​The MozCon 2016 Community Speakers Have Landed!

Posted by EricaMcGillivray

[Estimated read time: 6 minutes]

That’s right! Please join us in congratulating the four community speakers for MozCon 2016 – September 12–14 in Seattle.

This year, we received 140 submissions. And while the overall number of submissions were down, the quality of submissions has gone up. Typically, we’ve been able to eliminate ~100 submissions for not meeting the minimum bar, but this year, it was more like ~20. Which only means competition for these four slots was harder than ever before.

For those wondering more about what makes a great MozCon pitch, I’ve included the pitches, plus a comment from a committee member. (With a bit of the information redacted, because surprises on stage are good.)

Please congratulate…clapping hands

Alex SteinAlex Stein

SEO Manager at Wayfair


Alex Stein is currently SEO Manager at Wayfair.com, an online home goods store. Follow him on Twitter @sonofadiplomat for all things SEO, and he is, in fact, the son of a diplomat.

Alex’s pitch:

Boost Rankings by Removing Internal Links

A majority of SEO advice covers gaining high volumes of external links, but many site owners fail to pursue the low-hanging fruit by reducing the number of internal links to drive organic rankings. Listeners will learn easy ways to massively optimize internal authority flow to boost rankings, with case studies to demonstrate these wins in action.

Business cases that will be covered:

  1. Slimming down your header navigation: Using [X] data and [X] to remove links from header navigation, while increasing conversion.
  2. Slimming down your footer navigation: I’ll cover how we used A/B testing to prove footer links weren’t driving qualified visits, just “tourist visits.”
  3. For smaller sites, I’ll cover common mistakes with [X] that increase the total number of links on every single page.
  4. Reducing links on your most valuable pages: I’ll cover two concrete examples of how Wayfair reduced the number of links on product browse pages and drove additional visits.
  5. I’ll share a “Link Value Calculator”
  6. Lastly, I’ll also cover our formula for evaluating the dollar value of an internal link.

Felicia’s notes: Sounds very actionable. I like the straightforward, traditional simplicity of the topic, and am intrigued by the “link value calculator”/”evaluating the dollar value of an internal link” ideas. If not a finalist, this would make a great blog post.

Emma StillEmma Still

Marketing Lead at Seer Interactive


Emma Still leads all marketing efforts for Seer Interactive. Prior to that, she led a team of SEO professionals at Seer, where she leveraged her digital marketing skills to recruit team members to build stronger, more successful digital teams.

Emma’s pitch:

What if digital marketers thought about recruiting in the exact same way they thought about [smart] link building?

The highest commodity in our industry is human capital: the people on the teams, doing the work, getting. shit. done. Yet so many companies are desperate to find and recruit the talent they need.

The ironic thing is that the answer to their recruiting woes has been under their noses the whole time.

Using tools like [X] to find people who share content that aligns with your company’s mission or philosophy? Boom – list of candidate prospects.

All of those advanced search queries you’ve refined for identifying link prospects? You can easily use those for prospecting potential candidates. For example, [X query string]

Know someone who would be an ideal candidate but isn’t ready to make the leap to a new role? Use [X’s] feature to find people they’re closely connected to and you’ve got a whole new set of prospects.

Digital marketers have all the tools and resources they need to find and recruit other talented digital marketers; all it requires is a change in perspective.

Christy’s notes: Really interesting topic that tackles a pervasive problem in the marketing industry. Pitch is solid.

Robyn WinnerRobyn Winner

SEO Manager at Hornblower Cruises and Events


Robyn Winner is a passionate SEOer with a deep love for data analytics, user experience optimization, content strategy development, and her two adorable cats who fill her life with joy and fur…on everything.

Robyn’s pitch:

I’d love to present on Navigation Optimization. It’s a pretty meaty topic, and I could honestly talk for two hours on it, but in the 15 minutes I’d like to cover the key components that go into improving a site’s navigation structure. These components include: Understanding the buying funnel for both B2B and B2C, utilizing [X] to provide a guideline to the navigation structure, stepping away from narcissistic menuing (i.e. [X]), incorporating calls to action, the basic elements all b2b and b2c navigations should have, and ensuring each page is its own unique URL! No more of this one-page website with anchor text.

I’ve worked with a lot of clients just on this, and each time we’ve seen massive success because what we inevitably do is improve UX by bringing relevant pages higher in the funnel. We then see improved ranks for those pages because they’re naturally accessed more via the nav. Most importantly, we’re able to identify gaps in content once we whiteboard the new navigation structure based on [X, X, and X] (which inevitably leads to more ranks!).

Ronell’s notes: Highly relevant to EVERYONE.

Samuel ScottSamuel Scott

Director of Marketing and Communications at Logz.io


Samuel Scott is a global marketing speaker and Director of Marketing and Communications for log analysis platform Logz.io, as well as a contributor to TechCrunch and Moz.

Samuel’s pitch:

The 8 Things You Need to Check in Server Log Files in Technical SEO Audits

Server log files contain the only data that is 100% accurate in terms of how search engines crawl your website. Here’s what to check and how to fix any related problems.

Crawl budget and volume. If the number of times that a search engine is visiting your site suddenly drops, check your [X], [X], and [X].

Response code errors. Every single server log entry contains a response code. Group URLs by response code to look into those problems easily and in bulk.

Temporary redirects. Every log entry with a 302 response code is a temporary redirect. Those should be changed to 301 (permanent) redirects.

Crawl priority. Which parts of your website get the most attention from search engines? Does that match [X]?

Last crawl date. If an update page is not appearing in the SERPs, check when Google last visited the page. Try submitting that URL directly in Google Search Console.

Crawl budget waste. [X]

Matt’s notes: I like it. It’s a source of data that I think intimidates a lot of folks, and I’d love to see it made accessible. If he can make it short and simple, I think it’d be good.

Thanks to everyone who tossed in their hat this year! It’s a brave thing to even try.

Treat yo self!

Finally, I’d like to thank this year’s community speaker selection committee – Chiaryn Miranda, Christy Correll, Felicia Crawford, James Daugherty, Matt Roney, Ronell Smith, and Sam Weber.

Cheer on community speakers and buy your MozCon ticket today!

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How to increase your content’s viral potential

Viral content is sort of the holy grail of internet marketing; everyone wants it, but almost no-one knows how to get it.

Whatever it is that makes content inherently shareable – and, at the extreme end of the spectrum, go viral – seems like more of a mystical art than a science; a fortunate coinciding of different elements like timeliness, relevance and tapping into something in the wider consciousness that resonates with people.

But many researchers and marketers have set out to define, scientifically, what exactly it is that makes us share content?

What are the emotions and thought processes that are involved in the process of deciding to share something? And is there something inherently unique about viral content that makes it go viral, over another piece of content?

Fractl conducted a study aimed at discovering exactly that. They surveyed 400 people on their emotional responses to a set of viral images, using the PAD emotional state model to score their responses and determine how viral content resonates with us emotionally, as well which combinations of emotions are most likely to make content go viral.

A surprising result

The survey assessed respondents on their emotional responses to 100 of the top images from Reddit’s /r/pics subreddit: 50 with captions, and 50 without. They were able to choose from a range of emotions belonging to the PAD emotional state model, a psychological model developed to describe and measure emotional states, to describe how they felt about the image presented in the survey.

