Tuesday, January 16, 2018

How to Write Copy People Notice, Read, and Trust: Lessons from "The World’s Best Copywriter"

The phone rang a couple times before he picked up.

“Hello?”

“Hi,” I said. “Is this Pat Corpora?”

“Yes, it is.”

“It’s Eddie Shleyner,” I said. Silence. “I sent you a message on LinkedIn … about the Sampler. You replied with your number … told me to call.”

In 1995, Pat published The Doctor’s Vest-Pocket Sampler of Natural Remedies, a piece of direct response mail designed to sell a bigger, more complete book called New Choices in Natural Healing.

In other words, the free “sampler” book was designed to garner the attention, engagement, and trust necessary to sell prospect’s on the real product, the money-maker.

“Oh!” he said. “Hi, Eddie.” He sounded enthused. I could tell he was a nice guy. “How can I help?”

“Well,” I said. “I’m sure you know, the Sampler is famous.”

Pat smirked. “Okay.”

“At least it is among copywriters,” I said. “That’s why I’m calling: I’m writing an article about the Sampler -- because it’s a master class in written persuasion -- and I want to make sure I get the facts right.”

“Sure.”

“Well, first of all,” I said, “how many did you send out?”

“Oh, I’m sure we mailed 50 million copies,” said Pat. He paused. “Yeah, about that many.” He paused again. “It was a huge number.”

“And how many books did that sell?”

“Oh, millions.”

“Millions?” I said.

Millions. It was our most successful mailer ever.”

How did Pat sell all those books?

He hired Gary Bencivenga to write the copy.

Bencivenga is a Hall of Fame copywriter. He’s on par with John Caples and Eugene Schwartz, David Ogilvy and Joe Sugarman. He knew what he was doing. That is, he knew how to write copy that captured attention, garnered engagement, and drove readers to take action.

Like any effective copywriter, Bencivenga was part writer, part psychologist. As a writer, he was able to produce clear, concise sentences. As a psychologist, he excelled at thinking like his prospect. He understood her, empathized with her. And that’s what this article is about.

It’s about the big-picture concepts you can learn by studying one of Bencivenga’s most successful controls. In other words, this article won’t teach you how to write like a copywriter as much as it’ll teach you how to think like one.

You’ll learn the rules of the trade, the fundamentals of crafting ad copy people notice, read, and trust.

How to write copy people notice, read, and trust.

If you don’t already own The Doctor’s Vest-Pocket Sampler of Natural Remedies, you can buy one on Amazon for a buck or two plus shipping. If you’re a serious student of copywriting, I recommend ordering your copy as soon as possible, reading it daily, and transcribing it often.

When you receive it, smile. You're holding one of the finest direct marketing assets ever created.

What makes it great? It follows three important principles:

1. It hones in on a single, primary desire.

That’s why people notice it in the first place.

People buy things to achieve their desires. Period.

“Every product appeals to two, or three or four of these mass desires,” writes Eugene Schwartz in his classic book, Breakthrough Advertising. “But only one can predominate.”

The Sampler’s target audience was older, likely suffering from an ailment, likely fatigued from the side-effects of conventional medicine, and likely eager for alternatives. Natural alternatives. Bencivenga honed in on this.

How to Hone In

Once you know, with absolute certainty, what it is your prospect desires:

a) Make the desire plainly visible and unmistakably clear.

This will ensure that the prospect sees it.

The Sampler displays the words “NATURAL REMEDIES” in big, bold, capital letters on its cover. In fact, those words appear twice, which brings us to my next point …

b) Repeat the desire over and over, using synonymous terms.

This will keep the prospect engaged without wearing her out on the same verbiage.

The Sampler alludes to the concept of “natural remedies” using many different terms, including “self-help remedies” and “non-surgical remedies” and a half-dozen others. Each is a new and engaging way to remind the prospect about the same thing. Each variation whispers, “This is what you want, Dear Reader. Remember? This is what you need!”

c) Sound realistic.

This will allow the prospect to take your copy seriously.

The Sampler doesn’t over-step its product’s promise. For instance, the word “antidotes” sounds more compelling than “remedies” but it’s also less plausible, which is why Bencivenga never uses it. After all, he’s selling a book with thousands of medical suggestions. They’re not all winners. Reasonable people know this.

If you say something that plants doubt in your prospect’s mind, even once, you might lose her. Fantastic claims are risky because they're hard to believe. Temper your promise to give the message a chance.

2. It doesn’t look like an ad.

That’s why people read it.

The Doctor’s Vest-Pocket Sampler of Natural Remedies doesn't look like a mailer. It looks like a book:

The cover is card stock and paper inside is thick, too. The back is blank, clean, except for the publisher’s mission statement: “We publish books that empower people’s lives.”

The Sampler is also 50 pages long, neatly organized into four enticing chapters:

Chapter 1: Natural Remedies for Whatever Ails You …

Chapter 2: Secret Healing Triggers …

Chapter 3: How to Instantly Get a Second Opinion, or a Third, Fourth, or Tenth!

