Whether you’re a solo marketer, startup or multinational enterprise, you’ll find it’s nearly an insurmountable feat to manage your social media without the help of some third-party tools.
It’s these tools that make it possible for you to reach marketing goals, track results and engage more efficiently across a multitude of platforms. And, more and more, they’re a necessary step, given that 52 percent of online adults now use two or more social media sites, and the average social media user maintains five accounts.
The good news is, when you’re getting started, is that there are plenty of mobile apps and web-based tools to choose from; they range from specialized to multipurpose.
Below, I’ve compiled a list of my top five most recommended social tools for managing your marketing campaigns and making scaling your online marketing efforts that much easier.
Hootsuite is considered to a leader when it comes to managing social media. The platform offers everything you need to monitor social chatter and manage content publishing and multiple accounts. It also offers detailed reporting and collaboration features.
Each of your accounts can be displayed side by side in multiple streams for quick monitoring. This is especially helpful when big trending topics and conversations are taking place across all of your social channels. That listening ability is a big part of social engagement, and Hootsuite makes it easy.
“I use social media as an idea generator, trend mapper, and strategic compass for all of our online business ventures,” says Paul Barron, founder of Digital CoCo.
Hootsuite is available in a free plan as well as via multiple paid-plan options, and can be used on a desktop web environment or via mobile app.
2. Flickr with Creative Commons search
This is a go-to source for great stock photos for any kind of social promotional purposes, content marketing, branding and more. It’s ideal for blogs and presentations. With its advanced search feature, you can browse photos that have been made specifically available under Flickr with Creative Commons licensing, which allows you to use photos with attribution.
Visuals are an important part of social and content marketing. When people hear information, they’re likely to remember only 10 percent of it, according to data collected and analyzed by John Medina in his book Brain Rules. But if a relevant image is paired with the same information, that retention rate jumps to 65 percent — even three days later.
For slightly higher-grade photos, I recommend purchasing images from Shutterstock.
Bit.ly is the dominant URL shortener, and in my opinion it’s the best choice for the function it offers as well as its value-added benefits. Bit.ly’s tracking and analytics are on point, though I recommend utilizing a shortener whenever possible. The “+” feature is a nice perk, as well: By adding the “+” to the end of any bit.ly URL, you can see how many times it has been clicked on and who clicked on it.
It’s a great way to check in on trending topics, find influencers and even keep an eye on your competitors if they’re using the service, as well.
Because creating unique bit.ly links is so easy, the tool is also a great way to do A/B testing, on real-time social networks like Twitter.
Video is a big part of social engagement; that’s why sites like Facebook have upgraded their services to incorporate native video-uploading as well as live streaming. Twitter has done the same thing since its acquisition of Vine back in 2012, and Periscope in 2015. Video provides a means to engage your audience with fun, entertaining content — content that drives social shares.
A decade ago, streaming video on a mobile phone was wishful thinking at best. Today, a video chat app invented by a college student is positioning itself for an IPO.
The mobile internet has advanced at a staggering pace, and the world is already preparing for the next major phase in its evolution: 5G. Many people have little concept of the communications infrastructure already in place, let alone what might be next, but it’s important to note that many of the technologies on the horizon — self-driving cars, the Internet of Things, 360-degree-video-capturing drones — will require faster wireless networks. And all of this new tech will require a slew of new businesses to power it.
“Offering ‘perceived infinite capacity,’ 5G will provide the basis for the emergence of ubiquitous new wireless platforms that, in turn, will support the creation of an array of new services and businesses,” wrote Richard Adler, a distinguished fellow at the Institute for the Future, in a Recode essay on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Adler held a telephone press conference on the subject of 5G in advance of the inaugural White House Frontiers Conference on science and technology, which takes place today in Pittsburgh. The conference will highlight burgeoning fields such as machine learning and on-demand services — and their potential to connect the world and shape the future on personal, local, national, global and interplanetary levels, or “frontiers.” Representatives from Pfizer, Fitbit, NASA and more are convening today to discuss what’s on the horizon for U.S. innovation, and Adler asserts that 5G will be a key driver of what’s to come.
