the newsletters I subscribe to, both for the curation help they provide me and for just learning lots of interesting things. We’ve covered a list of over 60 favorite newsletters before. Definitely start there if you’re looking for a comprehensive list.

60+ Fantastic Email Newsletters to Read and Share

These are a few of the go-to ones I use currently:

  1. NextDraft
  2. Caitlin Dewey
  3. Ann Friedman
  4. MakeChange
  5. Inside’s Daily Brief

SmartBrief also has a list of over 200 newsletters, segmented by industry. You might find something up your alley there.

The newsletter search hack: If you’re unsure where to find a newsletter based on your particular topic, try a Google search. Er, try a very specific Google search. Search “site:tinyletter.com YOUR SEARCH TERM” to discover TinyLetter lists that might be relevant for you. Here’s an example. Since all TinyLetter newsletters are archived, you’re able to search the full archives of all newsletters with this search.

Newsletter search hack

2. Community aggregators

These are sites that are collecting content on their own and upvoting it so you can see what’s new and great.

  1. Hacker News
  2. Inbound
  3. Growth Hackers
  4. Product Hunt
  5. Sidebar

3. Reddit

I thought about including this one in the list above for communities, but no, Reddit deserves a category all its own!

There are more than half-a-million subreddits, which are niche communities focused on a particular topic. These are basically community aggregators for anything you could imagine. Here are a few favorites:

  1. Data Is Beautiful
  2. Mechanical GIFs
  3. TIL – Today I Learned
  4. IAMAs
  5. Listen to This

(The Daily Dot ranks over 200 subreddits here.)

4. Content products

Another outcome of our content-heavy Internet is that there are entire products built for helping you find content. Thank you! These sites might either have algorithms that go out and source great stuff, or they have humans curate what they find to be worthy of a wider audience. Either way, these products are great for curation.

Panda

  1. Panda
  2. Pocket’s Recommended Stories
  3. Digg Deeper
  4. Medium’s Editor’s Picks
  5. Content discovery tools on Zeef

For even more content discovery ideas, we’ve put together some favorite lists here:

17 Unique Places to Find Great Content to Share

Advantages of being really good at content curation: Why people curate

By this point, you’ve likely got a good sense of what it takes to be really, really good at curation. And you might be wondering …

Why would someone go to these lengths?

Well first off, a lot of people enjoy it. Reading on the web is a wonderful leisure activity for many, so it must feel like such a gift to be able to build a following around what you’d be doing anyway.

That said, there are some specific brand advantages to being really, really good at curation. Whether you intend for these things to happen or not, they simply come with the territory of curating greatly. And if you do wish for any of the following to happen to your brand, then curation is the way to go!

1. Build authority

Awhile back, I made a purposeful decision to adjust my social media content and newsletter to focus on writing and social media. (I had to let go of the notion of building authority on my previous tweet fodder like football, soda pop, and Calvin and Hobbes comics.)

The result?

A jump in followers.

An increase in subscribers.

And, were there a way to measure these sorts of things, I imagine I also got a bump in authority.

When you choose to find, share, and comment on the best of the best articles in your industry, you will gain authority. If you do it consistently, you’ll build authority. People will look to you to see what’s happening and what’s worth discussing. It’s quite a special place to be, and one that I’m still working to achieve.

Once there, you have quite the platform for speaking and sharing on a topic.

The Pocket authority hack: One of the fastest ways to gain authority is to be a consistent part of a new network or community. There just so happens to be one within the Pocket app, as you can recommend your favorite Pocket stories and create a following within the Pocket ecosystem. To really make yourself stand out in the feed, you can share quotables by highlighting any text in an article and clicking the Share Excerpt popup.

Pocket Recommended stories

2. Gain influence

Along with building authority, curation also allows you to gain influence. We’re in a fortunate place at Buffer to have a pretty solid foundation of content and social sharing. As such, we get a lot of people reaching out to us to share this or that particular story.

They’d love for us to share because they feel we can influence others to click, share, read, etc.

You’ll find the same once you get in a solid groove with curation. Once people see that you curate great content, they’ll love to be considered along with the other great content you share.

3. Spread goodwill

With that influence comes the ability to honor others with a mention or share.

Curating content is one of the most generous things you can do online.

It’s a virtual high-five or tip jar, a Pay-It-Forward moment for whoever has the chance to catch your eye with a great article. What a good feeling! This one might not make the most immediate business impact, but it does help build relationships and engender positivity with others in your industry. Those relationships are key in the long run.

Who does it well: Curation heroes

We’ve taken a lot of inspiration from a number of folks in the startup space and content industry, people who do a sensational job of always having great stuff to share. It’s a good practice to curate from curators and also to learn from them.

Does anyone come to mind for you?

It can be as simple as noticing who in your social media feeds you tend to read most often, or which of your friends you most admire when they share new stuff. In one way, it’s a bit like venture capital; investor Ben Lerer has an interesting investment strategy: jealousy. He says:

investment quote

Similarly, to find your curation heroes, you might check yourself for any moment you say, “Boy, I wish I had shared that.”

Here’s a list of a few heroes of ours at Buffer. Whether or not they match your industry or interests exactly, I hope you’ll be able to pick up a few trends or take some inspiration from the way they curate and share. A few things you might notice from this list:

  • Many have been going at it for 5 to 10 years (Jason Kottke, Daring Fireball, Maria Popova)
  • A few are senior-level executives or entrepreneurs (Rand Fishkin, Hiten Shah)
  • Some are marketers like you and me (Courtney)

Translation: You can be yourself and still be fantastic with content curation.

Here’s the short list of curators I look up to.

1. Rand Fishkin, Moz founder

Rand built the SEO company Moz, and he remains its chief evangelist through his videos, content, speaking, and curation. His Twitter feed is a goldmine of SEO and marketing tips and other interesting finds.

We had the privilege of having Rand on one of our upcoming Buffer podcast episodes. He shared a bit of his curation strategy with us along with these three takeaways for blending content, curation, and values:

  1. Everyone does best when they have a process and a set of guidelines.
  2. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that content is a short-term investment with a short-term payoff. It is absolutely not.
  3. When you are developing your values and committing to them, you need to also be aware that you’re going to have to need to go out and find like-minded people and a like-minded community that believe in those same values.

2. Hiten Shah, Crazy Egg & KISSmetrics founder, Quick Sprout co-founder

Hiten is one of the smartest marketers out there and one of the most accomplished SaaS entrepreneurs and founders. His Twitter feed reflects his varied interests: lots of marketing, lots of tech, lots of innovative ideas, lots of, well, good stuff!

(Full disclosure: Hiten is one of our advisors at Buffer. We love him!)

3. Brain Pickings, curated by Maria Popova

One of the best sites out there for book lovers and inspiration seekers, Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings covers all sorts of different types of literature and dives deep into the topics and authors. Her curation is almost one of self-curation: She’s built up such a library that each new blog post is chock full of links to past ones. It’s making these connections from book to book and article to article where Maria really shines — and where she reveals a great opportunity for fellow curators.

4. Kottke.org, curated by Jason Kottke

Kottke

Jason Kottke’s website began 18 years ago and has evolved to cover art, media, and people doing awesome things. Jason shares five to ten interesting links per day on his site: stories, video, lists, news. He’s cornered the market on “huh, interesting” content, which is a great example for those feeling a bit too tied to one particular subject. As long as you have the market cornered on a feeling, that works too!

5. Daring Fireball, curated by John Gruber

Along with Jason Kottke, John Gruber was another of the original curators, starting Daring Fireball over a decade ago. The blog focuses on Apple technology and really blossomed in the heyday of iPhones and iPads.

John was recently a guest on the ReCode podcast where he shared behind-the-scenes about getting started with the blog and how he views the value that his curation and analysis brings to the Apple conversation.

6. Courtney Seiter, Buffer

A couple years ago, Courtney led our content suggestions feature, and she singlehandedly curated 30+ unique pieces of content for every day of the week. It was the most prolific stretch of curation I’d ever witnessed — and people loved it. The content suggestions feature didn’t continue on, but Courtney’s work with curation was hugely instrumental toward delighting customers and teaching our marketing team what great content looked like (and how we could get there).

Bonus lesson of curation: You learn to recognize what’s good!

Next level content curation, feat. automation workflows

If you’ve read this far, thank you! There’s been a lot to digest, and hopefully it’s been encouraging to see what you can accomplish with great curation. Now the final steps are the ones that put curation into the advanced category and help you save even more time.

Ready?

Automated curation is your best time-saver. The more you can automate with your workflows, the more time you’ll save.

How do you automate? It all starts with tools like IFTTT and Zapier, apps that connect one service to another, triggering actions based on other actions. For instance, you can automatically add a new row to a spreadsheet every time you send a tweet.

Here’s a quick link to get started at IFTTT, which is completely free.

Here’s a quick link to get started at Zapier, which gives you the first five automations free then charges beyond that (Zapier has a great deal more services than IFTTT at the moment, which kind of balances things out).

Of course, there are many parts of curation that you can’t automate. You can’t automate good judgment or a strong eye toward quality or interestingness. You can’t automate the whole discovery phase of curation or, obviously, any of the reading part.

The most ground to be gained in automation will be with the sharing part of curation.

These are our favorite curation automations at Buffer.

Pocket to Buffer IFTTT

Send your Pocket favorites straight to Buffer and schedule with an image

(Recipe)

This one is pure gold for me. Every article I like in Pocket goes straight to Buffer, without me needing to a thing.

Once it’s in Buffer, I schedule time once a week to go through my backlog and prettify any of the updates that are in there — changing around the headlines or adding images. Here’s an example of one that Pocket/IFTTT/Buffer pulled in for me (before I changed a thing):

buffer tweet

Alternative: You can also set up this IFTTT recipe to work with Pocket tags. If you have a tag like “Buffer” or “Social Media”, everything article you tag in this way will go straight to your Buffer queue in a single click.