Chapter 4: For a Lifetime of Greater Health, Try This …

Each chapter is well-formatted and written in plain English that’s scannable and digestible, peppered with bolding and italics that highlight value. Bencivenga gave the Sampler all the characteristics of a real book, which is why Debra-from-Nebraska pulled it from her mailbox, then sat down, put on her glasses, and actually took the time to read it.

“Allow the reader to enter into your ad with the least possible mental shifting of gears from ‘editorial’ to ‘advertisement’,” writes Schwartz. “A single change in format can add 50% to your readership, and your results.” Schwartz calls this concept Copy Camouflage. It refers to taking elements from trusted mediums and using them to lend clout to your ad. This is also known as “borrowed believability.”

Online advertorial articles, or “sponsored” posts, are a good example of this: they look and read like typical articles but have a hidden sales agenda. Bencivenga uses the same tactic, except he camouflaged the Sampler to look and read like a book.

How to Camouflage

Once you know the medium your prospect recognizes, likes, and believes:

a) Borrow the format.

This will help your promotion look familiar to the prospect.

The Sampler looks like a book because it was published before the internet took root (circ. 1995), when physical mediums (e.g., books and newspapers) were among the only recognized, credible sources of written information.

b) Borrow the words and tone.

This will help your copy sound familiar to the prospect.

The Sampler sounds comprehensible, colloquial. It uses simple words -- not medical speak -- to convey clear, concise advice that makes sense to people. And that brings us to the final principle …

3. It’s valuable.

That’s why people trust it.

Bencivenga packed the Sampler with advice that can help people live more comfortable lives:

  • On page 14, he shares a juice recipe that treats asthma.
  • On page 15, he shares a tonic recipe that quells cigarette cravings.
  • On page 16, he shares a cocktail recipe that relieves leg cramps.

In fact, almost every page lends a valuable suggestion, something that makes the reader feel excited about the future, hopeful. Something that makes her say, “Wow, I had no idea ...” Over time, these feelings compound and intensify in the reader, engendering trust.

“Couldn’t it be that if someone took care of you, very good care of you; if this person would do anything for you; if your well-being was his only thought: is it impossible that you might begin to feel something for him?" - Bob Benson, Mad Men

How to Deliver Value

Once you know what your prospect values:

a) Highlight it.

This, again, will ensure that the prospect sees it.

The Sampler is full of bolded, italicized, and underlined words and phrases. It’s full of headlines and subheads, sidebars and images. Remember, people can’t begin to draw value from information if they never even see it.

b) Make it clear and concise.

This will fill the prospect with hope and excitement over her newfound knowledge.

The Sampler uses clear language and short, crisp sentences. Even though it’s a medical book, a native English speaker will comprehend every word. Remember, people will only get value from information they understand.

c) Make it actionable.

This will satisfy the prospect, making her happy.

The Sampler tells readers what to do but also explains how to do it. For example, want to treat asthma? “Blend two ounces of onion juice with two ounces of carrot juice and two ounces of parsley juice, then drink this blend twice each day,” writes Bencivenga. “Of course, use this remedy in conjunction with proper medical treatment.”

Remember, people will get the most value from information they can put to use.

“So, what did working with Gary teach you?” I asked.

“Well,” said Pat, “like many other tests I was involved in, it proved the power and importance of copy.”

I nodded, silently, on the other end.

“When we launched new titles, we always tested two or three different copywriters, “ said Pat. “Sometimes the different approaches were close, within 10 percent. But sometimes, it was a 100 percent difference in response rate. That’s what it was with the Vest-Pocket Sampler. That’s the power of great copy.”

State of Social 2018 Report: Your Guide to Latest Social Media Marketing Research [New Data]

What’s in store for the social media industry in 2018?

The way consumers use social media channels is constantly evolving and as marketers and entrepreneurs, we need to adapt to these changes.

To better understand these changes, plus what’s ahead for 2018 and beyond we teamed up with Social Media Week to collect data from over 1,700 marketers and create the State of Social Media 2018 report. The report shows us how marketers, from businesses of all sizes, are approaching social media marketing.

Ready to jump in?

A handy guide to navigating what’s coming up next in the social media world.

3 Key social media takeaways to guide your marketing in 2018

1. There are huge opportunities in the messaging space (only 20 percent of marketers have used messaging apps for marketing)

Messaging platforms have grown at an incredible rate over the last couple of years. And there are now more people using the top four social messaging apps (WhatsApp, Messenger, WeChat, and Viber) than the top four social media apps (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn)1.

Despite this incredible growth, our State of Social 2018 survey found that just 20 percent of businesses have invested in marketing through messenger platforms:

After seeing such high user growth for the past few years, companies like Facebook will begin to focus on how they can monetize chat apps which will open up new advertising opportunities for marketers.

Right now, marketers still appear to be investing more time and resources into social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, but as organic reach continues to decline (more on this below), we’ll see a greater number of marketers experiment with messaging apps as a way to connect with their audience.

2. Companies that invest in social media ads are more than twice as likely to say social media marketing is “very effective” for their business

When we asked respondents how effective social media marketing has been for their business 45 percent said “somewhat effective” and a further 29 percent believed that social media marketing had been “very effective”.

