Check Out This Awesome Raleigh Bungalow Remodel and Addition

1920 Raleigh Bungalow Remodel and Addition. Client comments:

“Very, very good job.”

“I’ve worked with a lot of contractors in my life and I’d have to say that hands down, that this is the best group I’ve ever worked with.”

“Personable, paid a lot of attention to details.”

“I like how Damon gets excited about the little things.”

“I appreciate the attention to detail. I appreciate the friendliness. I really like that I was kept in the loop about decisions and choices.”

“They went out of their way to make me feel like I was part of the process and that’s rare.”

“I am very happy with the work that we got. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.”

Asbury Remodeling & Construction, LLC

1002 Towhee Drive

Apex, NC 27502

919-904-4548

http://www.asburyremodeling.com/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oP4XMEqHz2U

https://www.youtube.com/user/AsburyRemodeling

The 4 Biggest Pinterest Marketing Mistakes We Made (And How You Can Learn From Them)

I’m a bit embarrassed to share my early Pinterest Pins.

But here they are anyway.

A pin loaded with hashtags, a really odd-sized image, an image with a one-word description, a Pin with no description at all.

I’ve made a lot of mistakes with Pinterest, both in the Pins I’ve created and in the strategies and plans I’ve set forth.

And I’ve come to discover that Pinterest is wholly unique from Twitter and Facebook, and that I’ve had things quite wrong from the start.

All these mistakes have been a wonderful opportunity to learn. I’m grateful for the chance to keep improving my Pinterest strategy, and I’d love to share with you all my mistakes and the new perspectives I’ve gained from researching and experimenting with the best ways to Pin on Pinterest.

Pinterest overview

What we’ve learned about Pinterest marketing

  1. Optimal timing matters less, given Pinterest’s long shelf life
  2. Followers don’t matter (as much)
  3. Pinterest isn’t a social network like Facebook and Twitter
  4. Pinterest is brand-centric

When were gearing up to launch Buffer for Pinterest, I had the great chance to dive deep into Pinterest marketing.

And I brought way too much hubris along with me.

Writing for a social media blog, I think I naturally assumed that all this Pinterest marketing would come intuitively, that the tactics I had learned elsewhere could be copied over to Pinterest without skipping a beat.

I was wrong.

Pinterest has a couple of wonderful phrases that encapsulate a lot of what’s special and unique about the site.

Your most coveted audiences are planning the future.

Take advantage of the world’s largest, most actionable focus group.

"Your most coveted audiences are planning their future." Amazing tip on Pinterest marketing and understanding the Pinterest audience.

It’s unique phrases like these, along with the unique perspectives, that have helped me get my focus on the right track when it comes to Pinterest marketing. Along the way, here are some of the many mistakes I have made.

Why optimal timing on Pinterest matters less

Mistake #1: I was keen to find the best time to post on Pinterest

We love to dig up studies on optimal timing at Buffer as we’ve found it to be a key component to the boost in reach for tweets, Facebook posts, and more.

I assumed the same would be true of Pinterest as well.

And while there is a bit of data about the best time to post on Pinterest, optimal timing is not the most useful strategy for Pinterest marketing.

This is due in large part to Pinterest’s Smart Feed, an algorithm-based feed where content turns up based on high-quality Pins and related Pins, not on ideal timing.

In this way, Pins enjoy a much longer shelf life than the typical social media update. With a well-written, keyword-rich description, a Pin’s traffic can resemble that of an evergreen blog post, with views and repins happening well into the future.

Piquora ran a study analyzing the half-life of Pins and discovered that:

  • 40% of the clicks happen within the first day.
  • 70% of the clicks happen within first 2 days.
  • 30% of clicks happen all the way through 30 days and beyond.

Lag between visit and Pin

The key, Piqora CEO Sharad Verma explained to Venturebeat, is that Pinterest doesn’t share Twitter and Facebook’s emphasis on immediacy. Pinterest visitors browse and search the network in a way that makes it as much like a search engine as a social network.

“In the world of Google, 70 percent of searches are long-tail, composed of four or more words,” Verma says. “Our hypothesis is that the same thing is happening on Pinterest … searching and Pinterest categories resurface the old pins.”

I’ve found this to be the case with a lot of the Pins on the Buffer account.

When looking at the Pinterest stats for our Pins, it’s clear that some of our top-performing Pins have been around for quite some time and continue to gain traffic and engagement.

One of our top post impressions for the past month (over 1,100 views) was a graphic we made for a Peg Fitzpatrick guest post. The post and graphic were shared on April 21. The 1,100 views occurred starting one week later, and they appear as if they’ll continue on well into the future!

Looking at our top posts overall from the past 30 days, four of the top seven posts (more than half) were Pinned prior to the data range—some as much as one year ago!

So ideal timing—whether it’s the day of the week or the time of day—appears to matter less than a well-optimized Pin.

pinterest analytics for Buffer

Courtney shared a great list of tips to optimize your Pin descriptions to capture that all-important long-term search traffic.

  • Make sure all your content has rich, Pinnable, and well-captioned images.
  • Make sure your pins link to a useful and relevant website.
  • Move keywords toward the front of board names and Pin descriptions to make them easy to find.
  • Optimize your headlines and image fields: Buffer pulls in the article’s headline as your Pin’s default description. Pinterest pulls in an image’s caption. (If there is no caption, it pulls alt text instead, and failing that, meta title).
  • Add advice, instructions or how-tos when you can – informative Pins are up to 30% more engaging than other Pins!
  • Prioritize clarity over cleverness in your Pinterest text.
  • Try for a description of between 200 and 310 characters. According to Dan Zarrella, who researched 11,000 pins, that’s the most repinned and commented-upon description range.

And beyond optimal timing, I’ve also been pondering what exactly the effect of frequency has on Pinning. Is there an optimal frequency for Pinterest? Does optimal frequency matter?

Like optimal timing, my sense is that optimal frequency might take a backseat to well-written Pin descriptions and high-quality, well-optimized visuals. The takeaway here could be: It’s not when you Pin or how often you Pin, it’s what you Pin and how well.

Followers is not a key metric on Pinterest

Mistake #2: I focused too much on Pinterest followers

Followers are one of social media’s most touted metrics. Follower count is a big deal to a lot of people (brands and businesses, too) on Twitter and Facebook.

On Pinterest?

It just doesn’t matter as much.

Followers on Pinterest do not make for a significant factor in any key way other than social proof. Whereas on other networks where a large following means a larger megaphone, Pins don’t circulate in the same way on Pinterest.

Again it goes back to Pinterest’s Smart Feed, which places Pins on your homepage according to an algorithm, keyed to your personal Pinterest history and keywords. Followers isn’t taken into account.

The Pin Junkie blog has some great context to the way Smart Feed works:

Instead of seeing pins in chronological order from pinners you follow, Pinterest has introduced algorithms and filters to present pins to you based on three factors:

1.  The highest quality pins from people you follow

2.  Related pins based on what you pin

3.  Interests you’re following

As a result, people are more likely to discover your pins from a search on Pinterest, rather than strictly from pins in their feed.

An algorithm-based home feed? Sounds a bit like Facebook, right? Well again there’s a key difference here between Facebook’s News Feed algorithm and Pinterest’s Smart Feed.

Your Pins can be seen by those who don’t follow you, without your having to pay for increased reach.

(On Facebook, if you’d like your post to appear in the feed of someone who’s yet to like your page, you’ll need to use Facebook Ads.)

And also, following on Pinterest can be quite a misnomer. Users can follow users. Users can also follow individual boards. This removes the following power from the person and places it on the content.

How Pinterest Differs From Twitter and Facebook

Mistake #3: I thought Pinterest was a social network, just like all the others

Technically-speaking, Pinterest is a social network, as its users connect with one another and share as part of a community. That being said, it’s not a social network in the same sense of a Twitter or a Facebook.

Tailwind CEO Daniel Maloney has a great way of putting it from a very high-level.

Twitter is mostly about what I’m doing.

Facebook is about who I am.

Pinterest is about who I want to be.

There’s a fundamental difference there, in the way that each of those networks is used. To a certain degree, the difference is based in time. Twitter and Facebook deal with the present—what I’m doing now, who I am today.

Pinterest is focused on the future.

In this way, Pinterest is more like a Pocket or an Evernote, tools that help you save ideas and articles for a future date.

social media (1)

We can see this in action in the way that users like Stephen Vian have pinned boards for woodworking, or how Anna Zubarev has pinned Blogging Strategies. On our Buffer account, too, we’ve built several boards that are focused on the things that we hope to achieve or to reference later.

buffer travel Pinterest board

There’s an evergreen quality to all of this content, where we can refer to our boards long into the future and continue to find valuable, useful information that we’ve stashed away until the time is right.

People plan on Pinterest. And that in and of itself makes Pinterest unique compared to its social media peers.

The foundation of Pinterest was built by brands

Mistake #4: I assumed brands came late to Pinterest

Did you know: Two-thirds of Pinterest content is pinned by brands.

Brands were the original power Pinners.

Users have come along to repin and spread these Pins virally, adding them to boards and collections of future-oriented wishes or dreams.

It’s always been about the brands on Pinterest.

This is a significant perspective change for me as it differs again from so many other social networks. Social media channels often build their large user bases first, then brands and businesses join later to see how they can best fit in.

Pinterest was brand-focused from the beginning, and brands remain the integral ingredient in the quality, visual content that gets pinned most often.

We can see a bit of the paradigm difference here by comparing Facebook and Pinterest. Facebook added Pages onto its existing network of social connections (people, basically), and it’s now trying to figure out the best way to balance the needs of the individual people—status updates, friend news, birthdays, babies, etc.—with the needs of the businesses—getting their content seen in the News Feed.

Pinterest has had brands involved all along. With two out of every three Pins coming from brands, much of the highly visual, Pinnable content originates from brands and spreads through individuals.

Take a look here at the most popular Pinned posts from last year (more here also).

Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 7.50.38 AM Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 7.51.01 AM

Conclusion

Again I find myself coming back to the pair of Pinterest quotes that do such a great job of setting the expectation for how to view and plan for Pinterest marketing.

Your most coveted audiences are planning the future.

Take advantage of the world’s largest, most actionable focus group.

With this in mind, it helps to focus my strategy a bit more. Pinterest is future-focused, in a way that Facebook and Twitter are not. Our usual strategies of optimal timing might be a bit off here, and we have a chance to optimize descriptions and keywords instead.

What have you found to be key to your Pinterest strategies? Does any of this info resonate with you? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Image sources: Pablo, UnSplash, IconFinder, Pinterest

The post The 4 Biggest Pinterest Marketing Mistakes We Made (And How You Can Learn From Them) appeared first on Social.

The 7 Hidden Factors of the Most Effective Social Media Ads

I’ve resisted social media advertising for a long time, believing that there are a host of free tools and free strategies that can help your business grow on social media organically.

What I’ve come to find out (and I’d imagine many of you have discovered this already) is this:

If you’re spending money to advertise online, social media ads may very well earn you the biggest returns.

(In some cases, it’s the cheapest way to reach people.) 

There are so many inspiring digital marketers who are pioneering the best practices and cool strategies for social media advertising. As we dip our toes further into social ads here at Buffer, it’s been fun to discover all the great tips we might try. I’ve collected seven of my favorite ones here in this blog post—a list of simple, actionable tips that drive successful social media ads. 

I’d love to hear in the comments any strategies you might add!

Social Media Advertising Tips

7 of the Best Social Media Advertising Tips

Social Media Advertising Tips and Strategies

1. Create multiple versions of the ad

When we write headlines for Buffer blog posts, we often come up with a big handful of options (15 or more headlines per post when we can manage it) so that we can test and see what works best.