The survey’s respondents were English speakers from all over the world, and so the research team chose images which could be understood regardless of cultural background, avoiding references to pop culture or current events. Each of the images had thousands of upvotes and hundreds or thousands of comments, plus at least one million views on Imgur.

emotions survey

The list contained emotions ranging from love and admiration to relief, pity, remorse and hate. Although humour, a key component of viral imagery, is not represented by the PAD model, other emotions like happiness and satisfaction come close to expressing the same sentiment.

Andrea Lehr, brand relationship strategist at Fractl, said that the agency already knew that humorous content can create an “extremely positive emotional experience”, but that “we were interested in looking at more nuanced instances of viral content where it’s not as clear why something became hugely popular.”

Fractl found that the top three emotional responses to the viral images in their survey were happiness, surprise and admiration.

A bar chart of top emotional responses to viral images, ranging from most to least expressed in the survey. Happiness is at the top with almost 7,000 responses, followed by surprise and then admiration. Next is satisfaction with a little under 5,000, then hope, love, happiness for (empathy), concentration, pride and finally gratitude with about 2,000 responses.

Negative emotions were reported far less than positive emotions, with the bottom three responses being hate, reproach and resentment.

A bar chart of the bottom emotional responses to viral images in the survey, ranging from least to most common. Hate is at the top with about 300 responses, followed by reproach and then resentment. Next is gloating with about 450 responses, then shame, anger, remorse, depression, annoyance and finally disappointment with about 800 responses.

These results for the most part match up with the findings cited by Kohlben Vodden, founder of StoryScience, in a talk at a CMA Digital Breakfast on the science behind shareable content.

Vodden noted, referencing a study by Jonah Berger and Katherine Milkman, that content with an overall positive sentiment will always be more shareable – hence the popularity of feel-good viral content websites like Upworthy and Thought Catalog.

However, Berger and Milkman also found that high-intensity negative emotions like anger also made content highly shareable.

This finding was not reflected in the study by Fractl, who found that anger was the sixth least likely emotion to be felt in response to the viral images they used, out of a possible 26 different emotional responses.

Complex emotions

Fractl’s study also found that viral images are frequently emotionally complex, eliciting multiple emotional responses at the same time. Positive emotions along with surprise were found to result in massive shares – you only have to look at the recent ‘Chewbacca mom’ viral hit to see this in action.

As well as the initial emotional reaction, the survey asked participants to assess how pleasant each image made them feel, on a scale of 1 to 10. They were then asked to rate their levels of ‘arousal’ and ‘dominance’ in response to each image.

‘Arousal’ essentially measures the level of excitement and energy produced by emotions: anxiety, anger and excitement are high-arousal emotions, while sadness, relaxation and depression are low-arousal emotions.

‘Dominance’ measures the level of control that a person feels through their emotions. An emotion like anger is high-dominance, while fear is a submissive or low-dominance emotion, as it tends to result in feeling out of control.

Again, surprise was a recurring theme among the researchers’ findings, which makes sense when you think about the natural of viral content: it often catches us out, is shocking or unexpected, which is what drives the urge to pass it along to everyone we know so that they can share in the amazement.

The study found that images which made people feel high levels of dominance and arousal were all accompanied by positive emotions, or positive emotions plus surprise. For images which caused high arousal and low dominance, the emotional responses tended to combine surprise with negative and/or positive emotions.

For instance, this image of a diver taking a selfie with a great white shark behind produced high arousal and low dominance, with emotions ranging from fear and surprise to admiration.

A diver takes a selfie underwater with a great white shark clearly visible behind, appearing to be swimming towards him.

Low-arousal and low-dominance images resulted in a mixed bag of emotional responses, but surprise was almost always present. Boredom was also a frequent response to these images, indicating that not every surprising image is necessarily interesting!

How to increase your content’s viral potential

So how can you put these findings into practice and increase the shareability of your content marketing? Fractl offered some key takeaways for marketers:

1. Combine positive emotions with surprise for huge sharing potential.

“Want people to share your content? Feel-good content is primed for social sharing,” said Fractl in their report on the results of the study. The research found that admiration and happiness had a strong correlation with high dominance, which helps drive people to share things.

Combining these with an element of surprise can help to magnify the positive emotions and spur users to pass along the content. With that said, the surprise needs to be genuine: clickbait headlines such as “You’ll never believe…” which lead to unsurprising or boring content are quick to annoy users.

A headline from Wired magazine online reading, 'You'll be outraged at how easy it was to get you to click on this headline'.

2. Pair ‘low-arousal’ emotions with admiration or surprise.

If your content is a bit of a downer, incorporate an element of surprise or admiration to increase its viral potential.

Fractl had previously assumed that ‘high-arousal’ emotions like excitement or anger were needed for content to go viral. From the study, however, they discovered that negative, low-arousal images which evoked images like sadness and depression could still go viral when paired with surprise or admiration.

A good example of this technique is ‘The Song’, Apple’s famed Christmas advert from 2014:

‘The Song’ pairs a sad and wistful story with elements of surprise, admiration and hope, for an uplifting after-effect that makes the advert eminently shareable.

3. Play up high-arousal emotions in unsurprising, negative content.

Generally speaking, an element of surprise is also needed to make high-arousal negative content more shareable: most of the images in Fractl’s study which received negative reactions were also rated as surprising.

Only two images provoked purely negative responses, and both of those made respondents feel very high-arousal negative emotions: anger, fear or distress. Therefore, it is possible to have negative content which is still shareable if it energises people in some way; but overall, positive and surprising content is still the clear winner if you want your content shared widely.

What can Medium’s Creative Exchange bring to native advertising?

Last week, social publishing company Medium announced the launch of a programme that will allow its writers to partner with brands to create dedicated sponsored content: the Creative Exchange.

The Creative Exchange is by no means Medium’s first foray into native advertising: in the past, it has produced a number of verticals in partnership with different brands, including BMW, Marriott and Samsung. But this is the first time that Medium has opened up native advertising for the wider community to take part in.

In its blog post announcing the new programme, Medium acknowledged that, “One of the things we’ve heard consistently is that our community wants a way to make money from their work on the platform. It takes effort to produce a piece of high-quality content and that effort should be rewarded.”

While this is undoubtedly true, the writers who called for Medium content to be monetised probably wanted the ability to earn money from the independent content they write, rather than to be paid to write sponsored content for a brand.

Still, there are no doubt plenty of others who will welcome the venture. But what can Medium contribute to the field of sponsored content, already crowded with publishers and platforms, that’s particularly new? And what do brands stand to gain?

What can Medium bring to native advertising?

Medium has always been a slightly strange entity, whose exact nature is hard to pin down: it straddles the divide between publisher and network, between social and blogging; giving writers a space for their voice to be heard, but very much on Medium’s terms.

“Medium’s greatest asset is our community of writers and publishers,” the blog post which announced the Creative Exchange began. Clearly this is what Medium intends to be its main selling point as it expands its venture into native advertising: an established network of writers, many with huge followings, and readers who will eagerly consume writing published to the platform regardless of whether it is sponsored or not, as long as it is of the quality and type they have come to expect.

A screenshot of the top of a Medium sponsored piece entitled 'How to Rewrite Your Past, Present and Future'. At the very top of the page are the words 'life well lived' in gold and blue, while underneath the heading the text reads 'Presented by GUARDIAN' with the logo for Guardian life insurance.A piece of sponsored content on Medium, with branding clearly marked

Medium’s blog post cites two past pieces of sponsored content as examples of what writing produced by the Creative Exchange is likely to look like. One is sponsored by Guardian, a life insurance company, the other by Upwork, a freelance marketplace.

