Facebook Outlines Moves Toward GDPR Compliance

At 1:00 AM Eastern Standard Time on Wednesday, Facebook published an announcement outlining some of the ways it plans to advance toward the General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR), which comes into force next month.

Last week, during Congressional hearings with the company’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, lawmakers asked about Facebook’s compliance with the GDPR and whether or not the same rules and regulations would be offered to users in the U.S.

Zuckerberg gave mixed answers over the course of the hearings (as well as the weeks leading up to it), with Representative Jan Schakowsky of Illinois finally stating that a U.S. version would be far from “an exact replica” of European regulations.

This morning’s announcement — penned by Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan and Deputy General Counsel Ashlie Beringer — could be said to reinforce Representative Schakowsky’s assessment, as it doesn’t outline the GDPR’s requirements and rather explains new privacy options that will be rolled out to everyone.

Within the statement, Egan and Beringer write that, “while the substance of our data policy is the same globally, people in the EU will see specific details relevant only to people who live there, like how to contact our Data Protection Officer under GDPR,” but don’t go much further in terms of explaining the protections that are offered to users in the EU, versus elsewhere.

And while Facebook did recently rewrite its terms of service and data policy to make them clearer, according to this announcement, not much has changed for U.S.-based users since.

In this morning’s statement, Egan and Beringer write that “there is nothing different about the controls and protections we offer around the world.” However, the text later points to contrasting rules for teen users in the EU versus those in places where the GDPR doesn’t apply.

For the former, “teens will see a less personalized version of Facebook with restricted sharing and less relevant ads until they get permission from a parent or guardian to use all aspects of Facebook.”

But elsewhere — “even where the law doesn’t require this,” the statement says — “we’ll ask every teen if they want to see ads based on data from partners and whether they want to include personal information in their profiles.”

In other words, in certain parts of the EU (where the GDPR will come into force), users aged 13-15 will need express consent from a parent or guardian to allow the display of ads “based on data from partners” — which can include things like religious beliefs, political views, or other items that the person’s profile has deemed him or her “interested in.”

data-with-special-protections-001

Source: Facebook

It’s the type of data that another announcement made yesterday by Facebook explains — the kind that the social network might collect and maintain based on someone’s browsing activity off of the site, which according to Zuckerberg’s remarks last week is synthesized to determine what types of ads might be the most relevant.

But the statement suggests that this parental consent requirement in the EU doesn’t apply in the U.S. — again, with the remarks indicating that where the law doesn’t require it, teens themselves will only be asked if they want to see such ads, without requiring adult permission.

There are similar discrepancies in the way it describes rules and options around facial recognition. While Egan and Beringer write that “people in the EU and Canada [will have] the choice to turn on face recognition,” for users elsewhere, they only note that “using face recognition is entirely optional for anyone on Facebook.”

face-recognition-001

Source: Facebook

That suggests Facebook users in the EU and Canada could be proactively asked to opt into face recognition in order to use, whereas users elsewhere will have to go into their settings to change this preference (which can be done so here).

Otherwise, this morning’s announcement mostly reaffirms what Facebook has said in recent weeks it will change. In addition to revised tools to help users more easily download, delete, or export their personal data — which “are available globally, although [Facebook] designed them to comply with GDPR” — users will be asked to review and choose if they want this data to be used to influence the ads they see, and if they want information they’ve chosen to share on their profiles about religion or politics to be shared with advertisers.

As for timing, Egan and Beringer write that EU-based users will begin seeing these changes and requests to review options in the weeks leading up to the GDPR coming into force on May 25.

Users elsewhere will see their versions “on a slightly later schedule,” the statement says, “in the ways that make the most sense for other regions.”

To reiterate, it doesn’t appear that this announcement explains anything terribly new, or in much greater detail than Facebook has provided in the past. In fact, shortly after it was made, TechCrunch published “a flaw-by-flay guide” to the changes outlined in this statement. 

Whether or not Facebook provides any further clarity on the new options available to EU users versus elsewhere — or if equally strict regulations are introduced to users in the U.S. and worldwide — remains to be seen.

But given Zuckerberg’s historically ambiguous responses to questions about the latter, it could be quite some time before –if ever — further light is shed on these topics.

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How to Buy Instagram Likes (And Why It’s a Bad Idea)

Instagram’s new algorithm uses engagement as the most important metric to determine a post’s popularity. Essentially, the more likes and comments your posts get, the more your posts will be seen by a larger audience.

The importance of engagement is why it doesn’t surprise me that buying likes might seem like a tempting option. It’s just not a good one.

There’s no denying that likes are critical to the success of your Instagram account. For instance, let’s say you work for a smoothie shop and want to post a delicious smoothie recipe on Instagram to attract the engagement of a health-conscious audience.

If your healthy smoothie post gets a ton of likes, it’ll have a better chance of competing with other top posts with similar hashtags, and might even appear on Instagram’s Explore page. The Explore page, which you can find on Instagram by clicking on the magnifying-glass symbol, is a compilation of posts you’ve liked and posts liked by accounts with which you often interact. Since the Explore page shows users posts their followers like, it’s an effective way for your business to reach a new audience.

But while having a bunch of likes is valuable, it’s only a productive marketing strategy if you’ve achieved them organically.

Buying Instagram likes might seem like a good method to increase engagement, but it’s actually a dangerous tactic that can do quite the opposite, decreasing your engagement and destroying your brand’s reputation.

Read on to find out the two ways users currently buy Instagram likes, and how taking either road can poke holes in your marketing strategy.

How to Buy Instagram Likes

There are two types of services you can use to buy likes on Instagram. The first type of service sells likes from fake accounts. The second type of service sells Instagram bots, which then follow real accounts and like other people’s posts for you (with the expectation that these people will then follow and like your posts, in return).

There are numerous companies out there that offer one of these services. I’m here to warn you about them all. Let’s dive into both services and see why they’re so unsafe.

1. Buy Instagram Likes from Fake Accounts

The first method, paying a service to get likes from fake accounts, is a ineffective and risky option. Since these accounts are fake, you won’t receive engagement in the form of comments, and if your real followers see you have a post with 1,000 likes but only two comments, they’re going to feel distrustful of your account’s authenticity. Even worse, fake accounts will never turn into real customers. The likes you receive from fraudulent accounts are invalid signs of customer loyalty, and won’t help you measure your post’s true performance.

If your real audience discovers some of your likes are from bogus accounts (which is easy to recognize, if these fake accounts don’t have profile pictures or posts of their own), your business could seem cheap or insincere. As a consumer, I don’t want to purchase from your business if your marketing tactics are shady. Plus, if I see your followers are fake, I’m going to assume you don’t sell high-quality products — if you don’t believe in the quality of your brand enough to attract real people, why should I?

Ultimately, these fake followers can’t buy your product or endorse you in real life, which doesn’t set your business up for long-term success.

Here’s an example of pricing for a service, Likeservice24, that offers fake-account likes in bulk:

buyinstalikes

You can see the pricing is fair ($66 for 20,000 likes), but, in the long haul, it’s not a sustainable or reputable marketing tactic.

2. Buy Instagram Bots to Follow Other People’s Accounts

There’s an unwritten “I follow you, you follow me” rule that exists on Instagram, which basically means if someone follows me, I feel obligated to follow them in return. Many people feel the same way when following other accounts on Twitter. And it’s the premise of this second method.

With this service, you’re essentially buying a bot to follow other people’s accounts, with the hope that these accounts will follow and like your posts in return. The bot basically acts as an invisible minion, following accounts from your profile and liking and commenting on posts as if it were you.

After these Instagram bots follow a bunch of accounts, they’ll eventually unfollow them, to ensure you have a better follow-to-follower ratio.

This method shares the same risky and long-term complications as the buying likes from fake accounts tactic, but there are additional dangers to using a bot. For one, the bot only knows how to “auto comment” and “auto like.” Your bot, acting as you, is not a real person and can’t understand various nuances that exist in language, which could lead to PR-related misshaps when you realize your bot engages with an account that posts inappropriate content.

For instance, the bot might start liking any posts with hashtags that you’ve programmed it to like. This could cause your bot to like irrelevant posts that don’t support your brand’s values, or even hateful accounts that post content your customers would find offensive.

Even worse, if the bot is “auto commenting” for you, it might misconstrue a post’s intent: for instance, if the word “happy” is in someone’s post about their beloved pet who recently passed away, the bot might comment, “That’s awesome, congrats!”

Below is an example of a service, Instazood, that provides bots for as little as $10. (Low price, high risk, am I right?)

 buyinstabots

There are other services to buy Instagram likes, but ultimately, you shouldn’t trust a bot or fake accounts to receive authentic engagement.

