Tuesday, March 20, 2018

What's Happening at Facebook? A Breakdown of the Ongoing Data Story

When Facebook shared a story in its official newsroom at 9:00 p.m. on Friday night, it didn't bode well for anyone.

Maybe it would make sense to post a small, throw-away story at a time when few people would be monitoring their inboxes for breaking news or major announcements. But at that point, why publish it at all? No, this had to be something big -- something that Facebook hoped people would miss for the sake of their regularly-scheduled Friday night plans.

But it didn't quite work out that way.

Instead, the weekend was much noisier than usual, with reporters, legislators, and executives weighing in on what might turn out to be the biggest tech news story of the year: the story of how the personal data of 50 million Facebook users was obtained by a so-called data analytics firm and likely misused for a number of purposes, including, allegedly, influencing a U.S. presidential election.

How in the world did this happen?

Many are understandably confused about that question -- as well as what's going to happen now, who's at fault, and more.

Here's what you need to know.

What's Going on at Facebook? A Breakdown of the Ongoing Data Story

What Happened?

This all began when Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm, began wading into the world of politics. It wanted to find an edge that other, similar consulting companies hired by campaigns, for example, didn't have -- and the solution to that was thought to be found in personal Facebook data.

That went beyond someone's name, age, email address, and demographics. It had to be behavioral data -- such items and behaviors as Page and comment Likes that would help analysts build what they called psychographic profiles that could reveal if someone was, as the New York Times put it, "a neurotic introvert, a religious extrovert, a fair-minded liberal or a fan of the occult."

That could be determined by closely examining what a person Liked on Facebook -- and could help to compose influential messaging to sway consumers ... or voters.

That helps to explain why Cambridge Analytica was hired by Donald Trump’s campaign officials leading up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election -- and received investments from Robert Mercer (a known Republican donor) and Steve Bannon, Trump's former campaign advisor.

The data on users' Facebook behavior could be used to shape messages that leveraged what Mark Turnbull, Cambridge Analytica's political division managing director, called "deep-seated underlying fears [and] concerns" in hidden camera footage captured by the U.K's Channel 4 as part of an investigative report.

"The two fundamental human drivers, when it comes to taking information onboard effectively, are hopes and fears -- and many of those are unspoken and even unconscious," Turnbull said in the footage. "You didn’t know that was a fear until you saw something that just evoked that reaction from you."

That's where the behavioral data came in -- it could help Cambridge Analytics do its "job ... to drop the bucket further down the well than anybody else, to understand what are those really deep-seated underlying fears, concerns."

He added: "It’s no good fighting an election campaign on the facts because actually, it’s all about emotion.”

This Was Not a Data Breach

While it can be argued that this personal data was used for less-than-savory purposes, one of the biggest misconceptions of this story is that it was a breach or hack of Facebook that allowed Cambridge Analytica to obtain the personal data of 50 million users.

However, that's not what happened. 

"This wasn't a data leak by Facebook," said Marcus Andrews, HubSpot's Principal Product Marketing Manager. "I think that has been misreported."

Source: Facebook

When someone creates a Facebook account, she must agree to the company's Data Policy: a rather long document that discloses the use of a user's personal Facebook data, what kind of data is collected, as well as details on how and why that data is used.

Here's a crucial, but largely unnoticed excerpt:

The "academic research" allowance played a major role in allowing Cambridge Analytica, in particular, to gain access to personal user data. At Cambridge University’s Psychometrics Centre, researchers created a method of synthesizing a user's personality elements based on the Pages, comments, and other content they liked on Facebook.

The method required users to opt-into taking a personality test and downloading a third-party app on Facebook that scraped some of that information, as well as similar data from their friends. These users were compensated for their participation in the research, and when it was conducted, Facebook permitted that type of activity on its site.

But the Psychometrics Centre wouldn't agree to work with Cambridge Analytica, so it instead enlisted the help of Dr. Aleksandr Kogan, one of the university's psychology professors. He built his own app with similar capabilities in 2014 and, that summer, started work on obtaining the requested personal data for the firm. 

According to the New York Times report, Kogan revealed nothing more to Facebook and users than that he was collecting this data solely for academic purposes -- a purpose that Facebook did not question or verify. In its official statement on the matter, Facebook VP & Deputy General Counsel Paul Grewal wrote that Kogan "lied to us and violated our Platform Policies by passing data from an app that was using Facebook Login to SCL/Cambridge Analytica."

Those policies forbid third parties from selling, licensing, or purchasing data obtained from Facebook, or transferring that data "to any ad network, data broker or other advertising or monetization-related service."

On the surface, it appears that Facebook did not violate any privacy rules or standards by allowing this personal user data to be accessed. Kogan, however, allegedly violated the platform's policies by transferring it to Cambridge Analytica, where it was assumed to be used for non-academic purposes.

But it's been known since 2015 that Cambridge Analytica has been in possession of this data, when it was using it in a similar manner while working on behalf of then U.S. presidential candidate Ted Cruz, which Guardian reported on late that year. At the time, Facebook said it was “carefully investigating this situation,” and, more recently, claims Kogan's app was removed from the network and that it received "certifications" from Cambridge Analytica and Kogan, among others, that the data had been destroyed.

Why Facebook Is Taking a Major Blow

On Monday, following a weekend of emerging news and speculation around what Cambridge Analytica had done, Facebook began to experience was looked to be the beginning of a major fallout.