Both are well-written and valuable pieces of content which don’t read like advertising or even mention the sponsored brand by name (although they are both clearly marked as sponsored with logos above and below the piece).

Neither of them made me want to buy anything either, but then, the aims of native advertising are usually more subtle than that.

In many ways, Medium is exceedingly well-suited to native advertising, much more than other publishing platforms. For one thing, it’s already heavily branded. Criticisms have been levelled against Medium for taking away creative control from writers who publish to its platform, denying them the ability to choose how their content looks and is offered to readers.

A screenshot of a Medium post by Rebecca Sentance, entitled 'Reflections on Liberating Corporate Data'. The post is laid out in simple, no-frills style, in black serif font with a wide margin either side. The Medium logo in grayscale is present in the top left corner.Publishing to Medium offers writers very little leeway, if any, to impose their own style on the content

The design, the layout, the branding is all very much Medium’s; and so users who are happy with this arrangement are unlikely to object to a further level of branding being applied to their content. It seems unlikely that any devoted writers or readers, if they’re content to use Medium as it is, will abruptly draw a line and say no, this amount of branding is a step too far.

So Medium can offer an engaged community of writers and readers among whom there is already a demand for some kind of monetisation, and an openness to sponsored branding. All points in its favour – but what else is Medium offering to brands in the deal?

How will brands benefit?

At the moment, Medium isn’t opening up the Creative Exchange programme too widely to interested writers and publishers; the programme is currently in “closed beta”, and aspiring participants will need to add their details to a waiting list. But Medium is placing no such restriction on brands who want to take part. This makes sense, since Medium has writers in abundance, but the brands are where the real money lies.

Medium’s approach to content publishing, that it simplifies the process by taking care of the unimportant details that no-one wants to concern themselves with (like design) is also the main thrust of its appeal to brands: it offers an all-in-one deal, “including writing, editing, project management, editorial strategy, publication creation, and publication branding.” In its bid, Medium plays up the fact that it can “manage the entire process for you, including publishing approved content from your brand account.”

Medium’s native advertising aims to offer brands the whole package

Image by OpenclipartVectors on Pixabay, available via CC0

This is likely to be an appealing prospect for brands who are new to native advertising or don’t have the time or the resources to micro-manage every aspect of the project. However, as with writers who publish to the Medium platform, there are drawbacks in the form of ownership and control. Medium is coy about the subject of brands owning the content produced via Creative Exchange, saying only that, “We have several different licenses available. We’ll work with you to meet your needs. Contact us for more information.”

There is a lot to be said for publishing to a platform which, as I covered above, comes with an in-built community of readers eager to consume that content. In many respects it puts Medium ahead of native ad providers like Outbrain and Taboola which have to depend on luring readers away from platforms where they are already reading content, with gimmicky headlines and psychological tricks.

A screenshot from the platform game Fez, featuring floating platforms against a bright blue backdrop, with square green trees on top of them.Brands are already faced with an overabundance of platforms demanding their content

Image via Wikimedia Commons, available via CC BY-SA 3.0

But there’s a drawback to it, too: brands are already faced with an overabundance of platforms to which they could publish content, each with their own appeal. Medium boasts one engaged community of users, but Facebook has another, as does Twitter, and Google, and Snapchat, and every other contender which is throwing its hat into this expanding ring.

No matter how good the offer is, ultimately brands have to make a choice as to how many channels are worth spreading their presence across. And if they are a brand which already has an established presence on Medium, why pay for what they are already getting for free?

To an extent, Medium’s all-in-one approach does solve that problem, by allowing brands to reach an extra audience without having to expend the time and effort that they would normally need to invest in publishing to a new platform: Medium will take care of all of that. But brands will still have to decide whether the exact audience they want to reach is present within Medium’s walled garden, and if it isn’t, they are likely to take their business elsewhere.

How to Manage 60 Social Profiles – and Drive More Traffic and Sales to Each

I often think I have a lot to do with managing my own social profiles. But managing 60? (mind blown)

The team at Creative Click Media manages 60 social profiles for their clients, driving big results in traffic, leads, and sales with their team of three.

How do they pull it off?

Adam and Amanda from Creative Click were kind to share their workflows and processes for driving these results: everything from how they save time with social media management to how they iterate on blog posts and top tweets. Keep reading for our full interview with Creative Click, and learn some of their top secrets for success on social.

Creative Click Media team

Kevan, Buffer:

I’d love to learn how you view social media and what have been some of the key approaches, from a high-level, for Creative Click Media.

Adam Binder, Creative Click Media:

Social media is so vast and ever-changing. There’s so much that goes into it and so much time that is required to get it right.

Buffer as a tool – and really the word “buffer” – is great. It serves as a buffer and a bridge between the complete authenticity of being online 24/7 and also planning everything to a T.

I love the fact that social media can be scheduled. It really helps us stay authentic while also being able to grow our business, scale our business. Scheduling really helps us bridge the gap between automation and authenticity. You can tell with a lot of accounts that it’s scheduled and it wasn’t done with care, but Buffer really allows us to accomplish both authenticity and efficiency.



Are there any specific tactics that you try to make things authentic? 

Amanda Erdmann, Creative Click Media:

We really use the team members section of Buffer to involve the clients, so they know what we’re posting and we know what they are posting. That helps a lot.

We are able to post a lot more with Buffer. We’ve expanded Twitter usage, and posting more on Twitter definitely helps brands be more active and engaging on there. We’re saving a ton of time by doing that. I would say working with the clients is probably the best way we stay authentic and using several team members here to post different things so that you get those different voices while also sticking with the brand.


We’ve got the really large Buffer for Business account with 25 users. We’ve added some of our more savvy clients as users so they can work in real-time to collaborate with us.

One good case study would be the Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation. They are a non-profit. They do wonderful things for the local community. We work with them to come up with an overall strategy, and we come up with content. We put it in Buffer, we schedule it out, but their day-to-day operation is very nimble. They are doing a lot of things. They are out and about, and because they have access to Buffer they can move our posts around. If they have something more timely or pressing, they can switch things around to put out the current stuff immediately.


Some clients are doing a lot on their own, and some clients may have busy moments. For the most part, we manage everything, and then they feel comfortable having the access to review what we have and to move it around if something pressing comes up. It allows us to be really nimble.


I’d love to learn a bit more about how social fits within your business plan or structure at Creative Click? Looks like you offer a lot of different, amazing services. How does social fit within that larger ecosystem of everything that you provide?


Social media is really becoming very intertwined with SEO which is very intertwined with web design. Really, it all works together. I like to make an analogy with an electrical circuit. You can’t break it or else the whole thing won’t work. Social media is expanding rapidly. It is a ranking factor for Google now. Social signals definitely affect SEO. We can see, for the clients who opt in for our social media services, that they are definitely getting better benefit from SEO.

And social is great PR. Done correctly, it really can enhance your brand and it can boost your bottom line.

Creative Click Media started as a web design agency, and social media followed very quickly after. Then when we added everything else: social, SEO, videos and now PR. We’re going to continue to grow and I say diversify our portfolio of offerings. Everything is changing so rapidly.