The Three Biggest Reasons Buying Instagram Likes is a Bad Idea

Besides the hazards I just mentioned, there are three big-picture problems with buying Instagram likes regardless of the service.

First, Instagram might deactivate your account if they suspect you’re not using honest methods to build a following and attract engagement. Since 2014, Instagram has been hunting for and deactivating millions of fake accounts on Instagram, and paying for likes goes against Instagram’s Community Guidelines. They want their platform to remain a place for authentic connections, and so should you.

Second, it’s not a sustainable marketing strategy: ultimately, your long-term goals should revolve around creating deep, meaningful relationships with your audience, turning this audience into real-life customers, and creating a customer service process to ensure these customers become brand advocates.

None of these outputs will come to fruition if your likes are from fake accounts.

Lastly, buying Instagram likes can actually hurt your engagement ratio. Instagram doesn’t measure how many likes each post gets. Rather, it measures how many likes each post gets in relation to how many followers you have.

This means if your posts start receiving 10,000 likes, but you only have 1,000 followers, your posts are going to be seen by fewer people, and are less likely to get discovered.

Here’s a graph from InfluencerDB to illustrate the like-to-follower ratio:

graphinstalikes

Ultimately, buying likes in an effort to increase engagement can actually decrease engagement, destroying the one thing you’re trying to get. Ironic, I know. So skip the shady shortcut to social media marketing, and use a more long-term but sustainable plan for attracting organic likes from real people. After all, those real people are the only ones who can become real customers.

5 Social Media Marketing Strategies You Should Be Using

Marketing toolsHow important is social media? Well, according to GlobalWebIndex, upwards of 93% of internet users have at least one social media account and those users spend close to 2 hrs a day networking online. Either your company has a proactive approach to social media within your overall inbound marketing strategy, or you’ll lose valuable market share and customers to competitors. So, to help you get with the times, here are five social media strategies you should be using. 

1. Have a Complete Plan with Measurable Goals & Objectives

Come up with a complete social media plan. Identify measurable goals and objectives and itemize periods of review where you can assess your performance. Are you looking to increase customer engagement and interaction? Are you looking to build social awareness for that new product launch? Do you want to generate high-quality leads by driving targeted traffic through social media to a specific landing page? Regardless of what you aim to accomplish, just be sure your plan has benchmarks where your digital marketing team can assess their progress, or the lack thereof. 

2. Focus on the Right Social Media Channels

The days of digital marketing teams focusing solely on the number of shares and likes are long gone.  These were the days when companies were unsure of which social media channel to focus on. It was a time where every business, regardless of its market, opened a Facebook page. Don’t make that mistake. 

Define what market you service, who your buyer personas are and what social media channel they use. A business-to-business (B2B) market is better served by professional social media channels like LinkedIn and YouTube as opposed to consumer-based sites like Snapchat, Pinterest, and Instagram.  Spreading yourself too thin among too many channels will confuse your customers and make it difficult to reach your target audience. 

3. Incorporate Your Brand

An argument can easily be made that social media is one of the best customer-centric marketing tools available. However, it works when you build your brand alongside your customers. Regardless of what social media channel you use, you must incorporate your brand and logo on your company page. 

All the major social media channels allow companies to include an image and link to the company’s website. You can even direct users to specific landing pages. Either way, incorporating your brand is an absolute must. This involves using the same logo, images, company description and product endorsements across all your channels.  

Marketing tools

4. Be Proactive and not Reactive

What do you hope to accomplish through social media? Most companies rarely ask themselves this question. They take a reactive approach instead of a proactive one. They assume their followers will build their brand for them. It doesn’t work. You must be an active participant in social media. 

Your customers won’t work with you unless you work with them. This means developing proactive habits like checking your social media channel multiple times a day, tracking social media analytics and defining how you generate leads through your social media channel. You can’t make improvements unless you’re willing to assess your success or failure. 

5. Focus on Quality 

Granted, this is somewhat of an ambiguous tip. However, it’s one with far-reaching implications. So, what does it mean to focus on quality with respect to social media? 

First, it means focusing on the quality of your content and not the quantity. It’s no longer about pumping out content at breakneck speeds. Instead, it’s about ensuring your content is well-written, well-researched and engaging enough for users to share. It means expanding your content beyond the written word and including videos, whitepapers, business case-studies, vivid images, and infographics. 

Second, it means building a network of like-minded individuals and professionals. It means connecting with the right people, as opposed to indiscriminately accepting anyone and everyone that wants to connect with you. This is not about how many people you’ve connected with, but instead about who you’ve connected with and how those connections can build your brand and online reputation. 

Finally, it means properly managing your online reputation by providing proactive solutions for all customer complaints and then following up until those complaints are resolved. Remember, your customers build your brand with you in real-time. Upset customers have greater influence nowadays through social media and you must treat them as long-term partners. 

It’s no longer about just being present. Your digital marketing team must have a plan. They must come to treat and measure their social media strategy the same way they would with any of your marketing tools. That means defining what you’re going after, how you’ll measure your progress and when you’ll alter course.

Contact us if you need help in developing a social media strategy designed to reconnect you with your market and customers. We would love to partner with you.

The Ultimate Social Checklist: 7 Steps to Follow for Every Post

Promoting on social can feel like a popularity rollercoaster.

One minute, you’re on top.

Your post is taking off – skyrocketing through timelines and racking up likes and shares.

But the next time you post?

Crickets.

The likes are trickling in, comprised mainly of your team members and the intern’s mom.

It’s like everyone forgot about you.

Not knowing how your target audience is going to react can be stressful.

Putting time, money, and effort into creating a social strategy that doesn’t get attention can feel like a waste of time.

Unfortunately, that’s because it is.

Luckily, when you put a little more planning into the posts you share, you can start seeing stronger results.

To help you make the most of each and every post you create, here is a 7-step checklist you can follow.

Step 1: Find a post purpose

Maintaining a consistent posting schedule is important if you want to stay visible and relevant on social platforms.

This is why we see companies in just about every industry taking advantage of popular weekly hashtags like #MotivationMonday or #ThrowbackThursday.

Here’s a tweet from LA Fitness getting in on the Monday Motivation conversation.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Posts like these can help you create some consistency in the way you post online.

It lets your audience know when to expect to hear from you and gets you involved in popular threads.

However, if you’re simply posting to post, you’re only wasting everyone’s time.

Every second, 6,000 Tweets are sent.

If you’re throwing posts out there without any clear intent, you’re just cluttering up an already diluted space.

Each time you post on social, you want to have a clearly defined purpose.

This largely depends on who your target audience is.

According to Sprout Social, different demographics will engage with brands on social differently.

social media stats by demographic

Knowing how your audience reacts to social promotions can help you refine your tactics to better suit their needs.

Each post doesn’t need to sell directly.

In fact, using conversations to get your audience engaged can be more effective than strictly selling.

Consider the 80/20 principle, also known as the Pareto Principle.

This states that just 20% of what you do will bring in 80% of your returns.

In other words, smaller efforts can actually bring you better rewards.

Here’s an example from Walmart that involves no selling at all.

walmart facebook post

After the video of the young boy singing in a Walmart store went viral, Walmart saw this as the perfect opportunity to get into the conversation.

While this post doesn’t even contain a link to Walmart’s homepage, it still has a purpose.

It lets the company have a bit of fun.

Walmart also frequently uses social media to become a part of a larger conversation about hunger relief.

By partnering with Feeding America, Walmart uses influencers to help raise money for a good cause.

Here’s an example from Rosanna Pansino, a YouTube-famous baker.

rosanna pansion instagram post

Again, Walmart isn’t using their social media campaigns to sell products directly.

Posts like these can start informal conversations with your customers and help get them engaged with your brand.

Here’s another example of a post that goes beyond strictly selling, this time from Bud Light.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

While this post doesn’t mention their brand or products, it plays off an extremely popular continuous campaign that Bud Light runs – their Dilly Dilly campaign.

Bud Light’s Dilly Dilly ads feature humorous stories of medieval knights, kings, peasants and the “Bud Knight.”

Just about every ad includes a story of how Bud Light can bring people together, followed by chants of “Dilly Dilly.”

Soon, Dilly Dilly became an online sensation, getting 175,000 mentions per month across social media and 66,000 hashtag uses just on Instagram.

While this tweet may not attract any new leads, it does appeal to loyal Bud Light fans who are in on the Dilly Dilly joke.

This can strengthen their relationship, remind them of past ads, and gain some engagement.

Before you post anything on social – whether it is as a post or in the comments – think of what you’re trying to accomplish.

Is it customer service?

Is it a promotion?

Is it simply creating a conversation with your target audience?

Define your intent before you press that “post” button.

Step 2: Find an engaging headline/quote to share

Knowing the purpose of your posts is a great start.