Adler makes comparisons to the advent of the telephone, cable TV and even the iTunes App Store as comparable “platforms” for innovation throughout history. Several industries developed atop each of these, and 5G will unlock further opportunities. Consider cybersecurity: New networks will mean new entry points for hackers, and in turn, innovation on the part of those who protect against them. This is just one example, though “imaginative entrepreneurs,” as Adler describes, will create new services and capabilities beyond what is forecasted today.
The federal government has recognized the potential of 5G, and in July, the National Science Foundation pledged to invest $400 million in 5G research. The FCC has taken steps as well. But in order for 5G to be fully realized, state and local governments are going to have to get on board with private enterprises and research institutions. They will have to ensure that the necessary infrastructure can be installed quickly and cost-effectively, Adler explains.
The high frequency of 5G waves means they will not be able to travel as far as current 4G frequencies. This will require more infrastructure in places beyond just cell towers — think utility poles and inside buildings.
Technology has been changing the way people do business ever since the invention of the wheel around 3500 B.C. revolutionized how Mesopotamian farmers and tradesmen moved goods to and from market. Likewise, today’s internet is changing how entrepreneurs start businesses, connect with customers, compete more effectively and grow to scale.
How is the internet changing the world of entrepreneurship? Start with the following three ways.
The gig economy and online entrepreneurs
As many as 15 percent of American workers are currently employed full-time in the “gig economy”: as contract workers, freelancers, and temps. By 2020, this number is expected to grow to as many as 40 percent of American workers. The internet is a significant factor making this possible, as sites like Craigslist and Upwork make it easier for workers to find clients in need of their services.
But internet entrepreneurship isn’t all about freelancers. The internet has given rise to a whole new class of online entrepreneurs and content creators who develop and host games, operate online stores, run affiliate link sites, host ecommerce businesses and more.
Whether it’s a side-hustle or full-time gig, what the internet can provide entrepreneurs connects them to the markets they serve. Yet until recently, slow internet connections, data transfer caps and unreliable service hampered many entrepreneurs’ efforts to get established online.
Most start-up businesses are created from the home — whether that be the basement of a single-family residence in the suburbs or a high-rise apartment building in a downtown metropolitan area. And unfortunately, the internet is not a mobile commodity that can be picked up and delivered to the consumer.
Instead, it’s a utility that is delivered over an integrated, continuous physical or part-physical, part-wireless infrastructure. Historically, internet service companies owned and maintained a completely wired infrastructure, but even Google Fiber has recently realized that it’s expensive to bring wired fiber all the way to that house in a suburban cul de sac.
As a result, more beginning entrepreneurs are realizing that they can get super-fast internet in apartments and condominiums in downtown areas, at a fraction of what is available in suburban and rural areas. This fixed wireless, also referred to as microwave technology, is leading the way for increased competition, which is driving prices down and increasing speed expectations.
“It’s absolutely true; we have changed the market here in Chicago. In less than two years, the expectation of speed has increased by nearly tenfold and price points have dropped substantially as a result of our technology,” says Keegan Bonebrake of Everywhere Wireless. “We’re delivering up to 1,000 megabits per second in residential units, for $99 a month.
“We’re seeing the consumer demand skyrocket for ‘big bandwidth’ in residential buildings, and we’re seeing that consumer demand is driving changes in building owners’ thinking.”
Ryan Folger, the president and founder of Anexis Development, says he refused to move into an apartment building at 500 North Lake Shore Drive in Chicago unless he could gain access to Everywhere Wireless and its gigabit speeds. “The building has AT&T internet included in the rent, but it’s only six Mbps, which is simply unusable at this point,” Folger says.
Photo-sharing app Snapchat’s parent is working on an initial public offering that could value the company at $25 billion or more, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing several people familiar with the matter.
Snap Inc., which operates the app that lets users send videos and messages that disappear in seconds, is looking to sell shares as early as late March, the Journal reported.