The same idea works with social media ads.

When you read about a successful social media ad, it’s likely that the ad has gone through a few key variations based on these actions:

  1. Write several versions of ad copy
  2. Test different images
  3. Adjust and hone your target audience

In the comments of our post on Facebook advertising budgets, Lucie shared this great tidbit about how to gauge what’s working and what’s not:

I always have several versions of the ad and anything with lower than 1.5% CTR after few hours I deactivate.

The strategy then would look something like this:

  1. Create lots of ad variations
  2. Check often to see what’s working
  3. Deactivate the lowest performers and try something new

In terms of testing out different ad copy, there are many popular recommendations for what might work (including a few ideas I’ll share below). This SlideShare from e-CBD, while a couple years old, has some interesting ideas for things to try: power words, time prompts (“now,” “limited time”), and question marks.

Question Marks in social media ads

For images, you can test things like product pictures, people and faces, even memes.

And when it comes to custom audiences, there are some great tactics on different ways to hone in on a segment that converts (probably enough tactics for a post of its own, which we’d love to cover separately). One bit of advice I’ve found helpful in thinking through things is another useful comment on our Facebook Ads post, from Bill Grunau:

You want to cast a large net, BUT not try to scoop up the entire ocean.

A target audience of 3,000 to 5,000 is very, very small. For FB ads it should be in the high five or six figures as a minimum. If it is many millions then it is likely too big.

2. Use the “Learn More” button

When creating ads for the Facebook News Feed, you get the chance to include one of seven buttons with your ad.

If in doubt, it’s best to choose a button instead of no button.

And the best button of all? The “Learn More” button.

Learn More button

You can add the button in the bottom section of the Facebook Ads editor. These are the seven button options to choose from:

  1. Shop Now
  2. Book Now
  3. Learn More
  4. Sign Up
  5. Download
  6. Watch More
  7. Contact Us

The theory behind why this button works is that it helps focus your ad to an even greater degree, like a Mario mushroom for your already great copy. Adding a button enhances the call-to-action and primes a reader to take the action.

As for which button works best, you’re might notice that one fits your niche particularly well (“Book Now,” for instance, would be great for vacation spots). For the “Learn More” button, there seems to be growing evidence that it’s the best overall bet for engagement.

Noah Kagan found that “Learn More” converted better than the other options and better than using no button at all.

And Facebook ad tool Heyo ran an A/B test to see the effect that the “Learn More” button had, compared to no button at all. The result: a 63.6% increase in conversions and 40% decrease in cost-per-click just from the Learn More.

Heyo Facebook ads test

3. Create a custom landing page

If the goal of your social media ad is conversions—sales, signups, what-have-you—then you’ll want to think not only of the ad itself but also where a person might end up once they click.

Picture social media ads as a two-step process:

  1. Create the ad
  2. Create the destination 

Some of the most successful social media advertising campaigns include custom landing pages, where the copy carries over from the ad and the action crystal clear.

The more targeted your ad, the more targeted your landing page needs to be.

You’ll see this often with e-commerce ads that do a great job targeting a single product and then send the person from the ad to the main product page, full of menus and related products and all sorts of potentially distracting (albeit eminently useful) places to click.

Siddharth Bharath, writing at Unbounce, suggests a click-through landing page, which is an intermediate page between an ad and a final destination (shopping cart, for instance).

This keeps the focus on the offer – the reason the prospect clicked – and leaves them with two options: buy now or lose the deal forever.

As Unbounce describes it:

Videos or product images paired with a description and product benefits help to persuade the visitor to click the call-to-action.

click-through-landing-page-th

Socialmouths shared five key elements of these social media ad landing pages.

  1. Goal-Driven Copy Length
  2. Limited Form Fields
  3. Key Visuals
  4. Responsive, i.e., “Mobile-ready,” Design
  5. A Single Call to Action

Of these, the single call-to-action stands out as a potentially quite key element.

Also of note, the goal-driven copy length suggests the idea that there could be multiple goals for your social media campaign, something like a spectrum from immediate goals to long-term goals or sales/lead-gen to awareness/education. In general, a landing page for an immediate goal has short copy. A landing page for a long-term goal has long copy.

4. Mention price up front

Another interesting tip from Siddharth Bharath involves the idea of pre-qualifying your traffic. Essentially, it works like this:

You only want people clicking through to your ad who are comfortable paying the price for your product. 

The key then is to share your product’s price early.

Udemy price ad

Doing so will help qualify the traffic that heads to your landing page. Instead of filtering out people when they reach your pricing page, you can do so before they even click—thereby saving you pay-per-click costs that wouldn’t have amounted to a conversion.

The goal, in other words, wouldn’t be about people clicking your ad. The goal would be people clicking your ad and eventually buying your product or service.

5. Promote a discount

In a survey of Facebook users, 67 percent of people said they were likely to click on a discount offer. 

A simple strategy for a successful social media ad: Mention a discount in your copy.

In a really cool case study from Hautelook, the clothing website ran a 50% off sale on their Diane Von Furstenberg line. Mentioning a discount in their ads led to a huge sales day—the third largest sales day in company history.

Hautelook discount

And discounts don’t necessarily always need to be tied to huge sales events. At Buffer for instance, we have three different pricing options (free, Awesome, Business), and at the Awesome price the price is lower when paying a year in advance rather than month-to-month. It’s kind of a built-in discount and one we could explore using in our social media ad copy.

6. Filter out mobile traffic

When creating a social media ad, you’ll typically have the option of segmenting the audience by a number of factors, including those using a desktop/laptop versus a mobile device.

To fully optimize your conversion rate, show your ad to those on desktops and laptops. Don’t show your ad on mobile.

This slide deck from Ad Espresso (a Facebook ads management tool) does a great job explaining the differences between types of social media ad placement, particularly on Facebook.

The mobile News Feed is great for mobile app installs and engagement. It’s tough to get website conversions.

Here’s the key slide:

Facebook mobile news feed ads

Noah Kagan also mentions excluding mobile traffic in his steps for getting started with Facebook ads.

Avoid showing your ads to mobile traffic. Most likely your page is not mobile designed and that traffic is less likely to purchase or sign up for an email address. 

That last sentiment seems key here: Mobile visitors are less likely to convert to a sign up or a sale. If conversions are the goal of your social ad campaign, then it might be great to focus solely on the desktop audience.

A couple of additional notes here also:

  1. Not only do the most successful social media ads hone in on the device type, they also keep in mind the location of the ad. Typically sidebar display ads—like those offered by Twitter or Facebook—see lower click through numbers (they’re recommended as a great option for retargeting). The best results are those that appear natively in the News Feed or timeline. Ezra Firestone calls these “advertisements that blend in with the platform.”
  2. Removing mobile display from your ads is an often-recommended strategy, though there’s definitely two sides to the discussion. Brian Honigman, writing at SumAll, mentions that your ads should focus on mobile first in order to capture the huge volume of Facebook traffic that accesses the site from mobile devices.

7. Focus on relevance score

facebook-ad-relevance-score-performance-10

When I wrote about our Facebook Ads experiments a few weeks back, I was so grateful for all the advice and learnings that folks shared in the comments. This bit from Lucie has stuck with me:

I test my ad on a small budget and see the relevance score first. If it is less than 8/10, it means I should adjust my targeting. If it is higher, then I know I hit the nail on the head.

Jon Loomer wrote a detailed breakdown of Facebook’s relevance score, explaining what it is and how it’s calculated.

Briefly, relevance score helps explain the way Facebook views your ad and why it might prefer certain ads you’ve created versus others.

Facebook says they use relevance score to determine “expected” interaction with your ad.

Relevance score is calculated based on actual and expected positive and negative feedback from the ad’s target audience. The score is updated in real-time as users interact with and provide feedback — both positive and negative — with that ad.

Positive feedback includes people liking, commenting, and sharing your ad and also any desired actions taken with your ad (clicks to website for instance).

Negative feedback includes those instances when people hide your ad or ask not to see ads from you.

It’s all delivered on a 1 to 10 scale and based on real interactions with your ad; there’s a 500 daily impressions minimum in order to receive your first score.

From Lucie and Jon’s advice, there are a couple of great takeaways and strategies on how successful social media ads look at relevance score.

  1. Test your ad with a small budget first, to see where your relevance score lies. Once you achieve relevance of 8/10 or higher, then promote the ad more heavily.
  2. Since relevance scores update in real time, check your ads often. If the score dips below 8/10, adjust the ad.

(This second point hints at a higher-level bit of advice with social media ads: Don’t just set ’em and forget ’em. Consistent, active monitoring is key.)

Summary

As we’re in the early stages of testing out social media ads at Buffer, it’s a real privilege to be able to learn from those who have gone before us, trying and testing to see what works in social ads. We’re excited to take all the great advice here and use it in our own experiments and campaigns.

One of the best blueprints I’ve seen for creating a social media ad (particularly a Facebook ad) is this brief list from Noah Kagan, which condenses a lot of the sentiment from the above strategies.

  1. Call to action: Choose “Learn More”
  2. Headline: Give away something for free
  3. Text: Social proof showing why the reader should care
  4. Link Description: Give call to action for them to get benefit

Try to create an ad that uses natural text versus something that seems like an advertisement.

What have you found works well for you with social media ads?

Have you tried any of these strategies? How did they perform?

I’d love the chance to learn from you in the comments!

Image sources: Pablo, Unsplash, IconFinder, Jon Loomer, Unbounce

The post The 7 Hidden Factors of the Most Effective Social Media Ads appeared first on Social.

The Biggest Social Media Science Study: What 4.8 Million Tweets Say About the Best Time to Tweet

Imagine removing all guesswork when you schedule your tweets, knowing the times that work for maximum clicks and maximum engagement.

As someone who shares frequently to social media, this info would be fantastic to have! We’re always eager to dig up new research into social media best practices—things like length and frequency and timing.

The timing element, in particular, feels like one where we’d love to dig deeper. And we just so happen to have a host of data on this from the 2 million users who have signed up for Buffer!

With a big hand from our data team, we analyzed over 4.8 million tweets across 10,000 profiles, pulling the stats on how clicks and engagement and timing occur throughout the day and in different time zones. We’d love to share with you what we found!

best time for twitter

The best time to tweet: Our 4.8 million-tweet research study

Our key learnings

Wow, we learned so much looking at the awesome stats from those who use Buffer! Here were some of the takeaways we came up with. I’d love to hear what catches your eye, too!

  • Early mornings are the best time to tweet in order to get clicks.
  • Evenings and late at night are the best time, on average, for total engagement with your tweets
  • In some cases, the most popular times to post are opposite of the best times to post.
  • Popular times and best times to tweet differ across time zones.

The most popular time to tweet:

Noon to 1:00 p.m.

We’ve taken the data from all tweets sent through Buffer to find the most popular times for posting to Twitter. Looking at all tweets sent across all major time zones, here is an overview of the most popular times to tweet.

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

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

Most Popular Time to Tweet Worldwide

Here is the graph for the most popular times to tweet in each of the four major U.S. time zones. 

Buffer social media science study - US popular times to tweet

(We normalized the data to account for daylight’s savings in the U.S. as well.)

Here are the charts for the major time zones in Europe and Africa.

Most Popular Time to Tweet Europe

(Note: The London (GMT) time zone used to be the default time zone for new Buffer users, so our data for GMT is not as clean as we would like it to be. We’ve omitted any takeaways for GMT from the research results here.)

