Is Your Company Data-Driven?

Is Your Company Data-Driven

Digital marketing experts will tell you that you’re not going to kill it with conversion and improve ROI unless you gather and apply data.

I’m one of many marketers interested in continuously exploring the possibilities of data-driven marketing. Recently, I had the chance to interview an expert on the subject, Ben Carpel, the CEO of Cyfe, a company that offers simple all-in-one business dashboards to monitor . . . well, everything.

Ben and I talked about:

  • Why companies must become more data-driven.
  • Why many companies still don’t.
  • The four-part formula that leads to a success with analytics.
  • The value of data “visualization.”
  • Smart ways to get started creating a data-driven environment.

You can check-out all 16 minutes of our conversation in the video below or read the highlights below that.

You’re Underusing Your Data

Barry: Do you think most companies want to become more data-driven?

Ben: For sure. The majority of marketing executives will agree that data-driven decisions in their marketing are necessary for success. It’s crucial as things become more competitive. Most marketers think there is more they can get out of it. It’s an underutilized resource or asset that they can take advantage of more.

Barry: According to, 64 percent of marketing executives strongly agree that data-driven marketing is crucial to success in a hyper-competitive global economy. However, 87 percent of marketers consider data their organization’s most underused asset.

Ben: There is a big gap between what they want and what they have as a marketer. Many organizations are here to help start bridging that gap, but I think the stats you just spat out are spot on with what we’ve observed from our time in the industry, our customers, and what they’ve reported to us.

Barry: I’ve often read that companies cite a lack of analytic skills as a barrier to progress in this area. Do you agree with that?

Ben: Completely. It’s not only existing staff. Organizations are investing in training.  They’re investing in advancement programs to retain and inspire people. There is more and more of an emphasis on recruiting those people too—people that have analytical skills or technical skills.

So new people coming into the organization, as well as the existing hires, just have to have that expertise—not necessarily the hardcore IT knowledge, but be able to collaborate with the data miners and the IT analysts, data analytics, the BI staff.

We’ve seen that become more and more of a trend, especially early this year but in the past few years as well.

What Companies Need to Embrace Data-Driven Marketing

Barry: So they need skills and there is a lack of them. Then they need data, or maybe they need data they actually have confidence in. We often hear analysts spend more time finding, gathering, and processing data than actually analyzing it, so this is a humungous problem.

Ben: Visualization is such an important tool to make data available and give people the right resources to make a properly structured decision. So the CMO, the CEO, or even someone who is ramping up their data analysis training and career advancement can suddenly see an insight through the visualization they wouldn’t have otherwise been able to see.

For the high level—the executives—visualization is such an important tool to make the right decisions, to make data available and give people the right resources to make a properly structured decision.

Barry: We want everybody in the company to believe in these processes and create an analytics culture. Do companies need to look at it that way?

Ben: Yes, and continuously. It’s not a one-time investment of human resources and time and energy. It should be something that people are continually looking at.

If you’ve got data, you’re constantly going to want to refine the models you’ve developed in order to deploy it effectively and embed it in your decision-making.

Sometimes the model can prove invalidated. You constantly want to evaluate the results, so you can identify problems and reformulate them if necessary.

How to Build a Data-Driven Culture

Barry: I’m going to assume you get asked a lot, “Ben, we want to be that data-driven company. How do we get started?” Do you have a good answer?

Ben: Yeah. First and foremost, if you’re the CEO or you’re reporting to the CEO or even further down the channel, no matter how big or small your role is, just make sure the culture is ready to embrace fact-based decision-making.

Rely less on intuition, more on facts. You do need the executive level to get on board with that. It’s very important that it permeates from the top all the way down. And expectations need to be set and managed.

If you’re trying to become a data-driven culture, it is important to think of it as a roadmap with stages and not to set things entirely out of control to begin with. So what that means is potentially starting small, with one area that might be a priority for the entire organization that has enough data. It’s kind of the guinea pig or the canary in the coal mine.

Barry: The advice you just gave is advice I give often: Pick an objective, pick a reasonably achievable goal, and work towards it and prove the model.

