10 Content Writing Tips That Will Help You Find Interesting Topics in Minutes

You’ve probably faced this before.

I know I have.

You’ve run out of ideas.

Maybe you’ve been blogging along for, I don’t know, maybe three or four years. Maybe it’s only three or four months.

And now you’re done. Why? Because you’ve written everything there is to write about the subject.

You’ve exhausted all possible avenues, topics, approaches, angles, possibilities, and techniques. It’s over. Your blogging career has to die because you don’t have anything else to say.

It’s no use trying to fake it and continue to post recycled fluff just to keep your audience placated, because they will wise up fast.

If you’re out of ideas, you’re out. You can’t just—boom!—make yourself write new stuff on demand.

What do you do?

It’s time to step back and strategize.

I’ve been blogging for a long time. Ten years is a long time, right?

And I still haven’t stopped. I’m not just blogging here, on Quick Sprout. I’m also posting a lot of articles on NeilPatel.com, maintaining columns on Huffpo, Forbes, and Inc., and sharing guest articles with other marketing sites.

Yes, I deal with the same topics, but I have to provide fresh and unique content all the time.

Here are some of the ways I come up with interesting topics in order to keep readers engaged, informed, and coming back for more. 

1. Don’t just read. Analyze all angles of the news

Staying up-to-date with the latest events in your industry is not always a matter of a quick Google search.

Google News only indexes a limited number of websites for its web searches and even fewer for its News aggregator.

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Start with the most basic search, and compare your SERPs and headlines to other news sources.

It helps tremendously to research the demographics of your favorite news websites and determine some of the most recognized brand names in the industry as well as well-known commentators associated with that industry.

Take note of the movers and shakers of your business, and follow their movements.

Follow them on social media to see not only what they are posting but also what they’re reading and what they’re sharing and retweeting.

You’ll see what’s on their minds, and knowing the thought process of influencers in your industry, you’ll be able to anticipate tomorrow’s news.

2. Stay tuned into the voice of the people through social media comments

Don’t stop looking for ideas after reading the most respectable and popular publications. Why? Because some of the best conversation starters are trending on social media.

They may not come from a reliable news source, but do these topics generate interest? Absolutely!

More Americans actually get their news from Facebook and Twitter than they do from network programming.

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Some of the most absurd “guilty pleasure” posts trending on Facebook (you know, ridiculous headlines like “Child Sues Mother for Deleting All Her iPad Apps” or whatever) are great places to collect ideas.

Have you seen this meme that says, “I just came here to read the comments?”

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Well, sometimes I do visit websites just to read the comments!

Why? I gauge what people are thinking about trends, the questions they ask, and what’s inspiring them to comment.

People really speak their minds, holding nothing back! I’ve been shocked by the things I’ve read.

Ask questions about the stories and articles you read.

  • Why did this inspire controversy?
  • What made people comment?
  • What was the biggest issue people commented about?
  • Who else might this event or trend affect besides the person interviewed for the story?
  • What might be the long-term result of these new trends?
  • What does this show us about how people’s attitudes have changed on a given subject over a period of time (several years, for example)?

Maybe the story you encountered on Facebook will spark an idea for a post on “How many parents admit to using iPads to keep their children quiet?”

It’s a related discussion to the original story you read, and yet if you’re an app developer or iPad seller, it’s also more relevant to your audience.

Ideas come from unexpected places. The more you constantly feed your mind, the more ideas will come to you. Write them down as soon as inspiration strikes.

Keeping up with social media news—and just as importantly, the comments of users and how the news makes them feel—is a great place to spark your creativity.

3. Visit some Q&A sites, and borrow their questions

Most questions on Q&A sites are public domain. Your answers can prove to be invaluable.

Industry leaders are always ready to answer a customer’s question, and frankly, it’s just the polite thing to do.

Now, guess where these people go to get a professional opinion on a question they have?

They certainly don’t go directly to your office or your website, do they? They may not even run a keyword search.

No, they just ask whoever is nearby.

The current generation is used to asking questions and getting answers in 30 seconds.

If their friends don’t know the answer, they’ll ask random groups of people. And guess what? Eventually someone answers.

That’s why you have sites such as LinkedIn, Yahoo Answers, and Quora, which discuss thousands of industry-specific questions you can browse.

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Searching these sites is a double advantage for you. You can answer the questions on the site (getting some attention from the mainstream) and then write a new blog post or article by turning that brief Q&A into an entire 500-1000-word discussion.

Expand on the answers already given, and provide more insight on the issue.

Judging from the growing databases of these Q&A sites, you’ll never run out of questions to answer—very often, even with niche topics.

4. Create your own database of customer concerns and questions

Chances are you’ve sold at least a few products, if not hundreds, by now. That means you have plenty of cases to study for your own marketing purposes.

What did your customers say in the reviews? What questions did they ask? Reviews matter, so pay attention.

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You can generate ideas from their statements, survey information, emails, or testimonials.

I jump on the reviews customers leave to see tomorrow’s trends.

I immediately read all posted reviews to see whether the customer is satisfied or not and whether they left any suggestions for improvement. I use their enthusiasm, positive or negative, to fire up discussion on the web content.

If you have never taken the time to learn your customer’s personality and demographic, start now. Send a survey form along with every product delivery, and give them an incentive for taking the time to fill it out.

This will give you insight into your customer’s mind, and it’s the most direct and effective way to keep producing the content they want to read.

5. Research what your competitors have already done

There’s no shame in learning from someone as equally ambitious and dedicated as you are. Make a list of your closest competitors—for industry as well as for local or long-tail keywords—and take notes on what they are writing about and why.

Now, you don’t want to blatantly copy their entire article. Rather, analyze their topics, and determine ways to expand upon the story.

For example, for a broad topic such as food safety, ask yourself if there is a way to narrow it down to something more specific, like recent changes in the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act.

If the topic is too niche and you can’t think of a way to adapt it to an original article of your own, broaden the topic to your area of expertise.

There’s no sense, however, in rewriting something that’s already successful and niche-specific.

Coming up with fresh ideas is one-half researching other people’s great ideas and one-half brainstorming ways to make your rendition better.

6. Research the history of your profession and all related professions—offline!

It may surprise you to know there is far more information in book form than there is all across the seemingly infinite Internet.

The Internet makes research easier, but the information found there is not as comprehensive as we might think.

Libraries and bookstores are an underrated source of information, particularly in exploring forgotten or lesser-known histories and studies.

The quality of paperback or hardcover books is generally much higher and more in-depth than that of Internet e-books or articles, which are really scratching the surface of what we know.

Consider quantity alone. According to a very conservative Google Books estimate, about 130,000,000 books are still in existence throughout the world, though the number could be higher than that.

In contrast, Amazon—a place many people consider the definitive source of books—has less than a million e-books and lists 1.8 million print titles for sale (according to a Quora discussion).

Libraries offer access not only to books but also to newspapers, journals, encyclopedias, and archival documents that are simply not online because there’s no interest in them. In these records, though, there is enough research to power up a blog for years on end.

If you really want to establish yourself as an expert in your field and produce thoroughly original content, take your search offline and bring back a gem of knowledge.

