If you use Twitter, chances are you’ve heard of Hootsuite. The social media management system is one of the most popular social media tools for brands, enabling users to schedule, listen and engage all in one place.Although we’ve been using Hootsuite for years at BIGfish, we’re constantly on the lookout for new tips and tools for managing our clients’ Twitter profiles. The newest tool we’ve added to our arsenal is Buffer, a platform for scheduling and analyzing tweets (and Facebook posts, if you’re so inclined). But which tool is better? Let’s find out!
1) SchedulingWhy It Matters: For me, scheduling is hands-down the most important feature of a social media management tool. There are about 128 hours a week when I’m not at my desk, which translates to 128 hours of potential missed opportunities. Scheduling posts in advance is critical to ensure your profiles are always active - even when you’re not! Hootsuite: Scheduling is pretty run of the mill with Hootsuite. To schedule a tweet, you either write it directly in Hootsuite or use the somewhat clunky Hootsuite extension. Rather than notifying you when you’ve hit 140 characters, Hootsuite simply cuts off your tweet with an ellipsis - making your tweet look sloppy and potentially removing vital information. Hootsuite does have a nice “Auto Schedule” feature, which pre-selects a time for “optimal impact,” but I found myself selecting times anyway to ensure tweets were properly spaced out.
Buffer: Buffer definitely takes the cake on this one. First off, Buffer lets you set up a daily posting schedule for when you want your tweets to go out. For example, you can set it to automatically schedule your tweets at 9 a.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. If you want to send a tweet at a custom time instead, that’s always an option as well. Second, Buffer’s Chrome extension is just amazing. Once it’s installed, scheduling a tweet is as simple as clicking the Buffer icon in your browser - the extension will then automatically make that webpage into a tweet. If you have text highlighted, it will pick that up too and insert it as a quote before the URL. You can even right click any image on the web and select “Buffer This Image” to tweet it! More on this later, though.
2) Link Shortening
Why It Matters: Believe it or not, the way you shorten your links is important. Take a look at the recent performance history for common URL shorteners and you’ll see what I mean. From February 5-11, bit.ly was operating normally, while ow.ly has had performance issues everyday. Which URL shortener would you rather be using?
Hootsuite: Unfortunately for Hootsuite, its default URL shortener is ow.ly. Your other options are ht.ly, owl.li and htl.li - none of which are even considered the most popular URL shorteners (meaning they’re probably less likely to get clicked).
Buffer: Looks like Buffer wins this one as well. Buffer lets you select your default shortener as the well-known bit.ly, and also offers buff.ly and j.mp.3) Pictures
Why It Matters: Sharing pictures via social media has always been a great way to drive engagement, especially when you have a client like Iceland Naturally. And now that Twitter automatically expands photos, tweets with photos are 2x as likely to get retweeted.
Hootsuite: Herein lies Hootsuite’s fatal flaw. The platform does not offer a way to schedule tweets with pic.twitter images, which was the ultimate deal breaker for me. Technically, you can still share images in Hootsuite - however, they will show up as ow.ly links rather than as embedded images, meaning they will not automatically expand or even show up in Twitter unless someone clicks the link.
Buffer: One of my favorite things about Buffer is how easy it is to schedule tweets with pic.twitter images. There are a couple of ways to do it: by directly uploading an image in the Buffer app; by right-clicking an image on the web and Buffering it with your extension; or by retweeting someone else’s tweet with an image. Buffer also allows you to turn off link shortening at anytime, ensuring that your image will show up as an embedded pic.twitter image rather than a bit.ly link. Now I know why they call it “The Awesome Plan.”
Why It Matters: Keeping track of what your followers are saying on Twitter is essential to maintaining a successful Twitter account. Not only is it important to monitor your @mentions, but it’s also a good idea to keep an eye on what similar brands and companies are tweeting about.
Hootsuite: It’s your time to shine, Hootsuite! Social media monitoring is definitely one of Hootsuite’s strong suits, primarily thanks to its ability to create various streams. The interface makes it incredibly easy to get a quick preview of what’s going on in the Twitterverse. Beyond simply creating streams for your @mentions and sent tweets, Hootsuite allows you to set up custom streams based on keywords, phrases or lists. For example, we have a stream that displays every tweet containing #Iceland and a stream that displays tweets from our Twitter list Made in Iceland, among others. You can learn more about the various capabilities of Hootsuite streams here.
Buffer: Buffer doesn’t have much to offer in terms of listening. It’s meant to be a scheduling tool, and it focuses on perfecting that function. Points go to Hootsuite on this one.
Why It Matters: Do I really need to explain this? Analyzing your tweets’ performance is the final crucial step in running a successful Twitter account. From retweets to mentions to favorites, there are several key metrics to study when determining how to improve your engagement rates and follower counts.
Hootsuite: Depending on how much you’re willing to spend, Hootsuite can offer a wide variety of analytics tools. With Hootsuite Pro, your analytics reports are customized to your liking, but limited based on how many “credits” you have available.
