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There are so many social networks to choose from today: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest. Maybe YouTube? Maybe Reddit?

We’d love to let you in on a secret one that’s flying under the radar.


We’ve spent time digging into the rise of Spotify as a social media platform, used by today’s hottest brands. The results have been fascinating. We believe that Spotify is fast becoming a core platform for engaging with customers — through paid ads of course, but also through an organic presence. We’d love to tell you how these brands are doing it.

A huge bonus – some of what we’re going share is easy to set up and free to experiment with!

Keep reading to see how the music streaming giant can drive your brand forward and present some unique and exciting opportunities to connect with your audience.

Where Spotify fits in today’s social media landscape

If you were to look at a chart of the online communities of the greatest size and reach, how do you think that chart might look?

Typically, the “biggest” social networks that come to mind are the ones that are top of mind for all of us: Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram, which have billions of users.

Beyond those sites are some other familiar names:

  • Twitter and Reddit, which have over 300 million users
  • LinkedIn, which is nearing the 300-million mark
  • Pinterest and Snapchat, which are right near 250 million each.

There’s another community that is right on the heels of these social media giants.

Spotify has 217 million users as of April 2019, and if you were to include Spotify in the list of top social networks, it would fit snugly within the top 20 worldwide.

What’s useful to see here is that many brands and businesses want to be where their customers are. And with user counts like these, it’s obvious there are customers here!

We’re beginning to see, more and more, that the standard definitions for “social networks” are expanding. Brands these days are looking for places to reach their audience and connect. Spotify is clearly one of those places.

The music streaming service has been around since 2008, and it’s been a hidden treasure for marketers for several years now thanks to its deep audience insights. Slowly but surely, Spotify has been gaining critical mass as a must-consider location for brands to be. The website Distilled wrote about the Spotify trends in August of 2018. Many other websites have covered the advertising potential of the platform.

From our research, this trend will only continue to grow.

The way we see it, there are three pillars for brands when it comes to their presence on Spotify.

  1. Playlists
  2. Paid ads
  3. Podcasting
1. Spotify Playlists Find organic distribution through branded, social playlists

Do you have a guess at how many Spotify playlists there are?

There are over two billion!

Now, don’t let that number scare you off.

Just because there are billions of playlists doesn’t mean that yours won’t get noticed. We’ll get into some distribution methods in a moment, but first let me share another fascinating stat with you:

One-third of all listening time on Spotify is spent on user-generated playlists. That equates to eight hours a week of listening. So clearly there is a lot of demand for playlists on Spotify!

What’s also great about playlists as a brand strategy is that they are easy to set up and free to experiment with … two of a marketers’ favorite attributes.

The barrier for entry is incredibly doable. Just as you create playlists for your personal Spotify listening, you can do the same for your brand. Let’s first walk you through how it works, then we’ll dive into some of the finer details about this strategy.

How to:

To get started, create a new Spotify account for your brand.

And as you would with any new social profile, fill it out completely with your brand name and logo. Some brands do a custom logo for Spotify, featuring different colors or music-related imagery.

Then, start creating your first playlists.

There are several ways to about this. Some brands organize their songs around themes, whether it’s a certain mood or feeling or perhaps a trending topic or event. For instance, McDonald’s has playlists for football and the Oscars.

Gymshark — an athletic apparel brand — partners with influencers to create branded playlists. Each playlist is inspired by the influencer’s music choices and is pitched as a training playlist. They’re quite popular, too. The Steven Cook playlist has 95,000 followers.

When it comes to choosing songs, Spotify recommends a few helpful guidelines to lessen your risk and avoid any implicit endorsement of artists.

  • Put at least 20 tracks on your playlist. The more tracks you have, the better.
    Variety counts, too.
  • No single artist should appear more than once on your playlist
  • Don’t include artists you might think would be opposed to your brand.

For the design of your playlist, you can use emoji in the title to make it stand out. You can also upload a custom cover photo to the playlist. This can only be done by downloading the desktop app; it can’t be done on mobile or on the web app.

The only considerations for your photo are that the file needs to be a JPEG and the file size can’t be more than four megabytes. You’ll also want to use a square aspect ratio. We like to use an 800-pixel by 800-pixel image, just as we do for Instagram.

How do you get people to find out about your Spotify playlists?

Fortunately, Spotify is quite well integrated into the other social networks, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter especially. There are a couple different ways you can get your playlist distributed here.

First, you can rely on your own promotion.

You can link to your playlist on any social channels to drive your audience to Spotify. For instance, you can link directly from your website footer or add a Spotify icon to the other social icons in your email signatures.

Another way to get the word out is to encourage participation.

Some brands create collaborative playlists that all Spotify users can add to. These crowdsourced lists make for a great content in a tweet or Instagram post.

The other way to go about distribution is with Viral promotion.

Playlists themselves are quite shareable as well. When a user likes a song or if they like an entire playlist, they can share them easily to major social networks. Instagram Stories has a direct connection to Spotify so that you can add your latest song directly to your Stories.

And one final playlist note: Keep your playlist updated by adding and removing songs regularly. Each time your playlist changes, the followers of that playlist will be notified.

2. Spotify ads Experiment with targeted advertising, starting at $250 per campaign

There are a couple big advantages of going with Spotify for ads.

First, they are a younger ad network so you’re likely to get more bang for your buck. This has been true of all ad platforms initially: Facebook several years ago, Instagram Stories and Pinterest recently, and Spotify now. Putting your advertising dollars on younger ad networks is one of our favorite tips for maximizing ad spend.

Second, Spotify has a deeeeeep amount of analytics.

They understand their user’s listening behaviors to an incredible degree, and this allows for advertisers to create some really compelling audiences and storytelling. Consider these stats they have on how Millennials use Spotify:

  • 68% of streams happen on mobile.
  • Millennial listeners are 64% more likely to buy brands they see advertised.
  • Millennials stream on repeat more than they stream on random, and they’re 90% more likely to have the latest tech products.

And there’s these stats about how Tech Early Adopters stream on Spotify

  • They’re almost 900% more likely to stream on a gaming console than the average listener.
  • They’re 41% more likely to listen to music that feels defiant.
  • Early Adopters stream what they like more than they stream new finds, and they’re twice as likely to be brand conscious.

So if you’re thinking about getting into ads on Spotify, here’s what to know:

1. Understand the different ad formats.

Spotify offers audio, video, and display ads. You can fully create and manage your own audio ads through the Spotify Ad Studio. For video and display ads, you can get in touch with the Spotify team through the Spotify for Brands website.

Depending on your budget, you may end up going with one or more of these three ad formats. Initially, when starting out in the Spotify Ad Studio, you can run audio ads beginning at a minimum $250 budget.

Spotify has found that a mixture of ad formats works best. For example, mixing audio and display results in a 24 percent increase in ad recall for those formats.

2. Get to know the different ad segments

You can customize your ad for a host of different settings … Your options include: location, age, gender, platform, and whether you want to advertise across all Spotify music or just in certain genres or on certain playlists.

3. Focus on the experience of your listener.

We mentioned earlier that a variety of ad formats can be helpful. So, too, can a variety of targeting. Spotify is unique among other ads in that it has a strong storytelling element to its data. You can tell what kind of mood a listener may be in, based on previous songs. You may even be able to tell what they’re doing … for instance, if they’re listening to a workout playlist on mobile, chances are that they’re at the gym.

3. Podcasts on Spotify Create a branded podcast to take advantage of the Spotify platform and Spotify search

(Did you know: Buffer’s Science of Social Media podcast is on Spotify?)

Spotify has made a major investment in podcasts on its platform.

You’ve probably noticed that more and more podcasts are popping up in the Discover tab and elsewhere in the interface. It’s for good reason. Last year, Spotify pledged to invest $500 million in podcasting.

Based on radio industry data, we believe it is a safe assumption that, over time, more than 20% of all Spotify listening will be non-music content.

We’ve already seen some of these investments being made public. Spotify acquired Gimlet Media, a podcast network, and Anchor, a podcasting app, spending hundreds of millions on the acquisitions.

Spotify is clearly making podcasts a priority from here on out.

So what can brands do to take advantage?

Step one is to make sure that your podcast is available on Spotify.

There are a few simple ways to do this.

For our podcast, like I mentioned, we use Anchor to handle all the distribution. Other tools like SimpleCast do this as well. You upload your podcast to Anchor, and they ensure it is published to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and all other major podcast services.

Alternatively, you can manually add your podcast to Spotify by going to podcasters.spotify.com. From there, you’ll be asked to enter your podcast’s RSS feed and to enter information about your podcast.

Once your podcast is set up with Spotify, you can start thinking about distribution.

