Category Archives: Social

The 7 Best Tools for Content Writers

writer

Even the best writers need help. And with more content writers producing more content than ever, it’s worth mentioning some tools that can help them get through the day.

Some of these tools help deal with the problem of simply dreaming up things to write about, and others deal with the writing itself.

Enjoy!

 

1. Neil Patel’s 35 Blog Posts

neil patel

Less a resource and more just a great article, it’s a collection of 35 different blog ideas that can help you generate new topics to pitch.

Are any of them earth shatteringly creative? No.

But! They’re all written down in one place for you to peruse and spark your creative genius.

 

2. Buzzsumo

buzz sumo

Buzzsumo is the fastest, easiest way to see what others in or around your industry like and share.

You can use Buzzsumo to see:

  • What’s working for your competition
  • Trigger ideas in your niche/industry to talk about
  • Find out what people are looking for so you can start producing content fits.

 

3. Google Trends

google trends

Google Trends is, as the name suggests, a trend exploration tool. It’s fairly high level results since it only indicates interest, not actual numbers supporting that interest. But it’s still a good way for you to figure out what’s happening in your industry, or the world.

What’s particularly useful is that you can narrow your search geographically, so if you work mostly in one area of the world (say, Canada) you can structure your search to show interest in that area only.

 

4. Hemingway App

Hemingway App is a way that you can pinpoint any clunky clauses in your writing and get rid of them.

hemingway

The app is designed to work like a word processor and highlight complex sentence structures or incorrect grammar. What’s more, it tells you what’s wrong with your writing. So if you write:

I like to utilize the stove.

Hemingway App might mention that utilize has simpler alternatives.

It’s never going to replace a grammar checker or spell checker, but it’s usually worth running your writing through the Hemingway App before you post to catch those lazy ‘I need to get to the point’ type clauses.

 

5. Title Capitalization

title capitalization

Capitalizing titles correctly is both annoying to do (because it inevitable leads to a lengthily discussion) and time consuming be of, well, the lengthily discussion.

So just avoid doing it.

Title Capitalization is a tool that will help you get your titles just right. All you do is copy your title into the text field and it will make it correct for you as you paste it. It’s so fast you might miss it.

You can even choose what style of capitalization you want, but we recommend you just leave it on AP.

No one argues with AP.

 

6. MS Word shortcuts

For every post written in a stunningly designed ‘distraction free work zone’ word processor, there are about 50 written in good ol’ MS Word.

So you might as well learn how to use it.

Here’s a list of 20 completely indispensable MS Word shortcuts that won’t help what you write, but will help you write faster.

It’s worth nothing you can easily create your own keyword shortcuts to anything you want in Word with a little digging through the settings.

 

7. Cliché Finder

Lastly, there’s the cliché finder. The cliché finder is one of the best ways that you can improve your writing. Not only does it find clichés that you deliberately wrote, it has a knack for highlighting language that, if not an actual cliché, you should definitely think about changing.

cliche finder

There you have it. 7 tools, tips, and tricks that will help you write content that your audience is sure to appreciate, better and faster.

What are your favorite content creation tools? Let us know in the comments below! 

6 Key Email Marketing Trends for 2017

email

Every year, we see new communication channels explode onto the scene.

And inevitably, B2B marketers conclude that email remains the indomitable champion of ROI.

So in this article, we’re looking at 6 developments that you can take advantage of in 2017 to keep your email marketing firing on all cylinders.

 

1. Automation & trigger emails

Email automation, AI, drip campaigns, and timely trigger emails are all going to become even more important in 2017.

Using more (and better) data, brands are going to be looking to segment their sales funnels precisely.

In fact, according to Indimark’s annual analysis of what email trends people are talking about, data analysis, including the ability for AI to deploy emails to the right customer at the right time, was mentioned more than any other topic.

email data stats

As you can see, data analysis (which includes automation) made an appearance an awful lot of the time.

For businesses, this means two things:

  • Software supporting marketing automation processes isn’t going to be optional anymore
  • There will be an explosion of SaaS companies offering marketing automation technology
  • Customer expectations about the quality of their emails will go up
  • For emails to work, they’re going to have to carry extremely specific benefits and value propositions

 

2. Email will cozy up to other channels

chat bot

Closely related to improved marketing automation and using AI for data interpretation and email deployment is the cross-channel experience.

Brands have made significant strides to improve cross channel customer experience (CX). But as the number of channels that customers use increases, the quest for omni-channel continues.

In 2017, we’ll see email integrate with other digital channels more than it has, in particular native apps and chat bots.

We’ve already seen chat bots being used to effectively drive brand engagement.

The next logical step it so marry that functionality to email, enabling that software to send cart abandonment emails, retargeted emails, and other time-sensitive, targeted communications.

 

3. Personalization

email on smartphone

We know more about our customers than ever before. Brands will need to leverage that information to cater to individuals.

This will manifest itself as an enhanced commitment to the 4 Ps of marketing:

  • Product: Offering products that the specific customer wants to buy, not the ones you necessarily want to sell.
  • Place: When are customers getting emails? Geo-targeting in a granular way down to beacon-based email communication will help drive customer response.
  • Price: Offering products that are within the projected spend for customers. This is especially important for companies who sell lots of commodities at different price points (butter at Loblaws, for example).
  • Promotion: Is your promotion relevant to the customers? Again, a good example is Loblaws, who offers points promotions based on purchasing behaviour, so the right deal appeals to the right customer.