But it isn’t enough to get your audience engaged.

Even if you have the best intentions, if your content is dull or boring, your followers are just going to keep scrolling.

On Facebook, you have 63,206 characters per status update to get creative. (Although, you should be sticking to fewer characters.)

On Twitter, that number has recently doubled to 280-characters.

With video platforms like Snapchat and Instagram, you have 10 seconds or 60 seconds per video, respectively.

So, with all this room, there’s no reason you should just be posting the title of your article.

Check out this social post from GoPro.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

They didn’t simply throw the video up with a traditional title.

Instead, they made it conversational.

Followers get a taste of what they can expect in the video, but it’s not a overwhelming description.

Quotes are another great way to grab your followers’ attention.

A brief snippet of what they can expect from your content can be just what they need to read on.

Here’s a great example of an extract from Salesforce.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

This quote, which was pulled from the video also featured in the post, was able to get almost 125 retweets and 270 likes.

That’s almost 8x as many retweets and over 4x times as many likes as a traditional tweet from Salesforce uploaded the same day.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

When selecting quotes that you’d like to target, make sure they provide enough context.

Make sure they provide value even if the user doesn’t decide to check out the rest of your content.

Step 3: Use your brand voice

It’s weird to think that your brand has a unique voice.

But the messaging, context, and vocabulary you use in your brand content can help you establish stronger relationships with your target audience.

A well-crafted brand voice can help you tell stories that build trust and create long-term repeat shoppers.

Taco Bell has one of the most recognizable brand voices on social.

By speaking directly to their defined target audience of young, active, and impulsive customers, they’re able to create genuine connections with their audience.

Check out this post on their Instagram.

taco bell instagram

Taco Bell uses posts like these to generate a “digital art gallery” that encourages followers to share their own content, creating engagement while staying on brand.

MoonPie is another great example of a brand that has brought their personality out on social.

Just one viral tweet launched their popularity as one of the funniest brands on social.

moonpie viral tweet on hostess

In the two weeks following this post, MoonPie was able to earn over $380k in earned media value.

A strong brand voice can help you get more social attention in a couple of ways.

First, it creates consistency between your platforms.

Whether a shopper is reading a blog post, your website homepage, or a Tweet, you want to make sure they know who they’re talking to.

Having the same tone and style in each of your posts can help them establish familiarity and trust with your brand.

This can make it easier for them to connect with your social messages, which are often only a few characters long.

However, a brand voice can also help you get noticed.

Let’s take a look at Wendy’s Twitter account.

wendys whole year tweet

The brand is known for coming up with witty, sassy, and unexpected responses to their customers.

And it’s helped the fast food restaurant get some pretty outstanding attention – including becoming a part of the most retweeted tweet ever.

Everyone from Inc. to Buzzfeed to Mashable has written about the brand’s savage comebacks.

But the authenticity behind their messaging is also great for connecting with audience members.

They’re not posing as a bland and boring business.

Instead, they appeal to the young, carefree audience that is most likely to want to buy their cheeseburgers.

The brand voice you develop needs to have your target audience in mind.

Create content they’ll engage with – even if it means pushing some non-audience members away.

Step 4: Use special characters and emojis

Typical text is boring.

If your social posts are text-only messages, they’re most likely going to get scrolled over.

To grab some more attention and get more engagements, you’ll want to add some special characters and emojis to your posts.

Adding emojis can actually help improve social interactions by 47.7%.

Here’s a great example of Cisco using emojis in a recent tweet.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Just by adding two emojis to the end of their text, Cisco adds some additional meaning and context to their post.

It also helps it stand out a bit more.

Cisco only uses two emojis, but they both have a clear purpose.

They add value to the content without feeling overwhelming.

Here’s another good example of emoji use, coming from this Instagram post from Levo League.

michelle obama levo league instagram post

Again, the emojis used are kept to a minimum, each serving a clear purpose.

However, in this example, we see emojis at both the beginning and the end.

Simply adding that little dollar emoji to the start of the text can help followers identify if it’s a post they might be interested in – without needing to read anything at all.

You can also take a page out of Domino’s marketing book and create an entire sales campaign around a single emoji.

With their Easy Order, Domino’s allows customers to order a pizza with just one text or Tweet.

dominos easy order

Users simply tweet a pizza emoji at Domino’s, and they’re able to place a new order.

By changing the way users order pizza, Domino’s was able to increase their stock by 2000% – bringing them above Netflix, Apple, Alphabet, and Amazon.

This kind of creativity sparks excitement and brings something new to an otherwise boring industry.

Be sure not to overdo it when it comes to using emojis.

They should support your message, not make it difficult for your audience to understand what is going on.

You’ll also want to be sure you know what emojis actually mean before you upload them.

Mix up the “crying laughing” with just “crying,” and you look insensitive.

Add an “eggplant” or “peach” emoji, and your post has taken on an entirely new meaning you probably aren’t expecting.

Step 5: Include visuals

Emojis are just the start of making your posts more dynamic.

Other visuals, such as videos, GIFs, and images can dramatically increase engagement on posts.

Videos, in particular, are great for improving engagements.

In fact, a Facebook video typically receives 135% more organic reach than a photo.

Check out this video post shared by NASA on Twitter.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

The contents of the video could have easily been shared in just text.

However, the video makes the information much more dynamic.

In just four hours, this NASA post received 1.3K retweets, 3.4K likes, and 60 comments.

Comparatively, it took 19 hours for a tweet with just an image to achieve similar results.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Video allows you to share more information in deeper depth without overwhelming your followers.

If NASA were to present this same April overview in text form, it’s probably be confusing, complicated, and dull for readers.

Instead, the video allows them to show – not tell.

Companies can also take advantage of live video, or video-centric social platforms, like Snapchat or the Stories feature within Instagram.

Gary Vaynerchuk, one of the most popular motivational speakers, frequently uses Instagram Stories and Snapchat to share daily messages and short video clips.

garyvee snapchat

These videos are short, but they can pack a punch.

They’re only a few seconds long and probably recorded on a cellphone, but they appear friendly and personable – which helps Gary blend in with his followers’ friends.

One of Gary’s biggest pieces of advice when it comes to social videos is to document – don’t create.

By just opening up your phone, recording, and sharing with your followers, you’re able to bring them into your day-to-day activities or thoughts without needing to spend money on a major production.

This can create more personal connections and engagements.

Video isn’t the only way to increase engagements.

You can also use custom graphics and images.

Netflix used their own custom graphics during their Netflix Cheating campaign.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Sure, Netflix could have shared this simple stat in a text-post, but the custom graphic helps it to stand out from the crowd.

In fact, a post with an image can gain up to 12% more impressions than one with just Twitter cards.

You don’t need fancy design skills or a professional graphic designer to create custom graphics.

There are a some online tools available to help you create images you can share on social.

One of the best tools is Canva.

Canva offers dozens of free or paid templates, like the ones featured below.

canva social image

Users can select a layout, add their own images and text, and have a high-quality image to share on social in just a few minutes.

Even if they’ve never designed anything before.

Finally, the last and one of the easiest visuals to add are GIFs.

GIFs act like mini-videos that don’t require the viewer to hit play before they begin running.

They’re mobile-friendly and can help you add emotion to messages.

In fact, 36% of millennials said that GIFs or emojis expressed their thoughts and feelings better than words.

Here’s an example of a GIF used in a tweet from DiGiorno.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Using this GIF is an easy way for DiGiorno to become part of a trending topic and show their fun side.

Better yet, because the GIF isn’t their own, they can add this image to their post just with a simple search.

Platforms like Giphy are already integrated into social networks like Twitter and even Instagram Stories, making it easy to add them to any post.

You can also create your own GIFs to display comparisons and data points.

When adding images to your post, try to make them as unique as possible.

While timely or relevant GIFs can help show you’re on top of social trends, you don’t want to become too dependent on other individual’s work.

This is particularly true when it comes to sharing standard images.

You should avoid using stock images as much as possible.

If you do need to turn to stock photos, then pull them from lesser-known sites or try and find new posts.

Step 6: Use relevant hashtags

The hashtag has hijacked the pound symbol.

When hashtags first started on Twitter, they seemed weird and confusing.

Now, if a post doesn’t have a hashtag, it seems strange.

Hashtags are a great way to link conversations and posts together.

When used appropriately, hashtags can help you get more attention and increase your engagements.

In a study done by Agora Pulse, they found that adding hashtags to Instagram posts increased likes by 70%.

hashtags increase likes

However, there are no consistent rules for hashtagging across social platforms.

The number of hashtags you use and how you use those hashtags can vary greatly depending on the platform you’re engaging with.