Pocket Trello IFTTT

Send your Pocket favorites to Trello

(Recipe)

For a monthly newsletter, this Trello/Pocket combination comes in really handy. You can ask IFTTT or Zapier to create a new Trello card for you each time you favorite a story in Pocket. This way, when you’re ready to write your curated newsletter, you can simply pull all the links straight from your Trello board.

I use this one for my personal site and keep the links alongside my other blog notes and to-dos.

Curate Feedly to Email

(Recipe)

For those who love as much of their curation as possible to happen in email, this recipe makes it possible to bring Feedly in there. All your Feedly content is sent as an email digest where you can choose what to read or skip.

Your turn: Let us know how your curation goes!

Thanks again to the Pocket team for the assist with this article. If the strategies here sounded worthwhile to you, we’d love to make it easy for you to start a free Pocket account or get all set up on Buffer!

Phew! Thanks for hanging with us the whole way. I hope the info here has been helpful for you and has maybe even inspired a content curation strategy that you’ll be excited to try.

If you’re curating content, mind sharing with us where we can follow along?

It’d be great to see what you’re finding!

And if you have any tips for us on what’s been working for you, or if you have any questions about anything we’ve mentioned here, feel free to drop a mention in the comments. I’ll be hanging out there and would love to chat!

Happy curating!

Image sources: UnSplash

Instagram Zoom: How to Get the Most From Instagram’s New Feature (Plus Inspiration From 10 Awesome Brands)

Over the past six months, Instagram has released some exciting updates, from a new logo to longer videos and even a new way to share everyday moments with Instagram Stories.

Recently, Instagram announced another interesting (and long-awaited) feature: the ability to zoom in on photos and videos.

Instagram users can now pinch photos and videos to zoom in and take a closer look. This update has been released for iPhone users and Instagram says this update will be rolling out to Android over the coming weeks, too.

As with any new feature, this opens up a ton of opportunity and some more flexibility with the types of content we can create on Instagram.

We decided to dive in at the deep end and take a look at how this feature works, what brands are already doing with zoom, and how you can use it as well.

Let’s get started.

How to Zoom on Instagram

To zoom on Instagram you simply need to pinch the screen.

The pinch to zoom expression has been a feature on Facebook, Twitter, and many other apps for a while now, and it’s also a common practice within the iPhone camera roll, so it feels like a natural expression for Instagram’s users to adopt.

Here’s a quick example of Instagram zoom in action from PetaPixel:

[embedded content]

When you pinch to zoom, the photo or video expands in a lightbox and moves out of the original frame to take over the rest of your screen.

Instagram images are still uploaded at around 1080px in width, so if you zoom in too far the content may look a little grainy. Here’s a quick breakdown of the sizes Instagram uploads photos at:

  • Square Image: 1080px in width by 1080px in height
  • Vertical Image: 1080px in width by 1350px in height
  • Horizontal Image: 1080px in width by 566px in height

(Here’s more info on ideal image sizes for Instagram and all other social networks.)

Why zoom opens up new content opportunities

As marketers, we’re always on the lookout for new ways to create and share engaging content with our audience, and Instagram’s zoom feature provides a great opportunity to do just that.

Zoom allows us to get a little creative with our content and also makes Instagram posts a little more interactive. Instead of simply viewing an image or watching a video, users can now zoom around and choose to focus in on certain aspects of our posts.

Some content will naturally entice users to zoom; a beautiful beach scene or a shot of a well-known landmark may pique curiosity, for example. But in most cases, we’ll need to give users a reason to take a closer look at our content. Zooming can be a way to enhance your Instagram content, create fun competitions and games and also encourage Instagrammers to pause and take a moment to engage with your posts.

Here’s a quick look at how 10 brands have already started to use Instagram’s zoom feature within their content.

10 Examples of brands using Zoom

Note: We’ve tried to illustrate how the zoom feature looks with each example. If you’d like to check them out on Instagram, we’ve linked to each post in the accompanying descriptions. Click on each link from a mobile device, open it in the Instagram app and then pinch and zoom across the screen.

1. British Airways

instagram-zoom-berlin

British Airways shared this lovely photo of Berlin as a way to start a discussion around city breaks in the German city. By zooming in, users can check out some of Berlin’s most popular sights and landmarks.

The airline also made good use of the caption to encourage zooming:

#Zoom in for a closer look. Where will your next #CityBreak be? Whether it’s iconic #sights, the buzz of a traditional market or the best in local cuisine, city breaks are one of our favourite journeys.

2. Bud Light

bud

Bud Light turned to Instagram to reveal the flavor of one of their new beverages. Using clever copywriting in the caption “Our new flavor is just a pinch away,” the brand encouraged users to zoom in and discover their new flavor.

3. Primark

instagram-zoom-primark

Primark used Instagram’s zoom feature to showcase its latest product releases. By zooming in, Instagram users can scan through the products and take a closer look. This was a fun and unique way to let followers check out their latest stock and made great use of Instagram’s newest feature.

4. BMW Espana

instagram-zoom-bmw

In this Instagram post, BMW shared a photo of a driver at the wheel of their new M4 model. The caption asks, “How fast is our #BMWM4 going through the circuit? #Zoom to guess.”

5. FedEx

instagram-zoom-fedex

I’m a huge fan of FedEx’s Instagram feed. They use the platform to show FedEx’s delivery drivers, vans, and planes out delivering parcels and giving followers a behind the scenes glimpse of how their parcels arrive. In this example, FedEx gave followers a view out of a plane window and allowed them to zoom in on the sunset and a view of another FedEx plane.

6. General Electric

instagram-zoom-ge

General Electric shared this photo from Pulitzer prize-winning photographer, Vincent Laforet. It features a bird’s-eye view of GE’s Tier 4 locomotive as it snakes along the Transit Test Track at the Transportation Technology Center.

In the caption, GE asks Instagrammer’s to take a closer look and asks: “How many rail cars can you spot?”

7. Reyka Vodka

instagram-zoom-vodka

Icelandic brand, Reyka Vodka, used zoom to celebrate some of its country’s most famous landmarks. The beautifully put-together illustration features a small map of Iceland, which when zoomed, reveals the landmarks and one of Reyka’s branded bottles.

To encourage users to zoom, Reyka turned to the ? emoji and also used the hashtag #instazoom.

8. The Cheesecake Factory

instagram-zoom-cheesecake

The Cheesecake Factory used zoom as a way to turn an Instagram post into an interactive game. The post features 12 images of various desserts available at the Cheesecake Factory and asks viewers which cheesecake is featured twice. By zooming, users can take an up-close look at each cake and see which one features more than once.

9. Noosa yogurt

instagram-zoom-yoghurt

Noosa Yogurt used zoom to reveal the words hidden within a speech bubble. This post is captioned, “What do cows say when they play hide-and-seek? Hint: pinch and zoom to find out.”

10. MorningStar Farms

instagram-zoom-farms

Instagram also allows you to zoom in on video content and this example from MorningStar Farms is one of the first I’ve seen where the brand encourages the user to zoom on a video. The video itself is a short animation of the crop growing up from a seed, and it’s captioned: “Zoom in to see how a something small can make a big impact. Like this small seed.”

How to use zoom in your content: 3 best practices

As the above examples illustrate, zooming can be a really fun, creative way to make your Instagram content stand out. But how can you use it in your day-to-day social media schedule? Here are some early thoughts:

1. Use it sparingly

New features tend to be overused at the beginning, and if every post you share asks users to zoom in, the novelty may wear off. However, when used sparingly, it feels like zoom will be a great tool to have in your arsenal.

Be sure to experiment with various types of posts, like some of the examples above, and use your creativity. But be careful not to overuse this feature and instead only use it in special instances.

2. Give your followers a reason to zoom

“With the zoom feature, there needs to be some inherent reason to look at an image closer to discover something, but that action of discovery still needs to connect to the brands messaging in some way or it’ll just feel like a gimmick,” Steve O’Connell, ecd and partner at Red Tettemer O’Connell + Partners, explained to AdWeek.

When it comes to planning the types of content you’d like to encourage users to zoom on, give clear thought to the “why” behind it. Why will a user want to zoom? How can we entice them to stop scrolling their feed and spend some time with our content?

3. Stay on brand

Jumping on the latest trends and updates can occasionally lead to content that goes off brand and moves away from a business’ overall social media strategy. The FedEx post included in the list above is a great example of staying true to your brand. FedEx’s Instagram is built around taking followers on a journey and sharing how their parcels go from A to B. If FedEx were to jump into a scavenger hunt with a parcel hidden somewhere in the post, this probably wouldn’t feel true to their brand.

Over to you

Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts on this much anticipated Instagram feature. Have you used zoom much to get a closer look at any photos or videos on Instagram?

I’d also love to discuss the opportunities their feature presents to brands as well. Have you created any content specifically with zoom in mind? Are there any more great examples of brands using zoom that we have missed?

Feel free to jump in the comments and I’d be excited to chat with you there.

Instagram Stories: How 18 Brands And Influencers Are Using It (And You Can Too!)

10 billion.

That’s the number of videos people watch on Snapchat every day. The same potential consumption (maybe more) exists for Instagram Stories — quick videos and photos that disappear after 24 hours, just like Snapchat, but with an audience of 500 million users.

Does that sound like a channel worth exploring?

We believe so! Storytelling has always been a key part of marketing, and features like Instagram Stories are empowering us marketers to tell better and deeper stories about our brands. We’d love to provide you with more resources about Instagram Stories so that you can master this platform and see your voice spread.

In this post, I’d love to share 18 Instagram marketers who have been doing rad things with Stories to give you some inspiration on what you could do for your Instagram Stories too.