By the end of the day, its stock price had dropped over 7% (and continued to drop through the publication of this post on Tuesday), causing CEO Mark Zuckerberg to lose roughly $5 billion of his net worth. A #deletefacebook movement began. And by Tuesday morning, Zuckerberg had been called upon by members of the U.K. parliament to furnish any evidence pertaining to Facebook's connection to Cambridge Analytica. 

But if Facebook didn't actually violate any rules, what's causing the uproar? Especially if it's hardly the first instance of data being used in this capacity? 

"None of this tech is new to advertisers," says HubSpot head of SEO Victor Pan, an ex-search director who worked for one of the largest-known global media buying companies, WPP plc, for three years. "But there's an uncanny valley experience that is also true with personalized advertising -- and we're there right now."

In other words, users largely feel that they were being manipulated by Facebook -- or that, despite its emphasis on how much it values privacy, it wasn't doing enough to protect them from the abuse of their personal data.

"It doesn't feel very good to know that you're being manipulated," Pan said, "and people are turning denial into anger."

The timing of the news doesn't help, either. Facebook, as well as several other online and social networks, is already facing high scrutiny for the alleged weaponization of its platform by foreign agents to spread misinformation and propaganda with hopes of influencing the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Plus, there are rumors circulating that Facebook's chief security officer, Alex Stamos, will soon be departing the company among conflicting points of view with other executives (and the downsizing of his department). Stamos is said to have wanted greater transparency around the network's privacy and security woes, contrasting the opinions of others in the c-suite.

"It also raises the wrong questions for Facebook at a time when the company is already struggling to retain its younger user demographic," said Henry Franco, HubSpot's social campaign and brand Marketing Associate. "This is a group that is increasingly wary of how the company collects user data."

And for his part, Andrews says that more users should share this concern and skepticism. "From a user perspective, people shouldn't assume their social data is in any way protected," he explained. "All the data you provide social networks is manipulated, shared, and monetized constantly -- illegally and legally."

What Happens Now

As a first step, Facebook banned Cambridge Analytica and other associated actors -- including Dr. Kogan and Christopher Wylie, the contractor working with Cambridge Analytica who is said to have blown the whistle on the alleged use of this data by the Trump campaign.

As for the uncertainty of earlier certifications that the user data was destroyed after initial revelations in 2015, Facebook has enlisted the services of digital forensics firm Stroz Friedberg to determine if the data is still in existence, or in Cambridge Analytica's possession.

However, Stroz Friedberg investigators have since stepped aside to make way for an investigation being conducted by the U.K. Information Commissioner’s Office.

As the story continues to unfold, there appears to be much at stake for marketers and those who use social media -- as well as data -- to shape messaging in a legal way. In fact, Andrews says, the use of social data to personalize marketing isn't always a bad thing: "It keeps the internet free and makes the ads and content you see more relevant."

But he cautions of the consequences that marketers could ultimately face because of the actors who use data maliciously, citing a "need to better understand the power these data can provide people with an ulterior motive, and protect consumers" accordingly.

That's especially true in the face of such regulations as the GDPR, which is coming into force in the EU next month. And now that the U.S. is experiencing particularly amplified cases of personal data abuse, Andrews says, it "could speed up internet privacy regulation and provide fodder for lawmakers who want that. We could be headed towards a more regulated digital marketing landscape."

But until that day comes, says Franco, it's up to the rest of us to ensure that user data is protected.

"With very little government regulation, it’s up to tech giants to enforce these rules, which highlights a huge conflict of interest," he explains. "Any restrictions on how third parties take advantage of user data could potentially impact their profitability."

And, he suspects, this event is likely the last we'll see of personal data use coming into question.

"With so many third-party developers able to access user data through Facebook APIs, there’s no telling how many other actors might be abusing data in a similar way," he says. "While the Cambridge Analytica situation is unsettling, what’s worse is that it may just be the tip of the iceberg."

This is a developing story that I'll monitoring as it unfolds. Questions? Feel free to weigh in on Twitter.

How to Delete Your Instagram [Easy Guide]

Instagram doesn't always make us feel our best. While the photo-sharing platform encourages creativity and has become a powerful tool for brands, usage of the app has also been connected to increased levels of anxiety and depression among young people.

If you've finally tired of Instagram's endless stream of FOMO-inducing vacation pics, slime videos, and former Bachelor contestants selling hair vitamins, this quick guide will walk you through temporarily disabling or deleting your account for good.

Before you proceed, keep in mind that deleting your account cannot be undone. Once you move forward, your profile, photos, videos, comments, likes, and followers will all be permanently removed from the app. 

If you'd rather just take a break and temporarily disable your account, follow the steps below instead. Temporarily disabling your account means that your profile, photos, videos, comments, and likes will all be hidden until you reactivate your account by logging back into Instagram.

The Definition of Advertising in Less Than 50 Words

Ads in 2018 are anything but straightforward -- but that's kind of the point.

Consider for a minute that this green rainbow is an ad:


McDonald's "Shambow" light installation, Chicago, St. Patrick's Day 2018 (Image via Adweek)

And this "Ketchup" jersey is also an ad:


Doritos' limited edition Ketchup streetwear line (Image via Adweek)

Once easily defined in terms of medium, today's ads are designed to slip seamlessly into our lives without causing noticable disruptions (whether or not they always succeed in this area is another story entirely).

With advertisers working harder than ever to create unexpected (and undetected) ad experiences, a clear definition of advertising is more difficult than you might think to pin down. If you're here, I'm guessing you're looking for a succinct, simple definition of advertising. Maybe even -- and I'm reaching here -- in 50 words or less? I won't delay you further.