We’ve got a couple quick tips for you when it comes to distribution:

First, you can share your podcast to social media just like you would any other favorite music track. We tried this tactic with sharing our Science of Social Media episodes to Instagram Stories, and it works like a charm.

Second, you can capture some Spotify SEO opportunities. No one’s really talking about Spotify SEO yet, but it’s certainly worth considering when you’re coming up with headlines and titles for podcast episodes.

You’ve probably heard that YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine next to Google. Well, Spotify’s userbase makes it a large search engine as well. You can make the most of it by being strategic with the naming of your podcasts.


To recap, we’ve seen brands take advantage of Spotify’s social features in three key ways:

  1. First, with brand playlists.
  2. Second, with targeted advertising.
  3. And third, with podcasts.

We’d love to hear how the platform performs for your brand!

How to say hello to us

We would all love to say hello to you on social media – especially Twitter!

Thanks for listening! Feel free to connect with our team at Buffer on TwitterBuffer on Facebook, our Podcast homepage, or with the hashtag #bufferpodcast.

Enjoy the show? It’d mean the world to us if you’d be up for giving us a rating and review on iTunes!

About The Science of Social Media podcast

The Science of Social Media is your weekly sandbox for social media stories, insights, experimentation, and inspiration. Every Monday (and sometimes more) we share the most cutting-edge social media marketing tactics from brands and influencers in every industry. If you’re a social media team of one, business owner, marketer, or someone simply interested in social media marketing, you’re sure to find something useful in each and every episode.  It’s our hope that you’ll join our 27,000+ weekly iTunes listeners and rock your social media channels as a result!

The Science of Social Media is proudly made by the Buffer team. Feel free to get in touch with us for any thoughts, ideas, or feedback.

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Great businesses see the future differently.

  • Apple made CD’s redundant, and gave us 1,000 songs in our pocket
  • Airbnb took travel, and made us all feel at home across globe
  • Netflix made video rentals a thing of the past, and disrupted the Oscars

And now, Ugly Drinks is creating a new, healthier future for the $392 billion soft drinks industry, challenging giants like The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo and Red Bull head on.

From the outside, it may seem like a David v Goliath battle. But Ugly isn’t a plucky underdog. It’s a confident competitor with a different view of the world, and an unassailable belief in its mission.

Its product — a sugar, and sweetener free, natural flavoured sparkling water — launched in 2016, and has since built up strong sales, and a core of die-hard fans, on both sides of the Atlantic.

So, how has Ugly grown from a startup idea to challenging billion dollar brands?

Keep reading to uncover the four key steps Ugly has taken to build an industry-disrupting, global business in under five years…

1. Build a unique brand Ugly believes that its audience is tired of ‘perfection’ and seeks a more sincere view of the world

Ugly’s founders, Hugh Thomas and Joe Benn, are no strangers to the drinks industry after working together at Vita Coco, and over the years, the pair had grown tired the way many soft drinks were marketed.

“The founders were sick of seeing brands selling sugar-filled products, made appealing by marketing that masked what you’re actually drinking,” Brittany Zenner, Ugly’s New York-based Social Media and Community Manager explained to me.

The belief that many brands are propped up by misleading marketing sparked the concept of the ‘Ugly Truth’, the brand’s mission to spread the truth about the world we live in.

So for consumers who are craving the truth, especially in the socio-political, fake news, world we’re in at the moment, we have positioned Ugly as a brand that tells every truth. — Hugh Thomas, Ugly Drinks co-founder

“Whatever newspaper you read, whatever news sources you’re getting, there is uncertainty on both sides, and I think that’s led to a lot of tension,” says Hugh Thomas, speaking to The Challenger Project. “So for consumers who are craving the truth, especially in the socio-political, fake news, world we’re in at the moment, we have positioned Ugly as a brand that tells every truth.”

Ugly doesn’t make any claims it can’t live up to: “No unobtainable lifestyles. No ridiculous promises. We’re not a dream, we’re a drink,” the brand stated in a 2018 advert.

It's Time For The Ugly Truth - YouTube

Telling ‘every truth’ means that Ugly has to take a stand on topics outside of the drinks industry too. “The Ugly Truth started as a product message, but has broadened out to become about society. ” Zenner shared.

Ugly has partnered with Girl Up, a gender equality charity, to drive positive change and tackle global gender inequality. 1 cent of every drink purchased is donated to Girl Up’s leadership development program which trains teenage girls to take action for gender equality.

“The fact that we stand up for things can be divisive,” Zenner says. “Not every consumer supports the idea that brands should speak out about real life issues but we always try to stick to our values. Our mission, to expose The Ugly Truth, is something we all believe in passionately.”

2. Market where your customers are Marketing to a young, rebellious audience means embracing social media channels for Ugly

Ugly’s customers are known as ‘GenZenials’ internally. “It’s a mixture of Gen-Z and millennials, 16-24 is our target audience range,” Zenner shares.

The brand seeks to connect with consumers who are socially engaged, and ‘a bit rebellious’. “But but not in a destructive way,” Zenner continues. “We’re more about positive rebellion, standing up for things and making changes in the world.”

Ugly, like many of its ‘GenZenail’ audience, was born in the age of social media, and when Ugly combined its unique brand message with social media channels like Instagram, it found a recipe for success.

“Social media has been an amazing tool for us to spread the Ugly word since launch,” says Thomas. “We are a high visual brand with a strong opinion and Instagram has been particularly successful for us in terms of building a following and engaging with our community.”

Ugly’s world view, and its focus on calling out the Ugly Truth guides all of its marketing from its tone of voice to the content it shares. “We call out marketing BS,” explains Zenner. “We’ll even make fun of ourselves if we’re using stock imagery or really polished videos. We poke fun at the brands that sell the dream and aspirational lifestyles. We’re about living at authentic life.”

But what does that look like in practice?

A great example of this is Ugly’s National Sibling’s Day post on Instagram. The playful copy, accompanying a professionally shot image, says: ‘In honor of #NationalSiblingsDay here’s a photo of two people who aren’t related enjoying some Ugly.’

“We try not to take ourselves too seriously. Even when we make announcements or tackle serious subjects we try to be lighthearted,” says Zenner.

Ugly tries to steer clear from perfection, something that Zenner sees as growing trend in social media. “We went through this period of influencer saturation, where everything was hyper-polished and staged,” she explains. Consumers, Zenner believes, are bored and have switched off from this type of content, instead craving reality again. “We’re now bringing social media back to real-life,” she says.

The content Ugly creates is a mix of memes the team produces internally and professionally shot images, but Zenner believes that the amount of money you spend on content creation doesn’t tend to correlate with results.

“Honestly some of best performing content are the memes that we’ve created internally. It’s really low-fi but it’s the kind of stuff you would share with a friend,” she says. “We’ll take a popular meme format or just an image we think is funny, and add our own text onto it. When we put that up on our feed or story it tends to get better engagement that the content we’ve spent a bunch of money on.”

Pro Tip: When it comes to keeping on top of ever-changing internet and meme culture, the Ugly team has a Slack channel where they share content they stumble upon online. The team also keeps a close on on Reddit for the latest memes and trends.

3. Encourage your customers to become advocates Thanks to Ugly’s customer-centric approach, people love to share their experiences with the brand on social media (and beyond)

Ugly has a passionate community of fans and customers it affectionately calls the ‘Ugly Mob’, and this community has been key to the growth of the business.

In the company’s early days, co-founder, Joe Benn, realized that building a community of brand advocates would help them to spread the world about their alternative, challenger brand.

“Our fans love to be seen with the cans,” Benn explained to a UK business site last year. “They buy our merch from the website and they stick our stickers everywhere! This word of mouth excitement around The Ugly Truth platform has been our best marketing by far.”

Another aspect of the community that Zenner says is hugely important to Ugly is user generated content on social media, with the brand often re-sharing social media posts from its audience to Instagram stories.

“We want to feel like we’re part of the community, not just speaking to the community,” Zenner says. “By re-sharing photos and videos of people enjoying Ugly and interacting with the brand it’s showing people authentically engaging with the brand [and product].”

“We care deeply about our community in both the U.K. and the U.S. and use social media to speak to consumers on a 1-1 basis as often as possible,” says Thomas. For Zenner, this means focusing on engagement on social media: “We try to at least like every comment and we always reply if we feel like there’s something to reply to. We like to show people that there is someone real on the end of the content we’re producing and that we’re seeing their messages.”

“To us, comments and DMs are even more important than likes, because they allow us to open up two-way communication with our audience.”

4. Listen to your customers Speaking honestly and transparently with customers has helped Ugly to shape its business and build a brand people love

“We’ve built our entire brand at Ugly around being customer-centric and digitally native,” Zenner says.

Ugly makes key business decisions based on the feedback it receives from the its community, the ‘Ugly Mob’, and it actively seeks out this kind of feedback across channels — from social media to surveys and email.