However, when we split these results based on whether or not the respondents had invested in ads, we found that businesses that have invested in social media ads are more than twice as likely to report that social media marketing is “very effective”.

Whereas businesses that have not invested in ads are more than twice as likely to report that the effectiveness of social media marketing for their business is “uncertain” or “very ineffective”.

3. Engagement is the #1 way to measure ROI from social media advertising

When we asked respondents how they measure the ROI of their social media advertising campaigns, 42 percent said ROI, followed by leads (17 percent) and sales (15 percent):

When we broke down the data by business size, engagement was still the #1 way both small and large businesses measure ROI from social media advertising:

This appears to be the continuation of a trend we noted in 2017, where social media is becoming more about engagement than driving traffic or making direct sales.

State of Social 2018: The full report

About the State of Social Media survey and data

For this report, we surveyed over 1,700 marketers (1,796 to be precise) from businesses of all sizes. You can view a more detailed breakdown on the data at the bottom of this post.

How marketers are using social media platforms: 7 insights you need to know

1. Facebook is still the leading platform for marketers (96 percent of businesses use Facebook)

Facebook is the leading platform for marketers with 96 percent saying their business is actively using it. Twitter was close behind with 89 percent of respondents saying they use the platform for their business.

2. Facebook organic reach continues to decline (only 21 percent of respondents haven’t noticed a decline in the past 12 months)

Facebook is constantly tweaking its News Feed algorithm and it appears that organic reach has once again declined over the past 12 months with just 21 percent of people “disagreeing” or “strongly disagreeing” with the below statement:

3. Video is a top priority for 2018 (85 percent of businesses would like to create more video content)

Video has been booming across social channels for the past couple of years and 85 percent of businesses are keen to create more video in 2018:

When we asked what’s currently holding businesses back from creating more video content lack of time and budget were the two main blockers:

4. Facebook is dominating the paid advertising space (94 percent of marketers have used Facebook Ads)

Facebook is the most popular platform for paid ads (94 percent), followed by Instagram (44 percent), with LinkedIn and Twitter tied in third place (26 percent):

Looking ahead, 67 percent of businesses are looking to increase their social media advertising budget in 2018:

5. Images are the most shared type of content (95 percent of businesses post images to social channels)

Ninty-five percent of respondents said their business posts images, with links (85 percent) being the second most shared content type:

6. The rise of stories (68 percent of marketers are planning on creating more stories in 2018)

Last year, only 29 percent of State of Social respondents had created stories on Instagram or Snapchat. This year 42 percent have created stories on Instagram (just 11 percent had created stories on Snapchat):

Further to this, 68 percent of respondents plan to create more stories content in 2018:

7. Live video hasn’t yet caught on (only 31 percent of marketers have broadcast live video)

In our last State of Social report, 26 percent of marketers said they had created live video content. In 2017, 31 percent of marketers said they had broadcast live content—just a 5 percent increase:

For those who have created live video, Facebook was the number one platform of choice, ahead of Instagram and Periscope (Twitter):

Live video could still present a huge opportunity in 2018, though. Facebook’s Head of News Feed, Adam Mosseri, recently revealed that live videos on average get six times as many interactions as regular videos. This could be especially valuable for Page owners as Facebook is making changes to their News Feed algorithm to give people more opportunities to interact with the people they care about.

Check out the full State of Social 2018 report below

The data: Who took part in the survey?


For this report, we surveyed over 1,700 marketers from businesses of all sizes. The majority of respondents work at companies who focus on both B2B and B2C customers (43 percent), while 33 percent work at purely B2B companies and 25 percent at B2C companies. 49 percent of our respondents work at businesses with 1-10 employees. At the other end of the scale, 7 percent of respondents work at companies with over 200 employees.

Company size

Just under half (49 percent) of the people who took our survey work at companies with fewer than 10 full-time staff. A further 21 percent work at companies with between 11-50 full-time team members. Here’s the full breakdown:

  • 49 percent: Fewer than 10 people
  • 13 percent: 11-25 people
  • 8 percent: 26-50 people
  • 8 percent: 1,001+ people
  • 7 percent: 51-100 people
  • 6 percent: 101-200 people
  • 5 percent: 201-500 people
  • 4 percent: 501-1,000 people

Marketing team size

The majority of respondents in our survey work closely with a small number of colleagues in their marketing teams or act as the sole marketer at their company:

  • 41 percent of respondents were the only marketer at their company
  • 38 percent of people worked in marketing teams of between 2-5 colleagues
  • 11 percent of people work in marketing teams larger than 11 people
  • 9 percent of people work in marketing teams of between 6-10

Industry breakdown

Twenty-three percent of those who took the survey work at organizations in the marketing, PR, and advertising space. Other industries include: Media and Publishing (11 percent); Non-Profit (10 percent); Education (8 percent);  Consumer Products (8 percent); IT & Services (6 percent);  Software (5 percent); E-commerce (3 percent); Medical & Healthcare (3 percent); Financial (3 percent); Travel & Tourism (2 percent); Financial Services (2 percent); Government (2 percent); Law & Legal Services (1 percent); Other (15 percent).

⬆ Back to the top.