87% of marketers consider data their organization’s most underused asset
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Look for What Isn’t There

Barry: Now, looking back on our conversation, we went down this path that you need the right people with skills. You need data you can depend on. You need processes that integrate your data, and ultimately you need to create a culture. Do you think that part of the process is looking back at where you lack these things?

Ben: Yes, indeed. You need the people, you need the tools, and obviously the data to start filling in to address that. To start, when you’re picking something that doesn’t have data, or it does, that first project is going to be under scrutiny. It’s under a microscope, so you need to get it right.

Get everyone clear on the same page. If you’re looking at, as we call it, “the gap of what wasn’t there,” as you and I were talking about the people that you need, the technology, the process and the culture—all three or four of those things can be brought in to fill that in.


9 Tools to Get the Best Results from Your Social Media Content

9 Tools to Get the Best Results from Your Social Media Content

Kara Lauder, founder of the Kader Boot Co in Australia, got a major marketing and awareness boost when she was asked to feature her boots in the Oscar gifting suites. When coupled with social media posts like this, it worked a treat for her brand:

In fact, her social media content and marketing has enabled her to grow her Facebook and Instagram audience and, more importantly, her customer base.

How is it that some brands seem able to score wins on social media while others flounder and die?

Having scoured social media channels and watched various brands, it seems to us that there is a recurring theme with the brands that repeatedly score wins on social media. Here is the secret: To get the best results on social media, you need to be social. In other words, you need to demonstrate each of the following seven characteristics.

Facebook Zero: The Changing News Feed and What Marketers Need to Know

Are you concerned about the impact of Facebook’s recent announcement on changes to the news feed? Wondering how these news feed changes will affect your marketing? In this article, you’ll find out what to expect from the changes and learn how you can best maintain interaction and visibility with audiences on the Facebook news feed.

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– Your Guide to the Social Media Jungle

An Investigation Into Google’s Maccabees Update

Posted by Dom-Woodman

December brought us the latest piece of algorithm update fun. Google rolled out an update which was quickly named the Maccabees update and the articles began rolling in (SEJ , SER).

The webmaster complaints began to come in thick and fast, and I began my normal plan of action: to sit back, relax, and laugh at all the people who have built bad links, spun out low-quality content, or picked a business model that Google has a grudge against (hello, affiliates).

Then I checked one of my sites and saw I’d been hit by it.


Time to check the obvious

I didn’t have access to a lot of sites that were hit by the Maccabees update, but I do have access to a relatively large number of sites, allowing me to try to identify some patterns and work out what was going on. Full disclaimer: This is a relatively large investigation of a single site; it might not generalize out to your own site.

My first point of call was to verify that there weren’t any really obvious issues, the kind which Google hasn’t looked kindly on in the past. This isn’t any sort of official list; it’s more of an internal set of things that I go and check when things go wrong, and badly.

Dodgy links & thin content

I know the site well, so I could rule out dodgy links and serious thin content problems pretty quickly.

(For those of you who’d like some pointers on the kinds of things to check for, follow this link down to the appendix! There’ll be one for each section.)

Index bloat

Index bloat is where a website has managed to accidentally get a large number of non-valuable pages into Google. It can be sign of crawling issues, cannabalization issues, or thin content problems.

Did I call the thin content problem too soon? I did actually have some pretty severe index bloat. The site which had been hit worst by this had the following indexed URLs graph:

However, I’d actually seen that step function-esque index bloat on a couple other client sites, who hadn’t been hit by this update.

In both cases, we’d spent a reasonable amount of time trying to work out why this had happened and where it was happening, but after a lot of log file analysis and Google site: searches, nothing insightful came out of it.

The best guess we ended up with was that Google had changed how they measured indexed URLs. Perhaps it now includes URLs with a non-200 status until they stop checking them? Perhaps it now includes images and other static files, and wasn’t counting them previously?

I haven’t seen any evidence that it’s related to m. URLs or actual index bloat — I’m interested to hear people’s experiences, but in this case I chalked it up as not relevant.

Appendix help link

Poor user experience/slow site

Nope, not the case either. Could it be faster or more user-friendly? Absolutely. Most sites can, but I’d still rate the site as good.