On Facebook and Twitter, fewer hashtags actually lead to more engagements.

posts with fewer hashtags

The hashtag sweet spot is at one or two on Facebook, but three to five on Twitter.

Instagram on the other hand, can have upwards of eight hashtags before followers perceive it as spam.

Hashtags can be used a few different ways to increase your customer engagement.

First, jumping on trending topics can help show some brand personality and gain exposure.

Jumping back to the DiGiorno post from earlier, DiGiorno used the #WhatCatsDoWhileWeSleep to participate in a larger conversation.

While each individual responding to this hashtag may not be in their direct target demographic, it can still get attention and help them attract higher engagements.

You can also use hashtags as part of your own personal campaigns.

One of the most popular examples of this is the Share a Coke campaign from Coca-Cola.

share a coke facebook page

The campaign stretches across the company’s entire social platforms, encouraging drinkers to show pictures of their friends sharing a Coke.

When Coca-Cola first brought the Share a Coke campaign to the US in 2014, it helped grow sales volume for the first time since 2000.

This year, they’re hoping to grab even more attention, featuring names that will cover almost 80% of the millennial population in the U.S.

This brand-specific hashtag creates a conversation centered around Coca-Cola.

Each individual using the hashtag is looking to become a part of the Share a Coke conversation.

Another great example of a campaign-specific hashtag is the #OpenYourWorld experiment from Heineken.

With their Open Your World campaign, Heineken created a video that sat two strangers with opposing views down to talk.

Over a series of team-building activities that ended with a Heineken beer, they were able to have meaningful conversations about their opinions and viewpoints –- something that doesn’t happen all that often in today’s day and age.

This social experiment took off, with the video getting over 13 million views on the YouTube channel the first month.

However, #OpenYourWorld differs from the #ShareaCoke campaign in that it’s not entirely unique to the Heineken brand.

Instead, #OpenYourWorld puts user’s posts right in the middle of a larger conversation.

Not only can this increase impressions and reach, but it also makes Heineken a major player in some serious conversations – improving brand image and gaining trust.

Each of your social posts should include at least one hashtag.

Think about what kind of conversation or attention you’re looking to gain and use your hashtags to become a part of a larger picture.

Step 7: Engage, mention, and track

Now that your post is created, you’re ready to upload it.

But that doesn’t mean you’re done.

To bring attention to your post, you need to get engagements started.

86% of consumers say they want honesty in brands on social media.

However, “friendly” and “helpful” were not too far behind.

behaviors consumers want from brands

If you’re focusing too much on being funny or trendy, you’re making it more difficult on yourself to connect with your target audience.

Unfortunately, this means all your planning, designing, and strategizing is just a waste of time.

However, you can increase engagements and ensure your content is noticed by provoking a conversation yourself.

To do this, you want to create a two-way dialogue with your customers.

JetBlue does an awesome job of this on their social media platforms.

jetblue customer service on twitter

JetBlue has been consistently praised as one of the top airlines for customer service.

One of the reasons for this is that they use real people to monitor their social media platforms.

In fact, they employ 25 individuals dedicated just to customer service inquiries on Facebook and Twitter.

Unlike chatbots or automated responses, having real customer service experts monitoring your social platforms can show that you genuinely care about your audience.

Listening to what they have to say and responding – even if it’s just to thank them for their comment – can help improve trust and loyalty with your brand.

You can also use influencers to try and get more attention.

Influencers can put your content in front of their audience.

Here’s an example.

The North Face reaches out to both Girl Scouts and America Ferrera to get them involved in their post.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

As partners in the campaign, both parties are likely to share the post with their own followers.

This can get you more attention and help you improve engagements.

Fans of both Girl Scouts and America Ferrara may also become more interested in what the campaign is.

This type of social support can improve your reach and increase the size of your audience.

However, if you manage to get a conversation started, you’re still not done yet.

It’s also important to keep your eye on how your social posts are performing.

Knowing where your posts are attracting attention and where they’re going ignored can allow you to make more strategic decisions in the future.

Pay close attention to the differences in your post and what they may be telling you about your audience and the content you’re creating.

While some changes may seem minor or insignificant, even slight differences in engagement can be a big deal.

You can then use this information to refine your strategy and continue to create social posts that your audience loves.

Conclusion

It takes a lot of effort to become one of the popular kids.

Unfortunately, the same rules apply when it comes to social.

When creating content you’re going to share, think thoroughly about who you’re speaking to, what their interests are, and what unique perspective you can provide.

By better understanding where your disconnect lies, you can start making the right changes to better engage your target audience.

Using this checklist is a great way to rehaul your social strategy so you can create the best posts possible each and every time.

What are some of your favorite social posting tactics?

About the Author: Neil Patel is the cofounder of Neil Patel Digital.

The Ultimate Guide to Marketing Interview Questions From HubSpot’s CMO

Alright, everyone: I’m about to let you in on a few of my best-kept interviewing secrets.

In this post, I’ll uncover real questions I use when interviewing candidates for inbound marketing positions and the answers I’m looking for.

These questions are meant to assess candidates not only for their marketing talent, but also for who they are as people.

Click here to learn what HubSpot's CMO says you need to know to succeed in  2017.

Keep in mind that the best candidates aren’t just qualified to do the job you’re trying to hire them for. You want to look for people who are also passionate about marketing, fit with your culture, and show potential for growth at your company.

Here’s a quick look into my interview approach, followed by 14 excellent interview questions I recommend adapting for your industry and hiring needs.

My Interview Approach

During interviews, I put a lot of stake into each candidate as an individual. My goal is always to find someone amazing who also has great long-term potential, no matter where they are in their career.

To uncover this, I like to ask questions that get at the core of who they are, how they think about things specifically, and how they’ve gotten things done in the real world. I then balance these questions with case-style questions, which usually involve a hypothetical business situation, because they give the candidate an opportunity to show how they think about and work on problems.

Below is a list of 14 questions that make for an effective marketing job interview, the majority of which I’ve asked candidates with whom I’ve personally gotten to meet.

Keep in mind that I don’t ask all of these questions during a single interview. In fact, one case-style question can evolve into a discussion lasting anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, so I often only have time to cover two or three questions during one session.

I also don’t limit these questions to the position levels you’ll see in each section below. This list is just one reasonable way to organize your job interviews based on the average experience of an intern, coordinator, manager, and director. Depending on the candidate and the needs of the role, a question to a marketing manager candidate might be a good question to ask a marketing coordinator candidate as well.

Before the interview starts, carefully choose the questions you want to use based on the person’s role and background. For an inbound marketing generalist, you could ask any or all of these questions. For someone with a more specific role on a larger inbound marketing team, like a blogger, you could focus only on the questions about blogging and content creation.

14 Interview Questions to Ask Marketing Job Candidates

Case-Style Interview Questions

1. “Draw a funnel on the whiteboard showing 10,000 visitors, 500 leads, 50 opportunities, and 10 new customers (or any other numbers you think are interesting). Now, pretend you’re the CMO for the company, and you have to decide what your marketing team should do to improve on these metrics. Which areas of the funnel would you focus on, and what would you do differently to change these results?”

The Follow-Up: The follow-up here is simply pushing on the candidate’s answers. Typically, they’ll pick one part of the funnel to focus on. (And if they don’t, I like to push them to do just that.)

Once they pick one area, I ask them follow-up questions like: “Which tactics would you think about changing?,” “What have you done in your past role that’s worked?,” “Do you think our company has any unique advantages to get some leverage out of that stage of the funnel?” I don’t just want them to tell me to “improve the visitor to lead conversion rate” — they need to tell me how.

If I have time, I’ll tell them to pretend they’ve implemented their ideas, and I’ll ask them to go back through the whole funnel and explain how they think each of those initial metrics have changed.

What to Look For: Everyone on the marketing team needs to be able to understand how to think about and optimize the funnel. Here’s where you assess their thought process, whether they have an intuitive sense of what good and bad conversion rates are, and whether they understand how the funnel steps are connected.

You’ll also gain some insight into whether they understand which different tactics you can use at each step to improve that particular step. (For example, if they say the lead-to-opportunity conversion rate is bad, the right answer is not to write more blog articles.)

2. “We have two potential designs for the homepage of our website, but we don’t know which one to use. The CEO likes one, and the COO likes another. Half the company likes one, and the other half of the company likes the other. Which one should we use?”

The Follow-Up: This type of question should elicit a ton of questions from the candidate, like who the target audience for the homepage is. If it doesn’t, then they’re either making up their answer or don’t have enough knowledge to address the situation. Follow up by answering their questions with hypotheticals and seeing how they work through the problem.

