Social media has been found to be the most effective digital advertising channel for getting more impressions, clicks, and conversions. Facebook in particular stands out — in some cases, 7x cheaper than the next most affordable social media ads channel (Twitter).

You can spend as little as $5 per day on Facebook advertising and see significant results.

Sounds great, right!

We’d love to make it easy for you to get up and running with Facebook Ads. These are the exact steps and lessons we’ve been taking to build up our own paid ads campaigns, and we’ll be keeping this post up-to-date with the latest news and learnings.

Got any ideas on how to make this post better? We’d love your comments! Drop us a line here and we’ll review and update the post (and give you a shoutout!).


How to navigate this guide

There’s a lot to learn with Facebook Ads! And I know I’m going to leave a lot out. This article is our best shot at covering all the important aspects of Facebook advertising for someone who is just starting out. To make it easier to digest, we’ve broken this guide down into four chapters. Here’s where to find any info you might need:

Chapter 1: An Introduction to Facebook Ads: a high-level look at the factors businesses and brands consider when choosing Facebook ads and some quick tips on getting started with ads.

Chapter 2: How to guides: Information and screenshots on where to find everything and how to get set up with the various types of Facebook ads.

Chapter 3: How to choose an audience for your ads: Audience targeting is where Facebook advertising can become truly powerful and significant. Here we show you how to find the right audience for your ads.

Chapter 4: Budgeting, Analysis, and Successful Strategies: Hoping to answer the question “What am I supposed to do here?” Strategies for audience, budget, ad types, messaging, and visuals.

Chapter 1:
An Introduction to Facebook Ads

All the basics you need to get up and running with Facebook Ads.  



First things first: Why use Facebook ads?

Facebook Advertising is now one of the most effective tools out there to grow your business, create loyal customers, and generate leads and sales. There are now over 3 million businesses advertising on Facebook and there’s never been a better time to start than now.

Here are just a few reasons why Facebook Advertising is hugely exciting for marketers:

  • Audience size: Facebook now boasts over 1.13 billion daily active users on – 1.03 billion of which access the social network via mobile devices.
  • Attention: People spend a lot of time on social networks. The average user spends about 50 minutes just on Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger every day.
  • Oragnic reach decline: Organic reach on Facebook has been in decline for a few years now and has almost hit zero. If you want to break through now, Facebook is all butt a pay-to-play network.
  • Targeting: The targeting options within Facebook Ads is incredible. Business can target users with by location, demographics, age, gender, interests, behavior, and much more.


Pros and cons of Facebook advertising

Before we get too deep into the specifics of Facebook advertising, I wanted to share this amazing list of pros and cons from the Moz blog, which was so helpful in our deciding how to pursue Facebook Ads for Buffer.


  • Campaigns are easy to track
  • Immediate influx of traffic
  • Complete control over your daily budget and maximum Cost-per-click
  • Instant return on investment (You can easily define a cost per conversion and understand what your profit is)
  • More targeting options, including, towns, regions, age, likes/interests, income bracket, and other demographics
  • Easier to set up than Google AdWords
  • The ability to reach people early on in the buying process, before they are aware of their need, while capturing those who are aware of the need in a subtle way
  • You can use images and videos to capture the interest of your target market, helping you to sell your products and services
  • CPC is relatively cheap, depending on your industry (On average, no more than $0.61 per click)


  • If set up and managed incorrectly, it can be costly, but less so than Google AdWords
  • Depending on your target market, the majority of the large potential audience can be irrelevant (For instance, we would not recommend Facebook Advertising if someone only served or supplied their products and services to one town)
  • There is no option to target your ads at certain times within the day or on certain days of the week unless you choose a lifetime budget
  • Most suitable for those operating in B2C markets
  • Reaching people too early in the buying cycle could potentially reduce your goal conversion rate


Getting started

To get to your Facebook Ads dashboard, you can head to or click the dropdown arrow in the upper-right corner of Facebook and choose “Manage Ads” from the drop-down.

Manage Ads menu


Finding your way around the dashboard

From the ads dashboard, you’re able to manage every aspect of your Facebook ads experience. There’s a lot here! This is where to find all the essential tools, menus, and buttons.


We’ll get into each of these options in the article sections below. Feel free to use CTRL+F or CMD+F to find any exact phrase you need.


Chapter 2:
The 11 different types of Facebook Ad

(And How To Set Up Each One)



Facebook Ads are extremely versatile and there are now 11 different variations you can use to solve a whole host of business problems from driving traffic to your website to reaching people in your local area.

Below is a list of the various Ads available to Facebook advertisers and throughout this chapter, we’ll walk you through each type individually.

  1. Boost your posts
  2. Promote your Page
  3. Send people to your website
  4. Increase conversions on your website
  5. Get installs of your app
  6. Increase engagement in your app
  7. Reach people near your business
  8. Raise attendance at your event
  9. Get people to claim your offer
  10. Get video views
  11. Collect leads for your business


How to choose your ad type

When you go to create a new Facebook ad (by clicking the green button on your ads dashboard), you’ll get to choose among these 11 different options, all of which with a unique focus for growing your business or your page.


The general setup for each will be similar: You’ll go from choosing the type of ad (the objective), to choosing the audience and the budget (the ad set), to making the ad itself (the ad).

Here’s a quick run down of each of the 11.

1. Boost your posts

Boosted Post - Facebook ads

What’s involved:

After you click to create a new ad and choose “Boost your posts,” the next steps are:

  1. Choose one of your Facebook Pages or enter its URL
  2. Select a previous update that you’ve published to your page (or create a new update)
  3. Give this campaign a name

At the next step, you can set your audience and budget. (Jump to the section in this post about audience and budget.)

After setting audience and budget, you can move ahead into the ad creative. The good news with boosted post campaigns: The ad creative is already set for you! The creative is the post!

From this screen, you can change the post you’d like to boost, and (here’s the most hands-on part of this step) you can view how your boosted posts will look in three different locations within Facebook:

  1. Desktop News Feed
  2. Mobile News Feed
  3. Desktop right column

Within the Ad Preview, you can click to view each location:


And from here, you can also set which locations you’d like your ad to appear. For any spots you’d rather not show your ad, click the Remove link to the right of the preview.

facebook ads creative remove locations

Tip: You can also boost posts directly from your Facebook Page or Newsfeed. To do this simply click on the Boost post button 11414404_852751124794907_953613502_n  displayed on any of your posts.


2. Promote your page

Page Likes - Facebook ads

What’s involved:

After you click to create a new ad and choose “Promote your Page,” the next steps are:

  1. Choose one of your Facebook Pages or enter its URL
  2. Give this campaign a name

At the next step, you can set your audience and budget. (Jump to the section in this post about audience and budget.)

After setting audience and budget, you get to set the creative elements of the ad: photo, text, and more. First off, you’ll be asked to select an image to use; you can choose to upload your own, select from a collection of searchable stock photos from Shutterstock, or pick from a library of images you’ve used on previous ads.

To easily create variations of your ad and test how different images perform, you can create up to 6 ads at once by uploading multiple images from this one screen.

For choosing images, Facebook offers these guidelines:

  • 1,200 x 444 pixels (width and height)
  • Image ratio: 8:3 (basically, if you divide the width of your image by 8 and the height by 3, the result should be the same)
  • Your image may not include more than 20% text.

This last guideline is an interesting one! It’s in place for a very good reason: Facebook is mindful of the aesthetic of having ads appear on its network and wants to ensure the highest quality and best experience possible for its users.


Facebook offers a tool to check the 20% text rule and see if your image meets the guideline. Visit the tool and upload your image. Facebook adds a grid overlay to the image, and you can click any box that includes text. If the boxes you’ve selected make up less than 20% of the image, you’re good to go!

facebook ads 20 percent text rule grid

Additionally, you can upload a series of three to seven photos that Facebook will stitch together as a slideshow video. You can select the shape of the slideshow (square or rectangle), the length that the image stays visible, and the transition (none or fade) from one image to the next.

And if you have a video that you’d prefer to use for the page promotion, you can add it here also.

After selecting an image, slideshow, or video, you can customize the text that appears as the update above the ad. Click in the “Text” box to edit. You have an upper limit of 90 characters to use.

update text Facebook ad

From the right-hand panel of the Ad Editor, you can preview your ad and select which locations you want it to appear. By default, Facebook will show the ad on the desktop News Feed, mobile News Feed, and the desktop right column. Click to remove any of these options.

Under “Show Advanced Options,” there are three additional places to customize.

1. Add a headline (this only appears in the desktop right column).

Headline right side ad Facebook

2. Choose where the visitor ends up should they click through to your page. By default, people will arrive at your Timeline. You can also select any other page that you have linked to from your Facebook Page menu, like Video, Photos, Events, or custom pages.

Facebook page menu options

3. You can also track conversions. Conversion tracking with Facebook involves the installation of a conversion pixel, which I’ll cover in a section below. Hop there now if you’re curious.

3. Send people to your website

Send Traffic - Facebook ads

What’s involved:

After you click to create a new ad and choose “Send people to your website,” the next steps are:

  1. Enter the URL of the page you’d like to promote (e.g.,
  2. (Optional) Choose a conversion pixel to further track the performance of the ad (more on pixels here)
  3. Give this campaign a name

At the next step, you can set your audience and budget. (Jump to the section in this post about audience and budget.)

After setting audience and budget, you get to build the creative. The first customization option for website traffic ads is choosing if you’d like to show a single image or video in the ad or show multiple images in the ad (up to five).

single image or ad

For choosing a single image or video, you’ll see the same image options that you had for the “Promote your Page” ad: single image, slideshow, or video.

For the multiple image option, you get to build a carousel of pictures, each with their own headlines and descriptions.

With multiple images, you’ll have the choice to customize four different aspects of the carousel images:

  1. Image: Upload a new image or choose one from your library. You can crop the image from within the editor so you get just the right parts showing.
  2. Headline
  3. Description (optional)
  4. Call to Action: Changes to the call-to-action are reflected on all your carousel slides. You can choose among Apply Now, Book Now, Contact Us, Donate Now, Download, Learn More, Shop Now, Sign Up, Watch More, or no button.

(Bonus: You can change the destination URL for each image also, if for instance you might have special landing pages for each unique feature that you’re pitching.)


Additionally, for the multiple image option, you can choose to have Facebook show the best-performing image first (the one that the most people are clicking on), and at the end of your carousel, you can opt for Facebook to add an additional slide with your Page’s profile picture and a call-to-action to “See more at [your website].”

Similar to the previous ad types, with the “Send people to your website” ad, you can choose to show it in the News Feed on desktop and/or mobile and in the right column on desktop. Additionally, you can choose a couple more options:

  1. Showing your ad on Facebook’s Audience Network, other mobile apps and networks owned by Facebook.
  2. Showing your ad on Instagram.

Each option comes with previews within the ads editor so you can see your ads in action.


Tip: When you’re driving traffic from a specific Facebook ad to you website, think carefully about the landing page that traffic will be hitting. Does the page feel aligned with the copy of your ad? Are there clear CTAs? Do the ad and the page feel related?

4. Increase conversions on your website

Increase Conversions - Facebook ads

What’s involved:

After you click to create a new ad and choose “Increase conversions,” the next steps are:

  1. Enter the URL that you’d like to promote
  2. Important: Choose a conversion pixel to track the conversions of the ad (more on pixels here)
  3. Give this campaign a name

At the next step, you can set your audience and budget. (Jump to the section in this post about audience and budget.)

After setting audience and budget, you can build the creative for your ad. This works the same way as it does for the “Send people to my website” ad type, mentioned above. You can choose among a single image, a single video, or multiple images. All the same options are present here:

  • Connect a Facebook page
  • Write a headline that appears under your chosen images/video
  • Add description text to go above the images/video
  • Choose a call-to-action
  • Choose where you’d like the ad to appear: In the News Feed (desktop and/or mobile), on Facebook’s Ad Network, on Instagram, and in the Right Column (desktop only)


5. Get installs of your app

Get installs of your app - Facebook ads

What’s involved:

After you click to create a new ad and choose “Get installs,” the next steps are:

  1. Choose an app, either by typing in the name of your app or by pasting a URL from the iOS App Store or the Google Play Store. ( You can advertise any app that you’ve registered on Facebook’s developer site.)
  2. Give this campaign a name

At the next step, you can set your audience and budget. (Jump to the section in this post about audience and budget.)

After setting audience and budget, you can build the creative for you ad. Like other ads, here you’ll have the choice between a single image/video or multiple images. Other customization options will be familiar, too: Headline, text, Facebook page, etc.

For this ad type in particular, there are just a handful of differences.

1. Ad Preview: App install ads only appear on mobile apps and websites.

2. Deep links: You can link directly to a particular screen or state within your app. For instance, if you have a URL that points to a specific product page or account page within the app, you can link directly there.

3. Call to Action buttons: There are a few additional, specific app CTAs that you can choose from. Here’s the full list:

  • Book Now
  • Download
  • Install Now (default)
  • Learn More
  • Listen Now
  • Play Game
  • Shop Now
  • Sign Up
  • Use App
  • Watch More
  • Watch Video

4. Add conversion tracking. More here.


6. Increase engagement in your app

Increase engagement in app - Facebook ads

What’s involved:

After you click to create a new ad and choose “Increase engagement,” the next steps are:

  1. Choose an app, either by typing in the name of your app or by pasting a URL from the iOS App Store or the Google Play Store.
  2. Give this campaign a name

At the next step, you can set your audience and budget. (Jump to the section in this post about audience and budget.)

After setting audience and budget, you can build the ad’s creative elements. For the “Increase app engagement” ad type, the settings here are the exact same as they are for the “Get app installs” ad type. The main difference between the two is in the destination and goal for each. For app installs, you’ll typically be interested in gaining more point-of-entry signups, linking to the installation page for your app.

With the “Increase app engagement” ad type, you’ll likely be interested in Facebook’s Deep Links settings, where you can link to specific places within the app and drive more engagement there. For instance, at Buffer, we might advertise to current app users and include a link for them to view the posts in their queue (and link directly there).


7. Reach people near your business

Facebook Local Ads - Facebook ads

What’s involved:

After you click to create a new ad and choose “Reach people near you,” the next steps are:

  1. Choose one of your Facebook Pages or enter its URL
  2. Give this campaign a name

At the next step, you can set your audience and budget. Unlike all other Facebook ad types here, the Audience settings for “Reach people near you” will ask you to choose an area from a map and then target the ad toward people in those areas.

By default, the map will center on your business’s street address. You can enter any address you’d like in the text box below the map and set the Radius to any of 8 defaults (from 1 mile to 50 miles) or a custom mile radius.


Once the map is in place, you can also click to move the target area to a different point in the map.

(For more info and tips these settings,  jump to the section in this post about audience and budget.)

After setting audience and budget, you can create the ad itself. These localization ads have four different opportunities to gain engagement for your business:

  • Like Page
  • Call Now
  • Learn More
  • Send Message

For the “Like Page” option, the ad will be geared toward driving Page likes. You can change the images, the main text, the headline, and the link description for this ad.

For “Call Now”, you can make the same changes as with the “Like Page” campaign, plus you can also include your phone number.

For “Learn More,” when people click the Learn More button, they’ll be taken to any URL you choose. All the same customization options appear here (images, text, headlines) plus an additional box for the URL of your choosing.

For “Send Message,” when people click the Send Message button, they’ll have the chance to send you a message through your Facebook page.


8. Raise attendance at your event

facebook ad raise attendance

What’s involved:

After you click to create a new ad and choose “Raise attendance,” the next steps are:

  1. Choose one of your Facebook events or enter a Facebook event URL
  2. Give this campaign a name

At the next step, you can set your audience and budget. The ad’s audience will default to a segment near the location of your event.

(Jump to the section in this post about audience and budget.)

After setting audience and budget, you can create the ad itself. Facebook will grab the main image for the event automatically and suggest it as an image to use in the ad. Like other ad types, you can create up to six ads to test by uploading multiple images. There’s always just the one image per ad.

Most of the rest of the ad is taken care of for you. Facebook automatically includes the date, the time, the event’s title, the location, and the number of people interested and attending. The call-to-action button on the desktop News Feed is “Interested.”

You can see an ad preview above for the specific layout of these elements.

Things vary slightly for mobile …

facebook ad attendance mobile news feed

… and for the desktop right column.

facebook ad attendance right side

For additional customization, you can change the text that appears as the update above the ad. You can also ad custom URL tags and conversion pixel tracking.

Tip: As with all types of Facebook Ads, a great image is key for event promotion ads. Try to ensure your image gives insight into the type of event you’re promoting. (Like the bubbles in the Bubble Run event, above.)


9. Get people to claim your offer

facebook ad claim your offer

What’s involved:

After you click to create a new ad and choose “Get people to claim your offer,” the next steps are:

  1. Choose one of the offers you’ve published to your Facebook Page or create a new offer
  2. Give this campaign a name

For creating an offer, you can do this directly from the ad editor itself, or you can create offers from your Facebook Page directly. If you’re on your Facebook Page, click on the “Offer” link just above the text editor:


For the offer, you can call it out directly in the headline and text, then link to a landing page or include a promo code. In addition, you can set the dates of the offer as well as a limit to the number of people who take advantage.

create offer facebook settings

Once you’ve created/chosen an offer to boost, you can set your audience and budget. (Jump to the section in this post about audience and budget.)