7. Interview an expert

Content writers sometimes ignore the option to interview an expert because quoting press statements are easier to use.

If, however, you are in need of a series of interesting blogs or articles, reaching out to a professional in your industry (or related industry) for an in-depth discussion can generate enough information to write a number of individual posts.

Many experts will give interviews free, provided you have a popular blog or are reporting on a niche subject with little available information.

Many experts are eager to give online interviews either to correct what they think is inaccurate information on their subject or to build their reputation and make their name Internet-famous on a given subject.

I remember interviewing a number of leaders in my earlier days, and the issue of payment never came up. Sometimes these experts really love to share their knowledge and have someone listen.

Since they know you’ll publicize the interview, it’s a win-win for them, especially if you keep the interview brief, using phone or video chat.

Profnet, a subsidiary of PRNewsWire, is a site that matches writers with experts (or usually their representatives) in a number of fields.

Some will do brief interviews online or on the phone for free. Some experts might charge a fee, and if it’s a niche in which you can produce a lot of content and get some highly targeted traffic, it may be worth the exchange.

8. Hire young blood

Fresh perspectives are the best way to think outside the box. If you run out of ideas, brainstorm with more members of the team. Owners will oftentimes hire new blood to help in brainstorming sessions.

Even as an individual web content writer, you can tap into young creativity by simply starting conversations with acquaintances in the office or in your circle of friends online.

Many of my websites, such as Crazy Egg, have content from multiple contributors. That’s one reason why the content stays fresh.

Featuring writers from multiple backgrounds and demographics helps bring diverse, and sometimes even opposite, views on the same events we cover.

Another thing that can spark your imagination is hearing personal experiences of your colleagues or friends. People probably tell you stories about their lives all the time, e.g., an exciting commute to work, a weekend adventure, etc.

Do you actually listen and say to yourself, “You know, this would make a great blog topic!”?

You can tell their stories, with permission, or adapt their stories to start a discussion with your readers.

9. Learn to read the work of your enemies

It’s amusing how reluctant we are to listen to our enemies or, in some cases, the “quacks” of a field who we believe are spreading anti-advice.

This is why some people completely block news sites they deem biased or ignore social media users that irk them.

But I think some of the most interesting revelations about any industry come from disagreement. When someone disagrees with you, it’s an opportunity for you to sharpen your debating skills. You brush up on your knowledge of history and science so you can make an accurate rebuttal.

This is actually standard protocol in college when you write a dissertation. By learning the opposing side’s viewpoint, taking into account their objections and their research, you strengthen your own argument.

It doesn’t really matter if you believe the viewpoint or not. Whether spoken or written, it’s a part of your industry. Maybe that means you must correct the misconceptions with your web content.

Be open-minded to new evidence. Test new and outside the box ideas, even if they seem ludicrous.

This is just a part of the brainstorming experience. By spending some time investigating wrong ideas about your industry, you can find the right idea. You will also have greater passion for your industry.

I make it a point to read both sides of an argument before concluding what each side got right and wrong. It doesn’t hurt to play “devil’s advocate” in your industry blog either.

Sometimes, I can come up with a topic after reading someone else’s story that I feel is utterly false and misleading. And guess what? It stirs a great conversation, which gives me ideas for three more posts.

As you can see from this Pew Center graphic, many brand name news outlets are associated with biased viewpoints:

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Bias isn’t a bad thing, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you should avoid a biased outlet.

Objectivity is not your concern. Rather, you can generate fresh ideas for new topics by reading opposing points of view on the same subject.

10. Stay on top of industry news

Social media is not the universal channel for industry news.

While social media is important to review so you can learn the voice of the consumer, blog writing it really its own entity.

If you don’t move beyond social media, you’ll frequently pass over some really good stuff because of poor hashtags, too much competition, and bad scheduling.

On the other hand, using a blog news app will help you stay up-to-date with relevant industry blogs as soon as they are updated.

You can subscribe to the RSS feed for fast updates, or you can use a website such as Bottlenose, which is a data discovery program that gives you real-time insights about the trends in your industry.

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This goes beyond just bookmarking and actually allows you to get analytical insights about drivers of brands, consumer trends, emerging risks, and what the competition is doing.

Alltop provides a free service and, a bit more to the point, shares the top business blogs and the most trending news stories.

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You can also create your own virtual magazine rack of top websites, magazines, and blogs. Better yet, you can even share your rack as a URL for easy interaction.

Conclusion

Lastly, remember that your brain is constantly working.

Even during sleep, it can subconsciously give rise to new ideas.

If you’re feeling drained and out of fuel, take a break and sleep on it.

Let your mind dwell on the idea over time, and make subconscious connections while you attend to something else. Before you know it, inspiration will strike you.

As long as you keep taking in information, you’ll always be capable of generating great content.

What are your techniques for coming up with interesting topics?

Leaking Leads? Here’s How to Plug Your Analytics Gaps

Full funnel attribution is the dream.

A pipe dream.

In most cases.

Because a majority of the time, you’re nowhere close.

Campaigns are tagged. Sometimes.

You track incoming calls. Like 5% of the time.

You’ve got lead reports. Which go up-and-to-the-right at least.

It ain’t your fault. Our tools are limited. Cross-department assistance tricky. And marketing channels are exploding.

So here’s a simple process to help you take back control, hopefully eliminating all of those little gaps where leads commonly leak out of your funnel and mess up your reporting efforts.

The Great Analytics Gap: Where Exactly are Your Paying Customers Coming From?

How many leads did you get this month from Twitter?

How about email?

Most likely, those numbers are wrong.

Not because you made a mistake. But because your analytics platform did.

See, most basic analytics programs like Google Analytics are good. But not smart. (They’re also free, so we can’t complain too much.)

For example, your Email and Social leads this month are probably understated (only getting credit for a fraction of their overall performance), while your Direct ones are overstated (getting more credit than they really deserve).

Sometimes the swing can be 60%!

If campaigns aren’t tagged properly (and let’s be honest, who tags Tweets with any regularity), analytics programs will have a tough time picking up the referral source. Especially if these visits originate from desktop programs like Tweetdeck (does that still exist?) or Outlook (which you’re probably forced against your will to use).

These are tiny examples, but the problem persists.

Even when you’re tracking conversions, with monthly reports going to bosses and clients highlighting Goals with the sources that drove them, you might only be seeing a tiny slice of the overall pie.

Just recently, I’ve seen multiple clients spending tens of thousands of dollars on ads each month, going off of surface level information.

The phone rings, which is great. But why those calls are coming in is anyone’s guess. And nobody has a clue how many paying customers or revenue is tied back to the initial spending efforts.

Think about that. Organizations spending a majority of their marketing budgets on a single channel with tracking… kinda, sorta, setup. But not really.

Couple this with the fact that most smaller organizations use ‘niche, industry’ tools like legacy proprietary CRM’s that offer ZERO API’s and absolutely no integration possibilities.

So they’re forced to cobble this stuff together, manually.

If this stuff was being tracked properly, you’d almost instantly be able to:

  1. Save money on the losing campaigns that aren’t performing.
  2. Increase revenue by spending more on those that are.

And then you get a promotion. Or a raise, at least.