An IPO valued at $25 billion would be significantly higher than Snapchat’s most recent valuation of $17.81 billion, based on a $1.81 billion financing round in May.
It would also represent the largest IPO by a technology company since Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. went public in 2014.
Snapchat had been talking to investment bankers about an IPO towards the end of this year or early in 2017, technology website The Information reported last month.
“We aren’t commenting on rumors or speculation about any financing plans,” the company said in an emailed statement on Thursday.
Reports on Snap Inc.’s IPO come at a time when shares of technology companies such as Square Inc. and Box Inc. that went public over the last two years are trading below their private market valuation.
Snapchat’s valuation has grown in the last few years as the company added advertising and sponsored contents to its messaging service.
The company has told investors to expect $1 billion in advertising revenue in 2017, according to sources familiar with the matter.
The company received $3.1 million in advertising revenue for the first 11 months of 2014, according to financial documents leaked last year.
Snapchat is expected to have 58.6 million users in the United States by the end of 2016 and that number is expected to jump 13.6 percent to 66.6 million by next year, according to research firm eMarketer.
Building a business or product offering is comparable to building a house. First you lay the foundation, then the rough carpentry, roofing, plumbing, electrical, HVAC, drywall, flooring and finishings, in that order. God forbid you try to install the plumbing after the drywall has gone up, otherwise you will have to rip it all down and start again, at double the cost. And, unless an architect has provided the builder with a clear blue print on what is being built, chaos will surely follow.
But, that only talks about the initial construction. Unlike a house, a good business or product offering is fluid in its design and is constantly trying to improve, to keep up with its competitors and its customers’ needs. Think of it as evolving from version 1.0 to version 2.0 over time, captured by the mantra: continue to innovate or die a slow death. But, the worst thing you can do, is try to build features of version 2.0 on top of flaws embedded in version 1.0. That is the equivalent of building a house of cards, where the whole thing can topple over with one wrong move.
And if it were on fire?
You wouldn’t continue construction of an addition to your house, if the kitchen was on fire, would you? Of course not. First you would extinguish the fire, repair your kitchen and then get back to building your addition. The same holds true for your business or your product line. But, more often than not, I see businesses keep plowing money into new features and functionalities of their product offering, without paying any attention to whether or not the core product is stable and meeting the needs of its stakeholders. Below are a couple case studies I have seen with my clients that help better illustrate this.
Case study #1: Version 1.0 keeps breaking.
Nothing will upset a customer or an employee more than a product that doesn’t work as advertised. Especially, if you don’t own up to your mistakes and have a clear plan on how you are going to get it fixed, and fast! If you are promising to solve pain points for your users, but the system keeps breaking, all you are doing is creating more pain. This most likely means, there goes your repeat sale or your frustrated employee right out the door. If your house is on fire, put it out! The new addition will just have to be delayed, or you risk the whole house burning to the ground.
Case study #2: Version 1.0 is not selling or meeting needs.
A house on fire might also mean the product works fine, but the users just don’t like it. Maybe it is simply not selling or competitive in the market, or has a complicated user interface. Perhaps an expectation of how the product would work was mismanaged, as communicated during the sales process. Or, features or reports that are most important to the users’ needs lack depth or fall short. Again, time to stop construction. You need constant feedback from your internal and external users that everything is meeting their expectations, otherwise you need to fix it, which is best achieved with a tight partnership between your product developers and your sales team. You can try to put lipstick on a pig, but at the end of the day, it is still a pig destined for the slaughter house.
Slack is a powerful communication tool and one of the most celebrated tech companies of the past couple of years with 2.7 million daily users and a $3.8 billion valuation. So it has been interesting to witness the so-called “Slacklash” — a small but rising tide of exhausted users vowing not to use the service again.
Where once the messaging platform was called “the thing that keeps us all together”, there is now a website chronicling the backlash, The Atlantic has reported about the growing number of complaints and, of course, there is a hashtag to capture #Slacklash tweets.