One example of this is how Ugly sourced its three newest flavors — Watermelon, Piña Colada, and Pink Grapefruit. “All three of these were top voted options in surveys we sent out to our customers via email and surveys we posted on Instagram Stories and in our highly-engaged Facebook Group,” shares Zenner.

Ugly has also used surveys and customer feedback to make decisions about the merchandise it sells — yep, a drinks brand can also sell merch — and the content Zenner and the team at Ugly produce.

It’s also incredibly valuable for Ugly team members to take the time to speak with customers in detail, outside of email, surveys and social media. “I personally have gotten on the phone with a select group of customers to discuss what they love about Ugly and what they would like to see us improve,” says Zenner. “Those conversations have been invaluable and have opened our eyes to possibilities that structured surveys might miss.”

Creating the future of soft drinks for a more health conscious generation

A Nielsen study found the majority of consumers are trying to ditch sugar and embrace healthier lifestyles, and Ugly is a perfect fit for younger, more health conscious consumers.

Further to this, a poll conducted in conjunction with USA Today reporter Bruce Horowitz which surveyed more than 30,000 consumers in more than 60 nations, revealed that younger consumers are far more concerned about healthy living that older generations. The study found that the most health-centric group of consumers is Generation Z, part of Ugly’s GenZenial market.

With healthy and clean eating and drinking on the rise, Ugly is ideally positioned to continue its growth across the globe — especially if it sticks to the four tactics that have served it so well on its journey so far:

  1. Build a brand: Ugly believes that its audience is tired of ‘perfection’. It seeks a more authentic view of the world, and shares the ‘Ugly Truth’ about its industry and other global issues.
  2. Market where your customers are: Marketing to a ‘GenZenial’ audience means that Ugly embraces social media, and channels where its audience hangs out online.
  3. Encourage your customers to become advocates: Ugly’s customer-centric approach, encourages people to share their experiences with the brand on social media (and beyond).
  4. Listen to your customers: Speaking honestly and transparently with customers has helped Ugly to shape its business and build a brand people love.

It’ll be a few years before Ugly reaches the heights of the soft drinks industry Goliaths like The Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo, but the journey will be fascinating to watch.


You can follow Ugly on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. A special thank you goes to Brittany Zenner, Social Media and Community Manager at Ugly, for sharing a ton of great insights for this story.

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One of the most popular topics in social media marketing is how to get more followers.

And not just any followers — real followers, no bots. Brands want to grow their followers authentically by adding real people who love the brand and are looking to engage.

This is no small task on social media in 2019!

We’ve dug into the research on all the latest follower trends and how new brands are growing from zero to 10,000 followers and how established brands are going from 10,000, beyond.

Today’s most popular brands and influencers have given us a roadmap for how to grow your social media following. We’re talking about real tactics to get real followers — no bots, no shady shortcuts. We’ll give you fresh ideas that you can try today so that you can boost your follower count on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and more.

Listen to the podcast audio above, or read through this post to get the live notes and all the tips.

First things first … How important is a follower count on social media?

A common perception of follower counts is that they are a vanity metric. They don’t have a direct effect on the engagement of a post or on the click thru rate of a piece of content. Like many other vanity metrics, you can measure followers, but it can be hard to see how — or even if — they matter.

However, more and more these days, follower counts tell a compelling story about your brand.

Followers do matter.

Followers equal trust.

Healthy follower counts generate positive social proof for your brand. People are more inclined to follow accounts that have a large amount of followers. Even the networks themselves reward you for your follower count: Instagram, for instance, lets you place “swipe up” links into your Stories once you reach 10,000 followers.

So not only are these follower counts influencing follow-back behavior and features, they’re impacting the way your social media presence is perceived.

Followers has been a main statistic in our Buffer analytics since the beginning, and it is one of the key stats available in our new product, Buffer Analyze.

Follower counts matter. They matter to marketers, they matter to individuals, and they matter to brands.

So let’s discuss some ways to get. more. followers.

5 Fresh Strategies to Get More Followers on Social Media 1. Promote your profile on all of your “owned” channels

“Owned” channels are the channels that you have full control over — your website, your blog, and your emails for instance. This is in contrast to earned channels like social media and organic SEO, and paid channels like search ads and media buying.

What is the difference between earned, owned, and paid media? Chart via Titan Growth

One of the very best ways to grow your follower count is to use your owned channels as a significant platform for distribution.

Let’s cover this in detail for three of the primary sources “owned” channels:

First, you can promote your social profile on your blog.

We did this for the individual authors on the Buffer blog, showing a Twitter follow button next to the author’s name at the top and the bottom of the article. We’re lucky to have a sizable audience to our blog — over one million visitors each month.

Thanks to these visitors, our authors were able to grow their followings quite quickly to one-thousand-plus followers. Some even cracked the ten thousand and twenty thousand marks.

We’ve also seen this work with Instagram followers, thanks to a host of website plugins that allow you to feature several Instagram pictures on your blog .. either in the footer or in the sidebar. If you run a WordPress blog, for instance, you can search the WordPress plugin directory for Instagram plugins. There are over 40 pages of results.

Plus, most every social network makes it easy to embed content across the web. You can grab embed codes for tweets, YouTube videos, pins, Instagram photos, and more.

Placing this directly into the body of a blog post helps your social profiles have an even greater visibility.

Second, you can promote your social profile on your website.

If you’re like us, your website is your most-visited asset.

This is why we see so many brands using the website as a hub for social media promotion. We toured a list of 100 top direct-to-consumer brands, and over 90 percent used their website to promote their social profiles.

Promotion typically happens either in the header menu at the top of the website, in a dedicated “social media space” on their homepage, or in a pop-up that highlights one of their profiles. By far the most popular location for social promotion is in the footer of websites. Nearly all the brands we looked at were linking to multiple social profiles in the footer: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube … even Spotify.

Third, you can promote your social profile in the emails that you send.

You’ve likely come across this many times before. If you picture someone’s email signature, it likely had a link to a website or social profile .. there are even some tools like WiseStamp that embed your latest tweet automatically.

Brands do this as well with social media links in the footer of many of their email templates — both for marketing newsletters and in transactional emails like receipts.

To take email a step further, many brands use their lifecycle emails to promote their social accounts. If you were to follow brands like Blenders Eyewear or Good American jeans, you’ll see entire emails dedicated to a request to follow on social media.

The most effective calls-to-action can take a couple different forms. There’s Good American’s approach, which is a text-only, enormous list of links to each social network.

How Good American asks for social media followers via email

Then there’s the other approach of giving people a sample of what type of content they can expect to see if they were to follow you, particularly with visual networks like Instagram and Pinterest.

This brings us to our second tip for getting more followers.

2. Fill out your social media profile completely. And make it catchy.

People are more inclined to follow back profiles that:

  1. Look real. This includes a profile picture that isn’t just the default, and a custom header image
  2. Profiles that have a helpful description telling them who you are and what you are about
  3. Profiles with a nicely designed feed of content — whether it’s a series of Instagram photos or a variety of tweets

And it’s also true that a significant “follow-back” factor is followers themselves. People will follow accounts that have a lot of followers.

For the most part, brands and businesses will have these elements covered. If you are a new business just getting started or an individual looking to jump into a new social network, make sure you check these boxes with your profile before doubling down on follower growth.

Some advanced tips include:

  • The Stories highlights on your Instagram profile get premium placement above your feed. You can capture your top Stories moments and even assign custom thumbnails to each collection.
  • On Pinterest, your latest Pins make up a mosaic for your cover photos. Be sure to have a recent activity of vibrant, catchy images.
  • Facebook has one of the most robust “About” sections of any social network. Especially if you’re a business, it pays to put a lot of TLC (tender loving care) on this part of your profile.
3. Always use hashtags whenever possible on social posts

To make the most of this tip, pick and choose from high-volume hashtags. Tools like Keyhole and Hashtagify will reveal the popularity of certain hashtags across platforms like Instagram and Twitter.

You may want to add your post to a high-volume hashtag or strategically choose to be placed on a lower-volume, but more-focused term.

On Instagram, you can use up to 30 hashtags for your post and up to 10 hashtags in your Story.

Many brands choose to put their hashtags into the first comment of their Instagram post in order to keep the photo caption cleaner.

4. Use Instagram Stories to their full advantage

Hashtags can go a long ways toward increasing visibility. So, too, can Stories.

Instagram Stories appear on the Instagram Explore tab, which means that people beyond your immediate group of followers can find you there. You can also use hashtags, geo-locations, and @-mentions to surface your Stories further.

Hashtags and location stickers will make it possible for your Instagram Stories to appear on the search results page for those geo-locations and hashtags. And an @-mention sends a notification to the profile you’ve mentioned, and it gives that person or brand a chance to repost your Story to their Stories.