If they do pick one side or the other and give you a reason, ask them what the goals are for the homepage. Then, ask them how they’d determine which homepage meets those goals best. From there, tell them that Homepage A performed well based on one of the criteria, and Homepage B performed well based on another one of the criteria. This way, you can assess how they make choices when it’s not possible to get data that’s 100% conclusive, and they have to choose between two, imperfect variations.

What to Look For: While it might seem like this question is all about design, what you’re really doing is understanding how candidates approach a conflict of interest. Do they care what each of these people think, or do they go to the data for their answers, such as through A/B testing, user testing, and customer interviews. The best candidates introduce logic and marketing methodology into their answers, while removing opinions. I also like when candidates say you should be constantly tweaking and improving the homepage, rather than always doing a complete redesign every nine or 18 months.

3. “Let’s say you have an Excel spreadsheet with 10,000 leads from a few months back — long enough that those leads’ sales cycle has passed. The file contains information about each lead, like their industry, title, company size, and what they did to become a lead (like downloading an ebook). Also in the file is whether they closed as a customer and how much their order was for. Can you use this information to create a lead score? How would you do it?”

Note: I often start this question by simply asking, “How should you create a lead score?” This is how I sort out the people who don’t take a data-driven approach. Folks who answer, “You create a lead score by talking to the sales team and then assigning five or ten points to each of the criteria they say they want” are actually wrong. That is not a data-driven approach to lead scoring, and it is way too simplistic to work effectively in most cases.

The Follow-Up: Most people will answer by talking about “looking at the data” and “sorting the data.” Push them to tell you how they’d do that in Excel (or another program if they prefer something else). It’s not practical to just “look” at the data when you have 10,000 rows — you need to use statistical analysis.

They also might zone in on one factor, perhaps industry, all alone. If they do that, you should ask them what they would say if the small companies in one industry are good leads, but the big companies in another industry are also good leads? Basically, just keep pushing them until they’re at a loss for what to do next.

What to Look For: This case-style question is meant to test a candidate’s quantitative abilities, and I’d only ask it for people applying for certain marketing roles (like operations). Here, I’m trying to figure out how the candidate thinks about analyzing data and what their sophistication level is around data.

Most people don’t get very far and are either unwilling or unable to look at more than one variable at a time, or understand how to analyze a lot of data in a simple way. At a minimum, you want to find candidates who:

  • Look at the leads who closed in one group and compare them to the leads who did not close
  • Look at multiple variables at a time
  • Use statistical functions in Excel or another program to do that, like summary tables, pivot tables, and so on

If you find someone who starts making a coherent argument about why you might want to use logistic regression, factor or cluster analysis, actuarial science, or stochastic modeling to figure this out … refer them to me.

Marketing Internship Interview Questions

4. “What is one of your hobbies? How do you do it?”

This question will help you assess a candidate’s ability to explain a concept they know intimately to someone who isn’t as familiar with it. If their hobby is training for a marathon, ask them what advice they’d give you if you woke up one day deciding you wanted to train for a marathon. Are they able to communicate it clearly?

One candidate taught me how to make tagliatelle, which is hand-cut Italian pasta. She gave me the full run-down on how you make the noodles, how you form them and cut them, and which ingredients go into the sauce. She relayed the step-by-step process to me in a way that was very clear and understandable. I felt like I could’ve gone home and made tagliatelle myself. Not only did this tell me she knows how to convey information clearly, but it also gave me insight into her personality and interests.

5. “What brands do you like or follow on social media and why?”

This is another casual but useful question, as it can tell you both about a candidate’s personal interests and how they perceive marketing content on social media. The best answers go further than which companies a candidate likes buying from — they indicate why he or she trusts certain companies, what about their content strategy appeals to the candidate, and what specifically about those companies the candidate looks up to (and maybe wants to emulate in their own work).

If you need a candidate to elaborate, follow up by asking them to describe a post from a brand they like or follow, and what made that post so memorable to them.

Marketing Coordinator Interview Questions

6. “What do you read, and how do you consume information?”

Marketing is changing constantly at a rapid pace — so anyone in a marketing role needs to know how to stay on top of and adapt to these changes. Do they know where to look for industry news? Are they familiar with and subscribed to top marketing blogs? What do they do when they see a change has taken place, like when Google updates their algorithm?

7. “What’s an example of a lead-generating campaign you’d be excited to work on here?”

Not every marketing campaign you run generates the same type or quality of leads. This is what makes this question so interesting. It’s a chance for you to see how a marketing candidate thinks about the buyer’s journey and what that journey should look like in your company.

If you do pose this question to a candidate, don’t expect him or her to know exactly how your business generates its leads. The ideal answer simply demonstrates an awareness of your customer and perhaps some on-the-spot brainstorming the candidate might be asked to participate in while on the job.

Expect follow-up questions from the interviewee, too, especially if you pose this question to a more experienced candidate. For example, they might ask how qualified the leads should be, or how leads are scored as a result of this hypothetical campaign. The specific parameters matter less than the follow-up question itself — a positive sign of an analytical marketer.

8. “What are three components of a successful inbound or digital marketing strategy?”

There’s no “right” answer to this question — a digital marketing strategy thrives on more than three things — but certain answers show the candidate is up to date on how businesses attract and delight their customers today.

“A Facebook page,” for instance, isn’t a wrong answer, but it doesn’t give you context around how a business would use this page in their marketing strategy. Here are a few sample answers to this interview question that are on the right track:

  • A blog with calls to action (CTAs), landing pages for website visitors to download more content, and a defined social media strategy.
  • An SEO strategy, website chat, and an analytics tool to track campaign performance.
  •  Buyer personas, a Marketing and Sales Service Level Agreement, and a customer success strategy.

You won’t learn everything about a candidate from just these terms and phrases. But you should listen for them as the candidate responds — and expect more sophisticated answers if you pose this question to managers or directors.

Ultimately, the value you place on each of these inbound marketing components will depend on how important they are to your business and what the candidate would focus on as your employee. Before asking this question to anyone you interview, talk to your team and define your marketing strategy. Otherwise, you won’t have an accurate measure on which to evaluate a candidate’s answer.

Interview Questions for Marketing Manager

9. “Why do you love marketing?”

Or, “Which aspects of our business are you passionate about?” You want to hire someone who’s both qualified and has the desire to do the work. Otherwise, why would they work for you instead of the company next door?

Part of their answer will lie in their body language and enthusiasm. The other part will lie in how concrete their answer is. Get at the details by asking a follow-up question, like: “Let’s say you’re at home, kicking around, and doing something related to marketing. What is it that you’re doing?” Perhaps they’re reading their five favorite marketing sites, or analyzing traffic patterns of websites for fun, or writing in their personal blog, or optimizing their LinkedIn profile. Whatever it is, you want to be sure they’re deeply passionate about the subject matter you’d hire them for.

10. “Between videos, ebooks, blog articles, photos, podcasts, webinars, SlideShare, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest … there’s a lot of potential content our team should produce for inbound marketing. How do we do it all?”

The wisest candidates know you should not do it all, but rather, you should start with the content that’s most important to your prospects and customers. They should also have a plan for talking to customers and prospects by way of interviews or surveys to figure out which social networks they use and which types of content they prefer.

11. “Let’s pretend we have very convincing data that shows none of our potential customers use social media. Should we still do it? Why?”

Look for candidates who understand that being successful in social media is important even if your customers aren’t there today. Here are a few reasons qualified candidates might cite:

  • Your customers will be there in the future, so you should get started now.
  • You’ll gain industry clout. After all, journalists and influencers in your industry are probably using social media — and it’s important for them to follow you even if they don’t ever become customers.
  • Social media activity impacts your organic search presence, helping your content rank higher in search engines.
  • You’ll have more control over your online presence.
  • Your competitors are likely using social media.
  • It may cost less to generate customers via social media.

Marketing Director Interview Questions

12. “We have a new product coming out in three months. What would you do to launch it?”

This’ll show you how well a candidate understands all the different tactics of inbound marketing and how to tie them together into a holistic plan. It’ll also give you insight into how creative they are and whether they can come up with new and interesting ways to do marketing.

13. “Our CEO wants you to evaluate our blog. What would you say?”

Before giving you an answer, the best candidates will come back and ask you about the blog’s metrics, how many leads and customers it generates, what the goals are for it, how much you’re investing in it, and so on. This is also a great way to test whether they actually prepared for the interview by reading your blog.

14. “What’s the main relationship between marketing and sales?”

The relationship between Marketing and Sales is known for its unrest (Sales wants better leads from Marketing, and Marketing wants Sales to close more, faster). 

Similar to question #8, there’s no right answer here, but there are answers you should listen for. “Marketers are the lead generators and salespeople are the lead closers” isn’t necessarily wrong, but the candidate who ends his/her answer here might not be someone who can align both departments around a single, unified approach.