Why is a tool with so much promise and enthusiasm being turned on so quickly by an increasing segment of its early adopters? Sure, it may just be 7:00 Silicon Valley Time but a major reason in my estimation is the inevitable ineffectiveness of communication platforms — what I call The Communicator’s Dilemma.
Regardless of the medium, communication between humans has two main dimensions:
- Who are you communicating with
- What are you communicating about.
Each of these dimensions runs along a spectrum:
- From your close friends and colleagues to anyone in the world (who)
- From specific to general topics (what), as depicted in the below graph.
Apple Inc. will set up a research and development center in China’s manufacturing metropolis Shenzhen, the U.S. tech giant said on Wednesday, as the firm looks to spur growth in the world’s second largest economy amid growing competition.
The Shenzhen hub follows a similar plan for a center in Beijing, and comes as Apple is looking to bounce back in China, where local rivals like Huawei Technologies, OPPO and Vivo have been taking market share from its flagship iPhone.
Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook announced the plan during a meeting with senior officials from the southern Chinese city where he is attending a nation-wide innovation event, the Shenzhen Economic Daily reported.
“We are excited to be opening a new Research and Development center here next year so our engineering team can work even more closely and collaboratively with our manufacturing partners,” Cupertino-based Apple spokesman Josh Rosenstock said in emailed comments.
“The Shenzhen center, along with the Beijing center, is also aimed at strengthening relationships with local partners and universities as we work to support talent development across the country,” he said.
The Shenzhen Economic Daily, citing Cook, said Apple was keen to attract talented software developers in the city, which remains an important center for manufacturing Apple products. It added Terry Gou, founder and chief executive of Apple’s major supplier Foxconn, also attended the meeting.
In August Cook unveiled plans for a Beijing-based R&D facility, its first in China, and promised to invest more in China during a visit to the country.
Understanding and using the difference between external and internal links strategically as part of your overall digital marketing plan is an important part of SEO. Each type of link has its place in a strategic SEO plan aimed at boosting your position on the search engine results page.
External or internal links: What’s the difference?
External links point from one domain to an entirely separate domain. They may be links from your website to another website to provide additional information for readers, or they may be links from your website to an affiliate program. Links from other sites into yours can also be called external links, although the preferred term is “inbound” links, to distinguish them from links you’ve added to your own site that connect to other sites.
Internal links only point within your own specific website or domain. The menu bar at the top of your site includes internal links. Links from pages on your site to your contact page are another simple example of internal links.
External = links that point to a separate domain
Internal = links that point to content within the same domain
Using external and internal links for SEO
Both external and internal links have a place in an SEO plan. Here’s how you can use them strategically.
External links can build visibility. External links from other websites into your content are a great source of free traffic as well as an important component of Google’s search engine algorithm. The quality and the quantity of links count. For example, links from poor-quality sites can actually have negative consequences.
To encourage links into your own website, add rich, relevant contentto your site. Develop an outreach program offering to guest post on other sites in your niche in exchange for a link into your own site. Other ways to encourage inbound links or external links into your site include adding link-embedded infographics with HTML code that can be copied and used on other sites, direct requests to webmasters to add links and more.
External links may help readers more than you. Links that point to someone else’s site are a great benefit for your readers, but add little in terms of strategic SEO value. These links may connect readers to resources such as products or information you deem valuable. But keep in mind that, in that case, the SEO benefits accrue for the website you link to, not your own.
Internal links can build your SEO. Internal links confer several SEO benefits. When search engine spiders find your site, they follow links to discover additional pages on your site. They follow these link webs so that they can discover and archive as many relevant pages as they can on one visit.
Sure, you can leave pages unlinked to others on your site and hope that the search engines will find each page. But that may take weeks, even months, for them to get to your page. With millions of new web pages added daily, those spiders are quite busy.
Internal links also form the structure of your website. A logical linking structure is both visually appealing and effective. It helps organize the content on your site and helps visitors find information quickly. Common page elements, a concise menu bar, and natural page links sprinkled throughout your site help both readers and search engines find your content.