And if you remember from our episode last week — episode number 144 — live video can raise the visibility of your profile on social networks, which gives you even more chance to stand out and gain followers.

5. Be genuine. Use engagement strategies to gain more followers.

A famous saying within startups is …

“do things that don’t scale.”

Similarly, some of the best strategies to grow your follower counts on social media are going to be strategies that you cannot automate.

Engagement strategies are one of those.

The core of an engagement strategy is to interact authentically with an audience on social media. Sounds quite reasonable, right? This is indeed one of the fastest ways to grow your followers … but it’s also one that takes time and can easily fall by the wayside when things get busy.

We’ve found that it can help to follow a playbook. And one of the most famous follower-growth playbooks is Gary Vaynerchuk’s $1.80 strategy. Gary says this is the one piece of advice he gives everyone who asks him how to get more Instagram followers.

Here’s how it works:

  • Step one. Find the 10 most relevant hashtags in your niche and follow those hashtags.
  • Step two. Reach out and comment on the top nine posts in each of the 10 hashtags.
  • Step three. Continue to like and comment on posts each day.

The $1.80 strategy gets its name because you’re giving your two cents on nine posts for 10 hashtags every day. If you add that up, it equals $1.80 per day.

There are variations on this theme. Some people follow similar Instagram accounts and turn on post notifications for these accounts so they can be the first to like. Others find like-minded Instagram accounts and then follow and engage with the followers of those accounts.

At the core of all of these engagement strategies, though, is genuine engagement. The strategies won’t work without it.

Lightning round: Quick tips on getting more followers Promote your profile with social ads.

Social ads will raise the visibility of your content and of your profile. For example, YouTube’s TrueView Ads will place your content front-and-center to viewers. And you can even run follower campaigns specifically, on platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

We’ve had some of our best ad returns on Instagram Stories recently. Often times the younger the ad network, the greater the return. Pinterest is another younger ad network to try.

Run cross-promotion and takeovers with like-minded brands

Not only will this help with follower growth, it will also give you extra content for social. We typically approach this by reaching out to brands in our space and seeing if they’d be interested in a partnership. We’ve done takeovers with a variety of brands over the years. Recently, we partnered with Lifelapse – a stop-motion video agency – for an Instagram Stories takeover.

Cross-promote yourself.

Of course, you can also use your other social channels to your advantage. If you’re looking to grow a particular social profile, you can mention it in the description of your other profiles. For instance, if you’re growing your Twitter, then add a plug for your Twitter handle in your Instagram bio.

Use Instagram analytics to see what’s working.

We’re big proponents of a data-informed social media strategy. No matter which of the follower tips you try, be sure to follow up with a look at your numbers. Find out what’s working, and learn what to keep, what to stop, and what to start.

You can track follower information and post performance in Buffer and other social media tools.

How to say hello to us

We would all love to say hello to you on social media – especially Twitter!

Thanks for listening! Feel free to connect with our team at Buffer on TwitterBuffer on Facebook, our Podcast homepage, or with the hashtag #bufferpodcast.

Enjoy the show? It’d mean the world to us if you’d be up for giving us a rating and review on iTunes!

About The Science of Social Media podcast

The Science of Social Media is your weekly sandbox for social media stories, insights, experimentation, and inspiration. Every Monday (and sometimes more) we share the most cutting-edge social media marketing tactics from brands and influencers in every industry. If you’re a social media team of one, business owner, marketer, or someone simply interested in social media marketing, you’re sure to find something useful in each and every episode.  It’s our hope that you’ll join our 27,000+ weekly iTunes listeners and rock your social media channels as a result!

The Science of Social Media is proudly made by the Buffer team. Feel free to get in touch with us for any thoughts, ideas, or feedback.

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Live video remains a core feature of the top social networks, but have you noticed that the live video buzz may have cooled?

Why isn’t anyone talking about live video anymore?

How should you be thinking about live video and your social media strategy in 2019?

We believe there are still significant opportunities to use live video to your advantage. This week on the Science of Social Media, we hope to give you some fresh perspectives and ideas on what live video could look like for you and your brand in 2019.

The State of Live Video in 2019

If you think back three years ago to 2016, live video was everywhere.

Facebook Live had just debuted, and you had platforms like Periscope and Meerkat making waves as well. Live video seemed destined to be a huge focus for social media and for marketing strategies.

An emarketer study showed that one in every three Internet users had watched a live video in 2016, and that number was double for the much-coveted millennial demographic. Live video was going to be the future of how we interacted on social media.

Live streaming video in 2016 (via emarketer)

What a difference a few years make, right? Live video seems to have gone from front-of-mind to back-of-mind for marketers and for the social networks themselves. Case in point …

And the stats seem to point to a shift as well — or perhaps to a signal that live video never really took off in the way we thought it would. According to the annual State of Social Media report that we conduct at Buffer, 25 percent of brands had posted a live video in 2016, and the number only grew to 30% in 2017. Far from the rocketship growth that people expected.

What’s more, in our latest State of Social study, live video wasn’t even mentioned. Instead, brands seem focused on their overall video strategy … “live” included: 85% of brands posted at least one video last year, and the majority of brands used Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.

Video stats from the 2019 State of Social Media report

Instead of doubling down on live video in particular, brands now consider live video as one of many different types of video distribution methods. You have live video alongside Stories and video ads and YouTube and so much more.

Video remains one of the most engaging, best converting types of content.

Live video has become one of many tools in your video toolbox.

Almost all of the major social networks have live video in some form. Facebook Live is still going strong, as is Instagram live. Twitter continues to use live video really successfully with its Periscope product.

Plus, you have places like YouTube and Twitch, where livestreaming is huge.

Video game streaming alone has become a major attraction with the rise of e-sports, and beyond video games there are creators and influencers who have amassed giant viewership numbers for their streams.

There’s even talk of Instagram testing out a co-watching feature on the app, which would be a way to live discover Instagram videos together.

So the live video experience continues to be one that is valuable and in-demand for social network users. It might just end up looking a lot different than the live-everything world we predicted a few years back.

3 Strategic Use Cases for Live Video in 2019

It may be the case that fewer people are talking about live video — it may have never reached the critical mass that everyone predicted, or it may be on the backburner compared to newer social network features and strategies — but it is not gone forever, not by any means.

In fact, live video is thriving for particular niches and strategic use cases.

Historically, people watching videos on social media will stick with a live video for 3x longer than other videos, so it’s no surprise that social networks continue to keep this feature going.

Here are three specific strategies you could try in order to take advantage of live video in 2019.

1. Live video is a go-to tool for influencers.

Live video is a very personal medium, which caters perfectly to influencers and individuals who are growing their personal brand. This group has a huge range: from teenage YouTuber stars to marketing personalities to rising politicians. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently livestreamed herself building IKEA furniture, for instance.

Screenshot of congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez streaming live on Instagram (screenshot courtesy of Elle)

Many networks are even moving to make live video a lucrative choice for influencers by allowing donations and tips during livestreams of things like gaming and AMAs.

2. Use live video for a Q&A with your audience

Because of the personal nature of live video, there is some real power behind the ability to converse directly with someone.

This makes for an ideal outlet for a Q&A. Picture a fireside chat. There’s an intimacy and an immediacy to those chats which live video does a great job of replicating: it makes it feel much more real-time than many other mediums.

Brands can take advantage of this by holding Q&A sessions with company leaders or get-to-know-you sessions with teammates.

Quick tip: When you’re running a live Q&A we’ve found it to be really helpful to have an extra set of hands on set. We will often have an additional teammate looking at the comments to make sure everyone gets a response and to surface questions for the presenter to address on the video.

3. Live video is great for anyone who is just getting started with growing their presence on social media

One of the very best features of live video is its visibility in the interface of all the different social networks.

Take Instagram, for example. When you stream a live video through your Instagram Stories, your Stories avatar gets moved immediately to the front of the line. Typically, the order of avatars is determined by the Instagram algorithm. But with live video, your Story gets immediate access to the first spot.

Samples of what Instagram Live video looks like and how live videos get prioritized in the Stories interface

Similarly on YouTube, live sessions receive additional promotion with a noticeable, red LIVE badge in the main feed and in recommendations.

Because of this increased visibility, live video can be great if your brand is just getting started on social media. Not only would you be able to get priority placement, but you’d also be harnessing a powerful brand connection with your audience.

Getting started with live video: Where to begin

Now let’s get into the details. For marketers, the main social networks for live video are the ones you’d expect: Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.