 

4. Videos in email?

With HTML5 it’s possible to once again send video in emails quickly and easily. Given the direction that Facebook has gone, as well as the general shift in content marketing to video, it’s not surprising that marketers will try videos in email as well.

However, there are few things brands need to consider before they invest in video-based email content:

  • Not everyone will see it. The cost of sending email will increase if you’re creating a video and writing compelling non-video copy.
  • Videos are often slow and clunky on mobile networks. Before they go all in for video, brands should check the devices people are opening their emails with.

It will be interesting to see if video in emails is an effective communication tactic for every brand that tries it.

 

5. Interactive email

For years now, email has been relatively stagnant in its technological capability. But in 2017, we can expect emails to begin to perform more like mini websites:

  • More functionality with collapsing menus, animations, graphics, and videos
  • More engaging CTAs
  • Content loaded directly into the email to reduce the reliance on click through

One thing to watch for with interactive email is going to be the weight. Just like websites got completely carried away with the full spectrum of functionality, it’ll be easy for email to do the same thing – and have loading lag kill an otherwise positive user experience.

 

6. Email designed to be read out loud

Apple AirPods

Source: Apple.com

The last prediction we have is that 2017 will see emails being read out loud a lot more often. Services like Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, and Cortana are all poised for this functional expansion (not to mention AirPods).

And it’s easy to envision a world where emails are read out over breakfast or during a morning commute.

It’s just a matter marrying these technologies.

For marketers, we can likely expect to see email begin to go the way of Google markup – specific development requirements and code labels to allow maximum compatibility with AI.

 

Summary

2017 will be a big year for email. It’s finally seeing some changes to the deliverable rather than just the back end tracking and deployment advances that have driven email forward for the last few years.

For brands, this means trialling new creative like video, animation, and new experiences like interactive email.

But we can’t forget the importance of data, marketing automation, and personalization. As segmentation gets finer and finer, AI is going to be an essential helper for email marketers.

The good news for brands is that while the demand on their email marketing quality is going up, we can expect the rise of plenty of new tools to help them. Emails will get more modular to build, with intuitive drag and drop tools and WYSIWYG interfaces.

We’re pretty excited about the prospects ahead.

Want to see what Moveable does with our email over the next year? Sign up to our newsletter to stay on top of all of our updates!

5 Free Tools Every Content Manager Should Bookmark

hand with laptop in cafe

This article is part of a series on tips, tricks, and tools to help businesses better manage their content online and get the most from their content marketing strategies. Click here to view other articles on CMS Tips


In this article, we’re going to look at five tools that will help you publish better content faster than ever.

 

1. Grammarly

While we all know content like quizzes, videos, and photos all do REALLY well for audience engagement, the backbone of all content is going to be words. And with Grammarly, it’s easier than ever to find the right ones.

It’s a tool that runs either as a plugin through your browser or as a standalone web or desktop app, and checks your spelling and grammar for anything you’re writing.

grammarly

Whether you’re posting a Facebook post through Hootsuite or uploading a blog entry through WordPress, Grammarly will interact with it and catch all your ugly typos and misspellings.

And that’s just the free version.

For the paid version ($11.66 per month, if you pay annually), you’ll get access to some nice features that look at your sentence structure, writing style, and vocabulary, making helpful suggestions as you type.

Even for the Hemingways out there, Grammarly is a key tool to keep in your arsenal. Partially, it means that you won’t embarrass yourself by using the wrong ‘your’. But more importantly, it means you can write much quicker, with less need for that second set of eyes before you hit ‘publish’. And when you’re staring down the barrel of a packed content calendar, you need every bit of speed you can grab.

And speaking of scheduling…

 

2. CoSchedule

coschedule demo

CoSchedule is a piece of software that makes scheduling and managing a content calendar easy.

Like Grammarly, CoSchedule works hard to integrate with as much of your existing software as possible, and especially WordPress.

So, what is it?

It’s basically a calendar app. But a really, really good one.

  • It can help you manage your content with a drag and drop calendar view (a bit like Trello cards)
  • It integrates with social media as well, so you can run your blog and social media calendars all in one place
  • You can assign tasks, set deadlines, create workflows, and build checklists for each piece of content
  • It lets you schedule and re-schedule content automatically (so you can promote something you wrote last week again)

Small teams might benefit less with the current entry price point and feature list, but where CoSchedule can add tremendous value is for teams working with several content managers, especially when contractors or freelancers are involved. The ability to share a view of what’s coming up and track multiple pieces at the same time saves oodles of project manager time and keeps your writers on track.

 

3. Yoast SEO

Yoast SEO is the number one SEO plugin for WordPress. Put simply, is excellent at what it does.

Yoast SEO is a plugin that overlays your standard publishing view in WordPress and automatically ‘grades’ you on your SEO for each and every thing you publish.

Yoast seo

If you set a focus keyword, it will check if you’re using it often enough and if you’re going to rank. It also helps you create an SEO-friendly title and meta-description, and includes a snippet box so you can actually see what your post will look like in a Google SERP.