Over to you


Thanks so much for checking out our State of Social 2018 report. We hope you enjoyed the data and discovered some useful takeaways for your business.

P.S. We’ve made the data open and available to anyone in this Google Sheet (feel free to make a copy and interrogate in any way you’d like – we’d love to hear what you might find). You can also download a copy of all the State of Social 2018 charts here.

Feature image via Jaelynn Castillo. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

15 Web Design Trends to Watch in 2018

The landscape of web design is constantly evolving.

Something that looked modern and fresh yesterday can appear dated seemingly overnight, and trends once dismissed as irrevocably passé can unexpectedly cycle back in vogue.

To help you prepare for wherever the web design tide takes us in 2018, we've put together a list of 15 trends to keep a close eye on. Check them out below, and get inspired to tackle your web design projects this year with style.Download our full collection of website homepage examples here to inspire your own homepage design. 

15 Web Design Trends to Watch in 2018

1. Bold Typography

More and more companies are turning to big, bold typography to anchor their homepages. This style works best when the rest of the page is kept minimal and clean, like this example from Brooklyn-based agency Huge

huge-hello.png

2. Cinemagraphs

Cinemagraphs -- high-quality videos or GIFs that run on a smooth, continuous loop -- have become a popular way to add movement and visual interest to otherwise static pages. Full-screen loops, like this example from Danish agency CP+B Copenhagen, create immediate interest on an otherwise simple page. 

3. Brutalism

To stand out in a sea of tidy, organized websites, some designers are opting for more eclectic, convention-defying structures. While it can seem jarring at first, many popular brands are now incorporating these aggressively alternative design elements into their sites, such as Bloomberg

Brutalism emerged as a reaction to the increasing standardization of web design, and is often characterized by stark, asymmetrical, nonconformist visuals, and a distinct lack of hierarchy and order. In other words, it's hard to describe, but you know it when you see it -- like the below example from apparel designer Biannual.

brutalism.png

4. Saturated Gradients

Kaleidoscopic gradients were everywhere in 2017, and they aren't going anywhere in 2018. Zurich-based agency Y7K illustrates a perfect example of how to make this two-tone effect look fresh and modern, with their full-screen, gradient-washed homepage.

5. Vivid Layers of Color

Staggered, stacked layers of color add depth and texture to a simple site layout, as seen in this stylish example from the São Paulo-based team behind Melissa Meio-Fio.

6. Text-Only

Some websites are cutting out images and prominent navigation sections altogether, relying on a few choice lines of straightforward text to inform visitors about their company.

Danish agency B14 uses their homepage real estate to simply describe their mission statement and provide links to samples of their work. It's a modern, uncluttered approach to presenting information.

7. Illustration

More companies are turning to illustrators and graphic artists to create bespoke illustrations for their websites. After years dominated by flat design and straightforward minimalism, adding illustrated touches to your site is a great way to inject a little personality, as seen in this charming example from NewActon (designed by Australian digital agency ED).

8. Ultra-minimalism

Taking classic minimalism to the extreme, some designers are defying conventions of what a website needs to look like, displaying just the absolute bare necessities. The site from designer Mathieu Boulet is centered around a few choice links to his social profiles and information.

9. Duotone

These parred-down, two-tone color schemes look cool and contemporary, like this example from Australian Design Radio.

10. Mixing Horizontal and Vertical Text

Freeing text from its usual horizontal alignment and placing it vertically on a page adds some refreshing dimension. Take this example from director Matt Porterfield, which mixes horizontal and vertical text alignments on an otherwise very simple page.

11. Geometric Shapes and Patterns

Whimsical patterns and shapes are popping up more frequently on websites, adding some flair in a landscape otherwise ruled by flat and material design. Canadian design studio MSDS uses daring, patterned letters on their homepage.

12. Serif Fonts

Due to screen resolution limitations and an overall lack of online font support, designers avoided serif fonts for years to keep websites legible and clean. With recent improvements, serif fonts are having a big moment in 2018 -- and they've never looked more modern. As seen on The Sill, a serif headline adds a dose of sophistication and style. 

serif-font-design-1.png

13. Overlapping Text and Images

Text that slightly overlaps accompanying images has become a popular effect for blogs and portfolios. Freelance art director and front-end developer Thibault Pailloux makes his overlapping text stand out with a colorful underline beneath each title.

14. Organic Shapes

Gone are the days of strict grid layouts and sharp edges -- 2018 will be all about curved lines and soft, organic shapes. In the example below from Neobi, the borderline-cartoonish background adds a generous hit of personality and vivid color to the uncomplicated design. 

organic-shapes-1.png

15. Hand-Drawn Fonts

Custom, hand-drawn fonts have started cropping up more and more in recent months -- and for good reason. These unique typefaces add character and charm, and help designers create a distinct look and feel without a complete overhaul. On KIKK Festival's website, a hand-drawn font provides a whimsical anchor for the homepage. 

hand-drawn-font-1.png

What web design trends do you think will really take off in 2018?

download 50 examples of brilliant homepage design

download 50 examples of brilliant homepage designs

Friday, January 12, 2018

Facebook's News Feed Will Once Again Focus on Friends and Family

Facebook announced yesterday that it will be overhauling its News Feed that will once again shift the type of content users see first, and most often.