Buffer: The analytics tools in Buffer are basic but solid. While you can see the number of retweets, favorites, mentions, clicks and potential reach for any given tweet sent through Buffer, The Awesome Plan does not offer a more comprehensive summary of how your Twitter account is doing.
As you can see, Hootsuite and Buffer each have their pros and cons. If I had to pick one, it would definitely be Buffer - their scheduling tools are hard to beat! But overall, I’ve found that using a combination of both tools is the best way to manage our various Twitter accounts. Hootsuite obviously shines in the listening department, whereas Buffer edges out the competition with its intuitive scheduling tools and clean interface. Neither is particularly great with analytics, but then again, that’s not really what these tools were created for. There are certainly additional solutions out there that can do it all, but we tend to gravitate toward low-cost, flexible options instead.
What social media tools do you use? Do you have a preference for Hootsuite vs. Buffer? Tweet at @BIGfishmarket to let us know what you think!-Jacqui Johnstone
Did you know that blogging on Thursdays will maximize social media shares, but posting on Mondays will drive more traffic to your site? A recent article titled “A Scientific Guide to Maximizing Your Impact on Twitter, Facebook, and Other Digital Media,” explains the best times to post to various digital media platforms. The article, which was republished in Fast Company, received more than 10,000 shares on social media and certainly caught our attention.
As the author of this article mentions, results can vary depending on industry, company and audience, so readers should “use this guide as just that—a guide to help you work out what to test for your own audience, so that you can see what actually works best in your specific case.”
After looking at the data featured in this article, it’s easy to see the value of experimentation and analytics when it comes to social media. For example, if the below graph represented reactions to your tweets, you would certainly make sure to send out tweets on weekends.
Many studies on timing of social media posts are contradictory. Therefore, it’s important to study your past posts and determine when your specific audience is online, and there are several tools available to help you do this.
Evidence on the best content to post is more conclusive, though it varies per platform. For Twitter, links get the most retweets, and you can better your odds by simply asking for an “RT” or “retweet”. Check out this list of the most commonly retweeted words and phrases. Including at least one relevant hashtag per tweet is also recommended.
For Facebook, the new Facebook Insights page is a great place to determine what to post and when. With Insights you can view audience demographics and explore what kinds of posts (links, photos, videos, etc.) garnered the most likes, comments and shares. You can also look at your page’s progress over several months. As far as timing goes, posting at the end of the week and weekends generally helps boost interaction and engagement, but again it’s best to study your post history and see what’s working for your page.
We’ve discovered a few Facebook content tips while working with our social media clients as well as through some research. One thing we know for sure: Facebook users love photos. Some other Facebook pointers:
Shorter posts are more popular (under 140 characters but ideally less than 70)
Question posts get 100% more comments, but fewer likes and shares
Facebook fans love contests and coupons
We’ve seen success using these tactics with our own client, Iceland Naturally, which has more than 113,000 Likes. We post to their Facebook page daily, always attach a photo, usually include a link and often ask questions. As a result, last month’s posts reached an average of 10,000 people. We’ve also discovered the popularity of photos albums which we post monthly, with the most recent album reaching 18,720 people.
Truly understanding your audience is at the heart of every successful marketing campaign. Social media enables you to directly connect with your audience, ask them what they like, analyze their online habits and adjust your strategy and tactics in real time.
What works best for you? Do you have any social media content rules you live by?
“Data-driven decisions are better than intuition-based ones.” -- Bruce Berger, PR professor
Researchers and companies are gathering massive amounts of user data from websites like Facebook, Twitter and Wikipedia and discovering new ways of interpreting this information. These methods enable us to uncover trends and connections we otherwise wouldn’t have access to. Advertisers and public relations professionals are using this information to learn more about consumers so they can create highly targeted campaigns that are more relevant.
Earlier this summer Taha Yasseri, a student at the University of Oxford, analyzed user activity on Wikipedia and found the most controversial articles on the site. Yasseri based this research on “mutual reverts,” meaning one user makes changes, another reverts those changes, the original user changes it back again, and so on.
The top 10 most controversial topics on Wikipedia (in English) are listed below:
George W Bush
List of World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. employees
Race and intelligence
While most topics on this list may be expected, others come as a surprise. Without this kind of analysis, we may not have known certain topics are so highly disputed (so, who is employed by the WWE?). Yasseri’s research is a good example of how the internet has made it easier than ever to understand consumer insight. Marketers are always looking for content that consumers will find compelling or shareable. They could use this kind of information to tap into hot topics, or to steer clear of polarizing ones.
Yasseri isn’t the only one exploring the field of data aggregation and gaining insight from online activity. Boston-based company Bluefin Labs analyzes social media posts about TV shows. In doing this, Bluefin can see which television shows or networks generate the most buzz on social media and which audience segments are driving the conversation. Bluefin can then take it one step further and look at users’ past tweets to draw unexpected conclusions about specific audiences. For example, fans of That ’70s Show “happened to comment often about makeup. Ad time during those programs turned out to be surprisingly wise buys for cosmetics companies.”