Appendix help link

Overbearing ads or monetization?

Nope, no ads at all.

Appendix help link

The immediate sanity checklist turned up nothing useful, so where to turn next for clues?

Internet theories

Time to plow through various theories on the Internet:

  1. The Maccabees update is mobile-first related
    • Nope, nothing here; it’s a mobile-friendly responsive site. (Both of these first points are summarized here.)
  2. E-commerce/affiliate related
    • I’ve seen this one batted around as well, but neither applied in this case, as the site was neither.
  3. Sites targeting keyword permutations
    • I saw this one from Barry Schwartz; this is the one which comes closest to applying. The site didn’t have a vast number of combination landing pages (for example, one for every single combination of dress size and color), but it does have a lot of user-generated content.

Nothing conclusive here either; time to look at some more data.

Working through Search Console data

We’ve been storing all our search console data in Google’s cloud-based data analytics tool BigQuery for some time, which gives me the luxury of immediately being able to pull out a table and see all the keywords which have dropped.

There were a couple keyword permutations/themes which were particularly badly hit, and I started digging into them. One of the joys of having all the data in a table is that you can do things like plot the rank of each page that ranks for a single keyword over time.

And this finally got me something useful.

The yellow line is the page I want to rank and the page which I’ve seen the best user results from (i.e. lower bounce rates, more pages per session, etc.):

Another example: again, the yellow line represents the page that should be ranking correctly.

In all the cases I found, my primary landing page — which had previously ranked consistently — was now being cannabalized by articles I’d written on the same topic or by user-generated content.

Are you sure it’s a Google update?

You can never be 100% sure, but I haven’t made any changes to this area for several months, so I wouldn’t expect it to be due to recent changes, or delayed changes coming through. The site had recently migrated to HTTPS, but saw no traffic fluctuations around that time.

Currently, I don’t have anything else to attribute this to but the update.

How am I trying to fix this?

The ideal fix would be the one that gets me all my traffic back. But that’s a little more subjective than “I want the correct page to rank for the correct keyword,” so instead that’s what I’m aiming for here.

And of course the crucial word in all this is “trying”; I’ve only started making these changes recently, and the jury is still out on if any of it will work.

No-indexing the user generated content

This one seems like a bit of no-brainer. They bring an incredibly small percentage of traffic anyway, which then performs worse than if users land on a proper landing page.

I liked having them indexed because they would occasionally start ranking for some keyword ideas I’d never have tried by myself, which I could then migrate to the landing pages. But this was a relatively low occurrence and on-balance perhaps not worth doing any more, if I’m going to suffer cannabalization on my main pages.

Making better use of the “About” property

I’ve been waiting a while for a compelling place to give this idea a shot.

Broadly, you can sum it up as using the About property pointing back to multiple authoritative sources (like Wikidata, Wikipedia, Dbpedia, etc.) in order to help Google better understand your content.

For example, you might add the following JSON to an article an about Donald Trump’s inauguration.

            "@type": "Person",
            "name": "President-elect Donald Trump",
            "sameAs": [
            "@type": "Thing",
            "name": "US",
            "sameAs": [
            "@type": "Thing",
            "name": "Inauguration Day",
            "sameAs": [

The articles I’ve been having rank are often specific sub-articles about the larger topic, perhaps explicitly explaining them, which might help Google find better places to use them.

You should absolutely go and read this article/presentation by Jarno Van Driel, which is where I took this idea from.

Combining informational and transactional intents

Not quite sure how I feel about this one. I’ve seen a lot of it, usually where there exist two terms, one more transactional and one more informational. A site will put a large guide on the transactional page (often a category page) and then attempt to grab both at once.

This is where the lines started to blur. I had previously been on the side of having two pages, one to target the transactional and another to target the informational.

Currently beginning to consider whether or not this is the correct way to do it. I’ll probably try this again in a couple places and see how it plays out.

