Why We Removed 3,000 Pieces of Outdated Content From the HubSpot Blog

You know what sounds like a really bad idea?

Deleting 3,000 pages from the HubSpot Blog.

You know what our SEO and Web Dev teams did in February?

Deleted 3,000 pages from the HubSpot Blog.

No, this wasn’t some Marie Kondo-ing team-bonding exercise gone horribly, horribly wrong (although those posts were definitely not sparking joy).

It was a project that our head of technical SEO, Victor Pan, and I had wanted to run for a long time — because counterintuitively, getting rid of content on your site can actually be fantastic for SEO.

In the SEO world, this practice is called “content pruning”. But, while a good idea in theory, content pruning doesn’t mean you should go crazy and hack away at your content like it’s a tree and you’ve got a chainsaw. Content pruning is far more methodical than that — like trimming a bonsai.

I’ll get to the results we saw at the end of this post. But first, let’s explore what content pruning is, and then dive into a step-by-step content audit process, so you’ll have a detailed blueprint of how to do this for your own property (or your client’s).

Which brings us to the next question:

How often should you run a content audit?

Like almost everything in SEO, it depends. If you have a large site, you may want to audit a different section every month. If you have a small site, consider evaluating the entire site every six months.

I typically recommend starting with a quarterly audit to see how much value you receive from doing one. If you end up with so many next steps you feel overwhelmed, try running them more often. If you’re not learning that much, run them less often.

Why run a content audit?

When my team kicked off this project, we already knew there were a ton of older pages on the HubSpot blog that were getting essentially zero traffic — we just didn’t know how many. Our goal from the start was pruning this content.

However, even if that wasn’t the case, there are still several reasons to run periodic content audits:

  1. Identify content gaps: where are you missing content?
  2. Identify content cannibalization: where do you have too much content?
  3. Find outdated pages: do you still have legacy product pages? Landing pages with non-existent offers? Pages for events that happened several years ago? Blog posts with out-of-date facts or statistics?
  4. Find opportunities for historical optimization: are there any pages that are ranking well but could be ranking higher? What about pages that have decreased in rank?
  5. Learn what’s working: what do your highest-traffic and/or highest-converting pages have in common?
  6. Fix your information architecture: is your site well-organized? Does the structure reflect the relative importance of pages? Is it easy for search engines to crawl?

Choosing your goal from the beginning is critical for a successful content audit, because it dictates the data you’ll look at.

In this post, we’ll cover content audits that’ll help you prune low-performing content.

1. Define the scope of your audit.

First, determine the scope of your audit — in other words, do you want to evaluate a specific set of pages on your site or the whole enchilada?

If this is your first time doing a content audit, consider starting with a subsection of your site (such as your blog, resource library, or product/service pages).

The process will be a lot less overwhelming if you choose a subsection first. Once you’ve gotten your sea legs, you can take on the entire thing.

2. Run a crawl using a website crawler.

Next, it’s time to pull some data.

I used Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider for this step. This is a fantastic tool for SEO specialists, so if you’re on the fence, I’d go for it — you’ll definitely use the spider for other projects. And if you’ve got a small site, you can use the free version, which will crawl up to 500 URLs.

Ahrefs also offers a site audit (available for every tier), but I haven’t used it, so I can’t speak to its quality.

Additionally, Wildshark offers a completely free crawler that has a very beginner-friendly reputation (although it only works on Windows, so Mac users will need to look elsewhere).

Finally, if you want to run a one-time audit, check out Scrutiny for Mac. It’s free for 30 days and will crawl an unlimited amount of URLs — meaning it’s perfect for trying before buying, or one-off projects.

Once you’ve picked your weapon of choice, enter the root domain, subdomain, or subfolder you selected in step one.

For instance, since I was auditing the HubSpot blog, I only wanted to look at URLs that began with “blog.hubspot.com”. If I was auditing our product pages, I would’ve wanted to look at URLs that began with “www.hubspot.com/products“.

If you’re using Screaming Frog, select Configuration > Spider. Then, deselect:

  • Check Images
  • Check CSS
  • Check JavaScript
  • Check Links Outside Folder
  • Crawl All Subdomains
  • Crawl Outside Folder

Next, tab over to “Limits” and make sure that “Limit Crawl Depth” isn’t checked.

What if the pages you’re investigating don’t roll up to a single URL? You can always pull the data for your entire website and then filter out the irrelevant results.

After you’ve configured your crawl, hit “OK” and “Start”.

The crawl will probably take some time, so meanwhile, let’s get some traffic data from Google Analytics.

Since we’re evaluating each page, we need the “Site Content > All Pages” report.

If you have a view set up for this section of the site, go to it now. I used the view for “blog.hubspot.com”.

If you don’t have a view, add a filter for pages beginning with [insert URL path here].

Adjust the date range to the last six to twelve months, depending on the last time you ran an audit.

(Also, don’t forget to scroll down and change “Show rows: 10” to “Show rows: 5000”.)

Then, export that data into a Google Sheet.

Title the sheet something like “Content Audit [Month Year] for [URL]”. Name the tab “All Traffic [Date Range]”.

Then go back to GA, click “Add Segment”, uncheck “All Users”, and check “Organic Users”. Keep everything else the same.

(It’s a lot easier to pull two reports and combine them with a V-LOOKUP then add both segments to your report at once.)

Once it’s finished processing, click Export. Copy and paste the data into a new tab in original content audit spreadsheet named “Organic Traffic [Date Range]”.

Here’s what you should have:

At this point, I copied the entire spreadsheet and named this copy “Raw Data: Content Audit May 2019 for blog.hubspot.com.” This gave me the freedom to delete a bunch of columns without worrying that I’d need that data later.

Now that I had a backup version, I deleted columns B and D-H (Pageviews, Entrances, % Exit, and Page Value) on both sheets. Feel free to keep whatever columns you’d like; just make sure both sheets have the same ones.

Hopefully, your Screaming Frog crawl is done by now. Click “Export” and download it as an CSV (not .xslx!) file.

Now, click “File > Import” and select your Screaming Frog file. Title it “Screaming Frog Crawl_[Date]”. Then click the small downward arrow and select “Copy to > Existing spreadsheet”.

Name the new sheet “Content Pruning Master”. Add a filter to the top row.

Now we’ve got a raw version of this data and another version we can edit freely without worrying we’ll accidentally delete information we’ll want later.

Alright, let’s take a breath. We’ve got a lot of data in this sheet — and Google Sheets is probably letting you know it’s tired by running slower than usual.

I deleted a bunch of columns to help Sheets recover, specifically:

  • Content
  • Status
  • Title 1 Length
  • Title 1 Pixel Width
  • Meta Description 1
  • Meta Description 1 Pixel Width
  • Meta Keyword 1
  • Meta Keywords 1 Length
  • H1-1
  • H1-1 Length
  • H2-1
  • H2-1 Length
  • Meta Robots 1
  • Meta Robots 2
  • Meta Refresh 1
  • Canonical Link Element 2
  • rel=”next” 1 (laughs bitterly)
  • rel=”prev” 1 (keeps laughing bitterly)
  • Size (bytes)
  • Text Ratio
  • % of Total
  • Link Score

Again, this goes back to the goal of your audit. Keep the information that’ll help you accomplish that objective and get rid of everything else.

Next, add two columns to your Content Pruning Master. Name the first one “All Users [Date Range]” and “Organic Users [Date Range]”.

Hopefully you see where I’m going with this.

Unfortunately, we’ve run into a small roadblock. All the Screaming Frog URLs begin with “http://” or “https://”, but our GA URLs begin with the root or subdomain. A normal VLOOKUP won’t work.

Luckily, there’s an easy fix. First, select cell A1, then choose “Insert > Column Right”. Do this a few times so you have several empty columns between your URLs (in Column A) and the first row of data. Now you won’t accidentally overwrite anything in this next step:

Highlight Column A, select “Data > Split text to columns”, and then choose the last option, “Custom”.

Enter two forward slashes.

Hit “Enter”, and now you’ll have the truncated URLs in Column B. Delete Column A, as well as the empty columns.

This is also a good time to get rid of any URLs with parameters. For instance, imagine Screaming Frog found your landing page, offers.hubspot.com/instagram-engagement-report. It also found the parameterized version of that URL: offers.hubspot.com/instagram-engagement-report?hubs_post-cta=blog-homepage

Or, perhaps you use a question mark for filters, such as “https://ift.tt/30t1Qg3”.

According to GA, the latter URLs will get little organic traffic. You don’t want to accidentally delete these pages because you’re looking at the parameterized URL stats, versus the original one.

To solve this, run the same “split text to columns” process as before, but with the following symbols:

  • #
  • ?
  • !
  • &
  • =

This will probably create some duplicates. You can either remove them with an add-on (no, Sheets doesn’t offer deduping, which is a little crazy) or download your sheet to Excel, dedupe your data there, and then reupload to Sheets.

3. Evaluate pages with non-200 HTTP status codes.

I recommend filtering the URLs that triggered a non-200 response and putting them into a separate sheet:

Here’s what to investigate:

Redirect audit:

  • How many redirects do you have?
  • Are there any redirect chains (or multi-step redirects, which makes your page load time go up)?
  • Do you have internal links to pages that are 301ing?
  • Are any of your canonicalized pages 301ing? (This is bad because you don’t want to indicate a page is the canonical version if it’s redirecting to another page.)

404 error audit:

  • Do you have internal links to pages that are 404ing?
  • Can you redirect any broken links to relevant pages?
  • Are any of your 404 errors caused by backlinks from mid- to high-authority websites? If so, consider reaching out to the site owner and asking them to fix the link.

4. Pull in traffic and backlink data.

Once you’ve standardized your URLs and removed all the broken and redirected links, pull in the traffic data from GA.

Add two columns to the right of Column A. Name them “All Traffic [Date Range]” and “Organic Traffic [Date Range]”.

Use this formula for Column B:

=INDEX(‘All Traffic [Date Range]’!C:C,(MATCH(A2,’All Traffic [Date Range]’!A:D,0)))

My sheet was called All Traffic January-May 19, so here’s what my formula looked like:

=INDEX(‘All Traffic January-May 19′!C:C,(MATCH(A2,’All Traffic January-May 19’!A:A,0)))

Use this formula for Column C:

=INDEX(‘Organic Traffic [Date Range]’!C:C,(MATCH(A2,’Organic Traffic [Date Range]’!A:A,0)))

Here was my formula:

=INDEX(‘Organic Traffic January-May 19′!C:C,(MATCH(A2,’Organic Traffic January-May 19’!A:A,0)))

Once you’ve added this, click the small box in the lower right-hand corner of cells B2 and C2 to extend the formulas to the entire columns.

Next, for each URL we need backlinks and keywords by URL.

I used Ahrefs to get this, but feel free to use your tool of choice (SEMrush, Majestic, cognitiveSEO, etc.).

First, enter the root domain, subdomain, or subfolder you selected in step one.

Then, select “Pages > Best by links” in the left-hand sidebar.

To filter your results, change the HTTP status code to “200” — we only care about links to live pages.

Click the Export icon on the right. Ahrefs will default to the first 1,000 results, but we want to see everything, so select “Full export”.

While that’s processing, add a sheet in your spreadsheet titled “Live Backlinks by URL”. Then add three columns (D, E, and F) to the Content Pruning Master sheet named “Backlinks”, “URL Rating”, and “Referring Domains”, respectively.

Import the Ahrefs CSV file into your spreadsheet. You’ll need to repeat the “Split text to column” process to remove the transfer protocol (http:// and https://) from the URLs. You’ll also need to delete Column A:

In Column D (Backlinks), use this formula:

=INDEX(‘Live Backlinks by URL’!E:E,(MATCH(A2,’Live Backlinks by URL’!B:B,0)))

In Column E (Referring Domains), use this formula:

=INDEX(‘Live Backlinks by URL’!D:D,(MATCH(A2,’Live Backlinks by URL’!B:B,0)))

In Column F (URL Rating), use this formula:

=INDEX(‘Live Backlinks by URL’!A:A,(MATCH(A2,’Live Backlinks by URL’!B:B,0)))

5. Evaluate each page using predefined performance criteria.

Now for every URL we can see:

  • All the unique pageviews it received for the date range you’ve selected
  • All the organic unique pageviews it received for that date range
  • Its indexibility status
  • How many backlinks it has
  • How many unique domains are linking to it
  • Its URL rating (e.g. its page authority)
  • Its title
  • Its title length
  • Its canonical URL (whether it’s self-canonical or canonicalizes to a different URL)
  • Its word count
  • Its crawl depth
  • How many internal links point to it
  • How many unique internal links point to it
  • How many outbound links it contains
  • How many unique outbound links it contains
  • How many of its outbound links are external
  • Its response time
  • The date it was last modified
  • Which URL it redirects to, if applicable

This may seem like an overwhelming amount of information. However, when you’re removing content, you want to have as much information as possible — after all, once you’ve deleted or redirected a page, it’s hard to go back. Having this data means you’ll make the right calls.

Next, it’s finally time to analyze your content.