But where Yoast really shines is its readability checks. It will provide a red, amber, green indicator to let you know the status for each piece of copy, letting you know how easy it is to read. Now it’s not perfect and shouldn’t be relied on completely, but it will give you a general indication of whether what you wrote is any good, or if it’s completely terrible.

Finally, Yoast SEO will help with other more mundane (but important!) on-page SEO factors like breadcrumbs, canonical tags, whether you want to set a no-follow tag, and XML sitemaps. Plus, all this is free!

You can buy the Premium version for $69 per site, which will get you more keyword help, help with internal linking, and better support, but frankly, the free version gets you a lot of the way there.

 

4. Gyazo

If you’ve ever tried to explain how to use a computer over the phone, you know how valuable a screengrab can be.

Gyazo is a piece of software that makes taking and keeping screengrabs quick and easy.

gyazo

All you do is install the software (totally free) and you’re all set to go. Just click and capture, then you’re provided with a link that you can drop in and share wherever you want. You can even do video grabs and save them as gifs, so you can show how a button works, what a screen transition is like, or what an expanding menu will look like when it expands.

Plus, they have a Chrome extension, so you can quickly snap screenshots online as you go. There’s also an image categorization system, so you can quickly find the screenshot that you’re looking for when you want it.

 

5. Unsplash

Finally, we have Unsplash. Unlike these other tools, Unsplash isn’t a piece of software. It’s just a simple database of beautiful, totally searchable, free stock imagery.

surfer

via unsplash

 

You can use it all without violating copyright rules (although you may have to provide credit on some images) and the pictures they curate are 100% amazing. They tend to focus on big sky drone images at the moment, but their selection will change over time with changing photography trends.

For easy access to amazing stock images, bookmark this site!

 

Think we missed a great tool for content managers? Let us know in the comments below!

5 Tools to Improve Digital Productivity in 2017

digital productivity

It’s almost 2017 – are you ready to maximize your team’s productivity? If not, here are 5 tools to make sure your team hits the ground running in the new year.

 

1. Zapier

zapier

Zapier is a SaaS company that connects and automates all your various tools and apps that your team uses. It’s nothing short of genius.

It works like this: You get an account, then, you connect all the apps and other SaaS tools you already use to Zapier.

Trello, Asana, Gmail, MailChimp, PayPal, Evernote, social media platforms, Slack, Dropbox, and Salesforce are just a few examples of the apps that Zapier can integrate with.

Then, you create ‘zaps’ – basically ‘if this then that’ sort of rules. For example, you might connect your Gmail account to your Trello board so that when a new customer request comes in, it’s automatically added to your workstack.

By improving the integration between apps, you can give your team more time to focus on what’s important you can help improve your team’s productivity.

 

2. CoSchedule

coschedule

CoSchedule is a way for you to schedule and manage your digital marketing. From publishing a blog post to promoting something on social media, CoSchedule makes the process far easier and slicker (not to mention a lot more automatic).

It works by sitting within your WordPress CMS and acting as a re-skin of your normal back-end. For companies with many writers or different (non-writer) contributing team members, it’s a brilliant tool.

CoSchedule:

  • Helps you manage and direct what goes live when
  • Helps with automatic headline creation tools
  • Makes it easy to optimize for SEO
  • Makes it easy to plan a whole content calendar

And it integrates with the Google suite including analytics, so you can track and optimise your content over time.

 

3. Time Doctor

We thought about excluding Time Doctor, but decided the potential gains outweigh the heebie-jeebies it gives us.

Time Doctor allows you to track what your team does. For example, how much time is spent on email, how much on other apps (e.g. Slack, QuickBooks etc.), how much time is spent in meetings for each individual team member.time doctor website application monitoring

Naturally, this can be pretty weird pretty quick – after all, if Joe is delivering, who cares if he works for 1 hour and plays Farmville for the remaining 7?

But if we step back and look at the whole picture, Time Doctor is superb for helping teams figure out as a team where there are inefficiencies – are you meeting too often? Is your administration eating up too much of your team’s time?

These sorts of insights can help you with hiring new staff, keeping your team focused, and distributing workload efficiently.

 

4. iDoneThis

 

iDoneThis is like a daily status update of what each member of a team has done. You list all the things you’ve done, then at the end of the day, that list gets sent to your manager (or whoever you want).i done this

For balancing workload and keeping your team focused and motivated, iDoneThis is a brilliant tool. Plus, if you are the sort of team that would appreciate a bit of healthy competition, it’s an easy way to encourage it.

Proceed with caution though – this sort of micro tracking and progress updating doesn’t work in every environment, so think carefully before you roll it out. Maybe try it first with your own boss before you roll it out to your entire digital team.

 

5. Do.com

do platform

It seems like we all have a bit of a love/hate relationship with meetings.

A good one can cut through the noise and resolve a complicated problem quickly and effectively.

A bad one will make you want to gouge your eyes out.

Do.com keeps meetings focused and organized, by putting everything you’ll need for the meeting and scheduling it all in the same place. It also lets you assign follow-up tasks and even provides graphs on how productive your meetings are, so you can further optimise your teams’ time.

Do.com is a must-have for any digital team suffering from meeting-fatigue.

 

Conclusion

It’s always difficult to set the right balance of productivity and creative process for digital teams. How much “waste” is required to produce something amazing? Some, certainly – but hopefully, these tools will help you get on top of your workstack and drive a more productive team without compromising happiness or quality.