Fortunately there are a few techniques you can use to help shed more transparency and accuracy into your analytics. They’re not all encompassing, but they’re relatively easy adjustments to set up to help you practically solve this problem once and for all.

Click Tracking: The Basics of Campaign (or UTM) Tagging

I already know what you’re thinking.

UTM codes blah blah blah. Use any number of builders like the Google URL Builder to drop your URL in and idiot-proof your results.

Obvious.

But here’s the thing.

Many times UTM codes aren’t used properly. Or aren’t used holistically as a way to measure channel performance for conversions.

So let’s look at it more practically, organizing campaigns properly to make sure we’re tracking almost every single possible use case that might not get picked up by our analytics programs.

The easiest way to accomplish this campaign-wide approach is through inbound traffic segmentation. Which is shorthand* for, “Create a ton of landing page versions & funnels for each traffic source so you’re able to clearly see how and where click-conversions are coming from, thereby making analytics and reporting simple”. (*Not really.)

And while there are no shortage of tools to do this stuff for you, we still like to manage client campaigns in a simple, collaborative Google doc so everyone can quickly edit and update.

marketing-campaigns-spreadsheet

You can also do the same thing for social channels too, breaking it down even further into the primary ones you choose to plan your campaign’s content and messaging strategy ahead of time.

social-campaigns-spreadsheet

All of this time-consuming, upfront work will eventually pay dividends by making funnel analysis a breeze.

(Brilliant segue coming…) You know what also makes funnel analysis a breeze?

Kissmetrics does this with a visualized funnel reporting tool that can help you analyze all of this raw data and make faster (not to mention, more accurate) marketing decisions.

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Call Tracking: Gain Insight into Inbound Lead Sessions

Any lead-based company will tell you that good, old fashioned inbound phone calls are still the best.

Invoca analyzed more than 30 million phone calls and found that they have 30-50% conversion rates (compared to only 1-2% for clicks).

That same study found that 70% of calls are coming from digital channels. And yet, we don’t know where.

Or why. As in, what did you do to drive those people to call in the first place? (So you can easily do more of it and take home a nice bonus this year.)

Setting up unique phone numbers on each advertisement or sales collateral is an obvious first step. Duh – your AdWords campaigns are undoubtedly already using phone call tracking.

But…

What happens when those people click to your website instead of calling right away?

Especially if we’re talking any type of consultative sale, they’re going to click around your site for a bit. Maybe even leave, and come back, several times before pulling the proverbial trigger on someone to work with.

The first step towards limiting the amount of information you don’t know is to setup dynamic call tracking that focuses on individual customers.

This way, your accounting for the multi-device, multi-event, and multi-channel journey (that already happens over half the time).

CallRail is one of my new favorites to do this. You’re able to create a pool of phone numbers based on the average amount of real-time website visitors you get.

callrail-dynamic-number-insertion

These dynamic phone numbers will substitute the primary one already on your website pages, and automatically stick with one website visitor while they browse around all of your pages.

Not only can you then see a complete web session history, but also start tracking multiple sessions over time from the same customers.

callrail-customer-profile

That extra insight gets you one tiny step closer to being able to close out the big black hole that is your offline phone conversions.

There’s also a CallRail and Kissmetrics integration to help you better understand how offline phone calls fit into the customer’s website and app activity, email engagement and more. You’ll also be able to analyze how phone calls play a broader role in lifetime value of a customer (comparing with those who don’t call) and see which specific activities they complete immediately before or just after each call.

But before we can run off to implement, there’s still one last thing to figure out.

How to match all of this stuff up with your lead and customer data to see where buyers (not leads) are coming from.

Lead Tracking: Determining Which Leads Are Converting

It’s time to bring it home.

You’ve got basic campaign tagging properly organized, to limit the number of sessions that slip through your analytics cracks. And you’ve set-up dynamic call tracking to monitor people who may visit your site or call your offices multiple times prior to purchase.

Now we need to line that data up with your lead database.

My completely biased opinion is that HubSpot is one of the best solutions for this problem. Which is no surprise, given my company is a HubSpot partner who receives a nice bonus check every time we sign you up. 🙂

But what if you didn’t appreciate the blatant, selfish sales pitch? Or have the extra budget available? Or you just use some other CRM?

Another (albeit, more manual) solution is to use the excellent (and free) LeadIn to begin turning form submissions into actual people.

Once setup, you can integrate this with a few basic email marketing services to go freaking nuts on hacking your marketing stack.

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You can also begin exporting this data (I know, who the F-exports manual data anymore) and matching it up with whatever lead-based CRM you use – no matter whether they provide integrations or not.

Ideally, you need to know that John Smith just signed up with your company for $X. And John Smith came from a phone call, through AdWords, targeting the term Y.

In aggregate, a tool like Kissmetrics (surprise!) can then connect all of these dots, finally aligning paying customers (and revenue) back to the marketing channels (and decisions) which generated each.

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Conclusion

Most of us are making decisions based on incomplete information.

That’s life.

The analytics gap problem is only made worse when companies commonly have their own legacy tools that don’t play nice with whatever marketing ones you’re using.

But when clients and bosses are putting LOTS of money on the line, it’s up to us to make bold decisions on how or where to best spend it.

That becomes exponentially easier once you set up proper click tracking for the common online channels people are using once they see, hear or read about your latest campaign. And buttoning-up offline conversions like phone calls can help you finally see how many of those leads you’re collecting are transforming into paying customers.

The tips here might not be a perfect solution.

But they can get you significantly closer than where you probably are now.

About the Author: Brad Smith is a founding partner at Codeless Interactive, a digital agency specializing in creating personalized customer experiences. Brad’s blog also features more marketing thoughts, opinions and the occasional insight.

Three Tools to Turn Your Brand Story into an Interactive Visual

The story of your business is one of your most valuable assets. People remember stories and eagerly connect to them. Stories spread and get cited. Stories build loyalty and trust. Make sure you make your business story known to the world.

One of the most memorable ways to tell your business story is the visual one because media make content easy to understand and remember.

Here are three tools to turn your business story into an interactive visual. Use the tools to create brand assets that add social media context to your brand and build trust and awareness.

1. FireUp

Example of the interactive visual story.

FireUp

FireUp is a newer tool that turns brand news into an interactive timeline. To create a timeline, you add your company URL, logo and URL. Then you add events manually. FireUp explains itself as the way to organize and publicize company’s “micro moments”:

Every company creates a lot of micro news on a daily basis. News such as a new product launch or expanding into a new city or making a key hire. This News is extremely important in the life of the company but is not recorded anywhere.

FireUp supports images and animated GIFs. I couldn’t find the way to add a video to my timeline.

2. ThingLink

Example of the interactive visual story.

ThingLink

Interactive content will engage your audience and we give you the tools to analyze your KPIs and the value added through interactive media.

ThingLink is the way to add clickable links to any image. You can visualize your brand story, then upload it to ThingLink and make parts of the infographics clickable. You can then embed your interactive infographic to your page.

Here’s the full range of media you can add to your ThingLink infographic. ThingLink creations make great Facebook updates too! Here’s one example to play with.

ThingLink supports video links and it will play videos right within the interactive infographic.

3. Dipity

Example of the interactive visual story.

Dipity

Dipity is a timeline creator.