To be considered an ad, messages don't need to specifically mention a product or service. In fact, many of the ads you encounter on a daily basis are more about cultivating a general sense of awareness for a brand than directly influencing buying decisions right away. 

As a general rule of thumb, if you think it's an ad, then it probably is.  

Monday, March 19, 2018

9 Ways to Make a Resume Employers Will Hate [Infographic]

Crafting a standout resume is a lot of work.

Not only do you have to write the darn thing, but you also have to check (and double-check) for typos, even out your margins, make sure you're not repeating the same action verb 10 times ... the list goes on.

In other words, knowing what makes a great resume also means knowing what makes a bad one. And while there are a lot of little things you'll want to check before sending your "curriculum vitae" (CV) to a recruiter, some more important than others.

Download our 10 free marketing resume templates here.

In the name of prioritization, check out the infographic below from StandoutCV for a list of nine resume mistakes you definitely don't want to make the next time you apply to an open position. Then, see a brief list of advice to keep bookmarked when you find your dream job.

Infographic on resume advice for avoiding common CV mistakes

Perhaps this infographic made you cringe at a mistake you made in a past resume. Everyone needs another chance -- so, here's a quick summary of things to keep in mind when making (or remaking) your CV:

  • Professional email address: Your old AOL screen name won't cut it in the job world. Stick to your first and/or last name.
  • Actionable verbs: Don't just say you're a "self-starter" -- explain what you did to earn that title.
  • Years of experience: "Proficient" needs a number value. How long have you done these things?
  • One to two pages: Recruiters sift through a lot of resumes every day. Make yours as concise as possible.
  • Employment consistency: Did you take a year off? What'd you do to stay productive? 
  • Error-free: "Attention to detail" is a bullet point on so many job listings today. Show you care with a resume that is clean of typos.
  • Balance and neatness: Sans serif fonts and bulleted lists make your resume easy to read. (Hint: This blog post does both of those things!)

inbound marketing certification

How to Schedule Instagram Posts: The Complete Guide

As Instagram has grown it’s become an integral marketing channel for more than 5 million businesses worldwide1.

But as a busy social media manager, it can be difficult to find the time to consistently post to Instagram.

This is where scheduling comes in.

Learning how to schedule Instagram posts is one of the biggest time savers and productivity hacks for social media managers today. And what’s more, scheduling your Instagram posts has many benefits.

Studies have shown that consistency is key to growth on Instagram, so scheduling your Instagram posts and ensuring regular updates can be a win-win situation—both boosting your reach and engagement as well as saving you valuable time throughout the day.

This guide will explain exactly how to schedule Instagram posts (and how scheduling can benefit your business).

Let’s dive in 📷

Buffer for Instagram now comes with direct scheduling! Schedule single-image posts or set reminders to post videos and multi-image posts at your best times to grow your Instagram following. Learn more today.

3 benefits of scheduling your Instagram posts

1. You can save time

Crafting and posting the perfect Instagram post can be time-consuming — especially if you’re creating your posts on the day you want to publish them.

However, scheduling your posts ahead of time might be a better, productivity-boosting way to create and share your Instagram content. By batching your work, you can avoid the costs associated with multitasking and context switching.

According to research shared by Inc., multitaskers take 50 percent more time to complete a single task and commit 50 percent more errors2. By spending an hour or two creating and scheduling your posts for the week ahead, you can save a ton of time and keep a consistent quality across the board.

With Buffer for Instagram, you can now schedule single-image posts directly from desktop or mobile (with a few limitations). For any other scheduled Instagram posts, we’ll send a reminder notification to your mobile device to finish the post when the time is right. This approach can free up so much of your time to focus on the many other tasks social media managers must tackle daily.

2. Ensure you’re posting consistently

Consistency plays a key role in social media success. When you’re consistently and frequently publishing new content, your audience will learn what to expect from your and when it’ll be posted.

For example, every night the NBA shares a round-up of the latest scores from around the league and because I know when to expect this, I open up Instagram to check the results every morning when I start my day:

Keeping a consistent schedule makes sure you maximize engagement without hitting any lulls or stretches without updates.

A few years back, Union Metrics put together data on brands and Instagram and it found that most brands post to Instagram daily — the average was in fact 1.5 posts per day. Another interesting learning from Union Metrics’ study was that there was no correlation between increased frequency and lower engagement, so brands that posted multiple times per day didn’t notice any negative effects.

The lesson here is that consistency is key for Instagram success. By scheduling your posts ahead of time you can ensure your profile is always filled with fresh new content.

3. Create and upload content from your desktop

Smartphones are becoming awesome tools for creating content, but sometimes, especially if you’re a social media manager, it can be easier to prepare and schedule all of your content on a desktop computer. One of the advantages of scheduling your posts in the web app is that you’ll have access to images of videos that might not be on your phone.

Most Instagram scheduler tools, Buffer included, enable you to create your posts on your desktop before publishing on mobile.


With Buffer for Business you can also check exactly how your Instagram profile gallery will look once you’ve published your scheduled posts:

Scheduling direct posts vs scheduling reminders

In some exciting news, you can now schedule certain types of Instagram posts directly from third-party apps like Buffer to Instagram.

For any of your scheduled posts that Buffer can’t share directly, we’ll let you know after you create the post. Once the scheduled posting time comes around, we’ll send a reminder notification to you via the Buffer app on your mobile device. You can then finish the post in the Instagram app, where you can add things like filters and photo tags.