Find and fix broken links
One thing that will detract from your SEO score are broken links. These are links that no longer work. They may no longer work because the target website for an external link is offline, or a page has moved. One or two broken links probably won’t impact your rankings, but multiple broken links may harm them.
Regardless of their impact on search traffic, broken links lead to a poor reading experience and decreased traffic. It’s a good idea to identify and fix them to improve your website.
To find and fix broken links, use tools such as Broken Link Checker. It’s a free tool that simply scans your site to find broken links. You then go into each page, find the link and remove or fix it.
Related Book: Ultimate Guide to Link Building by Eric Ward and Garrett French | Amazon | eBooks.com | Barnes & Noble
Links are only the start
SEO experts estimate that there are between 100 and 200 elements that Google and other search engines consider as part of their algorithm to calculate your site’s position on search engine results pages. Internal and external links are a small, but important, part of this exercise, in the big scheme of things.
Global personal computer shipments declined for the eighth consecutive quarter, marking the longest downturn in PC history.
Worldwide sales totaled 68.9 million units in the third quarter of 2016 — a 5.7 percent drop from the same time last year, according to Gartner. The research firm cited manufacturers’ “many challenges,” including weak back-to-school demand and lessening appeal among the consumer market, especially in emerging areas.
“There are two fundamental issues that have impacted PC market results: the extension of the lifetime of the PC caused by the excess of consumer devices, and weak PC consumer demand in emerging markets,” Mikako Kitagawa, principal Gartner analyst, said in a statement.
Most people own and use at least three different types of devices, she continued, adding that “the PC is not a high priority device for the majority of consumers, so they do not feel the need to upgrade … as often as they used to.
“Some may never decide to upgrade to a PC again,” Kitagawa said.
For now, Lenovo is the top PC maker with 20.9 percent of the market, followed closely by HP with 20.4 percent; Dell pulls up the rear with 14.7 percent. But while Lenovo is in the midst of a six-quarter slump, HP and Dell have recorded shipment growth since Q2. Rounding out the top five are Asus (7.8 percent), Apple (7.2 percent) and Acer (6.7 percent). Gartner’s data covers desktops, laptops and ultra-mobile (Microsoft Surface) PCs; Chromebooks and iPads were not considered.
And while mobile PCs — notebooks, 2-in-1s, Windows tablets — showed single-digit year-over-year growth, the overall results were marred by a decline in desktop shipments, according to Kitagawa.
In the U.S., PC shipments totaled 16.2 million units in the third quarter — a 0.3 percent decline from the same period last year. “With so many PCs already in the consumer market, U.S. consumers do not feel the need to buy new PCs; many parents hand down old PCs to their kids,” Kitagawa said.
The U.S. did, however, see an uptick in Q2 shipments, according to July reports, which tipped the country’s growth at almost 5 percent, according to IDC; Gartner suggested a more conservative, but still positive, 1.4 percent.
“There’s an app for that” used to be a tongue-in-cheek slogan in the iPhone’s early days. Now, it’s a fact of life: By 2020, it’s estimated that 6.1 billion people will rely on smartphones. Users will install 210 billion apps between now and then, a trend that will earn developers a collective $57 billion in revenue in 2020 alone.
Related: 4 Ways a ‘Data-Driven’ Approach Anticipates Buyer Behavior
Apps are quickly becoming a brand imperative. But going after downloads or in-app purchases isn’t enough anymore; those are just the beginning stages of a product’s life cycle. To make apps a part of long-term growth strategies, companies must evolve these products based on users’ behaviors.
The app industry is big — and getting bigger — but the major proportion of the industry’s usage and revenue are still concentrated among the top 200 apps. Localytics found that 20 percent of apps are used only once. Consumers are far more likely to use Facebook, Twitter and YouTube than spend time exploring more novel smartphone products.
A word-of-mouth campaign might draw users to a new app, but what happens when their initial curiosity wears off? If there’s nothing that repeatedly engages their attention, they’ll reopen Instagram or Snapchat, as fresh content from a reliable source will always beat the flashy new thing.