You can add images, links and videos to your timeline.

You can invite your team members (or brand ambassadors) to collaborate with you on your brand timeline and add events to it.

Are there any other similar tools that allow you to visualize your brand story and tell it in an interactive way? Please share in the comments!

The post Three Tools to Turn Your Brand Story into an Interactive Visual appeared first on Internet Marketing Ninjas Blog.

Instagram Stories: How 18 Brands And Influencers Are Using It (And You Can Too!)

10 billion.

That’s the number of videos people watch on Snapchat every day. The same potential consumption (maybe more) exists for Instagram Stories —  quick videos and photos that disappear after 24 hours, just like Snapchat, but with an audience of 500 million users.

Does that sound like a channel worth exploring?

We believe so! Storytelling has always been a key part of marketing, and features like Instagram Stories are empowering us marketers to tell better and deeper stories about our brands. We’d love to provide you with more resources about Instagram Stories so that you can master this platform and see your voice spread.

In this post, I’d love to share 18 Instagram marketers who have been doing rad things with Stories to give you some inspiration on what you could do for your Instagram Stories too.

Instagram Stories

18 Creative Uses of Instagram Stories (and how you can do it too)

From my research, I discovered several creative ways brands and individuals have been using Instagram Stories. And here’s the great news: most of these strategies do not require huge budget or resources to pull off!

Before we dive into each brand and individual, here’s the full list of rockstar Instagram storytellers with links to their Instagram profiles.

(Note: If you end up following some of these great accounts and wish to see their Instagram stories from a desktop browser, there’s a neat Chrome extension here which lets you do just that.)

  1. NASA
  2. LOFT
  3. Huffington Post
  4. Techcrunch
  5. Gary Vaynerchuk
  6. Chris Burkard
  7. New York University
  8. GoPro
  9. When I Work
  10. Shopify
  11. Remote Year
  12. Black Sheep Cycling
  13. Olympics
  14. Brian Fanzo
  15. Minaal
  16. 9gag
  17. Sean Wes
  18. Track Maven

Without further ado, let’s take a closer look at how each of the following brands and individuals uses Instagram Stories and see how you might take inspiration to adapt their strategies for our own brand!

1. NASA (@nasa)

Supplement your main Instagram content with bonus info via Stories

This is one of my favorite ways of using Instagram Stories: telling a deep story behind each and every Instagram post.

One of the key differences between Instagram and Snapchat is that Instagram provides a public, viewable profile for your main content. On no other social network can you get this type of supplemental information about the posts themselves.

This makes NASA’s use of Stories quite the native strategy. Here’s a great example: Recently, NASA posted about the annual Perseid meteor shower on their Instagram account and used Stories to share more about the meteor shower and the research on it, talking to the scientists involved in the research and showing the equipment used for the research.

NASA Story

How you could do this for your business: 

After you choose a final photo to share on Instagram, snap a couple of extra ones that go behind-the-scenes. This can be as easy as:

  • Flip your camera around to take a photo of the opposite view (example)
  • Share some of the failed drafts of photos (Instagram Stories are ephemeral, thank goodness!)
  • Snap a photo with the team that helped you create your Instagram photo
  • Zoom out and photograph the setup – works great for product shots to show all that goes into getting the photo just right!

2. LOFT (@loft)

Turn Stories into real-time events (and amplify engagement)

LOFT, a women’s clothing brand, invited two best buddies for a style challenge, which was shared as an Instagram Story. The challenge: Find something (in the LOFT store) the other didn’t think she could wear.

Not only did LOFT allow their followers to follow along the fun challenge, LOFT also gave them an opportunity to engage with a recent Instagram post and help spread their brand by asking them to tag their best friends in the post.

LOFT's Instagram Stories

(Hat tip to Amanda Tessier for this one!)

How you could do this for your business: 

Take a look at your event calendar and see if there are any upcoming events and activities that your online community can follow along. It could be:

  1. Challenges like LOFT’s
  2. Company retreats
  3. Meetups, conferences, or roadshows

Otherwise, consider if you could organize fun games around your product or service which your online community could participate in by leaving a comment on one of your recent Instagram posts or sharing a photo with a particular hashtag.

3. Huffington Post (@huffingtonpost)

Use photos with captions to tell your stories

With the help of the text and drawing functionality of Instagram Stories, Huffington Post has been creating interesting short photo summaries of recent news, allowing their followers to consume their content in a more visual and fun manner.

Huffington Post Story 1

Huffington Post Story 2

Huffington Post Story 3

How you could do this for your business: 

Go through all your recent blog posts and challenge yourself to turn one of them into a photo story. Adding captions will tend to make it easier while drawing with the three different Stories markers will bring more personality to your story.

4. TechCrunch (@techcrunch)

Give your followers a quick and easy way to consume your content

Quite similar to Huffington Post, TechCrunch has been using Instagram Stories to share headlines and short text summary of recent tech news.

Techcrunch Story

How you could do this for your business: 

If you publish lots of content regularly like a news or media agency, summarize your articles with a headline and a tagline or sentence. If the news is shareworthy, adding your brand logo, like how TechCrunch did, could help to spread the awareness of your brand.

5. Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee)

Mix high-quality edited content with raw authentic content (and keep in mind the vertical screen size)

Gary Vaynerchuk has been using Instagram Stories for several purposes — promoting his DailyVee videos through high-quality visuals, sharing very authentic glimpses into his daily life, and connecting genuinely with his followers.

Gary Vaynerchuk Story 1

In a recent Story, he mentioned that his followers asked for more wallpapers on his Instagram Stories and so he made more for them.

Gary Vaynerchuk Story 1

How you could do this for your business: 

Gary Vaynerchuk does quite a few things well on Instagram Stories, and here are some of the things you could try:

  • If you produce video content as part of your marketing strategy, consider creating an extra version for the vertical mobile screen or simply add borders at the top and bottom, which Gary Vaynerchuk does sometimes.
  • If you tend to use your Instagram posts to drive traffic to your content on your blog or Medium publication or YouTube channel, create promotional images and mention that the link is in your bio.
  • If you create images for your social media posts, make an additional image for the vertical screen or reuse the one you created for Pinterest.
  • Use Instagram Stories to do research and interact with your community. What types of content do they want from you via Instagram? How can you provide those content to them?

6. Chris Burkard (@chrisburkard)

Show your behind-the-scenes adventures

Chris Burkard is a very talented photographer with almost 2 million followers on Instagram.

He has been using Instagram Stories to take his followers through his adventures where he captures the jaw-dropping photos he shares on his Instagram accounts, including river crossings and camping outdoors with very windy conditions.

Chris Burkard Story

How you could do this for your business: 

While not every business might have such adventurous experiences on a regular basis, your followers might be interested in what your company does on a day-to-day basis. Think about some of the fun aspects you could show them, such as brainstorming sessions, team lunch, company games and more.

7. New York University (@nyuniversity)

Bring your followers on tours

New York University has a very engaged following on Instagram. Each of its posts has thousands of likes and 10–20 comments. Following the theme for its posts, New York University “takes” its followers on tours around the campus and city, enhancing the experience of following the account.