Instagram Stories

18 Creative Uses of Instagram Stories (and how you can do it too)

From my research, I discovered several creative ways brands and individuals have been using Instagram Stories. And here’s the great news: most of these strategies do not require huge budget or resources to pull off!

Before we dive into each brand and individual, here’s the full list of rockstar Instagram storytellers with links to their Instagram profiles.

(Note: If you end up following some of these great accounts and wish to see their Instagram stories from a desktop browser, there’s a neat Chrome extension here which lets you do just that.)

  1. NASA
  2. LOFT
  3. Huffington Post
  4. Techcrunch
  5. Gary Vaynerchuk
  6. Chris Burkard
  7. New York University
  8. GoPro
  9. When I Work
  10. Shopify
  11. Remote Year
  12. Black Sheep Cycling
  13. Olympics
  14. Brian Fanzo
  15. Minaal
  16. 9gag
  17. Sean McCabe
  18. TrackMaven

Without further ado, let’s take a closer look at how each of the following brands and individuals uses Instagram Stories and see how you might take inspiration to adapt their strategies for your own brand!

Supplement your main Instagram content with bonus info via Stories

This is one of my favorite ways of using Instagram Stories: telling a deep story behind each and every Instagram post.

One of the key differences between Instagram and Snapchat is that Instagram provides a public, viewable profile for your main content. On no other social network can you get this type of supplemental information about the posts themselves.

This makes NASA’s use of Stories quite the native strategy. Here’s a great example: Recently, NASA posted about the annual Perseid meteor shower on their Instagram account and used Stories to share more about the meteor shower and the research on it, talking to the scientists involved in the research and showing the equipment used for the research.

NASA Story

How you could do this for your business:

After you choose a final photo to share on Instagram, snap a couple of extra ones that go behind-the-scenes. This can be as easy as:

  • Flip your camera around to take a photo of the opposite view (example)
  • Share some of the failed drafts of photos (Instagram Stories are ephemeral, thank goodness!)
  • Snap a photo with the team that helped you create your Instagram photo
  • Zoom out and photograph the setup – works great for product shots to show all that goes into getting the photo just right!

Turn Stories into real-time events (and amplify engagement)

LOFT, a women’s clothing brand, invited two best buddies for a style challenge, which was shared as an Instagram Story. The challenge: Find something (in the LOFT store) the other didn’t think she could wear.

Not only did LOFT allow their followers to follow along the fun challenge, LOFT also gave them an opportunity to engage with a recent Instagram post and help spread their brand by asking them to tag their best friends in the post.

LOFT's Instagram Stories

(Hat tip to Amanda Tessier for this one!)

How you could do this for your business:

Take a look at your event calendar and see if there are any upcoming events and activities that your online community can follow along. It could be:

  1. Challenges like LOFT’s
  2. Company retreats
  3. Meetups, conferences, or roadshows

Otherwise, consider if you could organize fun games around your product or service which your online community could participate in by leaving a comment on one of your recent Instagram posts or sharing a photo with a particular hashtag.

Use photos with captions to tell your stories

With the help of the text and drawing functionality of Instagram Stories, Huffington Post has been creating interesting short photo summaries of recent news, allowing their followers to consume their content in a more visual and fun manner.

Huffington Post Story 1

Huffington Post Story 2

Huffington Post Story 3

How you could do this for your business:

Go through all your recent blog posts and challenge yourself to turn one of them into a photo story. Adding captions will tend to make it easier while drawing with the three different Stories markers will bring more personality to your story.

Give your followers a quick and easy way to consume your content

Quite similar to Huffington Post, TechCrunch has been using Instagram Stories to share headlines and short text summary of recent tech news.

Techcrunch Story

How you could do this for your business:

If you publish lots of content regularly like a news or media agency, summarize your articles with a headline and a tagline or sentence. If the news is shareworthy, adding your brand logo, like how TechCrunch did, could help to spread the awareness of your brand.

5. Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee)

Mix high-quality edited content with raw authentic content (and keep in mind the vertical screen size)

Gary Vaynerchuk has been using Instagram Stories for several purposes — promoting his DailyVee videos through high-quality visuals, sharing very authentic glimpses into his daily life, and connecting genuinely with his followers.

Gary Vaynerchuk Story 1

In a recent Story, he mentioned that his followers asked for more wallpapers on his Instagram Stories and so he made more for them.

Gary Vaynerchuk Story 1

How you could do this for your business:

Gary Vaynerchuk does quite a few things well on Instagram Stories, and here are some of the things you could try:

  • If you produce video content as part of your marketing strategy, consider creating an extra version for the vertical mobile screen or simply add borders at the top and bottom, which Gary Vaynerchuk does sometimes.
  • If you tend to use your Instagram posts to drive traffic to your content on your blog or Medium publication or YouTube channel, create promotional images and mention that the link is in your bio.
  • If you create images for your social media posts, make an additional image for the vertical screen or reuse the one you created for Pinterest.
  • Use Instagram Stories to do research and interact with your community. What types of content do they want from you via Instagram? How can you provide those content to them?

Show your behind-the-scenes adventures

Chris Burkard is a very talented photographer with almost 2 million followers on Instagram.

He has been using Instagram Stories to take his followers through his adventures where he captures the jaw-dropping photos he shares on his Instagram accounts, including river crossings and camping outdoors with very windy conditions.

Chris Burkard Story

How you could do this for your business:

While not every business might have such adventurous experiences on a regular basis, your followers might be interested in what your company does on a day-to-day basis. Think about some of the fun aspects you could show them, such as brainstorming sessions, team lunch, company games and more.

Bring your followers on tours

New York University has a very engaged following on Instagram. Each of its posts has thousands of likes and 10-20 comments. Following the theme for its posts, New York University “takes” its followers on tours around the campus and city, enhancing the experience of following the account.

New York University Story

How you could do this for your business:

This is great if you are a tourist attraction or school or even a retail store with a great physical space and environment!

When you are taking your afternoon break and going out for a walk, snap a few photos of interesting sights or locations and share them with your followers. These raw authentic snaps will give your followers a better sense of the area and might make them want to visit you more.

Bring your followers on an adventure

GoPro is one of the brands I think of when I think of adventures. When Instagram Stories was launched, GoPro jumped onto the opportunity to share more footage taken with, yep, GoPro.

Recently, while making its GoPro family member’s dream come true of seeing the aurora australis, GoPro shared the adventure with its Instagram followers through incredible video footages of the trip.

GoPro Stories

How you could do this for your business:

If you are an outdoor activities company, share all the thrilling and breathtaking videos of the outdoors with your followers.

For those who might not have such opportunities on a daily basis, here’s something else you could try. While GoPro’s Instagram Stories alone looks amazing enough, it is part of their #DreamReal marketing campaign of fulfilling their social media advocates’ dreams. You could perhaps:

  1. Use Instagram Stories to promote your company’s hashtag and encourage more people to use it.
  2. Show how happy the winners of your giveaways are or how awesome your giveaway prizes are to attract more people to participate in them in the future.

Feature your customers and share behind the scenes

When I Work is employee scheduling software with over 15,000 happy customers worldwide. Recently, they visited a few of their customers in Canada and featured them in their Instagram Stories.

When I Work Story 1When I Work Story 2

How you could do this for your business:

If it is possible, visit your amazing customers and give them a shoutout on your Instagram Stories. This will let your followers know what types of businesses and individuals use your product and might give them the social proof they need in order to convert. Furthermore, this will help you build a stronger relationship with your customers.

Promote your blog posts creatively

You might not always be able to visit our customers like When I Work so Shopify worked around that by letting merchants, who use Shopify for their business, take over the Shopify Instagram account and share about their business.

Apart from merchant takeovers, Shopify also promotes their blog posts through Instagram Stories.

Shopify Story

How you could do this for your business:

This is just one of the many ways you could promote your blog posts through Instagram Stories:

  1. With the blog post you want to promote, find 3-5 key points that will grab your followers’ attention. (An easy way could be to look at your H2 headings.)
  2. Turn them into fun Instagram Stories using relevant photos, captions, and drawings.
  3. Create a simple bit.ly link to be used for the last photo.
  4. Post them!
  5. Bonus: It will be great to download each Instagram Stories photo onto your phone as you create them and post them all at once when you are ready. This will help to ensure that your followers see the full set of photos at a go.

Bring your offline and online communities together

Remote Year is a year-long program where 75 digital nomads travel across the world to work and explore 12 cities together.

Through their Instagram Stories, they share what they do on, I believe, a daily basis, allowing their followers who might not be able to join the trip to still be part of the fun.

Remote Year Story

How you could do this for your business:

It can be a bit of a bummer for your community when they are unable to attend some of your events. It could be meetups or conferences with a limited number of tickets or an exclusive event for certain customers only or a program for a selected few such as the Remote Year. However, that does not mean they have to miss out on all the fun. Here are some of the things you could do:

  • Interview key personnel briefly about the topic of the event
  • Invite attendees to share their experiences at the event
  • Film interesting and fun moments of the event
  • Appoint a host or two for your Instagram Stories while the event is taking place to talk about what is going to happen during the event, narrate as the activities are happening and interview attendees, like what the Remote Year did for some of their events (as seen in the first photo)

Give sneak previews of your upcoming products or launch them through Instagram Stories

Black Sheep Cycling is a cycling brand that provides innovative and unique cycling apparel.

A few days ago, they launched their ambassador kit for their community. Besides announcing the upcoming launch with an Instagram post, the team also used Instagram Stories to showcase the kit from various angles.

Black Sheep Cycling Story

How you could do this for your business:

While preparing the marketing materials for your upcoming launch or announcement, create a few more vertical designs for your Instagram Stories. Consider more than one image or design since the ephemeral nature of Instagram Stories allow you to share more photos and videos without cluttering up your Instagram profile. Here are some variations you could think about:

  • Different angles of the product
  • Specific features of the product
  • Different people using your product
  • Various ways of using your product

Report timely news and wrap-up

When the Rio 2016 Olympics was taking place, the social media team behind the Instagram account took the opportunity to share more about and celebrate the incredible Olympians. Harrison Barnes also took over the account to give a wrap-up for a day and shared his thoughts on the day’s events.