That’s great. I’d love to learn a bit about how your team structure is set up. How many are on the marketing team and how many touch the social media channels ?


I’m the project manager, and I oversee everything; then I have two writers for various accounts for social media. They have access to Buffer. I have access to Buffer. Adam has access, too.

We use the analytics to find the optimum times to post, and we set the schedules for the clients. When it makes sense, as Adam mentioned before, we add the clients themselves if they want to see what we’re doing or if they want to schedule posts around them. We really work together because they have a lot of events so it makes sense for them to see and prioritize which events should go out.


When it comes to finding the best times to post, how are you finding out that data


We mostly use optimal timing on Facebook. Twitter is kind of trial-and-error, though the Twitter accounts tell you now when you get the most activity. We’ve been trying to look at that more. We’re trying to work with Facebook more also, to find those optimum times. I love that Buffer lets you set one schedule and keep it. It makes everything very consistent which is definitely one of the best things about it.

And Buffer tells you the optimum time to post to an account, which definitely makes things easier.


When it comes to analytics too, I’m curious to learn a bit about the reporting relationship you have with clients. How do you communicate with them how things are going on social?


Other analytics tools we used before were really pretty and graphical, but most of our clients didn’t understand what they were looking at. I like that Buffer very much simplifies it. You can compare two different things at once which is really awesome. You can show them exactly, “You gained this many likes and this is how your engagement also went up.” We try to keep it simple with clients and show them their best so they understand exactly what’s going on.

buffer analytics

We do this with screenshots, mostly. We will make reports. I will export the Excel file to really find the best post that the client had, and we will try to optimize those, to recreate them so we can use them again.


One thing we’re looking into is creating custom infographics for clients, but it takes a little time to get that right. I think that would be a very boutique way to deliver the results and we’re working on it.


Have there been any kind of challenges that you find with doing social media for clients? 


I think finding the brand voice is a big one. It’s something we’re very good at, but it’s a moving target. As clients’ businesses evolve, constant communication is really important.

I think images are always something that is needed.

Time is the number one resource that we seem to never have enough of.


I was just going to say, Buffer has helped us save a lot of time which is one of the main reasons we switched over to it. Scheduling with our previous tool, you had to do one post at a the time. Now we can upload a ton at once. We have 60 social media accounts on Buffer all for different clients, so being able to have one schedule and stick to it and upload as many as posts we want to has helped us save a lot of time.

We use Bulk Buffer for the bulk upload, and it works great with Buffer.


Where do you tend to pull those bulk updates? Is there a certain workflow that you use?


Most of the updates we share for our clients come from content that we’ve created on our clients’ blogs. Basically, the blog feeds the social media.

We don’t only share our own stuff or our client’s stuff. We mix it up certainly and are careful to follow the 80/20 rule or better. We’re not overly promotional because that never works. We try to mix sharing of other people’s stuff, but a lot of the stuff, a lot of the social content, comes from the blogs.

We are careful to dissect the blogs into bite-size pieces for social media and we drive a lot of traffic that way. This is really why it intersects with SEO and why it’s so critical for SEO success. We drive a lot of traffic through Twitter. We don’t drive a lot of sales through Twitter, but I know it’s very helpful for SEO. We drive a good amount of traffic and leads and sales through Facebook.

onlinestore.com (1)


How have those numbers grown and evolved for you since you switched to Buffer?


Twitter has exploded for us because we’re able to post 8 to 10 times a day instead of 1 to 3. The life of a tweet is 12 minutes, I read somewhere, maybe even shorter now. it’s probably old data. Your timeline just flies so quick. We drive a lot of traffic from Twitter, and Buffer has been an integral piece of that.


What other tools do you find useful with your social media efforts for your clients?


We use Canva for graphics. We use hashtagify.me for hashtag research. Bulk Buffer for bulk uploads.

Facebook ads we do right in Facebook.

I’ve tried Twitter ads a couple of times for myself and for clients. They’re okay. I think the thing with the Twitter ads, like I said, we don’t really get a lot of leads from Twitter. I just think it’s the nature of the platform. Things are going by so quickly, but it’s great for sharing information and driving traffic. Again, I’m saying no one that contacts us says, “Hey, I found you through Twitter.” That doesn’t mean that they haven’t. They kind of got hooked into a piece of content and then followed us for a little while. We’re really not too sure about that. I know that the Facebook ads are huge, and they are definitely a revenue driver.

For lead tracking, I’m using the HubSpot CRM, which lets us track pretty much everything. We always keep detailed notes on everything. We always make sure that we ask our clients, if it’s a phone call, how they found us. A lot of times it is through our website – and they could just say website, but really it was the website via Twitter.

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How to Tie Marketing Metrics to the Data that Boards, CxOs, and Investors Really Care About – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

SEOs and executives speak different languages. It’s a simple fact, but it’s one that often acts as a blocker for getting your ideas and investments approved. A simple change in how you communicate your marketing goals, triumphs, and challenges could be what’s standing between you and getting the C-suite buy-in that’s integral to your success. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand helps you translate your marketing jargon into financial metrics and data that the folks in charge will actually care about.



How to Tie Marketing Metrics to the Data that Boards, CXOs, and investors really care about whiteboard

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

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about tying marketing metrics that marketers use to the things that CEOs, CXOs, whatever the C-level titles that you’ve got are, investors, board members, to the metrics and data that they care about.

This is a problem that I’ve talked about with many marketers over the last few weeks, especially at some conferences and events where folks say, “Hey, we’ve got our metrics dialed in. We know what we’re doing. But when we present it to the Board, or when we present it to our CMO, or our CEO, when we show it to our investors, not only do they not get it, it’s like we’re not speaking the same language, and therefore we’re not able to have a conversation productively about where investment should and shouldn’t be made, and they’re not able to give input into whether they think our idea is a good one, or whether they think there’s a good return on investment there.” This can be tough.

Start with the metrics that marketers care about

So what happens is you’re a marketer, you’re presenting here to your Board of Directors or to your executive team, and you say, “Hey look, we’ve got traffic growing in every category. SEO is up. Social is up. We’ve grown our link profile, which is going to help us with search, all these great things.” Fantastic, but the Board is sort of sitting there like, “Well, I don’t really know how to contribute, and how does that tie in to higher lifetime value of customers, because that’s the thing that I know and the thing that I care about, and I’m not sure this marketer person is really investing in the right kind of ways for the organization.”

That sucks. As a marketer, that totally sucks, because it means that you are not communicating your message, and that means you’re not going to get, you’re unlikely to get buy-in from all these people that you really care about and need their permission and their acceptance in order to make the investments you need.

The thing is, marketers are very focused on the funnel.

We care about metrics that show top-of-funnel growth. We care about which channels send that top-of-funnel traffic. We care about how people are moving through the funnel. We want to see conversions and conversion rate, which is why we work so much on conversion rate optimization, and we care about marketing metrics that predict better retention or greater recidivism, meaning people are buying again or coming back and becoming customers again.

This is our world and we live in it. It does translate okay, decently to the Board level.

Translate marketing metrics to the financial ones that investors care about

But if you think about what folks care about at the highest levels of a company’s strategic imperatives – that could be a Board of Directors, could be investors, could be C-level folks – they’re really focused on things like market size, meaning: How big is our addressable market? Who could we potentially reach? What if we run out of those people – can we keep growing? Are more of them coming into the fold, or are people exiting this market and going somewhere else?