New York University Story

How you could do this for your business: 

This is great if you are a tourist attraction or school or even a retail store with a great physical space and environment!

When you are taking your afternoon break and going out for a walk, snap a few photos of interesting sights or locations and share them with your followers. These raw authentic snaps will give your followers a better sense of the area and might make them want to visit you more.

8. GoPro (@gopro)

Bring your followers on an adventure

GoPro is one of the brands I think of when I think of adventures. When Instagram Stories was launched, GoPro jumped onto the opportunity to share more footage taken with, yep, GoPro.

Recently, while making its GoPro family member’s dream come true of seeing the aurora australis, GoPro shared the adventure with its Instagram followers through incredible video footages of the trip.

GoPro Stories

How you could do this for your business: 

If you are an outdoor activities company, share all the thrilling and breathtaking videos of the outdoors with your followers.

For those who might not have such opportunities on a daily basis, here’s something else you could try. While GoPro’s Instagram Stories alone looks amazing enough, it is part of their #DreamReal marketing campaign of fulfilling their social media advocates’ dreams. You could perhaps:

  1. Use Instagram Stories to promote your company’s hashtag and encourage more people to use it.
  2. Show how happy the winners of your giveaways are or how awesome your giveaway prizes are to attract more people to participate in them in the future.

9. When I Work (@wheniwork)

Feature your customers and share behind the scenes

When I Work is employee scheduling software with over 15,000 happy customers worldwide. Recently, they visited a few of their customers in Canada and featured them in their Instagram Stories.

When I Work Story 1When I Work Story 2

How you could do this for your business: 

If it is possible, visit your amazing customers and give them a shoutout on your Instagram Stories. This will let your followers know what types of businesses and individuals use your product and might give them the social proof they need in order to convert. Furthermore, this will help you build a stronger relationship with your customers.

10. Shopify (@shopify)

Promote your blog posts creatively

You might not always be able to visit our customers like When I Work so Shopify worked around that by letting merchants, who use Shopify for their business, take over the Shopify Instagram account and share about their business.

Apart from merchant takeovers, Shopify also promotes their blog posts through Instagram Stories.

Shopify Story

How you could do this for your business: 

This is just one of the many ways you could promote your blog posts through Instagram Stories:

  1. With the blog post you want to promote, find 3-5 key points that will grab your followers’ attention. (An easy way could be to look at your H2 headings.)
  2. Turn them into fun Instagram Stories using relevant photos, captions, and drawings.
  3. Create a simple bit.ly link to be used for the last photo.
  4. Post them!
  5. Bonus: It will be great to download each Instagram Stories photo onto your phone as you create them and post them all at once when you are ready. This will help to ensure that your followers see the full set of photos at a go.

11. Remote Year (@remoteyear)

Bring your offline and online communities together

Remote Year is a year-long program where 75 digital nomads travel across the world to work and explore 12 cities together.

Through their Instagram Stories, they share what they do on, I believe, a daily basis, allowing their followers who might not be able to join the trip to still be part of the fun.

Remote Year Story

How you could do this for your business: 

It can be a bit of a bummer for your community when they are unable to attend some of your events. It could be meetups or conferences with a limited number of tickets or an exclusive event for certain customers only or a program for a selected few such as the Remote Year. However, that does not mean they have to miss out on all the fun. Here are some of the things you could do:

  • Interview key personnel briefly about the topic of the event
  • Invite attendees to share their experiences at the event
  • Film interesting and fun moments of the event
  • Appoint a host or two for your Instagram Stories while the event is taking place to talk about what is going to happen during the event, narrate as the activities are happening and interview attendees, like what the Remote Year did for some of their events (as seen in the first photo)

12. Black Sheep Cycling (@blacksheepcycling)

Give sneak previews of your upcoming products or launch them through Instagram Stories

Black Sheep Cycling is a cycling brand that provides innovative and unique cycling apparel.

A few days ago, they launched their ambassador kit for their community. Besides announcing the upcoming launch with an Instagram post, the team also used Instagram Stories to showcase the kit from various angles.

Black Sheep Cycling Story

How you could do this for your business: 

While preparing the marketing materials for your upcoming launch or announcement, create a few more vertical designs for your Instagram Stories. Consider more than one image or design since the ephemeral nature of Instagram Stories allow you to share more photos and videos without cluttering up your Instagram profile. Here are some variations you could think about:

  • Different angles of the product
  • Specific features of the product
  • Different people using your product
  • Various ways of using your product

13. Olympics (@olympics)

Report timely news and wrap-up

When the Rio 2016 Olympics was taking place, the social media team behind the Instagram account took the opportunity to share more about and celebrate the incredible Olympians. Harrison Barnes also took over the account to give a wrap-up for a day and shared his thoughts on the day’s events.

Olympics Story

How you could do this for your business: 

While you might not always be part of huge events like the Olympics, there are likely to be many high-profile events in your respective industry. For example in the tech field, one such event is TechCrunch Disrupt. You could attend such events and provide timely updates to your followers. Here are some possible ways:

  • Create simple images to share cool announcements and important news from the event
  • Share your thoughts about the announcements and news of the event
  • Interview speakers and prominent figures in the industry briefly, if possible
  • Feature partners and customers who happen to be at the same event

14. Brian Fanzo (@isocialfanz)

Give previews of your talks and let others take over your Instagram Stories

Brian Fanzo, popularly known as isocialfanz, is a millennial speaker who is very knowledgeable about community building, social media, livestreaming, influencer marketing, tech and more. In 2016 alone, Brian will keynote at more than 40 events around the world.

He has been using Instagram Stories to give previews for his upcoming talks and events such as the #Cloudtalk. He did the same when he was taking over our Buffer Instagram Stories while Brian, our Social Media Manager, took over his.

Brian Fanzo Story

How you could do this for your business: 

Work with other brands and influencers to take over your Instagram account and ask to take over theirs too. Like Gary Vaynerchuk said, “It’s an easy way to reach new audiences and increase brand awareness.” And it’s great because both parties stand to benefit from the takeovers.

A cool feature of Instagram Stories is that it allows you upload any photos and videos that were added to your phone’s camera roll within the last 24 hours. Simply swipe down while you are in the Instagram Stories camera mode. This allows you to share photos and videos from the brands and influencers without having to share your Instagram account password.

  1. Get them to create Instagram Stories and save them onto their phones without posting them.
  2. Get them to send their draft Stories to you via email, Dropbox or Google Drive.
  3. Download them onto your phone before the time you wish to post them (you will have 24 hours to use them after downloading them onto your phone).
  4. Wait for the right time and voila!

15. Minaal (@minaalofficial)

Share user generated content and showcase your customers

Minaal makes durable, professional travel gear that gets you where you want to be – faster, happier and more productive. (It is a brand many Bufferoos love too!)

In their Stories, they share photos from their community who are traveling all around the world with the amazing travel bags and gear.

Minaal Story

How you could do this for your business: 

Many a time, we love to showcase our users’ photos of them using our products, only to realize that the photo quality might not be on par with those we post on our profile or it might not match the theme of photos we chose for our gallery. Instagram Stories provides a great option to feature your users (and your product) without changing the theme of your Instagram branding or adding too many photos to your gallery.