After setting audience and budget, you can preview how the ad will look in the desktop/mobile News Feed and the desktop right column. There aren’t really any customization options here, other than adding URL tags and conversion pixels. Much like a boosted post, this one will go out looking near identical to the original offer post.


10. Get video views

Get video views - Facebook ads

What’s involved:

After you click to create a new ad and choose “Get video views,” the next steps are:

  1. Choose one of your Facebook Pages or enter its URL
  2. Give this campaign a name

At the next step, you can set your audience and budget. (Jump to the section in this post about audience and budget.)

After setting audience and budget, you can create the ad. First, you’ll want to upload a video to share. You can also pull from a post on your page that has included a video. When uploading a video, Facebook recommends the following:

  • .mov or .mp4 file format
  • At least 720p resolution
  • Widescreen (16:9 aspect ratio) is recommended
  • 60 minutes and/or 2.3 GB max for Facebook
  • 60 seconds and/or 2.3 GB max for Instagram

Alternately, you can use a series of 3 to 7 images as a slideshow, which will autoplay as a video in the News Feed.

After the video’s been selected, you can edit the way the ad appears by customizing the text and buttons. By default, Facebook does not show a button, allowing the ad to focus on purely gaining more video views. You can edit the text that appears above the video.

If you’d like to include a button with the ad, there are seven choices from the “Call to Action” dropdown:

  1. No button (default)
  2. Book Now
  3. Download
  4. Learn More
  5. Shop Now
  6. Sign Up
  7. Watch More

For each of these button options, you can customize four additional text fields: the website URL, the display URL, the headline, and the link description.

Tip: Video is huge on Facebook right now! It’s likely to be successful at all times of day (we’ve seen high video views at all hours). To maximize your views and your money, test out various times to see when your video content best resonates with the Facebook audience.


11. Collect leads for your business

Facebook Lead Ads example

What’s involved:

After you click to create a new ad and choose “Boost your posts,” the next steps are:

  1. Choose one of your Facebook Pages or enter its URL
  2. Give this campaign a name

At the next step, you can set your audience and budget. (Jump to the section in this post about audience and budget.)

After setting audience and budget, you’ll go to the ad creative. Building the ad will be the same as it is for most other campaigns. You can customize the image and the text that appears in all places on the ad.

Where the Facebook lead ad distinguishes itself is with its Lead Form. In the ad itself, there are options for six different buttons:

  1. Apply Now
  2. Download
  3. Get Quote
  4. Learn More
  5. Sign Up
  6. Subscribe

Each of these buttons will link to a form that you can create within the Facebook ad editor.

Below the customization section is the Lead Form section, and in here you can choose to attach an existing Lead Form that you’ve previously created or create a new one.

Here are the steps to create a new Facebook Lead Form:

1. Give the form a name and choose the primary language.

2. Select which information you’d like to receive.

By default, Facebook will suggest the email and full name of the person. You can click below these two options to expand the listing to include 19 more options (admittedly, some of them more useful than others).

Facebook lead form

  1. First name
  2. Last name
  3. Phone number
  4. Street address
  5. City
  6. State
  7. Province
  8. Country
  9. Post code
  10. Zip code
  11. Date of birth
  12. Gender
  13. Marital status
  14. Relationship status
  15. Company name
  16. Military status
  17. Job title
  18. Work phone number
  19. Work email

You can also ask three custom questions in addition to the options above. Facebook suggests particular info you might wish for here, or you can type a fully custom question of your own choosing. The preset suggestions include things like buyer intent (“When do you plan to make a purchase?”) to car details (“Choose a car model.”). The open-ended question can be whatever you’d like.

You can customize the answers for each question, or leave it open-ended as well.

After settling on your questions and information, you’ll then be asked for a link to the privacy policy of your website and any legal disclaimers.

And (final step) you can include a link to your website for people to visit upon completing the Lead Form.

Optional: Context Cards

Additionally, before someone fills out a Lead Form, you can show a Context Card, which adds a bit more detail about the offer or next steps. With this card, you can edit:

  1. The headline
  2. The benefit text (either a paragraph or bullet list)
  3. The button text

The context card works great for explaining the benefits of what you’re offering!

Context Cards overview

After settling on all these details, you’ll get a chance to preview the flow of your form and then confirm and save. You can now use this form from any Lead Ad you create moving forward.

Tip: Lead Ads are slightly different from other types of Facebook Ads. One top tip is to focus on the value behind your chosen button. For example, why should someone join your email list? Write your copy and choose your images to match the answer.


Chapter 3:
How to choose an audience for your Facebook ad


— Jump to the section on audience strategies —

In each ad set, you’ll have the chance to target a specific audience with your ad, and this is where Facebook advertising can become truly powerful and significant. There is lots to understand about how these audience segments work, and there’re plenty of strategies to try, too. Here’s a quick overview of how and what to do with choosing a Facebook ad audience.

Finding your way around the audience settings

The audience settings tab will be the second screen you see after choosing your Facebook ad type. And there’s a lot to see here! This is a quick overview of the Facebook ads audience settings:


1 – Create a custom audience (more here)

2 – Geographic targeting

3 – Age, gender, language targeting

4 – Target by interest or behavior

5 – Target based on how someone’s connected (or not connected) to your page

6 – Audience selection scale

7 – Audience selection overview

About targeting

As you can tell from the layout of the audience settings, the majority of options here have to do with audience targeting. You get to choose precisely who sees your ad, based on hundreds (even thousands) of different factors. Like:

  • Location
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Language
  • Interests
  • Behaviors
  • Connections

Here’s a bit more about each:


Location segmentation allows you to include or exclude people who will see your ad, based on where they are in the world. Like most Facebook ad settings, the location info is quite robust.

Start by choosing how you want to define that a person is in a particular area:

  • Target “Everyone in this location” to reach everyone whose home or most recent location is in the area
  • Target “People who live in this location” to reach everyone whose home is in the area
  • Target “People recently in this location” to reach people whose most recent location is in the area
  • Target “People traveling in this location” to reach people whose most recent location is in the area but whose home is at least 125 miles away

Then you can add an exact location by typing in the name of a country, state, region, city, postal code, address — even a Nielsen TV region or congressional district.

Facebook ads location settings

Once you’ve entered a location, you can fine tune the radius that you’ll use to target. By clicking the “+25mi” text next to the city name, you’ll get a drop-down that allows you to pick just how wide you’d like to target: everything from just the exact city itself to 10 miles up to 50 miles.

Facebook ads mile radius

You can add as many locations as you’d like by repeating the steps above. Also, if you have a big list of locations to add, you can do it in bulk by pasting in from a spreadsheet or text file.

Age, Gender, and Language

These are likely to be pretty self-explanatory. For age, you can choose a minimum and maximum age, and the ad will be served only to those who fall within the range. Same goes for gender, where the options are “All” (default), “Men,” or “Women.”

For language, you can leave this one blank unless the audience you’re targeting speaks a different language than what you’d typically find in the locations you’ve chosen.

Interests and Behaviors

This is perhaps the most detailed section of options you’ll find anywhere within Facebook ads. You can get really, really granular with the specific type of people you want to target with an ad. Facebook splits this section into three categories (a fourth category is for advanced segments you’ve requested):

Demographics, which contain things like …

  • Education level
  • Job titles
  • Relationship status
  • Income level

Interests, which contain things like …

  • Fitness
  • Shopping
  • Sports
  • Business

Behaviors, which contain things like …

  • B2B company size
  • Operating systems used
  • Purchase behavior
  • Recent homeowners

Like with other ad settings, you have the choice with these options to either include or exclude based on factors of demographics, interests, and behaviors. The default option here is to include anyone who matches any of the segments. To further narrow the audience, you can add a segment that all potential audience members need to meet.


Last, you can choose to segment based on how a person has (or hasn’t) interacted with your Facebook page, app, or event before. This can be a necessary segmentation feature, particularly if you’re trying to track down an audience that might not be familiar with you, or to followup with an audience that already has context with what you do.

Here are the options for each.

Facebook pages

  • People who like your page
  • Friends of people who like your page
  • Exclude people who like your page


  • People who used your app
  • Friends of people who use your app
  • Exclude people who use your app


  • People who responded to your event
  • Friends of people who responded to your event
  • Exclude people who already responded to your event

— Jump to the section on audience strategies —

About custom audiences

This is really neat stuff: A custom audience is a group of people who have a previous relationship with you, perhaps as customers or contacts. You can build an audience of just these particular people and serve your ads directly to them.

To get started, click the “Create new custom audience” link at the top of the audience settings page. Your previously created custom audiences appear just above, and you can select those for future campaigns.

A popup will appear with three different ways to create your audience: Customer List, Website Traffic, or App Activity.

Custom audience options

With the Customer List, you can upload or copy/paste a data file of email addresses, phone numbers, or Facebook user IDs. 

Facebook also integrates directly with MailChimp so you can pull from your existing MailChimp lists to create a custom audience.

With the Website Traffic, Facebook can create an audience based on the conversion pixel you’ve installed on your site. Here, you have the options to choose a timeframe for the traffic as well as segment by:

  • Anyone who visits your site
  • People who have seen particular pages
  • People who have seen particular pages but not other pages
  • People who haven’t visited for awhile

With the App Activity, you select one of your connected Facebook apps and segment based on activity within the app.

Custom audiences help to further refine the pool from which you can segment. For instance, once you select or create a custom audience, you can then go ahead and continue to filter that audience based on location, demographics, interests, and behaviors.

— Jump to the section on audience strategies —

Once you’ve created an audience, you can save it for quick use next time. Check the box at the bottom of the audience settings to name and save this particular audience. The next time you create an ad, you can choose an existing audience at the top of the settings.

Facebook ads choose existing audience line-end

Chapter 4:
Budgeting, Analysis, and Successful Strategies


How to set a budget for your Facebook ad

— Jump to the section on budget strategies

In the budget settings for your Facebook ad, you’ll get to control a couple of important elements: How much you want to spend and when you want to start spending it. There are further, specific customization options at this stage, too, for those eager to have even more control over the specifics of delivery.

Choosing a budget

Facebook ads choose a budget

By default, Facebook starts out suggesting a $20.00 daily budget. You can adjust this however you want, choosing either “daily” or “lifetime” budget and also editing the amount you’re wanting to spend.

With the daily budget, the amount you set is the maximum you will spend on any given day.

With the lifetime budget, the amount you set is the maximum you will spend on the lifetime of your ad. 

When you choose a lifetime budget, you will also need to set a start and end date for your ad. The option to run the ad continuously is no longer available.

Choosing a schedule

Facebook ads set a schedule

For daily and lifetime ads, you can tell Facebook when specifically you’d like the ad to run. By default, if you are running a daily ads budget, Facebook suggests to run the ad continuously. Otherwise, you can choose to start and end the ad on a specific day. (Facebook runs the math here for you and tells you the maximum amount, total, you will spend.)

— Jump to the section on budget strategies


Understanding the Facebook Ads data (how to tell when your ad is working)

Facebook offers a generous amount of data and analysis for every ad campaign. It’s all available from the dashboard menus and categorized into a series of tiered sets. The structure looks like this:

> Campaigns – The very high-level campaign (e.g., “Get more clicks to our website. Woot!”)

>> Ad Sets – A collection of ads that support the main campaign (e.g., “Week 3 ads”)

>>> Ads – The specific ads that you’re running, with media and text and all that

In theory, you might have 1 campaign with 5 different ad sets and 10 different ads in each ad set. Numbers get bigger the more levels you go down.

To see an overview of stats from any of these categories, you can quickly toggle back and forth from your main ads dashboard (

facebook ads change view4

You can click on any individual campaign, ad set, or ad to see just the stats for that particular look. To see multiple ones at once, click the checkbox next to each and then select View.

All data can be sorted by clicking on the heading for each column, and the data can be exported by clicking the Export button in the top right corner above the data table.

The stats for each have a robust set of data based on performance, delivery, cost, relevance, and more. You can toggle between these different looks by clicking through to campaigns, ad sets, and ads or by switching the view from the drop-down boxes above the right-side of the stats table.

For campaigns, by default, you see these stats:

  • Delivery – “Is the ad running now or not?”
  • Results – “How many actions has this campaign received?” i.e., clicks, installs, likes, and more. Facebook tells you which specific actions are assigned to the campaign.

results and actions

  • Reach – “How many people saw my campaign?”
  • Cost – “How much did I pay, on average, for each action?”
  • Amount spent – “How much have I spent so far on this campaign?”
  • End date – “When does this campaign end?”

For ad sets, by default, you see these stats:

  • Delivery – “Are these ads running? How many?”
  • Reach – “How many people have seen ads from this set?”
  • Cost – “How much did I pay, on average, for each action?”
  • Budget – “What’s the maximum I’m going to pay on this ad set? Daily or lifetime?”
  • Amount Spent – “How much have I spent so far?”
  • Schedule – “How long will this ad set be running?”

For ads, by default, you see these stats (in addition to a thumbnail and text preview of what the ad looks like):

  • Delivery – “Is this ad running?”
  • Results – “How many actions has this ad received?”
  • Reach – “How many people have seen this ad?”
  • Cost – “How much am I paying, on average, for each action?” (Might also be known as, cost per click)
  • Amount spent – “How much have I spent total so far on this ad?”
  • Relevance score – A rating of 1 to 10 for how well the audience is responding to the ad

Tip: You can save any report to view later on, and you can set up a scheduled email with reports data to be sent straight to your inbox. To do so, in the top-left corner of the page, next to the title of the view, click the drop-down box  11414404_852751124794907_953613502_n  to Save and Schedule.

To drill down even further, you can click on each individual ad to see charts and stats specific to that ad.

Facebook ads stats and charts

Conversion tracking and pixels

Facebook has a unique system for tracking actions that occur after someone leaves a Facebook ad and travels to a web page. You can install a Facebook pixel that tracks things like page views, registration, and orders.

To get your Facebook pixel, go to the menu at the top of the page, and select “Pixels” under the “Assets” menu.

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 10.49.27 AM

From the pixel page, click Create a Pixel. Then click View Pixel Code.

The pixel code goes into the code of your page, in the <head> section. You can copy and paste the code from Facebook into your page, and for further tracking, you can add any number of variables to your code from Facebook’s many options.

  • View Content
  • Search
  • Add to Cart
  • Add to Wishlist
  • Initiate Checkout
  • Add Payment Info
  • Purchase
  • Lead
  • Complete Registration

For example, if you were to add extra conversion tracking for Leads to your Facebook code, you might take the original code from Facebook and add in the extra snippet for Leads to the page where your lead capture takes place.

<!-- Facebook Pixel Code -->
fbq('init', '432799013584355');
fbq('track', "PageView");
fbq('track', 'Lead');
<noscript><img height="1" width="1" style="display:none"
<!-- End Facebook Pixel Code -->


Facebook Ads Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to have a Facebook page to run an ad?

Yes, you can create an ad for a website without a Facebook Page. However, you can only do this with ads that generate clicks for a website. Here’s how it works:

  • Go to ad creation and then select Clicks to Website
  • Enter the URL of the website you want to create an ad for and then click Continue
  • Fill in the details of your ad and then click Place Order

Are ads for pages or profiles?

Personal profiles are for non-commercial use and represent individual people.

What is a lookalike audience?

A lookalike audience is a collection of Facebook users who are similar to your Facebook fans, website visitors, or customers.

You can create a lookalike audience from the Audiences section of Facebook Ads (from the menu, it’s under Assets > Audience). Click to “Create Audience,” and choose “Lookalike audience” from the list.

lookalike audience setup

Setting up the audience, you start by selecting a source for Facebook to compare with. This can be an existing custom audience, traffic from a tracking pixel, or the fans from a Page.

Lookalike audiences work for one country at a time, so after selecting a main source, you’ll next select the country to choose among.

And finally, the last step is to set the size of the audience. You can drag the bar back-and-forth to select between 1% and 10% of the country’s residents for Facebook to analyze and compare.

create a lookalike audience

What are dark posts?

Dark posts are normal-looking Facebook updates that are intentionally never shared organically and only served as ads. You can create dark posts through the Facebook Ads power editor.

What is the power editor?

The power editor is for those who may wish to create large amounts of ads at once and have specific control over how the ads are served. You can access the power editor through the Facebook Ads menu, under “Create & Manage.”

What is the audience network?

The Audience Network placement extends your ads’ reach by showing them to the same target audience on other mobile apps and mobile websites approved by Facebook.


5 Popular strategies and Facebook advertising tips

There’s a host of great information out there on Facebook advertising tips and best practices. Ad Espresso has a wonderful blog, the Facebook content on Moz is outstanding, everything Jon Loomer writes is incredible.

We’ve collected some of our favorite tips and tactics for Facebook ads here. We’d love to hear what’s worked for you, if you’re up for leaving us a comment!