They care about cost of customer acquisition. How much does it cost us to get one new customer?

They care about customer revenue, the revenue that we actually get from those customers that we’re bringing in, whether that’s going up, and overall growth rate. Are we getting more customers over time? Is that rate of growth expanding, meaning acceleration?

They care about customer lifetime value. Customer lifetime value is something that pretty much every metric we calculate as marketers should tie back to that, especially when we’re having conversations with these kinds of people. Essentially it is when a new customer comes in and they make any kind of purchase from us, they spend any type of dollars with us – a product, a service, a subscription, whatever it is – how much do we get over their customer lifetime? Meaning if it’s an e-commerce play, it could be the case that they come and they buy five things from us over the course of two years on average, and that dollar total is $360, and 40% of that is gross margin for us. Essentially, the rest is cost of goods. Okay, that’s customer lifetime value.

Or if you have a subscription business, like Moz is a subscription business, if you subscribe to our tools, we’ll charge you $99 a month or $149 a month. I think on average our customer lifetime value is essentially $120 times the average customer lifetime span, which is somewhere around 11 months all in. So it’s that number multiplied out. So $1200 or $1300, somewhere around there, that’s customer lifetime value.

That doesn’t actually count recidivism, people who quit and then come back again. We’re trying to get to that metric, and we need it, because you want to be able to speak to true customer lifetime value. This is sort of the underpinning of all the rest of this.

But other things these folks are going to care about, comparison of cohorts. So it’s not the case that all customers are exactly the same. You know this as a marketer, because you know that it costs you a different amount of money to acquire folks through one channel, and they perform differently than folks who are acquired through a different channel. You know that different cohorts of personas, for example, people let’s say who work in an agency versus who work in-house, maybe those are two different kinds of people that you serve in a B2B model. Or you know that folks who are higher income versus lower income spend different amounts at your e-commerce shop, that type of stuff. That comparison is very interesting to these folks as well.

Another comparison that matters is a competitive comparison. How big are we, how big are they? How fast are they growing, how fast are we growing? What’s their customer lifetime value, what’s ours? What’s their retention and recidivism rate, what’s ours? Those things, massively interesting to this group as well.

Then there’s a bunch of other stuff that they care about, like cost of goods and teams and market dynamics, etc. Marketers generally don’t touch that stuff and don’t usually need to worry about it.

But the solution to our problem here is to speak this language.

So let’s go back to our initial story.

Instead of saying, “Here’s traffic growth from all these different channels, and here’s how we’re investing in search, versus social, versus paid ads, versus trade shows,” all this kind of stuff, what we want to say is something like, “Hey, here’s the traffic from SEO, and here’s the traffic from social, and as those have been growing, our cost to acquire a new customer has been falling, because those channels are organic, and that means we don’t pay each time we get a new customer from them. We only pay for the upfront investment in sweat equity, creativity, engineering needs, web engineering needs, and whatever we’re doing. But then it keeps paying dividends, and because of that you can see this CAC falling as our search traffic has risen.”

Now you have the attention of these folks. Now you’ve engaged them in a way that they care about, because they say, “Aha, more organic search, lower cost to acquire a customer,” – which is great because CLTV to CAC ratio, the ratio of lifetime value to acquisition cost, this ratio right here, is something that every investor, every Board of Directors member, every CXO cares deeply about. It’s the underpinnings of the company. That’s what makes a profitable company work and what gives it the ability to grow. When you speak their language, you get this type of response.

So what I’m going to urge you to do as a marketer is to take any metric, any data point, any story you’re trying to tell around return on investment, around a project you have, and turn it into something that makes sense to the group of people that you’re talking to, especially if that’s strategic-level. You want to tie those to tangible improvements or to issues. It could be problems. It may not be just positive things. It could be negative things too, in the areas your CXO or Board or investor cares about.

So let’s imagine – and this is a conversation that many, many folks have – they say to me, “Rand, we want to hire an SEO consultant, or we want to bring an SEO in-house full-time, but we’ve been having trouble getting buy-off from our CEO or our CMO or our Board.”

Well, let’s change the conversation. Instead of, “We need to hire an SEO consultant because SEO is really important, search engines send a lot of traffic, and search traffic is something we’re not competing in well right now,” to, “CAC is high. CAC is too high. Our cost to acquire a new customer right now is too high, and our CLTV is too low for customers that we buy via paid search. So we’re spending a lot of money on paid ads right now, and the customers we get via that have this high customer acquisition cost, because we have to spend money to get them, and the CLTV isn’t as high because customers who come through paid, on average, usually tend to underperform compared to those who come through organic. It’s just a fact of who clicks on ads versus who clicks on organic results. But, if we ranked organically for more of these keywords, and we could get more SEO traffic compared to our PPC traffic, we could stop (a) losing those searches to our competitors, who are outranking us now, and (b) we would bump up the CLTV and we’d be lowering cost of customer acquisition.”

Boom. You have changed the conversation to something that this group of folks really gets, and you’ve made it much more likely that they are going to say yes to your proposal.

Same thing here. Let’s say you say, “Hey, we’re going to do something crazy. We want to actually spend more on trade shows, on events, on speaking, on going places physically in-person. It’s expensive. We don’t reach as many people as we do over web channels or over traditional ad channels, but we’ve been getting good customers via events.”

That’s a real tough sell unless you do this. “Dear Board, here’s a comparison of customers acquired via our five major marketing channels. Here’s SEO, here’s PPC, here’s our Facebook ads, here’s organic social, and this is events. You can see cost to acquire, you can see lifetime value, you can see the ratio, and you can see the numbers of folks that we’ve gotten via each of those channels and the revenue they bring in.”

Awesome. Now, repeat buyers and referrals are so much stronger from events, from this group over here, that even though it costs much more, the math works out that it is the best investment we can make over the next couple of quarters. We want to bring this up by two or threefold, and if we keep seeing continued investment or continued metrics in the same way we have the last few months, we’re going to have the highest positive ROI from that investment versus any of these other channels.

Awesome. Change the conversation, made it something these folks understand. Speak their language, and you get the buy-in you want.

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

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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How to create insights from consumers’ click histories

Without any action behind it, data is just a bunch of numbers. Clickstream data is particularly valuable, providing insights about what consumers are doing.

Data alone does not lead to insights. Analyzed data backed by a hypothesis and placed in the right context, on the other hand, does.

Clickstream information is a particularly good set of data for marketers to examine if they want to understand their customers better and connect with them based on their actions.

The many benefits of clickstream data

With clickstream data, you can examine not only how customers are interacting with your brand, but also what they are doing before and after they arrive at your site.


Clickstream information is based on consumers’ actual click and browsing behaviors, with records of click-throughs and URLs visited collected in the order they occurred, giving marketers important, industrywide insight into online behavior, the customer journey through the funnel, and user experiences.

Rather than providing simple numbers of visits or sales, clickstream information reflects consumer behavior based on their activity and identifies areas companies could improve where the competition might be doing it better.

The insights garnered from clickstream data may not always match your hypothesis, but they are always useful if you ask the right questions.

Don’t collect data just because numbers are nice to fall back on. Instead, focus on collecting information like click history that is directly tied to your business objectives and key performance indicators.

Identify what you want to learn, and focus your collection and analysis on that specific data subset.