Click the filter arrow on Column C (“Organic Traffic [Date Range]”), then choose “Condition: Less than” and enter a number.

I chose 450, which meant I’d see every page that had received less than 80 unique page views per month from search in the last five months. Adjust this number based on the amount of organic traffic your pages typically receive. Aim to filter out the top 80%.

Copy and paste the results into a new sheet titled “Lowest-Traffic Pages”. (Don’t forget to use “Paste Special > Values Only” so you don’t lose the results of your formulas.) Add a filter to the top row.

Now, click the filter arrow on Column B (“All Traffic [Date Range]”), and choose “Sort: Z → A.”

Are there any pages that received way more regular traffic than organic? I found several of these in my analysis; for instance, the first URL in my sheet is a blog page that gets thousands of views every week from paid social ads:

To ensure you don’t redirect or delete any pages that get a significant amount of traffic from non-organic sources, remove everything above a certain number — mine was 1,000, but again, tweak this to reflect your property’s size.

There are three options for every page left:

Here’s how to evaluate each post:

  • Delete: If a page doesn’t have any backlinks and the content isn’t salvageable, remove it.
  • Redirect: If a page has one or more backlinks and the content isn’t salvageable, or there’s a page that’s ranking higher for the same set of keywords, redirect it to the most similar page.
  • Historically optimize: If a page has one or more backlinks, there are a few obvious ways to improve the content (updating the copy, making it more comprehensive, adding new sections and removing irrelevant ones, etc.), and it’s not competing with another page on your site, earmark it for historical optimization.

Depending on the page, factor in the other information you have.

For example, maybe a page has 15 backlinks and a URL rating of 19. The word count is 800 — so it’s not thin content — and judging by its title, it covers a topic that’s on-brand and relevant to your audience.

However, in the past six months it’s gotten just 10 pageviews from organic.

If you look a bit more closely, you see its crawl depth is 4 (pretty far away from the homepage), it’s only got one internal link, and it hasn’t been modified in a year.

That means you could probably immediately improve this page’s performance by making some minor updates, republishing it, moving it a few clicks closer to the homepage, and adding some internal links.

I recommend illustrating the parts of the process you’ll use for every page with a decision tree, like this one:

You’ll notice one major difference: instead of “historically optimize”, our third option was “syndicate”.

Publishing the articles we removed to external sites so we could build links was a brilliant idea from Matt Howells-Barby.

Irina Nica, who’s the head of link-building on the HubSpot SEO team, is currently working with a team of freelancers to pitch the content we identified as syndication candidates to external sites. When they accept and publish the content, we get incredibly valuable backlinks to our product pages and blog posts.

To make sure we didn’t run into any issues where guest contributors found a post they’d written several years ago for HubSpot on a different site, we made sure all syndication candidates came from current or former HubSpot employees.

If you have enough content, syndicating your “pruned” pages will reap you even more benefits from this project.

Speaking of “enough” content: as I mentioned earlier, I needed to go through this decision tree for 3,000+ URLs.

There isn’t enough mindless TV in the world to get me through a task that big.

Here’s how I’d think about the scope:

  • 500 URLs or fewer: evaluate them manually. Expense that month’s Netflix subscription fee.
  • 500-plus URLs: evaluate the top 500 URLs manually and hire a freelance or VA to review the rest.

No matter what, you should look at the URLs with the most backlinks yourself. Some of the pages that qualify for pruning based on low traffic may have hundreds of backlinks.

You need to be extra careful with these redirects; if you redirect a blog post on, say, “Facebook Ads Best Policies” to one about YouTube Marketing, the authority from the backlinks to the former won’t pass over to the latter because the content is so different.

HubSpot’s historical optimization expert Braden Becker and I looked at every page with 60+ backlinks (which turned out to be roughly 350 pages) and manually tagged each as “Archive”, “Redirect”, or “Syndicate.” Then, I hired a freelancer to review the remaining 2,650.

Once you’ve tagged all the posts in your spreadsheet, you’ll need to go through and actually archive, redirect, or update each one.

Because we were dealing with so many, our developer Taylor Swyter created a script that would automatically archive or redirect every URL. He also created a script that would remove internal links from HubSpot content to the posts we were removing. The last thing we wanted was a huge spike in broken links on the blog.

If you’re doing this by hand, remember to change any internal links going to the pages you’re removing.

I also recommend doing this in stages. Archive a batch of posts, wait a week and monitor your traffic, archive the next batch, wait a week and monitor your traffic, etc. The same concept applies with redirects: batch them out instead of redirecting a ton of posts all at once.

To remove outdated content from Google, go to the URLs removal page of the old Search Console, and then follow the steps listed above. 

This option is temporary — to remove old content permanently, you must delete (404) or redirect (301) the source page.

Also, this won’t work unless you’re the verified property owner of the site for the URL you’re submitting. Follow these instructions to request removal of an outdated/archived page you don’t own.

Our Results

So, what happened after we deleted those 3,000 blog posts?

First, we saw our traffic go up and to the right:

It’s worth pointing out content pruning is definitely not the sole cause of growth: it’s one of many things we’re doing right, like publishing new content, optimizing existing content, pushing technical fixes, etc.

Our crawl budget has been significantly impacted — way above Victor’s expectations, in fact.

Here’s his plain-English version of the results:

“As of two weeks ago, we’re able to submit content, get it indexed, and start driving traffic from Google search in just a matter of minutes or an hour. For context, indexation often takes hours and days for the average website.”

And the technical one:

“We saw a 20% decrease in crawls, but 38% decrease in the number of URIs crawled, which can partially be explained by the huge drop in JS crawls (50%!) and CSS crawls (36%!) from pruning. When URIs crawled decreases greater than the total number of crawls, existing URI’s and their corresponding images, JS, and CSS files are being ‘understood’ by GoogleBot better in the crawl stage of technical SEO.”

Additionally, Irina built hundreds of links using content from the pruning.

Finally, our Ahrefs rank moved up steadily — we’re now sitting at 249, which means there are only 248 websites in the Ahrefs database with stronger backlink profiles.

Ultimately, this isn’t necessarily an easy task, but the rewards you’ll reap are undeniably worth the hassle. By cleaning up your site, you’re able to boost your SEO rankings on high-performing pages, while ensuring your readers are only finding your best content, not a random event page from 2014. A win, win.

The 12 Types of Content Marketing in a Marketer’s Arsenal

When it comes to content marketing, it can be tough to know which ones to use and which ones will make a statement. There are a variety of content marketing types that marketers can choose from. For example, Southwest likes to mix it up by posting gifs, blog posts, commercials, and retweets on their Twitter page. Delta has recently been on a video and gif kick, posting strictly commercials, videos, and gifs about flight.

It’s ultimately about what type of content marketing promotes your business effectively. And there are a handful of different content marketing types to choose from when you want to make a splash in your campaigns.

1. Blogs

Having a blog on your website that corresponds with your product and its market attracts potential customers looking for the answer your business solves. Blog posts improve SEO and can be a low-cost way to boost organic traffic.

When writing blog posts, be sure to keep these things in mind:

  • Optimize your content for SEO
  • Use a pillar or cluster model to organize your blog topics
  • Keep your content focused and relevant to your product.

For example, Jeff Bullas has been named one of the top influential global marketing officers. Therefore, his website has blog posts about content marketing and global social media. For example, this post is about turning followers into customers.

2. Videos

Videos engage an audience quickly. According to HubSpot research, 54% of audiences want to see videos from brands they support, which is more than any other type of content.

Videos are also a versatile medium; you can create a variety of content in your industry that engages your market and leaves them wanting more. In this post, we walk you through how to use video marketing to your advantage.

For instance, design businesses can benefit from AR video marketing, which delivers a digital model of what you view using a smartphone. In 12 steps, including how to shoot with an iPhone, you can learn how to video market like a pro.

Microsoft uses their technology to empower everyone. Their recent commercials have shown just how inclusive their definition of “everyone” is, producing powerful messages about how technology can inspire many to achieve their goals.

3. Infographics

Infographics are so fun and can wake up a marketing strategy with eye-catching content. They’re bright, visually captivating ways to present stats or processes. Infographics are quick and low-cost music to a marketer’s ears.

 

Image Source: Towards Data Science

This infographic about content marketing gives 10 ways an infographic can make a difference in landing leads. For example, if it doesn’t gain that much traction on Twitter or Instagram, try uploading it to Facebook.

Data can be easier to recognize and understand when presented in mediums like this. Further, infographics can make your product more reputable if there’s hard data involved.

4. Case Studies

Case studies are effective for leads who want to learn more about your business from the customers themselves. With case studies, buyers see a customer’s journey from start to finish and see similar use cases in real life.

LinkedIn Case Study

Image Source: LinkedIn

This case study by LinkedIn, provides an in-depth look at how Adobe uses LinkedIn to market their business and drive applicants. It provides data and screenshots of Adobe’s campaign and demonstrates how the brand measured their success using the workplace platform. This case study could help similar businesses see how using LinkedIn in a similar way could improve their applicants.

LinkedIn also conducts video case studies, like this one about HSBC. It shows how LinkedIn’s marketing strategy includes diversifying the way their content is presented.

5. eBooks

If you’ve never created an eBook before, think of them as long-form blog content. They’re not a novel, they’re not a multiple-page ad for your business. Instead, they’re a way to give potential clients valuable information.

The Experience Optimization Playbook by Optimizely is a free eBook that explores optimization strategies from Fortune 500 companies. For an in-depth guide on how to create eBooks, including tips on how to write effective copy (keep it short, use keywords, and check font sizes) click here.

6. User-generated content

User-generated content is an amazing content marketing method because it gets customers involved. People respond to others like them, and it’s more likely to make them interested in your business.

UG content examples

Image source: Netflix Is A Joke

These are user-generated content examples from Twitter. Netflix has a stand-up from Hannah Gadsby and this retweet is from a fan tweeting a quote from the special they enjoyed. A single tweet provided instantly shareable content for Netflix’s comedy account.

Image source: Wendy’s

This Wendy’s fan tweet gave the fast-food giant a way to celebrate Friday the 13th, and promote their customers as well as their fries. As a bonus, Twitter users got to see a spooky Jason/Wendy mashup.

7. Checklists

Checklists provide value to potential customers, especially for SMB customers. They show a step-by-step method for solving a problem and can be formatted to fit your social media pages.

This example, by HubSpot Academy, shows how marketing is tied to the content with the last checkbox. It’s as easy as thinking of how your product fits into your target audience’s daily routine. You can also create an internal checklist to use for the team, making sure some content is always client-specific.

8. Memes

A form of content marketing best described as, “Don’t knock it ’til you try it.” Memes are a relatively new type of content marketing, but they work extremely well. A meme is an image set with culturally relevant text that is rapidly circulated online. If you can time a meme perfectly, and align it with your social aesthetic, it’s a savvy way to increase traffic.

Image source: Hulu

Hulu loves using memes to promote what’s on its streaming service. That’s not surprising, considering they’re some of Hulu’s most popular tweets. Memes require digging into the current social climate and seeing where your company fits. Social listening can help with that.

9. Testimonials and customer reviews

Like user-generated content, testimonials and customer reviews are content generated straight from your audience. If you’re operating in a niche market, testimonials give a short synopsis of why your company stands out.

Nike uses testimonials from top athletes to market their shoes. In fact, most of their Instagram and commercial content comes from celebrity endorsements and reviews. Smaller businesses can benefit from adding customer reviews on their website or in emails (because we all can’t have tennis pro Simona Halep take over our social accounts).

10. Whitepapers

These often misunderstood pieces are not eBooks. Both are forms of lengthy content, but whitepapers are more densely packed with data and information. Whitepapers pay attention to detail and are a key part of the research phase for 71% of buyers, according to the Demand Gen Survey Report.

Image source: Tata Communications

This whitepaper, by Tata Communications, about network optimization is a great example of an in-depth, visually stunning document that breaks down data using charts and graphs.

Whitepapers can be visually appealing, even if the content is more … uh … utilitarian. Keep design in mind when you’re formatting page layout and key takeaways. And use appealing and easy-to-read fonts when constructing your pages, so readers are more inclined to keep turning the page.

11. How-to guides/academies

If you’re offering a product like a CRM, or any other kind of software, how-to guides are a must in content marketing. From Google Ads to Skillshare and even HubSpot, training courses are an interactive way for new and potential buyers to test drive your product before committing.

academy for ads quora

Image source: Quora

If you’re a smaller business and an academy isn’t feasible for your company, Instagram Carousels might be the answer. Carousels allow for further explanation of products/services on Instagram in a visual way. Instead of creating an entire guide, you can upload 30-second clips or multiple photos in one post and make it a highlight.

12. Influencers

Industry influencers can be highly beneficial to a marketing campaign. Having influencers promote your content can attract an entire audience you weren’t previously able to reach.

Vegan YouTuber Caitlin Shoemaker does sponsorships with other vegan brands on her socials to boost her reach and the brands’ reach as well.

To connect with an influencer in your industry, simply email their representation with a press release or reach out to their company or manager directly.