What are you favourite productivity apps to get the most out of your team? Tweet us at @moveableonline!

15 Ways for Web Designers & Developers to Stay Healthy at Work

exercise

Most everyone could benefit from a bit of a health kick, and that especially applies when your job requires you to sit at a computer for most of the day (web designers and developers, we’re looking in your direction).

So we’ve brought you 15 ways you can stay healthy and feel better right in the office. A little bit of effort every day will improve your mood, your fitness, and make you feel much less guilty about taking that second (or third) piece of chocolate cake.

If that’s not worth a couple stretches, well then we don’t know what is!

 

1. Take a break

pomodoro technique

Let’s start small. Taking a break every hour – even five minutes – will give your body the rest it so desperately needs. Your eyes, for example, are essentially stationary when you’re working on a computer. A 5-10 minute break will get them moving again, reducing dryness and keeping those mini-muscles from straining too much. 

Do you find yourself losing track of how much time has passed since your last break? Try the Pomodoro technique to keep yourself in check.

 

2. Use an exercise ball

exercise ball at desk

Even if you think they look silly, an exercise ball instead of a desk chair is hugely beneficial to your health. On an exercise ball, your body has to constantly adjust to keep you balanced, so your muscles are never completely still. This in turn builds up your core, strengthens your back, and improves your posture. That’s a lot of wins for something that regularly goes for about $30.

 

3. Upgrade to a standing desk

standing desk

Of course, sitting on a big ol’ ball all day isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. If it’s not quite for you, another option is to invest in a standing desk. The benefits of standing all day versus sitting are fairly well documented, and pretty much what you’d expect: 

  • Reduced risk of obesity, heart attacks, and diabetes
  • Improved blood flow and reduced lethargy
  • Better posture
  • Enhanced core strength 

Of course, the downside is that you have to stand all day long. But one standing desk advocate pointed out that he found that his standing desk actually improved communication, since he could see everyone and better have a quick chat. So there are perhaps even productivity benefits to a standing desk as well as health ones!

 

4. Change your commute

This is only sort of workplace related, but – if you can – change your commute. There are various benefits to ‘green’ commuting (walking, running, or biking to work), especially when compared to driving to work. It’s less stressful and improves your cardio, keeping you healthier, for longer.

 

5. Bring your lunch

Even healthy options at most restaurants and cafes aren’t as healthy as what you can easily bring from home. Plus, you can make much better food then you can buy – just make up a big batch of whatever you’re cooking for dinner and bring some in for lunch!

 

6. In-office yoga

office yoga

Yoga is a fantastic way to stay healthy at the office. Whether you go to a full blown yoga class during your lunch break, or you just do a few stretches every couple hours, find a system that works for you.

 

7. Hourly stretches

Like hourly breaks for your eyes, it’s important to stretch every hour as well. When we sit still for big chunks of time, our muscles start to seize up and shrink a little (especially our neck muscles). Stretching will unwind them and relax them, and keep you comfortable and injury-free in the long run.

⇨ Check out this collection of desk stretches from the Mayo Clinic

 

8. Always take the stairs

OK, if you work on the 80th floor then you get a pass. But working on the first with a meeting on the third? Take the stairs!

 

9. Use a pedometer

pedometer app

Use some classic gamification techniques! Aim to get 10,000 steps, and get a friend in on it. Most smartphones have the step-tracking technology built in, so all it takes is downloading an app to start counting. You’ll be surprised how intensely competitive you’ll become!

 

10. Set your monitor height ergonomically

The top of your monitor should be level with your eyes, so most of the time you’re looking down about 10 degrees. Any more and you’ll move your head to see stuff (which will cause neck pain), and any higher and your eyes will dry out.

 

11. Wash your hands

This simple measure can actually improve your health significantly. Offices, unfortunately, are breeding grounds for bacteria. Lots of people, extended hours, not a lot of fresh air, and a (hopefully) comfortably warm temperature? It’s no wonder office workers get sick so often!

You can reduce your own risk just by washing your hands. Another options is to keep some hand sanitizer at your desk to use throughout the day.

 

 

12. Keep your tech clean

dirty keyboard

Most people will clean a desk pretty regularly. However, our tech – phones, cell phones, keyboards – tend to be missed. Make a point of wiping down all your surfaces once a week, and every now and then getting some compressed air and cleaning out your keyboard. You’ll be amazed (and possibly disgusted) with how much stuff collects between the gaps.

 

13. Make friends

Offices can be lonely places. Make a point of getting to know the people around you outside of a work context. Talk about weekend plans, your friends or family, current events – whatever suits you!

And yes, we know that the office can be hard to break the ice. But odds are, everyone is just waiting for someone to take the plunge. Why can’t that be you? You’ll feel more connected, less stressed, and perhaps even more productive working with people you know rather than email addresses on a screen.

 

14. Drink water

But not too much. Did you know that it only takes 6L to kill an adult!? As long as you don’t overdo it, water will make you feel more energized, more positive, and better hydrated so you can fight off nasty infections easier.

 

15. Take a vacation

sea beach holiday

Of course, the number one way to be healthy at work is to not be at work at all! A quick break can rejuvenate you emotionally, physically, and creatively, making you not only healthier but actually better at your job. So go on. You’ve earned that vacation.