Olympics Story

How you could do this for your business:

While you might not always be part of huge events like the Olympics, there are likely to be many high-profile events in your respective industry. For example in the tech field, one such event is TechCrunch Disrupt. You could attend such events and provide timely updates to your followers. Here are some possible ways:

  • Create simple images to share cool announcements and important news from the event
  • Share your thoughts about the announcements and news of the event
  • Interview speakers and prominent figures in the industry briefly, if possible
  • Feature partners and customers who happen to be at the same event

Give previews of your talks and let others take over your Instagram Stories

Brian Fanzo, popularly known as isocialfanz, is a millennial speaker who is very knowledgeable about community building, social media, livestreaming, influencer marketing, tech and more. In 2016 alone, Brian will keynote at more than 40 events around the world.

He has been using Instagram Stories to give previews for his upcoming talks and events such as the #Cloudtalk. He did the same when he was taking over our Buffer Instagram Stories while Brian, our Social Media Manager, took over his.

Brian Fanzo Story

How you could do this for your business:

Work with other brands and influencers to take over your Instagram account and ask to take over theirs too. Like Gary Vaynerchuk said, “It’s an easy way to reach new audiences and increase brand awareness.” And it’s great because both parties stand to benefit from the takeovers.

A cool feature of Instagram Stories is that it allows you upload any photos and videos that were added to your phone’s camera roll within the last 24 hours. Simply swipe down while you are in the Instagram Stories camera mode. This allows you to share photos and videos from the brands and influencers without having to share your Instagram account password.

  1. Get them to create Instagram Stories and save them onto their phones without posting them.
  2. Get them to send their draft Stories to you via email, Dropbox or Google Drive.
  3. Download them onto your phone before the time you wish to post them (you will have 24 hours to use them after downloading them onto your phone).
  4. Wait for the right time and voila!

Share user generated content and showcase your customers

Minaal makes durable, professional travel gear that gets you where you want to be – faster, happier and more productive. (It is a brand many Bufferoos love too!)

In their Stories, they share photos from their community who are traveling all around the world with the amazing travel bags and gear.

Minaal Story

How you could do this for your business:

Many a time, we love to showcase our users’ photos of them using our products, only to realize that the photo quality might not be on par with those we post on our profile or it might not match the theme of photos we chose for our gallery. Instagram Stories provides a great option to feature your users (and your product) without changing the theme of your Instagram branding or adding too many photos to your gallery.

Invite your users to share photos of themselves using your product and let them know that you will be featuring them on your Instagram Stories. Alternatively,

  1. Look out for photos of your product by your users (if there’s a hashtag that your community uses, that will be very handy)
  2. Reach out to those users and ask if you could feature their photos and them on your Instagram Stories.
  3. Once you have the photos, add their Instagram handle and perhaps add some drawings to the photos to make them more interesting.

16. 9gag (@9gag)

Funny user generated content and stories

I think most of us are quite familiar with 9gag and their hilarious content. With Instagram Stories, they brought their funny storytelling to another level!

9gag Story

How you could do this for your business:

I believe most businesses aren’t like 9gag in terms of the amount of user generated content they have (thought it’s great if you do!). However, this does not mean we cannot learn anything from 9gag. I think 9gag is a great example of telling the same stories through different formats (on their website, Instagram posts, Instagram Stories and more).

Instagram Stories allow us to quickly click through a series of photos and videos, and that’s a great way to tell stories! It feels a bit like flipping through a photo book. So an idea could be:

  1. When you have a story or message to share with your audience, come up with a storyboard of the photos and videos you need.
  2. Download the materials onto your phone and add captions and drawings to make them more engaging and visually appealing.
  3. When the time is right, publish all of them together according to your storyboard.
  4. Bonus: You could use an Instagram post to briefly talk about the story and direct your audience to check out your Instagram Stories for more information.

17. Sean McCabe (@seanwes)

Give previews of your live events or courses

Sean McCabe used to be a hand lettering artist who charged five-figure rates until he launched a course teaching people how to do what he did and made six figures in the first three days. Since then, he has been teaching a variety of courses on building and growing a sustainable business.

He has been using Instagram Stories to share sneak peeks of his live training and why his followers should sign up for his courses.

Sean McCabe Story

How you could do this for your business:

Personally, I like to find out as much as I can before I pay for a course, a product, or a service. Quite similar to a trial for a product or service, Instagram Stories could be an interesting way to share just enough to entice your followers into signing up for your paid courses or exclusive content.

Also, sharing a short memorable link makes it easier for your followers to act immediately.

Share top news in your industry

TrackMaven is a marketing analytics software tool that helps marketers make smart decisions through understandable and actionable data. In line with their area of expertise, they share top marketing news every week in their Instagram Stories.

Track Maven Story

How you could do this for your business:

I imagine most of us are already reading up a lot about our own industry so this just takes a tiny bit more effort:

  1. When reading through all the news, bookmark the top 3 to 5 pieces which are most shareworthy or most useful to the people in the industry or your customers.
  2. On Friday each week (or even every morning), share the news.
  3. Adding your thoughts about the news could help to make you a thought leader in your industry too.

Small plug

I would also love to give a shout out to Brian, our amazing social media manager, who has been rocking our Instagram Stories game too. Our Stories range from social media tips to influencer, brand and team member takeovers. If you are interested in learning more about social media, marketing and behind the scenes of a remote team, we are @buffer on Instagram!

Buffer Story

Over to you

There are definitely many more creative brands and folks out there that I did not come across during my research. I’d love to hear from you in the comments below if you know of any or if you feel that you are creating awesome Instagram Stories, feel free to share your handle below! Thank you!

11 Simple Design Tips to Enhance Your Social Media Images

Humans are, by nature, very visual beings.

In the brain itself, there are hundreds of millions of neurons devoted to visual processing, nearly 30 percent of the entire cortex, as compared with 8 percent for touch and just 3 percent for hearing.

Each of the two optic nerves, which carry signals from the retina to the brain, consists of a million fibers, compared to the auditory nerve carrying a mere 30,000.

That’s all to say that social media images are a vital part of your content reaching the maximum amount of people, people who are very visual beings!

Marketers that have dabbled in creating engaging images for social media know just how tough and time-consuming it can be. I’m no expert, but I’ve learned a thing or two about creating social media images after lots of practice (and mistakes!), and I’m excited to share with you my favorite social media design tips and principles to help enhance your social media images.

Let’s dive in!


Enhancing Social Media Images

Social Media Design Tips: 11 Principles & Tactics to Enhance Your Images

At Buffer, we create all of the images for our blog posts and social media without much outside help — and there are a ton of images! On average, every Buffer blog post has five custom images, and some have way more.

To create these, we rely on 11 simple design principles to help make the image creation process easy. We’re excited to share those with you in this post and how you may be able to apply it to your own workflow.

Got any favorite social media design tips or principles that we’re missing? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!


11 Design Principles and Social Media Design Tips

1. Color

90% of snap judgments made about products are based on color alone

Color is one of the most important and complex aspects of any social media design. It helps to set the mood, create an atmosphere, convey emotions, and even evoke strong individual experiences from someone’s past.

In a study on the impact of color on marketing, researchers found that up to 90% of snap judgments made about products can be based on color alone, depending on the product. Other academic studies on colors in marketing have pointed to the fact that it’s more important for colors to support the personality you want to portray instead of trying to align with typical color associations.

For example, this Help Scout graphic highlights the power of color in conveying personality in a piece of content that reflects positively back on the brand. On the Help Scout Blog you’ll see consistent, eye-catching colors that come off as fun, yet insightful.

HelpScout Color Marketing Examples

The second example from the brand Loulou & Tummie highlights the use of color to market to a specific audience. Loulou and Tummie are known for their eye-catching vector work and the use of color to tell a story and evoke emotion.


Loulou and Tummie Design Inspiration

Use colors in your social media images that guide your audience through a story. Do so by considering which colors help to tell a specific portion of that story. The principles of color theory are a great place to start and can be used to create a sense of harmony within your images.

Here’s a quick rundown of how different colors affect our brain and how they’re often used in storytelling and marketing:

red Red = Energy and urgency

orange Orange = Aggressive

yellow Yellow = Optimistic and youthful

green Green = Wealth and relaxation

blue Blue = Trust and security

pink Pink = Romantic and feminine

black Black = Powerful and sleek

purple Purple = Soothing and calm

2. Balance

The 4 different types of balance (including the one you’re probably thinking of)

The art of balance in the world of social media image design is a tricky one to get the hang of, but well worth the effort. A great way to think of balance is to imagine that each element of your design has a “weight behind it.”

Put another way: If you were to place the image on a balance scale, would it tip to one side?

It’s also important to remember that different elements carry different weight; balance does not have to be split right down the middle. There are 4 varying types of balance:

  1. symmetrical
  2. asymmetrical
  3. radial (picture a spiral staircase)
  4. crystallographic (picture a tray of donuts with different toppings)

All of these can make for a beautiful social media design.

Take for example, this stunning graphic from artist and illustrator George Bokhua:


Pink Lotus - George Bokhua

This image demonstrates the beautiful use of symmetrical balance and the feeling of harmony. Symmetrical balance is great for illustrations, drawings, blog graphics, photographs, and much more.

On the other hand, there’s asymmetrical balance like shown in this image example:


Asymmetrical Balance Example

Asymmetrical balance creates tension through contrast and can be visually interesting when done correctly. Because it’s abstract, there is no symmetry; there are no perfect mirror images.