While these are our must-haves for content marketing, this definitely isn’t a definitive list of content marketing types. When it comes to content marketing, choose the types that fit your business the best and don’t be afraid to experiment. For a complete guide on content marketing, be sure to check out this post.

These Influencers Are Computer-Generated: The Future of Marketing, or Untrustworthy Advertising?

More likely than not, you see influencer posts on your Instagram feed daily. In many ways, they become part of your life — influencing everything from exercise classes you take, to clothes you buy.

It’s undeniable that influencer marketing is powerful. In fact, over the past five years the tactic has quickly grown into a multi-billion dollar industry.

Plenty of businesses, both large and small, use influencers across their social platforms to reach new audiences, build brand awareness, and increase sales. Examples of successful influencer marketing strategies range from Stride Gum’s partnership with DJ Khaled to Glossier’s partnership with micro-influencers and “regular women”.

And, as influencer marketing grows, it’s no longer just limited to humans — as we’ve seen with Jiff Pom, a Pomeranian with over nine million Instagram followers.

But if any human (or pet) can become an influencer, it begs the question — do influencers even need to exist in real life?

In 2019, computer-generated influencers like Miquela Sousa might argue, “No.”

For instance, let’s take a look at this post by Miquela Sousa (@lilmiquela), an influencer with 1.6 million followers:

IMG_1554-1

By all accounts, the post looks real. Miquela, a 19-year-old Brazilian American model, influencer, and singer, is posting a #sponsored post for Calvin Klein and posing with fellow model Bella Hadid.

But Miquela is a computer-generated character, introduced by Los Angeles company Brud in 2016. Each month, almost 260,000 people listen to her music on Spotify. Miquela works with major brands ranging from Prada to Samsung, and she’s even given interviews at Coachella.

All of which raises the question — why should companies pay real human influencers to promote their products, when they can create their own personal influencer from scratch?

Lil Miquela, a Chinese News Anchor, and Colonel Sanders — Are Virtual Influencers The Future of Marketing?

Before we consider the pros and cons of virtual influencers, let’s explore some examples.

First, as previously mentioned, there’s Lil Miquela. When you scan through her Instagram posts, you quickly realize her captions make her sound like a regular teenager.

In fact, in the following post, she even sounds like she has real emotions, writing, “[One of angel boi’s friends] blew up at me at lunch and stormed out as I ugly cried in front of about 50 strangers … and now he won’t respond to any of my texts”:

4Max1

While her caption is fake, her followers’ comments are real — many of Lil Miquela’s followers respond with empathy or shared experiences, comments like “This same thing happened to me once, you’ll get through it”.

And then, there are Miquela’s “friends” — Bermuda (@bermudaisbae), with 170K followers and a bio that reads “Robot/Unbothered mogul with daddy’s PIN and a flawless highlight”, and Blawko (@blawko22) a self-described “Young Robot Sex Symbol” with 141K followers.

As Miquela writes on the following post: “Me and my mains! Always getting me through the roughest, there for all the highs, ride or dies … ILU guys!”

MkDFC

While these three are the only robots currently engineered by Brud, there are other “virtual humans” out there.

For instance, Xinhua News, a Chinese media outlet, unveiled an AI news presenter in 2018 who can work 24-hours a day without breaks, reducing news production costs. As the artificial news presenter stated in his introductory video, “I’ll work tirelessly to keep you informed as texts will be typed into my system uninterrupted.”

Image Source

In another example, Balmain, a fashion label, commissioned photographer Cameron-James Wilson to create a diverse “virtual army” of models for Olivier Rousteing’s 2018 collection:

In a statement on the campaign, Balmain writes: “Anyone and everyone is always welcome to join Balmain Army’s growing ranks — they need only share our bold spirit of adventure as our new virtual icons, Margot, Shudu and Zhi who mirror the beauty, the rock style and the confident power.”

Of course, the campaign was met with mixed reviews — one follower wrote, “This is disgusting! I do not understand why they think these models are attractive”, and another commented, “As if Photoshop wasn’t enough, what’s wrong with this world?! #realpeople #realmodels please”.

And, last but certainly not least, there’s KFC’s Colonel Sanders, mocking the very trend of virtual influencers while taking part in it:

All of which is to say — are virtual influencers untrustworthy, or the future of marketing?

What Virtual Influencers Can Offer — and What’s Missing

There are some undeniable benefits to creating or hiring a virtual influencer.

For one, a virtual influencer isn’t human, meaning he or she won’t need breaks. Xinhua News, mentioned above, clearly saw the benefits of this — by using a virtual news anchor to cover breaking news 24-7, they lowered the cost of hiring real people to cover news throughout the night.

If you’re trying to work around-the-clock publishing and promoting content to raise brand awareness, then, it makes sense you’d consider using a virtual influencer, who can post and promote content without sacrificing human needs like … well, sleep.

Additionally, your virtual influencer isn’t as much of a PR liability as a real influencer is. For instance, Debra Davis, founder of NKLS — a company that researches, advises on, and invests in virtual and augmented reality — told WWD, “With a virtual influencer, so much more thought has to be put into the message. It’s not just someone with a Twitter stream. It’s more carefully constructed and thought through, and therefore can be controlled.”

Real influencers and celebrities make mistakes that could influence the public’s perception of your brand. With a virtual influencer, you don’t risk associating your brand with any negative press.

Additionally, it might cost less to hire a virtual influencer compared to a celebrity or supermodel. 

However, if your brand is considering hiring micro-influencers, you’ll more likely find a real micro-influencer for cheaper.

It’s also worth noting that much of what we see on Instagram is edited, filtered, and posed — so, really, is a real person’s highly filtered version of “real life” much different from virtual reality, anyway?

Lastly, a virtual influencer is incredibly rare and unusual, so it draws immediate attention to your brand. If your brand is trying to reach Gen-Z or a younger audience, a virtual influencer might be something that appeals to your intended demographic.

RqNPX

On the flip side, there’s still something uniquely powerful and engaging about real influencers connecting with their audience through social platforms. Virtual influencers like Lil Miquela can pretend they have human emotions, but that can just as easily backfire if her audience doesn’t trust the emotion behind it.

Ultimately, influencer marketing is about engaging in authentic, meaningful connections. How is an audience ever supposed to trust a promoted post when there isn’t a real human advocating for it?

Additionally, influencer marketing is often most successful when it’s seen as real and genuine. For instance, direct-to-consumer beauty brand Glossier has become insanely successful due, in large part, to its authentic marketing strategy.

As Emily Weiss, founder and CEO, said during a live interview with Kara Swisher for the Recode Decode podcast, “At Glossier, something we’ve always stayed very true to, since pre-launch, day one, is that every single person is an influencer.”

You’ll notice Glossier adheres to this strategy on its Instagram page, which exhibits real women using Glossier products:

At the end of the day, there’s something to be said for brands that find real people to promote their products or services to other real people. Sure, there’s risk involved — but that risk is the same component that enables audiences to trust, listen to, and connect with those influencers in the first place.

Instagram, Facebook, or Snapchat: Which Stories Are People Actually Watching?

While Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat seem like incredibly different platforms, there’s one thriving feature that all three have in common: Stories.

By now, many of us have used or viewed a Story on a social media platform. This content serves as a way to chronicle our daily lives, vacations, and interesting outings. Stories also allow us to tap into our creative or highly visual side. As video platforms continue to expand, this type of feature won’t be losing steam any time soon.

Marketers have also become quite Story-savvy. On any given platform with this feature, you can find a number of brands using Stories to publish educational content related to their industry, show how-tos related to their products, or display customer testimonials.

As brands experiment with linking Stories to online content, they’re finding that the strategy can actually generate significant traffic.

Stories provide a number of solid marketing opportunities across platforms. And, right now, the question marketers are asking isn’t, “Should I publish Stories?” Instead, they might be wondering, “Which social platform should I publish Stories on?”

When you think of platforms with Story features, Instagram and Snapchat might be on the top of your mind. We’ve seen that Gen-Z and millennials are flocking to apps like Instagram and Snapchat, while multiple generations continue to use Facebook.

We also know that Snapchat launched the first Story format before Instagram followed suit by launching its own highly-successful Stories feature. Lastly, Facebook got on the bandwagon by launching a Stories feature that looked just like Instagram’s after purchasing the social media company.

Yes, Instagram and Snapchat were the earliest Story pioneers. And the Stories feature has been integral to Instagram’s growth and Snapchat’s primary feature. But, don’t write Facebook off just yet.

When we surveyed 275 consumers from across the U.S., I was surprised to find that a whopping 70% said they prefer to watch Facebook Stories.

Lucid Survey on Social Media Stories preferences

Survey Conducted with Lucid

Diving Into This Result

This overwhelming Facebook preference might seem pretty surprising — especially to those who watch Stories regularly on Facebook or Snapchat. But, it actually makes a bit of sense. Facebook Stories surpassed the 500 million daily active user mark in 2018, just a few months after Instagram hit the same milestone.

Although research shows that Gen-Z favors Instagram, Facebook Stories could be growing due to Facebook’s massive audience. Right now, Facebook is still the most used social network with more than 1.59 billion daily active users, while Instagram has just over 500 million.

Because we surveyed a general pool of consumers from all age groups, broad demographics might have also played a role in this result. Had we surveyed just Gen-Z, the results might have swayed toward Instagram, which has a user base that’s booming with young adults.

Does this really impact brands?

Before you start a whole new marketing strategy around Facebook Stories, pause for a minute. Since this was a small survey, you shouldn’t drastically pivot your social media tactics just yet.

However, we’re still discussing this poll, and Facebook’s Story growth, because these factors make you think about how important this marketing tool could be in the near future.

Even though Facebook’s feature was late to the game, it still won this vote — and hundreds of millions of daily users.

Depending on who you want to reach with your branded content, it could be worth experimenting with Facebook Stories. While we don’t encourage you to abandon your current strategy just because of a general poll, these results, combined with data about Facebook’s huge audience, suggest that Facebook Stories could provide solid opportunities to marketers.

To give you some further guidance, here’s a quick comparison of where branded content stands on each major Story platform. At the end of this post, I’ve also included a list of tips for Stories that can be helpful on any platform.

Facebook Stories vs. Instagram Stories

Facebook has the most daily active users of the major social platforms, but it seems to be losing its teen audience year to year. Meanwhile, Instagram is gaining young adults but has half the user base.

Because Facebook has such a broad audience, a variety of brands — from B2B to lifestyle to entertainment — have succeeded on the overall platform. Because Facebook users are regularly following brands and local businesses on the platform, content from businesses might similarly feel natural to these users.

Since the social network already provides strong marketing opportunities for local businesses, it might also be a great place for smaller businesses to post Stories.

With Stories, local businesses can show off their location, products, or testimonials of local customers that benefited from their product or service. These types of content could add more depth, beyond what the average feed post or Facebook Page can offer.

Because Stories pop up above News Feeds on Facebook’s mobile, this also could give the business some additional visibility on the platform. This could be a great way to get your content at the top of a prospect or regular customer’s feed as you update them with a photo or video that gives valuable information related to your brand.

One local business that leverages Facebook Stories for marketing purposes is the Dublin-based Newpark Clinic.

In this example, the Invisalign company has a customer film herself discussing how she successfully straightened her teeth with help from the clinic:

Newpark Clinic Facebook Story

These types of stories allow people to see real, local people that have been positively impacted by a local business. If a prospective customer had liked this business page while researching Invisalign companies, they might see this post and trust the company because it presented a real-world example of its service. If a customer likes the page after working with Newpark Clinic, they might see this Story, get pleasantly reminded of the company, and look into them for another dental service.

Instagram-Specific Stories

Instagram also provides strong local business marketing options similarly to Facebook. Its highly visual platform makes an especially a great home for lifestyle or creative content.

For example, Instagram’s most-followed brand and influencer accounts fall into creative or highly-visual industries like beauty, fashion, wellness, cooking, travel, and other lifestyle topics.

We’ve seen that successful Instagram Stories are often targeted to the younger demographic, relate to the platform’s most popular topics, and usually contain interactive stickers, such as polls or questions.

Branded content can also be highly engaging to Instagrammers. In fact, one-third of the most viewed Stories were posted by brands.

Here’s a quick example of a story that Starbucks made to highlight the return of their s’mores latte. It’s filled with bright colors, interactives, and images of Brent Rivera, a YouTuber who Gen-Z or millennial users might watch or recognize.

Starbucks Instagram Story

If you want more inspiration from other brands that have succeeded on Instagram Stories, check out this list of examples.

Aside from branded Stories, Instagram also hosts plenty of content that’s produced by influencers through partnerships or sponsorships. While you might see an influencer post a brand-related Story on Facebook, this strategy is still much more abundant on Instagram.

Here’s a screenshot from a Story where influencer Lexi Mars tries on outfits from a clothing company called Revolve.

Rather than posting this Story on Facebook, Lexi published it on Instagram which hosts an audience of young adults and fashion lovers.

This benefits her because she may gain some audiences from Revolve fans who tune into the story. But, Revolve can also gain brand awareness from her without having to create their own Story content.