Final thoughts

I only got any insight into this problem because of storing Search Console data. I would absolutely recommend storing your Search Console data, so you can do this kind of investigation in the future. Currently I’d recommend paginating the API to get this data; it’s not perfect, but avoids many other difficulties. You can find a script to do that here (a fork of the previous Search Console script I’ve talked about) which I then use to dump into BigQuery. You should also check out Paul Shapiro and JR Oakes, who have both provided solutions that go a step further and also do the database saving.

My best guess at the moment for the Maccabees update is there has been some sort of weighting change which now values relevancy more highly and tests more pages which are possibly topically relevant. These new tested pages were notably less strong and seemed to perform as you would expect (less well), which seems to have led to my traffic drop.

Of course, this analysis is currently based off of a single site, so that conclusion might only apply to my site or not at all if there are multiple effects happening and I’m only seeing one of them.

Has anyone seen anything similar or done any deep diving into where this has happened on their site?

AppendixSpotting thin content & dodgy links

For those of you who are looking at new sites, there are some quick ways to dig into this.

For dodgy links:

  • Take a look at something like Searchmetrics/SEMRush and see if they’ve had any previous penguin drops.
  • Take a look into tools Majestic and Ahrefs. You can often get this free, Majestic will give you all the links for your domain for example if you verify.

For spotting thin content:

  • Run a crawl
    • Take a look at anything with a short word count; let’s arbitrarily say less than 400 words.
    • Look for heavy repetition in titles or meta descriptions.
    • Use the tree view (that you can find on Screaming Frog, for example) and drill down into where it has found everything. This will quickly let you see if there are pages where you don’t expect there to be any.
    • See if the number of URLs found is notably different to the indexed URL report.
  • Soon you will be able to take a look at Google’s new index coverage report. (AJ Kohn has a nice writeup here).
  • Browse around with an SEO chrome plugin that will show indexation. (SEO Meta in 1 Click is helpful, I wrote Traffic Light SEO for this, doesn’t really matter what you use though.)

Index bloat

The only real place to spot index bloat is the indexed URLs report in Search Console. Debugging it however is hard, I would recommend a combination of log files, “site:” searches in Google, and sitemaps when attempting to diagnose this.

If you can get them, the log files will usually be the most insightful.

Poor user experience/slow site

This is a hard one to judge. Virtually every site has things you can class as a poor user experience.

If you don’t have access to any user research on the brand, I will go off my gut combined with a quick scan to compare to some competitors. I’m not looking for a perfect experience or anywhere close, I just want to not hate trying to use the website on the main templates which are exposed to search.

For speed, I tend to use WebPageTest as a super general rule of thumb. If the site loads below 3 seconds, I’m not worried; 3–6 I’m a little bit more nervous; anything over that, I’d take as being pretty bad.

I realize that’s not the most specific section and a lot of these checks do come from experience above everything else.

Overbearing ads or monetization?

Speaking of poor user experience, the most obvious one is to switch off whatever ad-block you’re running (or if it’s built into your browser, to switch to one without that feature) and try to use the site without it. For many sites, it will be clear cut. When it’s not, I’ll go off and seek other specific examples.

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Facebook News Feed Changes: Why We Need a New Strategy

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Social Media Marketing Talk Show, a news show for marketers who want to stay on the leading edge of social media. On this week’s Social Media Marketing Talk Show, we explore Facebook news feed changes with Michael Stelzner and other breaking social media marketing news of the week!

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– Your Guide to the Social Media Jungle

Recommended Marketing Podcasts: Week of January 15

Recommended Marketing Podcasts Week of January 15

Podcasts are a great way to educate yourself. Whether you’re on the train, in the car, at your desk, or anywhere in between, this medium is an incredible vehicle for supplementing your industry knowledge. Every week, I’ll be sharing with you some of the best marketing podcasts around, spanning the whole marketing landscape.

Whether you’re new to podcasts or you’re a seasoned listener, I know you’ll find value in each weekly round-up. Let’s get listening, shall we?

Noah Kagan Presents

Noah Kagan Presents: How to Turn Blog Posts into a Business with Vanessa Van Edwards

My friend and host of the Shareable Podcast Jeff Gibbard always sends me podcast episodes from Noah Kagan. I often receive these after I’ve written this week’s round-up and forget to include them for the next week—but not this time!