Invite your users to share photos of themselves using your product and let them know that you will be featuring them on your Instagram Stories. Alternatively,

  1. Look out for photos of your product by your users (if there’s a hashtag that your community uses, that will be very handy)
  2. Reach out to those users and ask if you could feature their photos and them on your Instagram Stories.
  3. Once you have the photos, add their Instagram handle and perhaps add some drawings to the photos to make them more interesting.

16. 9gag (@9gag)

Funny user generated content and stories

I think most of us are quite familiar with 9gag and their hilarious content. With Instagram Stories, they brought their funny storytelling to another level!

9gag Story

How you could do this for your business: 

I believe most businesses aren’t like 9gag in terms of the amount of user generated content they have (thought it’s great if you do!). However, this does not mean we cannot learn anything from 9gag. I think 9gag is a great example of telling the same stories through different formats (on their website, Instagram posts, Instagram Stories and more).

Instagram Stories allow us to quickly click through a series of photos and videos, and that’s a great way to tell stories! It feels a bit like flipping through a photo book. So an idea could be:

  1. When you have a story or message to share with your audience, come up with a storyboard of the photos and videos you need.
  2. Download the materials onto your phone and add captions and drawings to make them more engaging and visually appealing.
  3. When the time is right, publish all of them together according to your storyboard.
  4. Bonus: You could use an Instagram post to briefly talk about the story and direct your audience to check out your Instagram Stories for more information.

17. Sean McCabe (@seanwes)

Give previews of your live events or courses

Sean McCabe used to be a hand lettering artist who charged five-figure rates until he launched a course teaching people how to do what he did and made six figures in the first three days. Since then, he has been teaching a variety of courses on building and growing a sustainable business.

He has been using Instagram Stories to share sneak peeks of his live training and why his followers should sign up for his courses.

Sean McCabe Story

How you could do this for your business: 

Personally, I like to find out as much as I can before I pay for a course, a product, or a service. Quite similar to a trial for a product or service, Instagram Stories could be an interesting way to share just enough to entice your followers into signing up for your paid courses or exclusive content.

Also, sharing a short memorable link makes it easier for your followers to act immediately.

18. Track Maven (@trackmaven)

Share top news in your industry

Track Maven is a marketing analytics software tool that helps marketers make smart decisions through understandable and actionable data. In line with their area of expertise, they share top marketing news every week in their Instagram Stories.

Track Maven Story

How you could do this for your business: 

I imagine most of us are already reading up a lot about our own industry so this just takes a tiny bit more effort:

  1. When reading through all the news, bookmark the top 3 to 5 pieces which are most shareworthy or most useful to the people in the industry or your customers.
  2. On Friday each week (or even every morning), share the news.
  3. Adding your thoughts about the news could help to make you a thought leader in your industry too.

Small plug

I would also love to give a shout out to Brian, our amazing social media manager, who has been rocking our Instagram Stories game too. Our Stories range from social media tips to influencer, brand and team member takeovers. If you are interested in learning more about social media, marketing and behind the scenes of a remote team, we are @buffer on Instagram!

Buffer Story

Over to you

There are definitely many more creative brands and folks out there that I did not come across during my research. I’d love to hear from you in the comments below if you know of any or if you feel that you are creating awesome Instagram Stories, feel free to share your handle below! Thank you!

10 Must-Read Content Marketing Interviews with Major Brands and Industry Experts

Content Marketing Interviews

Content Marketing continues to drive marketing strategy for many companies and yet most companies doen’t document that strategy and continue to be challenged in created a variety of compelling content on a consistent basis.

Smart, creative and results-focused advice on content marketing that actually works is in high demand and I’m happy to say that over the past few years we’ve published just under 500 content marketing articles on topics ranging from strategy to measuring ROI. Some might say advice from an agency might be seasoned with self-interest and so we make sure to publish interviews with brand content marketing practitioners and executives.

There’s a lot of insight in those interviews and below is a list of the 10 of the most popular, featuring conversations with brands that include: MarketingProfs, Visa, Facebook, Content Marketing Institute, LinkedIn, 3M, Bank of America, Xerox, and Dun & Bradstreet. Enjoy!

Ann Handley
1. Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs
Interview: “Writing is thinking. And for us as marketers, good writing is good marketing”

In business and in life, writing is an essential part of communications – no matter how digital, virtual and science fiction we get in our communications. That’s why Ann’s most recent book, Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content, is so timely. From Twitter to White Papers to books in print, Ann has smart, actionable advice for us all.

Takeaway: “The best content marketing isn’t about what you do or what you sell – it’s about how what that thing does for others. That’s a subtle shift, but an important one, and a hard one for companies to truly embrace.”

You can find Ann on LinkedIn and on Twitter at: @marketingprofs

Stephanie Losee
2. Stephanie Losee, Head of Content at Visa
Interview: “Brands now have the freedom to speak to their audiences directly.”

In this interview Stephanie discusses the most important changes in content marketing, a content report card for brands, predictions, career advice, and insight into more cross-functional content marketing success. Oh, and she also has thoughts on what will be the ruin of Snapchat.

Takeaway: “Think about what kind of content are external audiences expecting when they visit your owned channels, both content and social? What would benefit them? Ask for data about visitors and use it to inform your first few moves. Use existing staffers and resources and get to an always-on strategy that puts customers’ needs first as fast as you can.”

You can find Stephanie on LinkedIn and on Twitter at: @slosee

Johnathon Colman
3. Jonathon Colman, Product UX + Content Strategy Lead at Facebook
Interview: “Quality isn’t a definition; it’s a conversation.”

An insatiable learner (Masters in Information Science), wicked smart, focused on results, kind and thoughtful, Jonathan is definitely someone you can learn a lot from. In this interview he shares his journey from REI SEO to Content Strategist at Facebook, offering really useful tips, tools and resources along the way.

Takeaway: “Content experiences aren’t a zero-sum game, they’re not binary, and they’re not a competition between silos within an organization. When you look at the organizations who are growing sustainably year after year, most of the time you’ll see quality content and content services are a strong part of their strategy.”

You can find Jonathon on LinkedIn and on Twitter at: @jcolman

Joe Pulizzi
4. Joe Pulizzi, Founder of Content Marketing Institute
Interview: “Build an audience first and define products and services second.”

In this interview, Joe talks about how he found his passion for content marketing, the value and impact of goal setting, and the 6 step Content Inc model.

Takeaway: “I love content marketing because you can increase the bottom line while, at the same time, help your customers live better lives or get better jobs.  Content marketing is the only kind of marketing that provides ongoing value, whether you purchase the product or not.  Isn’t that what all marketers want to do?”

You can find Joe on LinkedIn and on Twitter at: @joepulizzi

Jason Miller
5. Jason Miller, Group Manager, Global Content and Social Media Marketing at LinkedIn
Interview: “You need a plan, and you need to find what works, then scale.”

This interview focuses on Jason’s current work, about LinkedIn and his insights into making social media and content marketing hits. He also shares examples of great B2B social media and content marketing, tools, resources and even a few predictions.

Takeaway: “As a content marketer you really need to ask yourself: ‘Do you want to stand out or do you want to truly connect with your customers and prospects?’ The answer is a balance of the two.”