1. Consider the placement of your URL

from Karen Jones, How Facebook Advertising Performed vs. Google Ads

This article is chock full of useful tidbits: the pros and cons list from earlier came from Karen’s great work here. She goes on to recap some of her top takeaways for successful Facebook ads.

  • Keep your information short
  • Include an offer or price
  • Include keywords
  • Include persuasive or interesting imagery/video
  • Include your URL above the image/video in the text section
  • Use taglines and hooks to draw your potential customers in (i.e., “Make This a Year to Remember”)

2. Don’t wait: Double down on what’s working

From Massimo Chieruzzi, Facebook Ads Suicide: 6 Deadly Errors to Avoid

The team at AdEspresso has some fantastic advice on best practices for Facebook advertising (they’re drip campaign emails for new signups are particularly fantastic).

Double down on what’s working: don’t wait to increase your spending on a great Adv. Down the line it might not work any more — or just not as well!

Don’t ignore New Features and Ad Types: every new format will over-perform in the first few months before users are familiar with it!

Test every aspect of a campaign: the wrong picture can cost >100% more. But you’ll never guess which one without split testing for it!

Don’t leave campaigns alone: on Facebook you target users based on interests and demographics. They’ll get tired of seeing your ads over and over again!

3. Spend at least $5 per ad

Andrea Marban, The Dos and Don’ts of Facebook Advertising

Another gem from AdEspresso, this one covers the do’s and don’ts of Facebook advertising and gets into some wonderfully specific advice.


  • create Buyer Personas and a specific call to action for each of them
  • choose an image that stands out, but also represents your brand
  • include Social Proof in your Ad, numbers can work very very well
  • use Custom Audiences, it’s one of the most effective tools as of now


  • allocate too small of a budget (best is at least $5 per ad, typically)
  • use too small or a poorly designed image (use a minimum pics’ width of 1024px)
  • mix different countries in an AdSet (best is to target one country per AdSet)
  • have too small of an audience (best is usually at least 500k people)
  • Be aware that the elements above can impact significantly your campaign, so taking some time to understand and fine-tune them is an investment that will pay off in spades

4. Image tips

Fred Perrotta, A Deep Dive Into Facebook Advertising

The most important part of your ad is the image. You can write the most brilliant copy in the world, but if your image doesn’t catch a user’s eye, you won’t get any clicks.

Don’t use low-quality images, generic stock photography, or any images that you don’t have the rights to use. Don’t steal anything from Google Images. Unless you’re a famous brand, don’t use your logo.

Images of people work best. Preferably their faces. Use close-ups of attractive faces that resemble your target audience.

Facebook ad images are small (100 x 72 pixels). Make sure to focus on a person’s face and crop it if necessary. Don’t use a blurry or dark picture.

Advanced tip: Use images of people facing to the right. Users will follow the subject’s line of sight and be more likely to read your ad text.


5. Segment more than you think you should (and don’t overlook mobile!)

Kane Jamison, 10 Things I’ve Learned While Learning Facebook Ads

I love this post from Kane about his learnings with Facebook Ads. It’s a great primer for beginners (with something to be learned for pros, too, I’d imagine).

Here are a couple of my favorite takeaways:

Make sure the creative imagery and copy is tightly targeted to your audience. Instead of targeting an audience of 2,000,000 people, find a way to break them into smaller, more specific groups, and show them customized copy and graphics that will appeal to them.

Kane mentions that you can even go so far as to select an audience of cyclists if you have a cyclist in your ad creative. Awesome!

And here’s a great tip on mobile vs. desktop:

Regardless of the age or demographics of the audience you’re targeting, don’t assume that they’re scanning through a laptop Facebook feed just because you’re on a laptop all day while editing ads.

The vast majority of Facebook users are on mobile apps, and many of your ad sets may never get a click from desktop users.



Final thoughts and your thoughts

Thanks so much for taking the time to look through this guide. As I’ve mentioned, there’s so much to know on Facebook – we’d love to help as much as we can if there are any questions or tips you’d like us to know. And if you spot anything that’s changed about Facebook Ads since we’ve published, we’d be grateful for the heads up. Things move fast!

What has your Facebook Ads strategy looked like?

What kind of results are you seeing?

It’d be really great to get your thoughts in the comments. Chat with you there!

Read more and learn more

These are some really great sites that have helped us learn a ton with social media ads and Facebook advertising in particular:

Thank you!

Image sources: Pablo, WOTIC

Instagram recently launched “Instagram Business Profiles”, previously there was no separation between business and personal profiles.

1. Analytics
Converting your Instagram account to a “Business Profile” will allow you to have access to analytics on your Instagram account. Analytics will show you
Impressions: Total number of times your post was seen
Reach: Number of unique accounts who saw your post
Website Clicks: Number of accounts that have tapped the website link on your Business Profile.
Follower Activity: Average times your followers are on Instagram on a typical day

2. Additional Contact Info
Business Profiles will have the option to add a phone number, an email address and your business’s physical address. When you add contact information, a Contact button will appear near the top of your profile. When people click that button, they’ll see options like Get Directions, Call and Email, depending on the contact information you provided.

Cons: The only downfall is I know they will start limiting businesses ability to get organic views and they’ll force all clicks and views to be paid. That’s exactly what happened over time with Facebook Business Profiles. So for now until they start enforcing that all business have to use the business profile I recommend staying with the regular profile.

Can I try it and switch back? For now it looks like they will let you switch back to a personal Instagram Account if you try it out and change your mind.

In a bold move to encourage its users to create and share more content on the platform, Instagram has announced Instagram Stories, a feature that lets users post photos and videos that vanish after 24 hours.

The feature feels much like Snapchat Stories, a Snapchat feature that was introduced in 2013 and a pivotal part of the company’s growth. And like Snapchat, the photos and videos shared in your Instagram Story are ephemeral and can’t be viewed once 24hrs has elapsed. Content shared to stories also won’t appear on your profile grid or in the main Instagram feed.

How Instagram Stories Work

Stories are rolling out globally on iOS and Android over the next few weeks. And while some users may have the feature available right now, others may have to wait a little longer to get up and running.

Instagram Stories appear in a bar at the top of your feed — and all Instagram accounts will be able to share stories, from your best friends to your favorite popular accounts. When there’s something new to see, their profile photo will have a colorful ring around it.

To view someone’s story, you simply need to tap on their profile photo, and their story will appear full-screen, showing you all of the content they’ve posted in the last 24hrs, the content will play in chronological order from oldest to newest.

Once you’re viewing a story, you can tap to go back and forward or swipe to jump to another person’s story. Unlike regular posts, there are no likes or public comments.


How to Create a Story

To create a story on Instagram, you have to tap a new stylized “+” icon at the top left-hand corner of the screen, The Verge reported. Or you can reveal the story camera by simply swiping left.

Your story follows the privacy settings of your account. If you set your account to private, your story is visible only to your followers. However, you can also easily hide your entire story from anyone you don’t want to see it, even if they follow you. When watching your own story, swipe up to check out who’s seen each photo and video. You can even choose to feature a particular part of your story by posting it on your profile.


A Couple of Ways This Stories Could Benefit Instagram

1. An Attempt to Increase sharing

When Instagram first jumped onto the scene in 2010, its defining feature was the ability to turn average- looking smartphone photos into professional feeling images using a range of clever filters and editing tools.

What made Instagram stand out, could be somewhat of a hindrance for the company now, though, as the bar for content on Instagram has grown increasing high and many of the platform’s 300 million daily users, see the Instagram feed as a precious place for only the best content.

Speaking to The Verge, Instagram co-founder, Kevin Systrom explained: “If Instagram is built around highlights, we’re filling in the space in between — and becoming more about visual expression in general. We’re capturing all the world’s moments, not just the best ones.”

How often people share on Instagram

The average number of Instagram posts per user declined between 2013 and 2015, according to a study reported in The Information. And at the same time video alone on Snapchat have hit over 10 billion views per day and saw a 25 percent increase in just three months between February and April 2016.

Union Metrics put together data on brands and Instagram (note: data came before the change to an algorithm), finding that most brands post 1 to 2 times a day on Instagram (the actual average was right in the middle, 1.5).

Stories provide a way for brands, and individuals, to post more without overwhelming people’s feeds. As the company explained on their blog:

“With Instagram Stories, you don’t have to worry about overposting. Instead, you can share as much as you want throughout the day — with as much creativity as you want.”

2. A New Focus on Messaging

We’ve seen a huge rise in messaging platforms over recent years, from Facebook-owned Messenger and Whatsapp (Facebook also owns Instagram) growing to over 1billion users a piece, and Snapchat becoming a dominant platform for 1:1 photo and video sharing, and messaging amongst teenagers.

With this update, it feels like Instagram could be about to make a move into the messaging space and become a place to not only share our best moments but discuss our every moment. If you want to comment on something you see in someone’s story, you can tap and send a private message to that person on Instagram Direct.

If Instagram can crack messaging, then the app will become about much more than our finest moments, and with an array of in-the-moment stories and conversations with those closest to us to boot, it could become a truly social network.

5 Ways Brands Could Brands Use Instagram Stories

Brands aren’t strangers to Instagram, and we could see a large number jump in and start testing stories over the next couple of weeks. Here’s our best estimate and what we may see from those first movers:

1. Behind the scenes content

If the Instagram feed has become a place for only the most polished, pre-produced photos and video, then stories could be a way to add some authenticity the content that appears in the feed. With stories, brands have a chance to take their followers on a journey and tell the story behind the posts in their feed.

Imagine seeing a brand new post from Nike featuring a well-known athlete pop up in your Instagram feed, and then being able to go behind the scenes with that athlete directly afterward or even see some exclusive footage of the shoot in their story.

This technique could be used by brands of all sizes and industries too. For example, a restaurant could post a picture to their feed on a new dish and then create a story with a well-known food blogger reviewing it. Or a real estate company could take you on a tour around a property they’ve just posted about. The possibilities here are endless.

2. A potential way to beat the algorithm

Instagram recently added a Facebook-like algorithm to filter its feed and show users the posts it determines they’ll be most interested in at the top of their feed.

We’re still unsure whether Instagram will show all stories in chronological order or if they’ll follow the algorithm, but stories could provide a way for brands to stay top-of-mind on the platform even if their content isn’t always at the top of the feed. Experimentation with stories, and being a stand-out early adopter, could help brands to get their followers paying more attention to the posts within their feeds and boost their engagement across the platform.

3. Takeovers

Takeovers have become a big thing for brands on Snapchat. If you’re not familiar with how it works, essentially, one brand will take over another’s Snapchat account for a period and share content.

With Instagram stories, brands could begin to collaborate more with other brands or influencers. For example, at Buffer we regularly feature members of our community within our Instagram feed. Once stories open up globally, we could share a photo from one of our community and then allow them to jump on our story and share a little more context about the photo or video in our feed.

4. A rise in 1:1 communication

When social media first hit the mainstream, there was a lot of buzz and excitement about being able to talk directly with your favorite celebrities and brands. Stories give brands the chance to get back to the roots of social media and engage with their followers on a 1:1 basis.

For example, we could see brands running Q&A sessions via stories with people sending questions via Instagram Direct and the brand answering them within their story. We could also see stories being used to send 1:1 video messages to followers.

5. Live, timely content

There’s a lot of excitement around live video content at the moment. And Instagram stories could give brands a way to produce live video content on the platform.

Live video is extremely engaging, and though Instagram stories won’t allow for a long, un-interrupted broadcast like Facebook Live or Periscope, it could allow brands to make their Instagram accounts the place to go for live, interactive content.

Benefit Cosmetics have used Facebook to broadcast makeup tutorials, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York used Facebook to share the opening of a new exhibit. And there’s no reason Instagram stories couldn’t be used in a similar way to these broadcasts and take users deeper into a live event as it takes place.

Over to you

This is certainly a big move for Instagram and one that could shift the platform a great deal. Snapchat has proven there’s a huge market for sharing fleeting, everyday moments of our lives and if Instagram can make stories work alongside its current offering, then this could be one of its most important updates to date.

What are your thoughts on Instagram’s Snapchat competitor? Are you excited to test out stories? How do you think we’ll see brands using the feature?Share your thoughts in the comments and I’d be excited to join the conversation.

Share your thoughts in the comments and I’d be excited to join the conversation.

Quick quiz for social media marketers:

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been asked, “So, you get paid to go on Facebook?”

Probably quite a few of us, right? People get social media. But it seems many are still bewildered by social media marketing.

So how can you explain the value of what you do, to those who matter most to you?

To be sure, social media marketing is an incredibly new (and ever-changing) industry, unlike finance, engineering, sales, law, medicine, and more established fields. Plus most people use social media for fun, so social media’s place in business can seem suspicious.

Nevertheless, there’s a way to get your value across and explain social media marketing to stakeholders, bosses, friends, and family in a way that they’ll get. Keep reading for some tips on how to have these important conversations, and we’d love to hear any tips or stories you have to share in the comments!

What people think I do vs. What I actually do

Sometimes, when talking to different people about social media jobs, it can feel a little like the “What People Think I Do/What I Really Do” meme:


These general guidelines can help.

3 Guidelines for Talking to Anyone About Social Media

  1. Be patient with those who might not know as much about social media as you do
  2. Remember your audience and customize your message accordingly
  3. Use stories to engage the other person and help them relate to you

1. Be patient

You’re constantly using, discussing, experimenting with, or reading about social media.

Others aren’t.

It can require some patience to remember there are plenty of people out there who don’t know Twitter recently changed its 140-character rules (and even if they did know, might not be too interested). So, if you try to explain social media marketing to someone and they’re not getting it, don’t get frustrated. Be patient with the other person, and be grateful — it’s actually pretty awesome you get to be an (unofficial) ambassador of social media.

2. Remember your audience

It’s tempting to come up with one “silver bullet” explanation and use it with every person who says, “So, tell me what you do.” But you’ll be more successful if you account for each person’s background and reasons for asking.

For example, a stranger at a party is probably making conversation, while your mentor probably wants to know how social media marketing can help her department.

3. When in doubt, use stories

As Leo has previously explained, our brains light up whenever we hear a story. Why? They’re engaging! In addition, they make complex ideas feel simple and easy to grasp.

whenever we hear a story, we want to relate it to one of our existing experiences. That’s why metaphors work so well with us. Whilst we are busy searching for a similar experience in our brains, we activate a part called insula, which helps us relate to that same experience of pain, joy, disgust or else.

This graphic from the New York Times illustrates it well:


If, during the course of explaining your social media marketing job, you notice the other person’s eyes glazing over, stop and say, “Let me explain with a story.” Then, share a situation that exemplifies the value of your job:

  • That time you helped a customer resolve an issue
  • The day you generated a ton of leads for the sales team
  • The campaign that brought in 100 new attendees for a company event

Now that we’ve got the basics down, check out how to discuss social media with these 8 types of people in your life.

8 Ways to Explain Social Media Marketing to Bosses, Clients, Family, and More

 1. How to Explain to Your CEO

Give your CEO numbers that tie into goals

If you ask your CEO, “Is it important for the company to be on social media?” they’re almost guaranteed to say yes. After all, 96% of businesses invest in social media marketing—so somewhere down the line, your budget got their approval.

But that doesn’t mean your CEO is totally sold on or even completely understands the concept. You can help them see the value of social media marketing by drawing clear connections between the organization’s high-level goals and your own responsibilities and results.

Let’s say one of your company’s biggest priorities right now is generating better leads. You could tell your CEO, “After looking at the data, my team realized our most qualified prospects were coming from LinkedIn. So, we started focusing our energy on LinkedIn and dialed it back on Twitter and Facebook—and now, the number of MQLs we’re shooting over to sales has gone up by 30%.”

(Here’s a guide to KPIs, if it helps.)

Brand Connections’ useful guide to goals <> KPIs might come in handy, too.


Of course, you’ll want to adjust your approach depending on how fluent your CEO is in social media. Some executives will be crystal-clear on, say, the differences between Meerkat, Periscope, and Snapchat, while others might say, “Meer-what?”

If your CEO is closer to the second, make sure that you provide simple, quick explanations for every new concept you introduce. To give you an idea, you might say, “We’ve been getting 20% more event attendees ever since we started filming ‘behind-the-scenes’ videos with Periscope, a tool for live broadcasting.”

  • Periscope might equal “behind-the-scenes videos”
  • Facebook Live might equal “streaming video feeds”
  • Snapchat might equal “in-the-moment entertainment”

Bonus: Here’re some tips on how to convince your CEO about social media’s value, using data!

2. Your CTO

Help your CTO evangelize on social media for your company

Social media marketers can be a huge help to their CTOs.

As digital and content strategist Zane Razane explains,

The CTO serves as the public face of technology for a company, so my job is to support their social platform engagement with the audience both online and offline—conferences, events, etc.

When you’re explaining your function to the CTO, Razane recommends saying something like:

Together, we’ll come up with a strategy for your online presence that aligns with the company’s brand, vision, and values. With that locked down, we can create content for social media, our blog, third-party blogs, and more. By establishing you as credible and trustworthy—not to mention a valuable source of information— we’ll support the business goals and online reputation of the company.