According to the official statement, Facebook will "be making updates to [its News Feed] ranking so people have more opportunities to interact with the people they care about" -- as in, their friends and family, instead of Pages.

The news first broke by way of a post from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

What Facebook's News Feed Changes Mean for Marketers

Brands Can Expect to See Less Engagement

Facebook has been quite transparent about the fact that marketers and brands will be impacted by this change -- and not for the better.

“Pages may see their reach, video watch time and referral traffic decrease,” the official statement reads, which is especially true for Pages with posts that don’t see a ton of engagement -- by way of shares, or discussion on the post itself, including when users share them with their networks. 

That means posts sparking the greatest amount of discussion among users — especially when shared — will likely rank better. But marketers should proceed with caution: Creating content for engagement for shareability and conversation does not translate to including such language as, "Tag a friend!" in posts. Facebook calls and interprets that type of content as "engagement bait," and actually penalizes the Pages that use it in their News Feed rankings.

Facebook has made several modifications to its News Feed algorithm over the years, some of which have carried more permenance than others. Marketers might recall, for example, that last October, Facebook introduced its "Explore Feed," which was meant to serve as a new, entirely separate feed where nearly all Page content would live.

This latest shift is different, however. As Facebook put it, “Page posts will still appear in News Feed, though there may be fewer of them.”

And if Facebook does actually stick with this change -- which, given its history, could be debatable -- it will most certainly present a new challenge for marketers. Content will have to be even more shareable, in a way that doesn't classify it as "engagement bait," and also organically promotes conversation among users.

Why Facebook Is Doing This

For a while now, Facebook has been making extensive efforts to communicate an ethos that it is "not a media company." That was likely the result of the scrutiny it's received since it was discovered that the network was weaponized to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. 

"Facebook has clearly put a stake in the ground that user experience is more important that the brands that pay them," says Marcus Andrews, HubSpot's senior product marketing manager. "By making this shift they clearly prioritized one over the other, and are potentially a bit nervous about the current (really negative) narrative about the negative impact of social media on society." 

That helps to explain this move to shift the focus from branded content to the kind that is more personal, and closer in terms of each user's own network. More content from friends and family, versus news from official or branded outlets = “not a media company."

"Organic reach for business pages on Facebook has been under assault for a long time now," Andrews says. "This is not new."

What Marketers Should Do Now

With all of that said, not all is lost for social media marketers. There are certain types of Page content that are said to promote more shares and organic conversation — like live videos, which Facebook says get 6X the engagement as non-live ones.

"What Facebook seems to tell us is that content with a lot of engagement and conversation will be prioritized. This means comments and replies," Andrews explains -- and live video is one type of content that tends to receive a higher amount of that type of engagement.

But with so many rules around what the News Feed seems to prefer -- authentic content that isn't misleading or baiting engagement and clicks -- it's easy for marketers to become confused about what, exactly, they can do to please its algorithm.

"While it’s easy to see brands as the losers here, what we’re really seeing is an opportunity for brands to pivot their content towards driving a meaningful conversation," says Henry Franco, HubSpot's social and campaign strategy marketing associate. "Facebook’s new algorithm will prioritize posts that drive authentic engagement in the comments, rather than passive likes or shares."

Which brings us back to a marketing principle that we've certainly touched on before: listening to users.

"Brands should take this opportunity to listen to their audiences," says Franco, "and create content that’s catered to their interests and that will drive meaningful interaction.“

One additional, important thing to note is that users will have the option to modify settings to see content from certain Pages in their News Feeds (the aptly-named “See First in News Feed Preferences” feature).

Many users, however, might not know about this feature. That presents an opportunity for marketers to create engaging ways to let their audiences know about it, by way of sharing something like sales, one-time promotions, and the like with such language as, "Want to be the first to know about our sales? Make sure you see us first in your News Feed." (Try using something like the image above to help explain how this works.)

Be careful, however, not to overload or patronize audiences with this type of information -- and maintain your focus on creating the quality, applicable, and personalized content that Franco speaks to. The user has to benefit somehow from it, and feel motivated to share it in a way that remedies the negative impressions of social media that Andrews points out.

What's your take on things? Feel free to reach out with your thoughts and questions on Twitter.

Featured image credit: Facebook

What to Do When Your Content Falls Flat: 6 Ways to Recover

Research shows that content marketing costs 62% less than outbound marketing, yet produces 3X as many leads.

Because the rewards for executing effective content marketing are so high, it’s no surprise that in a 2016 study, it was found that 70% of B2B marketers were planning to create more content in 2017. 

If you consistently publish quality content that helps and informs your target audience, you'll likely see your KPIs rise over time. However, even if the long-term trends of your content marketing look positive -- you can’t guarantee each individual piece of content will be successful.

Sure, you can research the type of topics your readers are interested in, use emotive titles and optimize your blog for sharing. But at the end of the day, it’s still a gamble whether or not a new post will generate engagement -- and there are countless factors that determine its success.