One place we find balance to be important is in choosing stock images. The collection of photos at Unsplash is a great example of a photo collection that excels by taking balance into account, like with this image:


canyon

If you’re creating an image of your own, in order to balance the weight in your image, play around with different things such as size of items, lightness and darkness of items, warm and cool colors, texture, quantity of objects, isolation of objects, and orientation (vertical/horizontal/diagonal) of objects.

3. Lines

Straight lines imply order. Curved lines hint at movement.

Lines are the visual elements of your image that help to guide the eye to where you want it to go. Straight lines work to give the image a sense of order and tidiness while crooked or curved lines may give the image a sense of organized tension and movement.

Paying close attention to the use of lines throughout your image can help guide your audience along a visual journey, stopping at the most important and intentional elements along the way.

Let’s take a peek at this incredible example of the power of lines from Muti:


Illustration of Lines in Graphic Design from Muti

The use of clean diagonal lines throughout the illustration takes your eyes to different areas in a quick and efficient manner. Almost creating “sections” in the image with different cities as multiple focal points.

Now compare that to the curved lines of this illustration from the same artist, Muti, and how it creates a sense of motion. That motion leading you around the graphic until you land back at the center focal point:


American Express Graphic by Muti Studio

When adding lines to your image, pay close attention to where they draw the reader’s eyes. Aim to create a logical path that the reader can follow along with until they come to the point that you intended them to.

4. Typography

Traditionally, serif fonts are best for print and sans-serif for web

Typography is an art. Selecting the perfect font or set of fonts that work seamlessly together can bring your social media image to life. It also has a big impact on how your design is received by people and, ultimately, the message your brand intentionally (or unintentionally) sends across.

When selecting which font or fonts to use in your design one of the most important aspects to keep in mind is readability.

Graphic designer Paul Rand may have put it best when he said, “Don’t try to be original, just try to be good.”

Whether you choose a sans-serif font or a serif font or any variation in-between, make sure that your audience can read your message. Here are a few pro-tips for using fonts:

  • Limit your design to a maximum of 3 typefaces
  • Use font sizing that fits well within the medium that you are publishing to
  • Traditionally, serif fonts are best for print and sans-serif for web
  • Kerning is a great technique to use in your titles

And for those that are curious about other typography terminology, this nifty infographic will help!


Typography Principles Inforgraphic

5. Contrast

Add contrast with colors, shapes, and sizes

Have you ever heard someone say that an illustration or design “really popped”?

What they may be referring to is the contrast in an image. Contrast provides differentiation between elements, making one stand out or “pop” more than the other elements.

The use of effective contrast is a great way to enhance your social media images. Without contrast, your design runs the risk of being “flat.” But with too much contrast, your design can become cluttered and nothing will stand out.

Here are my 3 favorite ways to add contrast to an image without under or overdoing it.

Add Contrast with Colors

One of the easiest ways to implement contrast into your image designs is through the use of colors. For example, playing light colors off of dark colors, or vice-versa. In this image, I used a white font in contrast to the dark background making the wording both readable and visually appealing.


Color contrast example

Add Contrast with Shapes

Another way to easily add contrast to your image is through the use of shapes. This beautiful graphic from Canva helps to highlight just how well the conformity of symmetrical shapes can play alongside the asymmetrical nature of organic shapes.


Contrast Shapes and Design

Add Contrast with Sizes

In its simplest form, contrast can easily be added to enhance your social media images by making certain aspects of the design bigger or smaller than others. It can also mean adding more weight (like bolding a word) to elements.

This restaurant advertisement draws the audience to the name, “1913,” first and then to other areas of the image such as the word “restaurant” and eventually to the picture of the food in the background.

Size Contrast in Social Media Image Design

6. Scale

Zoom out on a concept, or zoom in with your font choices

Scale, by definition, refers to the deliberate sizing of various elements within your design. “Scaling” helps to bring certain elements into focus and allows your readers to make sense of a concept.

Think for a second and try to imagine your life in number of months or even days. Can you imagine it?

This wonderful illustration by Tim Urban illustrates the powerful effects of scaling.


Human Life in Months - Wait But Why

Scaling also works well for more concrete social media designs. Take a look at the image below:


Social media design tips from Buffer


In this visual, I’m aiming to draw you towards the quote first with a scaled-up font size. Once I’ve gained your curiosity from the quote, I’m hoping your eyes naturally move right to the balloon. And finally, you’re drawn to the message of the graphic, “Happy Teachers Month.”

Did it work?

7. Proximity

Group similar items together to declutter and organize

Proximity is paramount when creating a sense of organization within your design. Similar or related elements are best grouped together to create a relationship between them. The goal is to group items together to declutter your design and “tidy things up a bit.”

You can put the principle of proximity into action by connecting similar elements together. One easy way is by physical placement of the objects near each other. The other way is to connect them in other visual ways with the use of similar colors, fonts, size, etc.

This simple example shows how proximity can be used to help us perceive objects as being related. The circles are spread out, each being perceived as its own object.

Example of Proximity 1 - Social Media Design

Then, once we bring all of the circles in close to each other, they appear to lose the feeling that they are separate objects. It is perceived to be more of a whole, singular shape.

Example of Proximity 2 - Social Media Design

When put into something like a social media design, proximity can help to bring elements of a product or concept together through spacial relationships.

8. Hierarchy

Place the most important elements in the biggest fonts

It’s quite likely that you’ll be working with multiple elements in your social media design. And chances are each of those elements will be important to your overall message. Hierarchy is a great social media design tip to make sure that you’re getting your most important message across first.

Taking full advantage of the hierarchy design principle starts with an understanding of your goals. Establish the most crucial message as the focal point and then use the other design principles in this article to make it stand out.

Once that’s in place, you can start to build your second or third pieces of information in without taking away from the overall goal.

A great example is here in this travel advertisement. The image draws the reader into “travel” and then leads them to the secondary messages.


Example of Hierarchy - Social Media Design Tips

It even works for simple social media designs such as quotes. The main focal point being the quote itself followed by any secondary information such as author or source.


Social Media Design Tips - Hierarchy Example


9. Repetition

Always use the same set of fonts, colors, and logos

One of the easier design elements to enhance your social media images is the principle of repetition. Repetition is an important part of the process because it helps to establish and strengthen different elements.

It’s also what people often refer to as “consistent branding.”

Three things to always try and be consistent with in your designs are fonts, colors, and logos. Over time, repetition of these 3 elements will give you or your brand a unique and instantly recognizable look. Let’s check out a few examples to illustrate the simple use of repetition in design.

Remember this Apple advertisement? Catchy for its colorful and playful nature, the use of repetition in this image helps to create consistent association. It also does just what it set out to do and that’s give a sense of movement or dancing in the image.


Apple Ad, Repetition, social media design tips

Repetition is also important when building a personal brand. Take these beautiful business cards from Alan Murphy, for example. Whether you’re a big brand or a one-person shop, repetition helps you become recognizable over time.

Personal Branding Business Cards - Social Media Design Tips

10. Direction

People read in an “F” pattern, an “E” pattern, and a “Z” pattern

The way the human eye moves across designs, images, websites, and other visual elements is unique, but often consistent. That’s why it’s important to guide your audience along the “path” that you’d like them to follow in your image. In other words, create a deliberate “flow.”

Website design research has given us an inside look at how people tend to view websites when arriving for the first time. What they found was that we read in an “F” pattern, an “E” pattern, and sometimes a “Z” pattern. So placing important and eye-catching elements on the upper left and left side of your design is key.

Crazy Egg created a great infographic on data found from their eye-tracking experiments along with ways in which you can improve your design. Enjoy!


Crazy Egg Eye Tracking Social Media Design Tips

11. Space

Look for outlines in your images. Advanced tip: Try knolling!

I saved one of my favorite social media design tips for last and that is the use of space. Put simply, negative space or white space is the area surrounds other objects in the image. More often than not, what you choose to leave out from your image is just as important as what you add.

Try not to underestimate the power of simplicity in your design. Space can help bring a certain aesthetic quality to your image while also highlighting the most important elements.

I’d love to show you two examples of the wonderful effects of using space in your designs. The first is from artist, illustrator, and graphic designer Tang Yau Hoong who has seemingly mastered the art of space in design. Tang Yau Hoong intentionally and cleverly carves out shapes in negative space to create a mesmerizing feel.


Negative and White Space in Design - Social Media Design Tips 2

When adding shapes, fonts, or colors to your design, consider what shapes or outlines are forming around them and use them to your advantage. You may quickly realize that your design is taking shape in ways you hadn’t originally planned.

The second example is from the world of photography. Knolling is a technique that has really come on strong in the last few years. The white space surrounding each element really helps to bring out each piece individually.


Knolling Example 1 - Social Media Design Tips 2

Keep your images simple and use the space around objects to bring attention to important elements. I love this graphic from Cinch that really highlights the power of simple design.


Cinch, Graphic Design Example, social media design

“Designers and marketers know they have ‘achieved perfection’ not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

– Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Over to You

I hope you enjoyed learning a bit about social media design! It is truly amazing how small tweaks to images can have such a huge effect on quality and outcome.

Did I miss any of your favorite social media design tips above? I would love to learn from you!

Please feel free to drop a comment below to keep the conversation going.

More Awesome Design Resources

Design Elements and Principles – Canva

8 Basic Design Principles to Help You Create Better Graphics – Adobe

Why Every Marketer in 2016 Needs to Be a (Part-Time) Designer – Buffer

There’s No Perfect Headline: Why We Need to Write Multiple Headlines for Every Article

Most people don’t read content online. In fact, eight out of ten people will only read the headline.

For content writers, that fact is alarming. But it also places extra importance on the headlines we choose for our content, as headlines have the power to influence readers even if they don’t read any more of the article.

I don’t believe the perfect headline exists, though. Not anymore, anyway.