That’s how we stay healthy at Moveable Online. What lifestyle tips do you have to keep you in tip top shape? Share them in the comments below!

Is All Engagement Created Equal?

mobile phone engagement

Is all engagement created equal? The short answer is no. The long answer is that engagement is a tricky concept, and it can be extremely misleading if relied on too heavily. Here’s what it is, when it might lead you astray, and how you can use it most effectively.

 

How engagement is measured

Obviously, it depends on what medium you’re working with. Social media engagement is going to be different from email engagement, and even within these broad categories, each channel is going to have its own unique metrics.

But that doesn’t mean we can draw some general conclusions.

First, engagement always takes into account how many people were exposed to something. Pay-per-impression ad campaigns actually charge on this basis. For engagement, the primary argument is that to know anything, you need to know how many people saw something so you can know what percentage ‘engaged.’

Second, engagement metrics are usually measured when a user takes action. Likes, hearts, re-pins, commenting, sharing, even reading to the end – these are all actions.

This is the heart of engagement. It’s getting the consumer to do something, no matter how small or minute. These actions are quantifiable, and are used to extrapolate engagement metrics.

To take action, a browser has to be engaged to a certain degree. So if you count how many times actions are taken, then you have an approximation of how many people are engaged.

For comparing different content in the same channel, say two different blog posts, engagement metrics are a very useful tool. They can help you hone your online content to better connect with the people. However, there are problems with engagement metrics as well.

 

Not all engagement is created equal

facebook engagement

The crux of engagement measurement is that you’re using metrics to try and quantify something that is inherently qualitative. No one reads a website and says, ‘ok, I was 10% engaged, so I’ll like this blog post. But I wasn’t 15% engaged, so I won’t comment.’ That’s not how people work!

Engagement metrics give you an indication of what people like and what they don’t. But it’s only that – an indication. A ‘like’ doesn’t necessarily mean that you like something. It might mean that you didn’t read it but tapped it by accident. Who knows your motivations? Certainly not engagement metrics.

But the biggest problem is that not all engagement is created equal but is often weighted as such. The required energy for a like or a re-pin or a heart or a retweet is significantly less than the required energy to enter an email, fill out a form, or even buy a product. However, these actions are compared as if they are equal under the general purpose title ‘engagement’.

For example, say a company might have two channels, a Facebook page and an email signup form. The Facebook page might be driving 12% engagement (that is, for every 100 people who visit the page, 12 people like it), whereas the email form might be driving 3% engagement (for every 100 people who visit the page, only 3 sign up). So looking at this from an engagement perspective, Facebook is better.

But how often have you gone on to buy something just because you liked a page on Facebook? Probably not very often. And how often have you gone on to buy something after you signed up to an email list? Probably a lot more often.

So one channel, with only 3% engagement might drive $1,000 of business, where another with 12% engagement might drive nothing.

 

When and how to use engagement metrics

girl holding iPhone

But that’s not to say that engagement is a terrible thing that should never be used. Not at all! It’s just important to recognize its limitations. As we mentioned, it’s a fantastic tool for helping you hone your intra-channel marketing materials. But it has other functions too.

Engagement is great for measuring brand awareness.

With bottom line sales, marketing efforts are directly linked to their ability to generate revenue. But with a brand awareness campaign, while that’s the long term goal, the short term objective of the campaign isn’t to increase revenue – it’s to get your name out there.

And while there is definitely value in your brand name, it’s hard even for the most sophisticated analysts to know what it actually is. The result is that brand awareness marketing doesn’t tie as closely to the bottom line, so engagement metrics give you at least some idea of how many people are consuming and taking on board your message.

And finally, engagement metrics can be used extremely effectively as a predictor of success in a sales funnel. This is why there is so much enthusiasm around them, and we’d be loath to leave you thinking that engagement is all terrible.

To give you an example of this, let’s look at Groove.

Groove found that by measuring how long people stayed on their site and how often they visited, they could predict is someone would convert into a paying customer. For example, if they stayed for over 3 minutes and visited 4.4 times per day, they were much more likely to convert. They also worked out the inverse, and determined that someone who only spent 35 seconds on their first session and only visited 3 times per day were less likely to convert.

So, Groove created automated emails to reach out to the non-converters to see if they needed any help, which improved their conversion rate from those low-converting prospects by 30%.

By following a correlation between engagement and conversion, they were able to put their sales efforts exactly where they needed to be.

 

Conclusion

Engagement can be a really fantastic tool – if it’s used effectively. It’s important to understand the limitations of engagement, especially in relation to your marketing objectives. Engagement is simply a metric that we’ve created to try and quantify how much people like something. It’s not a hard and fast concept, and you need to be wary of assuming too much from engagement statistics.

However, it remains an important tool for comparing content within channels, for addressing branding success, and for informing marketing decisions of correlations in behaviours (e.g. average time spent on a site with conversion rate).

So embrace engagement! Just remember – it’s not the answer to every marketing problem, and any engagement miracle should be taken with a hefty grain of salt.

Design Trend of the Month: Instagram Is No Longer Square!?

instagram portrait and landscape photos

Each month, we try and profile a design trend sensation that’s sweeping the web. This month, we’re looking at Instagram’s move away from the square, where it came from, and why it’s here.