Here are the charts for the major time zones in Asia and Australia.

Most Popular Time to Tweet Australia Asia

It’s interesting to see how the most popular time to tweet varies across the time zones. We’ve shared Buffer’s 10 most popular time zones in the charts above. Here’s a list of each most popular hour for the 10 major time zones.

  • Los Angeles, San Francisco, etc. (Pacific Time): 9:00 a.m.
  • Denver (Mountain Time): noon
  • Chicago (Central Time): noon
  • New York, Boston, Atlanta, Miami, etc. (Eastern Time): noon
  • Madrid, Rome, Paris, etc. (Central European): 4:00 p.m.
  • Cape Town, Cairo, Helsinki, etc. (Eastern European): 8:00 p.m.
  • Sydney (Australian Eastern): 10:00 p.m.
  • Hong Kong (Hong Kong Time): 8:00 a.m.
  • Tokyo (Japan Time): 2:00 a.m.
  • Shanghai, Taipei, etc. (China Time): noon

For any clarification on this or the other research throughout this article, feel free to leave a comment and we’ll get right back to you.

Takeaways & thoughts:

  • The most popular time to post could be due to a number of factors: This is when most people have access to Twitter (perhaps at a work computer), this is when online audiences are most likely to be connected (see Burrito Principle), etc.
  • Should you post during the most popular times? That’s one possibility. Also, you may find success posting at non-peak times, when the volume of tweets is lower.
  • If you have a large international audience on Twitter, you may wish to locate the particular part of the world where they’re from, and adjust your schedule accordingly. You can find the times when your audience may be online with tools like Followerwonk and Crowdfire.

The best times to tweet to get more clicks

We were excited to dig into the specific metrics for each of these tweets, too, in hopes of coming up with some recommendations and best practices to test out for your Twitter strategy.

First up, the best time to tweet for clicks.

Looking at the data, we found the following trends for maximizing your chance to get more clicks:

  • Tweets sent between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m. earn the most clicks on average
  • The highest number of clicks per tweet occurs between 2:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m., peaking between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m.
  • The fewest clicks per tweet happen in the morning (when tweet volume is particularly high), between 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m..

The data in the below chart is the worldwide average, calculated for the local time in each time zone. So the peak at the 2:00 a.m. hour would hold true as the overall top time no matter which time zone you’re in—2:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, New York, Cape Town, Hong Kong, etc.Best Times to Tweet for Clicks Worldwide

For the specifics on each of the best time to tweet for clicks in each of the major time zones in Buffer, here’s a breakdown.

  • Los Angeles, San Francisco, etc. (Pacific Time): 2:00 a.m.
  • Denver (Mountain Time): 7:00 p.m.
  • Chicago (Central Time): 2:00 a.m.
  • New York, Boston, Atlanta, Miami, etc. (Eastern Time): 11:00 p.m.
  • Madrid, Rome, Paris, Berlin, etc. (Central European): 2:00 a.m.
  • Cape Town, Cairo, Istanbul, etc. (Eastern European): 8:00 p.m.
  • Sydney (Australian Eastern): 2:00 a.m.
  • Hong Kong (Hong Kong Time): 5:00 a.m.
  • Shanghai, Taipei, etc. (China Time): noon
  • Tokyo (Japan Time): 8:00 a.m.

Best Times to Tweet for Clicks - by time zone

Takeaways & thoughts:

  • Clicks was far and away the largest engagement metric that we tracked in this study (compared to retweets, replies, and favorites).
  • Some of the recommended best times for individual time zones show that non-peak hours are the top time to tweet for clicks. This data may reflect some particularly high-achieving posts—some outliers—that bring up the average when the volume of tweets is lowest. Still, it’d be a great one to test for your profile to see what results you get.
  • One neat thing to keep in mind is that a non-peak hour in, say, Los Angeles may correspond to a peak hour in London or Paris. The worldwide audience is definitely one to consider when finding the best time to tweet.

The best times for overall engagement with your tweet

We define engagement as clicks plus retweets, favorites, and replies. When looking at all these interactions together, we found the following trends for maximizing your chance to get the most engagement on your tweets:

  • Tweets sent between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m. earn the most total engagement on average
  • The highest amount of engagement per tweet occurs between 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., peaking between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m.
  • The smallest amount of engagement happens during traditional work hours, between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.

Best Times to Tweet for Engagement

Takeaways & thoughts:

  • The best times to tweet for engagement are quite the inverse of the most popular times to tweet. (The late-night infomercial effect—tweet when fewer people are tweeting—seems to be the case here.)

The best times for retweets and favorites on your tweets

Adding together two of the most common engagement metrics, we found some interesting trends for maximizing the retweets and favorites on your tweets, especially for those with a U.S. audience.

Looking at 1.1 million tweets from U.S. Buffer users from January through March 2015, here were some of the notable takeaways we found:

  • Tweets sent at the 9:00 p.m. hour in the U.S. earn the most retweets and favorites on average
  • The highest number of retweets and favorites occurs between 8:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m., peaking between 9:00 and 10:00 p.m.
  • The lowest retweet-favorite engagement happens at 3:00 a.m.

(Interesting to note, the takeaways from this data compared to the worldwide engagement data differ slightly for a couple reasons: 1) clicks represent a huge portion of overall engagement, and 2) the worldwide vs. US datasets vary.)

Best Times to Tweet for Engagement USA

We’d love to make it easy for you to share these results with your audience, your friends, your clients—anyone you think might benefit from them.

>> Download every chart from this post (.zip) <<

The methodology for our research

We studied all tweets ever sent through Buffer—4.8 million tweets since October 2010!

Based on this sample set, we looked at the number of clicks per tweet, favorites per tweet, retweets per tweet, and replies per tweet, in accordance with the time of day that the tweet was posted to Twitter.

Further, we segmented the results according to time zones, based on the assumption that the learnings might be more actionable if they could be specific to exactly where you live and work.

We had an interesting opportunity to consider whether median or average would be the better metric to use for our insights. It turns out that so many tweets in the dataset receive minimal engagement that the median was often zero. For this reason, we chose to display the average.

Over to you: What are your takeaways?

We’re so grateful for the chance to dig into the stats from the many tweets that people choose to share with Buffer. The data is super insightful, both for sharing with others and for impacting our own social media marketing plans!

What did you notice from the stats here?

Did any of the results surprise you or get you thinking about your plans in a different way?

I’d love to hear your take on this! Feel free to share any thoughts at all in the comments!

Image sources: IconFinder, Blurgrounds, Death to the Stock Photo, UnSplash

The post The Biggest Social Media Science Study: What 4.8 Million Tweets Say About the Best Time to Tweet appeared first on Social.

7 Top Marketing Podcasts and the Lessons They’ve Taught Me

As someone who’s motivated by self-improvement and achieving more, I’m constantly trying to learn as much as I can.

Books are naturally one of my main go-to sources of knowledge. But there’s also a wealth of information to be consumed in the awesome world of podcasts. For digital marketers in particular, there are tons of great marketing podcasts out there, each with their own ideas to try and lessons to learn.

And. All this information is completely free!

Listed below are my 7 favorite marketing podcasts and the lessons they’ve taught me. If you have a favorite one that’s not listed here, I’d love to hear about it!

best podcasts

7 Top Marketing Podcasts and the Lessons They’ve Taught Me

Some of the most important lessons I’ve learned have come from podcasts.

Rather than just list out my favorite podcasts, I thought it might be a great chance to share some gratitude for what these podcasts have given me: Valuable lessons in digital marketing.

Interestingly, these new ideas and lessons aren’t always presented in one easy to listen to episode. Sometimes the lessons learned might come from listening to a show for a while and identifying the common themes or ideas that the hosts keep bringing up. Today I’m going to sum up the main lessons I’ve learned while listening to some top podcasts.

How I listen to podcasts

If you don’t think you have time to listen to podcasts, then think again! Podcasts are great to listen to while you’re in the car, on the bus, at the gym or going for a walk.

I use the Podcasts app for iPhone when I’m on the go and the Apple TV at home. In addition you might try some of the following apps that are great with podcasts (many are available for Android also):

  1. Overcast
  2. Downcast
  3. Pocket Casts
  4. Soundcloud
  5. Spotify Now

Aside from smartphone apps, you can often listen to podcasts from the web via a podcast player on the host’s website or via Soundcloud. This is also great when tuning in to podcasts while you work.

Okay, without further adieu, here’s my list of favorite marketing podcasts!

1. The Fizzle Show

My favorite lesson: Knowing Your Audience

The Fizzle Show

From the founders of Fizzle.co, The Fizzle Show is a podcast for online entrepreneurs that brings you lessons about building your audience, creating a valuable product or service and starting a business that matters. It’s also an incredibly funny show and hosts Chase, Corbett and Barrett are hilarious.

The biggest lesson I’ve been able to take away from The Fizzle Show is this: know your audience better than they know themselves.

In other words, in order to succeed you need to understand the deep emotional problems your audience faces. This will inform the creation of your product or service and ultimately determine how you’re going to convince people to spend money on what you have. It’s also going to play a crucial role in how you communicate to your audience. You need to understand how to talk to your potential customers and what language to use. This only comes through having a deep understanding of your audience, their needs, problems and aspirations.

This last part is really important – when Chase Reeves introduces the show, he usually says something along the lines of:

“Welcome to the Fizzle Show where every Friday we publish another conversation about entrepreneurship in general, building a thriving audience, and the battle of supporting yourself doing something you actually care about.”

This really speaks to me personally. As I’m building my own website that helps people to be more productive, I’m wrestling with these challenges. When Chase introduces the show like this I feel like it was made specifically for me. That’s how you need to make your audience feel.

Here are some of my favorite episodes from The Fizzle Show:

Also, if interested, you can check out the Fizzle “Small Business Roadmap” for an outline of the main steps to starting and growing your online business:

  1. Finally! A Roadmap for the 6 Stages of Small Business (FS100)
  2. Connection: Stage 2 of 6 on the Small Business Roadmap (FS101)
  3. Planning: Stage 3 of 6 on the Small Business Roadmap (FS102)
  4. Build: Stage 4 of 6 on the Small Business Roadmap (FS103)
  5. Money: Stage 5 of 6 on the Small Business Roadmap (FS104)
  6. Scale: Stage 6 of 6 on the Small Business Roadmap (FS105)

2. ConversionCast

My favorite lesson: Testing Your Assumptions

Conversion Cast

From the creators of the top lead generation service Lead PagesConversionCast is a digital marketer’s paradise and is packed with useful examples of how different websites and marketers have optimized their conversion rates to grow their email lists, website traffic, user trials, customer signups, social shares and more!

These episodes are nice and short, usually about 15 minutes in length. It’s a great place for inspiration and picking up new ideas of things to optimize and test across your website.

Each episode features a guest who has successful “moved the needle” on some key metric.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned from ConversionCast is this; TEST, TEST, TEST!

While the show gives you some awesome examples of how to optimize your key performance indicators (KPIs),] it’s vital to test these ideas with your own audience. What works for one person or website may not work for you.

Instead, ConversionCast recommends you apply the Lean Startup methodology:

  1. Come up with a hypothesis (i.e. an idea of something you’d like to test).
  2. Use customer cohorts or split-test this change to validate your hypothesis.
  3. Measure the results using actionable metrics.
  4. Based on the results you can persevere with your strategy or pivot and try something else.

lean-startup

Here are some of the more notable and popular episodes of ConversionCast:

3. The Smart Passive Income Podcast

My favorite lesson: “The Riches Are in the Niches”

SPI Podcast

I love this saying and it’s so true. Pat Flynn, host of the Smart Passive Income Podcast often talks about the importance solving specific problems within some niche that you’re part of.