3. Your Coworker

Explain what you do in context with what they do

New coworkers will always ask, “Oh, what team are you on?” However, even when you’re talking to people who have known you for years, it’s helpful to have a job description you can whip out during meetings and random conversations.

The key? Customize your explanation to the person’s own role.

To give you an idea, let’s say you’re talking to someone on their first day.

You: Welcome to the coolest company ever! What team are you joining?

Them: Thank you! I’m a support engineer. What do you do?

You: Oh, awesome. I run our blog—so actually, I spend a lot of time with the support team, since your interactions tell me so much about how our users think and what type of content they’ll like.

Now, here’s how that interaction might play out if they were, say, in HR.

Them: I’m a PeopleOps associate. What about you?

You: Nice! I’m a social media coordinator, so I figure out what to post to our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts. In fact, our customers love seeing candid pictures from our internal events—hackathons, company celebrations, speaker lunches, etc.—so I’m sure we’ll get a chance to work together as you plan out the lineup.

Describing how your role fits into the other person’s role makes it easier for for them to relate to (and later remember). Plus, it’s a nice way to lay the groundwork for future collaboration.

Teams like Typeform make it a bit smoother to see where new hires fit within the structure of the organization. Their Trello-based org chart helps you see who works where and on what — making the social media marketer’s explaining a bit easier.

typeform org chart trello

4. A Potential Contact (Who’s Not in Marketing)

Ask them about their favorite brands — and use that info to frame your answer

It’s always challenging to explain your job when you’re networking: You want to be interesting and memorable, yet accurate. And when the person you’re talking to is from a different industry, it’s even more challenging — now you also have to describe your role in a way they’ll appreciate.

The best solution I’ve found? Ask about their favorite brand, then use that brand as your example.

Here’s how that might play out:

Them: I manage HR for Capstone. What do you do?

You: Oh, cool! I’ve heard great things about you guys. And I work in social media marketing—actually, it might be easier with an example. What’s a company you like?

Them: Hmm. I love Shake Shack.

You: Ahh, me too. Well, if I worked for Shake Shack, I’d be the one posting those drool-worthy pictures to Instagram, writing food-themed posts for our blog, working with Marketing to make sure our latest restaurant openings will be covered on social… And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

5. A Potential Contact (Who Is in Marketing)

Solicit their advice on a social media marketing challenge

Let’s face it, answering the “what do you do” question is much easier when it’s coming from a fellow marketer. You can just say, “I’m a community manager,” or “I manage our digital media efforts,” without giving any follow-up details or definitions.

However, while there’s nothing wrong with simply providing your job title, you’ll be missing an awesome opportunity. Surface-level answers are huge road-blocks in the conversation when you’re talking to someone new—the more in-depth or specific you go, the more you and the other person will have to discuss.

With that in mind, consider asking for advice on a challenge you’re currently facing.

You: I’m a social media coordinator for Owl Insights. Actually—I’d love to get your expertise on an issue we’re currently struggling with.

Them: Oh, sure!

You: So, I’m in charge of our Instagram page, and I’m really struggling to come up content ideas that our audience will be interested in. I’ve been posting “behind-the-scenes” pictures, but they’re not driving much engagement.

Them: Well, I love how Granular—who’s also B2B—has started a UCG campaign…

Not only will your reply spark a strong (and potentially productive!) conversation, you’ll make the other person feel great by asking for their help.

Worried that your coworkers wouldn’t want you sharing so much info? You can still use this technique: just describe a problem you encountered in the past, then ask how they would’ve handled it.

You: I’m a social media coordinator for Owl Insights. Actually—I’d love to get your expertise on an issue we recently dealt with. I’m not sure our approach was the best one.

Them: Sure.

You: So, I’m in charge of our Instagram page, and…

And hypothetical situations are always an option as well. Here’s some inspiration from a list of what social media managers are working on today.

what social media managers are working on today

6. A Hiring Manager

Share your specific social media results. Mention data plus strategy.

In order to get a job, you need to convince the hiring manager of one major thing: You will make their organization more successful. Everything else — from your previous experience and education to your skill-set and certifications — only matters because it indicates whether or not you can do a good job in this role.

So when you’re talking to an interviewer, focus on your results.

And get specific.

For instance, “I grew our Medium followers by 200% in three months,” is only meaningful if you add, “… by bringing in some of the most well-known writers in our space to guest-post, publishing one high-quality piece per week rather than three average ones, and incorporating custom graphics.”

Sharing more details is even better. To give you an idea, you could add:

“I decided to reduce how often we posted per week after running a short experiment. I compared our engagement for a week with three medium-researched, 700-word posts to a week with one highly-researched, 3,000-word post. We gained twice as many followers the second week and got four times as many comments and likes—in part because the longer piece was recommended by several key influencers.”

This level of detail shows you’re analytical and thoughtful. It also tells the interviewer that you didn’t get those results through luck.

7. Your Friends

Figure out the last time they interacted with a social media manager (whether they knew it or not)

Although they might not realize it, your friends probably interact with social media marketers on an hourly basis. You can demonstrate the value of your work by finding some of those interactions.

For example, you could ask a friend to show you the last 10 photos he liked on Instagram. There’s a strong chance at least one will belong to a business or brand.

Once you spot one, explain, “This company’s social media team posted this picture to increase engagement with users just like you. They know seeing this picture makes you more loyal and engaged.”

Next, connect the dots by saying, “I use a similar approach at my job. My company posts [X type of content] on [platform 1] to build relationship with [these types of customers]. We also post [Y type of content] on [platform 2] to build relationships with [different/related types of customers].

Nate Hill, a web and social media strategist for the University of Michigan’s career center, advises ending with:

I look for new ways to get people to interact, consume, or share the content we’re putting out for them.

8. Strangers

Have a story ready

From random people in the grocery store to friendly strangers on the street, you never know when you’ll meet a total stranger who will ask what you do. In these cases, you don’t have the background knowledge necessary to tailor your explanation. That’s why it’s extremely handy to have a universally relatable example up your sleeve.

Florina Gobel, who handles social media strategy for the non-profit New Organ, uses this one:

“I’m like a chef. I cook up stories. I want people to like my food, talk about my food, and get their friends to come over and recommend it to their friends. So I plan the menus carefully: what story will be served, how, and when. I design strategic menus of stories. Bite-sized appetizer stories, individual courses, dessert, etc to be served at the right times, the right places. I analyze customers’ response to inform future menu decisions. And I also respond directly to both positive and negative feedback. A job well done means building a thriving, loyal community driven to take actions that support the restaurant’s business goals and growth.”


9. Your Grandparents

Make your role feel relatable

The number of older people on social media has tripled since 2010, with roughly one in three people over 65 using at least one platform.


That’s good news when you’re trying to explain your job in social media to your grandparents. But even if they’re familiar with the ins and outs of Facebook, you might still need to outline how your activity (on all the channels) contributes to your company’s success.

Start by providing an illustration of marketing they’ll be familiar with.

For instance, you might say:

“You know how you’ll be flipping through a magazine, and you’ll see an ad for a new car model? And then maybe you turn on the TV, and you see an ad for that car again. Next thing you know, you’re listening to the radio, and you hear a broadcast for that same car. If you’re going to buy a new car in the near future, that brand—if not that exact model—will be on your mind.”

Now link your example to social media, like so:

“You’ve probably noticed how much time people spend online. Well, I put information about my company and our products online, where potential customers can find it. I also try to keep them satisfied after they’re….”

Over to you

Do you have any awesome ways of describing your job to the people in your life?

I’d love to hear your stories of what worked—and what hasn’t worked—in the comments!

If you could travel back in time to when Facebook or Instagram first started grabbing mainstream attention, knowing what you do now about the opportunity they hold for brands, you’d jump aboard, right?

Well, that opportunity is now on Snapchat.

Snapchat, a platform built on short ephemeral messages, seems destined to become a long-lasting social media powerhouse.

This future seems all the more realistic with the addition of Snapchat Memories — a way to share photos and videos captured outside of Snapchat to your Story. I’ve done some thinking about what this new addition means to Snapchat content and the future of the social network. My conclusion: All good things!

Keep reading to see what Memories is all about and how Snapchat is evolving into a must-have social media channel.

My teammate Brian recently shared his thoughts about Snapchat Memories in this video commentary. Would love to have you take a look!

What Are Snapchat Memories? Here’s an Overview

With Snapchat Memories, you can now, for the first time, share photos and videos captured outside of Snapchat to your Story.

That’s one of the key features of Memories – an update that fundamentally shifts Snapchat, taking the platform that has become famous for its disappearing content and moving it in a new direction.

Alongside the ability to share content from outside the app, Memories also enables users to save Snaps to a smart, searchable camera roll and enables re-sharing (and embellishing) of previously sent snaps.

Here’s the video that Snapchat put together for their announcement:


I’d love to show you more about how each of these new Memories features work.

1. Share any photo or video — from within the app or from anywhere else

Memories enable Snapchat users to tell bigger stories that incorporate more than just in-the-moment photos and video. Instead of purely spontaneous content, Snapchat can now be used to share much more thoughtfully — similar to the approach you’d take with platforms like Instagram and Facebook, where the content you post doesn’t disappear.

With the flexibility to share any photo or video you want through Snapchat — not just those you took within the app — the company has opened up a whole new way to create content.


Users can access Memories by swiping up from the camera section of the app.

Saved photos and videos that are uploaded as Stories or Snaps have a timestamp to show when they were originally taken.

2. Save Snaps to a searchable camera roll

As Snapchat explains:

You can use Memories to create new Stories from Snaps you’ve taken, or even combine different Stories into a longer narrative. It’s fun to celebrate an anniversary or birthday by finding a few old Snaps and stringing them together into a new Story.

All saved photo and video Snaps plus your Stories appear in the main Memories tab, where you can also import all of your previously saved Snaps. From the Memories tab (which serves as an in-app camera roll), it’s super easy to find the Snap or Story you’re looking for in just a few seconds by typing keywords like “dog” or “Hawaii.”


That’s the ins and outs of Snapchat Memories covered. Now, what does this mean? And how will it affect the way brands create content on Snapchat?

On the future of Snapchat: How Memories will affect Snapchat’s content

1. Memories raise the bar for quality Snaps

Political news site, The Hill, uses Snapchat to live-snap key political events and the larger world of politics and life in DC. They also have some recurring Snapchat series’. One, called Capitol Cribs, for instance, offers Snapchat tours of lawmaker offices.

Speaking to Nieman LabTaylor Lorenz, The Hill director of emerging platforms explained that Memories could lead to higher production qualities on Snapchat:

Memories will make producing this type of content easier in the sense that it doesn’t have to all be done in real time, but harder in that I think it will raise the bar for repackaged content. Now that we have a longer lead time on creating these evergreen-type stories, the quality of what we put out on our channel should improve.

Lifting the limit on content creation from what can only be created within the app has a huge upside when it comes to creating engaging stories for Snapchat.  Allowing people to upload pre-existing content also opens up the door for .

2. Memories make a longer shelf life for content

These days, content on social media has a very low shelf life.

None more so than Snapchat, where content disappears after 24 hours.

With the new features in Snapchat Memories (saving, reusing), this will make it easier for brands to justify budgets and invest in high-end creative for their Stories. Any photos or videos created for Snapchat can now be re-used, and content from other networks can also be re-published on the platform.

3. Memories may help Snapchat expand to a wider audience

In order to continue its impressive growth, it’s increasingly important for Snapchat to attract a broader (and older) audience. Currently, Snapchat dominates attention for 18 to 34-year-olds. Forty-one percent of all 18 to 34 year-olds in the United States use the app on any given day.


And the company is also making strides with older generations. According to numbers from comScore, 14% of smartphone users aged 35 and older use Snapchat, too.

This comes as no surprise, as Snapchat has put a lot of focus on becoming a more mainstream product and moving away from the stigma that it’s only for teenagers.

In 2015, Snapchat Discover made the network a media destination by providing publishers with a mobile-first way to share editorial content. And now, Memories is another strong move to help Snapchat become a complete distribution channel for individuals and brands alike.

Snapchat has huge, multi-billion dollar revenue potential, and as reported by TechCrunch, the company is looking to be making and as much as $1 billion in revenue during 2017.

Hitting this revenue target will rely greatly on Snapchat’s ability to spread its wings and continue to grow beyond its early adopters and increase its market share for the 35+ age range (and into the early majority). Much like when Facebook expanded from college students to parents (and now grandparents), Snapchat’s future growth and revenues could rely on its ability to pivot and engage the older generation and mass market.


4. Memories can feed the evolution of Snapchat’s ad product

While Snapchat has reportedly achieved 150 million global daily active users (overtaking Twitter), the company is still a ways off Facebook’s 1 billion-plus user base.

And ads only work if there are users to engage with them.

With Memories, Snapchat now has a legitimate claim to be the go-to camera app for capturing and saving moments. Users in the early and late majority may also appreciate the ability to take a photo and video and worry about sharing later.

This shift could be seen as more user-friendly and easier to understand for the less digitally-native population and should help the company to build its user base, and in turn, boost its revenues.

The fact that Snapchat can now store photos and videos as Memories could also give it more insight into its user interests than before and more data should help Snapchat to improve its ad-targeting. Something that Facebook mastered on its way to becoming a dominant mobile advertising network.

Just last month (June 2016), Snapchat announced an advertising API – its biggest move yet towards becoming a pay-to-play network for large brands. The API will allow selected partners to sell Snapchat’s video ad inventory via an automated, auction-based system.

With the API roll-out and launch of Memories, Snapchat is getting serious about growth and revenue. And I don’t think it’ll be too long before we see a Facebook-style ‘ads-for-all’ platform, enabling brands of all sizes to capitalize on Snapchat’s highly-engaged audience.

Only time will tell how Snapchat’s ad product will evolve, but one thing’s for sure when it comes to revenue, Snapchat is just getting started…

Why now is the time to go all-in on Snapchat

At Buffer, we believe there are two key periods of opportunity for brands on social platforms:

  1. Organic
  2. Paid

We call it the law of the double-peak:

Right now, Snapchat is growing towards the mainstream and there’s still a ton of opportunity to stand out and build an audience organically. Meaning you don’t need ads or paid distribution to grab attention.

Think of it as Instagram in 2014-2015 or Facebook in 2009-2010.

Great content works on Snapchat, and you don’t need a huge budget.

In a year or so, things may be different. Snapchat is rumored to be working on a Facebook-like algorithm that would curate Stories and show users content it feels they’ll enjoy most at the top of their feed, rather than displaying each Story in chronological orders as the app does now. This, coupled with more brands and individuals vying for attention on the platform could make it harder to break through and get people to open your Snaps.

I’m confident when I say Snapchat will be around for the long haul. The ephemeral messaging app loved by teenagers could have been a short-lived fad, but what Snapchat is building has far, far more longevity and opportunity for brands of all sizes.

Your thoughts

I’d love to hear your thoughts on Snapchat Memories and the future of the platform.

How do you see Memories affecting your use of Snapchat? And how do you feel ads will affect the platform?

It’d be great to hear from you in the comments.

One of our cultural values at Buffer, is to live smarter, not harder.

We like to think this extends into our workflows as well.

This is why marketing spreadsheets have been such a boon for us, helping us to track important social media metrics, see our blog growth, and get more work done in less time.

That being said, spreadsheets are not always easy. Finding or building the right ones and figuring out how best to use them can be time-consuming tasks. We’d love to help.

To give you a hand with managing spreadsheets in Excel and Google Sheets (and hopefully save a great deal of time), we’ve pulled together a list of essential spreadsheets, templates, formulas, and shortcuts that are handy for every marketer to have in their locker.

Let’s jump in…

10 Ready-made Marketing Spreadsheets to Boost Your Productivity

For many of the free spreadsheets linked below, you can download as an .xls file to use and customize in Excel or Google Docs. Google Doc users can also go to “File > Make a Copy …” to add the spreadsheet to their account, then edit.

1. A weekly social media report

Track your social media marketing with week-over-week data

Social Media report card spreadsheet

Grab a copy of this spreadsheet here >>

This social media report is built in Google Sheets, and it works off of a data export from Buffer (though you can rig it to work with exports from other social media analytics tools as well).

The report will help you keep tabs on your engagement, top posts, and much more.

2. Waterfall chart

Monitor your progress to see if you’re on track

Waterfall template

Grab a copy of this spreadsheet here >>

The waterfall spreadsheet template is extremely versatile for keeping pace with your goals. We use it to track many of our OKRs here at Buffer. (Thanks to the HubSpot team for turning us onto waterfalls.)

Here’s an example of it in use to keep tabs on the number of comments we received per post throughout Q2:


This spreadsheet can be used to track your progress on most any metric. Here are a few ideas to get you going:

  • Follower growth on social media
  • Newsletter subscribers
  • Traffic growth
  • Clicks from your social accounts

3. Blog post traffic tracker

Know which posts are seeing the most traffic, and when

Blog post traffic spreadsheet

Grab a copy of this spreadsheet here >>

This is one of my favorite spreadsheets we use at Buffer and I’m excited to share it with you. The blog post traffic spreadsheet enables us to keep an eye on which pieces of content are hitting our traffic goals and it’s also really great to keep an eye on what topics are performing best, too.