Make the most of your clickstream data

Creating actionable insights out of your data is essential to portraying a full and accurate picture of the customer journey. Maximize the effectiveness of your clickstream analysis by employing these three tactics:

1. Have a hypothesis

This is a minimum requirement for a data project to be efficient and lead to insights. Without a hypothesis, you’re just wasting time. The more specific you are in your data requests, the easier it is for your data team to pinpoint exactly what they need to pull, analyze, and provide.

You don’t have to be sure of the outcome, and the data may prove you wrong, but that’s OK. Just be sure your data team enters a project focused and that they reach a conclusion.

Let’s say you run a display campaign to drive awareness and clicks to your own site for a product. If you sell that product through third-party distributors, like Amazon or Target, your hypothesis might be that your display campaign is influencing purchase behavior and conversions on these third-party sites. Without clickstream data, it’s very hard to connect those two pieces and prove or disprove this hypothesis.


2. Tie your analysis to KPIs

Your analysis might reveal plenty of information about how consumers reach and interact with your brand or with your competition, but not all information yields actionable insights. You might find that consumers searching your website tend to search three times. That’s interesting, but you don’t gain real insights from it without understanding how their search activity affects their subsequent behavior or how it differs from consumer search activity on competitors’ sites.

Structuring your hypothesis and analysis around KPIs diminishes the risk of reaching insights that are not actionable. If your leading KPI is, say, trial subscriptions, look into the trial conversion flow of your competitors, and reverse engineer their customer journey through the funnel to detect conversion and abandonment trends at each step.

If the vast majority of consumers bounce during step three of five on your site (but not on your competitors’ sites), test out consolidation steps to improve the user experience and increase conversions.

3. Identify your output goals

Without a clear goal for what you intend to do with clickstream data, you cannot transform it into actionable insights. Are you studying customer journeys to optimize conversions or user experience? Are you looking for details about PR or case studies to grow brand awareness and generate leads?

Answering these questions and setting intentions for your data will help you in many ways, from filtering data requests from the get-go to guiding your thought process when focusing your data request and analysis.

By analyzing customers’ online actions – clicks, purchases on other sites, and their browsing history – with specific output goals, you reveal a world of insight into how they interact with your brand’s web properties, your competition, and how they react to your offering.

Don’t collect clickstream data just for the sake of collecting it. Understand what you want to investigate and how you can benefit from it. Make sure it’s relevant to your company, and then analyze clickstream data to better understand your customers’ actions and optimize their experience.

Marketers need to go beyond just the numbers and patterns that data provides if they want to successfully understand and connect with consumers. Focusing on customer actions will lead to a better understanding of your audience and what resonates with them, increasing the success of your marketing efforts and, ultimately, creating a better business.

This is an abridged version of an article published earlier this week on our sister site ClickZ.

Facebook to Change News Feed to Focus on Friends and Family: Here’s Everything You Need to Know

The goal of Facebook’s News Feed is to show people the stories that are most relevant to them. That’s no small task when you have over 1.65 billion people to keep happy and over 1,500 stories per day to prioritize for each of those individual users. Now, Facebook has announced one of their most significant News Feed shuffles.

On Wednesday, Facebook shared that the News Feed algorithm is going to shift so that it will more favorably promote content posted by the friends and family of users.

These changes are likely to mean that content posted by brands and publishers will show up less prominently in News Feeds. In the announcement, the company explained their priority is keeping you connected to the people, places and things you want to be connected to – starting with the people you are friends with on Facebook.

Back in April 2015, Facebook made a similar algorithm update trying to ensure that stories posted directly by the friends you care about will be higher up in News Feed, so you are less likely to miss them. But based on feedback, Facebook understands that people are still worried about missing important updates from the friends.

This update is likely to affect all types of content posted by brands and publishers, including links, videos, live videos and photos. Facebook said it anticipates that this update may cause reach and referral traffic to decline for many Pages who’s traffic comes directly through Page posts.

The update will have less of an impact, however, if a lot of your referral traffic is the result of people sharing your content and their friends liking and commenting on it. Links or Page content shared by friends or content your friends interact with frequently will still appear higher in the feed.

For example, the post from my personal Facebook account (on the right below) would be more likely to appear above the post from Buffer’s Page (on the left) in the News Feed:


What do users expect from the News Feed?

Facebook’s success is built on getting people the stories that matter to them most.

To help make sure you don’t miss the friends and family posts you are likely to care about, Facebook try to put those posts toward the top of your News Feed. The News Feed learns and adapts over time based on the content you interact with the most, too. For example, if you tend to like photos from your sister, they’ll start putting her posts closer to the top of your feed so you won’t miss what she posted while you were away.

Facebook research has also shown that, after friends and family, people have two other strong expectations when they come to News Feed:

  • The News Feed should inform. People expect the stories in their feed to be meaningful to them – and we have learned over time that people value stories that they consider informative. Something that one person finds informative or interesting may be different from what another person finds informative or interesting – this could be a post about a current event, a story about your favorite celebrity, a piece of local news, or a recipe. Facebook’s algorithm is always trying to better understand what is interesting and informative to you personally, so those stories appear higher up in your feed.
  • The News Feed should entertain. Facebook also found that people enjoy their feeds as a source of entertainment. For some people, that’s following a celebrity or athlete; for others,  it’s watching Live videos and sharing funny photos with their friends. Again, the company’s News Feed algorithm tries to understand and predict what posts on Facebook you find entertaining to make sure you don’t miss out on those.

The makeup of a successful social network (and why this update is essential for Facebook)

Despite its venture into publishing and partnerships with large news and entertainment brands, at its heart, Facebook is still a place for friends. And without solidifying our connections with those closest to us, Facebook could face struggles to keep its 1.65 billion monthly active users coming back.

To understand the inner-workings of social networks and what makes us keep using them, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology studied networks like Friendster and Myspace with the goal of figuring out what factors can be detrimental to a social network.

As explained over at Wired:

They found that when the time and effort (the costs) associated with being a member of a social network outweigh the benefits, then a decline in users becomes likely. If one person leaves, their friends become more likely to leave and as more people leave, this can lead to a cascading collapse in membership.

Networks like Friendster and Myspace were the Facebook of their day. Both had tens, and eventually hundreds, of millions of registered users, but what the study found is that the bonds between users weren’t particularly strong. Many users had very few close connections, and it appears there’s a direct correlation between how connected we feel to our friends and family and our affiliation with each network.

If Facebook users are worried about missing important updates from the people they care about most, then their affiliation with the network could begin to decline as they find other ways to stay connected. And once user begins to leave, or become un-engaged, it could have a waterfall effect on the network. David Garcia, a professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, explains:

“First the users in the outer cores start to leave, lowering the benefits of inner cores, cascading through the network towards the core users, and thus unraveling.”

You can see how a social network unravels in the below graphic (Friendster is used in the image):


For Facebook, the News Feed is the most integral part of their product to make us feel connected with those we care about. And as such, it’s important for Facebook to keep the content we want to see the most at the top of the feed.

How will this update impact business Pages?

The changes will affect all types of content posted by Pages, including links, videos, live videos and photos.

In their “News Feed Values” shared alongside this announcement, Facebook made it clear that content from friends and family will come first. And the company also highlighted the importance of authentic communication and being inclusive of all perspectives and view points without favoring specific kinds of sources – or ideas.