The great thing about the Smart Passive Income Podcast is that Pat is actually doing and testing the things that he’s talking about.

He calls himself an “online marketing guinea pig” and puts everything he learns to the test so that he can share the results with us. Pat has built a highly successful blog, podcast and now YouTube channel and is a great example of how to execute content marketing effectively.

On the Smart Passive Income Podcast Pat interviews guests, all the way from Tim Ferriss and Michael Hyatt to young entrepreneurs who have only just started to get noticed. He’s great at putting a spotlight on everyday people and showing how anyone can build a successful business.

Some of the success stories coming from the Smart Passive Income Podcast are really inspiring and it’s amazing to see what kind of niches people are able to squeeze themselves into. It just goes to show that great marketing is all about identifying a specific audience and filling their needs like no one else can or has.

Some of my favorite Smart Passive Income Podcast episodes include:

4. The #AskGaryVee Show

My favorite lesson: The Changing Social Media Landscape

The Ask Gary Vee Show

If you want to keep up with the fast changing landscape of social media then The #AskGaryVee Show should be top of your list.

Entrepreneur and investor Gary Vaynerchuck has been running his creative agency, Vaynermedia, since early 2009 with a focus on social media and digital advertising.

The Vaynermedia team publish a couple of podcasts episodes per week. Where they’re being really smart with their content marketing is that they actually film the show and extract the audio to produce the podcast. Talk about two birds with one stone; this is a great example of how to be more productive with your content marketing (let’s call it a bonus lesson).

Gary has been in the social media game for a long-time. He started his YouTube channel, Wine Library TV, to promote his wine business in 2006, just one year after YouTube was created. Gary is completely up to date with the latest social media trends and best practices. As we know, Facebook’s algorithm is constantly changing, the social media space is becoming increasingly competitive and engaging with your audience can be a challenge. Gary and his team are constantly testing new social media strategies to find out what works and of course they share the findings via the podcast.

It amazes me how knowledgable Gary and his team are about social media and how much they’re always testing and experimenting with new post types or platforms. The biggest lesson I’ve learned from the show is to adopt this mindset and react fast to social media changes. Often huge benefits can be had by getting on to a growing platform early when there’s less competition.

Always be on the lookout because the next big social network or other adopter opportunity could be just around the corner.

Each episode of The #AskGaryVee Show is packed with useful advice in a Q&A format, but I love the Gary Vaynerchuk originals that have been produced recently:

5. The Suitcase Entrepreneur

My favorite lesson: Finding Your WHY

Natalie Sisson

Natalie Sisson, also known as The Suitcase Entrepreneur, runs her business and podcast on the go while she travels around the world having awesome adventures.

Natalie’s podcast discusses online marketing, business and entrepreneurship. The show is a mix of interviews with successful online entrepreneurs and her “Fresh in 15” episodes which are shorter-form and are used to bring you quick tidbits of information.

The message I’m constantly hearing from the The Suitcase Entrepreneur Podcast is to do something you care about and find your WHY. It’s so important not just for individuals, but for businesses as well to find their WHY; their purpose or reason for being.

Your WHY is what separates you from your competition. It’s why your audience buy from you and it’s why they’re going to share your story with their friends. Finding and communicating your WHY is crucial as it’s what allows you to attract the ideal customer.

For more information about the importance of your WHY, check out this must-watch TED Talk by Simon Sinek.

Here are some of the best Suitcase Entrepreneur interviews and episodes:

6. StartUp

Being Transparent with Your Audience

StartUp

Gimlet Media is a new podcasting company that produces high quality narrative based podcast shows. StartUp was their first podcast and follows the story of CEO Alex Blumberg and his team as they wrestle with the challenges of starting up a new company.

This podcast is like nothing I’ve ever listened to; they’re telling and narrating their story as it’s actually happening. The show cuts between interviews with investors to awkward conversations with Alex’s wife to voice overs where Alex explains everything that’s happening.

Usually we only get to hear about a startup once it has become semi-successful. As the show says in the intro, the podcast shows you the side of startups that no one usually sees; those early days when it’s all trying to get this thing off the ground when you have no idea if you’re going to succeed.

One of the biggest things I’ve learned from the show is the importance of transparency.

While producing this podcast Alex has to be completely transparent with his wife, his co-founder, his team and of course us, the audience. Everyone can see (or hear) what’s happening the entire time and there’s no hiding anywhere. This of course contributes to the brilliance of the story. I’ve learned that people really appreciate transparency.

As a member of the audience listening to this show I really appreciate that the show hasn’t been sugarcoated to give a certain perception of the company. It’s all just raw conversations between employees about real challenges and concerns.

Every episode of StartUp is really insightful. If you want to get started with this show, check out episode one here:

Or you can start with season 2 which follows the story of two female entrepreneurs:

7. The Tim Ferriss Show

My favorite lesson: Constant Learning

Tim Ferriss-2

Best-selling author, entrepreneur and investor Tim Ferriss hosts The Tim Ferriss Show and interviews world-class performers in order to deconstruct what it is that they do to become so successful.

Tim is the author of three best-selling books; The 4-Hour Work Week, The 4-Hour Body and The 4-Hour Chef. His writing focuses on deconstructing a topic to find out what the “minimum effective dose” is for achieving a goal, whether that’s building a business, sculpting the perfect body or accelerating your learning.

Tim has interviewed awesome guests like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tony Robbins, Peter Thiel and Ramit Sethi. While the range of topics and skills these interviews cover is wide, one of my biggest takeaways from the show is the importance of constant learning. These world-class performers are constantly trying to improve their skills and never stop learning.

One of the common questions Tim likes to ask is “what book have you gifted to people more than any other?” or just “what are your favorite books?”. Books are an excellent source of knowledge and reading is one of the most common traits among these high-performers. These people have a thirst for knowledge and even though they’re at the top of their game, they’re constantly trying to learn more every single day.

And if they can, so can you!

Here are the standout episodes from the Tim Ferriss Show which are particularly good for marketers:

Other Podcasts to Check Out

  1. Seth Godin’s Startup School by Seth Godin. This podcast is a series of talks by author and entrepreneur Seth Godin as he guides 30 entrepreneurs through a startup workshop.
  2. The Productivityist Podcast by Mike Vardy. This is another favourite of mine. Mike’s podcast is a great source of productivity tips that help you get more done.
  3. Entrepreneur On Fire by John Lee Dumas. Hear the success stories of successful entrepreneurs with this top business podcast. Perfect for all your entrepreneurial types.

Your Turn!

I highly recommend each and every one of these podcasts. They’re all brilliant in their own right and you won’t regret taking the time to listen to the shows.

I’m always on the lookout for more great shows, so tell us; what are your favorite podcasts? Let us know in the comments below!

Image sources: Pablo, Unsplash, IconFinder, Lean Startup

The post 7 Top Marketing Podcasts and the Lessons They’ve Taught Me appeared first on Social.

The Colossus Update: Waking The Giant

Posted by Dr-Pete

Yesterday morning, we woke up to a historically massive temperature spike on MozCast, after an unusually quiet weekend. The 10-day weather looked like this:

That’s 101.8°F, one of the hottest verified days on record, second only to a series of unconfirmed spikes in June of 2013. For reference, the first Penguin update clocked in at 93.1°.

Unfortunately, trying to determine how the algorithm changed from looking at individual keywords (even thousands of them) is more art than science, and even the art is more often Ms. Johnson’s Kindergarten class than Picasso. Sometimes, though, we catch a break and spot something.

The First Clue: HTTPS

When you watch enough SERPs, you start to realize that change is normal. So, the trick is to find the queries that changed a lot on the day in question but are historically quiet. Looking at a few of these, I noticed some apparent shake-ups in HTTP vs. HTTPS (secure) URLs. So, the question becomes: are these anecdotes, or do they represent a pattern?

I dove in and looked at how many URLs for our 10,000 page-1 SERPs were HTTPS over the past few days, and I saw this:

On the morning of June 17, HTTPS URLs on page 1 jumped from 16.9% to 18.4% (a 9.9% day-over-day increase), after trending up for a few days. This represents the total real-estate occupied by HTTPS URLs, but how did rankings fare? Here are the average rankings across all HTTPS results:

HTTPS URLs also seem to have gotten a rankings boost – dropping (with “dropping” being a positive thing) from an average of 2.96 to 2.79 in the space of 24 hours.

Seems pretty convincing, right? Here’s the problem: rankings don’t just change because Google changes the algorithm. We are, collectively, changing the web every minute of the day. Often, those changes are just background noise (and there’s a lot of noise), but sometimes a giant awakens.

The Second Clue: Wikipedia

Anecdotally, I noticed that some Wikipedia URLs seemed to be flipping from HTTP to HTTPS. I ran a quick count, and this wasn’t just a fluke. It turns out that Wikipedia started switching their entire site to HTTPS around June 12 (hat tip to Jan Dunlop). This change is expected to take a couple of weeks.

It’s just one site, though, right? Well, historically, this one site is the #1 largest land-holder across the SERP real-estate we track, with over 5% of the total page-1 URLs in our tracking data (5.19% as of June 17). Wikipedia is a giant, and its movements can shake the entire web.

So, how do we tease this apart? If Wikipedia’s URLs had simply flipped from HTTP to HTTPS, we should see a pretty standard pattern of shake-up. Those URLs would look to have changed, but the SERPS around them would be quiet. So, I ran an analysis of what the temperature would’ve been if we ignored the protocol (treating HTTP/HTTPS as the same). While slightly lower, that temperature was still a scorching 96.6°F.

Is it possible that Wikipedia moving to HTTPS also made the site eligible for a rankings boost from previous algorithm updates, thus disrupting page 1 without any code changes on Google’s end? Yes, it is possible – even a relatively small rankings boost for Wikipedia from the original HTTPS algorithm update could have a broad impact.

The Third Clue: Google?

So far, Google has only said that this was not a Panda update. There have been rumors that the HTTPS update would get a boost, as recently as SMX Advanced earlier this month, but no timeline was given for when that might happen.

Is it possible that Wikipedia’s publicly announced switch finally gave Google the confidence to boost the HTTPS signal? Again, yes, it’s possible, but we can only speculate at this point.

My gut feeling is that this was more than just a waking giant, even as powerful of a SERP force as Wikipedia has become. We should know more as their HTTPS roll-out continues and their index settles down. In the meantime, I think we can expect Google to become increasingly serious about HTTPS, even if what we saw yesterday turns out not to have been an algorithm update.

In the meantime, I’m going to melodramatically name this “The Colossus Update” because, well, it sounds cool. If this indeed was an algorithm update, I’m sure Google would prefer something sensible, like “HTTPS Update 2” or “Securageddon” (sorry, Gary).

Update from Google: Gary Illyes said that he’s not aware of an HTTPS update (via Twitter):

No comment on other updates, or the potential impact of a Wikipedia change. I feel strongly that there is an HTTPS connection in the data, but as I said – that doesn’t necessarily mean the algorithm changed.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Can You Run a Marketing Program With Zero Goals?

So much of marketing, it seems, is geared toward growth and traction, particularly when it comes to startups and technology. We are pressed on all sides by tracking metrics, pivoting, learning, and growing—a sort of exponential growth mindset that envelops, well, everything: content, social, email, community. If you haven’t measured it, then it doesn’t count. If you can’t measure it, you’re better off without it.

We’re surrounded by this movement at Buffer, kind of like a stone is surrounded by a stream: change is flowing around us and we’re deciding whether to tumble along or stay still.