4. Social media marketing baselines

Know right away which social media posts are on track and which are taking off

Social Media Baselines spreadsheet

Grab a copy of this spreadsheet here >>

How can you tell if a certain number of clicks, reshares, or reach is good?

It can be a bit of a puzzle to see your social media results in context. That’s why we’ve gone about trying to set benchmarks and baselines for our social media marketing, using the above spreadsheet as our starting point.

Simply enter your social media data into the spreadsheet (it works natively with a Buffer data export).

Then the formulas do the rest, highlighting any update that goes above and beyond your average.

5. Social media audit spreadsheet

Easily track all your social profiles in one place

Social media audit spreadsheet template

Grab a copy of this spreadsheet here >>

Performing a social media audit on a monthly basis can be a good habit. Once you get in a good flow, it might only take 15 minutes or less, and you’ll gain tons of benefits with branding, consistency, and perspective.

Here are some of the things we track in the audit spreadsheet:

  • Profiles on all social networks
  • Active / dormant
  • Posting frequency
  • Followers and growth
  • Engagement and growth

6. Moz’s One Metric

See at-a-glance which pieces of content are performing best

Moz One Metric spreadsheet

Grab a copy of this spreadsheet here >>

We’ve used the Moz One Metric spreadsheet to track the performance of our blog posts and even re-engineered it to work with social media updates.

It’s a powerfully simple way to measure performance. Here is Moz’s explanation for why they built it:

We need a way to quickly sift through the noise and figure out which pieces of content were really successful, and which didn’t go over nearly as well.

It works by weighing three different points of data and standardizing to make a single score. The data points can be anything you choose. By default, they’re:

  1. Google Analytics traffic data
  2. On-page data (comments, thumbs up)
  3. Social shares

7. Google Analytics heatmap

Find out when your readers visit your site (so you know when to publish/promote)

Google Analytics heatmap spreadsheet via Seer

Grab a copy of this spreadsheet here >>

The folks at Seer Interactive set about to recreate a Google Analytics mobile dashboard look from a desktop spreadsheet. The results are pretty nifty: You can see the times when your site receives its most organic traffic, which might help you plan when to publish new posts or promote content.

To get started, Seer published step-by-step instructions for setting up the spreadsheet with your own Google Analytics data.

8. Social media calendar

Manage and plan your social media marketing content weeks in advance

Social media calendar template

Grab a copy of this spreadsheet here >>

We were grateful to partner with HubSpot in creating the above calendar template. One of our favorite features: It includes a sheet to store your best evergreen content and updates so that you can quickly grab something to share in a pinch.

9. Social media metrics dashboard

Visualize (and share) all your social media marketing growth from one place

Social media metrics spreadsheet

Grab a copy of this spreadsheet here >>

This is the spreadsheet we use at Buffer to track the performance of our social media marketing. It allows us to chart week-over-week growth and month-over-month growth, with sheets for the snapshot overview and each month’s performance.

10. Quotes to share

Easy-to-grab, inspiring quotes to share on social media

Social media quotes

Grab a copy of this spreadsheet here >>

Some of our most highly engaged social media content is quotes. And when we’re looking for some fresh inspiration, we often turn to this spreadsheet. (Likewise, when we find some quotable inspiration, we add it to the sheet.)

These quotes work great as images also. You can build an image quote in 30 seconds or less using Pablo or other image-creation tools.

5 incredibly handy spreadsheet formulas

1. Tidy up spacing

Have you ever started working on a spreadsheet with some odd spacing going on? A few rogue spaces throughout a sheet can make it difficult to work with the data. Thankfully, there’s a nice, simple formula to help you remove unwanted spaces.

The Trim function works across both Google Sheets and Excel. To use it, simply type the following formula into the Formula Bar:

=TRIM("Your Text Here")

Here’s an example, to remove the unwanted spaces before a name in our spreadsheet. For this, we used the formula: TRIM(“Kevan Lee”)

Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 11.42.33

2. Spilt

The following formula can help you to split values within your Google Sheets spreadsheet based on any given character (or delimiter) within the cell. In the below example we used the character ” ” (space) to split first names and surnames from the values listed in Column A.


The formula you need to do this is:

=split(string, delimiter)

And in the above example, we used  “A2″ as the string and ” ” (space) as the delimiter, making our formula:

=split(A2, " ")

If you’re using Excel, this handy guide from Microsoft will help you achieve the same outcome.

3. Percentage difference between two numbers

Back at the start of Q2 2016, we set a goal to boost the traffic to our new posts by 30% in the first 30 days after publishing. To measure this, I created a spreadsheet, and in one column had the target traffic for each post with the actual traffic in another and the percantage difference between the two figures displayed in a third column. This formula helped to me see whether we hit the goal on not at a glance, and how far over or under we were.

Here’s a snippet of the spreadsheet (you can see the % difference in the green / red figures in the furthest right column):


To work out the percetage difference you need to use the following formula:
=(-1) * (Cell 1-Cell 2)/Cell 2

For example, if we have a target of 3,315 page views and achieve 4,147 page views, this forumlua will tell you that you were 25.10% over your target:


Note: Ensure the cells you’re using this formula for are formatted as percentages to ensure this one works.

4. Autosum

Autosum can be a really neat time saver in Excel. To use it, simply select an empty cell to the right or below the cells you want to sum, and type Alt + = (or Command + Shift + T on Mac). Excel will then estimate the range of cells you’re trying to combine and in one step give you the total.


Note: If Excel’s estimation is a little off, you can edit the range of cells include in the sum within the formula bar.

In Google Sheets, Autosum works a little differently. First, you need to select the range of cells you wish to add up, then click the Functions button and select the SUM option. Google Sheets will then automatically add the sum of your selected cells directly in the cell below (or to the right if you’re combining data from rows).

Here’s that workflow in action:


5. Add up the sum of cells matching certain criteria

If you wanted to discover the page views on your blog generated by posts written a certain author or count only data from users in a specifc cohort, it could take a while to figure these out manually. This is where the SUMIF function comes into play.

SUMIF allows you to add up cells that meet a certain criteria. Here’s how a SUMIF works:

=SUMIF (range, criteria, [sum_range])

  • =SUMIF: tells the formula it’ll be summing only cells that match the specified critera
  • Range: the range of cells you’re going to add up
  • Criteria: the criteria used to determine which cells to add
  • Sum Range: The cells to add together

Here’s an example showing how we can breakdown page views generated by post type on the Buffer Social blog using a SUMIF:

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 14.16.10

In order to calculate the number of page views ‘News’ posts generated we used the formula:

This formula sums the amounts in column D (range) when a value in column B (sum range) contains “News” (critera).

More on the SUMIF function:

Bonus: 9 Time-Saving Shortcuts and Tips Used by Spreadsheet Masters

1. Add borders to cells

When I work with spreadsheets, I love to use borders to help me break up the data and make a sheet easier to understand. Both Excel and Google Sheets have a button to add borders, but they also have some super-handy shortcuts:

Google Sheets: 

  • Apply top border: PC: Alt + Shift + 1 | Mac: Option + Shift + 1
  • Apply right border: PC: Alt + Shift + 2 | Mac: Option + Shift + 2
  • Apply bottom border: PC: Alt + Shift + 3 | Mac: Option + Shift + 3
  • Apply left border: PC: Alt + Shift + 4 | Mac: Option + Shift + 4
  • Remove borders: PC: Alt + Shift + 6 | Mac: Option + Shift + 6
  • Apply outer border: PC: Alt + Shift + 7 | Mac: Option + Shift + 7


PC and Mac (substitute Alt for the Option key on Mac):


2. Format numbers as currency

If you have same data you’d like to quickly turn into currency, there’s a super quick solution to help you out. This shortcut can be particularly useful when you’re working with budgets, revenues or even salaries.


To use this trick, simply highlight the cells you wish to update and press Control + Shift + 4. Thankfully, this shortcut is universal across Excel, Google Sheets, Mac and PC.

3. Format as a percentage

Much like formatting numbers as currency you can also format numbers as a percentage using a neat shortcut. To do this, simply select the cells you’d like to show as percentages and press Control + Shift + 5.

4. Copy formatting

Formatting spreadsheets to your liking can take quite some time. To help speed this process up, you can use the Paint Format button to copy and paste formatting from one bunch or cells to another.

To do this, highlight the formatting you’d like to copy, then click on the paint brush icon (on both Excel and Google Sheets) and then select the area you’d like to apply the formatting to and click the paint brush again. Your styling will now be applied to those cells.


5. Start a new line in the same cell

Adding multiple lines of text within the same cell is often a puzzle for spreadsheet users. I can’t even recall how many times I experimented and tried to figure this out before someone was gracious enough to teach me this amazingly simple keyboard command.

Here’s the answer, to add a new line of text in the same cell holding Alt + Enter on PC or Control + Option + Return on Mac, will add a new line inside a cell on both Google Sheets and Excel.


6. Insert date and time

Almost every spreadsheet will have a column for the date or time and the following shortcuts work across Excel, Google Sheets, Mac and PC:

To add the date, use Control + ;

To enter the current time, use Control + Shift +

7. Fill down / Fill right

These shortcuts allow you to quickly copy data from the cell above or the cell to the left, without having to copy and paste. In Excel, to copy a value from the cell above, use Control + D. To copy data from the cell to the left, use Control + R.

Google Sheets works a little differently here, but you can still use a shortcut to fill cells to the right and below. To do this on Google Sheets:

  • Highlight the cells you’d like to fill with the top or furthest left cell being the one you’d like to copy
  • Press Command + D

8. Show formulas

Occasionally, it can be useful to see all the formulas within your sheet, and what’s even better is being able to do this without having to manually click on each cell to see the formula behind the data. By holding Control + ‘ (on both Mac and PC and Google Sheets and Excel), you can display all formulas within your spreadsheet at once.

This shortcut is particularly useful to help ensure you’re using consistent formulas throughout your sheet.

9. Insert rows and columns

To insert a row above or column into a spreadsheet, you first need to select an entire row or column. The, on Excel, use Control + Shift and + (on Mac: Control + I) to insert a row or column (columns will be added to the right of the selected column).

On Google Sheets, the command is a little different:

Here are the shortcuts for Mac:


And on PC:



Over to you: What are your spreadsheet tips?

Thanks for reading! I hope you picked up one or two new tips and tricks for your spreadsheets here. Now, I’d love to open the floor up to you and ask for your favorite spreadsheet hacks.

What formulas do you use regularly? Any shortcuts you couldn’t be without? Feel free to leave a comment below. I’m excited to join the conversation and learn from you too.

Further reading: 

Have you ever wondered why people love eating at buffets?

It’s not because all-you-can-eat options are better for your wallet; in fact, economists have proved ordering traditional dishes is actually cheaper.

Humans crave variety. With a buffet ticket, you can try the dumplings, the salad, the spare ribs, brussels sprouts, and the pasta—and that variety makes you feel good.

This principle of variety definitely applies to social media content: It’s easier to surprise and delight your followers when you’re not always serving up the same things. By continually introducing new content types into your social media lineup, you’ll keep your audience members on their toes and engaged.

If you’re eager to explore, but not sure where to start, check out this list of seven awesome types of social media content you can be creating right now.

1. Custom GIFs

Create your own animated GIFs to boost engagement and tell a story

A great GIF is worth a thousand words. Along with driving massive engagement, GIFs help you explain difficult ideas, add some visual variety to your feed, and have some fun with your audience.

There are tons of awesome GIFs already floating around (in fact, we’ve got a stocked moodboard you’re welcome to pull from). However, creating your own guarantees you’ll have unique, eye-catching content. And good news: You can whip up a GIF in mere minutes.

A few of our favorite GIF-making tools include:

If you need inspiration, check out NASA’s Twitter. NASA’s content is already visually compelling; after all, it doesn’t get more beautiful than the solar system. However, the agency takes things to the next level by animating things like shuttle take-offs, planets in rotation, and shots from space.

NASA also makes GIFs for its recurring social features. Its monthly “What’s Up” post, which showcases the coolest things happening in the night sky, gets a custom GIF for Twitter promotion. You can check out the June version below.

What’s up in the sky this month? Saturn, plus good views of Mars, Jupiter & Jupiter’s moons:

— NASA (@NASA) June 11, 2016

InVision, a wireframing and prototyping tool, has an admirable GIF strategy as well. For every 10 blog posts the company shares on social media, one or two will have accompanying GIFs that illustrate a concept from the post. Not only are the snippets semi-mesmerizing, but they allow InVision’s followers to get value without having to click on the link.

(Here’s a complete tutorial of exactly how Invision makes its GIFs, using a combination of ScreenFlow and Photoshop.)

“The details are what separate the good UX designers from the great.” by @realjoet

— InVision (@InVisionApp) June 15, 2016

Finally, GIFs are a handy way to quickly educate your followers. Take a look at Trello‘s tweet (explaining its email-to-board option) to see this idea in action.

Did you know you can send emails directly to Trello boards? We’ll show you how:

— Trello (@trello) June 16, 2016

To take things to the next level …

Make cinemagraphs.

A cinemagraph has the same file format as a GIF; however, rather than a series of images playing in a loop, it’s a static image with movement in one part of the frame. Cinemagraphs are, as designer Jason Winter puts it, “scroll-stoppers.” 

They’re also really effective: this one from Coke got 80,000 notes on Tumblr in 14 days.


These types of GIFs require a bit more Photoshop skill to create; here’s a good guide on getting started.

2. Snapchat Stories

Use captions, filters, stickers to build stories that stand out

Snapchat’s stratospheric engagement stats (to the tune of 100 million users spending a half hour on the platform per day) make it compelling for any brand.

Nonetheless, many companies still aren’t biting—err, snapping. According to research firm L2, only 40% of B2C businesses have accounts, compared to 93% for Instagram. Even fewer B2B companies are on Snapchat.

It’s normal to feel a little intimidated by the app’s unfiltered format, yet that authenticity and spontaneity actually make Snapchat a prime marketing opportunity. You can invite your audience into your world and even get a peek into theirs.

To see how a brand (and a B2B one, no less) can fully optimize this platform, follow DocuSign (@docusigninc). Every week, the company posts a literal story, usually riffing on a well-known children’s book or movie. A couple weeks ago, for example, Mary Poppins discovered the magic of electronic signatures. The week after that, the Lorax learned how DocuSign can save trees.

The stories are a blend of drawings, emojis, and captions. Not only are they creative, but they feel totally unlike any other promotional materials out there.


Shopify (@shopify) uses all sorts of creative Snapchat features to make their stories stand out. The snap below uses captions, filters, and stickers in a unique and eye-catching way.

snapchat story


The Shopify team was generous to write about some of their best Snapchat tips. Their list includes:

  • Creating title cards for longer Snapchat stories
  • Doing Snapchat takeovers with celebrities or partners
  • Using shortened URLs for links
  • Adding music over your snaps

Anthropologie (@anthropologie) is a strong example of a company doing Snapchat well in the B2C sphere. The brand mostly uses Snapchat to provide behind-the-scenes access to its photoshoots, future products, and employee life. Plus, Snapchat just launched shoppable snaps—now it’s even easier for consumers to buy the products they see featured.

Check out our post on everything you need to know about Snapchat, and of course, follow us at buffersnaps!

To take things to the next level …

Create on-demand geo-filters.

Whenever I’m in a new place, I love taking Snapchat photos and adding a custom geo-filter so people can see where I am.

And I’m definitely not the only user who loves using these location-based overlays. As Brian shares in his handy guide to on-demand geo-filters, you can generate tens of thousands of impressions for under $50.

Here’s an example of some that Gary Vaynerchuck has created:

snapchat geofilters

This feature is still only a couple months old—so if you get in on the action now, you’ll have a major competitive advantage.

3. User-Generated Content (UGC)

Drive engagement with outstanding content from others (works great on Instagram!)

Okay, so technically your users are the ones creating the content. But you’ll still need to collect, curate, optimize, and publish what they’ve produced.

Even though it might be easier to, say, upload your own photo to Instagram rather than finding one from a customer, UGC has some incredible and unique benefits.

  1. You make your customers the heroes of your story—exactly as it should be.
  2. You can give your posts some (usually much-needed) variety.
  3. You’ll help your followers trust you: research shows millennials trust user-generated content 50% more than other media.

Starbucks definitely uses UGC to rack up loyalty points with its followers. Roughly one-third of its Instagram photos are regrams from other accounts, which lets Starbucks show how different people are enjoying its drinks around the world.

Some of the corporation’s most-favorited posts come from users. Even better, people are motivated to upload shots of their orders to Instagram, in the hopes they’ll be shared.

Instagram Photo

Using the same strategy, the Buffer Instagram account shares user-generated content once or twice every week, averaging nearly 200 likes and comments on each photo (at the upper-end of the benchmark for Buffer Instagram engagement).

And getting started was quite smooth: Reach out to community members 1:1 whenever you spot a great image, mention the users when you share the post, repeat. You may even notice users sending content your way all on their own!