Which posts can be shared directly?

  • Single images with (or without) a caption shared to business profiles

Which posts will you need to finish in the Instagram app? (We’ll send you a reminder)

  • Posts scheduled to personal profiles
  • Single-image posts that are very long (portrait) or very wide (landscape). Technically, third-party apps can only directly post images within the range of 4:5 and 1.91:1 aspect ratios
  • Multiple-image posts
  • Video posts

While scheduling Instagram posts directly helps you save a ton of time for basic image posts, one of the great things about reminders are that they allow you to create an image on your desktop, and then use all of Instagram’s handy native features, like image filters, to put a final coat of polish on the post.

How to schedule Instagram posts: Getting set up for both direct scheduling and reminders

Here are a few quick steps to get started with Instagram scheduling:

Step 1: If your Instagram profile is for an organization, switch it to a business profile

If your Instagram profile isn’t a business profile already, switching it will enable Buffer to schedule posts directly to your profile. Here are some handy instructions from Facebook (you’ll need to have a Facebook Page to switch to an Instagram business profile). If your Instagram profile is a personal profile, Buffer will schedule reminders only.

Step 2: Connect your Instagram account

To connect your Instagram account with Buffer from our web dashboard, first, click Connect More on the left-hand side of your Buffer dashboard, below any social accounts you’ve already connected:

From here, click on Connect below Instagram:

Finally, you’ll be asked to log in to your Instagram account and then you’re all set to start scheduling your Instagram posts with Buffer.

Note: If you’re a current Buffer user who has an Instagram profile already connected, you can simply visit that profile in your Buffer dashboard and follow the prompts from the banner on the page. You can also connect Instagram to Buffer through our iOS and Android apps.

Creating and scheduling Instagram content with Buffer

Once you’ve connected your Instagram account with Buffer, it’s time to create the content you want to post to Instagram.

After you’ve sourced the video or image you’d like to post, it’s great to draft your caption, choose any hashtags you’d like to include and any other Instagram accounts you’d like to @-mention in your post.

  • Caption: Instagram captions are limited to 2,200 characters, and after three lines of text they become truncated with an ellipsis. Try to include any key details at the front of your caption.
  • Hashtags: Hashtags allow Instagrammers to discover content and accounts to follow. Research from Track Maven found that posts with over 11 hashtags tend to get more engagement.
  • @-mentions: Is there anyone else featured in your photo? Maybe you could @-mention them in the caption. This will notify them when you put the post live on Instagram.

The below post from Amy Tangerine is a great example of how to effectively use your caption, hashtags, and an @-mention:

(For more on how to craft a great Instagram post, check out our Instagram marketing guide). 

Now it’s time to schedule your post for the ideal time. To do this, hop over to your Buffer dashboard and choose your Instagram account by selecting it on the left-hand side of your dashboard.

Under the “Content” tab, you’ll see a section labeled “Queue”. Here you can upload a photo and write your caption (including any hashtags and @-mentions).

If you upload your content and it doesn’t meet the requirements for direct scheduling, we’ll let you know that it will be scheduled as a reminder and that you’ll receive a notification to your mobile device when it’s time to post.

Once you’ve uploaded your content, you can decide whether you want to:

  • Add the post to your Buffer queue
  • Schedule the post for a custom date and time (this is especially handy for big events or posts that need to be published on a certain date)
  • If you’re on a paid Buffer plan, you can also bump the post to the start of your queue using Share Next, or share it immediately by using Share Now.

If the post is scheduled as a reminder

When it’s time for your post to be published, Buffer will send you a notification to whichever devices have been connected to your Buffer account. Here’s how the reminder might look on your device.

Tapping “Open in Instagram”  will automatically copy your caption and open Instagram, with the photo or video ready to be customized. Here you can also crop and edit your content as needed.

Now, tap Share and you’re all set! Your post will then be published to Instagram and you’ll be able to see it on your timeline.

Here’s a quick recap of how Buffer for Instagram’s reminders work:

How to schedule Instagram posts

Ready to start scheduling your Instagram posts? Get started with Buffer today

With Buffer for Instagram, we’re excited to be giving you the power to manage your social media marketing from one central location, and we’re eager for you to have the tools you need to plan, track, and amplify your Instagram marketing.

Get started with Buffer for Instagram

Over to you

Thanks for checking out our guide on how to schedule posts on Instagram. We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments: What are your top tips for scheduling Instagram posts? Which tools do you use to create and share content on Instagram?

Photo credit: Erik Lucatero

18 Instagram Apps to Make Your Posts Stand Out

With 500 million daily active users on Instagram, it’s not enough to just rely on the 24 standard filters and tools available within the app anymore. To truly set yourself apart from the other brands competing for attention, you’ve got to supplement your Instagram game with some extra apps.

Lucky for you, there are plenty of apps and tools available to help you edit Instagram photos, gain followers, attract likes, and analyze your performance. Unfortunately, a lot of these tools aren’t as helpful as they seem.

To help you take your Instagram posts to the next level, we’ve compiled a list of all the best apps and tools that will help you at any stage of your Insta journey. These tools will make your Instagram content distinguishable, memorable, and impactful. You might not be able to reach all 500 million potential customers, but you’ll be able to reach the ones that matter most to your brand.

Instagram Photo Editing Apps

Instagram’s in-app filters leave something to be desired. If you're looking for an easy way to make your photos look more professional and unique, try out one of these alternative photo-editing apps. Whether you’re looking for a wider selection of filters developed by professional photographers, or just want to remove blemishes from selfies, these will do the trick.