If a post underperforms, most marketers shrug their shoulders and move onto the next piece in their busy editorial calendars. But in my opinion, it’s always worth trying to revive an underperforming post. Even if you’re unsuccessful, you should try to learn what exactly you did wrong so you can serve your audience more effectively in the future.

Here are some of the steps I take when a piece of content fails.

1. Leverage Influencers

Content marketing is a social game. Even if you’re a fantastic writer, it’s very difficult to succeed in a vacuum.

In a 2015 study, 67% of marketing professionals stated that they engage with influencers, for example, specifically for content promotion. If you’ve been able to build relationships with influencers in your niche by sharing their content and replying to their posts, you may want to call in a favor the next time you publish a piece of content and it falls flat.

If you’ve been sharing an influencer’s content for months and have helped promote his or her brand, there's a chance that this person will share your content, too -- if you ask nicely.

As an even better alternative, search for influencer quotes that you can insert into your underperforming piece of content -- then, kindly ask for a share.

Influencers love the validation of being mentioned as an expert in someone else’s article. Sharing your content with their audiences can help to improve their reputations, so keep that in mind when reaching out.

2. Post at Ideal Times

Ask 10 different marketers when the best time to post your content is, and you’ll likely receive 10 different answers.

In an analysis of 20 studies on post times, CoSchedule found that the best times to post on Facebook were between 12-1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, whereas the best times to post on Twitter were between noon and 5-7 p.m. on Wednesday.

For email marketing, Kissmetrics found that open rates are the highest during the weekend.

All of this information is useful, but ultimately, you’ll receive the best results if you post when your audience is the most receptive. This means digging into your social media engagement data and forming your own conclusions.

For Facebook, the best place to start is Facebook Insights.

Click on the ‘Posts’ tab, and you’ll be shown which days and times your followers are most active on the platform. You can also compare different days of the week to determine behavioral trends -- for example, comparing activity on Saturday or Sunday to a weekday.

Source: Facebook

Under the ‘All Posts Published’ menu, you can see engagement data for each post as well as the time and date the post was published. See if there are any commonalities in timing for your most popular posts.

To discover the best posting time for your audience on Twitter, I recommend using the tool Tweriod. There, you can sign in with your Twitter account, and the tool will perform an analysis of your followers and tweets. When complete, it will send you a complete report of the best times to post based on the data.

3. Make it Easy to Share

In order for a piece of content to generate maximum engagement, you need to make it as easy (and as worthwhile) as possible to share it. I recommend including bright, visible social sharing buttons directly beneath the post -- and, if possible, in your sidebar.

For the most compelling quotes and statistics in your post, make them stand out and consider using something like Click To Tweet to turn them into tweetable links. This tool also provides full analytics data, so you can compare the performance of your links.

If your new piece of content is an infographic, include an HTML code to embed it beneath the infographic, so that other bloggers can easily insert it into their site -- a tactic that can also be beneficial for SEO purposes.

4. Consider Facebook Ads

Depending on who you talk to, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and quality content marketing are two conflicting ideologies that cannot coincide.

But in my opinion, PPC advertising can be extremely effective for improving the reach of your content.

If you spent a few hours on a blog post and it falls flat, it isn’t a big deal. But if you’ve invested a significant amount of both time and money into a piece of premium content, like an infographic or animated video, you simply cannot afford for your efforts to be wasted on low engagement.

In this kind of situation, I recommend putting a small investment into Facebook advertising, to try and boost your engagement.

After you publish a post to promote the content on your business page’s timeline, click the "Boost Post" button. Start small and place $5 into advertising per day, then check Facebook’s engagement statistics to see if it’s worth investing more.

If you have a decent sized Facebook following (10,000 Likes or more), you can achieve great results by boosting the post and targeting your followers. However, if your following is small, you might want to try promoting the post to people who like Facebook pages related to your niche. You can find out the most popular interests within your niche by exploring Audience Insights.

Source: Facebook

5. Repurpose Your Content

If you’ve tried all of the previous tactics and can’t seem to get any momentum rolling, the problem could be with the content medium. Perhaps you’ve posted your latest customer survey findings as a blog post that didn't generate a ton of interest -- but as soon as you convert the data into a colorful infographic, people become more engaged.

Research is one of the most time-consuming processes of content creation. When you repurpose content, you already have the raw data/information you originally included -- so, whatever you repurpose it as can take less time and energy to produce.

Here are some of my favorite repurposing ideas:

  • Turn internal or customer survey data into an infographic.
  • Turn a blog post into a whiteboard explainer video and publish it on YouTube.
  • Convert a list of related evergreen posts into a guide, and add new visual elements.
  • Turn tradeshow presentations into Slideshare presentations for the world to see.
  • Publish webinars as tutorials on YouTube.

As you’re probably aware, video content is incredibly popular at the moment -- 45% of people watch more than an hour of Facebook or YouTube videos a week. And if you can repurpose text-based content into videos, you can put your brand’s message in front of an entirely new audience.

Before you start repurposing, consider that your blog post might perform better with some rejuvenated visuals. Adding images (that you have permission to use) is a great way to break up walls of text and keep people engaged.