The evolution of social media and search has also complicated the playing field. When we write a headline, we no longer think only about driving clicks from a single channel like our homepage; we now need to think about search and social, too.

In this post, I’d love to share with you what I’ve discovered about headlines, how they’ve evolved and what makes a headline stand out on Facebook, Twitter, and search.

Let’s dive in.

What makes an irresistible headline

One of my favorite headlines of all time is:

“How to Win Friends and Influence People”

win-friends

This headline helped to sell millions of copies of Dale Carniegie’s book of the same name. It’s brilliant. Short, simple and intriguing and makes me want to know more. However, if it were to be written again in 2016, it may sound a little different.

The evolution of headlines

It’s pretty safe to say that a headline determines how many people will read a piece. But, the evolution of social media has led content publishers to rethink their approach to headlines completely. As a result, the perfect headline no longer exists and we now must craft an eye-catching, clickable headline for almost every channel where our content can be discovered.

We now have to craft an eye-catching, clickable headline for almost every channel where our content can be discovered

It’s important to think about all the various places people may discover your content: search engines, Facebook, Twitter, your homepage, etc. And it’s very rare that one size fits all when it comes to headlines. What stands out on Facebook might not get any clicks from a Google search results page.

For example, in 2016, the famous “How to Win Friends and Influence People” headline may look something like this:

On Facebook:

12 Life Lessons to Help You Win Friends and Influence People

On Google:

Life Lessons: How to Win Friends and Influence People

On a homepage:

How to Win Friends and Influence People: 12 Lessons to Live By

Headlines change the way we think and set our expectations

First impressions matter. Even with the articles we read online. And just as we choose to make a good impression offline through the way we dress and our body language, the headline of an article can also go a long way to shaping the reader’s perception of what is to follow, as Maria Konnikova explains in The New Yorker:

By drawing attention to certain details or facts, a headline can affect what existing knowledge is activated in your head. By its choice of phrasing, a headline can influence your mindset as you read so that you later recall details that coincide with what you were expecting.

For instance, the headline of this article I wrote–“A Gene That Makes You Need Less Sleep?”–is not inaccurate in any way. But it does likely prompt a focus on one specific part of the piece. If I had instead called it “Why We Need Eight Hours of Sleep,” people would remember it differently.

Headlines affect our memory

Ullrich Ecker, a psychologist at the University of Western Australia has completed a couple of studies on how headlines that are even slightly misleading can affect how we read content.

In the first study, Ecker and his team discovered that misleading headlines affect readers’ memory, their inferential reasoning, and behavioral intentions. Essentially, if a biased headline influences you, that tends to be what you’ll remember no matter what you’re subsequently told in the rest of the article.

In the second study, Ecker had people read four articles (two factual, two opinion). What’s interesting in this study is the difference Ecker discovered between headlines in factual and opinion-led pieces. Misleading headlines in factual pieces were easier to ignore, and readers were able to correct the impressions left by the headline. However, in the case of opinion articles, a misleading headline impaired the reader’s ability to make accurate conclusions.

In summary, the headline of your article can greatly affect what your reader takes away from it.

For example, if I had titled this article “The evolution of headlines” it’s likely that you may remember more about how headlines have changed as the internet has evolved. And the headline “How to write headlines for Facebook, Twitter and Search” would likely put the reader’s focus on the section below, hopefully putting more emphasis on the actionable takeaways you can use from this piece.

As writers and content creators, we have a great duty to ensure our headlines best reflect the content of our articles. And give readers the best possible chance to remember the key points of our piece.

8 strategies to help you write great headlines for social and search

Writing great headlines is hard. And in this section, I’d love to share 8 headline strategies to help you craft headlines for Facebook, Twitter and search.

How to write great headlines for Facebook

Facebook is a huge traffic driver for many websites. (It’s been our number one or two social referrer for the past three years.)

And after recent algorithm updates, we’re now likely to see a lot less clickbait stories sticking around in our news feeds and seeing sustained engagement. This feels like a good move, but also raises the question: What kinds of headlines perform best on Facebook?

In order to dig a little further into what works on Facebook, Newswhip studied the various types of headlines that resonate with users on Facebook and that consistently receive high levels of engagement.

Here’s a quick summary of what they found to work:

  1. Conversational and descriptive headlines
  2. Headlines focused on personal experience
  3. Headlines that aren’t misleading

1. Conversational and descriptive headlines

Newswhip found that many of the most successful stories they analyzed had extremely descriptive headlines, or used language that reads in a conversational tone. For example:

business insider

These types of headlines tend to perform well because you are letting the reader know what they will gain from reading your content.

At Buffer, we also like to accompany our content with a descriptive status:

One trick I like to use for writing descriptive, conversational headlines is to think about how you would describe this story to a friend in a coffee shop and use the same, warm, friendly tone in your headline.

When it comes to writing in a conversational style, it often means forgetting a lot of what your English teacher may have taught you, too. If you’ve ever looked at a transcript of a conversation, you’ll notice it’s full of grammatical mistakes, half-finished sentences, and similar faux-pas. Writing in a conversational tone doesn’t necessarily mean writing as you talk. But instead, writing so that it doesn’t sound like writing.

2. Headlines focused on personal experience

Facebook has traditionally been a place for personal stories and blogs, opinion articles, and other personal angled stories to flourish. And Newswhip found that first person posts and unique viewpoints tend to get people sharing heavily, especially if it’s a topic that they can relate to personally.

Here’s an example of a recent headline from our Open Blog that focused on personal experience:

family-leave

3. Headlines that aren’t misleading

In the blog post accompanying their latest algorithm update, Facebook explained that there are two specific criteria they use to determine whether a headline is misleading:

  1. If the headline withholds information required to understand what the content of the article is
  2. If the headline exaggerates the article to create misleading expectations for the reader

For example, the headline “You’ll Never Believe Who Tripped and Fell on the Red Carpet…” withholds information required to understand the article (What happened? Who Tripped?). The headline “Apples Are Actually Bad For You?!” misleads the reader (apples are only bad for you if you eat too many every day).

This means the “You’ll never guess what happened next” headline formula will no longer be as successful on Facebook. And instead, we should switch to more detailed headlines that inform the reader what they’ll be reading about once they click.

How to write great headlines for Twitter

Tweets are just like headlines.

They need to attract attention and get the reader to read to click on the link. And while there’s no guaranteed formula for success on Twitter, we’ve found the best headlines and Tweets are the ones that state a benefit and generate curiosity.

Twitter is also a great place to share content multiple times and test out various headlines to see which ones resonate most with your audience. This approach helped Tami Brehse to increase her traffic by nearly 50% in just 30 days.

To give you an example of what’s working for us, here are a couple of our most-clicked tweets:

Both of these examples have clear images to convey the message within the tweet, making it more eye-catching for people as they scroll through their feed. The images also give the reader a great idea of what the content within the article will be.

Both tweets also create curiousity and a knowledge gap for readers. This entices readers to click on the link and feed their curiousity.

Further reading: Check out our research into our most successful tweets and why they worked

How to write great headlines for search

Standing out in search is a completely different game to standing out on social platforms like Facebook and Twitter. With social platforms, you’re trying to grab the reader’s attention and stand out in their timeline. Whereas in search, the user is specifically looking for content focused on their search phrase.

Here are a few tips that have worked for us:

1. Front-load your title

Google puts more weight on the words at the beginning of your title tag. And if you’re trying to rank for specific keywords, a good strategy is to place those keywords at the beginning of your headline.

If you wanted to rank for “social media tips”, then chances are that this headline:

Social Media Tips: 10 Ways to Grow Your Social Media Audience

… would be seen as more relevant to the topic “social media tips” than this headline:

Grow Your Social Media Audience with These 10 Awesome Social Media Tips

Of course, there’s much more that comes into play when it comes to Google rankings, but keeping your keywords as near to the beginning of your title as possible can help.

Here’s a real-world example. If you search Google for “Instagram stories” you’ll notice many of the results will have those keywords right at the front of the headline:

seo-headlines

Keep it short (between 50-60 characters)

SEO experts Moz explain:

Google typically displays the first 50-60 characters of a title tag, or as many characters as will fit into a 512-pixel display. If you keep your titles under 55 characters, you can expect at least 95% of your titles to display properly. Keep in mind that search engines may choose to display a different title than what you provide in your HTML. Titles in search results may be rewritten to match your brand, the user query, or other considerations.

Use your brand name

If your brand is well-known within your target market then attaching it to the end of your headline can lead to more trust and clicks. A study from Engaging New Project found that people react not only to the type of headline but also to the source of the headline.

If you’re a trusted source, it can be beneficial to share your brand name in search results.

How to create multiple headlines for your content

At Buffer, we use a really handy tool called Yoast SEO which allows us to set various headlines for different channels. This means every post we write can have up to four separate headlines at any one time:

  • Headline on our homepage
  • Headline for search
  • Headline for Twitter
  • Headline for Facebook

Here’s an example of Yoast in action:

yoast-seo

To write a custom headline for search, Facebook, and Twitter, you can toggle between the different Yoast SEO tabs by clicking on the icons at the left.

Over to you

Headlines are fascinating and probably the most important part of any piece of content. Right now, it feels like we’re in the midst of another evolution and moving away from some sensationalistic headlines that become popular with the rise of social media and towards more descriptive and detailed headlines.

Do you create multiple headlines for your content? What have you found works for each channel?

I’d love to continue the conversation in the comments below.

Event Marketing 101: How to Keep Attendees Engaged Before, During and After Your Event

Taking an event from idea to sell-out is no easy feat.

And half the battle of organizing an event is marketing it.

When it comes to the marketing channels that drive attendance, hype, and engagement, social media is right near the top. Best of all, social media event marketing isn’t as time-consuming as you may think.

You can do it! One of the greatest feelings in the world is walking into one of your own events and seeing it jam-packed with people. Social media can help get you there.