  • Price: Free
  • Available on: Android and iOS

VSCO provides free filters that often beat Instagram’s in-app options in terms of quality and professionalism. VSCO also offers plenty of editing tools (like customized sharpen, brightness/contrast, and skintone correction), so you can fully tweak your photo before exporting to Instagram. Plus, like Instagram, VSCO offers its own social capabilities: you can follow people directly on VSCO, and post and share photos from within the app.

2. Priime

  • Price: $2.99
  • Available on: iOS

Priime offers a selection of over 100 filters created in collaboration with professional photographers. If you aren’t sure which filter will look best, you can even receive recommendations from Priime's Smart Suggestions.

Images via App Store

3. Snapseed

  • Price: Free
  • Available on: Android and iOS

Sometimes, your photo has varying degrees of darkness and brightness and you don’t want to auto-enhance all of it. Snapseed’s brush tool allows you to selectively adjust for exposure, saturation, and color temperature, which is ideal for situations where you’d rather selectively edit. Snapseed also gives you plenty of control and fine-tuning, and even provides tools to remove small blemishes or unwanted objects.

4. Pixlr

  • Price: Free
  • Available on: Android and iOS

With Pixlr, you can build your own filters with effects, overlays, and textures. When you’re happy with a filter you’ve created, you can save that filter and use it again. This can be particularly useful if you’re trying to build a unique brand image. Pixlr also lets you selectively adjust your brightness and sharpness. It includes a red-eye fixer and an array of photo-editing tools.

5. Litely

  • Price: Free
  • Available on: iOS

If you’re frustrated by photos that look overly filtered and edited, Litely is the tool for you. Litely offers uniquely subtle filters with the intent of enhancing the natural beauty of a photo. You can drag your finger anywhere on the image to make adjustments, and tap your finger to compare “before” and “after” versions. You can also choose different variations of the same filter (like “argyle,” “argyle high,” or “argyle faded”) to ensure the filter looks natural with your photo.

Instagram Apps for Followers

There aren’t many automated ways to gain followers, which makes the task a tedious challenge for any social media manager. Fortunately, the following tools can combat this challenge. Although the apps won’t let you buy followers, they offer legitimate options to gain and manage followers organically. You can decipher why people unfollow you, how to improve your social media visibility, and how to keep your followers long-term. With the help of these tools, you can attract a larger following and ensure your current followers are happy.

6. Followers for Instagram

  • Price: Free
  • Available on: Android and iOS

Followers for Instagram shows you accounts that unfollowed you, accounts that haven’t followed you back, and accounts you should be following based on similar accounts you already follow. You can use this data to strengthen weak relationships, make your followers happier, and understand the reasons an account might unfollow you. You might find that accounts are unfollowing you for simple, fixable reasons -- like posting infrequently. Hopefully, fixing these issues improves your relationship to your Instagram audience longterm.

Images via App Store

7. Social Rocket

  • Price: Free
  • Available on: iOS

Social Rocket is a “likes/followers” marketplace: every time you like someone else’s post, you gain points to exchange for followers or likes on your own posts. Although this is probably an inefficient long-term solution, it can be helpful in the beginning when you’re trying to build an initial following and want your content to spread.

Images via App Store

8. Crowdfire

  • Price: Free
  • Available on: iOS

Crowdfire identifies your inactive followers. If you know your inactive followers, you can delete them from your followers pool and fix your ratio to get better analytics. Crowdfire also provides automated DM messaging, recognizes when people unfollow you, and helps you find new followers.

Screen Shot 2018-03-16 at 11.40.46 AM-1.png

Images via App Store

9. Tracker for Instagram

  • Price: Free
  • Available on: iOS

Instagram doesn’t offer any efficient tools for unfollowing or following accounts in bulk. Tracker for Instagram allows you to do this directly from the app. It also shows you your overall post performance, and analyzes how followers engage with your account, so you can discover your most active users.

Screen Shot 2018-03-16 at 12.04.19 PM.png

Images via App Store

10. Followers & Likes on Instagram

  • Price: Free
  • Available on: iOS

Followers & Likes on Instagram creates lists of your most engaged and least engaged followers, which is helpful because it gives you a better understanding of your target audience. It also shows you which posts attract the most likes and comments from your best followers. Knowing your most popular posts helps you evaluate and modify your future content strategy.

Images via App Store

Instagram Apps for Likes

On Instagram, likes are the strongest indicator we have when evaluating whether our audience is happy. Plus, the more likes your post gets, the higher it’ll appear on people’s feeds, and the more popular it’ll become. While there are no apps that allow you to buy likes, there are apps that help you attract more likes by offering suggestions, popular hashtags, and favorable captions.

11. InstaTag

  • Price: Free
  • Available on: Android

InstaTag allows you to discover the highest trending hashtags, which is valuable since popular hashtags change daily. By knowing the trending hashtags, your posts are more likely to show up ahead of the less relevant competition. There are dozens of categories and hundreds of tags, and you’re even able to search tags across categories.

Images via Android Apps on Google Play

12. Get Instant Likes and Hashtags

  • Price: Free
  • Available on: Android

Get Instant Likes and Hashtags gathers the top tags for each category and shows you the most popular ones, making it easy to make hashtag decisions quickly. You can also add, edit, and remove categories, and create custom hashtags, so you can copy all your hashtags at once and paste them into your post.