Brands can’t rest on their laurels, then. They must constantly iterate on their apps to retain users. But launching occasional updates or announcing minor tweaks once a quarter isn’t enough. “Twenty-five new features” that no one wants won’t have as powerful an impact as the one key upgrade that aligns with users’ expectations and in-app behaviors.
People have finite time and energy. They want to know that an app is worth their attention, so companies must make their value propositions clear. Perhaps your company can offer users a coupon for $10 off a new feature as a thank-you for creating their in-app profiles. Such incentives will keep the app top of mind so users return to it often. At that point, brands can track users’ behavioral patterns in order to deliver better customer experiences.
Building effective apps
Companies that don’t monitor in-app behavior are taking shots in the dark with their marketing strategies. In contrast, businesses that know how and when customers use their apps can formulate campaigns based on their audiences’ needs. Users will be thrilled by the personalized experiences and become increasingly reliant on the app, as a result.
Behavioral data also plays an important role in feature road maps. Your development team might brainstorm 15 cool-sounding functions, but none of those will land effectively if customers aren’t interested in them.
Brands can’t know what the best feature set is until they monitor their customers’ patterns. How long do they stay within the homepage feed? How often do they hit “refresh”? Do they go down rabbit holes to discover new features? Or, do they favor the same one or two options over and over again?
Here’s how companies can answer those questions and build effective long-term strategies:
1. Integrate with an analytics service.
Dozens of platforms offer must-have analytics services for any company that’s serious about app monetization. The price points vary from free access to several hundred dollars a month, so there are affordable options for businesses at every level. Choose a solution based on which data types it collects and how deep it can go when gathering insights.
Google Analytics, the tried-and-true website standard, works wonderfully with both iOS and Android. It tracks how often users open an app, how long their sessions last and where they are when they’re using it. Google Analytics also records usage flows and button taps. Optimize the customer experience around these insights by creating a more intuitive, customized mobile experience.
2. Transition to feature-rich platforms as the app grows.
As the app gains traction, upgrade to more complex services, such as Mixpanel or Flurry. These platforms track in-depth metrics, including the average number of social media friends, frequency of social posts and engagement drop-off points. Deeper analytics go beyond anonymous user data and provide information about behaviors within the app ecosystem.
Branch.io enables companies to record the entire customer journey, from the moment users tap an ad in Safari to the time it takes to click download in the App Store. Those data points indicate which marketing campaigns and promotions work.
3. Refine the app experience based on user behavior.
Behavioral patterns offer raw, real-time customer feedback. Analyze this data to learn which areas draw the most attention and which inspire people to use the app day after day. Invest in the areas that generate the most significant engagement and ROI. People will appreciate the fact that the app both meets their needs in increasingly specific ways and feels customized to their interests.
Related: 6 Tips on Getting Customer Feedback and Making It Actionable
Late last month, Snapchat revealed its first hardware product, a pair of camera-equipped smart glasses known as Spectacles.
Many will compare Spectacles to Google Glass, but I encourage you to resist the urge. While a healthy bit of skepticism is warranted, Spectacles are quite different from Google’s high-tech specs; if anything, they are more akin to a GoPro. Spectacles will also only set you back $130 whereas Google Glass cost $1,500.
Most importantly, in the eyes of its target demographic, Snapchat — now known as Snap Inc. as it moves beyond its core app — is much cooler than Google.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel recounted using an early Spectacles prototype during a 2015 hike. “When I got the footage back and watched it, I could see my own memory, through my own eyes — it was unbelievable,” he told the paper. “It’s one thing to see images of an experience you had, but it’s another thing to have an experience of the experience. It was the closest I’d ever come to feeling like I was there again.”
Anyone who has used a GoPro understands the value of this statement. Kids record themselves skateboarding, bike riding, hiking, skiing, snowbarding, swimming and more. We may as well rename them The Capture Generation. It’s the demographic that Snap understands and, as this chart shows, courts.