When it comes to social media event marketing, that means knowing what to post and where to post it in order to reach potential attendees. We’d love to help by sharing our biggest lessons. To discover which types of posts event-goers engage with most, our team at Eventbrite looked at over 25 million social media event posts to see just how people tweet, snap, and share about events online.

The Data-Backed Guide to Social Media Event Marketing (1)

For pro insights on how to use social media for events,
check out Eventbrite and Buffer’s guide to social media event marketing >>>

Social media event marketing: Here’s what people are talking about before, during and after events

We studied more than 25 million social media posts sent by organizers and attendees of 50 of the most popular events over a full calendar year, July 2013 to July 2014. These events included everything from music festivals (Bonnaroo) to endurance races (Tough Mudder), and we captured relevant tweets by keyword, hashtag, and Twitter/Facebook handle.

In particular, we looked at what people were talking about before, during and after events. And we found some surprising trends and some concrete takeaways for event organizers’ social media strategy.

Our top takeaways were:

  1. Nearly as many people are talking about an event before the event as they are during
  2. The largest amount of social media updates were quotes and multimedia shared during the event (36% of all updates)
  3. Top strategies included: Teasing the speaker lineup, providing a photo booth, creating quotes as multimedia

There was a lot of additional data and takeaways from this study, all of which we’ll be thrilled to share below. The data, originally researched through July 2014, still feels quite valid and accurate given what we’re noticing today with social media events; our current research and monitoring shows the same strategies and topics dominating the conversation.

These types of evergreen takeaways for event marketing suggest some solid strategies that have worked for companies big and small for many years.

We’d love to break this down further for you.

How to share on social before the event

Use anticipation to drive ticket sales. Here’s how.

Social media event marketing - before the event

When do you think most event attendees might tweet, snap, or post to Facebook?

Probably during the event, right?

Well, they certainly do that. But almost equal numbers of attendees and wishful attendees talk about the event in the days and weeks prior.

According to our data, there were nearly as many posts leading up to an event as there were during the event itself (40% and 42% of total posts, respectively). This makes the buildup to an event a prime time to engage both potential attendees and those who’ve registered.

To engage well, here are some tips from the ways that top brands have handled this pre-event social media marketing and and how you can apply the findings to your event’s social media strategy:

1. Reveal speaker lineups or special guests in a creative way

Anticipation and excitement accounted for 14 percent of the total posts shared on social media about events. This was the largest single percentage among any type of pre-event tweet or post.

Event-goers posted countdowns until the big day, or posted on weekdays anxiously looking forward to the event as part of their weekend plans.

How to build the buzz: Share creative reveals of lineups or special guests, or use teaser videos and images to increase excitement. For instance, you can post your own countdowns to the event — bonus points if you use beautiful images to motivate sharing.

2. Post often about early bird deadlines and registration windows

Nearly one out of 10 social media posts about an event has to do with ticket sales: Once they’ve committed, event-goers want to convince their friends to join them at the event and a popular way to do this is by sharing their tickets across social media.

Here’s an example of a ticket tweet, shared by a future event attendee:

How to build the buzz: You can help motivate these potential attendees by using urgency to drive ticket purchases, posting whenever early bird ticket sales or registrations are about to end.

3. Perform giveaways for those with FOMO

Fans who aren’t sure if they can attend the event in person have serious FOMO (fear of missing out).

How to build the buzz: Calm their fear by creating new opportunities for them to attend the event. Offer discount codes to followers on social media, or create social contests for tickets or travel stipends. You could go above and beyond with a VIP access giveaway. Make sharing your post a qualification for these giveaways to really expand your reach.

4. Share behind-the-scenes pics waaaay before the event starts

Behind-the-scenes pics are great to see what happens behind the stage. They’re also key for seeing what happens before the stage is even built!

Share these behind-the-scenes pics and stories well before the event begins is a great way to boost conversation and engagement. From our study, we saw brands and attendees doing some cool things: marathon runners sharing their training schedule, music festival fans posting their outfit choices, and travelers sharing their trip itinerary for destination events.

How to build the buzz: While they’re sharing their preparation, you can do the same. Make fans feel like insiders with behind-the-scenes glances at the event production. These brief glimpses can help make a personal connection with possible attendees.

By producing the type of content that event enthusiasts are already posting, you can join and help shape the online conversation. Be sure to retweet posts from excited attendees as well — their posts are free marketing to potential attendees.

How to share on social during the event

Curate the best photos and quotes. Here’s how.

Social media event marketing - during the event

The number one type of post we saw in our study of over 25 million was quotes and multimedia, during the event.

Nearly 9 million images, videos, and quotes!

So yes, while the highest percentage of social media event posts occur during the event itself, far and away the largest type of event post was multimedia-based. Eighty-five percent of the in-event posts included multimedia elements, such as images, videos, and quotes. Only 15% were plain text.

The takeaway here: You can look for ways to make your event photo-worthy to encourage attendees to post during the event.

Here are a few ways you can make your event photo-friendly:

1. Have a photo booth

Create a photo booth area, and pay attention to little details that would make great Instagram shots or Snapchat snaps.

At the TNW Europe conference, there was a photo booth allowing attendees to take and share fun images. Notice the cool branding stripe across the bottom of the picture:

And Disney used a photo booth to enable attendees of the latest Captain America film to share the moment:

2. Share content from speakers

If you host an event with speakers, like a conference or fundraiser, you can tweet or post the key quotes from speakers to encourage sharing. Tagging the post with your event’s hashtag and @-mentioning the speaker may help this content spread virally as well — both with event attendees and with any folks watching from home.

Here’s a great example from the Digital Marketing World Forum:

If you’d like to create content like this for your event, it can be great to prepare ahead of time so that you can get your quotes out there in real-time as your event takes place. Another fast option is to use tools like Pablo (images in 30 seconds or less) and Canva to create this type of content in real-time – and best of all, you don’t need to be a designer to create beautiful, engaging images.

3. Take followers behind-the-scenes with backstage pics and video

You can also create your own engaging multimedia posts to entice sharing during the event. Share photos and videos that give people a look backstage, or highlight exclusive interviews with people at the event. Photos are great for all networks, Facebook Live video is an awesome real-time resource, and Snapchat or Instagram stories make sense for those in-the-moment moments.

The Next Web did a great job with this at their recent conference in Amsterdam by using Snapchat and cross-promoting content to other networks like Twitter:

4. Interact with your audience using questions and polls

You can also use interactive content like questions or polls to ask attendees which performer, booth, or speech they loved most. Have someone on your team designated to respond to any questions, issues, or comments that people send your way.

Twitter polls is perhaps the sleekest poll option for doing this quickly or in real-time.

If you’re planning to create some interactive content, it can be good to think about the questions you’d like to ask and what content you’d like to produce beforehand. This can greatly increase the quality of the content you’re putting out and also help to reduce stress levels on the busy days when your event is live.

How to share on social after the event

Celebrate your press mentions and ask for feedback. Here’s how.

Social media event marketing - after the event

Just because your event is over doesn’t mean the online conversation is. Though it accounted for the smallest volume of social media updates, the after-event conversation still made for 18% of the total number — nearly 1 out of every 5 social posts were in follow up from the event.

The main two reasons we found people were talking about events after they happend were: press coverage and feedback. Here’s a little more on each of those:

1. Press coverage

The largest portion of this after-event conversation was media coverage of events (9% of total posts). This is your chance to celebrate all that you accomplished — so go ahead and brag a little by sharing all the great press you’ve gathered.

If you’re aiming to get some coverage after the event, it could be best to reach out to some journalists in your space and invite them to the event in order to experience it for themselves.

2. Ask for feedback

The rest of post-event conversation is divided between positive and negative feedback for the event. Share and revel in the positive feedback, but don’t ignore the negative. Respond by thanking critics for their thoughts, and take their feedback into account when planning your next event.

To make this feedback more actionable, you could share a post-event survey with followers to find out how to make your next event even better. Be open with your followers about how you listened to them to make changes, and they’ll be even more excited to buy tickets for next time.

If anyone is seriously disgruntled, you can also offer discounts for your next event to help smooth the waters. (Discounts are also a great way to encourage loyalty with happy event-goers.)

Over to you

Thanks so much for reading! We’d love to hear if these findings feel accurate to for any events you’ve been a part of.

Does this reflect the conversation you see on social media about your event? What types of content do you post before, during, and after events to engage your audience? It’d be great to hear from you in the comments!

How I Grew My Traffic By Almost 50% in Just 30 Days Using Twitter

One of the great joys of working with my marketing clients has been helping them grow their Twitter followers and implement consistent tweet schedules.

Meanwhile, my own account has collected dust with a lame, month-old tweet sitting at the top.

Until recently.

I first joined Twitter over seven years ago, back in 2009, and I’ve been grateful to learn so many best practices, strategies, and tactics from the community. The only problem was I didn’t apply any of this Twitter strategy to my own Twitter activity. All this changed a few months back when I decided it was time to give Twitter a real, honest-to-goodness shot. If I saw results, great. If not, I could ditch the platform once and for all and never deal with tweet anxiety again.

Enter, Buffer.

And enter great results!

I’m happy to share with you the exact process I tried and the wonderful results I saw, applying a Twitter strategy to my personal profile. Hopefully you’ll see similar gains by putting this simple strategy into practice for yourself and your clients!

JPEG image-6E84124EEBFA-1

Sneak peek: My traffic grew nearly 50%! (much of it from Twitter)

After 30 days of experimenting (complete details below), I found these results waiting for me in Google Analytics:

Autotweet results 1

This all came about with an increased activity on Twitter, sharing my content more, and delivering value to my audience. Here’s the exact experiment and blueprint that I used.