We expect that this update may cause organic post reach and referral traffic to decline for some Pages. The impact will vary for every page and will greatly depend on the composition of your audience or the way in which your content is shared on Facebook. For example, if a lot of your referral traffic is the result of people sharing your content and their friends liking and commenting on it, there will be less of an impact than if the majority of your traffic comes directly through Page posts.

As with all Facebook algorithm updates, it may take a little time to determine exactly what will continue to work and how to increase organic reach (though Facebook feels like it’s shifting more towards a pay-to-play market for businesses). 

One tactic that could become increasingly important is the amplification of brand content. With Facebook favoring content shared by users rather than Pages, it feels essential to find new and innovative ways to encourage your audience to share your content directly to Facebook. Ensuring your content is discoverable away for the Facebook News Feed could be another key play as well.

It also feels important to keep a focus on what people are looking for from the News Feed. As mentioned earlier, aside from friends and family, Facebook users turn to the News Feed to be informed and entertained. With those goals in mind, it’s worth thinking about how the content you create for Facebook can satisfy those desires.

Over to you

In their announcement, Facebook says their work is “only 1 percent finished” so it feels like there are plenty more twists and turns ahead for the News Feed.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this update and how it may affect the way you use Facebook and the types of content your share? Please feel free to leave a comment below and I’m excited to continue the conversation with you. 

Facebook News Feed update: how #Friendmageddon will affect publishers

Facebook has announced a new change to its News Feed algorithm, favouring personal posts over news stories, in an attempt to maintain its personal element. What does this *really* mean for publishers though?

Facebook is all about connecting people with their friends and family and despite attempts to divert from its original concept, it’s not ready yet to leave it aside. That’s why it decided to downplay stories from publishers on users’ news feed, in order to promote more personal stories from their favourite people.

This announcement was not warmly welcomed by publishers, as it means that organic reach will probably drop even more (as if it wasn’t already low) and it will be even more challenging from now on to make it to a user’s news feed.

RIP organic reach?

Organic reach was already on decline over the past few years and even before the latest algorithm change, SocialFlow observed a drop of 42% from January to May, which was alarming for Page managers.

It’s apparent that organic reach was becoming more challenging and only engagement and relevance could improve it. However, if there was already a drop of 42% in posts’ reach from January to May, what could we expect from now on?

SocialFlow organic reach Facebook drop

Image source: SocialFlow

If Facebook is further promoting personal stories over news and brand posts, will we even able to talk about organic reach anymore?

Facebook confirmed in its announcement the possibility of seeing a reduced organic traffic:

“Overall, we anticipate that this update may cause reach and referral traffic to decline for some Pages. The specific impact on your Page’s distribution and other metrics may vary depending on the composition of your audience. For example, if a lot of your referral traffic is the result of people sharing your content and their friends liking and commenting on it, there will be less of an impact than if the majority of your traffic comes directly through Page posts. We encourage Pages to post things that their audience are likely to share with their friends.”

Publishers are starting to worry about the recent change and this brings about the need to re-evaluate their content strategy, in an attempt to maintain a successful Facebook presence.

Aiming for value and relevance

In Facebook’s own words:

“The goal of News Feed is to show people the stories that are most relevant to them.”

It’s not just about promoting personal stories then, but it’s also about highlighting the content that is relevant for every user. This means that Pages may still maintain their organic reach, provided they understand their audience.

It is becoming more important than ever for a publisher (and any Facebook Page) to post informative and relevant content for its audience, in a way that it will maintain engagement and ensure posts are still visible on News Feeds.

More over, shareable content, what we also call ‘viral’, will still be important, as this is the organic way to ensure that a page’s reach is increased. Creative, unique and authentic content is always appreciated and this is the only way to maintain the organic reach in the post-algorithm era.

This may require a more extensive analysis of the Page and each post’s performance, although we assume that native videos will still be more important than other types of content. Facebook was quite clear on its preference of native content so this might be a good start for your experimentation over the forthcoming months.

Buzzfeed Pound data

Source: Buzzfeed Pound data

Pay for traffic

It is inevitable that publishers will follow marketers in the ‘pay to play’ game on Facebook, in order to maintain their reach, but is every publisher able to do so? And what does this mean for smaller sites?

It won’t be an easy task for a small publication to maintain a Facebook presence without paying to promote (or boost) a post. This doesn’t mean that every small publisher should abandon Facebook, but it may become more challenging and there’ll be a need for more creative solutions.

Maybe it’s the right time for every publisher to understand that heavily depending on Facebook for traffic is not working anymore and it might be a good idea to consider further options, or simply to focus on other aspects of content marketing.

A change in news consumption?

A recent survey by Pew Research Center indicated that 62% of US adults are using social media to keep up with the news and Facebook is by far their first choice, with 67% of them using it for their news updates.


Image source: Pew Research Center

After the News Feed update, people won’t see the same amount of news stories on their feed and will ultimately affect the success of publishers’ posts.

Beware, this is not the end for publishers on Facebook, but it does call for more authentic, interesting, appealing, engaging content, rather than circulating the same old story across all publications.

Once again, big publishers will probably be less affected by this update, due to the authority, the budget and the engagement they already have.

People will not stop consuming content through Facebook, all publishers need to do is find is the right way to ‘get access’ to their users’ feeds.

(Hopefully the focus on engagement and virality will not lead to posts of lower quality, simply seeking to grab the audience’s attention)

Boosting the “echo chamber”

Another issue to consider is the filter bubble that Facebook has built over the year and how it only grows bigger with all the updates.

People are exposed to people, posts, stories that are relevant to their interests, their beliefs, their experiences and this ultimately affects their broader perception of the world.

Eli Pariser mentioned in his book ‘The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding From You‘ back in 2011:

“Your computer monitor is a kind a one-way mirror, reflecting your own interests while algorithmic observers watch what you click.”

Meanwhile, Facebook published a post on its News Feed Values and mentions among others:

“Our aim is to deliver the types of stories we’ve gotten feedback that an individual person most wants to see. We do this not only because we believe it’s the right thing but also because it’s good for our business. When people see content they are interested in, they are more likely to spend time on News Feed and enjoy their experience.”

This sums up its concept, the news feed updates and how our news consumption is changing. As more and more people use the platform to keep up with the news, and as Facebook keeps pushing personal and relevant stories, publishers are also becoming part of a changing reality, which affects both the creation, but also the distribution of their future stories.

What’s the next step for publishers on Facebook?

There’s no need to panic (yet) regarding Facebook’s new update, but it may be a good idea to start examining your audience and the reactions your posts trigger, in order to be ready to deal with the new #Friendmageddon.

Every site will feel the need to analyse its current marketing practices, in order to spot the opportunities for further development to maintain the referral traffic that Facebook may offer.

Whether you already have an engaged audience or not, Facebook kindly reminded us once again that nothing is for granted. Time to adjust our social practices once again then.

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Google’s Joris Merks on the importance of leadership for digital transformation

Joris Merks is Head of Digital Transformation, Northern Europe at Google, and works with companies to embed digital-first thinking into their strategies.

He’ll be participating in a Google Squared webinar tomorrow (June 30), looking at how to drive a culture of innovation in your company.

Can you tell us a little about your role at Google?

I am EMEA Head of Curriculum design in the Google Digital Academy team. That means I work with a team and vendors to build workshops and education initiatives that help Google’s advertisers understand what the impact of digital is on their business and help the feel equipped for digital transformation.