The best answers describe the responsibilities that Sales and Marketing have to each other, and the duties each commits to as part of this partnership. They have a plan for forging consensus on what makes leads marketing-qualified versus sales-qualified, creating a shared Service Level Agreement with agreed-upon metrics, and using content at different points in the marketing and sales funnel to turn strangers into customers.

The Candidate’s Follow-Up

Most candidates know to follow up with each of their interviewers in the form of a thank-you note or email. But part of my assessment is the depth at which candidates follow up with me.

The most impressive follow-ups are the thoughtful ones, where candidates call upon details of our discussion to show they’re really engaged in the interview process. Perhaps they did more concrete thinking about a specific question I asked, and they send a long email including research on a question they don’t think they nailed. Many times, they’ll send me a light strategy document with ideas and/or research on something we talked about. These candidates tend to stand out.

Well, the cat’s out of the bag. You’ll have to use these marketing interview questions as a basis to create your own, similar questions that are relevant to your industry and hiring needs. Good luck, and happy hiring!

Free Executive Webinar 2017 Trends

 
Free Executive Webinar 2017 Trends

The Ultimate Social Checklist: 7 Steps to Follow for Every Post

Promoting on social can feel like a popularity rollercoaster.

One minute, you’re on top.

Your post is taking off – skyrocketing through timelines and racking up likes and shares.

But the next time you post?

Crickets.

The likes are trickling in, comprised mainly of your team members and the intern’s mom.

It’s like everyone forgot about you.

Not knowing how your target audience is going to react can be stressful.

Putting time, money, and effort into creating a social strategy that doesn’t get attention can feel like a waste of time.

Unfortunately, that’s because it is.

Luckily, when you put a little more planning into the posts you share, you can start seeing stronger results.

To help you make the most of each and every post you create, here is a 7-step checklist you can follow.

Step 1: Find a post purpose

Maintaining a consistent posting schedule is important if you want to stay visible and relevant on social platforms.

This is why we see companies in just about every industry taking advantage of popular weekly hashtags like #MotivationMonday or #ThrowbackThursday.

Here’s a tweet from LA Fitness getting in on the Monday Motivation conversation.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Posts like these can help you create some consistency in the way you post online.

It lets your audience know when to expect to hear from you and gets you involved in popular threads.

However, if you’re simply posting to post, you’re only wasting everyone’s time.

Every second, 6,000 Tweets are sent.

If you’re throwing posts out there without any clear intent, you’re just cluttering up an already diluted space.

Each time you post on social, you want to have a clearly defined purpose.

This largely depends on who your target audience is.

According to Sprout Social, different demographics will engage with brands on social differently.

social media stats by demographic

Knowing how your audience reacts to social promotions can help you refine your tactics to better suit their needs.

Each post doesn’t need to sell directly.

In fact, using conversations to get your audience engaged can be more effective than strictly selling.

Consider the 80/20 principle, also known as the Pareto Principle.

This states that just 20% of what you do will bring in 80% of your returns.

In other words, smaller efforts can actually bring you better rewards.

Here’s an example from Walmart that involves no selling at all.

walmart facebook post

After the video of the young boy singing in a Walmart store went viral, Walmart saw this as the perfect opportunity to get into the conversation.

While this post doesn’t even contain a link to Walmart’s homepage, it still has a purpose.

It lets the company have a bit of fun.

Walmart also frequently uses social media to become a part of a larger conversation about hunger relief.

By partnering with Feeding America, Walmart uses influencers to help raise money for a good cause.

Here’s an example from Rosanna Pansino, a YouTube-famous baker.

rosanna pansion instagram post

Again, Walmart isn’t using their social media campaigns to sell products directly.

Posts like these can start informal conversations with your customers and help get them engaged with your brand.

Here’s another example of a post that goes beyond strictly selling, this time from Bud Light.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

While this post doesn’t mention their brand or products, it plays off an extremely popular continuous campaign that Bud Light runs – their Dilly Dilly campaign.

Bud Light’s Dilly Dilly ads feature humorous stories of medieval knights, kings, peasants and the “Bud Knight.”

Just about every ad includes a story of how Bud Light can bring people together, followed by chants of “Dilly Dilly.”

Soon, Dilly Dilly became an online sensation, getting 175,000 mentions per month across social media and 66,000 hashtag uses just on Instagram.

While this tweet may not attract any new leads, it does appeal to loyal Bud Light fans who are in on the Dilly Dilly joke.

This can strengthen their relationship, remind them of past ads, and gain some engagement.

Before you post anything on social – whether it is as a post or in the comments – think of what you’re trying to accomplish.

Is it customer service?

Is it a promotion?

Is it simply creating a conversation with your target audience?

Define your intent before you press that “post” button.

Step 2: Find an engaging headline/quote to share

Knowing the purpose of your posts is a great start.

But it isn’t enough to get your audience engaged.

Even if you have the best intentions, if your content is dull or boring, your followers are just going to keep scrolling.

On Facebook, you have 63,206 characters per status update to get creative. (Although, you should be sticking to fewer characters.)

On Twitter, that number has recently doubled to 280-characters.

With video platforms like Snapchat and Instagram, you have 10 seconds or 60 seconds per video, respectively.

So, with all this room, there’s no reason you should just be posting the title of your article.

Check out this social post from GoPro.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

They didn’t simply throw the video up with a traditional title.

Instead, they made it conversational.

Followers get a taste of what they can expect in the video, but it’s not a overwhelming description.

Quotes are another great way to grab your followers’ attention.

A brief snippet of what they can expect from your content can be just what they need to read on.

Here’s a great example of an extract from Salesforce.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

This quote, which was pulled from the video also featured in the post, was able to get almost 125 retweets and 270 likes.

That’s almost 8x as many retweets and over 4x times as many likes as a traditional tweet from Salesforce uploaded the same day.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

When selecting quotes that you’d like to target, make sure they provide enough context.

Make sure they provide value even if the user doesn’t decide to check out the rest of your content.

Step 3: Use your brand voice

It’s weird to think that your brand has a unique voice.

But the messaging, context, and vocabulary you use in your brand content can help you establish stronger relationships with your target audience.

A well-crafted brand voice can help you tell stories that build trust and create long-term repeat shoppers.

Taco Bell has one of the most recognizable brand voices on social.

By speaking directly to their defined target audience of young, active, and impulsive customers, they’re able to create genuine connections with their audience.

Check out this post on their Instagram.

taco bell instagram

Taco Bell uses posts like these to generate a “digital art gallery” that encourages followers to share their own content, creating engagement while staying on brand.

MoonPie is another great example of a brand that has brought their personality out on social.

Just one viral tweet launched their popularity as one of the funniest brands on social.

moonpie viral tweet on hostess

In the two weeks following this post, MoonPie was able to earn over $380k in earned media value.

A strong brand voice can help you get more social attention in a couple of ways.

First, it creates consistency between your platforms.

Whether a shopper is reading a blog post, your website homepage, or a Tweet, you want to make sure they know who they’re talking to.

Having the same tone and style in each of your posts can help them establish familiarity and trust with your brand.

This can make it easier for them to connect with your social messages, which are often only a few characters long.

However, a brand voice can also help you get noticed.

Let’s take a look at Wendy’s Twitter account.

wendys whole year tweet

The brand is known for coming up with witty, sassy, and unexpected responses to their customers.

And it’s helped the fast food restaurant get some pretty outstanding attention – including becoming a part of the most retweeted tweet ever.

Everyone from Inc. to Buzzfeed to Mashable has written about the brand’s savage comebacks.

But the authenticity behind their messaging is also great for connecting with audience members.

They’re not posing as a bland and boring business.

Instead, they appeal to the young, carefree audience that is most likely to want to buy their cheeseburgers.

The brand voice you develop needs to have your target audience in mind.

Create content they’ll engage with – even if it means pushing some non-audience members away.

Step 4: Use special characters and emojis

Typical text is boring.

If your social posts are text-only messages, they’re most likely going to get scrolled over.

To grab some more attention and get more engagements, you’ll want to add some special characters and emojis to your posts.

Adding emojis can actually help improve social interactions by 47.7%.

Here’s a great example of Cisco using emojis in a recent tweet.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Just by adding two emojis to the end of their text, Cisco adds some additional meaning and context to their post.

It also helps it stand out a bit more.

Cisco only uses two emojis, but they both have a clear purpose.

They add value to the content without feeling overwhelming.

Here’s another good example of emoji use, coming from this Instagram post from Levo League.

michelle obama levo league instagram post

Again, the emojis used are kept to a minimum, each serving a clear purpose.

However, in this example, we see emojis at both the beginning and the end.

Simply adding that little dollar emoji to the start of the text can help followers identify if it’s a post they might be interested in – without needing to read anything at all.