Today’s marketing teams seem quite focused on growth and traction.

Can you run a marketing program with an emphasis on neither?

And one of our favorite follow-up questions: What happens if you do?

marketing goals

How to run a marketing team that runs itself

What marketing looks like for a self-managed, whole, purpose-driven team

We’re in the midst of exciting things at Buffer—Pinterest integration and Pablo fun, yes, but also some serious and impactful changes around the way we organize.

We’re striving to be a Teal organization, as described in Frederic Laloux’s book Reinventing OrganizationsThe idea is that organizations evolve over time toward higher and higher paradigms with Teal being the most recent iteration.

Human Development Reinventing Organizations chart

Looking at the chart above, schools and government and churches might be the Amber formal hierarchies, most Fortune 500 companies operate in Orange, some cool folks like Southwest and Ben & Jerry’s run Green.

We’re aiming for Teal.

Reinventing Organizations summarizes the main characteristics of Teal organizations as these:

  1. Self-management. Everyone follows their interests and passions.
  2. Wholeness. Everyone chooses to bring their whole self to work.
  3. Evolutionary purpose. The organization grows organically in the direction that it’s meant to.

This is the path we’re on at Buffer, and we’re learning tons as we go.

One of those areas of learning is with marketing.

What does marketing look like for a Teal organization?

The book had several great insights and examples to get us thinking. Here are a few of my favorite quotes that point toward a possible route for our marketing team.

In comparison, Teal Organizations’ approach to marketing is almost simplistic. The organizations simply listen in to what feels like the right offering.There are no customer surveys and no focus groups. Essentially, marketing boils down to this statement: This is our offer. At this moment, we feel this is the best we can possibly do. We hope you will like it. 

Most business leaders would feel naked without budgets and forecasts. I put this question to Carlson: How do you deal with having no forecasts to compare people’s performance to? For instance, how do you know if the guys in Germany (where Sun has a plant) were doing a good job last year, if you have no target to compare against? His answer came shooting out of the barrel:

“Who knows? Who cares? They are all working hard, doing the best they can. We have good people in all the places around the world and if I need that sort of scorecard I probably got the wrong person. That’s just the way we operate.”

FAVI believes we should think like farmers: look 20 years ahead, and plan only for the next day.

“In the new way of thinking, we aim to make money without knowing how we do it, as opposed to the old way of losing money knowing exactly how we lose it.”

– FAVI

marketing teal quote

It’s a bit risky to think about running a marketing campaign with the sole goal of “hoping people like it.”

It also feels quite great to afford ourselves that freedom.

Why grow?

Our co-founder Leo has done some really amazing reflection on this topic, coming around to the question, “Why grow?”

For the last 2 to 3 years, about every day, I would wake up, open my laptop and type the letter “g” into the Google Chrome bar and hit enter. Chrome would auto-complete it to “growth.bufferapp.com”. It was like a daily ritual to check on Buffer’s growth numbers from a number of different angles. Revenue, new users, daily actives, monthly actives.

Growing, increasing our monthly revenue, our traffic, our user base, that was the number one priority in my mind. It only hit me very recently, about 4 months ago now, to pose a very simple question “Why grow?”.

One thing that’s so fascinating with everything that grows is this: It has a limit. Organically, nothing grows forever.

With your startup or any type of company, it seems that no matter how big you’ve grown, you’ll always want to grow bigger. It seems completely unthinkable today, to say that for example Apple or Google would announce “we’ve grown enough, we’ll stop here”.

Would it make sense then that growth fits more as the result rather than the focus?

If you are constantly after growth and there’s no end in sight, what does that do to the mindset of your team? Any effect could well be subconscious, a longing to continue pushing, achieving, striving to be the best or the biggest. I’d imagine it’s a slow burn. Eventually you wake up and realize you’ve been chasing growth for 5 or 10 years without knowing it.

Is that what we want for ourselves?

An example of Teal marketing that worked

leo facebook post

We had the privilege to see one of our blog posts republished on Medium’s official blog. And from our side, we did very little:

  • No outreach
  • No coordinating
  • No planning
  • No strategic goal in mind

We wrote the article because we thought it might be useful for people. The Medium team was so kind to spot the article and reach out about a possible republication. And before we knew it, there the post was, sitting on the Medium blog.

Like Leo said in his Facebook update:

It’s really hard to measure things like this on the outset and even harder to plan for something like this to happen (although I catch myself wanting to do so often!).

I’ve come to think that maybe genuinely trying to help others with useful content will lead to great things, and it’s ok to leave one’s intentions there, everything else will follow.

How growth and traction fit with Teal

One of the leading factors we’ve held to in this transition to Teal is a strong sense of intuition. We let intuition guide us in our marketing decisions. We trust our intuition, which has been informed so much by our past experience.

Where do growth metrics fit with intuition?

I often see myself going about my work in a pendulum fashion—I’ll swing to the extreme in one direction (too far, probably) and then come back the other way. I’ve done this with blogging, being quite regimented about a set publishing schedule and then not regimented at all.

I want to be mindful of this as a possibility with intuition also.

Our founder Joel shared some great thoughts with me on what might be a possible middle ground, where the pendulum might eventually settle. His advice went a little like this:

Track everything. 

Don’t let the tracking drive the decisions.

Use metrics to inform. Use intuition to guide.

You can’t know everything about the impact of a campaign. You can’t know how it feels to someone on the other end. Metrics can only go so far.

metrics vs intuition

Moving forward: How to organize marketing without a set goal

I’m at the point where so many different ideas are swimming around my head. I’m thinking toward growth and feeling excited to track new experiments, create new processes, and get things all smooth for our marketing team. I’m also thinking toward doing nothing out of the ordinary, just helping people.

In his book Growth Hacker Marketing, Ryan Holiday describes the role of a growth hacker as one who focuses on only what is testable, trackable, and scalable.

A bit later on in the book, almost as a foil to the definition of growth hacker, he says:

Marketing, too many people forget, is not an end unto itself. It is simply getting customers. And by the transitive property, anything that gets customers is marketing.

Getting customers seems like exactly what we’re doing at Buffer. We’re just going about it in our own very unique way.

I mentioned earlier the analogy of a stone in a river. Perhaps it’s more like this analogy from Seth Godin’s book Poke the Box. Instead of stones refusing to budge, we’re logs letting the current carry us forward.

Like a rock in a flowing river, you might be standing still, but given the movement around you, collisions are inevitable. The irony for the person who prefers no movement is that there’s far less turbulence around the log floating down that same river. It’s moving, it’s changing, but compared to the river around it, it’s relatively calm. The economy demands flux.

Our BHAW at Buffer: Help as many people as possible

I’ve adapted Jim Collins’s BHAG version of goal-setting (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) into our Big Hairy Audacious Wish: to help as many people as possible.

We recently had the chance to chat as a Buffer marketing team about the purpose and mission for what we do. Here’s an early look at what we’ve come up with so far for our mission:

To create helpful, actionable content that helps people with their social media presence. To connect a community of like-minded people with passions for social media, self-improvement, and Buffer’s values. To share Buffer’s internal approach, philosophies and culture to help create a new way to work.

How this fits with our values:

  1. Positivity and happiness. Put a positive spin on all we create, looking out for the good of others.
  2. Transparency. Share everything, absolutely everything we think might be useful.
  3. Self-improvement. Try new things, experiment, grow personally so that we can share our learnings.
  4. No ego. Put the reader/customer/commenter first.
  5. Listening. Slow down and hear other’s problems.
  6. Clarity. Communicate clearly.
  7. Reflection. Be willing to sit and think on bigger ideas. Ship things, but not in a hurry.
  8. Live smarter. And help others to do the same. (Tied in nicely with transparency and self-improvement.)
  9. Gratitude. Remember the lessons we’ve learned early on and pay it forward.
  10. Do the right thing. Help others.

How we measure helping others

This is one we’re still iterating on. We’d love your thoughts!

Who we’re helping

First, I think it’s useful to recognize the people that we’re able to help with our marketing efforts. It’s a bit of a bigger list than I originally thought.

  1. Buffer customers
  2. Anyone who shares to social media
  3. Anyone who’s interested in new perspectives on business, productivity, work, culture
  4. Our Buffer teammates
  5. Ourselves

The first few are maybe a bit obvious. We of course would like to help our customers share better and easier to social media. We’d love to help any social media sharers who might be interested in our learnings. We’re grateful for the chance to be on this journey at Buffer and to share everything on the Open blog.

Beyond that, our marketing helps our Buffer teammates. We help those in customer support by writing articles and guides that can be shared as resources in support tickets. We help our customer development team by writing stories that can inform our product processes.

And we help ourselves. We get to experiment and explore new areas of interest and to grow as individuals and social sharers

It all falls under the umbrella of helping people.

Specific metrics

So how can we find a way to measure the amount of “helping people”?

Is “helping” a metric?

It’s a good question and one I’m not sure I’ve found the answer to yet. Here are some ideas.

For social media

  • Follows. People find our content helpful and want to hear more from us. (This probably doesn’t apply to all who follow us, but some at least.)
  • Engagement metrics: Clicks, reshares, comments, likes. Each of these is a signal that the content is helpful or useful or valuable in some way.
  • SentimentHow do people talk about us online? What is the general vibe? The analysis here is likely quite intuition-based.
  • Volume of conversations. If positive conversation picks up around a certain topic or campaign, we can believe it was successful.

For content

  • Time on page + social shares. This combo stat shows that readers are both finding the content worth reading and, when finished reading, worth passing along to others.
  • Unique comments. How many individual people found the content worth responding to?
  • Email replies. How many people send us email regarding content we’ve made?
  • Long-term traffic and social shares over time. Tells us whether readers continue to find the content valuable into the future.
  • Incoming links. Do others see our content as valuable and helpful?
  • Inbound.org and Growth Hacker upvotes. Signals from the community that the content is helpful.
  • Email newsletter signups. People find our content valuable and would like to learn more and stay connected with us.

The one thing missing from this list: Conversions.

Are Buffer signups a signal that our marketing efforts are helpful? 

I’d love your thoughts here. I’ve gone back-and-forth between two minds and have currently settled on Yes, conversions are helpful. We believe that Buffer is a helpful tool that positively impacts your social media sharing. Therefore, getting people to sign up for Buffer would be a way of helping.

Do conversions carry extra weight in the big picture of how we choose what to work on next? I’m not quite sure. My gut is that they’d be equal to any other metric listed above as everything points back to helpfulness.

What this might look like at Buffer day-to-day

I take a lot of inspiration from the amazing workflows and deep thinking of others, especially how they organize their marketing efforts.

One method in particular has caught my eye recently. Based on Brian Balfour’s method for creating and analyzing marketing experiments, Rob Sobers built a Trello template for how to see new experiments through from idea to implementation (and beyond).

screenshot

The full 9 stages to work through are:

  1. Brainstorm
  2. Backlog
  3. Pipeline
  4. Design
  5. Implement
  6. Analyze
  7. Systemize
  8. History
  9. Playbooks

Phew! That’s quite a bit of stages. It definitely feels like a great process to see an idea through. I think it might be a bit too far from away where we’re aiming with our Teal marketing.

That being said, I’d be keen to adopt bits and pieces.

Here’s a very trimmed down version.

buffer trello board

Ideas and brainstorms

This list contains all the random ideas, all the larks and what-ifs we can imagine. Anything goes, and anyone can add something here.

Some ideas might be a bit more fleshed out than others, with additional detail added to the Trello card. This can happen either in the “Ideas & Brainstorms” stage, depending on how fully-formed the idea is to begin with, or it can happen when an idea moves into the “Pipeline.”