To get started on Instagram, you can follow these steps:

  1. Swiping from left to right in the app, which opens up your camera.
  2. At the bottom of the camera screen, you’ll see a list of options. Scroll to the left and choose “Live” — its the one right next to “Normal.” Instagram will tell you how many of your followers are online, which will give you a good sense of the ideal timing for your livestream.
  3. When you’re ready to start your steam, hit the big white button.

You’ll be able to tell that your stream is running by the little pink “Live” icon in the top left corner.

Bonus tip: Be sure to check your Instagram settings beforehand, too. Once an Instagram Live video ends, it won’t appear on your feed unless you toggle “Save Shared Photos” on. This saves your content to the Stories section of the app, where you can share them with your audience.

On Facebook,

  1. You can click or tap the “Live” button right next to the primary text box on your profile or page.
  2. This will open a new screen with all the live options. You can stream from a computer or from the app.

In the Twitter app,

  1. you can swipe left to right from the home feed to open your camera. Then you’ll scroll right to switch the camera from “Capture” to “Live”. This will give you options to get your livestream started.

And for YouTube,

from your computer, you can click the recording icon at the top right menu. This will present the options to upload a pre-recorded video or go live. The next screen will help you get going with the full dashboard of live options for YouTube streaming.

3 Quick Tips for Live Video Streaming
  1. Run your live video for at least 10 minutes. Many live videos go for 30 minutes-plus.
  2. Promote your live video beforehand. You can do this with posts on Twitter or Facebook, or use the new countdown sticker on Instagram Stories to promote the time.
  3. Consider sneaking in giveaways or exclusive info into your live stream as an incentive for people to join and listen in. Be sure to plug these goodies in the promotion you do beforehand.
How to say hello to us

We would all love to say hello to you on social media – especially Twitter!

Thanks for listening! Feel free to connect with our team at Buffer on TwitterBuffer on Facebook, our Podcast homepage, or with the hashtag #bufferpodcast.

Enjoy the show? It’d mean the world to us if you’d be up for giving us a rating and review on iTunes!

About The Science of Social Media podcast

The Science of Social Media is your weekly sandbox for social media stories, insights, experimentation, and inspiration. Every Monday (and sometimes more) we share the most cutting-edge social media marketing tactics from brands and influencers in every industry. If you’re a social media team of one, business owner, marketer, or someone simply interested in social media marketing, you’re sure to find something useful in each and every episode.  It’s our hope that you’ll join our 27,000+ weekly iTunes listeners and rock your social media channels as a result!

The Science of Social Media is proudly made by the Buffer team. Feel free to get in touch with us for any thoughts, ideas, or feedback.

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Neuroscience is a multidisciplinary science that is concerned with the study of the structure and function of the nervous system. When applied to our professional lives, neuroscience can help us to unlock our greatest potential.

Increasing your meaningful productivity can have a huge impact on your day-to-day work and can greatly influence your professional success over a long period of time.

This week on the Science of Social Media, we’re examining the fascinating field of neuroscience and how it can positively influence our marketing productivity.

Think of today’s show as little tricks for your brain to work smarter, not harder.

6 Simple Ways to Use Neuroscience to Increase Marketing Productivity

What follows is a detailed summary of the episode transcript. Feel free to jump around and explore each of these top marketing lessons from history’s most influential leaders in this week’s Science of Social Media:

Let’s dive in!

Willpower and working smarter, not harder

One of core values here at Buffer is working smarter and not harder.

When we say productivity and working smarter not harder, we mean working on meaningful projects that make a big impact – not necessarily working more.

In the American Psychological Association’s annual “Stress in America” survey, participants were asked to assess their ability to make healthy lifestyle choices, and willpower was the number one reason they cited for not following through with those healthy choices.

Many people believe their lives would improve if they could boost their willpower — more control over what they eat, when they saved for retirement, and how to achieve goals.

Luckily for us, using neuroscience we are able to increase our willpower, and therefore, our meaningful productivity.

Start your day with difficult tasks

First and foremost, start your day with your difficult tasks

There’s been considerable research into willpower and one of the pioneers in this area is Roy Baumeister.

Baumeister discovered that willpower actually operates like a muscle: it can be strengthened with practice and fatigued by overuse. Willpower in the brain is fueled by glucose and it needs to replenished in order for it to perform optimally.

Willpower and self-control is at its peak first thing in the morning, so this is the best time to make yourself take on the hardest tasks of the day.

When creating your to-do list (more on that later), make sure that you carve our time in the morning for the most challenging tasks. This will help to ensure you’re starting your day on the right foot.

Add value and meaning to your work

One subject that comes up quite often when looking into the field of neuroscience is dopamine. Dopamine a neurotransmitter, which means it’s a chemical release by your nerve cells to send signals to other nerve cells.

There are a couple of different pathways for dopamine, and one of them plays a major role in the motivational component of reward-motivated behavior.

A team of Vanderbilt scientists conducted a study in 2012 analyzing the brain patterns of people they described as “go getters” and that meant they were willing to work hard for their reward, and the other group of people was “slackers” and they were not as motivated to work hard.

To quote the study “The team found that the go-getters had higher levels of dopamine in the reward and motivation part of the brain. The slackers had higher levels of dopamine in the emotion and risk part of the brain.”

Nothing will motivate you to be a go-getter if you don’t truly desire the reward that comes with the work. Tie your performance to something that contains value and meaning for you and you’ll quickly move to the go-getter side of dopamine production.

Avoid multitasking

We all like to believe that we’re master multitaskers.

NPR interviewed neuroscientist professor Earl Miller from MIT and he shared some interesting thoughts about multitasking. In short, the human brain is not engineered to multitask.

Miller is quoted as saying, “People can’t multitask very well, and when people say they can, they’re deluding themselves, the brain is very good at deluding itself.”

What we can do, however, is shift our focus from one thing to the next with astonishing speed.

The way to be most productive is to focus your full attention on one task at a time. Give it everything you’ve got. Then, once you’ve completed the task, move onto the next one and give that your full attention.

When you’re creating content for social, close out your email, turn off Slack, put your phone in your bag and focus fully on the content.

Take a deep breath

When you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, take a deep breath.

In a new study, researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and their colleagues have identified a handful of nerve cells in the brainstem that connect breathing to states of mind.

The study demonstrated that slow breathing induces tranquility to your body. And if you think of it, that makes sense. Because if you were to start breathing really quickly right now you’d feel the state of your body starting to change completely.

We know that as marketers and business owners, tasks can really start to pile up throughout the day. Sometimes we feel like we won’t be able to complete everything, let alone at a high level.

Breathing not only reduces stress and increases focus, but it helps to bring a sense of clarity of what really needs to get done and what can be put off for another time.

When you have a million things to do during the day, that clarity is invaluable.

Create a to-do list

There’s nothing like a good to-do list.

It turns out we are not alone in our love of lists, our brains also love lists. That’s because it’s the most effective way for the brain to receive and organize information. Recent research suggests that the key to a more organized mind and productive brain is to make to-do lists.

Neuroscience tells us that the brain’s working memory stores information on a short-term basis.

According to Dr. Daniel Levitin, most people can hold about four things in their mind at one time. When we ask our brain to store more than is optimal, it causes our performance to decline.

Since our brain has an attention filter, urgent matters will be at the forefront. At the same time, our brain doesn’t forget those less important matters either, and won’t hesitate to remind you of them somewhere around 3:00am. If you have a to-do list, your brain can rest because it knows you’re on it.

Research also suggests that when we process information, we do so spatially.

Lists appeal to our general tendency to categorize things—in fact, it’s hard for us not to categorize something the moment we see it—since our brains chunk information into short, distinct components.

Take a break and move

Research into neurogenesis, the ability of certain areas of the brain to grow new cells, indicates that we can foster new brain cell growth through exercise. Our brain has the amazing ability to rebuild and rewire every day.

The area of the brain linked to learning and memory is called the hippocampus. Research shows that endurance exercise sparks new neuron growth in the hippocampus as a protein (called FNDC5) is released into the bloodstream when we sweat.

There’s also other productivity benefits as well.

Exercise can help boost alertness. When you exercise, you’re increasing blood flow to the brain, which can help sharpen your awareness and make you more ready to tackle your next big project.

According to the University of Cambridge, exercise releases serotonin into your brain that helps you feel better and improves your state of mind, making the stresses of work easier to handle.

Daily exercise results in:

  • Improved concentration
  • Sharper memory
  • Faster learning
  • Prolonged mental stamina
  • Enhanced creativity
  • Lower stress

An incredible tool in your neuroscience toolbox.

How to say hello to us

We would all love to say hello to you on social media – especially Twitter!

Thanks for listening! Feel free to connect with our team at Buffer on TwitterBuffer on Facebook, our Podcast homepage, or with the hashtag #bufferpodcast.

Enjoy the show? It’d mean the world to us if you’d be up for giving us a rating and review on iTunes!