You can also take a page out of Domino’s marketing book and create an entire sales campaign around a single emoji.

With their Easy Order, Domino’s allows customers to order a pizza with just one text or Tweet.

dominos easy order

Users simply tweet a pizza emoji at Domino’s, and they’re able to place a new order.

By changing the way users order pizza, Domino’s was able to increase their stock by 2000% – bringing them above Netflix, Apple, Alphabet, and Amazon.

This kind of creativity sparks excitement and brings something new to an otherwise boring industry.

Be sure not to overdo it when it comes to using emojis.

They should support your message, not make it difficult for your audience to understand what is going on.

You’ll also want to be sure you know what emojis actually mean before you upload them.

Mix up the “crying laughing” with just “crying,” and you look insensitive.

Add an “eggplant” or “peach” emoji, and your post has taken on an entirely new meaning you probably aren’t expecting.

Step 5: Include visuals

Emojis are just the start of making your posts more dynamic.

Other visuals, such as videos, GIFs, and images can dramatically increase engagement on posts.

Videos, in particular, are great for improving engagements.

In fact, a Facebook video typically receives 135% more organic reach than a photo.

Check out this video post shared by NASA on Twitter.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

The contents of the video could have easily been shared in just text.

However, the video makes the information much more dynamic.

In just four hours, this NASA post received 1.3K retweets, 3.4K likes, and 60 comments.

Comparatively, it took 19 hours for a tweet with just an image to achieve similar results.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Video allows you to share more information in deeper depth without overwhelming your followers.

If NASA were to present this same April overview in text form, it’s probably be confusing, complicated, and dull for readers.

Instead, the video allows them to show – not tell.

Companies can also take advantage of live video, or video-centric social platforms, like Snapchat or the Stories feature within Instagram.

Gary Vaynerchuk, one of the most popular motivational speakers, frequently uses Instagram Stories and Snapchat to share daily messages and short video clips.

garyvee snapchat

These videos are short, but they can pack a punch.

They’re only a few seconds long and probably recorded on a cellphone, but they appear friendly and personable – which helps Gary blend in with his followers’ friends.

One of Gary’s biggest pieces of advice when it comes to social videos is to document – don’t create.

By just opening up your phone, recording, and sharing with your followers, you’re able to bring them into your day-to-day activities or thoughts without needing to spend money on a major production.

This can create more personal connections and engagements.

Video isn’t the only way to increase engagements.

You can also use custom graphics and images.

Netflix used their own custom graphics during their Netflix Cheating campaign.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Sure, Netflix could have shared this simple stat in a text-post, but the custom graphic helps it to stand out from the crowd.

In fact, a post with an image can gain up to 12% more impressions than one with just Twitter cards.

You don’t need fancy design skills or a professional graphic designer to create custom graphics.

There are a some online tools available to help you create images you can share on social.

One of the best tools is Canva.

Canva offers dozens of free or paid templates, like the ones featured below.

canva social image

Users can select a layout, add their own images and text, and have a high-quality image to share on social in just a few minutes.

Even if they’ve never designed anything before.

Finally, the last and one of the easiest visuals to add are GIFs.

GIFs act like mini-videos that don’t require the viewer to hit play before they begin running.

They’re mobile-friendly and can help you add emotion to messages.

In fact, 36% of millennials said that GIFs or emojis expressed their thoughts and feelings better than words.

Here’s an example of a GIF used in a tweet from DiGiorno.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Using this GIF is an easy way for DiGiorno to become part of a trending topic and show their fun side.

Better yet, because the GIF isn’t their own, they can add this image to their post just with a simple search.

Platforms like Giphy are already integrated into social networks like Twitter and even Instagram Stories, making it easy to add them to any post.

You can also create your own GIFs to display comparisons and data points.

When adding images to your post, try to make them as unique as possible.

While timely or relevant GIFs can help show you’re on top of social trends, you don’t want to become too dependent on other individual’s work.

This is particularly true when it comes to sharing standard images.

You should avoid using stock images as much as possible.

If you do need to turn to stock photos, then pull them from lesser-known sites or try and find new posts.

Step 6: Use relevant hashtags

The hashtag has hijacked the pound symbol.

When hashtags first started on Twitter, they seemed weird and confusing.

Now, if a post doesn’t have a hashtag, it seems strange.

Hashtags are a great way to link conversations and posts together.

When used appropriately, hashtags can help you get more attention and increase your engagements.

In a study done by Agora Pulse, they found that adding hashtags to Instagram posts increased likes by 70%.

hashtags increase likes

However, there are no consistent rules for hashtagging across social platforms.

The number of hashtags you use and how you use those hashtags can vary greatly depending on the platform you’re engaging with.

On Facebook and Twitter, fewer hashtags actually lead to more engagements.

posts with fewer hashtags

The hashtag sweet spot is at one or two on Facebook, but three to five on Twitter.

Instagram on the other hand, can have upwards of eight hashtags before followers perceive it as spam.

Hashtags can be used a few different ways to increase your customer engagement.

First, jumping on trending topics can help show some brand personality and gain exposure.

Jumping back to the DiGiorno post from earlier, DiGiorno used the #WhatCatsDoWhileWeSleep to participate in a larger conversation.

While each individual responding to this hashtag may not be in their direct target demographic, it can still get attention and help them attract higher engagements.

You can also use hashtags as part of your own personal campaigns.

One of the most popular examples of this is the Share a Coke campaign from Coca-Cola.

share a coke facebook page

The campaign stretches across the company’s entire social platforms, encouraging drinkers to show pictures of their friends sharing a Coke.

When Coca-Cola first brought the Share a Coke campaign to the US in 2014, it helped grow sales volume for the first time since 2000.

This year, they’re hoping to grab even more attention, featuring names that will cover almost 80% of the millennial population in the U.S.

This brand-specific hashtag creates a conversation centered around Coca-Cola.

Each individual using the hashtag is looking to become a part of the Share a Coke conversation.

Another great example of a campaign-specific hashtag is the #OpenYourWorld experiment from Heineken.

With their Open Your World campaign, Heineken created a video that sat two strangers with opposing views down to talk.

Over a series of team-building activities that ended with a Heineken beer, they were able to have meaningful conversations about their opinions and viewpoints –- something that doesn’t happen all that often in today’s day and age.

This social experiment took off, with the video getting over 13 million views on the YouTube channel the first month.

However, #OpenYourWorld differs from the #ShareaCoke campaign in that it’s not entirely unique to the Heineken brand.

Instead, #OpenYourWorld puts user’s posts right in the middle of a larger conversation.

Not only can this increase impressions and reach, but it also makes Heineken a major player in some serious conversations – improving brand image and gaining trust.

Each of your social posts should include at least one hashtag.

Think about what kind of conversation or attention you’re looking to gain and use your hashtags to become a part of a larger picture.

Step 7: Engage, mention, and track

Now that your post is created, you’re ready to upload it.

But that doesn’t mean you’re done.

To bring attention to your post, you need to get engagements started.

86% of consumers say they want honesty in brands on social media.

However, “friendly” and “helpful” were not too far behind.

behaviors consumers want from brands

If you’re focusing too much on being funny or trendy, you’re making it more difficult on yourself to connect with your target audience.

Unfortunately, this means all your planning, designing, and strategizing is just a waste of time.

However, you can increase engagements and ensure your content is noticed by provoking a conversation yourself.

To do this, you want to create a two-way dialogue with your customers.

JetBlue does an awesome job of this on their social media platforms.

jetblue customer service on twitter

JetBlue has been consistently praised as one of the top airlines for customer service.

One of the reasons for this is that they use real people to monitor their social media platforms.

In fact, they employ 25 individuals dedicated just to customer service inquiries on Facebook and Twitter.

Unlike chatbots or automated responses, having real customer service experts monitoring your social platforms can show that you genuinely care about your audience.

Listening to what they have to say and responding – even if it’s just to thank them for their comment – can help improve trust and loyalty with your brand.

You can also use influencers to try and get more attention.

Influencers can put your content in front of their audience.

Here’s an example.

The North Face reaches out to both Girl Scouts and America Ferrera to get them involved in their post.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

As partners in the campaign, both parties are likely to share the post with their own followers.

This can get you more attention and help you improve engagements.

Fans of both Girl Scouts and America Ferrara may also become more interested in what the campaign is.

This type of social support can improve your reach and increase the size of your audience.

However, if you manage to get a conversation started, you’re still not done yet.

It’s also important to keep your eye on how your social posts are performing.

Knowing where your posts are attracting attention and where they’re going ignored can allow you to make more strategic decisions in the future.

Pay close attention to the differences in your post and what they may be telling you about your audience and the content you’re creating.