Images via Android Apps on Google Play

13. Magic Liker for Like Tags

  • Price: Free
  • Available on: iOS

Magic Liker helps you search multiple tags at the same time, find popular tags suggested by the app, search through daily suggested tags, or search posts by category like, “only videos,” or “only photos.” It also provides captions that are currently popular, for additional caption-writing inspiration.

Images via TopAppsLike.com

Instagram Analytics Apps

Regardless of where you are in your Instagram strategy (i.e. still creating it, or have been implementing it for years), it’s important to gather analytics to figure out how well you’re doing, and where you could be doing better. With the right Instagram analytics tools, you’ll be able to improve your strategy, attract a larger audience, and make your existing followers happier than ever.

14. Instagram Insights

  • Price: Free
  • Available on: Android and iOS

Instagram actually does offer its own native analytics tool. Instagram Insights does require you to have a Facebook Business profile, but if you don’t have one, it’s a simple four-step process to get set up. The tool offers powerful insights, including how many times people use the Send Message option on your Instagram story, how many people have saved your posts, and how well your Instagram advertisements are doing.


Image via Buffer Blog

15. Hootsuite Analytics

  • Price:Free 30-Day Trial, Professional Version is $30/month
  • Available on: Android and iOS

Along with metrics like audience growth and traffic, Hootsuite gathers insights like how people react to your posts according to language or gender, and what types of action your followers are taking. You can also customize the insights you collect, which is particularly helpful if you’re testing out unique engagement factors or collecting specific data.


Image via Hootsuite

16. Iconosquare

  • Price: Free 30-Day Trial, Professional Version is $30/month
  • Available on: Android and iOS

While the above two tools focus on your business alone, Iconosquare also examines the community (and competition) by identifying the most important Instagram influencers in your industry. This is great if you’re interested in hiring influencers to promote your brand, but aren’t sure where to find them. It’s also helpful if you’re just starting to build your Instagram strategy, and want to see what other brands are doing for inspiration. Iconosquare also provides analytics on engagement, and analyzes hashtag growth and popularity.

Images via App Store

17. Union Metrics

  • Price:Free Account Checkup, Lite Version is $23/month
  • Available on: Android and iOS

Union Metrics’ free Instagram Account Checkup shows you the best time to post for your network, your most loyal followers, your top hashtags, and your best-performing posts. The paid version gathers more specific information including a profile analysis, analytics, and hashtag monitoring. If you’re unsure about paying for it, test out the free Checkup Tool and see what you think.


Image via Union Metrics

18. Squarelovin

  • Price:Free
  • Available on: Android and iOS

Squarelovin provides analytics regarding growth, engagement, number of followers, best and worst times to post, and top hashtags. Best of all, the analytics are delivered daily, weekly, and monthly, allowing you to narrow or broaden your focus and your analytics as you see fit. This is especially helpful if you want to A/B test a few different Instagram strategies throughout the month, and want to compare weeks or even days.


Image via Squarelovin

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Best of B2B Marketing Content: 10 Examples

Here at HubSpot, some of the most awe-inspiring moments take place when we get to take new products and features for a test drive. We transform, if it's even imaginable, into even bigger geeks than we normally are, squealing with the excitement typically reserved for iPhone launches and new seasons of Netflix series.

But alas -- this glee is caused by software we use every day at work, and will eventually get to share with other marketers.

Many B2B marketers have seen B2C content at least once and asked, "Why do they get to have all the fun?" But the moments like the one we described above are the ones that remind us: B2B companies are just as passionate about their products as B2C companies are. And for every B2B product, there are even more B2B users out there looking for information, inspiration, and knowledge to provide them with solutions.

The point? No marketing, including content, is uninteresting if you look at it certain ways.

Done right, B2B content marketing can certainly match -- and sometimes, maybe even rival -- the creativity and appeal of the best B2C ones. And we want to recognize the brands that are breaking that mold and creating great content that grows fervent, dedicated audiences.

Below, you'll find a few of our favorites, all with their own B2B marketing strategies that you can take with you.

10 Exceptional B2B Content Marketing Examples

1. CB Insights: Newsletter

B2B Marketing CB Insights Newsletter-1.png

What It Does Well

There are two things I love about the CB Insights newsletter. First, it's surprisingly funny (the subject lines alone make it worth it). Second, you learn a lot just by reading the newsletter, no need to click through a bunch of links.”

- Janessa Lantz, HubSpot Senior Marketing Manager

We love how this newsletter illustrates the willingness of CB Insights to not take itself too seriously. Yes, it shares some of the finest insights on technology, venture capital (VC), and emerging businesses, but it does so with fun images that ultimately relate back to the subject -- e.g., the above photo of Oprah that’s been adapted as a meme, since, well, that was the topic of the newsletter.

But the messaging remains relevant, even among the hint of silliness. After all, CB Insights designs technology for people in the VC space, so it’s tasked with creating content that will appeal to a broad audience: customers, prospective customers, tech enthusiasts, and investors. And so, under such subject lines as “so sad: tough to have a VC dad,” it includes relevant data. Yes, gifs are hilarious -- but in some contexts, they’re also worth $147 million.

Takeaway for Marketers: Remember Your Buyer's Goals

When you’re dying to create truly unique, cutting-edge content, it’s easy to stray from your organization’s mission and focus.

So, while it’s great to think outside of the box, use clever subject lines, or even write every email with an overarching humorous tone -- keep it relevant and include the information that the people reading it signed up to receive in the first place. Then, keep it human.