You can find Jason on LinkedIn and on Twitter at: @JasonMillerCA

Carlos Abler
6. Carlos Abler, Leader – Content Marketing and Strategy :: Global eTransformation at 3M
Interview: “Content culture transformation is an essential pillar of digital transformation.”

This in-depth interview with Carlos covers content marketing in general, content strategy, and how to develop a content marketing culture across a large enterprise.

Takeaway: “Content strategy is a broad concept of organizational practices for effectively managing content lifecycle; content marketing is a specific application of content to add value to an organization’s relationship with people. Content strategy enables content marketing and content marketing defines the requirements that content strategy must serve to enable it.”

You can find Carlos on LinkedIn and on Twitter at: @Carlos_Abler

John von Brachel
7. John von Brachel, SVP, Content Marketing Executive at Bank of America
Interview: “Good content marketers need to have both left-brain and right-brain skills.”

For this post, John talked about his editorial background, how he stays current, motivating executive participation with content and a preview of his keynote and breakout session presentations at Content Marketing World.

Takeaway: “Have a compelling and consistent story to tell, one that allows you to build better relationships with your audiences. Sequence these stories to your audiences in ways that keep them connected to you and your brand over longer periods of time.”

You can find John on LinkedIn and on Twitter at: @vonbrachel

Jeannine Rossignol
8. Jeannine Rossignol, Vice President, Marketing at Xerox
Interview: “Content is an integral component of every aspect of marketing.”

This conversation with Jeannine focused on  content marketing strategy, top challenges facing content marketers, and content marketing lessons to be learned from Charlotte’s Web.

Takeaway: “A clear strategy should include who you target, what their buyer’s journey looks like, and most importantly, what are the questions they need to answer to move from one stage in the journey to the next. Every piece of content should go back to that strategy.”

You can find Jeannine on LinkedIn and on Twitter at: @j9rossignol

Rishi Dave
9. Rishi Dave, CMO at Dun & Bradstreet
Interview: “There may not be a need for more content, but there is a need for higher quality content that delivers new insights.”

Here, Rishi talks about building an inbound approach to marketing with content and the role content plays in an overall demand generation strategy.

Takeaway: “Don’t simply jump into tactics around analytics, technology, and content operations. Make sure you have something unique to say and that the organization understands what that messaging is. Until you have that, and a culture that supports it, great execution of inbound will not break through the noise.”

You can find Rishi on LinkedIn and on Twitter at: @RishiPDave

Michael Brenner
10. Michael Brenner, CEO at Marketing Insider Group
Interview: “The real question behind content ROI is, ‘why should I change what I am doing today?‘”

A first class guy and a pleasure to work with as an influencer, our discussion with Michael touches on some of the key questions marketers are trying to tackle, from developing a strategy to growing an audience to the importance of measuring content marketing performance. Michael also shares a business lesson from one of his favorite childhood stories.

Takeaway: “Content Marketing ROI is no harder than ROI for the rest of marketing. Start with a benchmark, calculate the cost of your content, place a value on the results and from there, ROI is pretty easy.”

You can find Michael on LinkedIn and on Twitter at: @BrennerMichael

There’s a lot of smarts in these content marketing interviews and I hope they have inspired you in ways that will motivate content that is better for your customers and more effective for your marketing.

Content Marketing World
The Content Marketing World conference is coming up fast and on September 8th, I will be presenting solo and participating on a panel that you might be interested in. Here are the details:

Thursday, Sept. 8 – 12:05 – 12:50pm
Optimize the ROI of Your Content Agency Investment
Solo Lunch & Learn Session (Room 1)

Thursday, Sept. 8 – 2:50 – 3:35pm
How B2B Executives Need to Strategize in the World of Content
Panel with Jennifer Harmel, Michael Brenner, Carla Johnson and Kira Modrus (Room 3)

You will also be able to see most of the content marketing smarties interviewed above at Content Marketing World. Ann, Stephanie and John are all giving keynotes and of course, Joe Pulizzi is the man behind it all.

Susan Misukanis Ashley Zeckman
My business partner and our agency president, Susan Misukanis (L) and our agency director of marketing, Ashley Zeckman (R) will be attending Content Marketing World as well.  We hope to see you there!

If you can’t make the conference or even if you are, don’t miss a thing by watching @toprank, @smisukanis and @azeckman for tweets during the conference and Online Marketing Blog for daily liveblogging of presentations.

Disclosure: We are currently providing services to LinkedIn and MarketingProfs. 


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3 Reasons Why More Retargeters Should Bid on Your Behalf

The programmatic ecosystem has evolved significantly over the past several years, and personalized retargeting as one of many programmatic solutions has become more and more prevalent. Today, it is obvious that using a single retargeter is not always optimal. In fact, running two to three retargeting campaigns with different providers can bring much better results without any additional cost. Here’s why it works.

Field Trip to Mars: The Making of Video

When Lockheed Martin wanted to create a group VR experience, they didn’t mess around. Teaming up with Framestore and Unreal Engine to design and engineer an immersive, 360 virtual experience for groups of school kids in a way never before imagined; through a school bus. Field Trip to Mars won 19 Lions (yes 19!!), more […]

Google Presents: National Park Hidden Worlds

Google is ramping up mobile 360 video experiences, now you can explore some of the most amazing National Parks in the US, as you follow rangers on a journey to places most people never go. You’ll experience some of the most amazing sights, unbelievable sounds, and crazy adventures of Kenai Fjords, Hawai’i Volcanoes, Carlsbad Caverns, […]

Say Goodbye To Clicking And Swiping

Every Monday morning at 7:10 am, I am a guest contributor on CHOM 97.7 FM radio broadcasting out of Montreal (home base). It’s not a long segment – about 5 to 10 minutes every week – about everything that is happening in the world of technology and digital media. The good folks at CHOM 97.7 FM are posting these segments weekly to SoundCloud, if you’re interested in hearing more of me blathering away. I’m really excited about this opportunity, because this is the radio station that I grew up on listening to, and it really is a fun treat to be invited to the Mornings Rock with Terry and Heather B. morning show. The segment is called, CTRL ALT Delete with Mitch Joel.

This week we discussed: 

  • I was not able to make it to the studio this week, but figured that I would share the stories that I wanted to discuss with Pierre Landry, who sat in for Terry and Heather B. I’ll be back on air next Monday at 7:10 am with Terry and Heather B.
  • Is you car about to become KITT from Knight Rider? While Amazon Echo‘s amazing voice-activated assistant, Alexa, is still not available in Canada, the technology is going to change how we interact with technology. Say goodbye to clicking, swiping and those greasy fingers you use on your iPhone. It’s all going to be voice. BMW just announced that they are soon going to open up control of its cars to Alexa, as it looks to increase the tech in their vehicles (and compete against Tesla). You’ll soon be able to speak to your car, and find out how much fuel is left, to unlock the doors and much more. Voice will be the way we navigate our technology in the not-to-distant future. So, imagine yourself as Captain Kirk hailing your computers for everything. 
  • If using your voice to control your tech (“Hello, Siri”) still seems too weird, how about a smart tattoo? A group of PhD students from the MIT Media Lab and researchers from Microsoft Research have come up with a new kind of wearable: a temporary tattoo, that can turn into a touchpad, remotely control your smartphone, or share data. The technology, which will be presented at a wearables conference next month, is called DuoSkin. The researchers say you can design a circuit, using any graphic software, stamp out the tattoo in gold leaf (which is conductive to electricity), and then apply other commodity materials and components that would make the tattoo interactive. Who doesn’t like to touch themselves? 
  • Posting almost anything to Facebook can make you look like a narcissist in this day and age. Well, check this out: Researchers from the Brunel University in London have conducted a study on why so many people share every workout on social media. While your body may look great, the results of this study are less flattering. “People who are always keen on documenting their gym activities (or every time you simply go for a good, old-fashioned run) tend to be narcissists. According to the researchers, the primary goal is to boast about how much time you invest in your looks. Apparently these status updates also earn more Facebook likes than other kinds of posts.” So, if you post about it your a narcissist. If I like it, I’m just fuelling your deep-seeded issues. 
  • App of the week: Fender Tune.