In this episode, this AppSumo founder and CEO welcomes psychology expert and speaker Vanessa Van Edwards from The Science of People onto his show for a short but wickedly actionable nine-minute podcast.

Takeaways: Vanessa doesn’t consider herself a psychology “expert,” per se, but she certainly has researched human behavior extensively. Vanessa has delivered insights to hundreds of businesses and taught thousands of students through Udemy by framing fascinating topics and insights for “ambiverts,” a word Daniel Pink popularized in his book To Sell is Human.

When she was first starting out in her career, she realized she’d need to conduct her own research in order to have something truly different from her competition. Her competition noticed her work and began citing her research in their own publications, leading to even greater search traction.

In addition to the backlinks she was getting from her top competitors, Vanessa began investing time in YouTube. She looked at which keywords were driving the least amount of traffic to her site and created (and optimized) a YouTube video around those specific keywords. The results were remarkable and point to the need to constantly evaluate what is performing for your business and what’s not, and if it’s not, how it can be repurposed to become a strength.

Copyblogger FM

Copyblogger FM: 5 Keys to Making Your Content More Shareable

How do we make our content shareable? Sonia Simone, Chief Content Officer for Copyblogger, has some solid thoughts on how to make content move in 2018—”the great free ride,” in her words. Sonia builds on the conventional wisdom of more eyeballs not always equalling success and focuses on five factors to increase exposure and shares.

Takeaway: Ever heard of the “Second Customer”? Probably not, since Sonia came up with it herself! A Second Customer is someone who might never be a customer or user of yours but is a conduit to an audience who could be your perfect fit. They fit within the influencer category but, perhaps, without the crazy price tag. These people are terrific at moving your content and presenting it to a new group.

The other takeaway I found most interesting was the fifth of Sonia’s keys, which is this: What do you want people to do (or do next) once they actually find you? Whether it’s trying to get the visitor to read another article or selling them on subscribing to your email list, understand what kind of experience you’re leading your users into. Is your website experience one you’d be comfortable engaging with or sharing? If the answer is no, that’s probably where to start first.

Ask yourself, what do you want customers to do (or do next) once they actually find you?
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The Marketing Companion Podcast

The Marketing Companion Episode 121: The future of the digital marketing agency with Mitch Joel

There was zero chance I wasn’t going to include this episode. Mark Schaefer AND Mitch Joel? C’mon. Game over. Mariano Rivera in the ninth. Case Keenum to Stefon Diggs. (Seriously, that play was crazy!) The point is, this episode was destined to be gold before they even hit record.

Mitch and Mark dove right into the role of the digital marketing agency in 2018. With so many brands and publishers building internal departments to handle the responsibilities once managed by creative and media agencies, large firms and holding companies have had to adapt.

Takeaways: Mitch, who is the President of the agency Mirum, touches on the recent pullback on advertising spend across the world and its correlation to sales. (If ad spend goes down, sales follow.) He also explores agency disruption and why everyone needs to go far deeper with Amazon than ever imagined. Agencies are finding ways to innovate at seemingly breakneck speeds in order to bring the best results to each client. As much as they are trying to differentiate, however, this has lead to a lot of sameness and confusion.

Add to this the recent developments in artificial intelligence, and Mitch has a fascinating question on his hands. It’s a question he still doesn’t believe there is a sufficient answer to. He asks that if AI truly delivers what it’s been promising, and there is no more competition, and everyone is marketing perfectly in the right time and at the right place without any kind of real marketplace, how do brands survive? What is a brand at that point?

Like I said, the stuff that is jammed into this special edition of The Marketing Companion is remarkable. I sincerely hope you listen to this. I rewound multiple times.

That’s all for this edition! I’ll be back with a new batch next week. In the meantime, share any podcasts you think I should know about with me @jwsteiert on Twitter or in the comments below!