About The Science of Social Media podcast

The Science of Social Media is your weekly sandbox for social media stories, insights, experimentation, and inspiration. Every Monday (and sometimes more) we share the most cutting-edge social media marketing tactics from brands and influencers in every industry. If you’re a social media team of one, business owner, marketer, or someone simply interested in social media marketing, you’re sure to find something useful in each and every episode.  It’s our hope that you’ll join our 27,000+ weekly iTunes listeners and rock your social media channels as a result!

The Science of Social Media is proudly made by the Buffer team. Feel free to get in touch with us for any thoughts, ideas, or feedback.

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This week we’re taking a journey through time and uncovering some of the greatest, yet most unexpected marketing lessons from some of history’s most influential thinkers, philosophers, and leaders.

You may not realize it now, but there is so much we can learn from leaders like Socrates and Oprah and Cleopatra. Much of what they would consider their mantra has a ton of implications on marketing today.

In episode 141 of the Science of Social Media, Brian and Hailley break down concepts like the Socratic Method, transparency, rhetoric, and lots more.

8 Unexpected Marketing Lessons from History’s Most Influential Leaders

What follows is a detailed summary of the episode transcript. Feel free to jump around and explore each of these top marketing lessons from history’s most influential leaders in this week’s Science of Social Media:

Let’s dive in!

1. Aristotle

One of the most well-known philosophies of the Greek philosopher, Aristotle (born in 384 BC), is his idea of persuasion, otherwise known as rhetoric.

He breaks down persuasion into the three categories: Logos, Pathos, and Ethos.

These three concepts can be valuable for content marketers, writers, and bloggers. After all, isn’t persuasion one of the most important parts in marketing?

  • Logos: The application of logic in efforts to persuade. Logos tries to persuade an audience using logical arguments and supportive evidence.
  • Pathos: Playing to human emotions. Using anecdotes and stories, marketers can connect with their audience, adding a human element to content.
  • Ethos: The concept of ethics. It works off the idea that it is impossible to persuade anyone of anything if you’re not credible.

You must establish your credibility and reputation as a writer. This is done through personal branding and your ability to build a following. Ideally this would results in brand building and thought leadership.

2. Socrates

Next up on our list of marketing lessons from historical leaders, born 90 years before Aristotle, is Socrates.

Those that took a middle school science class learned about the Socratic Method. The Socratic Method is used in asking questions and posing theories to investigate and to stimulate the foundation of new ideas.

The Socratic Method applies to the interactive aspect of marketing. Get your readers involved by asking them questions or looking for their ideas on certain issues and engage them with interactive content.

Invite your audience to engage in a lively debate. Actively involve them in your marketing process so that your team can generate new product ideas, marketing campaigns, and content topics based on the feedback you’ve received directly from the people that matter most.

Most of all, don’t forget that the Socratic Method applies internally as well. Your team should be debating and questioning trends, norms, traditions, and ideas at all times.

3. Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey has built much of the rapport she has with fans by being honest throughout her career.

Oprah stayed true to herself and was honest to her audience through ups and downs. She also held her guests to this standard as well – ensuring that honesty was always the number one priority.

The benefit of this honesty and transparency in marketing is that it helps to build trust with your customers. Think of all of the brands that create a memorable customer experience by being genuine, human and transparent.

A modern social media strategy demands authenticity and being transparent is something you can’t ignore. That is one of the most important marketing lessons Oprah has taught us from her success.

4. Abraham Lincoln

As the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln became famous primarily because of his contributions to the abolition of slavery and the American Civil War. But aside from his political and human rights achievements, Lincoln is also known for his oratory skills.

He has articulated some of the most memorable lines throughout his political career. In fact, his Gettysburg Address in 1863 became the most quoted speech in US history.

His words live on as we apply them in the perspective of marketing, particularly when it comes to planning and preparation.

Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.”

Marketers should understand that the more time spent on preparation, the less work they have to do in executing.

In addition, Lincoln taught us that it’s not about the amount of hours you work or the number of projects you launch, it’s about the quality of those hours and projects.

Focusing on fewer, but more impactful projects and campaigns will improve your brand’s results and most likely make you more successful in your career as well.

5. Catherine the Great

One of the most influential political leaders of the Eighteenth Century, Catherine the Great was said to have played an important role in improving the welfare of Russian serfs.

She placed emphasis on the arts and helped to cement Russia as one of the dominant countries in Europe.

Catherine the Great is a shining example to modern marketers that it often takes incredible courage to make your vision come true.

In Catherine the Great’s time, smallpox was a terrible problem throughout what is now the united kingdom and Russia. Catherine heard of the new inoculation treatments in England and risked the entire dynasty to travel and get her and her son inoculated.

We know that creativity requires original thinking and transcending traditional ideas, yet we’re so inundated with incoming information, that it becomes harder and harder to truly think for ourselves.

6. Martin Luther King Jr.

Very few people in American history are as celebrated as Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist minister and social activist who led the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.

When examining King from a marketing perspective, he teaches us that not only carefully crafting, but truly believing in and embodying your brand message is critical for people to buy into what you’re saying.

As marketers, it’s only when we truly believe in our message and stand behind it 100% that can it be successful.

Carefully crafting your message is time well spent and pays ten-fold in the long run.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is world-famous still today. We might compare that world-famous effect with going viral. Messages that are particularly well-crafted spread like wildfire throughout the Internet.

The marketing lessons bestowed from MLK Jr. include saying what you want to say as quickly and clearly as you can.

Use words everyone understands. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech isn’t an hour long or even 30 minutes. It’s 17-minutes in total and something that changed the course of history forever.

7. Cleopatra

One of the more interesting, yet fairly unknown historical leaders on our list is Cleopatra. C

Cleopatra ruled ancient Egypt for almost three decades. Well-educated and clever, Cleopatra could speak 6 different languages and was known as a strong and charismatic ruler. During her reign, she forged political alliances with Roman military leaders Julius Caesar and Mark Antony – which helped to hold many regions together over decades.

In terms of marketing lessons, Cleopatra had an incredible knack for seeing the bigger picture.

As marketers it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day: writing articles, posting to social media, analyzing our efforts, and everything that comes with the role.

Sometimes we forget to look up and ask: “why”? Why are we doing this? How does what we’re doing at this moment contribute to the greater goal?

We need to understand how our tactics relate to the strategy and matching our behavior to that understanding.

8. Eleanor Roosevelt

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt is a perfect example of a leader that practiced creative innovation – including helping redefine and shape the role of the First Lady.

She not only participated in radio broadcasts, she also authored a daily syndicated column, held press conferences to discuss women’s issues, and was an active supporter of civil rights policies and New Deal social-welfare programs.

Her ability to redefine expectations is a reminder that great marketers always look for opportunities to break the mold. To get to the next level in marketing, we must think outside the box to what seems unimaginable.

Make space to think. Make space to challenge assumptions. Make space to break things.

So what is it that you hope to accomplish? Does it seem too big or too scary to do?

We hope you challenge that notion and set your goals as high as they can go.

How to say hello to us

We would all love to say hello to you on social media – especially Twitter!

Thanks for listening! Feel free to connect with our team at Buffer on TwitterBuffer on Facebook, our Podcast homepage, or with the hashtag #bufferpodcast.

Enjoy the show? It’d mean the world to us if you’d be up for giving us a rating and review on iTunes!

About The Science of Social Media podcast

The Science of Social Media is your weekly sandbox for social media stories, insights, experimentation, and inspiration. Every Monday (and sometimes more) we share the most cutting-edge social media marketing tactics from brands and influencers in every industry. If you’re a social media team of one, business owner, marketer, or someone simply interested in social media marketing, you’re sure to find something useful in each and every episode.  It’s our hope that you’ll join our 27,000+ weekly iTunes listeners and rock your social media channels as a result!

The Science of Social Media is proudly made by the Buffer team. Feel free to get in touch with us for any thoughts, ideas, or feedback.

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Retargeting, also known as remarketing, is a powerful form of digital advertising in which audiences (potential customers) are targeted with specific ads based on their behavior online.

In other words, retargeting campaigns turn internet “window shoppers” into real paying customers for your business.

While we as marketers would love to live in a world in which a majority of online visitors became customers, the truth is the buying process is extremely complicated. In fact, roughly 98 percent of your website traffic won’t convert into customers upon first visit.

Whether you’re just getting started or a seasoned expert, these 7 easy retargeting advertising tips will help take your campaigns to the next level.

7 Easy Ways to Improve Your Retargeting Ad Campaigns

Feel free to jump around and explore the 7 ways to improve your Facebook retargeting campaigns:

Let’s dive in!

Retargeting overview

As we mentioned in the introduction, roughly 98 percent of shoppers are visiting your store or website and leaving without ever buying from you. Check out this data from Statista on the trend over time:

What if there was a way to communicate with those people?