We will have the regular audio feed back for you next Monday.

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Six Links Worthy Of Your Attention #322

Is there one link, story, picture or thought that you saw online this week that you think somebody you know must see?

My friends: Alistair Croll (BitCurrent, Year One Labs, GigaOM, Human 2.0, Solve For Interesting, the author of Complete Web Monitoring, Managing Bandwidth: Deploying QOS in Enterprise Networks and Lean Analytics), Hugh McGuire (PressBooks, LibriVox, iambik and co-author of Book: A Futurist’s Manifesto) and I decided that every week the three of us are going to share one link for one another (for a total of six links) that each individual feels the other person “must see”.

Check out these six links that we’re recommending to one another: 

Feel free to share these links and add your picks on Twitter, Facebook, in the comments below or wherever you play.

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I Got You vs. I Keep You – The Mobile Brand Crisis

Brands are going to confront a huge challenge as their consumers become more and more mobile.

In the past, I have written about the massive chasm that is developing between consumers and brands, as our consumers become more mobile and smartphone enabled. Please read: Mobile Breaks Search… And Your Brand (from March 2016). Yes, brands will continue to struggle with a mobile web experience vs./plus a native mobile application for iOS and Android. Which is the better venture (or both) are tough, expensive and timely decisions that should have been made a few years back, but are being battled over in the boardrooms and budgets today. There is no choice, but to move forward as mobile has evolved from another channel to the primary way that consumers interact with information, one another and, of course, your brand. Search is a problem because discoverability of these mobile applications is a real chore for brands. The user experience is not like the desktop web experience of search and click. Consumers now have to go to the app store, and look for your brand. In short, discoverability, serendipity and more is all but lost for most brands today.

Let’s say a consumer did find your app… are they sticking with you?

It turns out that discoverability, getting a consumer to download your app and use it isn’t even half of the challenge. Churn is going to be the bane of a brand’s existence for the next long while. In fact, the assumption would be, that as consumers get more adept at mobile, the easier this hill would be to climb. That would be wrong. When it comes to apps, the data is frightening. Back in September 2015, MarketingCharts reported on something many of us marketing professionals knew: smartphone users spend the bulk of their time with a few of their favourite apps (Smartphone App Users Spend Half of Their Total App Time With Their Favorite One). From the article…

“Exactly half of all time spent on smartphone applications occurs on an adult’s single most-used app, says comScore in a new report that contains a host of intriguing data points about mobile app reach and engagement. The study shows that app time is even more concentrated on tablets: fully 87% of tablet app time is spent with users’ top 3 apps. This demonstrates that app discovery isn’t the only challenge faced by marketers… As is well known by now, time spent with mobile apps is growing quickly, up 90% between June 2013 and June 2015. As previously noted, this growth isn’t coming at the expense of web access, as mobile browser use is up 53% over the same timeframe, and desktop use is up 16%. Still, smartphone (65%) and tablet (12%) apps have combined to contribute almost 80% of the growth in total digital time spent over that 2-year period.”

Guess which apps?

By pure data, we know that it is probably mostly happening on Facebook/a Facebook owned app as well. This should be sobering to brands today. Now, let’s assume that you were so good as to overcome all of this. You got them. You got the consumer to find you, download your app and engage. Have you kept them? Back to the churn problem. Two days ago, MarketingCharts published another important article titled, Uh Oh. Mobile App User Retention Rates May Be Worsening. From the article…

“…preventing churn is a whole new ball game. And it’s not getting easier… In fact, fully 63% of app users will become inactive within 30 days after downloading an app… That churn rate is up from 58% in last year’s analysis… the figures are also slightly down from Q4 2015 rates, so it may well be that retention is indeed becoming more difficult to achieve. Perhaps these high churn rates are to be expected, given comScore research showing that half of smartphone users’ app time is spent with their single favorite app. (Which could well be a Facebook property.) Nevertheless, what Localytics has called a ‘Mobile Engagement Crisis’ seems to be getting worse, rather than better, over time. By the third month post-download, 80% of users have abandoned an app, per this latest research, up from 75% in the earlier analysis.”

The solutions may be more challenging than the problem.

How does a brand overcome this discoverability and churn problem? A simple platitude like, “be awesome” or “provide utility” may not be enough. The MarketingCharts article suggests in-app messaging, creating more things that hook users in earlier in the process, and great deals as possible solutions. Candidly, this may not be enough. What we do know is this: mobile, apps and this space were not created as a media platform for a brand play. This is not like television that was created with advertising in mind. In fact, looking at mobile experiences and usage, it would be fair to say that we have never seen a media platform so anti-brand and advertising before. Finding the solution in an article like this would be amazing. Realistically, brands need to think about their mobile planning now in two (very large) perspectives:

  1. What are we doing to get consumers? What is the app/mobile experience really going to bring to them in terms of value, utility, information, entertainment, etc… that will help them embrace it?
  2. What are we going to do to keep them? What will the app/mobile experience have that will always make it relevant/important for them to have over a lifecycle?

No solution. Just two very tough questions that all brands should be working on.

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Keeping Social Media Fresh With Jason Keath – This Week’s Six Pixels Of Separation Podcast

Episode #528 of Six Pixels of Separation – The Mirum Podcast is now live and ready for you to listen to.

This past week was a tough one for me, and owe Jason Keath a huge apology. I was supposed to be one of the main speakers at his incredible Social Fresh conference (which took place over this weekend in Orlando, Florida). I had a sudden and scary medical issue come up that precluded me from travel, and I had to cancel on him (and another event, out in Los Angeles). It’s a terrible feeling knowing that you are letting someone down. That is only made worse, when it’s someone as kind as Jason. Thankfully, Sally Hogshead came to our rescue (thanks, Sally… you’re the best!), but still… it sucks. Jason works hard as the founder and CEO of Social Fresh Conference. He has a passion for bringing together the smartest voices in marketing, and getting them to share what really works. He’s also a keynote speaker, in his own right and a podcaster over at Social Toolkit Podcast. With that, he has many thoughts on the current state of social media and what it is going through. Enjoy the conversation…

You can grab the latest episode of Six Pixels of Separation here (or feel free to subscribe via iTunes): Six Pixels of Separation – The Mirum Podcast #528.

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