Some weeks, the UGC content can be 50 percent of what’s posted to Buffer Instagram:

User generated content on Instagram

To take things to the next level …

Run social media contests.

Waiting for your users to spontaneously upload photos is fine—but with a contest, you can capture a ton of content in a short time frame. Even better, contests are fun for everyone involved: the participants, your audience, and of course, the winner.

National Geographic and, for example, partnered on a fantastic UGC contest to promote travel to Switzerland. To enter, people posted their favorite shots of the country to Instagram with the hashtag #LoveSwitzerlandContest. The winner received a 10-day National Geographic Expedition to Switzerland.

Love Switzerland

The contest was a big success, generating almost 9,400 posts. Plus, 70% of the visitors to the contest hub page clicked the CTA for more trips.

4. Infographics

Pictures + text = 25% better comprehension

If you count early cave paintings as infographics, then humans have been making and consuming this type of content for the past 32,000 years. And for good reason: adding pictures to text makes your message 25% more comprehensible, not to mention far more engaging and persuasive.

There’s an infographic—or five—for every topic you can think of. But the ones that get the most mileage tie back to their brand’s product or space. Real estate app Movoto, for example, created this infographic pairing famous cities with their font personalities.

It’s humorous and unexpected, which shows you Movoto isn’t your typical real estate company.

What Font Is Your City?

If the thought of building your own infographic seems like a bit much, there are some neat tools that can help make the process easier, particularly for non-designers.

To take things to the next level …

Make your infographics come to life.

Animated infographics (a.k.a. gifographics) have been around for a couple years, but they’re still relatively rare—which means they’re a fantastic option if you want your content to stand out.

Neil Patel was one of the early adopters of gifographics. His primer on Google proves the attention-grabbing power of animation.

How Google Works

5. Concept Visualizations

Self-explanatory visuals, charts, and graphs spread far

Infographics are one of the most powerful tools in a marketer’s kit. But designing a great one is hard work; plus, you need enough data to tell a story.

Here’s where concept visualizations come in. Because visualizations typically illustrate a single idea—rather than multiple stats and facts—they’re much smaller and more digestible than infographics. And they’re also quicker to create, meaning you could potentially pump one or two out for every blog post.

Here’s an example from Wistia:

The longer a viewer sticks around, the more likely they are to be a strong lead:

— WISTIA (@wistia) June 15, 2016

As you can see, the team took an interesting concept from one of their blog posts and turned it into a simple graph. Then, they used it to promote the post.

Having an embedded graphic that’s useful on its own makes Wistia’s tweet highly shareable. In addition, it really drives home why time-on-site is an important metric.

Along similar lines, data visualization app Visme produced the chart below to go along with a job search article.


This chart is both interesting and easy to read. Note that Visme got the data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics—even if your company doesn’t have unique data, you can always visualize information from another source (just remember to give them credit!).

If you want more inspiration, head on over to Information Is Beautiful or Flowing Data.

And when it comes to creating these visualizations yourself, one of the fastest ways is with a simple Google Sheets chart. You can enter the data into a spreadsheet, build whatever style chart feels best, and take a quick screenshot of the result:

medium reads chart

To take things to the next level …

Use your own data.

While this move can stretch out the creation process a bit, it gives you the opportunity to position yourself as a thought leader.

You can visualize data you already possess; for instance, Boomerang analyzed more than 40 million emails its users had sent to find out the optimal message length, then turned the results into a cool graphic:

Boomerang Email Length

Alternatively, get data from a survey. SurveyMonkey, Wufoo, or Twitter polls are all solid options for gathering audience insights.

The final option? Conduct your own research. This New York Times visualization is an excellent example: it uses simple photography and copy to show the impact each piece of produce has on California’s drought crisis.

NYT Drought

6. Shareable Quotes

Easy to curate and create; just as much (or more) engagement

There’s something about a great quote that sticks in your mind for days, weeks, months, or even years. As marketers, we have the opportunity to share the best ones with our audience—and simultaneously inspire them and boost our brand.

Teachable, a platform for creating online courses, has made quotes a cornerstone of its social media strategy.

When you look at its six most recent Instagram posts, half are quotes. These visuals get just as much (and often more) engagement than the traditional images.

Teachable Instagram

General Assembly has its own quote strategy. Like Teachable, GA uses a specific hashtag for its quote visuals. It also uses a consistent format and style to make sure its followers link the inspiration to the source.

Instagram Photo

If you don’t want to design your own template, take advantage of Buffer’s Pablo image creator. You can pick out the perfect background photo and add your text in a minute or less; plus, you can download different sizes for the various networks.

To take things to the next level …

Combine concept visualizations and quotes. Once you’ve started making both separately, it’s only a short step to putting them together.

This example from demonstrates how cool the results can be. The quotes and the pie charts play off of each other quite nicely, each providing separate but related information. The juxtaposition of text and charts is also well-done.

Quote Concept Visualization

7. Facebook Live

Live videos are watched 3x longer and shown more in News Feed

Facebook’s live video streaming service is still in its infancy, but it’s already one of the top ways to form real connections with your audience. Live is informal—and by definition, unscripted—which means viewers feel like they’re getting a more intimate experience. You can see the effect on engagement: according to Facebook, people spend 3x longer on real-time video.

Facebook has even decided to push up Live videos in user News Feeds. That means when you’re broadcasting, you’ll get an organic traffic boost.

Benefit Cosmetics is taking full advantage of this new medium. Every Thursday, the brand live-streams an episode of “Tipsy Tricks with Benefit!” The hosts sip on wine, exchange playful banter, and answer beauty questions from their audience. The last installment received 29,000 views, 655 reactions, and 100-plus comments.

To take things to the next level …

Create multi-channel live campaigns.

Facebook Live is great, but it’s not the only live-streaming platform in town—to maximize your live content, distribute it across multiple apps.

For instance, Land Rover and The Brooks Brothers have joined forces on #LiveTestDrive, a Periscope and Facebook Live campaign. Every Friday, the team puts the car through its paces in on-road and off-road environments. Viewers get an up-close-and-personal look at how the Land Rover drives; plus, they can participate in live Q&As by using the hashtag #LiveTestDrive.

Since Facebook and Twitter have different demographics, broadcasting on both extends the campaign’s reach.

Over to you

Exploring new types of content can be challenging—but also really fun (especially when it pays off).

What do you think of these seven ideas? And which content types would you add to the list?

It’d be great to hear your ideas in the comments!

Image sources: Pablo, WOCinTech

A few months ago, Leo and I decided that we really wanted to step up our Medium game to truly understand how the platform worked and how we can provide the best value to our audience there. Truthfully, I was pretty clueless to begin with, and logging into the Buffer account was likely my second time on Medium but I was super excited to take on the challenge and learn everything I could.

Everything was started from scratch, with researching, creating spreadsheets, and experimenting at a rapid rate. I spent my time studying other brands on Medium and looking for posts that detailed what strategies and tactics worked for getting more traction.

The start of every day for me was Medium, I would import a story from the Buffer blog and edit it before publishing and then spending some time updating all of the tracking spreadsheets with the latest numbers, hoping for an indicator of what was working and what content should be posted tomorrow.

What follows are the 10 biggest experiments and how each one went. I hope it gives you some inspiration and ideas for what you might try next on Medium!

Our Best Medium Marketing Tips: Here’s Everything We Tried

I’ll go into great detail further on in the post about each of these strategies. Off the top, here’s a quick list of what we tried, what worked, and what didn’t.

Our top three Medium strategies were:

  1. Repost older, evergreen content
  2. Send Medium letters
  3. Experiment biweekly

These three strategies felt like positive changes, though we weren’t able to tie them to a direct impact on reads, views, or followers:

  1. Tie a custom domain to your Medium publication
  2. Design your Medium publication’s layout for maximum impact
  3. Experiment with finding the best publication title

And this list of strategies didn’t perform the way we were expecting:

  1. Posting on weekends
  2. Sharing to Buffer’s main social media accounts
  3. Writing thoughtful responses to other articles
  4. Publishing content from an individual person, rather than a brand/business

I’d love to share more on each of these. First off, here are the Medium marketing strategies that led the biggest results for us.

1. Repost olderevergreen content from your blog archives

Result: A 1,000% increase in views!

With our initial Medium strategy last fall, we focused on republishing our latest articles onto Medium, like many other companies and brands. We would wait about two weeks after the original piece was published on our Buffer blog, then republish it to our Medium publication.

And it worked okay — we didn’t quite see hypergrowth, though we were able to build a solid foundation of followers and reads.

What might’ve held us back?

One theory was that we were hitting the same people twice with the same content. Since a lot of Medium followers are usually similar to Twitter followers, it’s possible that two weeks after the blog post has been published, people had already read it on the Buffer blog or seen it promoted a few times on our Twitter account.

We switched to republishing Buffer pieces from a few years ago — articles that our Twitter audience had potentially never read or at least not read in a little while —  hoping the audience was more likely to read it.

And this is what happened:


That big spike in the chart above shows our views jumping from 528 one day, to 12,226 two days later — a 1,215% increase!

The only thing I changed was posting older, evergreen content. I didn’t change the day of the week or the frequency, just the content. And we were amazed at the results!

How can you implement this?

We’re lucky at Buffer to have been writing lots of high-quality content for a few years now, so it’s easy to dig back into the archives and pull out old popular pieces. If you also have older, evergreen content you can get from your archives, that’s perfect!

To find this content, you can:

  1. Dive deep into the pagination of your blog and look for evergreen content. For most WordPress blogs, you can navigate to a specific page by entering a URL like
  2. Filter your Google Analytics results to show your top posts from a year ago. Go to Behavior > Site Content and change your date filter to see a full year (for instance, July 2014 to July 2015). Here’s a look at ours:

google analytics results

If you’re republishing from a newer blog, I think part of the lesson here is that people might not want the same content from your blog on Medium again so soon, especially if they are already reading your blog and following you on Twitter.

One idea could be to try publishing different content on Medium than on your blog, at least for the first little while, to make sure you’re not hitting your audience with the same content so regularly.

2. Send Medium letters to your followers

Result: A 3x increase in views

I remember the day I figured out you could send newsletter-style emails to all of your publication readers, I was so excited to see what would happen when I pushed the magical button that put the post I wrote into everyone’s inbox.

The results? Hmm, not very many people read my first ever Medium letter.


And yet, the conversion rate of those that did open and read it was awesome at 83%:


So while it wasn’t a terribly large spike in reads or recommends to either the letter or the post I was promoting, it was an intriguing start, and it definitely showed enough value for us to try it again.

Here’s what happened when I sent my second Medium letter:


We say our daily views triple on the day we sent the letter and quintuple (5x!) the day after.

A couple of things I changed from Letter No. 1 to Letter No. 2:

  • Added a lot more visuals
  • Included links to more than one post
  • Added a personal touch with my name

And then my third letter kept the momentum going: Another spike in traffic on the day that we sent it.
Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 7.26.57 AM

Sending regular Medium letters is a powerful strategy for us. Like any newsletter, it’s best to be consistent to keep your audience engaged, and seeing these results from our early experiments with letters has encouraged us to make letters a weekly habit for our Medium strategy.

How can you implement this?

If you’re thinking of sending a Medium letter, these are the letter themes we’ve tried out so far

  1. Changes to our Medium publication and trending articles (did really well)
  2. Top articles to read
  3. Publishing a new post (did not go so well)

I’m going to keep sending roundup-style posts via Medium letters to give readers a couple of post options and see what they’re most interested in.

Some people have regular newsletters that express opinions or share updates that readers can only get by email. You can get very creative with Letters as well, check out this beautiful example by Bright:


To send a Medium letter:

  1. Visit your Medium publication
  2. Click the Manage button at the top
  3. Choose “Letters” from the drop-down list
  4. Start writing, and hit Send when you’re done!

3. Run weekly or biweekly experiments (here’s a list to get you started)

Results: 10% monthly growth in reads

medium reads chart

When I first got started with growth experiments, Leo sent me this talk called “Growth Machine” by Brian Balfour that models a lot of how we look at marketing experiments at Buffer.

Based on this framework, I ran one Medium experiment every two weeks and tracked all of my stats in a spreadsheet.

Here’s a list of the 15 growth experiments and hypotheses I used. You’re totally welcome to steal to get yourself started to see what works for you on Medium.

  1. If we post to Medium on Saturday and Sunday, then we will rise to the top of the recommends list more quickly because there are less posts to compete with (less people post on weekends).
  2. If we post to only publications with more followers than us, then our posts will get more reads and recommends due to the larger reach (top 11 publications on Medium here).
  3. If we put a CTA in the post asking readers to recommend our post, we’ll get additional recommends because we’ve asked for them.
  4. If we ask our CEO to tweet our Medium articles, we’ll get increased reads because he reaches a large audience.
  5. If we ask the whole team to recommend our Medium posts right after they go live, we’ll get more reads and recommends because we’ll be featured more prominently on the Medium front page.
  6. If we promote our Medium posts across our social media channels, we’ll get additional reads because the Buffer social channels reach a wider audience than the Medium channel.
  7. If we send out Medium subscribers a newsletter to let them know we have new posts, we’ll get increased reads and recommends because we’re taking subscribers directly to our posts.
  8. If we post evergreen content from the blog that hasn’t been on Medium before, we’ll get more reads from people who follow the blog and are already caught up there, so we’ll get reads from a different audience because it’s varied content.
  9. If we post only pieces that are a 7 minute read, we’ll get increased reads and recommends, because that’s one of the optimal lengths for Medium.
  10. If we post only articles that touch on self-improvement, we’ll get increased reads and recommends, because that’s what a lot of the most popular content is on Medium.
  11. If we go back to posting three times a week, we’ll increase reads and recommends, because the lifespan for content on Medium is quite long.
  12. If we post a piece about Medium to our blog, we’ll increase followers, because of the link back.
  13. If we write really thoughtful responses to top performing articles, we’ll increase followers because we’ll show right at the bottom of these high-performing stories.
  14. If we post new stories from the author (rather than from our brand), we’ll increase reads and followers because Medium shares author stories with the authors’ followings and we’ve observed other publications getting good results from sharing content written by a person (rather than a brand).
  15. If we mix up our posting and post to both our own publication, as well as publications with a different audience, we’ll get more reads because we’re posting more often and reaching more people.

How can you implement this?

Everything that works for us might not necessarily work for you. I think the first two tips I’ve shared above (evergreen content, Medium letters) are absolutely actionable for everyone, but it’s essential to find out what your audience wants.

Every audience is likely to be slightly different. We wouldn’t have found out what doesn’t work until we tried it. Some of the things that didn’t work for us (listed further below) might work for you.

If you’re interested in implementing some of the experiments here, the best thing to do is go for it! Here’s a sample spreadsheet to get you started and make it easy to track results.

And if you’re looking for more inspiration, these posts have been helpful as we got started with the brainstorming process:

Which experiments didn’t quite work out for us?

1. Posting on weekends

Here’s the hypothesis I thought up: If we post to Medium on Saturday and Sunday, then we will rise to the top of the recommends list more quickly because there are fewer posts to compete with (less people post on weekends).

For us, our posts on average had far fewer reads and recommends on weekends — presumably because people aren’t on Medium on weekends! So we went back to weekdays only.

2. Sharing Medium articles on Buffer’s Twitter account

The initial hypothesis was that if we promote our Buffer medium posts across Buffer social media channels, we’ll get additional reads because the Buffer social channels reach a wider audience than the Medium channel. 

Yet these posts ended up having less reads than the ones we didn’t promote at all. Sharing on Buffer’s social profiles didn’t seem to have much of an impact on the posts themselves. What I’m thinking here is that a lot of our Twitter followers were potentially our Medium followers and had already seen the post, or were most interested in recent content (since these were still evergreen pieces.)

3. Write really thoughtful responses to trending articles

This one is based on a common content marketing practice, whereby you comment on top pieces to get noticed. Here’s what our results looked like:


In theory, we should show up right at the bottom of these top-performing posts on Medium to gain some traction there. It looks like though, the only way that your response is easily seen is

  1. If the person reading the article already follows you; and
  2. If the author recommends your response.

I’ve read a few posts about Medium being unhappy about people leaving too many responses that feel like comments. While mine were all pretty lengthy and I put a lot of thought in them, they still weren’t their own stories so I felt this might not be the best strategy given Medium’s changes.

4. Sharing articles from the original author

This is one we’ve seen lots of other successful brands on Medium do. The brands specifically post from the original authors (like the image below) instead of posting from “Buffer”.

original author posting

Other than the aesthetic part of this, our theory was that when we do this, the posts will get a larger reach because the author’s followers will also see the content.

We tried this with three posts, and here were the results:


(One thing to note is that within your publication you don’t directly have access to the stats for these authors , you have to ask them to share the stats with you.) 

These posts were very social media focused, which usually does pretty well with our audience. On average, these posts had about 64 reads whereas the average for all of June was 292, so these posts performed 78% less well than the other posts from that month.

Quick Wins To Get Your Publication Looking Sharp

When I first took over our Buffer Medium publication, I made a couple of tweaks to start pulling things together, while I’m not sure if they directly led to any increased following or reads, these simple tricks can help make your publication look like the real deal:

1. Get a custom Medium URL 

We migrated from a longer URL to, which felt a lot more clean.