What does digital transformation mean to you?

I look at digital transformation as a chain reaction of experiments that continuously helps companies to understand how to make the best use of new technology.

In this way they stay in tune with their customers, who are also using digital technology, keeping their businesses ready for the future.

What should the first steps be in a process of digital transformation?

It starts with a clear vision from company leaders of where technology is going and how that could affect the business.

Then these leaders need to give strong signals to people in the company about which challenges need to be fixed and a culture that rewards experimentation and entrepreneurship needs to be created.

Without this culture, people aren’t very likely to invest in new experiments. This is because any experiment with new technology is always more work and more risk compared to just doing what you always did. People won’t be wiling to pick up more work and risk if there is nothing in it for them or if they might even risk losing their job or bonus when an experiment fails.

Should companies centralise digital functions, or should these be distributed across various teams/departments? What are the pros and cons?

I think it depends on the stage of development a company is in and on the type and size of company. Companies with a digital-focused business model obviously should have centralised digital functions.

Smaller companies tend to have functions where digital and traditional marketing are embedded in the same teams.

Large companies that have heritage in the offline world and are in transformation tend to start out with specialized digital teams, which is good to make sure you ramp up fast enough. However, at some point in the digital transformation new and old teams must break through their silos because they are in the end serving the same customer and should provide a seamless journey across channels.

I believe eventually the differentiation between the two worlds will go away and all marketers will have a digital mindset. For the sake of ramping up fast it can however make sense to have a period where digital is a separate skill set in the organization.

How much of digital transformation is about technology and how much is about culture?

I’d say it is equally important and next to technology and culture there are also factors such as creativity, knowledge, organisational structure and strategic processes.

For example, if new technology arises, creative people are needed to find out what cool and useful things you can do with that technology.

The people that are our creatives and the people that understand tech are however often not the same type of people, so the art is bringing them together to come up with new ideas to experiment with.

The big trap with digital is that it can be treated too much as a technological development and that focus is a lot on data. With that focus digital will always stay a specialism in the company and the company will never have a fully digital mindset.

There are many obstacles facing brands as they examine new digital tactics and technology (e.g. legacy systems). How do you drive digital transformation in such an environment?

I think sometimes big tough decisions need to be made in many areas at the same time. That is definitely true for legacy systems.

For instance brand and digital departments might be using different tools to manage their campaigns. That means you can never have a single view on the customer, which again means you can never be customer friendly in your advertising.

Someone then needs to make the decision to go for one holistic approach. That will require short term investments of time and money but is a crucial decision in order to be ready for the future and not lose your business in the long run.

Those decisions typically require strong leadership and vision. Without that it is very easy to keep focusing on those things that deliver you short term business without making the efforts needed to keep your long term business.

Which companies do you see as great examples of businesses which have embraced digital? What are the common factors in their approaches?

There are many of such examples. I think the key thing they all have in common is strong visionary leaders.

If people we work with find it get stuck in digital transformation, that is almost always because the way they are incentivised, their targets, their bonuses and career opportunities are driven too much by short term business results.

Those are the companies that will one day get an extreme wake up call because a new competitor will come out of nowhere with a new business model using new digital technology in smart ways and winning customers at high speed.

Where does data fit into digital transformation?

Despite the fact that I think the focus has been too much on technology and data, data definitely is becoming more important. I think no one can deny that.

I always advocate the balance between data, mind and heart. Data to measure everything you can measure, mostly the proven successes so you can optimise them further.

Mind is needed to look ahead into the future, assess how your business may be affected by new developments and craft the right experiments to be ready for that future.

Data isn’t very good at helping you with that because data is always based on the past. Even when models make predictions they are always based on past data.  The heart is needed to recognise the moments when someone comes up with a great creative idea of something cool you can do with new technology.

On those moments you shouldn’t ask how much money you will earn from it. If the idea is fundamentally different from anything you tried, you can’t know. If, however, your heart starts pounding, that probably means it is a great idea worth exploring. You can bring the measurement in afterwards, but don’t kill the idea upfront due to lack of good data.

Joris will be taking part in a Google Squared webinar tomorrow, looking at the five fundamental limitations of data that create challenges in digital transformation. You can sign up for the webinar here


17 inspirational examples of data visualization

We can all collect masses of data, but it only becomes genuinely useful when we use it to make a clear point.

This is where data visualization comes in. Showing data in context and using creativity to make that same data tell a story can truly bring the numbers to life.

There are a whole bunch of data visualization tools out there to help create your own, but here are some existing examples for inspiration.

A day in the life of Americans

This excellent visualization from Flowing data uses information from the American Time Use Survey to show what Americans are up to at any time of day.


What streaming services pay artists

This from the wonderful information is beautiful website, looks at how the major online streaming music services compare in terms of paying the musicians.

streaming pay

Two centuries of US immigration

This fantastic visualization from metrocosm shows the various waves of immigration into the United States from the 19th century to the present day.

us immigration

US population trends over time

This gif from the Pew Research Center is a great example of how movement can be used to convey shifts and trends over time.

pew gif

Why you should take the bus

The German town of Münster produced this series of images back in 1991 to encourage bus use. It’s beautifully simple showing the relative impact of the same number of people (72) on bicycles, in cars, or on a bus.


What happens in an internet minute?

This infographic from excelacom presents what happens online in 60 seconds, including:

  • 150 million emails are sent.
  • 1,389 Uber rides.
  • 527,760 photos shared on Snapchat.
  • 51,000 app downloads on Apple’s App Store.
  • $203,596 in sales on Amazon.com.


US wind map

This moving visualization shows wind speed and direction in real time.

It looks great and is easy to understand, which is key to effect data visualization. This one comes from hint.fm.

wind map

Daily routines of creative people

I’ve always been pretty cynical about this ‘X things successful people do before breakfast’ stuff – as if by following this, people are suddenly going to become Steve Jobs or Albert Einstein.

However, this one from podio showing daily routines of creative people is very interesting. It won’t turn you into a great composer, but it’s a fascinating insight nonetheless.


The impact of vaccines

This is a series of visualizations from the Wall Street Journal, which shows the impact of vaccines on various infectious diseases.

It’s striking stuff, which clearly demonstrates the incredible positive impact of vaccination programs in the US.

vaccine impact

London food hygeine

This is a great use of freely available data to provide useful information for the public.

london hygeine

The one million tweet map

This uses tweet data to present a geographical representation of where people tweet about topics. The example below is for ‘Brexit‘.

1m tweet map

The fallen of WW2

This, from Neil Halloran is a cross between data visualization and documentary.


There are two versions of this. The video version you can see embedded below, and an interactive version.

People living on earth

A simple but very effective visualization of the world’s population, and the speed at which it increases.


The ultimate data dog

This, again from Information is Beautiful, uses data on the intelligence and other characteristics of dog breeds, plotting this against data on the popularity of various breeds from the American Kennel Club.

data dog

How much did band members contribute to each Beatles album? 

This from Mike Moore, shows the relative writing percentage for each Beatles album, as well as the contribution over time.

The Beatles

A day on the London Underground

From Will Gallia, who used data from a single day’s use of the London underground to produce this timelapse visualization.

Fish Pharm

This is from way back in 2010, and illustrates the fact that antidepressants and other pharmaceuticals are now showing up in fish tissue.