2. Mattermark: Raise the Bar

B2B Marketing Mattermark-2.png

What It Does Well

Raise the Bar rounds up the best stories about a variety of different industries, giving me a great snapshot of trends to watch and news stories to follow without having to search for them myself."

- Sophia Bernazzani, Editor, HubSpot Customer Success Blog

One of the best things about well-curated content -- especially the kind that pertains to your line of work -- is that it eliminates a lot of work. Keeping up with news and trends is never easy when you’ve already got a full plate, so when someone else is able to hand-pick the things you need to know, it can feel like you’ve struck gold.

That’s what Raise the Bar does, by compiling a “daily digest of timely, must-read posts on sales, marketing and growth engineering.” And, that was the intent all along. In a 2016 blog post announcing the launch of the newsletter, Mattermark’s Co-founder and CEO, Danielle Morrill, wrote, “We’re turning our focus toward sifting through the mountains of content out there around sales, marketing, and growth to help the community of DOERS who grow companies.”

Takeaway for Marketers: Educate Your Buyers

Think about the problems that your product or service already aims to solve for customers. Then, turn that into relevant content that’s going to both save time for and inform your audience -- and make it easy for them to access it.

3. MYOB: Tax Time

b2b marketing myob

What It Does Well

MYOB, a provider of business management solutions in Australia and New Zealand, helps companies manage their finances, in part by connecting them with bookkeepers and financial services professionals. It has two main buyer personas:

  1. Small businesses that are just learning the ropes
  2. More established companies that need greater insight into all facets of their operations.

Each audience has its own set of concerns and corresponding hub of information on MYOB.com -- and MYOB has built a B2B content marketing strategy for each one that shows how much it understands its customers.

MYOB recognizes that many businesses are figuring out accounting and financial decisions as they grow, so it’s created content that positions the brand as a go-to resource to help those businesses navigate each stage of their development. The Tax Time center, for example, is angled to fit the needs of both customer groups, providing tips for those just starting out, and guides for breaking through new stages of development.

Takeaway for Marketers: Grow With Your Buyers

When you begin to brainstorm and map out ideas for content, ask yourself, “Do I really understand my audience?” If you have any doubts as to how the idea will benefit or be useful to your audience, the answer might be “no” -- and that’s okay. Like everything else, audiences (and people) evolve, so it’s okay to go back to the drawing board in instances like these for a refresh.

4. Unbounce: Page Fights (R.I.P.)

What It Does Well

If you’ve ever seen a growth marketer on the heels of a successful optimization experiment, you know that her energy is electric. Unbounce, a landing page software company based in Vancouver, understands that excitement and decided to leverage it to create an engaging microsite, Page Fights, in collaboration with optimization company Conversion XL.

The project came to a close after one year, but during its existence, Page Fights contained live streams of marketing optimization expert panels who critiqued landing pages in real time. It was content that expanded far beyond the written word -- and that was one thing that made it so great.

Sure, Unbounce has a successful blog, but it saw Page Fights as an opportunity to expand beyond that copy. It knew that the web -- especially within marketing and web design -- was becoming increasingly crowded with content. To address that, it diversified the format of its expertise, to keep its audience engaged and learning.

Takeaway for Marketers: Diversify Your Channels

The internet is only going to become more crowded. And as the human attention span dwindles, that makes it even more important to create content that engages and maintains your audience’s attention.

So while we don’t recommend abandoning blogs completely -- after all, written content is still vital to SEO -- we do emphasize the importance of diversifying content formats. Marketers who incorporate video into their content strategies, for example, have seen 49% faster revenue growth than those who don’t. And remember that tip to “keep it human” we mentioned earlier? That’s a great thing about live video in particular -- it can help portray brands (and their people) as candid and genuine.

5. Deloitte Insights

Homepage of Deloitte Insights, a B2B blog

What It Does Well

Deloitte is a professional services company specializing in consulting, tech, auditing, and more. It works with a massive cross-section of industries, from government agencies to life sciences -- and that broad range of knowledge is a major selling point. That’s why creating informed, useful content for individual, specialized audiences is core to its marketing strategy.

But Deloitte has also used that wealth of knowledge to position itself as a resource for those who want to know what it knows. So, among its specialized hubs are educational content centers, including Deloitte Insights (formerly branded Deloitte University Press).

Much like some of the other remarkable B2B content we’ve come across, it curates not only different pieces of highly helpful content -- but also a variety of content formats. From blog posts, to webcasts, to podcasts, Deloitte Insights has a bit of everything for those who want to learn about its specialties and the industries it works with.

Takeaway for Marketers: Separate Your Buyer Personas

Creating a content strategy to please a wide-scale audience like Deloitte’s is challenging. It can quickly become unfocused. But if your company has a number of specialties, creating content microsites for each of them is one way to keep that information organized, discoverable, and easy to navigate.

Plus, it can never hurt to establish your brand as a go-to resource. So, as you create these content hubs, consider adding a “knowledge center” among them that’s dedicated to teaching your audience the valuable things it wants to learn.

6. First Round Magazines

B2B marketing First Round Magazines

What It Does Well

Here’s another example of a brand that does a great job of leveraging different categories of knowledge. First Round, an early-stage VC company, recognized the knowledge among entrepreneurs and leaders that wasn’t being shared -- knowledge that could be highly beneficial to their peers -- and created the First Round Review as a place for it to be shared. It serves, reads the manifesto, to liberate the ideas and expertise that are “trapped in other people's heads.”