What if you could sell more products to people that are already familiar with your brand?

Luckily for us as marketers, there is! It involves a highly-effective marketing strategy known as retargeting. Retargeting helps you win back visitors — turning them into customers, email subscribers, product advocates, and more.

Retargeting ad campaigns play into one of the oldest concepts in marketing: The Rule of Seven.

The Rule of Seven simply states that the prospective buyer should hear or see your marketing message at least seven times before they buy it from you.

It is predicated on the notion of building trust with the buyer over the course of several messages or interactions.

Which brings us to the seven easy improvements you can make to your advertising campaigns starting today.

Tip #1: Understand the buyer journey (or buyer cycle)

Understanding the buyer journey (or buyer cycle) is crucial and applies to all of your retargeting campaigns.

It’s similar to the sales funnel, in that the process begins with more customers at the top in the awareness stage and ends up at the bottom with much fewer people in the conversion stage. Here’s a nifty graph showing this process from McKinsey & Company:

Retargeting is intended to capture more of those consumers as they proceed through the funnel. But if you’re not careful, you can actually damage conversion rates by ignoring the buy cycle.

If you’re considering letting your retargeting ad campaigns roll along on their own: don’t do it.

It’s not just about showing your ad to the wrong person multiple times, which by the way, can be quite annoying to customers.

It’s more about losing all awareness of the performance of your ads. If there’s one thing that marketers need, it’s a detailed understanding of their data and the effectiveness of their marketing initiatives. That means understanding what’s successful and what’s not. Who’s converting on what? Which ad set or ad creatives have the highest ROI?

Tip #2: Improve audience targeting

We’ve talked to lots of brands that start out with targeting anyone and everyone that visits their website in their retargeting campaigns.

Needless to say that approach isn’t always the most effective.

Customers visit to your website for lots of different reasons. They visit different pages. The pages they visit represent different buyer intents. Perhaps they’re not looking to buy your product at all.

The key is to match your custom advertising audiences to those shoppers’ intents.

For example, if you’re an ecommerce brand and someone visits your website shopping for shoes, make sure that you segment those people into a custom audience labeled “shoe shoppers” or “footwear.”

Over the past year at Buffer we’ve created various audiences based on the subject matter our visitors are interested in learning about. We have a custom audience for traffic to all Facebook marketing pages, Instagram marketing, customer experience, case studies, etc.

That allows us to be hyper-focused on what type of content we deliver, which helps to drive down costs.

Tip #3: Keep a close eye on advertising frequency

Frequency is something that many advertisers don’t necessarily consider in their campaigns, but should be thinking about in terms of improving their overall performance.

A recent study on U.S. consumer emotions associated with retargeting ads determined that ad frequency had a negative impact on buyer emotions.

Heavy ad frequency changes a buyer’s outlook from positive to negative. It can be intrusive, annoying, and worse yet — it may cause customers to become angry with your brand. Which will affect current and future sales.

Make sure to implement some sort of ad frequency limit on your campaigns. At Buffer, we’ve implemented a frequency limit of three. If the audience starts seeing the ad more than twice, we’ll either shut it off or change up the ad creative (which is a best-practice regardless).

Tip #4: Experiment until you find a highly-compelling offer

We had the pleasure of hosting Facebook ad expert Molly Pittman the Buffer Podcast back in episode 42 and she discussed this idea of lead magnets.

Lead magnets are your most compelling call-to-action. Something that you know your customers love and that other people will love, too.

If you’re not sure what that lead magnet could be, start with a quick analysis of your website traffic. What products, pages, articles are people visiting most frequently?

Then if you want to take it a step deeper, analyze conversion rates for those products or pages. In other words, what’s the total number of people that convert from a specific page compared to total number of visitors?

The higher the conversion rate, the better the magnet.

At Buffer, we had no idea where to start with retargeting. After some investigation, we found that one of our posts on Instagram marketing was generating a ton of traffic and had an unusually high conversion rate to product trialists.

Today that ad has driven more than 175,000 visits to our website and thousands of product trials.

Tip #5: Utilize Dynamic Creative Ads on Facebook

You’ve probably experimented with dynamic product ads on Facebook, but have you tried dynamic creative ads?

Dynamic creative ads are a tremendous advertising tool because they ultimately take the guessing work out of your advertising copy.

You can upload multiple images or videos, headline and description variations, as well as CTA button texts – and Facebook will test and automatically optimize for the best combinations. This graphic from WeRSM demonstrates this concept perfectly:

It’s important to note here that, because Dynamic Creative Ads only work with Traffic, Conversions, and App Install campaigns, it’s best to use these types of ads in the middle and the bottom of your sales funnel.

For instance, if your ecommerce business sells sunglasses, you could easily test standard product photos, action shots, vs. customer testimonials in your ads.

Facebook will then put your budget to the ads that are performing best.

Tip #6: Set up simple sequential engagement campaigns

When setting up sequential engagement campaigns, you’re taking a very large audience and converting them into a smaller, more qualified audience.

This is different from segmenting your audience because this is based on people who interact with your content. It’s a great way to grow your brand awareness while also moving people down the funnel.

Let’s say your a small-to-medium sized ecommerce brand that sells unique hair products.

Start by boosting a video that has performed well organically on Facebook or Instagram.

After a while, the views of that video will slowly start to pile up. You can then create a custom audience based on people who have watched 3 seconds, 10 seconds, 50%, 75%, or even 100% of the video and target them with an ad that makes sense sequentially.

Blenders Eyewear does an incredible job of this – delivering ads on Instagram when and where they are most relevant.

Put yourself in the mind of your audience here. Think, if I saw this ad, what would be the next logical step? Then map that out over the course of a few days to a few weeks.

Tip #7: Embrace the emotional element of advertising

We all like to believe that we’re intelligent buyers who always act rationally, but that’s only partially true. Our emotional side has a lot to say when it comes to purchasing products.

A simple list of product features might convince the rational self in some users, but it tends to have no effect on their emotional self. Our emotional self-doesn’t care about features, that part of us wants to see and imagine the benefits.

Coca-Cola’s recent Super Bowl ad, A Coke is a Coke, is a wonderful example of how emotions can elicit strong feelings of connection and understanding:

It’s important to address both the rational and emotional side of potential customers in your ads. Speak like a human. Use emotive language. Talk about benefits, not features.

Help people imagine a life with your product – one they never knew existed.

How to say hello to us

We would all love to say hello to you on social media – especially Twitter!

Thanks for listening! Feel free to connect with our team at Buffer on TwitterBuffer on Facebook, our Podcast homepage, or with the hashtag #bufferpodcast.

Enjoy the show? It’d mean the world to us if you’d be up for giving us a rating and review on iTunes!

About The Science of Social Media podcast

The Science of Social Media is your weekly sandbox for social media stories, insights, experimentation, and inspiration. Every Monday (and sometimes more) we share the most cutting-edge social media marketing tactics from brands and influencers in every industry. If you’re a social media team of one, business owner, marketer, or someone simply interested in social media marketing, you’re sure to find something useful in each and every episode.  It’s our hope that you’ll join our 27,000+ weekly iTunes listeners and rock your social media channels as a result!

The Science of Social Media is proudly made by the Buffer team. Feel free to get in touch with us for any thoughts, ideas, or feedback.

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There has been much discussion recently on industry-leading publications about the effectiveness of video on social media.

For example, did you know that video posts on Facebook receive at least 59 percent more engagement than other post types?

Since our 2017 research with Animoto comparing square vs. landscape video, little has been published around the impact of video format on overall video engagement.

Specifically, vertical video vs. square video.

While we know that square video (1:1) results in 30-35 percent more video views and an 80-100 percent increase in engagement compared to landscape video (16:9), we wanted to know how vertical video stacks up on Instagram and Facebook (both within the News Feed and Stories).

Which is why we teamed up with our friends at Animoto once again to test (and test again) the hypothesis that vertical video would perform better than square video on social media.

We were shocked by the results!

Today we’re excited to share our research with you along with several actionable takeaways for marketers looking to improve their social media video marketing results in 2019.

Author’s Note: We’ll be talking a lot about great video marketing tools in this post. Our must-haves are Animoto’s iPhone app for vertical videos, Animoto’s web app for square videos, and Buffer for sharing. Feel free to grab a subscription from each before we get started.

Table of Contents

Below are the full details from our study on everything from our vertical video hypothesis to the surprising results! Here’s a quick look at what we’ll cover:

Let’s do this!

Does Vertical Video Make A Difference In Results - We Spent 6,000 On Experiments To Find Out - SoundCloud
(942 secs long, 128 plays)Play in SoundCloud

The vertical video and mobile hypothesis

This research idea with Animoto all came from one simple statistic: square video takes up 78% more real estate in a person’s mobile newsfeed than does landscape video – making square video more engaging, more effective, and easier to watch.