 

Update 7.5

In late August, Instagram announced that their 7.5 update would move users off the square and let them post images in rectangle dimensions, like more traditional photography (e.g. landscape and portrait format).

This is a big deal.

While it sounds like a bit of a nothing announcement, consider this: Instagram’s entire visual look is defined by its square-ness. It’s what sets it apart from a gallery function on a phone (plus filters and sharing). We think it’s fair to say that the Instagram square is a hugely important part of the brand and the driving force to the app’s look and feel.

michael kors instagram

So moving away from that towards a larger format image is a big move.

 

The motivation

According to the official Instagram blog:

“the visual story you’re trying to tell should always come first, and we want to make it simple and fun for you to share moments just the way you want to.”

That’s pretty on par with Instagram’s general ethos – sharing photos, made easy. They also note that 20% of images on Instagram are already out of their restrictive square format, so in a lot of ways they’re jumping on a bandwagon rather than setting a trend.

But the fact remains that Instagram is arguing that the motivation is purely user focused – it wants to bring the Instagram experience to something people are doing already, and it wants to make it easier than ever to share images, whatever your creative vision for them might be.

 

The advertising angle

But the BBC thinks that there’s an ulterior motive here.  They say that the driving force is advertising. Advertisers want wider, larger formats for their campaigns, especially since it means they don’t have to awkwardly reformat video anymore. Disney, for example, was quick to take advantage of the new format: shortly after the new format was released, they uploaded a teaser for the new Star Wars movie. In conjunction with Instagram’s announcement to have more ads then before, this might be a move to cater to companies rather than users.

star wars instagram

But at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. If 20% of people want a new feature or function, then Instagram is right to fulfill that need. We think that while it does definitely benefit advertisers, there are definite UX gains here as well.

 

Design implications

It’s worth noting a few things. From a UX perspective, the actual experience of using Instagram hasn’t changed that much. If you’re taking pictures from Instagram, they’re still going to be square. What’s more, the look of Instagram’s scroll is still a grid of squares – it centre crops any landscape/portrait images to fit. So all in all, the change is maybe less dramatic then you might think.

However, what you can do now is upload a picture taken elsewhere (e.g. with the camera function of your phone) and you won’t have to crop it to a square anymore. So now, you can have images that show more width, like a picture of a city skyline, or you can upload a group photo and not have to cut anyone out.

From a portrait perspective, you can better capture tall buildings or trees, you can create head-and-shoulder shots (instead of just face).

instagram photo changes

It’s a good piece of functionality, but we would rather that Instagram made it possible directly from their app. As it is, it forces users out of the app to take a picture, only to go back into the app to upload it. But we like that the clean, regimented grid structure stayed the same. They could have created something with a Windows 10 feel, with different sized boxes, but we think that it would have been distracting and hard on the eyes.

 

Wrap up

Instagram has once again proven themselves to be a dynamic company capable of change. Lots of organizations would have baulked at the idea of changing something so fundamental to their brand. But Instagram sat back and said ‘ok, well how are people actually using our service? What can we do to improve that?’

And that’s a really positive thing for any company to do. Of course, it helps that what 20% of users wanted was also high on advertisers’ Christmas list. But the fact remains: Instagram has iterated seamlessly to match changing user demand, and that’s a win in our books.

Social Media + Customer Service: A Love Story

social media usage

There tends to be a lot of conversations of social media as an engagement tool, or social media as a sales tool, or using social media to drip-feed leads. What these all have in common is that the end objective is to drive sales.

But some companies are using social media for a different purpose – customer service. This post is going to look at why companies are using social media for customer service and a few companies who are doing a really good job. Let’s check it out.

Why companies love social media

First, let’s look at some numbers. Social Media Today produced a whitepaper on this topic with the extraordinarily dry name The Social Customer Service Index 2015. However, it’s actually an excellent whitepaper and well worth a read. But here are the highlights:

  • 40% of the people they surveyed said that their companies were seeing very beneficial results from engaging with people on social media
  • Over the past three years, companies have tripled the number of people involved in social support strategy
  • For some, social media is increasingly the first point of contact, before (more expensive) traditional customer service channels
  • Other important trends include one mentioned by Jay Baer who found that 42% of people expect a brand to respond on social media to a problem within 60 minutes.

All this paints a clear picture that (a) brands and companies are embracing social media for customer service, and are generally pretty happy with the results, and (b) a lot of people are happy to use social media get help when they have a problem.

So why might companies be excited about this?

What it really boils down to is that call centres are expensive and digital channels are not. That’s it, in a nutshell.

When you go on Twitter and find the answer to your problem (because it’s been asked 19 times) and decide not to call the helpline, that’s a giant savings for the company. What’s more, whenever someone asks a question on social media, other people can read those answers. So there’s a reduced cost first in stopping the original call being made, and second from other people reading those answers and thus stopping subsequent calls. So cost reduction is a major factor for companies to get on board with social media customer service.

There are other benefits as well though. Namely, if you offer support on social media, you create a much more holistic approach to customer care. The idea being that your company is wherever your customer is, and is ready and waiting whenever they are. Given the heightened demands on companies to provide excellent customer service, it’s hardly surprising that the relative low cost of social media CS is a favourite.

What does this actually look like?

Case study: Nokia

nokia

In 2014, Martin Hill-Wilson had an interview with a social media executive at Nokia named Chris Geddes. Mr. Geddes said that for years he struggled to get social media taken seriously – until they started working with customer service.