What Facebook and Instagram Have in Common

Aside from differences in audience interests and demographics, Facebook Stories and Instagram Stories are pretty similar. Because Facebook owns Instagram, the interfaces are almost identical. They both also allow you to add similar filters, text overlays, interactive polls, and other features to your content.

Instagram and Facebook also let you link your Stories to web content once you reach a certain number of followers or get your account verified.

While both platforms present Stories on feeds for 24 hours, Instagrammers can save, preserve, and highlight Stories on their profile.

Which do marketers choose?

When it’s time for marketers to weigh these differences and choose a Story platform, many actually post the same exact content on both.

If your team is already using Facebook and Instagram, trying out both could be an easy experiment. Because Facebook owns Instagram, the Story interfaces are very similar and are very interconnected. This makes it pretty easy to post the same Story on both platforms at once.

To share a story on both platforms, upload it to Instagram first. Then, as you share the story on Instagram, tap the “Share to Facebook” CTA.

Here are two examples of big brands that have done this.

Recently, MIT Tech Review uploaded and posted the same story about aging on Facebook and Instagram. (Facebook is to the left and Instagram is on the right.)

On the same day, Martha Stewart Living also did it. Here’s the first page of Facebook and Instagram Stories:

While it might be easy, harmless, and cheaper to place the same content on both platforms, we still encourage you to try customizing content for each social network’s audience to see if it results in more engaging Stories.

For example, if you’re marketing a health and wellness blog and find that your audiences on both platforms are in similar age groups or have similar interests, you could limit the production of Story content by making the same content for both platforms.

If you find that your Facebook audiences are middle-aged and your Instagram audiences are mostly within Gen-Z, you could still probably get away with posting the same health news, recipes, and workout tips on both platforms. But, if you have time and resources, you could test health tip content for middle-aged people on Facebook or a Story about diet tips for young adults on Instagram.

What about Snapchat Stories?

Snapchat has a much smaller user base than Facebook and Instagram, which could be one reason why only 13% of consumers we surveyed prefer to watch Story content there.

There are two ways you can post Snapchat Stories on the app. One is through an individual account and the other is by becoming a publisher on Snapchat Discover. Both are pretty tricky, especially if you’re part of a small organization.

With a free individual account, users would have to look you up via Snapcode or search for you just like other people on Snapchat. This means that you’d need to share your username or Snapcode on other channels so people even know you’re on the app.

When you post a story, it will show up within the user’s friend list, along with Stories from those contacts. Because of this, your content might be buried if someone has a huge friend list.

There are a number of brands with individual accounts on Snapchat, like NASA, Bustle, Forbes, and Sour Patch Kids, but they’ve either left Snapchat or haven’t posted in a while.

When these brands did post content on Snapchat, Stories were pretty similar to what you’d see on Instagram. Usually, they’d included behind-the-scenes material, how-to advice, or short narratives related to the brand’s industry or product. Here’s an example of a story from NASA:

And here’s another from Bustle:

For small to medium-sized companies, there doesn’t seem to be much of a benefit to posting Snapchat stories this way. Even when we asked our own marketers about whether they preferred Snapchat or Instagram Stories, most said that Instagram saw more engagement than Snapchat.

The Discover route is also pretty challenging because you’d need to work with Snapchat directly to become a publisher. Additionally, because most publishers create high-quality original content that features animations, graphics, and other high-quality elements, you’d also likely need a lot of design and editorial resources.

This seems like a costly process that might not pay off or even be accessible to smaller brands.

However, watching Snapchat Discover Stories from publishers could inspire a smaller-scale Instagram or Facebook Story.

Although a chunk of the consumers we polled preferred to watch stories on Snapchat, we don’t encourage you to focus your branded strategy on this platform right now.

Tips for Producing Social Media Stories

Regardless of whether you go with Instagram, Facebook, or any other popular Story platform, here are a few tips that can amp up your content:

  • Cut to the chase: Most likely, your viewers will find your Story after aimlessly stumbling through a social platform looking for entertainment. If your content doesn’t appeal to them quickly, they’ll drop out of it and move on to the next thing. Come up with ways to grab attention, like a newsy headline, interesting animation, or an interactive element.
  • Use interactive features: On Facebook and Instagram, you have access to the exact same interactive tools. Use them! They can make Stories more engaging, might enable users to think deeply about the topic, or they could even give you data about your audience that leads to more ideas.
  • Understand your audiences: If you post Stories on multiple platforms, you should know each network’s audience and adjust your content to fit them. For example, if you find that your audience is middle-aged on Facebook and primarily Gen Z on Instagram, post content that speaks to each group. If you use both platforms but are low on time or resources, consider a strategy where you’re crafting broad content that you know will engage both rather than forcing “older” or “younger” content to both audiences.

If you’re looking for inspiration specifically for Instagram, check out this detailed list of branded Story examples. You can also check out our Ultimate Guide to Instagram for Business to learn about boosting brand awareness with the platform.

How to Write an Effective Communications Plan [+ Template]

 

Remember the “Tide Pod Challenge?” That horrendous time at the beginning of 2018 when adolescents filmed themselves ingesting laundry detergent?

While it was a funny (albeit dangerous) start to the new year, this small boost of infamy was a PR mess for the detergent brand in question, Tide, whose crisis communication team had to figure out how to respond to America’s teens swallowing their toxic product. Tide’s parent company, Procter & Gamble, was swift in their response, thanks in large part to their communication plan.

Communication plans clarify the purpose of a business, measure success, and give a definitive definition of an audience. For example, an independent coffee company might define their purpose as “selling coffee and bagels locally,” measure how much of each flavor sold, and describe their audience as “The busy professional or university student looking for an alternative to Starbucks.”

If companies don’t have a communication plan, they’ll be unprepared when disaster strikes. It may be unlikely that your company will find teenagers eating your product for internet fame, but not so unlikely that you’ll never find yourself needing a procedure to effectively handle dire situations.

Now that we’ve gone over how a communication plan can be helpful, let’s learn how to write one that will be effective.

Image source: Prezly

This communication checklist, by Prezly, gives a great overview of the details of a crisis plan from beginning to end. It can be used as an effective guide when drafting a crisis management strategy.

1. Audit

Before sitting down to get rollin’ on that plan, you need to first decide where it’ll fit into your business. Complete a state of the union; an audit of the current climate of communications within your company and identify problem areas.

For example, you might conduct an audit to identify gaps in your marketing plan. To do this, you’d want to carefully gather and interpret data on current marketing plan performance and build a path forward based on those results.

In this example, that path forward might be to grow web traffic (the gap) by increasing blog publishing volume.

2. Goals

After your evaluation, lay out a few goals based on the data from the results. What do you want to achieve with this plan? When in doubt, remember that goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based. If an advertising agency focused on small businesses were to make a SMART goal, an example could look like this:

“To increase employment applications for the client by 25% over the course of one quarter.” This goal is specific, focusing on one area of advertising, measurable by including a percentage, attainable through advertising, relevant to startups looking to hire more talent, and timely by including a timeframe.

3. Audience

If a crisis communication plan is for stakeholders, which ones are you writing for? If not all, your plan should cover a fair amount. Stakeholder examples include employees, investors, customers, local government officials, and media outlets.

If you’re writing for media outlets, a press release detailing your goals is a good idea for keeping the audience in mind. There should be processes for who will speak to the media outlets, an outline of what they will say, and an action plan put in place going forward.

4. Write

When writing the communication plan, work with groups or representatives from your stakeholder groups to improve accuracy. Strategies should solve goals or potential risks. An example of a risk for the advertising agency would be making sure ads deliver the right message before going public, so, in their plan, they would detail different steps to ensure that is taken care of.

5. Estimate a timeline

You should have a ballpark estimate of how much time each step in executing strategy will take. For instance, if your plan needs to go from the higher-ups down to the employees, it’s good to take into account how long going through the chain of command will take. It’s also smart to infer how long a media cycle will last.

For instance, for a minor slip-up on an ad campaign, the advertising agency might estimate the cycle for controlling the issue would take a month to meet with the client, the stakeholders, and employees and discuss steps moving forward.

6. Measure results

There’s always room for improvement. Measure the results of the plan after presenting it to stakeholders, and run a “post-mortem” after executing your plan in times of need.

For example, the ad agency might not have met its goal of increasing prospective applications by 25% within a quarter. They might rework their goals to give themselves more time or pivot their quarterly focus to fit those goals.

Some aspects of building a communication plan can be a “choose your own adventure” journey. The key is choosing aspects that best reflect what your business needs in times when effective communication is key. What do your stakeholders need to know, and how are you going to best communicate that?

Communication Plan Examples

A basic communication plan should include an analysis for the stakeholders you’d respond to and the procedures for what to include in those conversations. You might also include an overview of your business, potential communication challenges, and risk management strategy.

Bright Hub Project management has an example that includes how to put this information — and more — into your communication plan as a project manager. This example is great because it details how communication managers write crisis plans and acknowledges that sometimes the busy marketer or project manager does as well.

Communications Plan

Source: Bright Hub

The National School Public Relations Association has a free version of a sample communication plan in PDF format. It’s a great example of how to format a crisis strategy and how to fit your budget into the plan.

Here are some extra tips to keep in mind to help your plan shine.

When describing procedures for handling crises, include who the situation involves. This lets stakeholders envision decision-making processes.

If you’re part of a larger company with a broad stakeholder list, it’s okay to split up target audiences for your plan. For instance, maybe your audience is more than just “consumers.” Split stakeholder groups for easier comprehension and more distinct solutions.

Communication Plan Template

Need a free, easy-to-use communication plan template? HubSpot has 12. Check out this toolkit for everything you need to build your own.

This is part of a template offered in the toolkit. For this particular template, the organization is separated into phases, a description of that phase, and who needs to complete that action. Communication plans can get tricky, but writing an effective one will prove itself with its longevity.

crisis-communication-plan-templateImage Source: HubSpot

How to Sell on Instagram Using Shoppable Posts

Selling on Instagram just got a lot easier with the launch of Instagram’s shoppable posts feature.

In the past, the only way to connect your followers with your products was through the link in your bio, or links in Instagram Stories, this new feature provides a seamless experience for people to shop products directly from your posts.

Of course, with more than half a billion monthly active users and over half a million advertisers, it was only a matter of time before users could start buying products right from the app!

Ready to get started with selling on Instagram? Here’s everything you need to know about how to create shoppable posts:

Why Your Business Should Be Using Instagram Shoppable Posts

Shoppable posts are Instagram’s next big step in becoming a more business-friendly platform.

Thanks to the new feature, Instagram users can complete their buying journey, from discovery to checkout, without ever leaving the Instagram app.

And with 80% of Instagram’s 800 million users already following an “active shopping business” account (and 200 million users visiting one or more business profiles daily), giving people the ability to shop natively within the Instagram app makes a lot of sense.

With the new feature, Instagram has made it easier than ever for businesses to reach their consumers, noting “once a business has a product catalog connected to their account, tagging a product is as simple as tagging a person in a post.”

Instagram shoppable posts are marked with a “Tap to View Products” pop-up or small white circle with the shopping bag icon:

On a business’s Instagram account, Instagram shoppable posts will be marked by a shopping bag icon in the top-right corner. Users will also be able to browse your “Shop” feed directly from your Instagram profile:

At the end of the day, Instagram’s new shoppable posts feature offers an incredible opportunity for businesses to turn their followers into customers.

If you’re a small business or publisher looking for an alternative solution to drive traffic from Instagram, using a feature like Linkin.bio might work best for you. With Linkin.bio, you can send your followers anywhere by linking your Instagram posts to specific product pages, blog posts, or websites.

There are a few eligibility requirements you’ll need to check off before you can get started with Instagram shoppable posts:

  • 1. You must be located in one of these countries: United States, Canada, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, or Australia
  • 2. You need an Instagram business account
  • 3. You must be on the latest version of the Instagram app on either iOS or Android.
  • 4. Your business must sell physical goods that comply with Instagram’s merchant agreement and commerce policies.
  • 5. Your business profile must be connected to a Facebook catalog. This can be created and managed on Business Manager, directly on your business’s Page on Facebook, or through Shopify or BigCommerce.

If you meet the above requirements, you can simply add the Instagram sales channel to your Shopify or BigCommerce store at no additional cost, and then, once your store is approved, enable the feature by selecting Shopping under Business Settings in the Instagram app.

Here’s how to connect your business profile to a Facebook catalog:

Once you start adding shoppable posts to your feed, let your audience know with an Instagram story! It’s a great way to spread the word and drive more traffic to your posts.

1. Create a Facebook Catalog with Facebook Business Manager.

A Facebook catalog in Facebook Business Manager is essentially a file that contains a list of all the products you want to sell.

To get started, head to the Business Manager account that owns the Facebook Page that’s linked to your Instagram business account.

From your Business Manager account, you can create a new catalog or identify an existing catalog you’d like to use.

Start by opening your Business Manager Settings and clicking on People and Assets. Here you’ll find a Catalogs option. Click on “+ Add” and choose Create a New Product Catalog.