But liberating that much-untapped knowledge can lead to the same problem we alluded to above -- an unfocused mass of content that makes it difficult to discover exactly what you’re looking for. That’s why First Round organized the Review into a collection of nine online magazines, each specializing in a different aspect of building a business.

Takeaway for Marketers: Work With Thought Leaders

If you’ve ever wondered how to leverage the wealth of knowledge outside of your organization -- and inside your professional network -- here’s a great example.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to the entrepreneurs and leaders you’ve met, or simply just admire, to figure out how they can work with you to create content with teachable experiences that your audience will value. Sharing useful, relatable first-hand accounts conveys empathy, which helps to invoke trust among readers.

7. NextView Ventures: Better Everyday

B2B content marketing blog on Medium from NextView Ventures

What It Does Well

We absolutely love stumbling across B2B companies with an active presence on Medium. A great example is VC firm NextView Ventures' Better Everyday, a Medium publication that focuses on “stories, analyses & resources to help seed-stage founders redesign the everyday.”

But why would NextView want to create an entirely separate blog that isn’t even on its website? Well, it’s an exercise in creating off-site content: the material you own but doesn’t live on your website. When executed correctly, it can give publishers a huge boost in discoverability, variety, and quality, especially when making use of a highly popular platform like Medium.

Because Better Everyday isn’t attached to the company’s main URL, it provides an opportunity for NextView to experiment with different tones, voices, and stories -- all from a variety of experts that might already be using Medium to discover and contribute unique content. Plus, with Medium’s built-in ability for people to recommend, highlight, and search internally for relevant content, it makes the work published there that much more shareable.

Takeaway for Marketers: Publish Off-Domain Content

Take advantage of the availability of off-site content platforms. As my colleague, Sam Mallikarjunan, writes in “Why Medium Works,” it can take up to six months of consistent publishing on your company’s blog before it gains significant traction. (And we’re not discouraging that -- stick with it, and find ways to supplement those efforts.) But off-site content diversifies your audience by engaging readers who might not have otherwise found your website.

Medium, for example, connects your content with the people most likely to read it. Plus, you’re creating a publication on a platform that comes with a built-in audience of at least 6.3 million users.

8. Wistia: Instagram

What It Does Well

At risk of sounding like a broken record, we can’t emphasize enough the importance of B2B brands maintaining a human element. That’s why we like it when companies use social media channels to give audiences a “look inside” at the people who make the great products and services they love.

Wistia, a video hosting platform, does that particularly well by sharing visual content on Instagram that lifts the curtain on its people -- and dogs. It not only aligns with its brand -- after all, the company does provide technology to businesses that want hosting solutions for their visual content -- but it’s also just smart. Among its other advantages, visual content can help boost a viewer’s retention of things like brand information.

Takeaway for Marketers: Incorporate Visual Content

Please, please, please don’t neglect to incorporate visuals into your content strategy. Of course, having a presence on visually-focused channels like Instagram and YouTube is vital -- but when it comes to your written content, don’t afraid to use visuals there, as well. After all, articles with an image once every 75-100 words got double the number of social shares than articles with fewer images.

But if you can also create content that aligns with the core of your product or service, that’s also great. As we mentioned before, Wistia creates visual content technology -- so it makes sense that it would have unique visual content. Identify what your business does particularly well, and then make the most use of the channel that best aligns with your strengths.

9. Zendesk Engineering

b2b marketing zendesk engineering

What It Does Well

Yes -- more offsite content. This time, it’s from Zendesk, a maker of customer service software that’s done something unique with its Medium publication, Zendesk Engineering.

Zendesk might be an expert in the solutions provided by its product, but behind that product is a chorus of highly skilled experts -- the people who build and engineer the software. The company realized that there’s an audience to be tapped that’s seeking insights and expertise on the technical side of the product, so it used that to build an entirely independent content property.

Takeaway for Marketers: Tell Your Brand Story

Dig beneath the surface of the solutions your company provides. You offer solutions -- but what is your process? What have you learned that makes you do what you do so well, and how did you get there?

Sure, topics like engineering might be traditionally “unsexy.” But when leveraged and communicated in a storytelling manner, they can make for remarkable content.

10. Hexagon: Annual Report

Image via App Annie

What It Does Well

Who says written content needs to be two-dimensional?

For Hexagon, an industrial IT solutions provider, "AR" doesn't just stand for annual report. With that in mind, the company recently "augmented" a presentation to its investors in a creative way.

Hexagon used augmented reality (AR) to spruce up their written company report, giving investors a more interactive experience when learning the latest updates on the company. How does it work? A mobile app, based on technology from Samsung and zSpace, displays a virtual demonstration of a product when readers hold their mobile device over a "trigger image" of that product within the report.

Takeaway for Marketers: Challenge Your Buyers

It's easy to feel limited by your medium as you create content -- especially for a business audience who you've all agreed is comfortable with that medium.

But in order for content to convert readers and incite growth, it needs to occasionally disrupt its audience's point of view. A company doesn't work for its content; content works for its company. If you need to say something that a blog alone can't, the business demands that you make it work -- whether that means starting a YouTube channel or seeing how you can integrate an AR tool into your next ebook.

And the List Goes On

We’re optimistic that the digital realm is full of strong B2B content marketing efforts -- and, we want to hear about them. But even more than that, we want to hear how these examples inspire you. As they show, there's a world of content opportunities out there, just waiting for creative B2B marketers to take on.

download 195+ free design templates
HubSpot Academy