6. Survey Your Audience

If your engagement metrics are truly erratic and you’re not able to predict (at least, to some degree) which pieces of content will be popular -- there is a likelihood that you just don’t know your audience well enough.

You’ve probably heard that in order to be successful with content marketing, you need to give value. Unfortunately, many marketers forget that "value" is subjective. You might think, for instance, that you’re giving value by publishing a new blog post that promotes your products and services. But what your readers really want is educational content that helps them to solve their pain points.

If no value is received by your audience, then you didn’t deliver value -- regardless of how hard you worked on creating the content.

Don’t assume you know what your audience values -- find out for certain. In the digital age, there are no excuses for basing your marketing strategies on assumptions. And with such tools as SurveyMonkey, you can whip up a survey for your email list in minutes. Ask your customers about their values, desires, favorite types of content -- and most important, their pain points. With this feedback, you can make inferences about what types of content you should deliver in the future.

I’m a firm believer in the law of reciprocity. When sending out a survey, I always like to appeal to the reader’s self-interests. Offer them a free giveaway or discount code in exchange for filling out the survey, and you might find that your readers will be more passionate in their responses. And the better you know your audience, the higher your chances are of generating engagement when you publish new content.

If you’ve published a new piece of content and it fails - it doesn’t mean that the content is bad. It could just mean that you posted it at the wrong time, you didn’t promote it effectively, or the content could receive more engagement when repurposed as a different medium.

You don’t need to throw in the towel when a piece of content underperforms. Try these tactics to revive it, and you might be pleasantly surprised.

10 Top Tips for Smarter Social Media Marketing with the Buffer Mobile App

How often do you read and share an article on your phone? Or how often do you snap, edit, and share a photo with your phone?

If you like creating and scheduling social media posts with your phone, we would love for you to try our mobile apps. They will make social media marketing on the go super easy and smooth for you.

In this post, you’ll learn more about the Buffer mobile apps (Android and iOS) and the top 10 features for smarter social media marketing.

Let’s get started!

Buffer for Android and iOS: 10 Top Features to Grow Your Social Media

Getting started with Buffer on mobile

If you don’t have our app installed on your phone already, you can download the Android version from Google Play or the iOS version from iTunes.

Adding your accounts

When you open up the app, select “I’m new to Buffer, let’s signup” if you are new to Buffer. You’ll be able to sign up with one of your social network accounts (Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn) or your email. Tap on your preferred signup option, and log in to give Buffer access to your account.

Buffer mobile app signup step 1Buffer mobile app signup step 2

Once you have signed up, you’ll be brought to your Buffer mobile dashboard. You can connect more social accounts by tapping on your profile image in the upper-left corner.

Connect social accounts

From here you’ll be taken to the relevant network to log in and give Buffer access to your account. Then you can choose which profile or page you want to add.

6 social network integrations

With our recent addition of Instagram, you can now connect social accounts from the six major social media platforms.

With the free Buffer account, you can connect up to three social profiles. For instance, you could connect three Twitter accounts or one Twitter account, one Facebook profile, and one Instagram profile.

Here are the 10 different social accounts you can add to your Buffer account:

  • Twitter profile
  • Facebook profile
  • Facebook Page
  • Facebook group
  • LinkedIn profile
  • LinkedIn Page
  • Google+ profile
  • Google+ Page
  • Instagram profile
  • Pinterest profile (only for Awesome or Buffer for Business account)

To upgrade to the Awesome or Buffer for Business plan, tap on your profile image and scroll to the bottom. Tap on “Upgrade to Awesome” to find out more about the Awesome and Small Business plans and purchase a subscription.

Upgrade to Awesome or Small Business plan

Using Buffer to manage your updates on the go

Setting up your schedule

First, it’ll be great to set up your schedule according to your preference. We would have set a default schedule for you, which you can keep or change.

To change your schedule, click on the settings gear icon in the lower-right corner and tap on “Posting Schedule”.

Schedule post 1 Schedule post 2 Schedule post 3

Here, you can select the days and times you want to have in your social media sharing schedule.

Sending your first update

Let’s add your first update from the mobile app!

Tap on the plus icon at the bottom and you’ll see the composer where you can type your update, attach photos or video, and select the accounts you’d like to share the update with.

Compose a new post

When you’re done, tap on the “Buffer” button to add the update to your queue, or tap “Share Now” to send it right away.

If you are on the Awesome or Buffer for Business plan, you’ll also have the option to schedule your post (Schedule Post) or add it to the top of your queue (Share Next).

Share options

Managing your queue

Tap on the Content tab to see your queued social media posts. You can tap on a post to edit it, or tap and hold with your finger to rearrange its position in the queue.

Edit or rearrange Buffer queue

10 top features to make the most of the Buffer mobile apps

Now that you’ve learned the basics of the Buffer mobile apps, let’s check out some of the more advanced, more powerful features.

1. Share from any app

Our app takes advantage of the built-in share menu that shows up in most apps, to let you add updates to Buffer from anywhere on your device. Once you have Buffer installed, just tap the share menu inside another app, such as your browser or Pocket, and tap on Buffer to send an update to your Buffer queue.