Medium makes this whole process really simple. To start, kick off a ticket requesting to set up a custom Medium domain. After that, there’s a bit of technical know-how required to get everything set up properly (we grabbed an engineer to help with the A records, CNAME, and DNS).

2. Change up the design

I hadn’t realized how flexible and beautiful the Medium design really is!

There is tons you can do there. Here are a few things we changed up:

We added a larger, centered logo and larger publication title right at the top of the publication. We also added tags to our homepage to make navigation easier.


The tags were totally inspired by Slack’s beautiful Medium account:


We also changed up the articles so that they would appear as images in big blocks.


No need to do exactly as we did here, Medium offers a ton of flexibility for you to organize and showcase your posts in a way that looks great for you. Moving things around to see what kinds of design tweaks feel best for your publication can go a long way.

3. Play around with the publication title 

In efforts to get more creative and unique on Medium, we went from Social Media Tips → The Queue → Stories by Buffer. 

I love Slack’s Several People are Typing, and Basecamp’s Signal v. Noise

Over To You

Are you on Medium? If so I’d love to know any of the Marketing tactics you’re using! What’s working and what have you learned? 😄

Excited to hear from you in the comments.

Image sources: Unsplash, Pablo

If you’re anything like me, there are only a handful of things more exciting for a social media marketer than when a Tweet “goes viral.”

Tina Fey sums up the feeling nicely:

Tina Fey excited, viral tweet, successful tweets

And so I set about with the audacious goal for this post of trying to unravel the great social media mystery of virality: Figuring out the formula for Twitter’s most successful tweets.

Better yet, I hoped to determine the formula for Buffer’s most successful tweets so that I could repeat the process and share what I’ve learned with marketers everywhere.

Now that info would make for a great tweet!

I didn’t quite find the holy grail for tweeting, though I did discover several elements that lead to successful tweets. I’d love to share all my findings with you and how you can replicate their success by understanding the psychology behind why they work.

The 10 best Buffer tweets top tweets for your brand and others

To gather the data for this article, I used MyTopTweet to pull together Buffer’s 10 most successful tweets and attempted to create a best-practices guide on why our top tweets worked and how marketers can repeat our success.

First, I’d love to run through the key elements of each tweet and then I’ll go into a bit more detail about each element and how you can utilize them in your own Twitter strategy.

After looking at the different types of Buffer tweets and also researching a variety of tweets from top brands, I found that there is no magic formula for virality, but there are elements to successful tweets. In other words, recurring themes continually appeared in many of the tweets that I studied.

Here are the top 10 Buffer tweets and the elements that made them great:


— Buffer (@buffer) January 15, 2014

Key Tweet elements

  • Self-explanatory image
  • “Ah-ha” moment
  • Relatable and insightful topic
  • “Wow” factor


In celebration of 500K followers on Twitter, we’re giving away a Buffer Water Bottle! Retweet this to enter! 🎉😄❤️

— Buffer (@buffer) March 14, 2016

Key Tweet elements

  • Giveaway promotion with a branded prize
  • Easy-to-follow CTA
  • Self-explanatory image
  • Asking for engagement


— Buffer (@buffer) November 2, 2015

Key Tweet elements

  • Giveaway promotion with a branded prize
  • Easy-to-follow CTA
  • Self-explanatory image
  • Asking for engagement


— Buffer (@buffer) May 23, 2016

Key Tweet elements

  • Relatable and insightful topic
  • Curated content
  • Self-explanatory image


— Buffer (@buffer) July 23, 2014

Key Tweet elements

  • Self-explanatory image
  • “Wow” factor
  • Relatable and insightful content


— Buffer (@buffer) June 18, 2016

Key Tweet elements

  • “Wow” factor
  • Self-explanatory image
  • Curated content


— Buffer (@buffer) May 16, 2016

Key Tweet elements

  • Timely, trending news
  • “Wow” factor
  • Curated content


— Buffer (@buffer) August 9, 2014

Key Tweet elements

  • Relatable and insightful content
  • Curated content
  • Self-explanatory image
  • “Aha” moment


— Buffer (@buffer) September 7, 2014

Key Tweet elements

  • Self-explanatory image
  • “Wow” factor
  • Relatable and insightful content


— Buffer (@buffer) May 4, 2016

Key Tweet elements

  • Self-explanatory image
  • Curated content
  • Timely, trending news

Let’s dive in to each individual element a bit further so that we may be able to get closer and closer to a successful tweet formula.

Did you notice any trends throughout that were different than what we’ve identified? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!

6 Key Psychological Elements in the Most Successful Tweets

Analyzing our most successful tweets was a great exercise because it reminded me that many times great Twitter marketing is all about the basics.

I often get caught up in over-thinking the exact wording of a tweet, what image to use, or how many hashtags are appropriate, and I forget to put our audience first.

If there’s one thing that marketers can take away from all of this is that audiences are looking for value in what they choose to share on Twitter. That can be anything from educational value to humorous value to good ol’ plain fun.

Like this Tweet from Ellen DeGeneres, the most popular tweet of all time:

— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) March 3, 2014

1. Use self-explanatory images so your message is easily understood

Using imagery to communicate messages and stories dates back to 35,000 B.C. when our pre-historic ancestors were drawing pictures on cave walls. We’ve been communicating with visuals 10x longer than we have with words.

Visual communication is wired into our DNA, as this infographic from Mammoth shows:

Visual History of Learning, Successful Tweet, Tweeting, Twitter

When it comes to successful tweets, a picture is worth 140 characters in quickly capturing the attention of your audience.

For that matter, you can get even more mileage with a picture that tells a complete story.

That’s where self-explanatory images enter. These are images that can stand on their own to completely explain a concept or idea, without the person needing to read any additional text.

explanatory vs abstract

For self-explanatory images, users don’t have to click any links, read any captions, or visit another Twitter page to digest the information in the Tweet. This is one of the reasons that made it highly shareable. People respond well to the passing and sharing of information with no barriers.

Many times a quality stock photo will suffice (as those often tell a story as well), but other times images that include data, facts, quotes, etc. help to drive home the message in a much quicker and effective way.

Try asking these three questions:

  1. Would this image make sense with no caption at all?
  2. Does this image contain relevant or insightful content?
  3. Would I share this content myself on Twitter?

If the answer to at least 2 of the 3 questions is yes, you’re in a great place.

2. Choose a relatable and insightful topic that your audience will naturally share

No matter how good your images may be, if the topic isn’t something that people want to share then it’s going to be a tough sell for your audience.

But your audience wants to like it and they want to share it with their friends.

There’s only one catch … They have so much content to choose from.

This eye-opening study from Excelacom shows just how much online content there really is. To give you an idea, here’s how much content is produced on social media every single minute:

What Happens in a Social Media Minute

So how, in all of this content, do you produce successful tweets on a consistent basis?

You get inside your audience’s head. You make your content so compelling and so unique that they want to be the first to share it among their friends and family.

There are several key psychological reasons behind why people share great content, but let’s explore two of the most important reasons so that you can experiment in your next campaign. 

1. People share to entertain friends and family

According to a 2016 study from Fractl, the number one reason people share content on social media is to entertain. Of the 2,000 people that were surveyed, an overwhelming 43% of people share content that they “think their friends will find entertaining.” 

Sharing content that aims to entertain serves two key purposes.

  1. It helps people to build and nurture relationships with those that are close to us
  2. It helps people to connect with those they may not otherwise stay in touch with

Creating content with the ultimate goal of entertainment can be an extremely powerful lever in your social media strategy.

2. People share to express personal feelings or beliefs

We’ve all been here.

We see something that we like or that we personally believe in and feel compelled to share. Though most of us don’t end up sharing anything at all, an incredible study back in 1966 by the Harvard Business Review found that 64% of sharing is about the sharer themselves. 

We share content that helps to define who we are.

Supporting a cause, getting involved, and defining ourselves are all behaviors in expressing personal feelings or beliefs and are important to consider when creating content for social media. 

3. Piggyback on timely or trending news (that is already on people’s minds)

Publishing timely or trending news is something we’ve been experimenting with a lot here at Buffer in the last few months. We’ve experimented with writing about trending stories like F8, Snapchat 2.0, and Instagram Business Tools along with a handful of other timely topics.  

Three out of 10 of our most successful tweets are tweets in which we leveraged trending news. 

Being the “first to the scene” works extremely well in terms of traffic and shares when we seem to have found the perfect angle on the topic. If you’re able to find that angle it is much more likely to get shared by your audience on social media. 

Usability with trending news and updates can be a key factor in sharing.

Trending news on social media

Remember that the goal is to create content that people believe will entertain their friends or content that fits within their belief system. That’s a bit tougher to do when writing about a timely or trending topic because several other publishers are talking about the same thing. 

And so the key is to find a unique angle that no other brand or publisher is talking about. 

Here are some examples of angles that we took on trending stories using compelling headlines to help us stand out from the crowd.

F8 Conference

  • The Verge: “F8 conference 2016: the biggest news from Facebook’s developer event”
  • Buffer: “F8 Update: 10 New Facebook Features Every Marketer Should Know”

Snapchat Geofilters

  • MarketingLand: “Up close: How the new Snapchat On-Demand Geofilters work”
  • Buffer: “Everything You Need to Know About Snapchat Geofilters (And How to Build Your Own)”

It’s important to point out that all of these headlines worked well in terms of shares and so there’s no “right or wrong” here. However, ours performed alongside top publishers because of the added value we provided.

4. Run social media giveaways because people love free things

Turns out that, when faced with several choices, we gravitate towards the item that is free, regardless of its economic value.

In Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, Duke professor Dan Ariely writes:

Most transactions have an upside and a downside, but when something is FREE! we forget the downside. FREE! gives us such an emotional charge that we perceive what is being offered as immensely more valuable than it really is.

And so when looking at our 10 most successful tweets, it’s no surprise that No. 2 and No. 3 were giveaways on Twitter. Giveaways offer brands an inexpensive way to drive shares on social media while also giving back to a loyal community.

Before starting a Twitter giveaway, consider what you would like to achieve with your promotion. Is it more traffic to your website? More followers to your Twitter account? Or is it simply an opportunity to give back?

Prismologie Twitter Giveaway

Social Media Examiner has an awesome 4-step checklist for running successful Twitter contests, which we’ve used several times to guide our strategy. Overall, remember these common elements before starting yours:

  • Schedule contest teaser tweets in advance to build interest.
  • Include an image or visual to attract attention and increase engagement.
  • Choose a single, clear call to action for best results.
  • Post clear terms and conditions.
  • Announce the winners and thank everyone for taking the time to enter when the contest ends.

5. Add a “Wow” factor to stimulate the brain

There are only a few things that get people to share quicker than lighting up their brain with instant stimulation. When people see something that is particularly incredible or shocking, their brain immediately thinks “share.”

Just like you as marketers can create a “wow factor” with audiences through excellent customer service, you can create that same “wow factor” with information and content.

When’s the last time you were scrolling through your feed on Twitter and saw something that made you stop in your tracks?

That is the sort of content you can aim to create or curate in your most successful tweets. 

One surefire way to deliver the “wow factor” to your audience is through statistics and data which is both visual and interesting. Take these two graphics for example that each garnered more than 300 shares on Twitter:

Active Users by Social Platform (4)

Startup Marketing, Marketing Channels, startups, marketing

Each one took about 20-30 minutes to create but paid huge dividends in terms of social media ROI.

Always be on the lookout for areas in which you can uncover interesting or useful data and turn it into social media content.

6. Curate content

A whopping 6/10 of our most successful tweets are made up of curated content.

Which begs the question: why? 

There are two key factors at play here which I think make a huge difference in the shareability of a brand’s content.

  1. It’s a huge challenge to create amazing content on a consistent basis.

    Curating content allows marketers to take the best content from around the web and use it to develop their brand as an industry thought leader while building relationships with the original publisher.

    Over time your audience will begin to go to you for quality information about industry news and insights.

  2. The psychological principle of Mere Exposure Theory.

    This principle states that, “the more we are exposed to something, the more we like it.”

    The more quality content that you are able to produce on social media the better. Curating quality content will not only increase your exposure to new audiences, but it will increase your frequency of success.

Content Curation Importance

In a study conducted by Content Marketing Institute, 77% of the participants said they would curate more content in 2016 than they did in 2015 – signaling the fact that brands are seeing results from content curation.

Over to you! 

What psychological elements make up your most successful Tweets? 

Are you seeing success with giveaways? How about curated content?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments about your secret Twitter sauce and how you’ve found success in the past.

Across the globe, there are over 500 million Instagrammers — more than 300 million of whom use Instagram every single day, sharing an average of 95 million photos and videos per day.

Those are huge numbers. And no matter who your audience is — age, gender, occupation, anything — you’ll be sure to reach them through Instagram. So the question becomes …

Where do you get started with Instagram?

How can you stand out among the other 95 million photos posted each day? How can non-designers and amateur photographers create beautiful content for Instagram?

These are all questions we’d love to help you answer in this guide.


We recently launched one of our biggest product enhancements, Buffer for Instagram, to help you plan, track and amplify your Instagram marketing.



The Complete Guide to Instagram for Business

Everything you need to know to create a killer Instagram marketing strategy for your business. 



Why Instagram?

Keys to a successful profile

How to create a content strategy

The 7 elements of high-performing Instagram content

How to increase growth and engagement

How to measure results


First things first: Why use Instagram for business?


Boasting over 300 million daily active users, Instagram has huge potential for marketers. But the potential in Instagram lies more in the user behavior than the numbers.

Instagrammers like to connect with brands.

Research shows that brands enjoy a number of distinct benefits and advantages on the network:

  • Instagram, brands enjoy regular engagement with 4 percent of their total followers. On networks like Facebook and Twitter, engagement is less than 0.1 percent. (source: Forrester)
  • 70% of Instagram users report having looked up a brand on the platform (source: Iconosquare)
  • 62% of users follow a brand on Instagram (source: Iconosquare)
  • Only 36 percent of marketers use Instagram, compared to 93% of marketers who use Facebook (source: Selfstartr)

Social media has been proven to influence purchase decisions. And if you can find the right mix of content, your audience will soak it up – and even buy from you – without the need for a hard push or sales pitch. It’s the marketers dream.


Still need convincing? Let’s take a look at what marketers have to say about the platform.

What marketers are saying about Instagram

The numbers and research above all sound great, but what are marketers  – the people who use Instagram to drive business results – actually saying about the platform? Here’s what marketers from brand like Birchbox, and Ben & Jerry’s have to say about the platform:


Mike Hayes, Digital Marketing Manager of Ben & Jerry’s“Since its launch, Instagram has provided us with an amazing platform to connect with our fans and tell our story visually.” 

Jessica Lauria, Director of Brand Communications Chobani: “Instagram is a great platform for Chobani. It allows us to show how people actually use our product and inspires new ways to savor.”

Rachel Jo Silver, Director, Social Marketing & Content Strategy, Birchbox: “Instagram has been an incredibly effective engagement-driver among our current customers.”

The formula for Instagram success

Success for businesses on Instagram relies on more than simply publishing a few nice-looking images. You need to also have these elements:

  • Clear vision and strategy
  • Consistent frequency
  • Familiarity with your audience
  • Clear visual style

When you combine together these ingredients, Instagram can deliver huge results for your business.

Take Madewell, for example. The fashion brand has amassed a hugely engaged audience on Instagram (over 700,000 followers and 7,000 to 10,000 likes per post). The platform has become a key marketing channel for them, enabling them to connect with thousands of potential customers on a daily basis.


So, how do Madewell and other successful brands stand out on Instagram? We put together this guide to help you craft your own Instagram marketing strategy that’s based on a clear vision and results that you can measure.

How to Create an Instagram Marketing Strategy


Why are you on Instagram? Choose 1-to-2 main goals

Whether you’re completely new to Instagram and preparing to share your first post or are already established and looking to boost your presence on the platform, it’s important to start with clear goals in mind.

Setting goals will help you to define your strategy on Instagram and create content that will help you to achieve your targets.

Here are some common ones that brands, teams, and individuals tend to choose:

  1. Showcase your products or services
  2. Build your community
  3. Increase awareness of your brand
  4. Showcase your company culture and values
  5. Advertise to potential customers
  6. Increase brand loyalty
  7. Share company news and updates

It’s best to choose one or two goals for your Instagram profile, either from the above list or a custom goal of your choosing. To help decide which goals make sense for you, it can be good to consider the following questions:

  • Why are you using Instagram?
  • How can Instagram assist you in achieving your overall marketing goals?
  • How much time or budget can you commit to Instagram?
  • How does Instagram offer you something different to other platforms?

Here at Buffer we have two main goals for our Instagram marketing strategy.

Our top goal is to build and nurture an engaged community of Buffer users and supporters.

To ensure we reach that goal we have a set target of reaching out to and featuring the work of four-to-six Buffer community members per week. If we do that 52 weeks per year that’s between 208-to-312 people that we’ve connected with one-on-one.

The second goal for our Instagram marketing strategy is to continually increase engagement on every one of our posts.