The Experiment: Sharing my blog posts more than once

From the time I launched my marketing consulting service 18 months ago, Buffer has been my go-to tool for managing my clients’ social media accounts. I’ve preached its virtues repeatedly on my blog, explaining how to use it to create a streamlined, easy-to-manage social strategy and naming it among my top tools for business owners.

So I hatched a plan to follow my own advice.

I planned to use Buffer to pre-schedule a month’s worth of tweets promoting my blog.

Here’s the method I adopted

  1. Take 20 blog posts I’d written
  2. For each blog post, write three unique tweets (60 tweets total)
  3. Add these tweets to Buffer, scheduling 2x per day for 30 days

I felt that if I were to post more often (and more strategically) to my Twitter profile, then I would see increased traffic from Twitter in Google Analytics because I’d be reaching more people with my content. And so I began, starting with 20 of my published blog posts from my site’s archives. I opened a Word document, and for each blog post, I wrote three unique tweets to promote it.

For example, for my post on strengthening your copywriting, I wrote the following three tweets:

  • Tweet 1: 9 action-packed words to punch up your #writing (link)
  • Tweet 2: How heavy hitting copywriting can take your #marketing from good to great (link)
  • Tweet 3: Are you using these 9 powerful words in your #marketing copy? (link)

And here’s how those posts ended up looking on Twitter, once they were published.

Choosing my frequency

I ended up with 60 tweets total from the 20 blog posts, which I then copied and pasted from the Word document into my Buffer queue. My tweet frequency was two tweets per day for 30 days. All in all, the process took about an hour.

Buffer queue

Why did I choose to schedule two tweets per day?

Many users schedule far more, tweeting multiple times per hour even. However, I’ve always had an aversion to those uber-scheduled accounts. While great for publishers and big brands, they’re a bit less ideal for solo marketers like me.

Two tweets per day seemed like the perfect balance — enough to keep my account populated with fresh content, with plenty of room left over to hop in and engage in real time.

A recent Buffer study on social media sharing found that brands tweet on average 19.5 times per week (about three tweets per day), so with my article being shared twice per day, this also left room for other types of tweets without feeling like I was bombarding my followers.

My sharing schedule

I Buffered the posts at different times throughout the week to see whether time of day would make an impact in engagement.

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I scheduled tweets at 3:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.

On the remaining days, I scheduled tweets at 8 a.m. and noon.

Throughout the day, I used notifications on my phone to keep up with responses and new follows, and made it a point to try to engage with everyone who interacted with me and shared my content. After all, what’s a Twitter account without live interaction?

This was a fun “experiment within the experiment” to try: Which times would perform best? In a study of the best times to tweet, Buffer found that:

  • Noon to 1:00 p.m. local time, on average for each time zone, is the most popular time to tweet
  • The highest volume of tweets occurs between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., peaking between noon and 1:00 p.m.
  • The fewest tweets are sent between 3:00 and 4:00 a.m.

Here’s the chart for the most popular times worldwide, taken from an average of 10 major time zones (the times represent local time).

With the context of these popular tweeting times, I ended up having some tweets that fell during the peak hours mentioned in Buffer’s data and some that fell into non-peak hours.

Which ones did I guess might perform best?

Buffer had an interesting take on this in the followup to their data study. Seems like there is an argument to be had on both sides that peak and non-peak could perform quite well.

The case for posting at non-peak hours (late nights, early mornings): The most popular time to tweet is also the time when there is the highest volume of tweets, perhaps making it a bit more difficult for your tweet to stand out in someone’s timeline. This is a classic case of the infomercial effect: When there’s little else being tweeted, your tweets are more likely to stand out.

Another thought is that the most popular times to tweet could very well correlate to the times when most people are on Twitter and, therefore, your tweets have a wider potential audience. Perhaps it’s worth testing also to see if tweeting during a popular time is worthwhile simply for the amount of people who are online.

The results of my experiment

On April 30, I logged into Google Analytics and pulled my site’s traffic stats, and not gonna lie, my jaw dropped a little.

Autotweet results 1

My sessions were up by almost 50%, with traffic from Twitter on desktop and mobile accounting for 31% of that growth. Organic search traffic was another big contributor, which, as you may know, is impacted by social sharing.

My Twitter account itself grew as well–an 8.7% increase in followers (about 100 new followers) and a 43% increase in impressions (about 13,000 more impressions).

For my young website, which I had just launched in January, this was a major win.

And as for which time of day was best to tweet? In general, my posts scheduled for the 10 p.m. hour (non-peak times) tended to get the most engagement, while engagement levels didn’t vary much for tweets sent during the workday.

Takeaways: What I learned from my Twitter strategy

After seeing my initial results, I decided to take my analysis one step further.

Using Buffer’s handy Analytics tab, I was able to easily see which tweets were most popular within the last 30 days by using the Top Tweets filter.

sortable twitter analytics 2

Interestingly enough, there wasn’t any one blog post that performed noticeably better than the rest. What I did notice was that all of my most popular tweets contained either an image or at least one hashtag–both important factors for helping your tweets get discovered and capture attention.

What’s Next? Keeping up with experimentation

I took this knowledge and applied it to the next month, scheduling 30 more days worth of tweets with images or hashtags. My account continued to grow and nearly doubled impressions from the first month of the experiment.

For me, this experiment proved that Twitter is far from dead, and with the help of Buffer it becomes an ultra-effective way to drive traffic to your site.

Mixing in real-time engagement with my scheduled tweets also remains critical for me; I never want to become one of those users whose account is 100% automated.

Moving forward, I’ll definitely continue this strategy, recycling my best-performing tweets and adding new ones to my Buffer queue as I publish additional posts. I may even play around with a higher tweet frequency to see if there’s a tipping point for maximum traffic growth.

Over to you

What about you? Do you use Buffer + Twitter to drive traffic to your website (and if not, why the heck not?!)? Leave a comment and tell me–I’d love to hear from you.

Image sources: WOCinTech

Why We’re Taking a Break from Snapchat

Sometimes it’s easy to do the right thing, and you get all the pride and happiness that comes along with it.

Other times, doing the right thing is hard. It can take you away from what everyone else is doing, maybe even cause you to lose friends–or a platform for your voice to be heard.

During those times, is it still worth it?

As a team, we’ve decided that the answer to this is yes.

Doing the right thing–even when it’s hard or when no one would otherwise notice– is one of our 10 strongly held values at Buffer.

So when we face the choice between saying nothing and speaking up when we see something that feels wrong, we have to speak up.

Similarly, we feel a calling to be transparent about our decisions so that others can learn the “why” behind our actions. We share transparently not to bring attention to ourselves but rather to be true to ourselves, to share knowledge with our community, and to ignite conversation.

These values have been at the front of our minds these past few days as we’ve reflected on one of social media’s biggest stories. Last week, Snapchat users called out the social network for its recent release of an “anime-inspired” filter that slants your eyes, rounds your cheeks, and exaggerates your front teeth.

Snapchat tweet

We can’t know the intentions behind this filter, but we can know how the social media app’s option to superimpose stereotypical Asian features, or “yellowface,” onto peoples’ faces made many of their Asian and Asian-American users feel.

Mocked. Minimized. Singled out. Othered. Shamed.

In a statement to The Guardian, Snapchat said the “anime-inspired lens” has been removed and wouldn’t be put back into circulation, adding that “lenses are meant to be playful and never to offend.”

A removal and apology is a great step. We’ve made many missteps in our own diversity and inclusivity journey, and it feels good to acknowledge them and learn from them.

But what happens following Snapchat’s apology?

Only four months ago, the company released another racially problematic filter that superimposed Bob Marley dreadlocks and what many users described as a “digital blackface” on photos. These matters of race, diversity, and inclusion are ones that we’re all doing our best to navigate as we build products supported by a worldwide audience. We empathize with the Snapchat team; we’ve made mistakes at Buffer, too.

As fellow product makers, we acknowledge the hard work that the Snapchat team has done to build a product loved by millions. They all wake up every day trying to build something people love and will be excited by.

And having done so — having built a product with velocity and relevance — they’ve inevitably gained new responsibilities.

Those who are privileged enough to build our social media platforms have a hand in shaping our culture — for better or worse.

In an essay at The Atlantic, associate editor Robinson Meyer introduces an important responsibility held by the influential apps within the tech scene:

You are a small though extraordinarily wealthy technology company, afloat in a sea filled with other such companies. Some are larger than you, and some are wealthier. People in your industry use language that touches on noble virtues and planet-wide connection. But in practice, you profit from a society layered with different kinds of oppression and discrimination. You have to decide how to use your wealth and power in a world that consistently falls short. What is your duty?

One approach to this problem might be: Do no harm.

Snapchat is one of the most popular social networks in the world and is especially popular with young people ages 18-34. This gives the app an incredible amount of opportunity for shaping cultural norms and attitudes. It’s hard to reconcile that opportunity with filters like “yellowface” that normalize racism and othering, creating a climate of more division and less empathy.

Within the lens of social media, these outcomes of division run counter to our mission at Buffer. We seek to help people achieve a greater voice on social media. We believe that social media builds connections, encourages expression, and expands our world. Social media, for us, exists to bring people together, not drive people away.

As a social media tool, Snapchat has so much promise and we’ve enjoyed getting to know it. We have built a community there that we love.

But diversity and inclusion are not optional for us–they’re imperative. We want to align ourselves with people and companies working toward the positive change we envision social media making in our world.

We understand fully why users might delete Snapchat, and we support their decision. For those those who wish to stay, we respect your decision as well. At Buffer, we’ll be taking a leave of absence to reflect and determine the right path forward. As always, our decision is not the “right” one–our values are a guide for us but aren’t intended to be prescriptive for others.

We truly believe that people and companies can evolve and grow in their understanding of diversity and inclusion. We’re all still learning ourselves.

We’re hopeful that this will be Snapchat’s path, and we would be excited to aid their journey in any way we might be able to.