Mr. Geddes organized all of the customer service channels from most expensive (phone) to least expensive, (web chat, social media, etc.). He implemented strategies to shift people off the expensive customer service platforms and onto the cheaper ones. For example, he added a button to the bottom of each FAQ that said “Thanks, now I don’t have to call the call centre.” When people clicked, he knew how much he was saving. That way, it was clear what questions were doing well to solve problems and what ones were doing badly.

Those sorts of innovations helped him drive people towards engaging online and with social media, and save on call centre costs.

Case study: Intercontinental Hotels Group

intercontinental hotels group

Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) has built social media into their customer service process to such an extent that increasingly it’s the first point of contact for a customer with a problem. But they’ve approached it in a slightly different way than Nokia did.

They view any contact with the customer as an opportunity for brand building, sales, and marketing, and so have focused on integrating social media marketing and social media customer service into one.

To get a little buzzword-y on you, they’re trying to build an omnichannel brand by uniting customer experiences behind the sales and marketing team. To that end, according to Nick Ayres, their global director of social marketing, they feel “‘customer service’ [is] really is an extension of, or an opportunity for, another marketing and sales channel”.

One point that we felt IHG hit on the head was that a lot of customer service (especially in hospitality, maybe less so in tech and other industries) is simply ensuring that people feel that their concerns are heard. For example, if someone stays in a hotel and the street is exceptionally noisy and they can’t sleep, they might leave a negative review on TripAdvisor. Realistically, they know that the hotel can’t really control how noise travels – they mostly just want the hotel to know that their stay was less than ideal. Simply engaging is usually enough to get someone to feel much better about the company and the brand, and IHG have embraced this wholeheartedly.

Wrap up

Social media has been heralded as everything from a waste of money and time to the best thing since infomercials figured out that shooting the befores in black and white made the afters look way better.

But in that time, there’s always been a struggle to fit it into a broader company context – what does it do, who owns it, and how do you track it? Even now, with a mountain of companies offering tracking and analytics services, it’s still very hard to discern what value there is in a community. Customer service is helping to bring some much-needed metrics to the business of social media. And of course, the flipside is that customers are getting ever-better service and improved abilities to help themselves, which really helps everyone.

With customer service, social media may have finally found a home.

Should My Brand Have an Instagram Account?

instagram for brands

With the mountain of social media networks out there it’s hard which networks your brand should be active on and which ones are just a waste of valuable resources. Today we’re going to drill into Instagram – who should have an account, some different ways you can use the platform, and ultimately if it’s worth the time and money.

 

Who’s on Instagram?

The easiest way to look at who should have an Instagram account is to look in detail at who’s currently using Instagram (we’re jumping straight in and skipping the history of Instagram (the Histagram, if you will) but if you’re interested all your key info’s right here in this handy infographic).

There’s plenty of data and projection out there and they all say about the same thing. Here are the highlights:

  • Instagram is heavily weighted towards younger users. 53% of 18-29 year olds who are online use Instagram.
  • Instagram continues to grow quickly, and now 26% of adult internet users have it. Growth is quite heavily focused in the younger demographics.
  • Most Instagram users are either in university or have graduated university (55%).
  • Brand engagement is higher on Instagram than on any other platform.

There are lots of articles about Instagram stats and demographics out there but they all come back to these four points. Instagram is growing, Instagram users are young, Instagram has far higher engagement with brands, and Instagram users are generally educated and making an above average income (or they will be one day).

Now, most brands will see the high engagement rates (4.21% vs 0.1% according to SproutSocial) and jump on Instagram for that alone. But like a lot of measures of engagement that statistic needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Engagement on Instagram is usually going to be ‘hearting’ a photo. That’s it.

It’s a very low level of engagement compared to retweeting something and adding your own content, or repinning an image on Pinterest and adding a fresh caption.

So while the engagement ranks very high for brands, it’s perhaps a little misleading to say that it’s actually better than other social networks.

 

So, who should be on Instagram?

For starters, if your demographic aligns nicely with the demographic of Instagram, we’d recommend you get your brand an account. It’s a powerful tool to reach out to your audience. Plus, it can be a fantastic place to showcase your product.

For example, a company with a young demographic and a visual product like Forever21 should definitely be on Instagram (in fact they are @forever21).

forever 21 instagram

However, something that caters to an older crowd and isn’t very visual, for example a law firm specializing in drafting wills, should probably not invest the time.

Other brands that should think about Instagram and those that produce things that are going to be desired eventually. For example, car companies have embraced Instagram like almost no other industry. Not because young adults are a key market, but because they want to imprint their brand early to reap recognition later on.

tesla motors instagram

The same goes for luxury brands like Michael Kors. They’re using Instagram not to push products now but to build brand recognition in who they know will be buying their products later in life. Instagram is just another avenue for brand building.

michael kors instagram

Of course, there are a lot of arguments that all brands should embrace Instagram. For starters, branded Instagram accounts tend to be much better received than a branded Facebook post.

For example, National Geographic runs an Instagram account called @Natgeo. While they do promote their own products, it’s hard not to like the truly stunning nature photography they also post.