You have to give your product catalog a name and select the types of products you’re adding to your catalog before you can add it to your product feed.

Here’s a Facebook guide on how to do it.

It’s very important to keep your product catalog synced with your Facebook Page, and that your product descriptions and prices are accurate. If you’re running a sale or promotion, make sure your product catalog reflects it.

2. Create a Shop on Facebook with Shopify or BigCommerce.

A second way to connect you Instagram business profile to a Facebook catalog is to do it directly with Shopify or BigCommerce.

Shopify

Before you get started, you need to have the Facebook sales channel (included in all paid Shopify plans) installed on your Shopify store, which creates a Shop tab on your Facebook page that displays your Shopify products.

For specific details on how to connect your Facebook page to your Shopify account, you can view the Shopify guide here.

Once you’ve done the above, you can easily add the Instagram sales channel to your Shopify store, which connects the product that you have in Shopify to your Instagram business profile.

To do this, head to your Shopify admin and click to “+” button beside the “Sales channels” heading.

Next, on the “Add sales channel” dialog, click Instagram and then Add channel.

You’ll need to log into your Facebook account page to authenticate your Instagram account in the sales channel.

Once the Instagram sales channel is installed, you can enable the feature by visiting Shopping under Business Settings in the Instagram app.

BigCommerce

You can also use BigCommerce to connect your store’s catalogue to your Facebook Page.

Start by opening Channel Manager on your BigCommerce account and clicking Get Started next to Facebook.

On the next screen, confirm that you’re using a compatible currency, sign up for a Facebook account (if you don’t have one), review the product requirements, then click Get Started.

Next, fill out your details on the Configuration page, including your Business’ contact email, phone number, and the Facebook Page you’d like your Shop to appear on.

Here’s the complete BigCommerce guide on how to it.

Once Facebook approves your catalog, head back to Channel Manager, click Get Started next to Instagram, and confirm that your store meet the necessary requirements.

3. Connect your online shop to your Business’ Instagram Account.

Once you’ve completed the steps above, your account will be reviewed by Instagram before you can access their shoppable posts feature. The approval process can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days according to Instagram. Once you’ve been approved, you will receive a notification letting you know you’re ready to start selling on Instagram.

The next step is to connect your product catalog to your Instagram account. Head back to the Shopping section in your Instagram settings and tap on Products.

Here you’ll be able to select a product catalog to connect to your business profile. Once you’re finished, tap Done.

How to Tag Products with Instagram Shoppable Posts

4. Upload the photos you want to tag.

Once you get access to shoppable posts on Instagram and you’ve completed all the steps listed above, adding tags to your posts is super quick and easy!

You’ll begin uploading a photo to Instagram as you would for any other post. After you’ve added your effects and filters, hit “Next.”

5. On the post settings page, tap Tag Products.

When you have the product feature enabled on your account, you’ll find the option to tag products on the screen where you normally add your caption and other information. Next, enter the names of the products you want to tag, then select them as they appear in the search box.

Once you’re finished, tap “Done” and share your post! Here’s what the finished product will look like. As you can see, the post will appear like a normal image does in the Instagram feed, but when you tap the image, you’ll see a tag for the product that’s similar to a tag you’d see for a user. 

Have an older post that still gets good traction, but doesn’t have a Shoppable tag? You can tag products in both new and existing posts from your Instagram business profile. You can also tag up to five products per single image post or 20 products per multi-photo (or “carousel”) post:

 

Optimizing Your Posts for Shoppable Purchases

6. Create posts that feel natural to the Instagram feed.

While selling on Instagram is easier than ever, it’s important to remember your audience shouldn’t feel like they are being sold to. Businesses should maintain their current content strategy, incorporating shoppable tags on photos that are a natural fit for their profile.

A great way to organically add shopping tags to your post is by leveraging high-quality UGC. Millennials trust UGC 50% more than other types of media, so it makes sense that these images would work well for shoppable posts.

For example, Madewell recently shared this phoppable post from a fan photo, showing off their summer jeans:

Madewell does a great job at seamlessly incorporating Instagram’s shopping feature into their current strategy, without being too “salesy.”

7. Leverage influencer posts. 

You can also optimize your Instagram sales strategy by using influencer posts. Instagram influencer collaborations and sponsorships have nearly replaced traditional ads and are a huge part of a social media strategies today.

Below, popular fashion model Michelle Dee is shown sporting a Herschel Supply suitcase on the company’s profile:

An Instagram influencer’s stamp of approval goes a long way and is a great strategy to drive sales from your Instagram shoppable posts!

8. Optimize your post with tags and hashtags.

Lastly, including multiple shopping tags in your photos will help your audience explore and browse through your products quickly. You can also try adding shopping tags to carousel posts to test their performance again single-photo posts.

9. Activate the Shop tab on your Instagram profile.

Create at least nine shoppable posts to activate the “Shop” tab on your Instagram profile! This will group all your shoppable posts under one tab for easy shopping and product discovery.

Measuring the Results of your Shoppable Posts

Instagram business accounts also have access to analytics for their shoppable posts, including how many people viewed product information or clicked-through to its product page. This information is super helpful in determine what type of products (and product tags) resonate with your Instagram followers, or where there might be a disconnect in the buyer’s journey.

As with all of your social media marketing efforts, performance data should be measured to see what drove the best results (and why), and then used to inform future posts.

Once your business begins selling on Instagram, it’s important to keep experimenting with images, copy, shopping tags per post, or any other factors that may contribute to your Instagram sales success.

No matter what type of products you sell, delving into your Instagram analytics allows you to understand your audience’s wants, improves your content, and ultimately helps you drive more traffic and sales.

 

The Latest Changes to the Instagram API, Explained

You may have noticed some changes in Instagram over the past year or so. For instance, the fancy new API for iMessage that autoplays Bachelor in Paradise commercials you send to your friends. Or the option to “Tag a Business Partner” when you open a story feature. To know more about why some of your third-party apps aren’t working, or what a “Graph API” is, we have the latest changes to Instagram’s API, explained.

If you’re wondering what the heck an API is, don’t fret. API stands for Application Programming Interface. Simply put, APIs are how different apps talk to each other. If you wanted to tweet this article using the bar on the left, that’s possible because Twitter’s API talks to HubSpot’s API and they work together to make that happen.

So, Instagram’s API lets other apps use Instagram’s interface for their business. Lately, Instagram has been changing how its API talks to third-party apps and which apps it talks to.

Instagram API Changes

In 2018, Instagram shut down its public API. Meaning, third-party apps can no longer access the API from Instagram without permission. Third-party apps now need to be approved by Instagram before they can access the API.

What does this mean for marketers? Apps that are approved by Instagram now have limited features. So, if you were using Hootsuite to post on your company’s Instagram in 2018, that’s no longer possible without an Instagram Business Account.

This change, though announced, was implemented earlier than expected, leaving many third-party apps out of commission. So, if a social media manager was using one of these apps to, say, check the follower count of a competitor, they wouldn’t be able to.

That said, if you used an app to purchase followers or engagement, they’re now gone. Engagement is now 100% organic, and this data is private to your business profile. Likes are as well.

Instagram API Examples

To replace the public API, Instagram introduced Graph API. This API is much more restrictive than the original API. Graph API is the only way to collect data of mentions and targeted hashtags and requires an Instagram Business Account to access this information.

With the new API, business accounts can track hashtags to see where their posts land on the public pages. Currently, there’s a limit of 30 tracked hashtags over a seven-day period. If you wanted to switch tracking of #VineTrends to #TikTokTrends, for example, you’d have to wait seven days to do so.

Developers who want to build on the new API can find a number of features available to them. If approved by Instagram, they can create apps that allow users to post to Stories and Feeds. Apps can also build APIs with Mentions, Business Discovery, Insights, and Comment Moderation.

the latest changes to the ig api

Image Source: Hootsuite

This means social media managers can still use third parties to post on behalf of their business account, comment, and analyze valuable performance metrics.

How to Use the Instagram API

With the new API comes a new set of rules. We’re here to break it down.

Before you get started, make sure you have a Facebook Developer Account and that it’s connected to your Instagram Business Account. This is so you can implement Facebook Login into your third-party app for users.

1. Create an account

To do this, visit the Instagram developer page, click on “Register Your Application,” and “Register a New Client.” After filling out the form, go to the Clients manager and click on “Manage” to save your credentials.

register new client on instagram

Image source: Rapid API

2. Create an access token

To do this, use your Client ID and Client Secret to call the Instagram.getAccessToken.

Sign in to your Facebook Developer Account. Then, open your app to see if Facebook Login opens. If not, your Developer account is probably not set up to perform Tasks on the Facebook profile connected to your Instagram Business Account.

facebook developer account instagram

Image source: Facebook

You should be able to grant your app these permissions by clicking “OK,” and the API should return the user access token. Save the token to use later in the setup process. This will be done automatically if you’re using Graph API Explorer.

3. Request data

Once you have your access token and have registered your app, you can begin requesting data from Instagram. Data requests are available through HTTPS and are located on api.instagram.com.

This sample URL, for instance, is how you would access photos that use a tracked hashtag, with the “ACCESS_TOKEN” part being a placeholder from your access token:

https://ift.tt/308wEq8

If you’re not a developer but still would like to use the advantages of Instagram’s APIs, there are approved third-party apps to help out. For a complete guide to marketing on Instagram, check out this post.

A good way to tell if your third-party app is approved by Instagram is if it asks you to connect to your business account. Remember, Instagram API features are only available to business accounts.

Any app you choose should be able to help you access analytics somewhere in the app. Their analytics come straight from integration with Instagram’s API.

Though these changes happened last year, they’ve played a larger part in how Instagram is bettering their security measures and e-commerce options. By the end of this year, there’s sure to be more updates and changes to the platform. To keep up with how some businesses are perfecting their content, catch up on our list of advertising agencies with spectacular content.

How to Use Facebook Live: The Ultimate Guide

In April 2016, Facebook launched Facebook Live, a live video streaming service that lets anyone broadcast from their mobile devices straight to their Facebook News Feed.

Since its launch, live streaming video has exploded in popularity — particularly on Facebook Live, where according to Vimeo, 78% of online audiences are watching video on Facebook Live as of 2018.

It’s no mystery why Facebook Live is so popular: Videos see 3X the engagement of traditional videos shared on Facebook, and millions of users live stream on Facebook around the world.

Why are marketers getting so excited about Facebook Live? Because it’s a fun and fairly simple way for them to use the power of video to communicate their brand stories, and build authentic relationships with fans and followers — in real time.

However, for such a simple concept, Facebook Live has a lot of little nuances that marketers will need to learn if they want to get the most out of the platform. This guide will help you learn the best tricks that can make a big difference in how many people see your live broadcast, how they engage with it, and how it performs.

In this post, we’ll walk through the following:

  • How to broadcast on Facebook Live via your mobile device
  • How to go live on Facebook from a desktop
  • How to analyze your live video’s performance
  • Tips and tricks for getting the most out of the platform.

Click here to skip down to our Facebook Live tips.

Facebook Live started as a mobile-only broadcasting feature, but now, Facebook Pages can broadcast from either mobile devices or desktop computers. We’ll go over how to broadcast from mobile and desktop devices in the sections below.

The following instructions will teach you how to go live on Facebook mobile. To get started, get out your mobile device and open up the Facebook app.

1. Tap the camera icon to the left of your search bar.

Open your Facebook mobile app and visit your News Feed. You’ll see a camera icon to the left of your search bar — tap it to open your camera. You’ll have to give Facebook permission to access your mobile device’s camera and microphone in order to go live.

facebook-camera-icon

You can also go live on your own Facebook profile. Open up the status bar by tapping the text that reads “What’s on your mind?” Then, select the “Go Live” option from the menu, as shown below.

go-live-facebook-status

2. Give Facebook access to your camera and microphone when prompted.

You’ll stop receiving these prompts after the first time you use it.

camera_permission-1

Once you permit Facebook to use your mobile camera, you’ll be asked to permit use of your phone’s camera content, as shown below. This will trigger your ability to switch from using your rear-facing camera to your front-facing camera — options that will come into play in step 7 of this guide.

facebook-camera

3. Switch to “Live” on the bottom of your camera screen.

Once you’ve given Facebook access to your mobile device’s camera and microphone, you’ll be ready to shoot. However, your Facebook camera defaults to non-live photo shooting when you open it.

To switch your Facebook camera to live video, look to the bottom of your screen for the various types of visual content you can create. On the far left, as shown below, you’ll see the setting, “LIVE.” Tap it once. (Don’t worry, you won’t go live right away.)

facebook-camera-live

4. Choose your privacy and posting settings.

In the screenshot below, see how Facebook Live is set to “Only me” and “Post, Story” at the top of the screen? This means only I can see the live video — none of my Facebook friends or followers can — but it’s set to post the video as a regular Facebook post and as a Facebook Story if I want it to. You can change these settings by tapping on them.

facebook-live-privacy-settings

If you’re posting for a brand, you’ll probably want to make it public so it can reach everyone in your audience who’s currently on Facebook. If you’re posting as yourself, you might want to reserve your broadcast for friends — and then set where you want to post this video, as shown below.