Pipeline

Cards first arrive in the Pipeline when we’re ready to act on them. At a glance, the Pipeline would always be the current list of all active experiments.

The cards at this point have a bit of extra information on them. Each experiment includes a spec, which can either be listed out on the card itself or written down in a hackpad with the link included on the Trello card.

In general, experiments might include the following elements:

  • Overview – What the experiment is
  • Hypothesis – Why we think it might be a cool idea to try
  • Specifics – What the experiment will involve, how it will look
  • Results – What happened
  • Learnings – What this means
  • Action items – Both for during the experiment and for afterward

Here’s a quick look at a sample hackpad:

buffer hackpad

And here’s a possible look for a Trello card:

trello card

Within the pipeline, an experiment can be at different stages, as denoted by a label.

  • Orange = Planned
  • Yellow = In Progress
  • Green = Complete!
  • Purple = Analyzing
  • Black = Systemizing
  • Teal = Success!
  • Pink = Maybe Later

History

Once complete, the card moves here where it’ll sit forever so that we can check back on what we’ve tried before.

A Buffer wrinkle: A decision maker for each experiment

One unique element that is a bit specific to us at Buffer is who decides whether an experiment was successful enough that it can become part of our marketing process.

As a self-managed company, we’d need to choose a decider.

This means assigning each of the above Trello cards to a person who can then make the final decision on an experiment’s success, taking into account the metrics involved and also the intuition of how things felt.

For choosing a decision maker, we follow closely to the process described in Dennis Bakke’s The Decision Maker:

  • Proximity. Who’s close to the issue? Are they well acquainted with the context, the day-to-day details, and the big picture?
  • Perspective. Proximity matters, but so does perspective. Sometimes an outside perspective can be just as valuable.
  • Experience. Has this person had experience making similar decisions? What were the consequences of those decisions?
  • Wisdom. What kinds of decisions has this person made in other areas? Were they good ones? Do you have confidence in this person?

Performance measurements vs. goals

In iterating on our Teal structure, we’ve found it important to have someone be responsible for each area of Buffer marketing and for this person to have a method of accountability.

We view accountability more in terms of performance measurements instead of goals—e.g., time on page can be a measure of performance for blog posts, and it’s not necessary to aim for a particular target time.

Overall, a person’s contribution to an area would include these factors:

  • Responsibilities – whether you act, advise, and/or decide for an area
  • Commitments – kind of like an area job description
  • Performance Measurement – what you’ll look at for progress and accountability
  • Status – whether active, background, or done as necessary

Final thoughts

What are some specific metrics you can use to measure if your marketing is based on helping others?

It’s a big question for us, and one we’re still in the midst of answering. Courtney wrote a great post about all the different marketing KPIs out there. She found 61! At Buffer, we’ve measured many of those in the past, and we continue to measure many of them—they just aren’t quite why or how we make decisions any more.

I’d love to keep you updated on how this develops for us and which directions we choose to take next. And if you have any thoughts at all, I’d be so grateful to learn from your ideas!

Image sources: Pablo, UnSplash, IconFinder

The post Can You Run a Marketing Program With Zero Goals? appeared first on Social.

How to Align Your Entire Company with Your Marketing Strategy

Posted by MackenzieFogelson

It’s no secret that building and executing integrated marketing strategies is the responsibility of your marketing team. The problem with that is the actions of everyone in your organization affect your marketing.

Marketing isn’t just what your customers see on the outside. It’s what happens when they get your product home. It’s the experience they have with any one person in your company at any given time and through any specific touchpoint. Whether or not you’re aware, all of the individuals on every team in your organization are contributing to your marketing on a daily basis.

That being the case, it would certainly be ideal to get everyone in your company focused on and aligned with:

    • Your marketing goals
    • The greater good that the company is working to accomplish
    • The real reasons you’re different from your competition
    • The value you provide your customers and community
    • The customers you’re working so hard to earn and keep
    • The most important strategic priorities your marketing team is working to accomplish so that your company will continue to thrive

We recently built a simple tool that has been helping our clients and their teams stay focused in their marketing efforts and also hurdle communication and goal alignment challenges. We call it the Focus Canvas and I’m going to show you how to build one of your very own (you’re so lucky).


The elements of your Focus Canvas

There are 8 key elements to your Focus Canvas. In a nutshell, here’s how they break down:

  1. Timeframe

    How long you’ll focus on the specific components you will identify in your Focus Canvas.

  2. Our Meaning Beyond Money

    The higher purpose your company is meant to achieve.

  3. Why We’re Different

    A short list that defines the valuable characteristics unique to your company.

  4. The Value We Provide

    A clearly communicated statement that helps your customers understand what you do and gives them reason to choose you over your competition.

  5. What We’re Trying to Accomplish

    The goals your teams (and company) are working to accomplish.

  6. Who Our Customers Are

    The very specific audience groups you’re working to earn and retain.

  7. How We’re Helping Our Customers

    The things you’re doing to remain relevant in your customers’ lives.

  8. What’s Important Now

    The most important things (up to three) that you need to focus on over the next 90 days in order to accomplish goals and move the company forward.

And here’s where each of those pieces are going to fit:

Focus Canvas Template

What follows is a breakdown of each piece of the Focus Canvas, why it’s important, some examples, and the resources necessary to develop each component of your very own.

If you wish, at this juncture, you may download your very own Focus Canvas skeleton and work through it as you read this guide.

Download your Focus Canvas

Okay, kids, let’s get started.


Building your Focus Canvas

Timeframe

Focus Canvas Timeframe

Why it’s important

One of the most important characteristics of your Focus Canvas is that it’s meant to be a dynamic, living, and breathing thing. At the top left, you’ll find a spot to place the date range for the duration in which you’re focusing on the things that you’ve identified in your Focus Canvas.

Ideally, you will stay focused on the specific components of your Focus Canvas for 90 days at a time. Keep in mind, however, that not all of the elements will change every quarter. Some — like your meaning beyond money, your goals, and your audience groups may remain the same across many iterations of your Focus Canvas.

After you’ve used your Focus Canvas to drive a few strategy cycles, you can decide on your frequency for updating. Just make sure that you continue to revisit and evolve it as your company, your customers, and your strategy progresses.


Our meaning beyond money

Focus Canvas Meaning Beyond Money

Why it’s important

Your meaning beyond money is the cornerstone of your Focus Canvas. It’s the reason your company exists. It’s the higher purpose your company is serving by being in business and doing what it does every day.

Your meaning beyond money is an extremely important component to all of your marketing efforts because it’s the essence of your entire brand and it’s why people are attracted to your community. If this isn’t something your company has defined, or isn’t leveraging in your marketing, it’s time to start.

companies with purpose quote brian solis

Operating from your meaning beyond money provides many benefits to your company and your team. The most important is that employees are more engaged in purpose-driven companies because they know the work they do means something.

When it comes down to it, leading with meaning beyond money is what makes your company human. And the more you have the courage to be real, authentic, and genuine in everything your company does both on- and offline, the bigger the strategic advantage you’ll gain over your competition.

Examples

Here are a couple of examples of how meaning beyond money can be communicated effectively through marketing:

Patagonia

Patagonia’s meaning beyond money is working to be a responsible company: both socially and environmentally. They are probably one of the best examples of a company that leads with purpose, and it bleeds through everything they do, especially in their marketing.

patagonia's meaning beyond money

In the recent months, Patagonia has been building an experience with their brand through an integrated campaign called “Worn Wear.” With Worn Wear, you can have your Patagonia gear repaired to help it last longer—which means the people who do this are helping Patagonia leave less of a footprint on our world, living up to the higher purpose they have as an environmentally responsible company.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/7muOgpX8vaQ

Patagonia lives their meaning beyond money so much so that they have been driving across country in a bio-diesel truck to spread the word. When they came through Fort Collins, I got a taste first-hand. And sure enough, they had people inside their bio-diesel truck repairing gear. Some of it wasn’t even made by Patagonia. That’s how deeply they believe in achieving their higher purpose (and it has helped their company to continue to be profitable).

patagonia fix-it bus

Traveling Vineyard

Serving a very different purpose as a company than Patagonia, Traveling Vineyard is a direct selling organization that sells wine. Their meaning beyond money is to help the people who sell wine for them find more personal and professional satisfaction in their lives.

Before profit comes Traveling Vineyard’s desire to support their Wine Guides in finding their passion and providing them with the resources and training necessary to build their own businesses, no matter what the bottom line looks like.

traveling vineyard's meaning beyond money

One of the ways Traveling Vineyard conveys their meaning beyond money is by telling the stories of the real people in their community and how their careers have changed their lives.

http://fast.wistia.net/embed/iframe/0qqitox1ov?videoFoam=true

The biggest impact of a company’s meaning beyond money is the fact that it doesn’t have to be at scale. You can use your company as an agent for change one person at a time.

Whatever your company determines your higher purpose to be, this part of your Focus Canvas will keep your teams focused on accomplishing that greater meaning. Then it’s clear to them that this needs to guide the decisions they make since they are part of a company that stands for something bigger than simply making money.

Resources

As you prepare your meaning beyond money for your Focus Canvas, these resources may help your company define what that is (or compel you to become more purpose-driven):


Why we’re different

focus canvas why we're different

All of the elements of your Focus Canvas are interdependent, but the next two will build on each other. The reasons that you’re different will inform the value that you provide your customers.

Why it’s important

It’s rare that companies find themselves in markets that are not saturated by steep competition. As a result, it’s imperative that you identify, and that everyone in your company understands, how to effectively communicate the reasons your company is different from your competition. Why should someone choose to be your customer? Why not just choose the other guy?

When completing this part of your Focus Canvas, list up to five unique characteristics that you know to be true only to your company (and that make you valuable and relevant to your specific customers). Be careful that you’re not just listing all of the stuff that every company in your industry offers vs. what truly makes you stand out. This will also help keep your teams focused on delivering those very important promises of value.

Examples

Warby Parker

Warby Parker has many unique selling propositions (or USPs and sometimes may even be called a UVP or unique value proposition). The most noteworthy is the fact that they’ve disrupted the entire eyewear industry by using non-traditional methods to make glasses so that their product could be the alternative. They not only compete on price but also by giving back (for every pair you buy, they give to a pair to someone in need).

warby parker uvp

M&Ms

If you happen to like M&Ms (peanut kind, please), one of the USPs of their product is that it won’t melt in your hands. Lucky for you, they made this sweet commercial about it in 1981 (and you get to re-live the magic now).

https://www.youtube.com/embed/RRESIYTRZzU

Moz

One of Moz’s USPs is how they infuse their TAGFEE values into everything they do. It’s become an unmistakable part of their identity which their customers know they can’t get anywhere else. Same with Roger (as a mascot) and Rand (as a thought leader and approachable personality).

Moz TAGFEE code

This is my favorite example of a USP because it’s not solely functionality or product based. Many companies list technical components of their products as USPs, but that means they’re continually playing the competitor catch-up game; revising their USPs every time their competitors match functionality or features.

Although you definitely want to broadcast key features that your company alone has cornered the market on, look for ways to communicate USPs that won’t go out of style and also tie back into your meaning beyond money.

Resources

Here are some additional USP resources for y’all:


The value we provide

focus canvas the value we provide

Why it’s important

This spot on your Focus Canvas is for the full version of your value proposition (which is inclusive of the unique characteristics you defined in your USPs above). This will help your team properly communicate what you do and how it benefits your customers.