YouTube Ranking: How to Get More Views on YouTube

Want to increase the visibility of your YouTube videos? Wondering how to help your videos perform well with the YouTube algorithm? To explore how to get more views for your videos on YouTube, I interview Sean Cannell. More About This Show The Social Media Marketing podcast is an on-demand talk radio show from Social Media

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– Your Guide to the Social Media Jungle

Should SEOs & Content Marketers Play to the Social Networks’ "Stay-On-Our-Site" Algorithms? – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Increasingly, social networks are tweaking their algorithms to favor content that remains on their site, rather than send users to an outside source. This spells trouble for those trying to drive traffic and visitors to external pages, but what’s an SEO or content marketer to do? Do you swim with the current, putting all your efforts toward placating the social network algos, or do you go against it and continue to promote your own content? This edition of Whiteboard Friday goes into detail on the pros and cons of each approach, then gives Rand’s recommendations on how to balance your efforts going forward.

Should SEOs and content marketers play to the social networks "stay-on-our-site" algorithms?

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re chatting about whether SEOs and content marketers, for that matter, should play to what the social networks are developing in their visibility and engagement algorithms, or whether we should say, “No. You know what? Forget about what you guys are doing. We’re going to try and do things on social networks that benefit us.” I’ll show you what I’m talking about.


If you’re using Facebook and you’re posting content to it, Facebook generally tends to frown upon and lower the average visibility and ability of content to reach its audience on Facebook if it includes an external link. So, on average, posts that include an external link will fare more poorly in Facebooks’ news feed algorithm than on-site content, exclusively content that lives on Facebook.

For example, if you see this video promoted on or, it will do more poorly than if Moz and I had promoted a Facebook native video of Whiteboard Friday. But we don’t want that. We want people to come visit our site and subscribe to Whiteboard Friday here and not stay on Facebook where we only reach 1 out of every 50 or 100 people who might subscribe to our page.

So it’s clearly in our interest to do this, but Facebook wants to keep you on Facebook’s website, because then they can do the most advertising and targeting to you and get the most time on site from you. That’s their business, right?


The same thing is true of Twitter. So it tends to be the case that links off Twitter fare more poorly. Now, I am not 100% sure in Twitter’s case whether this is algorithmic or user-driven. I suspect it’s a little of both, that Twitter will promote or make most visible to you when you log in to Twitter the posts that have been made or the tweets that have been made that are self-contained. They live entirely on Twitter. They might contain a bunch of different stuff, a poll or images or be a thread. But links off Twitter will be dampened.


The same thing is true on Instagram. Well, on Instagram, they’re kind of the worst. They don’t allow links at all. The only thing you can do is a link in profile. More engaging content on Instagram, as of just a couple weeks ago, more engaging content equals higher placement in the feed. In fact, Instagram has now just come out and said that they will show you content posts from people you’re not following but that they think will be engaging to you, which gives influential Instagram accounts that get lots of engagement an additional benefit, but kind of hurts everyone else that you’re normally following on the network.


LinkedIn, LinkedIn’s algorithm includes extra visibility in the feed for self-contained post content, which is why you see a lot of these posts of, “Oh, here’s all the crazy amounts of work I did and what my experience was like building this or doing that.” If it’s a self-contained, sort of blog post-style content in LinkedIn that does not link out, it will do much better than posts that contain an external link, which LinkedIn sort of dampens in their visibility algorithm for their feed.

Play to the algos?

So all of these sites have these components of their algorithm that basically reward you if you are willing to play to their algos, meaning you keep all of the content on their sites and platform, their stuff, not yours. You essentially play to what they’re trying to achieve, which is more time on site for them, more engagement for them, less people going away to other places. You refuse or you don’t link out, so no external linking to other places. You maintain sort of what I call a high signal to noise ratio, so that rather than sharing all the things you might want to share, you only share posts that you can count on having relatively high engagement.

That track record is something that sticks with you on most of these networks. Facebook, for example, if I have posts that do well, many in a row, I will get more visibility for my next one. If my last couple of posts have performed poorly on Facebook, my next one will be dampened. You sort of get a string or get on a roll with these networks. Same thing is true on Twitter, by the way.

$#@! the algos, serve your own site?

Or you say, “Forget you” to the algorithms and serve your own site instead, which means you use the networks to tease content, like, “Here’s this exciting, interesting thing. If you want the whole story or you want to watch full video or see all the graphs and charts or whatever it is, you need to come to our website where we host the full content.” You link externally so that you’re driving traffic back to the properties that you own and control, and you have to be willing to promote some potentially promotional content, in order to earn value from these social networks, even if that means slightly lower engagement or less of that get-on-a-roll reputation.