And since square video outperformed landscape video in almost every category, we hypothesized that vertical video would eclipse square in a brand new study.

But why is video – particularly mobile video – such an important part of your social media strategy?

According to a recent report from Nielsen, U.S. adults are spending 10 hours and 24 minutes per day interacting with media, whether that be watching, listening to, or reading content across all of their devices.

And shockingly, mobile phones (smartphones) alone accounted for 65% of total digital usage, up from 62% in Q1 2018:

As mobile usage continues to increase year-over-year, our social media and video marketing strategies must evolve along with the expanded use to focus on mobile-first experiences.

Sometimes that’s as simple as formatting the video to fit natively within the platform.

3 important video marketing takeaways

Video is leading the way with social media marketing and so we’re super excited to share this actionable research with you.

By the end of this article, you’ll be equipped with data-backed ideas and insights that you can apply to your own videos today.

But first, a few key takeaways to set the study up!

1. Facebook News Feed: Use vertical video to drive traffic

In all of the experiments we conducted, we consistently found that vertical video outperformed square video within the Facebook News Feed. First let’s look at the cost per click (CPC) comparison:

  • Buffer: Cost per click (CPCs) 26 percent less expensive with vertical video
  • Animoto: Cost per click (CPCs) 38 percent less expensive with vertical video

Next, let’s take a look at the cost per view (CPV) comparison:

  • Buffer: Cost per view (CPVs) 68 percent less expensive with vertical video
  • Animoto: Cost per view (CPVs) 26 percent less expensive with vertical video

Since the video tests (vertical vs. square) were identical in content, theme, length, headline, caption, and more, it came as quite the surprise that vertical video outperformed square by such a significant margin (as much as 68 percent less expensive in cost per view).

It’s also interesting to note that not only did vertical video outperform square in the Facebook News Feed, but Facebook outperformed Instagram in overall cost per click (CPC) within the feed. An important takeaway for advertisers.

Buffer averaged $0.29 CPC on Facebook and $0.51 CPC on Instagram. Animoto averaged $0.32 CPC on Facebook and $1.31 CPC on Instagram.

2. Instagram Feed vs. Stories: Stories are a great way to inspire action

When looking at the Instagram Feed vs. Stories, it became immediately clear that Instagram Stories are a great way to inspire people to take action. In both the case of Buffer and Animoto, Stories consistently reduced advertising costs in regards to cost per thousand impressions (CPM) and cost per click (CPC):

  • Animoto: Stories 57 percent less expensive for CPMs and CPCs than the feed
  • Buffer: Stories 50 percent less expensive for CPMs and 30 percent for CPCs than the feed

Cost per click (CPC) data:

Cost per one thousand impressions (CPM) data:

However, it’s important to note that costs actually increased with Stories compared to the feed when measuring cost per view (CPV):

  • Animoto: 108 percent more expensive on 3-second CPV and 65 percent more expensive on 50% total watch time CPV
  • Buffer: 71 percent more expensive on 3-second CPV and 21 percent more expensive on 50% total watch time CPV

As many of you savvy marketers might have guessed at this point, we witnessed a rise in cost per view as cost per click decreased.

We believe that this is largely due to the fact that it is hard to get people to watch your entire video when they’re too busy taking action such as “swiping up” or clicking on a link.

Overall, Instagram Stories are a great way to get people to take action and a big opportunity for brands to utilize in 2019.

3. Instagram News Feed: Use vertical video to generate engagement

The final big takeaway from our research is that the Instagram Feed is a powerful platform for driving engagement when compared to Facebook (News Feed & Stories) and Instagram Stories… almost too good!

Reversing the Instagram Feed data from takeaway #2, you’ll notice that 3-second CPVs were 91 percent less expensive on average for Buffer and Animoto. In addition, 50 percent total watch time CPVs were 43 percent less expensive on average.

But which format drives more engagement within the Instagram Feed? Turns out it’s vertical video!

  • Animoto: Vertical video resulted in 13 percent more 3-second video views and 157 percent more 50% total watch time views
  • Buffer: Vertical video resulted in 6 percent more 3-second video views and 187 percent more 50% total watch time views

The practical takeaway here is that the Instagram Feed is a great way to boost awareness around your product and generate engagement.

Other key video marketing learnings

In addition to the three key learnings above, our research pointed to some other unexpected takeaways that you might be able to apply to your video marketing strategy.

1. Facebook marketing is alive and well

We’ve discussed the power of Facebook marketing (here and in previous studies) and found that it remains a viable way for brands and businesses to reach target audiences. Particularly, if you’re looking for an inexpensive way to drive traffic to your website.

In all of our tests, we found that Facebook consistently generated a lower CPC than its Instagram counterpart.

While Instagram was the most effective way to generate interactions and engagement in our tests, Facebook emerged as an extremely reliable way to drive traffic.

We’ve seen this hold true over the past two years at Buffer as well. Our most successful social media advertising campaign of all time – a campaign that is still running today – runs on the Facebook News Feed:

This campaign has generated more than 169,000 link clicks and reached more than 1,500,000 people since launching in April 2017.

The best part is that it’s a super simple ad concept:

While brands and businesses flock to Instagram in 2019 in search of a new promising advertising platform, look for Facebook to continue to offer a low-cost, action-based alternative.

In terms of what type of content to create for Facebook, remember that, on average, video posts receive at least 59 percent more engagement than other post types.

2. Highly-produced “polished” video content doesn’t always win

One of the more interesting portions of our experiment revolved around testing what we called “organic” vs. “polished” video content.

  • Organic videos are what you would imagine as DIY-style. These videos didn’t include any B-roll, special effects, transitions, or other more produced elements. In other words, they looked like they were made by an amateur.
  • Polished videos are much more produced. These videos included studio lighting, B-roll, special effects, transitions, and other elements that give them a professional feel.

With our research, we wanted to know if spending more time, resources, and money on producing polished videos actually resulted in greater results than organic DIY videos.

We found that there was no statistically significant difference in the results.

In fact, in many cases, organic DIY videos outperformed polished videos on both Facebook and Instagram.

In collaboration with Animoto, Smarties ran their own experiments to test whether or not highly-produced video ads outperformed organic DIY video ads on Instagram Stories:

Smarties Vertical Video Content Experiment - YouTube

Their team found that organic DIY videos resulted in a 50 percent decrease in cost per 10-second video view on their highest performing ad. In their case, unpolished smartphone imagery was up to 2x more effective at capturing their viewer’s attention.

All of this to say that it’s more important to experiment with a variety of video types and formats than it is to work on perfecting a single video. The more video content you publish, the more feedback you’ll receive from your audience, and the quicker you’ll improve.

3. Instagram Stories ads one of the biggest opportunities in 2019

As a result of this experiment, we see Instagram Stories as one of the biggest opportunities for brands and businesses in 2019. It’s why we built a tool called Stories Creator dedicated to helping brands create thumb-stopping Stories content.

And though Instagram Stories now has an incredible 500 million people around the world using the channel on a daily basis, it remains a relatively untapped advertising resource.

“Right now, one of the interesting things about Stories is there’s a benefit to being an early adopter… the pricing is really attractive. And so we think the mix shift to Stories is a big opportunity for us. And it’s going to take time to continue to get advertisers in, but we’re very happy with demand to date,” explained Sheryl Sandberg in Facebook’s recent Q4 earnings call.

We discussed the impact of Stories in this research above, but other big brands such as Bustle, Nike, Square, and more have experienced similar results as a part of their strategies.

Blenders Eyewear, for example, has generated thousands in revenue for their products using Stories ads – leveraging special announcements like a much anticipated restock, flash sale, giveaway and any limited time promos:

We’ve seen similar results when we use Instagram Stories ads to promote our blog posts and podcast as well. Our Instagram Stories ads cost just $0.06 – $0.12 per click when a typical Facebook feed ad usually costs around $0.30 – $0.60 per click.

Multiply that cost savings by thousands of dollars in ad spend and it’s a no-brainer in choosing Instagram Stories as our primary social media advertising channel in 2019.

Overall vertical video research conclusion

If we were to boil down this research to one key point, it would be that businesses and brands must keep up with mobile-centric video trends if they want to succeed on social media in 2019. A mobile-centric strategy relies heavily on vertical video and creating content that feels native to each platform.

As we mentioned in the beginning, mobile phones alone accounted for 65% of total digital usage in Q2 2018 (up from 62% in Q1 2018) – with that number growing by the day.

Everything from your website to the content you create for social media must focus on the mobile experience. Sheryl Sandberg puts it perfectly when she mentions:

One of the challenges that marketers..

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