According to ConversionXL, your value proposition is a clear statement that:

    • Explains how your product solves customers’ problems or improves their situation (relevancy),
    • Delivers specific benefits (quantified value),
    • Tells the ideal customer why they should buy from you and not from the competition (unique differentiation).

Try to keep this sucker brief at 2-3 sentences (with possibly a few USP bullet points to support).

Examples

Here’s one of the value proposition examples that Peep provides from Campaign Monitor. This example makes it very easy to tell what they do, who they do it for, and how that’s unique to them:

campaign monitor value proposition

Help Scout also has some great guidance on how to create great value propositions that work well. They provide these two examples of value propositions for Stripe and Synthesis:

help scout value propositions

synthesis value proposition

The biggest thing about your value proposition is that it needs to be incredibly clear and very easy to understand. Sometimes that can be easier to do on your website because you can take all the time you need to craft the perfect words, place the perfect images, and test how this affects your customers.

Where your value proposition really gets put to the test is how your employees use it in person when people ask them what they do. Your Focus Canvas is a great spot for this. Provide your team with a very brief, value-fueled elevator pitch that helps them to communicate the right things in their daily interactions with customers, colleagues, and friends.

Resources

For your convenience, here are the posts I mentioned above, plus some additional resources that will help you to build or revise your existing value proposition (that’s informed by your USPs):


What we’re trying to accomplish

focus canvas what we're trying to accomplish

Why it’s important

When you’re aligning teams, getting everyone on the same page, and working toward the visionary goal of the company, things can get messy. This requires a great deal of collaboration across channels and teams of people, all with their own agendas, goals, and expectations of results. All the more reason to use your Focus Canvas as a tool for…wait for it…focus and alignment.

Keep in mind that when you’re identifying what you’re trying to accomplish, your teams can have different goals, but ultimately everyone should be working toward achieving the overarching vision of the company.

Before you place your goals into your Focus Canvas, make sure you’re using your meaning beyond money to inform them. Those goals will then help you build an integrated marketing strategy that determines the tools and tactics you’ll use (like content, SEO, video, social, email marketing, paid channels, etc.). That way, your teams will be working on accomplishing the right things in the short term in order to reach your long-term goals.

focus canvas goals core tactics

Ultimately, everything you’re producing in your marketing strategy is working toward becoming the company you’re meant to be, and at the same time, connecting your community to your higher purpose and more fully to your brand.

Examples

When looking at what you’re trying to accomplish, consider three categories of goals: visionary, business, and brand. Place these goals on your Focus Canvas so that you can continue to work towards these goals until you’ve accomplished them. As mentioned, your goals (especially visionary goals) will most likely carry over several cycles as you revise and refresh your Focus Canvas.

Visionary

Visionary goals are the longer term ones that your entire company is working toward. It’s the bigger, more audacious goals that may take 2-3 years (or longer) to complete. If you’re using this Focus Canvas inside of a large company, you can set a visionary goal for your team or division. Just make sure it’s aligned with the greater visionary goal of the company as a whole.

If it helps, as a company, Mack Web has two visionary goals:

    • Change the way companies build their brands
    • Change the way marketing is measured

Ultimately we exist to help companies build better businesses, so our visionary goals are part of making this happen.

Business

Business goals are the stuff that’s related to your team and company’s financial goals. When identifying these goals, consider the financial benchmarks that must be accomplished in order to reach your department’s, and ultimately your company’s, revenue goals.

Currently, Mack Web’s business goals are to:

    • Diversify revenue streams (we specify actual numbers per stream internally)
    • Work with responsive, purpose-driven companies
    • Keep Mack Web running smoothly and profitably

Brand

Brand goals are the qualitative benchmarks that your team is held accountable for. When identifying these goals, consider questions like:

    • What is your meaning beyond money?
    • Who does your company really want to become?
    • How does the above inform your team’s goals?
    • How does all of this fit into the vision of your company’s brand?

Mack Web has many brand goals that we’re working to accomplish:

    • Help our clients feel valued
    • Ensure clients are reaching their goals
    • Earn long-term partnerships and mentorships
    • Earn reputable speaking and blogging gigs
    • Attract companies who align with our values and approach

Essentially, if Mack Web accomplishes our brand and business goals, we will be well on our way to accomplishing our visionary goals, and most importantly, realizing our higher purpose and the reason we exist as a company.

Resources

One of the ways we often get to goals (and also tactics to accomplish those goals) is by working through a visioning exercise we learned from working with the Paterson Process. Here’s how that works:

Where are you today?

In the first part of this exercise, you’re going to paint the picture of where your team or company stands today. Are you having a lot of conflict and roadblocks? Are you finding synergy? Are you short-handed? Do you have everything you need to be great? Are you lacking resources or training? Paint the picture, positive or negative, of your team’s status as it stands today.

where are you today

Where are you going?

Now you want to think about where you want your team (and company) to be in a year. In two years. In three years. What does that mountain look like that you want your team to stand on? Is everyone certified in Google Analytics? Have you reached a certain level of profitability and brand awareness? Did you develop a tool or resource for your customers? Paint the picture of that mountain that you’d like to summit. These desires will become your goals that you will categorize into visionary, business, and brand as detailed above.

where are you going

How will you get there?

Lastly comes the action. How the heck are you gonna make that stuff happen? What needs to be put into place? Do you need training? Do you need to hire more people? Do you need better communication with other teams? Write down all of the things that will help your team get up your mountain. As you work to build your integrated strategy, these things will become the tactics that you execute.

how will you get there

Once you’ve worked through these exercises and worked with your team(s) to identify goals, you can place your visionary, business, and brand goals on your Focus Canvas. Next, we’ll focus on your customers.


Who our customers are

focus canvas who are your customers

Why it’s important

When you’re considering how you’re going to reach your goals, it’s probably a good idea that everyone, not only those on your team but also in your company, knows who they’re talking to. Getting to know your audience is an in-depth, ongoing process of connecting, validating, and refining so that you’re continually giving your audience what they need.

When identifying who your customers are, it’s important to remember that it’s not everyone. Earning and retaining customers requires a great deal of bandwidth and resources from your team. If they know which audience groups are a priority, they can focus their strategy and efforts there, making it more likely that they’ll accomplish goals.

Examples

If you haven’t yet done so, take a long look at this slide deck from Mike King. It’s got some really important stuff in it about validating personas (and not just guessing that who you’ve identified as personas are the people you think you’re talking to).

As Mike would put it:

quantitative v qualitative

The entire deck is full of instructions on how to build data-driven persona that will help you verify whether these people are actually coming to your website, or other touchpoints in their experience, and whether you’re giving them what they need.

persona

Once you’ve identified your top three customer groups, you can place their details in your Focus Canvas (perhaps with a link to any additional context you may want to provide). Your teams can then build their strategies and focus their efforts around them.

Resources

Here are some additional resources for you that will help you identify your top three customer groups (in addition to Mike’s deck):


How we’re helping our customers

focus canvas how we're helping customers

This part of your Focus Canvas is going to evolve as you continually work to create the resources that are relevant to your customers’ lives.

What you see on your Focus Canvas skeleton are just some sample phases of a possible customer’s journey. You’ll want to identify what these phases are for your customers before you can decide the resources that will fulfill their needs during each phase and where you will need to provide them (on your website, on social, via email, offline, etc.).

Like personas, how you’re helping your customers requires continuous effort and validation. And, with other parts of this Focus Canvas, how you’re helping your customers must change based on the data you collect and the experiences you have with them.

Why it’s important

When it comes down to it, your company exists to help other people; to improve their lives in some way. In order to do this, you’ve got to continually stay relevant in their lives. Each phase in your customer’s journey is going to require a different level of support in order to earn their trust and business. Being adaptive to their needs ongoing is what will keep them with you long term.

Examples

One very simple way to help your customers is to identify each of the stages of their experience with your company, and then determine what questions you may need to answer (or resources you need to develop) during each phase. Joanna Lord has developed a very simple and effective guide that will take you through how to do this. You can then map those phases, questions, and their touchpoints in this spreadsheet, and then place the ones you’re focusing on in your Focus Canvas.

customer touchpoints chart

If you haven’t already identified customer touchpoints, then you’ll want to first look at your customer’s behavior phases and then determine the questions they may ask (or wouldn’t have enough knowledge to ask) during those phases. It may take you a few cycles to get through all of the questions, but you can use your Focus Canvas to keep track of the ones you’re focused on answering.

If you’ve already done this, then you can focus your team’s efforts elsewhere, like developing resources your customers can download and use. Whatever the task, place it in the Focus Canvas so that you can easily communicate what the focus is at this time.

Resources

In addition to Joanna’s guide, these resources will help you map your customer’s journey and identify some important things that you can be doing to better serve them:


What’s important now

focus canvas what's important now

Why it’s important

Knowing what to focus on in order to accomplish your company’s goals is probably one of the toughest parts of strategy. Within every company, no matter how big or small, there are always many things that are broken, stuff that has to get done to earn customers, and an ever-changing world to contend with.

The difficulty this presents is the temptation to do too many things at once, which will only dilute your efforts, keep you focused on nothing, and ultimately get you nowhere.

oliver emberton quote multitasking

At the bottom of your Focus Canvas you’ll find three spots to identify the most important things to focus on now, over the next 90 days. These are your strategic priorities; the things you need to cross off your list so that your team and company can get closer to getting up that mountain and achieving its goals.

Notice that there are only three spots on your canvas. If one of your strategic priorities is really big, you can even choose to focus on just one of them. The point is to focus. And, as you’re executing your integrated strategy and shiny things start to surface, come back to your Focus Canvas, all of the elements, and especially your strategic priorities, to determine whether it’s more important to take that detour or exercise some self-control and stay focused right where you are.

Examples

Right now, Mack Web has two pretty big strategic priorities that we’re working through: a rebrand and the improvement of our company operating system (we’re testing and implementing some holacracy components). These two things alone are plenty for us to chew on, so we’re capping our strategic priorities, or what’s important now, for the next 90 days on only these two things.

mack web focus canvas

These things are communicated on our Focus Canvas so that when unexpected challenges arise or shiny things present themselves, we can weigh them against what we’ve identified as priorities and either say “no” or “not now.” And, because what we’re focusing on is recorded on the Focus Canvas, it helps to take the emotion out of decisions and keep us on track.

Resources

If you need a little assistance figuring out where your focus should be for the next 90 days, we’ve adapted an exercise we learned from the Paterson Center called Four Helpful Lists.

four helpful lists

In a nutshell, here’s how it works (if you’d like some additional guidance, this post will help you better understand how we’ve worked through this exercise and applied it with our team):

Start with a question

Before we break down what’s most important to focus on, we start with a strategic question so that we can get to the underlying issues that need to surface (and then we can work on them). So, for example, if your team is challenged with available resources, instead of asking, “who are we going to hire next?” we would ask, “how is the team functioning?” That way, we can then go right into each of the prompts in the lists: what’s right, what’s wrong, what’s missing, and what’s confused.

Complete the four lists

Each of the four lists will help you uncover a variety of things that your team or company needs to focus on in order to accomplish your goals. The columns work this way:

  1. What’s right

    Always start with what’s going right. Exhaust all of the positive aspects of your current situation.

  2. What’s wrong

    This is anything that is typically putting up roadblocks. Or it’s the stuff that is taking you way off track that you probably need to consider putting on pause.

  3. What’s missing

    These are the opportunities you can explore, and also the things you wish you had. A lot of times we find what’s missing are things like processes, systems, and resources.

  4. What’s confused

    This is what you’ll need to get figured out in order to move forward. It’s what requires additional info in certain places in order to proceed.