While some changes may seem minor or insignificant, even slight differences in engagement can be a big deal.

You can then use this information to refine your strategy and continue to create social posts that your audience loves.

Conclusion

It takes a lot of effort to become one of the popular kids.

Unfortunately, the same rules apply when it comes to social.

When creating content you’re going to share, think thoroughly about who you’re speaking to, what their interests are, and what unique perspective you can provide.

By better understanding where your disconnect lies, you can start making the right changes to better engage your target audience.

Using this checklist is a great way to rehaul your social strategy so you can create the best posts possible each and every time.

What are some of your favorite social posting tactics?

About the Author: Neil Patel is the cofounder of Neil Patel Digital.

Mark Zuckerberg Left 43 Questions Unanswered Last Week. Here’s What Facebook Has Since Told the Public.

In the midst and aftermath of last week’s Congressional hearings with Mark Zuckerberg, people have been questioning the preparedness of those involved.

Was Mark Zuckerberg well-equipped to answer lawmaker questions? And were Senators and Representatives alike prepared to ask the right ones? 

One thing is for sure: There were several questions that Zuckerberg couldn’t answer in the hearing room, which he promised lawmakers either he or his team would respond to at a later time. According to Wired, there were 43 of these items in total, which reporter Brian Barrett compiled here.

In the days since the hearings, Zuckerberg and his fellow executives at Facebook have been fairly mum, with the exception of a “Hard Questions” post written by Product Management Director David Baser on the ways and degree to which Facebook collects data on user behavior off the network.

Some questions around that topic did arise last week from Senator Roger Wicker and Representative Jerry McNerney, among others.

On Tuesday’s Senate joint committee hearing, Senator Wicker was one of the first to broach the topic of if and how Facebook tracks a user’s browsing activity — even for those who are logged out of the network or without an account, which was one of the many outstanding items Zuckerberg said he’d have to check and have his team answer at a later time.

Screen Shot 2018-04-17 at 12.55.51 PM

Source: Wired

At Wednesday’s House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, Representative Jerry McNerney asked whether — and why — browsing data is or is not included in a Facebook user’s downloaded data file.

The answer, we eventually learned, was no: browsing data is not included in a downloaded personal data file, which Zuckerberg later confirmed in the form of a correction after a break.

The “web logs,” in this case, are the logs of browsing activity that Representative McNerney previously asked about. And since then, a great deal of information has emerged on how, exactly, this data is captured and maintained by Facebook.

And while Zuckerberg made promises to answer a range of questions, yesterday’s post from Baser answers a small subset of those marked as outstanding by Wired — many of which could already be answered by existing information found throughout Facebook’s various product pages. During Wednesday’s hearing, Alex Kantrowitz of Buzzfeed went into detail about it. 

Here’s a closer look at the additional detail Baser provided in Monday’s post.

What Facebook Has Told the Public Since Last Week’s Hearings

The Nature of the Post

It’s important to reiterate the fact that much of the information provided in Baser’s post already existed on various Facebook product pages. The decision to categorize it within Facebook’s “Hard Questions” series, which the company describes as one “that addresses the impact of our products on society,” was at minimum interesting. 

As Casey Newton of the Verge noted on Twitter (and later in a post of his own), this question shouldn’t have been one of the more difficult ones to answer. And even if it was, why did answering it require such a long, text-heavy explanation — especially after Zuckerberg’s numerous and repeated hearing remarks stressing the importance of making Facebook’s policies easier to understand?

In the course of covering last week’s event, I touched a bit on what exactly Representative McNerney was asking about and some of the ways in which that tracking manifests itself across the web. Baser didn’t provide a ton of new information in his post, but did shed more light on the details of it. 

But one term that Baser seemingly refused to use in his explanation was: “shadow profiles.” And once we get through the major points of his post, I’ll explain why that’s important.

A Summary of Facebook’s Web Behavior Tracking

To see the full detail of this tracking, I’d recommend reading Baser’s full post here. In the meantime, I’ve outlined a summary of what Facebook collects, and how.

To start, there are four major tools that Facebook uses for this type of tracking:

1. Social Plugins

These are the “Like” and “Share” buttons you might see on a site that allows you to Like or comment on something like a news story — which uses a plugin that uses Facebook’s tools, rather than the site having to build its own comment or reaction section.

As Baser explains, when a user interacts with these tools on another website, Facebook uses “your IP address, browser/operating system information, and the address of the website or app you’re using to make these features work,” since that’s required to display the tools in the right language according to the geographical location it detects, as one example.

2. Facebook Login

You might have come across certain websites or apps that, instead of requiring you fill out an entire form with several fields to log in or join, allow you to join in one or two clicks by doing so with your Facebook profile. You might also recall seeing a secondary message pop up alerting you what information doing so would allow the website to see, which is related to what initially set off the sequence of events that led to the misuse of personal Facebook data by analytics firm Cambridge Analytica.

3. Facebook Analytics

This product works similarly to several other tools designed to help webmasters and marketers track the behavior of people who visit their websites — like what drove them there, where they’re located, and how long they stayed on the page. As Baser was sure to point out in his post, Google Analytics works in a similar capacity.

But in order for Facebook Analytics to work, Baser explains, it requires Facebook to gather certain tracking tools like “cookies and other identifiers” to help determine which website visitors are also Facebook users — which helps developers and webmasters gain supplemental demographic data from their profiles, like age and gender. And while this wasn’t spelled out in his post, Baser makes it sound as though this information isn’t personally identifiable when provided in this way, saying it’s “aggregated.”

4. Facebook Ads and Measurement Tools

These tools, Baser explains, help webmasters and developers display ads on Facebook and beyond, by showing them what people interested in their content might be doing online beyond Facebook, and to measure conversion from Facebook ads to actions like websites visits. 

This is one place where the Facebook Pixel comes in, which was almost a point of contention during Wednesday’s House hearing. Essentially, the Pixel is a piece of code advertisers can ad to sites that measures how many users are engaging with their ads across any number of devices that person might use. It works, Baser says, “without us sharing anyone’s personal information.”

But the Pixel has to work with the aforementioned cookies, as well as what Baser calls “device identifiers” to see if the person engaging with a Facebook ad displayed outside of the network even has a profile.

“If they don’t, we can show an ad encouraging them to sign up for Facebook,” he wrote. “If they do, we’ll show them ads from the same advertisers that are targeting them on Facebook. We can also use the fact that they visited a site or app to show them an ad from that business — or a similar one — back on Facebook.”

This might be one of the most important things Baser noted in his post.

What’s Still Unanswered

Shadow Profiles

To reiterate: When a Facebook user engages with these tools outside the network, it can help personalize ads and other content displayed in his or her News Feed.

But here’s the clincher: Even if that person is logged out of Facebook at the time of engaging with elsewhere-displayed content, the tools track the behaviors, so it can later determine what he or she sees after logging back in. That’s one of the key items Newton pointed out in his post, and a tool Baser says helps Facebook in “improving our products and services.”

This logged-out browsing activity tracking is a core building block behind the concept of a shadow profile, which, to reiterate, is not a term Baser used in his explainer. A shadow profile is essentially the Facebook presence the company builds for you prior to joining based on the online behavior data it has tracked through these tools, so that when you do create a profile, it can easily recommend Pages to Like or friends to add.

Antonio García Martínez of Wired — who once worked for Facebook — confirmed this during Wednesday’s hearing on Twitter, noting that beyond the security and personalization purposes Baser identified in his post, Facebook tracks this information for “growth.”

Opting Out

Baser concluded his post by going into the many controls Facebook users have over their data — like turning off ad customization and being able to choose what’s displayed in the News Feed. In fact, he wrote that users can completely opt out of personalized ads that have been created and displayed based on information Facebook receives from other websites and apps.

But if you read the statement carefully, you’ll see Baser said nothing about the ability to opt out of having their browsing behavior tracked, or their weblogs being collected.

And again, as Zuckerberg noted during the hearings, these weblogs don’t appear in a user’s downloaded data file — nor did Baser indicate they would be included in the future. Instead, what’s displayed in this file are the “ad topics” Facebook deems to be of interest to a given user based on the browsing behavior it tracks.

So, why is that? And does Facebook have any plans to change it?

To me, those are some of the “hard questions” Facebook might consider answering. 

Whether or not the company will respond to these outstanding queries in a public capacity remains to be seen. I do not believe last week’s hearings will serve as the last instance in which Facebook executives are called upon by lawmakers, nor do I think any sustainable regulation or legislative action will result from those sessions alone.

But, as the demand for further transparency continues — and the days until the General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) comes into force next month dwindle — I’m curious to see to what degree Facebook responds to it. And if it does, I’ll let you know.

Featured image credit: Facebook