Another reason why all brands might want to think about is the very core of Instagram – pictures. Pictures (and video) are shown again and again to be the most effective way to reach your audience. Whether you’re a teen clothing store or a luxury hotel, pictures are the best way to tell your story. So why shy away from a platform entirely designed for images?

 

Ways to engage: private accounts vs sponsored content

Another factor to consider is not only if you want to use Instagram, but how. 

In 2013, Instgram monetized and allowed brands to have sponsored ads – basically posts that could be made to appear in people’s Instagram’s feeds. Like most ad platforms, there’s a large and intricate backend allowing you to track and place your ads for maximum impact. And with hashtags, you can get very precise in who you target. For example, if you were in cafe in Toronto, you could use #cafe #toronto #coffee to target people who like cafes, coffee, and are presumably in Toronto. Simple.

There are also a host of other tools that sponsoring posts gets you to improve your ads, like special formats and carousel ads.

However, you do pay a premium for a good spot in your audience’s news feeds.

The other option is to just build an Instagram naturally through a profile. Your traffic will likely be better since it’s all organic versus promoted, but it’s a slow process to gain traction, and can be enormously time consuming to both build and maintain. However, it can pay solid dividends, especially if your marketing budget is tight.

 

Conclusion

So who should be on Instagram? As usual, it depends. Here’s who we think can gain the most:

  • Brands that have young demographics (18-24 or teens)
  • Aspirational and luxury brands, working towards brand recognition later on (e.g. cars and luxury items)
  • Brands who have highly visual products or services, like National Geographic

Those are the people who should definitely be putting both time and resources into managing a great Instagram campaign. However, even if you don’t quite fit, the benefits of Instagram as a platform mean that almost everyone can find their niche. And with continued growth that shows no signs of slowing, it might be worthwhile getting started right now.

Happy ‘gramming!

Free Tools To Evaluate Your Competitors’ Websites

Metrics lack all value if you don’t have a baseline. Comparing your own website over time is great, but it can only get you so far. Inevitably, you want to know if the numbers your site is putting up are good or bad.

But, sadly, most companies don’t exactly publically publish their Google Analytics for you to peruse at your leisure.

Here are five tools you can use to see what’s going on with your competitors.

 

1. Topsy Social Analytics

Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 4.39.14 PM

Topsy is a social analytics tools that lets you compare social media profiles of various companies.

It’s basically a search engine, but for social media and in real time. You can structure your searches by time, look only for tweets, photos, videos, links, or influencers, or just search for everything.

What’s even better is that, because it’s a search engine, it’s got an advanced search function. With the same basic format as Twitter advanced search, you can look up how many links are going to various domains, and what those links are. Over time, you get a much clearer picture not only of how much sharing is going on, but what’s being shared.

You can also compare your own to your competitors’ Twitter accounts in beautiful line graphs, giving you a clear idea of volume of social traffic as well.

 

2. Screaming Frog SEO Spider

Screaming Frog SEO Spider is a robust website crawler that is designed to evaluate your site for SEO problems like duplicate pages, keyword mishaps, meta descriptions, etc. It’s a very robust tool.

And you can evaluate any site you want! Just drop the URL in and you’re all set.

There are lots of ways you can use this mountain of data to get a little cozier with your competitors, but here are just two to get you going:

  • Find their most valuable webpages. Companies will link internal pages to their most valuable content. By looking at which pages have the most internal inlinks (links from other pages within a site to a specific page, so linking from one blog post to another) you can see what page they’re trying to drive traffic to.
  • Find out what keywords your competitors are going for. By looking at the meta keyword data, you can find out what they’re aiming to rank for.

 

3. Buzzsumo

buzzsumo

Buzzsumo is a great tool to see what competing content is getting traction across social shares. Just enter their URL and you can see their top content ranked by total social shares.

Like Topsy, it’s basically a search engine, which means advanced search capabilities. That way, you can really drill into whatever data you need. For example, want to know what blog posts for a particular product did well and which ones didn’t? You can look that up.

Buzzsumo also has a paid service that gives you some extra add-ons, most importantly backlink analysis of whoever you’re searching. This is invaluable information when you’re developing your own backlink strategy, and gives you a much more comprehensive picture of the value of a competitor’s webpage.

 

4. Alexa

alexa

Alexa is probably the best known tool for this sort of work. And with good reason – it’s one of the most comprehensive free tools out there for website evaluation. Aside from their global ranking function, they also offer (for free!):

  • Bounce rate, daily page views per visitor, and daily time on site
  • Percentage of visitors coming from search engines
  • The top five keywords
  • What sites are visited right before they hit whatever site you’ve looked up
  • Total number of sites that link in (and what the top five actually are)

All in all, there’s a pile of information that you can glean from Alexa for nothing. Of course, you can get even more for the $10/month they charge for a subscription.

 

5. Compete

compete

Of all these tools, Compete is definitely the prettiest. Sleek and simple to use, it’s a great UI. And it only gets better. Compete lets you look at unique visitors, traffic sources, and related sites.

But their best feature is that you can compare websites to each other. This gives you a clear snapshot of where you sit compared to your biggest competitors.

mobile app development

 

Summary

Part of having a successful website is knowing if your website is successful. And you’ll never know unless you have at least a partial idea of how your competition is doing.

Research on what’s going on with other people’s web traffic is the best way to know if you’re on track or not.

And who knows – maybe your numbers will blow the competition out of the water.