Currently, our engagement rate (avg. engagement per post/number of followers) is about 1.75% which is a bit higher than industry standard. We’re focusing on producing the highest quality Instagram content so that our engagement rate stays at or above this benchmark.

Which members of your audience are on Instagram? Search the demographics

Marketing is all about delivering the right message, to the right people, at the right time.
Click To Tweet

And understanding the demographics of a platform is an important part of ensuring you’re hitting your target audience.

Pew Research released a breakdown of Instagram demographics and I’d love to share the key findings with you here.

Instagram user demographics - Pew research

Age and gender of Instagram users

Roughly half of internet-using young adults ages 18-29 (53%) use Instagram. Here the full breakdown of age groups:

  • 53% of 18–29 year olds use Instagram.
  • 25% of 30–49 year olds use Instagram.
  • 11% of 50–64 year olds use Instagram.
  • 6% of people 65+ use Instagram.

Also, slightly more of Instagram’s users are female:

  • 29% of online females use Instagram.
    22% of online males use Instagram.

Location of Instagram users

  • 28% of Instagram users live in urban areas.
  • 26% of Instagram users live in suburban areas.
  • 19% of Instagram users live in rural areas.

Instagram education demographics

  • 31% of Instagram users have some college experience.
  • 24% of Instagram users are college graduates.
  • 23% of Instagram users are high school grads or less.

Instagram income demographics

  • 28% of adults making less than $30,000
  • 26% of adults making over $75,000
  • 26% of adults making $50,000–$74,999
  • 23% of adults making $30,000–$49,999

Now that you have your goals in mind and know which members of your audience are active on Instagram, you can get started on building out your presence on Instagram. First step: optimizing your profile.


How to optimize your Instagram profile

Keys to getting the most lift from your profile picture, bio, and link


Your Instagram profile is essentially your homepage on the platform. It provides you with space to share a little information about your business and also gives you the chance to drive some traffic back to your website. In this section, we’ll guide you through how to maximize your Instagram profile and drive as much value as possible from it.

Your bio/description

Your description is very personal to your brand, what you choose to share here should be representative of your business and show your followers what you do as a company. Most businesses tend to include either (or both) of the below:

  • Brand slogan or tagline (e.g. Nike’s “Just Do It”)
  • An outline of who you are and what you do

Some large brands also choose to include a brand hashtag within their bio (for example, Nike Basketball below).

Here are a few examples:


Nike Basketball:nike-ig

Sheraton Hotels: sheraton-ig

Profile picture

Your profile picture is one of the most important parts of your Instagram profile. When someone views one of your posts or clicks on your profile, it’s great if your brand is instantly recognizable. For many brands this tends to mean using one of three options:

  • Logo
  • Logomark (the logo, minus any words)
  • Mascot

At Buffer, we keep it simple and use our logomark over a plain white background on Instagram and all other networks:


Your link

Unlike many other social networks, Instagram doesn’t allow you to add links to every post. Instead, you only get one link, and that’s the one in your profile.

Most businesses tend to use this link to drive traffic back to their homepage, and this link can also be a key way to drive traffic from Instagram to campaign-specific landing pages or individual pieces of content.

Gary Vaynerchuk does this to great effect on his Instagram feed. Whenever he publishes a new piece of content online, he’ll share a relevant image or video to Instagram and update the link in his bio to reflect it.



Coming soon: Instagram business profiles 

A First Look at New Instagram Business Tools (And What They Mean for Your Business)


Creating a content strategy for Instagram

How to build content pillars for the type of content you share to Instagram


Content is the heart of Instagram. The 95 million photos and videos shared daily to the platform are the reason more than 300 million people open the app every day. And content should be at the core of your strategy, too.

But what should you post about?

Before you get into thinking about your visual style, it’s good to have a clear vision for the type of content you’re putting out.

Some brands focus on their products. For example, Nike Running often make their trainers and running equipment the focal point of their content:


Whereas other brands, such as WeWork, put more focus on their community and culture:


At Buffer, our Instagram marketing strategy is to post consistently quality content that aims to build Buffer’s brand while also connecting on an individual basis with our community members. We believe strongly in the power of one-on-one interactions and connections.

In that spirit, we’ve created the hashtag #BufferStories which allows our community to tell a story about what they’re passionate about both personally and professionally. Instagram is a tremendous medium for short-form content, but there’s also the possibility for relevant, long-form content. Our audience has responded quite well to the passionate stories of others.


There’s no hard and fast rule for the best angle to take when it comes to your strategy — it’ll vary from business to business. What’s important is to focus on creating content that aligns with both your audience and your goals. This starts with defining your content pillars.

Build your content pillars

The foundations of any strategy are built on solid content pillars or themes.

Every business, no matter its size, industry or location has a wealth of potentially brilliant content to share on Instagram. Whether it’s stories from your employees, culture-focused content, or product-led demos, there’s a whole host of opportunities and worthy subjects for your videos and photos.

Some example content pillars include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Behind the scenes content
  • User generated content
  • Product demos / showcase
  • Educational (e.g. the best social media tips)
  • Culture focused (showing the human side of your company)
  • Fun / lighthearted
  • Customer stories
  • Get to know the team
  • Team member takeovers

What I love to do when it comes to defining themes is to open up a notepad and throw around some ideas. Starting with some key company values, I then scribble down everything that comes to mind. From these notes, you can then start to formulate ideas for your key content pillars.

For example at Buffer, here are the themes we work with:

  • User generated content
  • Digital nomad lifestyle
  • Productivity and motivation


3 successful brands on Instagram and their content pillars

1. Saturday Night Live

Saturday Night Live’s Instagram feed focus on two key pillars: Taking fans behind the scenes of the show and sharing exclusive clips. When fans check Instagram they can expect to see a fun-filled photo or video of their favorite SNL stars or get a sneak peek at what goes on behind the cameras to get the show out there.


2. FedEx

FedEx’s feed consists of photos based around the theme of FedEx’s delivery drivers, vans and planes out in the wild. they often feature images shared with them by followers, too – a great way to keep their fans on the lookout for FedEx vehicles to photograph. Their feed also gives off a vibe of high-end, artistic photography.


3. Oreo

Oreo put their product at the heart of their Instagram content and manage to do so in a way that’s fun and highly engaging. They often use entertaining copy within the images themselves and use solid, vibrant backgrounds to make their posts stand out within the Instagram feed.



Further reading: How to manage multiple accounts on Instagram

Early in 2016, Instagram opened up one of its most requested features, giving users the ability to switch between multiple accounts. This guide will help you get up and rocking with multiple accounts:

How to Add and Manage Multiple Accounts on Instagram


Creating a content plan

The 7 keys to cohesive content to drive exceptional results


Once you have your content themes in place (you can always test and adapt themes to see what works best), it’s time to bring it all together into a content plan. A content plan should help you define the style and aesthetic feel of your posts, alongside how frequently you’re going to post to Instagram.

Let’s begin with a look at how to create your Instagram style guide.

1. Style guide

One of the most important parts of any social media strategy is the style guide. Why are they so important? They ensure consistency across all marketing channels and throughout every piece of content you produce.

Style guides contain all the necessary information for a piece of content from beginning to end — from the design and layout of post to the copy and hashtags that accompany it. When it comes to Instagram you should consider the following items:

  • Composition
  • Color palette
  • Fonts
  • Filters
  • Captions
  • Hashtags

2. Composition

Composition refers to the placement or arrangement of visual elements or ingredients in a work of art, as distinct from the subject of a work. Not every marketer is an expert photographer, so it can be great to define a few quick composition rules.

These can include things like:

  • Solid background color
  • Main focus of the picture set to the Rule of Thirds
  • Extra space at top/bottom for text

Amy Tangerine, a company that shares “a slice of the sweet life” through an array of scrapbooking products and lifestyle services, is a great example of a clear visual style and composition. Its posts often feature a solid background color or texture allowing the focal point of the composition to stand out clearly.


3. Color palette

Picking out a color palette will help keep your feed consistent and focused. Having a palette doesn’t mean that you can strictly only use these colors, but it will help your posts have a nice consistent, familiar feeling. It can feel great to keep your color palette in line with other areas of your brand, too.

Frooti, the largest-selling fruit drink brand in India, uses Instagram to showcase their distinct brand personality. A key part of this aesthetic is the vibrant color palette used by the brand:


In contrast, Everlane uses a much softer color palette across Instagram, staying true to their brand’s signature grey/black/white look:


4. Fonts

If you’re going to post quotes or text overlays on your Instagram images, you should try to keep the fonts consistent with your brand by choosing the same fonts you use on your website or other marketing materials.

Headspace is a great example of keeping fonts consistent across posts. The mindfulness app regularly shares text-based posts, and by keeping the font in-line with the rest of their brand, followers can instantly recognize Headspace’s content within their feed.


5. Filters

Instagram filters can make amateur photographers feel like pros. And if you don’t have high-end photography equipment or editing software, they’re a great way to enhance photos with just a few taps. Filters can drastically change the look and feel of a photo or video, so it’s important to use only a few that you feel best represent your brand — and stick to the few you’ve chosen. Using a different filter for every post can quickly make an Instagram feed feel a little disjointed.

6. Captions

Instagram captions are limited to 2,200 characters, and after three lines of text they become truncated with an ellipsis.

Captions are a chance to enhance your content further and there are plenty of ways brands use them. Some choose to treat captions as a place for sharing stories and micro-blogging, others use them to add a short, snappy headline to a post and others use captions to ask questions and encourage replies. The possibilities are endless. What’s important is to ensure the copy is aligned with your brand.

Mailchimp is well known for its unique brand voice – they even had a website dedicated to it — and their fun-loving tone is carried through into their Instagram captions, too:


Everlane is again a great example of how to use Instagram captions. The brand uses captions to convey a funny, familiar voice that their buyers can relate to. For example, the below post (shared in winter time) is captioned: “About how cold we feel right now.”


7. Hashtags

Hashtags have become a uniform way to catagorize content on many social media platforms. Hashtags allow Instagrammers to discover content and accounts to follow. Research from Track Maven found that posts with over 11 hashtags tend to get more engagement. 


Top Tip: If you would like to avoid adding too many hashtags to your caption, you can also add hashtags as comments. For example, you can see below how Amy Tangerine adds additional hashtags to the photo in the comments:


When it comes to choosing the right hashtags for your content, it’s best to do your research and see which hashtags people in your market are using and which are most active.


Make your Instagram posts stand out: Master design with these great tips for non-designers

If you’re looking to take your Instagram images to the next level and become a better marketer, check out this design dictionary for a crash course on how to better understand design:

Why Every Marketer in 2016 Needs to Be a (Part-Time) Designer: 53 Design Terms and Tips to Level-Up

Further reading: 

How to Create Engaging Images for Social Media: A Simple Guide For Non-Designers
Images have never been more important in social. They’re the key to driving greater online engagement, much like a great headline in advertising. This post shares 3 key design principles that will help you create engaging social images every time:

Click here to read now >

47 Amazingly Talented Artists and Designers to Follow on Instagram
To help provide you with some creative inspiration, we’ve curated a group of 47 super-talented artists specializing in a range of disciplines. Follow these insanely accomplished artists and designers to stay ahead of the curve and inspired day-after-day.

Click here to read now >


How to find your best frequency and timing on Instagram

Best practices and data tips for maximizing your chance for success

There’s a lot to be said for consistency on social media. Consistency and publishing frequency can help your audience learn when to expect new content from you, and keeping a consistent schedule makes sure you maximize engagement without hitting any lulls or stretches without updates.

A study by Union Metrics found that most brands post to Instagram daily. In fact the average was 1.5 posts per day. The study also found — and this was really interesting — that there was no correlation between increased frequency and lower engagement, meaning brands that posted more than twice per day didn’t see any ill effects.

Our best advice here is to aim to post at least once per day on Instagram and experiment with additional posts to find what works best for you.

What time should you post to Instagram?

With Instagram’s recent change to an algorithmic timeline, timing is now one of many elements considered by the algorithm when it decides what content to show you. So it’s important to post at the times when your content is likely to pick up the most engagement. Our hunch here is Instagram’s algorithm may then determine this post should appear near the top of your follower’s feeds.

CoSchedule collected research from 16 social media studies to come up with these best practices for Instagram:

  • Mondays and Thursdays drive the most engagement
  • The time of day with the most engagement is 8:00 to 9:00 a.m. Eastern

It could be best to treat these best practices as guidelines and times to test out since the best time to post can rely on a bunch of factors and vary from profile to profile. For example, we’ve found that our best time at Buffer is 11:00 a.m. Pacific.

How to ensure consistent posting on Instagram

Once you’ve determined your content themes and the frequency at which you’d like to post to Instagram, one of the best ways to ensure you stick to your strategy is to create a content calendar that tracks which posts will be shared and when.

The Instagram API doesn’t quite allow scheduling just yet, which means you cannot schedule posts directly on Instagram. To post consistently with Instagram, we schedule Instagram reminders in Buffer. Here’s how it works:

  1. Find, edit, and upload a beautiful picture to Buffer. Add a caption with hashtags, mentions, and emoji. Schedule for the ideal time.
  2. Receive a push notification on our phone at the scheduled time.
  3. Open the notification, select Open in Instagram, and preview the post.
  4. Make any final edits (filters, geolocation) and share from the Instagram app.


Buffer for Instagram works by adding a post through Buffer and having a reminder pop up on a user’s phone when it’s time to send it out.



Dive deeper: How to Find the Most Timely, Consistent Instagram Schedule with Buffer

Researching the best ways to get your brand seen on Instagram, we discovered a pair of common themes: Share your post at the right time to gain traction in the feed, and share to Instagram at a consistent rhythm. Here’s more on how we’ve maximized these two elements (plus 6 more):

Buffer for Instagram is Here: 8 Ways to Get Your Best Instagram Marketing Results with Buffer


3 tips to help increase your growth and engagement


1. Embrace user generated content

Instagram users provide a wealth of potential content for your business. Curating content from your followers can help you to build a vibrant and engaged community and user generated content can also incentivize your audience to share their own creative ways of interacting with your products, services or company.


Must read: Learn how we used user generated content to grow our Instagram audience by 60%

In under 3 months, we grew our Instagram account by 60%  – 5,850 to 9,400 followers. A large percentage of this growth was down to user generated content and in this post, Brian shares our exact strategy:

How We Grew Our Instagram Followers by 60% with User Generated Content


2. Include some faces in your posts to boost engagement

A study from Georgia Tech looked at 1.1 million random Instagram pictures and discovered these two really interesting bits of information. Pictures with faces get:

  • 38% more likes
  • 32% more comments

This is something HubSpot does very well in its feed to showcase the people behind the company:


3. Try sharing your Instagram posts to Facebook

A Buzzsumo study of over 1 billion Facebook posts from 3 million brand pages found that images posted to Facebook via Instagram receive more engagement than natively published images:

Must read: How to Gain a Massive Following on Instagram: 10 Proven Tactics To Grow Followers and Engagement

How to Gain a Massive Following on Instagram: 10 Proven Tactics To Grow Followers and Engagement


Measuring your results

How to learn what’s working with your Instagram marketing


Tracking your performance and results is essential to any social media strategy. This enables you to decipher which types of content your audience finds most engaging and allows you to optimize your strategy as you move forward.

Paying close attention to your audience growth, and the number of likes and comments your posts receive will give you clues as to what’s working and what could maybe be improved. If you’d like to dive even more in-depth, you can work out an engagement rate for each of your posts.

How to calculate engagement rate on Instagram

The engagement rate is calculated by taking the number of likes + comments and dividing that number by the number of followers your account had at the time of posting.

Here’s an example:


The above post received 210 and 8 comments. At the time of posting, we had 12,343 followers. So the engagement rate would be worked out as follows:

  • 210 (likes) + 8 (comments) = 218
  • 218 / 12,343 (followers) = Engagement rate of 1.76%

Buffer for Instagram analytics 

Buffer’s analytics enable you to check in on your key metrics for networks like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. With Instagram analytics on Buffer paid plans, you can sort every post by the most popular, most likes, and most comments. You can also select any custom timeframe or from presets like 7, 30, or 90 days. This is a fantastic way to keep an eye on trends and what’s performing.

Buffer’s Instagram analytics can also help you to find the perfect sharing frequency. Using the ‘Posts Per Day plus Likes’ function you can see how the number of posts per day affect your engagement. Here’s a quick snapshot from our account:


In addition to these stats, you can also use Buffer for Instagram to:

  • Track post performance
  • Monitor Instagram trends
  • Track comments and hashtag usage
  • Measure audience engagement
  • Report across multiple profiles

Analytics can help you judge the effect of your content, schedule, and frequency of posting on Instagram and measure how it affects important Instagram metrics such as likes and followers.



Over to you

As you progress with your Instagram marketing strategy, you’ll begin to notice some trends and what types of content help you to reach your goals. It’s never easy to build a loyal, engaged following on any channel, but with the right approach and enough experimenting you’ll find a great fit for your brand.

I hope you found this guide useful and I’d love to continue the discussion about Instagram marketing in the comments below. What are your thoughts on Instagram?