My recommendation

The recommendation that I have for SEOs and content marketers is I think we need to balance this. But if I had to, I would tilt it in favor of your site. Social networks, I know it doesn’t seem this way, but social networks come and go in popularity, and they change the way that they work. So investing very heavily in Facebook six or seven years ago might have made a ton of sense for a business. Today, a lot of those investments have been shown to have very little impact, because instead of reaching 20 or 30 out of 100 of your followers, you’re reaching 1 or 2. So you’ve lost an order of magnitude of reach on there. The same thing has been true generally on Twitter, on LinkedIn, and on Instagram. So I really urge you to tilt slightly to your own site.

Owned channels are your website, your email, where you have the email addresses of the people there. I would rather have an email or a loyal visitor or an RSS subscriber than I would 100 times as many Twitter followers, because the engagement you can get and the value that you can get as a business or as an organization is just much higher.

Just don’t ignore how these algorithms work. If you can, I would urge you to sometimes get on those rolls so that you can grow your awareness and reach by playing to these algorithms.

So, essentially, while I’m urging you to tilt slightly this way, I’m also suggesting that occasionally you should use what you know about how these algorithms work in order to grow and accelerate your growth of followers and reach on these networks so that you can then get more benefit of driving those people back to your site. You’ve got to play both sides, I think, today in order to have success with the social networks’ current reach and visibility algorithms.

All right, everyone, look forward to your comments. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by

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6 Ways to Use Hashtags in Instagram Stories

6 Ways to Use Hashtags in Instagram Stories

You know what you should do? Add hashtags to your Instagram Stories.

You invested serious resources into creating and capturing the perfect Instagram Story. Maybe you put yourself in precarious situations. Maybe you spent eons testing filters and pondering witty captions.

When you “do it for the gram,” you better get the most views for your Story. Hashtags get you the views you deserve.

Instagram’s Story feature is completely supportive of hashtags—unlike, say, our good friend and pal Snapchat. Before we get into the nitty-gritty of how to use hashtags, let’s go over how hashtags function on Instagram.

How Hashtags Function on Instagram

In Instagram Posts: When you put hashtags in the captions of your Instagram images, the images will appear in the public aggregation of those hashtags (assuming your profile is public). If your Instagram posts are highly engaging (more than others posted around the same time), your posts will appear in the top posts—the first 9 images when you search a hashtag.

In Instagram Stories: Now, when you add a hashtag to Instagram Stories, you can place the hashtag in a sticker, in text, or by way of a location tag. The hashtag goes directly on the image and can be stylized just like all text and stickers. When posted in text, linked hashtags are often underlined.

Hashtags on Instagram Stories

The Bad News: When you place hashtags in your Instagram Story, your images or video will not always be accepted into the hashtag aggregation—yes, even if your profile is set to public. The aggregation of these hashtagged Stories depends on engagement and the quality of the image or video posted.

That said, adding hashtags to your Stories is worth a try. With hashtags, you have the potential to reach thousands of Instagrammers in your region, within your industry, of a similar mindset, or across the globe. The question is not if you should use hashtags in your Instagram Story, but how.

Six Ways to Use Hashtags in Instagram Stories
1. Geographically

For this article, I am counting location tags as hashtags, because YOLO. Also, in Instagram Stories, location tags function nearly identically to hashtags—users add a linked location to an image or video just as they add hashtags. The only differences are:

  1. A location can only be posted using the Instagram sticker (no text).
  2. Only one location tag can be in an image/video.

Geographic hashtags in Instagram Stories

This location tag is your best bet to make it into an aggregated Instagram Story. Nearly every location has an aggregated Instagram Story. Furthermore, when you tag a location, such as a neighborhood, the tagged picture or video could be visible in the city Story, state Story, or even country Story wherever that neighborhood is located.