After joining forces with Twitter in February, Bluefin is now part of a larger plan thanks to Twitter’s multi-year agreement with Nielsen to develop a project called the “Nielsen Twitter TV Rating.” The Nielsen Twitter TV Rating sets out to take the individual television programs discussed on Twitter and measure the volume of each conversation. Just like traditional TV ratings, higher Twitter ratings would make a TV show more appealing to advertisers, therefore increasing ad revenue.
Facebook is also exploring the capabilities of data aggregation with the launch of its new Graph Search. With this tool users can cross reference their searches with casual words and phrases like “my friends who like That 70’s Show.” The launch of Graph Search is great news for businesses with Pages on Facebook, enabling them to learn more about their consumers interests. This knowledge means companies can share content that’s more relevant to their audience and hopefully grow their fan base. Growing that fan base is increasingly important as Facebook plans to change its Graph Search algorithm so that Pages with more Likes will be more likely to appear.
With so many ways to collect and analyze large amounts of data on consumers, a good question to ask is, what does this mean for the future of marketing? Many marketers are taking advantage of these tools to learn more about consumers and then create highly targeted campaigns.
Marketers can now collect massive amounts of data, enabling them to create more personalized campaigns. Companies now know the best time and day of the week to post on social media or promote an ad to generate the most responses. We know which issues are affecting the public the most, how long people spend dwelling on these issues before moving on to other ones, where the variation in opinions on controversial subjects lie, and what stimulates discussion.
All of this is great news for marketers. The more we know about the demographics and psychographics of each market segment, the more targeted and effective campaigns can and will become. Consumers will also benefit from this as they’re more likely to see ads that are relevant to them. With new developments like Twitter TV Ratings, consumers can also voice their opinions loud and clear, and it’s imperative that companies listen to what they have to say.
In the wake of the tragic bombings at the Boston Marathon, many immediately turned to social media as their primary source of information. While traditional news outlets like CNN and NBC were quick to live-report the unfolding events, their coverage lacked a key component: the status of people’s friends and loved ones in Boston.
That’s the new role that social media has taken on in tragic events like Monday’s bombings. While websites like Twitter and Vine provided vital updates for news coverage, the ever-present problem of false information has prevented these networks from becoming trustworthy news sources. Instead, social media has adopted a different role in times like this: providing worried friends and family with the comforting update, “I’m OK.”While thousands turned to social media to ensure friends and family were safe, thousands more turned to the platforms in an effort to help. BIGfish President David Gerzof Richard appeared on NECN this morning to discuss the power of social media, noting the many beneficial ways it was used in the wake of Monday’s events. Terms like “donate,” “help,” and “volunteer” surged to a 180-day peak on Twitter, and thousands of homes were shared in a Google Doc offering people a place to stay. Google even launched Person Finder, where people can look for or provide information about anyone tied to the incident.
“What was really great was word spread very quickly, so that people were able to slow and stop marathoners from running into what was essentially a war zone,” David Gerzof Richard told the Boston Herald.
We have discussed the role of social media in times of tragedy before. In October, those affected by Hurricane Sandy took full advantage of social media to spread news around the country, and 10 photos were uploaded every second on Instagram. But the reaction to natural disasters differs greatly from the reaction to acts of terror. The tragic events at the Boston Marathon provoked a different type of response on social media platforms, one that ultimately reaffirmed our nation’s generosity and humanity.
In tragedy, social media has become much more than a news source. It has become an outpouring of support from people worldwide and a virtual meeting place for those affected by the events. Today, sites like Facebook and Twitter play a vital role in bringing nationwide news to a personal level - spurring on kindness and support in the process.
–Jacqui Johnstone, Account Coordinator
If you’ve logged into Facebook or Twitter today, chances are you’ve seen it: a pink equal sign over a red background. The image has taken social media by storm today thanks to the Human Rights Campaign, which is promoting the symbol to mobilize supporters for marriage equality. Today marks the first day the Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments over the constitutionality of Proposition 8 and the Defense Against Marriage Act.Over the past seven hours, the red equal sign has received nearly 45,000 likes and more than 13,000 shares on the Human Rights Campaign’s Facebook page. And the virality doesn’t stop there - Mashable noted that actor George Takei has received more than 63,000 likes and 31,000 shares sincehe posted a photo of the red equal sign five hours ago, and several other celebrities have tweeted in support of the movement as well. Several hashtags surrounding the Supreme Court’s hearings have remained in Twitter’s trends today as well, including #SCOTUS, #Prop8, #MarriageEquality, #UnitedforMarriage and a range of others. However, the sudden virality of the Human Rights Campaign’s equal symbol shouldn’t come as a surprise. According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll released last week, 81% of 18-29 year olds support marriage equality. Similarly, Pew reports that 83% of 18-29 year olds use social networking - and 66% of social media users have used the platforms to comment about political candidates and issues. Of course, this isn’t the first time political issues have infiltrated social media; just last year, hundreds of websites went dark to fight SOPA and thousands changed their profile pictures in protest of the law.
Whether or not you changed your profile picture today, everyone can agree on this: the Internet has solidified its place as a platform for activism.