But if you’re new to Facebook Live and want to test it out first, or want to prepare your shot before going live, switch your video’s privacy setting to “Only Me.” You can find the “Only me” option by clicking “See More” and tapping the last bubble, per the following screenshot.

facebook-live-post-settings

You might also see options to post your live video only to users in specific networks, such as a college or association you belong to. These options will appear below the “Only me” privacy setting.

5. Write a compelling description.

Give your broadcast a description, which will show up on people’s News Feeds like a status update above the video. To get people to tune in, write an attention-grabbing headline and help them understand what your broadcast is about.

facebook-live-description

Check out the example below from The White House’s live broadcast. As you can see, your video description appears at the top of the live video when Facebook users view it, much like a Facebook photo caption or status update.

white-house-facebook-live-description.jpg
Source: Facebook

6. Tag friends, choose your location, or add an activity.

Tap the icons at the bottom of your screen to tag people who are in the Facebook Live video, add the location from where you’re shooting, or share what you’re doing in the broadcast. These touches can add more personalization to your video, increase discoverability, and make people want to tune in.

facebook-live-video-tag-location

7. Set your camera’s orientation.

Before you click “Start Live Video,” be sure your camera is pointing in the direction you want it to point. In other words, do you want to go live with your front-facing camera lens, or your rear-facing camera lens?

The background of your setup screen will show you what your camera sees. If you want to change the camera view to selfie or vice versa, simply click the rotating arrows icon in the upper-righthand corner of your screen, as shown below.

Camera flip orientation icon in Facebook Live video

The video will be a square, so it doesn’t matter whether you hold your mobile device vertically or horizontally.

8. Add lenses, filters, or writing and drawing to your video.

Tap the magic wand icon to the left of the blue “Start Live Video” in the center of your screen, and choose if you want to add lenses to your face, change the filter of the camera, or write or draw to make the video more whimsical.

Depending on your version of Facebook mobile, some of your editing and filter options will look like the settings below.

Lenses and emojis in Facebook Live
Filter options in Facebook Live
Drawing options in Facebook Live

9. Click the blue “Start Live Video” button to start broadcasting.

Once you click it, Facebook will give you a countdown — “3, 2, 1 …” — and then you’ll be live. As soon as you start streaming, your live video will appear in your News Feed — and others’ News Feeds — just like any other post.

Blue "Start Live Video" button in Facebook mobile app

Your broadcast can be up to 90 minutes long. Keep in mind that the longer you broadcast, the more people who are scrolling through their News Feeds on Facebook will stumble upon your post.

10. Interact with viewers and commenters.

To keep your viewers engaged, encourage them to interact with your live video (which will help your ranking in others’ News Feeds). You can also interact with them both by speaking directly to them in your video and, if you want, by having someone else respond to comments from a desktop computer elsewhere.

Where can you see these comments? While you’re broadcasting, you’ll see the time elapsed on the top left along with the number of viewers, and comments will show up live on the bottom of your feed. They’ll appear in reverse chronological order, like on Twitter, so keep in mind that the earlier ones may be farther down.

Comments and reactions under Facebook Live video
Source: Facebook Newsroom

Note: You can also block viewers during a live broadcast by tapping the profile picture next to a viewer’s comment and then tapping “Block.” You can unblock someone you’ve previously blocked, too.

11. Click “Finish” to end the broadcast.

Once you do this, the video will stay on your Timeline or Page like any other video post.

12. Post your reply and save the video to your camera roll.

Once you finish your broadcast, you’ll be met with a screen similar to the one I’ve screenshot below. If you want to post it, that will enable others to view your video once you’ve stopped broadcasting. Then, tap the download button to save the video to your camera roll so you have a copy of the original for safekeeping.

FBlivepostreplay.png

You can always go back to the post on your Timeline or Page and edit the description, change the privacy settings, or delete the video, just like you would any other post.

FBlive_post.png

How to Go on Facebook Live From Desktop

If you’re an admin or editor of a Facebook Page for your brand, you can also broadcast live from a desktop computer. This isn’t as spontaneous as broadcasting from a mobile device (and, obviously, isn’t as mobile), but this could be a good option for filming more static broadcasts. For example, we recently broadcast a Facebook Live panel in celebration of International Women’s Day. The panelists and interviewer sat in place the entire time, an example of when broadcasting from a steadier device could be more effective.

1. Go to your Page and tap the “Write something” box, as if you’re writing a new post.

FB_live_desktop_see all.png

Tap the menu option to “See All,” and click on “Start a Live Video.”

FB_live_desktop_1.png

2. Write a compelling description of your video that will appear on your Page’s Timeline and in the News Feed.

Choose a descriptive and enticing summary to draw viewers in and make them unmute your Facebook Live to start watching.

FB_live_desktop_2.png

Then, click “Next.”

3. Give Facebook permission to use your computer’s camera and microphone.

You won’t be prompted for this again once you do it for the first time.

fb_live_desktop_3.png

4. Check to make sure your description and video view are final before starting your broadcast.

fb_live_desktop_5.png

From here, you also have the option to share live video from an external device, such as a video camera or other recording device. Tap “click here” to set up that connection.

5. Press “Go Live” to start your broadcast.

Facebook will give you a “3, 2, 1 … ” countdown before going live. Tap “Finish” when you’re ready to end the broadcast.

6. The broadcast will appear in the News Feed and on your Page’s Timeline, where you can edit it by tapping the drop-down arrow in the upper-righthand corner.

From here, you can change the description, change the date of posting, or create a new Facebook post featuring the broadcast. If you want a video to garner more engagement, you can also pin it to the top of your brand’s Page so it’s the first post visitors see when they visit.

Facebook Live video by HubSpot with post settings expanded

Now that you know how to broadcast from all devices, let’s dive into how to analyze Facebook Live videos.

How to Analyze Your Live Video’s Performance

How to Access Video Analytics on a Facebook Business Page

To get started analyzing your Facebook Live broadcasts, head to the “Insights” tab at the top of your brand’s Facebook Page:

Facebook Insights tab.png

Then, head to the “Videos” section of your analytics on the lefthand side of the screen.

facebook insights video.png

From there, scroll down to the “Top Videos” section, and either choose a video from that menu to look into, or tap “Video Library” to look at all of the videos your Page has ever posted.

hubspot top videos insights.png

Now, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty.

The performance analytics available for Facebook Live videos are similar to those of normal videos on Facebook, with some neat additions.

  • For Pre-recorded videos: Facebook lets you analyze minutes viewed, unique viewers, video views, 10-second views, average % completion, and a breakdown of reactions, comments, and shares.
  • For Facebook Live videos: Facebook lets you analyze all the metrics listed above, plus peak live viewers, total views, average watch time, people reached, and the demographics of who watched your video.

Facebook Live video with analytics sidebar on righthand side

In addition to all of these static numbers, you can click into each metric to see how it changed over time when the video was live. For example, if we click into “Peak Live Viewers,” we’ll see this interactive graph of video viewers over time:

Line graph of Viewers During Live Broadcast next to Facebook Live video

You can even see who your typical viewer was during your broadcast, based on their Facebook profile information:

fblive_demographics.png

Now that you’ve got the steps down, let’s get into some tips and tricks.

There are a lot of little things you can do to squeeze the most out of your Facebook Live videos. Below is an example of one of the earliest Facebook Live videos from Refinery29. This was the first video of a five-part live video series called “Chasing Daylight,” showcasing a typical night out for women in five different cities around the world. My colleague, HubSpot Marketing Manager Lindsay Kolowich, tracked this one down, and we refer to it in some of the tips below.

Warning: There is some language in the following video that is not safe for work (NSFW).

1. Test out live video using the “Only me” privacy setting.

If you want to play around with live broadcasting without actually sharing it with anyone else, you can change the privacy setting so you’re the only one who can see it — just like with any other Facebook post.

To switch the privacy setting to “Only Me,” follow steps 1–4 in the instructions above.

Privacy settings in Facebook Live with "Friends" selected

2. Space out live videos with other Facebook posts.

Because Facebook ranks Live videos higher than other videos and other types of posts, we recommend spacing out your Facebook Live videos with other Facebook content you post to maximize your organic reach.

3. Keep reintroducing yourself.

When you first start the video, take a minute to introduce yourself and what the video’s about. But keep in mind that when you first start live streaming, you may have zero people watching. Even a few seconds in, you could only have a handful of viewers. As people find your video on their News Feeds, they’ll join in — but that means you’ll want to reintroduce yourself a second, third, and even a fourth time to catch people up.

For example, in the Refinery29 video above, the host Lucie Fink introduces herself three times in the first few minutes, and several more times after that.

One second in:

“Hello, Facebook Live! Hey! Lucie Fink here. I don’t know if we have anyone on the broadcast yet, so I’m going to wait about one minute to see who joins us.”

One minute in:

“Hello to the 309 viewers in here right now. I’m Lucie Fink from Refinery29. Just to recap what’s happening right now, this is Episode One of Refinery29’s new global initiative, ‘Chasing Daylight.'”

A few minutes in:

“Just to give a quick recap on who I am, in case you guys don’t know — I’m Lucie Fink. I work at Refinery 29. Today, I’m doing this whole new series, and this is essentially giving you guys a glimpse into the lives of women all over the world.”

15 minutes in:

“So now that we have 3.5 thousand people in this broadcast, let me just start from the top because some of you might not know what is happening. I’m Lucie Fink from Refinery29, and you might know me from some videos, you might not. Either way, it is nice to meet you. Today, we are starting a new video series on Refinery’s Facebook Live platform. It’s called ‘Chasing Daylight,’ and it’s gonna be on every night this week.”

25 minutes in:

“That’s what I think is so cool about ‘Chasing Daylight.’ For the people who are new and don’t really get why I’m sitting on my toilet, the answer is, I am Lucie Fink, and [this is] Episode One, the New York version of ‘Chasing Daylight,’ which is Refinery29’s new live Facebook series that’s starting right now.”

4. Make the video visually engaging.

You have to be visually engaging — not just at the very beginning of your broadcast (although that’ll be important for when folks view the video later), but throughout the video as more and more people join in.

The more visually engaging you can be, the more you can entice people to stick around. That means keeping the camera moving and not just sitting in one place — something Lucie did really well in that Refinery29 video.

Not only will you get more viewers this way, but you’ll also get your broadcast ranked higher in other people’s News Feeds. Facebook started monitoring signals of video engagement — like turning on the audio, switching to full-screen mode, or enabling high definition — interpreting that as users enjoying the video. As a result, they’ve tweaked the algorithm so videos that are engaged with in these ways will appear higher up on the feed.

5. Make it spontaneous.

What makes a live video special? The spontaneous, interactive nature of it. People love the ability to interact, and they love the novelty of viewing someone in a live moment when anything could happen. In many ways, it’s the new reality TV.

A big part of what makes Refinery29’s live video so great is how much Lucie and her friends embrace the “live,” spontaneous nature of it. For example, at one point, Lucie calls on her friends to reenact a scene from the Broadway show Hamilton. It was scrappy, unrehearsed, and really funny. Her other friends were laughing at her. It reminded me of a fun night with my own friends. “This is literally what we do at the office,” Lucie said about the performance through laughs.

These moments are what make live video special, and they’re exactly what differentiates it from scripted, edited, or otherwise pre-recorded videos. Embrace the platform. Banter is always, always good.

6. Don’t worry about mistakes or stutters.

Spontaneity works — even if your Facebook Live doesn’t go according to plan.

Let’s face it, we’re all human. And when humans and technology mix, there can sometimes be technical difficulties.

If you’re recording a live video, things might go wrong — your equipment could malfunction, you could lose your train of thought, or you could get photobombed by a random passerby. You can’t call “cut” if things happen — you have to roll with them and keep filming and talking.

The good news? These things help keep your broadcast human and real. If you wobble your phone while filming, laugh and call it out. If you forget what you were saying, make a joke. The key is to keep the broadcast like a fun conversation, so if mistakes happen, keep it light and keep the lines of communication open with your viewers.

For example, if you make a mistake during your Facebook Live, ask viewers to write in the comments if they’ve made the same mistake, too.

7. Encourage viewers to Like and share the video.

One of the primary ways Facebook’s algorithm ranks a post is by how many people Like and share it. The more people who Like and share your live broadcast, the more it’ll show up in people’s News Feeds.

But when people are watching a video, they may be more distracted from Liking and sharing it than they would a text or photo post. (That’s something the folks at Facebook noticed about video content early on, which is why they began monitoring other video engagement signals as well, like turning on the volume.)

In Refinery29’s video, you’ll notice Lucie explicitly asks viewers to Like and share the video many times throughout. Here are a few examples:

  • “If you like this broadcast and share it right now, you guys will be part of this brand new series that’s starting right now on Refinery29.”
  • “If you guys share this broadcast, you’ll be part of history. And what’s better than being part of history?”
  • “Thumbs up if you like Hamilton.”
  • “Thank you guys for all these Likes. My screen is absurdly blue right now because I’m getting tons of thumbs up.”
  • “Share this with your best girlfriend who you think is strong and powerful.”