The location tag is especially good for brands with a campus. When your audience posts to the location Story, adding to that Story will attract that audience in the most authentic way—you are, in fact, one of them. The location tag is also good for brands that are hosting location-bound PR events.

2. Supportively

Hashtag campaigns on Instagram Stories

In support of brand campaigns, that is. Here’s the best case scenario: Your campaign hashtag is so popular that an aggregated hashtag Story is created to highlight all that amazing user-generated content provided by your audience. The catch is that your brand is not (at this time) able to control this aggregation.

Unfortunately, the best case is not always the most likely. Although you may never be able to guarantee your campaign will have its own hashtag aggregated Instagram Story, adding a branded linked hashtag to all your brand Stories will increase engagement and awareness of your campaigns within your current audience.

3. Strategically

Find your niche and make use of it. Take, for example, @thegirlfriendmanifesto’s use of #dreambigger.

Strategic hashtagging in Instagram Stories

Social media done right will result in conversions; good social leads to increased profit. If you got money on your mind (as all brand managers should), shamelessly stalk individuals who are already engaging with your brand. Ask yourself: What hashtags are they using in posts and their Stories? Then use those hashtags.

If you are already converting on social from a small but loyal audience, use learnings from your current audience to reach similar Instagrammers. Grow your audience by engaging with your current audience as they are engaging with their friends.

For example, a chocolate company discovers that the #treatyoself hashtag is trending within their audiences. When searching the #treatyoself Story, the brand discovers that many of the aggregated photos and videos perfectly match imagery with which the brand wants to position itself. Immediately, the brand posts to their Story using the #treatyoself hashtag. When the brand’s images appear in the #treatyoself Story, the chocolate brand sees more traffic to their e-commerce website through the link in their Instagram bio. Bon appétit!

4. Excessively

Hashtag everything, liberally, desperately, enthusiastically, all the time. Because why not be that brand unabashed by excessive self-promotion? If vanity fits your brand personality, roll with it. In the end, you’ll increase the chance of getting your royal self in front of more eyeballs. #fame #sorrynotsorry #treatyoself #likeforlike #goodmorning

Excessive hashtags on Instagram Stories

5. Sparingly

Hashtags are not necessary to build your brand on Instagram. I repeat, hashtags are not necessary to make your brand discoverable, to gain those coveted likes, or to create a profitable social media strategy. Therefore, one option is NOT to use ‘em, abuse ‘em, or worry ‘bout ‘em.

Unfortunately, a brand’s use of hashtags says a lot about the brand. What does it say exactly? It removes that thin veil that separates content marketing and blatant advertising. A brand that overuses hashtags can appear to be too focused on likes to give time to more authentic forms of engagement.

Instagram without hashtags

As seen in the image above, thanks to Instagram’s amazing discovery features, a brand can completely bypass hashtags and still attract new audiences. All it takes is the most relevant, timely, valuable and inspiring brand content ever. That’s not hard, right? Right?

Yes, a brand CAN completely bypass hashtags and still attract new audiences.
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6. Creatively

Tell a story with hashtags. Set your mood. Embrace trends. Be personable.

Creative hashtag use

In a way, hashtags are emojis. They have a literal meaning and a societal meaning. For example, #OOTD literally means “outfit of the day.” However, the use of #OOTD connotes the shameless vanity many millennials hope will vault them to Instagram stardom and therefore a life of curated leisure, à la @girlwithnojob. Do you blame them? #sorrynotsorry #deep

For example, if I were managing a salad dressing brand, I would use #OOTD #everydamnday. I would exploit the heck out of this trend. Every single beautifully dressed salad would have #OOTD slapped on the brand’s Instagram Story. Then I would strategically place a big ol’ tomato wedge and two radishes on top of said beautifully dressed salad to make a nutritious smiley face. Why? Because you’re never fully dressed without a smile. #OOTD

Getting Things Done: The Journey, Episode 13

The Journey, a Social Media Examiner production, is an episodic video documentary that shows you what really happens inside a growing business. // Watch The Journey: Episode 13 Episode 13 of The Journey follows Michael Stelzner, founder of Social Media Examiner, as he continues to pursue what many will see as an impossible goal: to

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– Your Guide to the Social Media Jungle