Here’s an example of how this looks when sharing from Safari on iOS:

Share from any app on mobile

For iOS, you’ll first have to turn on the extension. You can do so under “Settings” > “Set up Extension”, where you’ll see a set of short instructions.

2. Schedule native retweets

Here’s another cool thing you can share quickly via the mobile app — native retweets.

When you see a tweet you want to retweet or quote, tap on the menu arrow in the upper-right corner of the tweet, select “Share Tweet via…”, and tap on Buffer.

Buffer retweet

If you don’t add any message with the retweet, we’ll post it as a native retweet. If you do, it’ll become a quote tweet with your additional comment.

3. Get reminders for Instagram posts

Unlike most social media platforms, Instagram does not allow apps to post directly to Instagram. While Buffer cannot post to Instagram on your behalf, we would love to help you at every step.

Whether you add an Instagram post to your Buffer queue via the desktop or your mobile, the Buffer mobile app will send you a notification when it’s time for you to post. After you tap on the notification, Buffer will load your photo into Instagram and have your prewritten caption saved to your clipboard.

Buffer for Instagram notifications Buffer for Instagram Posting on Instagram

4. Drag and drop to copy posts across social accounts

Besides dragging and rearranging posts in your queue, you can also copy a post from one social account’s queue into another social account’s queue by dragging and dropping it into that other queue.

Drag and drop

With the multitasking feature in iOS, you can even drag and drop images to Buffer to start a draft in Buffer immediately.

5. Pause queue in times of emergency

There might be times when you want to pause your social media posting urgently because of any breaking news and events that have happened.

You likely have your smartphone with you more often than your laptop. And that’s why there’s a pause button in the mobile apps. Anytime you want to pause your Buffer queue, just whip out your phone and toggle the pause option in “Settings”.

Unpaused Buffer queuePaused Buffer queue

Pausing is done on a per social account basis. So if you have multiple social accounts that you’d like to pause posting for, you will need to pause each queue individually. You can read more about how pausing and unpausing work here.

The following few features are available in the Awesome or Buffer for Business plan. You can upgrade to either of these plans within the mobile apps or from the web dashboard.

6. Quick re-Buffer to boost your reach

One of our favorite social media tips is to re-use your top social media posts. While these posts have performed well previously, not all your followers might have seen them. Resharing them allows more followers (and even non-followers) to see them.

Here’s how to do that swiftly with the Buffer mobile app:

  • Tap on “Analytics”
  • Tap on “Recent” beside the date and select “Most Popular”
  • Find the post you want to share again
  • Tap on the tiny arrow in the upper-right corner and select “Rebuffer”
  • Edit the post as you like

You can then share the post immediately or schedule it for later.

Rebuffer top posts

7. Shuffle queue to mix things up

If you often share a few quotes from the same article or a few links from the same site in a row and want to mix them up, you will be happy to know that you can shuffle your Buffer queue.

The shuffle button is located just above your queue in the app. When you tap on “Shuffle”, you’ll see a confirmation message. Once you tap “Yes”, the posts in that queue will be shuffled randomly.

Shuffle Buffer queue

8. See how your posts are performing

We hope to make it easy for you to check your social media performance as and when you want. Just open up the mobile app and tap on “Analytics” at the bottom of the screen. Buffer for Business customers will get these three reports.

Posts Report: You’ll see a history of your published posts and each of their key engagement metrics. There is also a comparison with your average post performance from the past 30 days to help you instantly understand if the post is performing better than previous posts. (Read more about the Post Report here.)

Overview Report: This report gives you an overall view of your engagement levels, as opposed to the per-post basis that you would find in the Posts Report, for your Twitter account and Facebook Page. (Read more about the Overview Report here.)

Insights Report: You’ll find charts of engagement metrics, such as clicks and reach, over time in this report. If you tap on any of the points on the chart, you’ll see the absolute figure of that point.

Posts Report Overview Report Insights Report

9. Get a preview of your Instagram gallery

This is one of our most requested Instagram features — the Instagram Grid Preview.

With this preview, you can see how your upcoming posts will look like on your Instagram gallery, alongside the published posts. You can even drag and drop your scheduled posts in the preview to create your perfect Instagram gallery.

Buffer Instagram Grid Preview feature

10. Share articles from your Content Inbox

Curating content is a great way to provide your followers with valuable insights, establish your authority, and get more followers.

You can easily discover great content and immediately schedule them using the Content Inbox feature within the Buffer mobile app. The Content Inbox can be found in the Content tab, last from the left in the top navigation bar. (You might have to swipe the navigation bar to the left to find your Content Inbox.)

Once you have set up your RSS feeds, you’ll see all the new blog posts from the websites in your Content Inbox. You can then tap on the link to check out that blog post and tap on “Add” to Buffer that link.

Content Inbox

How can we improve our apps?

It’ll be great to hear from you. If you have tried our mobile apps, what do you like most about it? How can we make it better for you and your business?

If you have not tried our mobile apps, we would love for you to try them (Android or iOS) and experience better social media marketing on the go.

Image credit: Unsplash

This blog post was originally written by Belle Beth Cooper in 2013 and has been updated to reflect the improvements in our mobile apps.