I like the last example the best because she’s asking viewers to share it with a specific type of person — in this case, a best girlfriend. This might prompt viewers to think, “Hey, she’s right, my friend Stacy might like this” and then share it with that specific friend.

8. Engage with commenters, and mention them by name.

The number of comments on your broadcast is another way to get Facebook to give it a higher relevancy score, making it more likely to show up on people’s News Feeds. So encourage your viewers to comment, and engage with people who are commenting by answering their questions and calling them out by name. Not only will it get more people to comment, but it’s also a fun way to include your viewers in the live experience, which could make them stick around longer.

Plus, your audience will be thrilled to hear you mention their name and answer their questions when you are live.

In the Refinery29 video, Lucie was constantly engaging with viewers and commenters. At one point, for example, she said, “We’re so excited to see you guys! Do you have any questions for someone who lives in New York City?” Then, she read a few of the comments that came in and responded to them — using commenters’ first names.

We do this here at HubSpot with our Facebook Live broadcasts, too. Check out all the chatter in the comments — we used those questions to keep our discussion going.

9. Have someone else watching and responding to comments from a desktop computer.

When you’re the one holding the camera for a Facebook Live video, it’s really hard to see the comments popping up on the mobile screen. If the comments are coming in fast, it’s especially easy to lose sight of them as they disappear below the fold. Plus, you’re probably occupied by recording and entertaining viewers.

Because of this, it’s always a good idea to have an additional person logged into the primary account to monitor the comments on a desktop computer. That way, they can take care of responding so the person recording the video can concentrate on creating a great experience.

10. Subtitle your broadcast in the comments section.

Your viewers may be tuning in and out to watch your video during the work day, or they might simply be watching your video without sound. Either way, periodically subtitling the video in the comments section is a great way to keep people engaged. This also allows people who are tuning in late to catch up on what’s going on.

Take some inspiration from Refinery29 — it captioned the video with some of the most snackable one-liners and quotes from the broadcast in the comments section:

Comments thread under Facebook Live video by Refinery29

11. Ask viewers to subscribe to Facebook Live notifications.

In addition to asking for Likes, shares, and comments, ask viewers to subscribe to live notifications. To do that, all viewers have to do is click the small, downward-facing arrow in the top-righthand corner of the live video post, and choose “Turn On Notifications.”

You can also ask them to Like your brand on Facebook, which will make it more likely that they’ll be notified of your next live broadcast. Lucie does this in the Refinery29 video.

12. Broadcast for at least 10 minutes.

As soon as you begin recording your live video, you’ll start slowly but surely showing up in people’s News Feeds. The longer you broadcast — especially as Likes, comments, and shares start coming in — the more likely people are to discover your video and share it with their friends.

Because timing is such an important factor for engagement in these live videos, we recommend that you go live for at least 10 minutes, although you can stay live for up to 90 minutes for a given video.

13. Say goodbye before ending your video.

Before you end your live broadcast, be sure to finish with a closing line, like “Thanks for watching” or “I’ll be going live again soon.”

Lucie from Refinery29 checked a few other engagement requests off the list at the end of her broadcast:

“So, we are about to sign off. It’s been such an amazing first episode of ‘Chasing Daylight.’ . . . Don’t forget to share this to your friends right now so you can always find this series and go back to it. . . . We’re so happy that you tuned into our episode in New York. . . . Goodnight from New York City!”

14. Add a link to the description later.

Once you’ve finished the live broadcast, you can always go back and edit the description, change the privacy settings, or delete the video, just like you would any other post.

Here’s where you can add a trackable link to the description in the post, which can direct future viewers to your live video series page, the site of whatever campaign you’re using the video to promote, or somewhere else.

To edit the description of a video: Find the video on your Timeline or Page and click the downward-facing arrow in the top-righthand corner of the post. Choose “Edit Post” from the dropdown menu, and edit the description accordingly.

fb live edit post-1.png

We hope this has been a helpful guide. We’ll keep you posted with any new developments and tips for connecting with your audience in more cool ways.

Everything You Need to Know About Billboard Advertising

I don’t own a car in Chicago, but I do take the train (referred to as the “L” here). On the L, most of my commuting companions pass the time by looking at their phones. But, my motion sickness prevents that, so I typically find myself watching the world — and many, many billboards — go by.

And I must say: Some billboards can be very, very entertaining.

Now, billboard advertising isn’t your typical inbound marketing methodology. So why are we writing about it? Billboard advertising can still be a powerful way to build brand awareness and attract customers.

Plus, if companies like MINI can incorporate inbound marketing elements in their billboard advertising, you can, too!

Billboard Advertising

Billboard advertising is the process of using a large-scale print advertisement (a billboard, or a hoarding to those in the UK) to market a company, brand, product, service, or campaign. Billboards are typically placed in high traffic areas, such as along highways and in cities, so they’re seen by the highest number of drivers and pedestrians.

Billboard advertising is effective for building brand awareness and broadcasting your business (or product or campaign) to as many people as possible. Because they’re in such busy areas, billboards tend to have the highest number of views and impressions when compared to other marketing methods.

Billboard Advertising Cost

The cost of billboard advertising depends on many factors including the location of your billboard, the total traffic in the area, and how many people are estimated to see your advertisement. Billboard advertising costs are typically charged monthly and range anywhere from $250 on a rural highway to upwards of $22,000 in Times Square.

Billboard advertising is categorized as out-of-home (OOH) advertising, which is any advertising that reaches consumers when they’re outside their homes. Each OOH advertising opportunity (e.g. individual billboard) is given an OOH rating, which ultimately determines its value and the subsequent cost to advertisers.

Geopath is a nonprofit organization that uses technology and media research to estimate the weekly impressions of every billboard in the country and give OOH ratings. (OOH advertising companies [e.g. the companies that own the billboard spaces] pay Geopath for this data to share with potential advertisers.)

According to Geopath, there are up to 10 determining factors that make up an OOH rating and, therefore, the cost of each billboard advertising opportunity.

Here are the three main factors:

  1. Circulation is the total number of people who pass by the billboard each week. This information is gathered by local transportation authorities.
  2. Demographics refer to the age, gender, income level, and other characteristics of the traffic that passes the billboard. This information is gathered from travel surveys and local transportation authorities.
  3. Impressions are the number of people who see the billboard. This information is calculated based on the billboard’s circulation, the size of the billboard, how close it is from the road, its visibility, the speed at which traffic is passing by, and more.

The cost of billboard advertising doesn’t stop with “renting” ad space, however. You must also consider the cost of designing the billboard as well as printing and constructing it. Printing and construction can cost upwards of $500, depending on the size and location of your billboard.

If you outsource your billboard design, expect the cost to range from $150 to $1000, depending on what agency or designer you choose, as well as the complexity of your desired design. If you’d like to design your own, however, check out the billboard design tips in the next section.

Billboard Design

If you’re going to invest in an advertisement potentially seen by millions, you want it to do its job. Here are a handful of billboard design tips that’ll ensure your billboard is effective and eye-catching.

Tell a (short) story.

Successful billboards take viewers on a journey … even if that journey is a four-second glimpse over the steering wheel. Most billboard designs tell this story with imagery and possibly some text. In fact, most drivers stop reading after a few words. Use your billboard to convey the essence of an idea or campaign rather than describing it with text.

Take a look at this text-less billboard by Samsonite. It tells a story that Samsonite luggage lasts a long time, even longer than a billboard.

billboard advertising samsonite

Source

Make it bold and simple.

Drivers or passersby only have a few seconds to get a glimpse at your billboard advertisement. To reach the highest number of viewers (and potential customers), keep your billboard design simple. After all, some people may be blowing by your billboard at 70 mph. Use big, bold fonts against contrasting background colors and avoid narrow, script fonts.

Also, choose colors that stand out to viewers. If your billboard is in a rural area, avoid greens, blues, and browns. Check out this bright, bold (and funny) billboard by Lamar.

billboard advertising lamar
 

Consider its location.

I’m not originally from Chicago, but I’ve been here long enough to foster a certain sense of pride. So, when I pass by billboards that play on the Cubs or Bears, or make jokes about the wind or traffic, I pay attention.

Well-designed billboards are reflective of their location. They take advantage of sports teams, nicknames, nuances, or inside jokes related to the area. This can make the billboard (and brand) much more impressionable to those who see it. Check out this billboard by SmileDirectClub in downtown Chicago.

billboard advertising chicago smiledirectclub

Source

This billboard, advertising the new Grinch movie, is in New York City.

billboard advertising grinch new york city

Source

Make it interactive.

Depending on your billboard’s location, you may be able to design it so it interacts with its surrounding environment. This strategy make your advertisement stick out among the noise and grab the attention of passerby (which we’ll talk about more in the next section).

Take a look at this Panasonic billboard that interacts with the wires around it.

Even if your billboard isn’t in the city, there are ways to leverage the environment around it. This billboard by Koleston Naturals used the sun to “color” the hair in the advertisement.

billboard advertising koleston

Source

Make it memorable.

OOH advertising has to be creative in order to stand out among the hustle and bustle of a regular commute (or the monotony of a long road trip). Your billboard shouldn’t be any different.

Your billboard needs to tell a story and/or share a call-to-action in a way that’s interesting and memorable. Whether you call on humor, anger, empathy, or cleverness, use emotional marketing tactics in your billboard design to make it memorable. Take a look at these examples of eye-catching, creative billboards.

This example, established by the Colorado State Patrol, warns drivers of the effects of tailgating.

billboard advertising colorado state patrol

Source

This one, advertising strong tape, is by Penline Stationery.

billboard advertising penline stationery

Source

Coca-Cola designed this one to encourage people to drink Coke.

billboard advertising coca cola

Source

Billboard Advertising Statistics

We’ve looked at some amazingly creative billboards and discussed how to design one of your own. At this point, though, you may be wondering: Do these billboards actually work? Do they reach the members of your target audience?

Let’s talk about some billboard advertising statistics that prove the impact of billboard advertising and to inform your next campaign.

  • Americans spend an annual average of 17,600 minutes in their cars. That’s almost 300 hours each year. (Source)
  • There are currently 342,306 billboards in the United States. (Source)
  • Almost 8,000 of these are digital billboards. (Source)
  • 6% of global ad spending is dedicated to OOH advertising. (Source)
  • 71% of people consciously look at billboards when driving. (Source)
  • Over 50% of people say they’ve been highly engaged by a billboard they’ve seen in the last month. (Source)
  • OOH advertising is 382% more effective at driving online activity than TV ads. (Source)
  • OOH advertising, when paired with search engine optimization (SEO), boosts its effectiveness by 40%. (Source)

Billboard Advertising: The Marketing You Never Knew You Needed

Billboard advertising might not fall under the hood of inbound marketing methodology, but it can still be a highly effective way of promoting your products and boosting your brand. It can also work to strengthen other inbound marketing efforts you’ve invested in, such as blogging, online lead offers, or SEO.

Follow our billboard design tips above to create an impactful, memorable billboard for your brand. And, who knows? Someone may look out the window during their next commute and see your billboard — and become a new customer

YouTube Ads for Beginners: How to Launch & Optimize a YouTube Video Advertising Campaign

You’ve spent months perfecting the script, storyboarding, finding the right talent, shooting, and editing. The end result? A blockbuster brand or product video.

With all that time invested, you can’t stop at just embedding the video on a homepage or sharing it on social media and hoping someone watches.

While great content is bound to be found, it’s also important to be proactive about gaining the attention of and educating prospects and those unfamiliar with your brand. Running a series of YouTube ads is one way to make sure more of your target audience finds the video content you’ve produced.

And with new formats and tracking capabilities, you can also use this information to report on its ROI.

The thing is, advertising on YouTube is very different from running a PPC or paid social campaign. There are specific creative constraints and a ton of options for this platform, and you need a base knowledge before you even scope out your next video project to make the most of the paid possibilities.

What’s New With YouTube Advertising

In January 2017, Google announced it would make changes to AdWords to allow advertisers to reach more viewers on YouTube — especially across mobile devices, where 50% of YouTube views take place. Among the changes it rolled out, possibly the biggest announcement was that advertisers will soon be able to target viewers based on their Google search history, in addition to their viewing behaviors YouTube was already targeting.

Marketers can now target ads at people who recently searched for a certain product or service to target the video ads they’ll be served on the platform. If the content of a video ad is closely related to a search the viewer has been researching, they might be more likely to watch the entire ad or click through the ad to the website.

Keywords are relatively less expensive to target on YouTube than in traditional Google Search: Views cost an average of $0.06 per click on YouTube, compared to the average Google Search cost per click, which is estimated to be between $1-2. When YouTube targeting includes search history, it may be a more cost-effective way to target your audience with a more engaging form of content — video.

The 3 Types of YouTube Video Ads

There are three key types of video ads in which you can invest on YouTube: TrueView, Preroll, and Bumpers.