Once you’ve gone through each list, you can then map out the items that are the most important to handle in order to move the company forward. You then choose three that will become your strategic priorities for the next 90 days. Make sure the priorities you’ve selected match your goals and align with the other elements of your Focus Canvas.


What’s next?

As you work through building your Focus Canvas, you may have unearthed some things that have been holding your team or company back. You may have noticed some gaps in many of these simple elements. That’s okay. One of your strategic priorities could be working on resolving the holes so that you know you’re focusing on the right things. Just know that it could take a few months to fully develop your first Focus Canvas.

Once you’ve got your Focus Canvas in place, you can meet with the other teams in your company to help them understand all of these important elements. Even better, maybe those teams will be inspired to be part of building the next one, or even build one that’s specific to their team but that also aligns with the focus of the marketing department.

With the awareness of what your company is here to do, who they’re doing it for, and what’s important to do now, you’re ready to develop a strategy that aligns with all of these components. We typically build strategies that recycle and reset every 90 days (this post will help you better understand how that works). You’ll want to test whatever works best for your team and company.

Final words

Not many companies work on focus because it’s hard. It means you probably have to face some conflict and work through challenges with the people on your team and in your company. It can be tough at first, but putting in the effort to get your teams focused and aligned will make a huge impact on your company.

As you work on developing and integrating your Focus Canvas within your company, I’m happy to answer any additional questions you have. Please ping me in the comments below.


Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Dissecting and Surviving Google’s Local Snack Pack Results

Posted by MiriamEllis

Google’s Snack Packs (a.k.a Local Stacks) haven’t gotten the best reception in the local business community. Many people feel these results serve Google itself more so than the local businesses they feature. For this reason, it may be more important than ever to make sure your local search marketing is both accurate and thorough. In this post, we’ll dive into why.

Let’s take one of these results apart and discover how best to respond to their limitations.

I was never a fan of Google’s Carousel. The vivid, image-oriented, horizontal display moved me out of my comfort zone after a decade or so of easy familiarity with the minimalist blue/grey/green palette of more traditional packs. A few orange stars here, a red teardrop marker there—like most Google users, I had been conditioned to see and understand these elements of pack results at a glance. The carousel felt like a shocking departure from the simplicity I consider to be a chief hallmark of Google’s historic style. I wasn’t sorry to bid them farewell … until I got my first look at the Snack Packs that have now become the standard results for hospitality and entertainment searches.

Bearing in mind that “Google’s goal is to provide users with the most relevant results and a great user experience,” please join me in dissecting the parts of a single Snack Pack entry to see if you think it’s living up to Google’s stated purpose.

elements of google's snack pack

Key to the Snack Pack

Here we’re going to see what each of the elements of this Snack Pack result for a search for “Tex Mex Restaurants” in Dallas signifies and directs us to. But before we do so, let’s quickly note what isn’t immediately accessible in this type of result:

  1. The phone number of the business
  2. The full address of the business
  3. A link to the website of the business

In other words, if we want to call the business right now, or understand exactly where it’s located, or visit the website to see a menu or get the feel of the place, we’re out of luck on our first try. Instead of instant gratification, we’re going to have to start clicking around on the elements of the typical snack pack to see if Google will give us what we want. Here’s what happens when we interact with these 10 elements:

Element 1

The business name is clear enough. We click on it, perhaps assuming that we’ll be going to the website of the business, as we would in an organic result, or at least to a Google+ Local page which years of Google use will have acquainted us with. Instead we end up on a secondary interface that isn’t a website and isn’t a Google+ Local page. It’s more like a large knowledge graph hanging in space above some organic results:

element 1 google snack pack

Personally, I find the hanging-in-space presentation of this secondary interface a bit odd, but at least we can now see the full address, phone number and a globe icon linking to the website. Likely, we’ve now found what we need, but I’m left asking why we had to click to get to this information. Traditional packs gave us instant, direct access to NAP+W—the core name, address phone number and website elements of any citation. By contrast, Snack Packs may make us feel that Google is holding out on us, making us click further into their own product before they’ll deliver.

Elements 2 and 3

Clicking on the stars and reviews also takes us to the in-space interface. Fair enough. We probably didn’t expect to see all of the Google reviews on our first try, but I do have to wonder why we don’t reach them in one click on these elements. Instead, we have to go from the second interface to a third, by clicking on the “View All Google Reviews” link. It looks like this, and is again disconnected, sitting on a greyed-out background:

elements 2 and 3 google snack pack

I have to ask, why doesn’t the reviews link in the Snack Pack take us directly to all of the reviews right away? Presumably, I want to see all of the reviews if I’m clicking that link—not just three of them.

Elements 4 and 5

The price gauge and the word Mexican” take us to the in-space interface. Fine enough. I confess, I’m not sure where that word “Mexican” comes from, and as a student of regional American cuisines, I’ll state for the record that Tex-Mex food is not Mexican food. I was curious enough about this to go hunt up the Google+ Local page for Mia’s Tex-Mex Restaurant.

You can’t get to it from the Snack Pack, as we’ve seen, and Google has been making direct links to Google+ Local pages harder and harder to find, so here’s a shameless plug for the Moz Check Listing tool. Look up the name and zip in Check Listing to get right to the Google+ Local page. No fussing with Google Maps, branded searches, etc.

Then, once you’re there, take a tip from Darren Shaw and click on the category on the Google+ Local page to see what appears to be a full list of the categories a business has selected:

elements 4 and 5 google snack pack

Okay, so now we’ve seen that the business did select “Mexican Restaurant” as a category, and perhaps if we visited, we’d find that they’re serving traditional Chiles en Nogada alongside the Tex-Mex standard queso dip. If the word “Mexican” in the Snack Pack display is coming from the categories, it has been abbreviated and given precedence over the primary, exact match “Tex-Mex Restaurant” category. I know the word isn’t coming from Zagat, where this restaurant is categorized as “Tex-Mex”. I’m not 100% sure about the origin of this word being given such prominence in the Snack Pack, but I guess we can let it go at that.

Elements 6 and 7

I really do have a bone to pick with element 6—the partial street address. What good does this do anyone? Not only are we lacking a street number to tell us exactly where the restaurant is, but the fact that there is no city shown erodes our confidence that we are, indeed, being shown a result in Dallas. We’ll have to click through to the in-space interface if we want Google to deliver the goods for us on this one.

Element 7, the sentiment snippet “longtime spot with famous brisket tacos” also takes us to the second interface. It’s not a direct quote of the business description which reads, “Bustling, casual, longtime eatery (since 1981) popular for its brisket tacos & other Tex-Mex fare.” It also doesn’t seem to originate directly from a user review, and I don’t see it described this way on Zagat. So, it appears to be a custom hybrid of sentiments Google and Zagat have created. I’m fine with this, but should it be more important to see random sentiment than a phone number in the Snack Pack? Which element do you feel is more deserving of pack real estate?

Elements 8 and 9

This is where I feel the average Google user may become somewhat confused, if they don’t understand that Google acquired Zagat in 2011. Clicking on the prominent Zagat logo or the wording “Zagat—Dallas’ best Tex-Mex restaurants”, one might expect to go to Zagat. But, you guessed, it—we’re going ridin’ on a freeway right back to the in-space interface, and we’re not even taken to the portion of it that shows the Zagat data. We have to scroll down to get to this:

elements 8 and 9 google snack pack

So, now we’re kind of intrigued. What does it mean that Zagat is voting this restaurant to be one of the best? We click that link, again likely assuming that we’re going to Zagat. Instead, we get yet another interface. It looks like this, and Mia’s Tex-Mex isn’t even the first thing we see on it. It’s down at numero cuatro in some sort of Google list that appears to be branded with Zagat’s name:

google snack pack

Just for fun, let’s click on Mia’s and see where we go. Que cosa? We’re back on the in-space interface yet again, and maybe feeling a bit like we’re going in circles.

There are actually pages on Zagat for these things. Here’s their page for the best Tex-Mex restaurants in Dallas, which I’ve noticed appears to have a completely different ordering of the results. It’s interesting that, instead of Google’s Snack Pack or the secondary interface taking us directly to this page, we remain firmly locked with Google’s own interfaces.

Element 10

As with most of the other elements, clicking the image takes us to the secondary interface (which appears to be different than the Google+ Local image gallery interface) and that then clicks to a page like this one which also feels a bit disconnected to me.

Unfortunately for this business, their primary image isn’t doing their listing any favors, but I don’t really have a problem with having to click a couple of times to get to an image gallery.

In sum, the initial interface of the Snack Pack may feel to users a bit like stubbing one’s toe on a blunt object of questionable usefulness. I know that’s the approximate sensation I have when I encounter this display.

Google may have turned off the Carousel for restaurants, but human users are still getting quite a merry-go-round ride trying to use and interpret the Snack Pack that has replaced it. As they bounce from one Google-owned interface to another instead of being given immediate NAP+W or taken directly to owner-managed websites or Google+ Local pages, or even directly to platforms like Zagat, users are given few signals about what connects all of these disparate elements together. To me, the experience is piecemeal and lacking in cohesive glue and feels like a step backward from the clearer UX of the traditional local packs that Google has so long promoted. What do you think? In your opinion, does this search results display live up to Google’s goals of usability and quality?

Snack Pack survival for local business owners and SEOs

However I may feel about Snack Packs, this I know: when I want to play with Google, it’s always got to be by their rules. So how can businesses like hotels, restaurants, bakeries, venues, bars, clubs, amusement parks, caterers and their marketers survive Snack Pack treatment?

The answer is clear:

Given that your customers will be interacting within a series of Google interfaces, it is now more important than ever that your Google-related marketing be as flawless as possible.

Using that secondary in-space interface as our springboard, this means that you have to get all of the following correct:

In your Google My Business dashboard

  1. Business name
  2. Address
  3. Phone number
  4. Website
  5. Description
  6. Hours of operation
  7. Categories
  8. Images

Beyond your Google My Business dashboard

  1. You must be earning positive, Google-based reviews and keeping an eagle eye on any patterns of negative reviews that arise so that you can quickly remedy internal service problems and respond appropriately.
  2. If you’re marketing a food service business, you should upload your menu to sites like UrbanSpoon and GrubHub. These are the sites from which I’ve seen Google pulling menus, but there could be other platforms I haven’t noticed.
  3. Food-oriented businesses must also tackle the Zagat environment. Here are Google’s detailed guidelines covering how to get Zagat rated, what’s allowed and what isn’t, editing listings, uploading menus, and lots more.
  4. Remember that Google draws data not just from places like Zagat but from all over the web. This means that your website, your structured citations, and unstructured mentions of your business must accurately, and hopefully positively, represent your business.
  5. There is no replacement for good service at your place of business, and excellent service may earn you additional perks like being added to “Best Of” lists by Google’s Zagat, which then make it into the interfaces Google controls.
  6. Be prepared for change. If we’ve learned one thing in the local SEO industry, it’s that Google makes both small and large changes on an on-going basis. We all went for a ride on the Carousel in 2013 and, with the exception of a few search categories, hopped off in 2014. Now we’re gnawing on Snack Packs. Tomorrow, who knows? What has historically stood business owners in good stead amidst all of these search evolutions is adherence to guidelines and data accuracy on Google’s products and around the web.

Your key takeaway: Be alert to developments but don’t be dismayed—if you’re getting your marketing right, chances are good that you’ll survive any foreseeable local display change. That’s good news for local business owners and their marketers alike!

Header images by Scott Bauer (United States Department of Agriculture) [Public domain] and Ricraider (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], both via Wikimedia Commons.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!