1. TrueView Ads

TrueView ads are the standard video ad type on YouTube. Advertisers only pay for TrueView ads when viewers watch or interact with their ad (for example, by clicking on a call-to-action), and videos can be easily customized to share a variety of content.

Advertisers only pay when a user watches the ad for at least 30 seconds or until the end of the video or if the viewer takes an action, such as clicking on a call-to-action. YouTube requires that skippable TrueView ads be between 12 seconds and 6 minutes in length, and that non-skippable TrueView ads be 15-20 seconds in length.

There are two types of TrueView ads with which you can optimize your YouTube channel:

Video Discovery Ads (Previously Named In-Display Ads)

Video discovery YouTube ads show up on the YouTube homepage, search results pages, and as related videos on YouTube video watch pages.

These ads appeared after performing a YouTube search:

Two TrueView Video Discovery Ads in a YouTube search result

This display ad appears as a related video on the right-hand video sidebar:

TrueView In-Display ad in YouTube's related videos sidebar

Once a user clicks on the ad, the destination video page features a spot on the right-hand column where a companion banner display ad will appear.

TrueView video ad companion banner

In-Stream Ads

TrueView in-stream ads play before someone watches the video they’ve selected on YouTube. Viewers sometimes have the option to skip the ad after watching it for five seconds. You can also make them play anywhere in the Google Display Network (GDN) — or sites that purchased Google video ad space.

In-stream ads let marketers customize video ads with different CTAs and overlay text, as highlighted in the skippable in-stream ad example below from Grammarly.

TrueView In-Stream video ad by Grammarly

Here’s what another skippable in-stream ad from Wix looks like. In this example, there’s another CTA from Wix on top of the right-hand video menu display:

in-stream ad youtube.png

What TrueView Videos Can Include

TrueView video campaigns can include people, dialogue, and music that was retrieved with permission — or is considered royalty-free. However, it’s best not to run a standard promotional commercial. Because these videos can be skipped, you need to give your audience a reason to keep watching, and product plugs historically don’t get the views you might expect.

Instead, tell a story with the time you have in this video. People love seeing case studies of those who faced a struggle that they can empathize with. It’s a source of entertainment that makes your brand memorable and less tempting to skip.

With TrueView ads, advertisers can gain a ton of information about the performance of their ads for optimization and testing purposes.

Using AdWords, YouTube account managers can collect data on an ad’s completed views, partial views, if the video drives channel subscriptions, clickthrough rates on CTAs, views sourced from a user sharing the content, and views on the brand’s other content that can be attributed to a person initially viewing a video ad.

These actions help advertisers better understand the full value of their video ad spend and where to allocate budget to increase results.

2. Preroll Ads

Some in-stream ads are non-skippable and can play before, mid-roll, or after the main video. These are called Preroll ads, and they can be 15 to 20 seconds in duration.

Here’s an example of a non-skippable video ad before the main content on YouTube:

Preroll ad on YouTube with "non-skippable" features highlighted in the video

There are also non-skippable, mid-roll video ads, which appear midway through a YouTube video that’s 10 minutes or longer in length.

Midroll preroll ad on YouTube

Source: PC Daily Tips

What Preroll Videos Can Include

Preroll ads give you just as much freedom as TrueView ads in their allotted content. You can include people, dialogue, audio, and more elements that you find best represent your brand in 15 to 20 seconds.

Because preroll ads can’t be skipped, these videos are best created with a call-to-action (CTA) so you can optimize the attention you do have from the viewer. In other words, encourage viewers to click on your ad and receive something in return. Perhaps you’ve released a new product or promoting a major event this season and are looking for signups — use this preroll ad to get those clicks. 

Keep in mind YouTube sells Preroll video space on a pay-per-click (PPC) basis. Make the click worth it.

3. Bumpers

Bumpers are the third and shortest type of YouTube video ad available to you. At just six seconds per bumper, these ad spots play before a viewer’s chosen video. 

Bumper video ads obviously can’t tell a good-enough story in just six seconds, but they make terrific complements to larger video campaigns on a new product launch or event. Just be sure to use this six seconds wisely, and include only the components of your brand you want your audience to remember.

How to Set Up & Launch a YouTube Video Advertising Campaign

Once you’ve created a marketing video you want to advertise on YouTube, it’s time to create your video ad campaign. (If you haven’t made a video yet, here’s how to get started with Animoto or Wistia, along with a few great examples.) Then, upload your video to YouTube.

YouTube creator's page prompt to select files to upload

Now, you’re ready to set up your advertising campaign. First, go to your Google AdWords account to set up your campaign.

Campaign Type

Tap the drop-down menu on the right-hand side of the red “+ Campaign” button on your Google AdWords homepage and select “video.”

launch_new_video_ad.png

Campaign Name

Enter a name for your campaign, and make sure Video has been chosen from the Type drop-down menu.

YouTube_AdWords_Step1.png

Video Ad Format

Select “In-stream or video discovery ads” to ensure your video ad will be in TrueView format (in the style of the examples outlined above).

video_ad_formats_adwords.png

Budget

Set your budget per day. You can also select a delivery method — either the standard delivery, which shows ads evenly during the day, or accelerated delivery, which drives views as quickly as possible. The latter would be useful if you want to capitalize on a trend or news item relevant to your brand’s video.

video-ad-budget-delivery.png

Networks

Decide where you want your ad to appear.

  • YouTube Search: Your video ad will appear in results for searches and will appear on the YouTube home page, channel pages, and video pages.
  • YouTube Videos: This runs TrueView ads that can appear in-display ads or in-stream ads. With this option, you can choose for your video ad to appear before or around videos shown across the Google Display Network.

You should create separate campaigns for YouTube Search and YouTube Video as this will help you to better track performance metrics. These ads are served to people performing very different activities and require a different amount of commitment from the viewer, so it’s best to monitor performance separately.

youtube-networks.png

Locations

Define the location of users whom you want the ad to be shown to. You can also exclude certain locations.

video-location.png

Language, Device & Mobile Bidding

AdWords will let you specify the operating system, device, and carrier for more advanced targeting. This is especially useful for mobile app ads, and there’s an option to increase or decrease your bid based on if the video ad is shown to someone on a mobile device.

youtube_language_ad_adjustment.png

Advanced Settings

With the advanced settings section, you can set begin and end dates for your campaign, create a custom schedule for when your video ad should be shown, and limit the daily impressions and views for users. This all helps you to get the most return for your ad spend.

Advanced settings on YouTube ads.png

Creating the Video Ad Creative

Name your ad group, and then insert the YouTube link for the video you would like to run the ad for. You will then choose whether you want this to run as an in-stream ad or an in-display ad.

video_ad_creative_youtube.png

For in-display, you’ll need to include a title and short description, which is entered on two separate lines. Note: Titles are limited to 25 characters, and the description lines are limited to 35 characters each.

youtube-in-display.png

In-stream ads provide you with the option to overlap a display URL on top of the video. You should use a vanity URL that directs to another final URL to make it more memorable. You can include advanced URL tracking options. In addition, a companion banner made from images from your video will appear on the right side of the video ad.

youtube-in-stream.png

Bidding

You’ll then determine the max price you will pay for each view, which you can adjust to increase the number of projected views your video may receive.

bidding_video_ad_adwords.png

Targeting

Finally, you can further define the audience you would like the video to be shown — options include gender, age, and parental status. You can also target individuals by their interests, such as beauty mavens, cooking enthusiasts, horror movie fans, etc. Try running multiple campaigns to target different groups of users to discover who is most engaged, rather than including everyone you want to target in one campaign.

video-adwords-interests.png

Advanced Targeting

You can also target individuals by keywords, topics, or websites where you would like your video ad to appear. Keyword targeting with in-display ads can be a powerful tool for finding individuals who are looking for a visual answer to a question. Be sure to do your research, and try testing out different groups of keywords to see which leads to more views, clicks, or conversions.

Additionally, you can use AdWords video ads to remarket to people who have been in contact with your brand already. This can help you to re-engage those who are already familiar with your brand.

narrow-targeting.png

Linking Your Account

You should link your AdWords account to the YouTube channel where the video is hosted if you haven’t already. You can also click “finish” to begin running your video ad campaign.

adwords-linking-account.png

10 Tips for Optimizing Your AdWords for Video Ads

Launching a video ad campaign is a great step, but there are some things you should set up prior to starting to pay for views to make the most of your budget and to see the highest return for your client.

1. Define your metrics and goals.

When analyzing the results, there are four main categories of metrics you can track for each video. These are located under the “column” drop-down in your campaigns interface.

Views

Under the “views” category, you can better understand what percentage of the ad people viewed and understand how the ad drove earned views or views on your brand’s other videos.

views-metrics.png

Audience

This category can be used to track likes and shares for each video ad.

audience-metrics.png

Branding

The view rate should signal if the creative and message are interesting or entertaining enough for people to watch the ad. By increasing your view-through rate (VTR), you will lower your cost per view.

video-branding-metrics.png

Conversions

Conversions will help you better understand if your ad is driving leads and returning a high ROI for your brand.

conversions-metrics.png

Depending on the goals for the brand, you should determine a few goals based on these metrics and formalize a plan for optimizing creative and trying different targeting criteria to improve results. Your goals should also determine the type of content you will feature in the ad — some metrics are better for branding goals and others will drive leads and conversions.

2. Track low performing placements.

If you’re running in-display ads that will appear across the Google Display Network, you can review where the ad has appeared in by navigating to Video Targeting > Placements > Where ads were shown > Display network from your Google AdWords Campaigns dashboard. Review this list to see if any particular sites are contributing to poor performance for your desired metrics. Exclude these sites from your ad campaign moving forward to increase your average CPV.

3. Use a custom thumbnail image.

Design or use a high-quality still image from the video to entice a viewer to click on your video. Remember, this image needs to be legible by users on different devices, including mobile. If your image contains a person, make sure he or she is looking into the camera. If you are featuring a product, make sure the background isn’t distracting. 

4. Drive people to buy with cards.

A YouTube card is teased with a small “i” symbol, which the viewer can click to expand. You can time this appearance so only users engaged with the video and content will see the notification.

With cards, you can feature a product related to or featured in the video to drive product purchases. You can also use cards to drive fundraising donations, traffic to a URL, or traffic to other videos as shown in the example below from Refinery29. Each format will allow you to customize the card with text, images, and other options.

refinery29example.png

5. Create calls-to-actions.

When promoting a video on YouTube, you can include call-to-action overlays that link to a URL. You could link to a landing page, product page, information page, career page … whatever you’d like. You could also send people to a favorable report or interview featuring the brand.

Adobe highlights one of its live videos using a call-to-action overlay:

adobe_youtube_ad_CTA.png

6. Create a YouTube end slate.

Create an end screen to drive subscribers to your channel, promote your social networks, or increase interest in your brand. If someone has watched a video until the end, it’s a good sign they enjoy your content and might be interested in subscribing to your channel for future updates. The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon‘s end slate uses this screen to drive subscribers and social media fans while also highlighting other interesting topics its host has featured. Once you build the image, you will be able to annotate the end screen in YouTube’s video editor.

yeahboy_endslate.png

7. Use negative remarketing.

If you are running a campaign for a longer period of time and want to only attract new users to a brand, consider creating a list of people who your ad will not be shown to. When viewing your AdWords Campaign screen, select “Shared library” on the lower left sidebar. Then select “Video remarketing” and “+ Remarketing List”. You can stretch your campaign budget and target only unique users by selecting to not show your video ad to someone who has previously viewed the specific video, who has visited your YouTube channel, or shared, liked, or commented on any of your videos on your channel.

remarketing-adwords.png

8. Use close captioning to cater to viewer’s needs and wants.

This tip applies to all YouTube videos — but it’s a general best practice that’s not followed by many brands. Include a quality video transcription you’ve generated and approved. Only user-uploaded transcriptions are indexed by Google because YouTube’s automatic captioning can be less than reliable. Depending on your target audience, you may also want to include transcriptions in various other languages. You can also offer users the option to download or visit a site page with the full transcription in your video description.

9. Qualify viewers.

Sometimes, your ad will be seen by people who have no interest in your product. Encourage them to skip the ad if the content isn’t relevant so you don’t have to pay for the view and they don’t waste their time watching irrelevant advertising.

10. Consider making your ad longer.

When it comes to TrueView ads, if the ad is under 30 seconds, you pay only if a viewer watches until the end. If the ad is longer than 30 seconds, you pay if the viewer watches it for at least 30 seconds. In both cases, you pay if the viewer interacts with your ad before it’s over. Consider this when you are coming up with ideas for content for the ad. You may want to put messaging at a certain point so uninterested viewers can skip the ad, or you might provide special offers towards the end of the video.

The Future of Video is Bright

We’ve told you before: Video content is a must-have part of your content strategy. This is even truer now that YouTube lets marketers target users based on their search histories. YouTube advertising is more targeted than ever, and it’s less competitive real estate than the world of Google Search because video content is newer to the content scene and less popular than blog posts.

Stay tuned for more from us about how to make great video ads for YouTube and social media, and where we think YouTube marketing is headed next.