TIME health

10 Science-Proven Ways to Be Happier

woman-writing-diary
Getty Images

Science continues to find ever more specific and idiosyncratic ways we can bring just a bit more of happiness into our lives

We never get tired of thinking about happiness, do we? Life is so much nicer when you’re able to couple it with joy and gratitude.

We’ve published posts before about simple ways to be happy and retraining your brain for more gratitude, and Buffer’s CEO Joel has even shared his own daily to-do list for happiness. (There’s also our popular list of things to stop doing to be happier.)

Meanwhile, science continues to study happiness, finding ever more specific and idiosyncratic ways we can bring just a bit more of this elusive quality into our lives.

I love keeping an eye on these studies, and thought I would share the latest batch with you here to see if any of them might resonate with you and make you just a bit happier.

Here are 10 truly unique ways to be happier that you can start today!

1. Do cultural activities

Need a boost of joy? Trying seeing a play or heading to a museum.

A study that collected data on the activities, mood and health of 50,000 adults in Norway found that people who participated in more cultural activities reported higher happiness levels and lower anxiety and depression.

“Participation in receptive and creative cultural activities was significantly associated with good health, good satisfaction with life, low anxiety and depression scores in both genders,” the researchers write.

Curiously, men saw stronger benefits from receptive, or passive, cultural activities (like visiting museums, art exhibitions, concerts or theaters) while women more enjoyed active participation events (like club meetings, singing, outdoor activities and dance).

2. Keep a diary: Rereading it brings joy

To learn to find more gratitude and joy in every day—not just special occasions, the boring days, too—try keeping a diary and re-reading it from time to time.

Researchers who did a variety of experiments involving keeping a journal discovered that “ordinary events came to be perceived as more extraordinary over time” as participants rediscovered them through their older writings.

In other words, simply writing down our ordinary, regular-day experiences is a way of banking up some happiness down the line, when the activities we describe could bring us unexpected joy.

3. Make small talk with a stranger

Chatting up your barista or cashier? Good for your health!

Behavioral scientists gave a group of Chicago train commuters a $5 Starbucks gift card in exchange for striking up a conversation with a stranger during their ride. (While another group kept to themselves.)

Those who started conversations reported a more positive experience than those who had stayed quiet—even though they had predicted they would feel happier being solitary.

Another study saw similar results from giving Starbucks visitors a $5 gift card in exchange for having a “genuine interaction with the cashier.”

It seems that connecting with another person—no matter how briefly—increases our happiness.

4. But have meaningful conversations, too

While positive small talk is great, more substantial conversations could up our happiness quotient even higher.

A study that tracked the conversations of 80 people for 4 days found that, in keeping with the small-talk study, higher well-being is associated with spending less time alone and more time talking to others.

But researchers also discovered that even higher well-being was associated with having less small talk and more substantive conversations.

“Together, the findings demonstrate that the happy life is social rather than solitary and conversationally deep rather than superficial,” the researchers write.

So dive deep in your conversations with friends and loved ones—it’s great for you.

5. Live in the suburbs and get involved

This one seems to apply to the U.S. A. only, but I still found it quite interesting.

I would have guessed that city dwellers might be the most satisfied with where they live, but in a poll of 1,600 U.S. adults, the highest rate of happiness was found in the suburbs.

84 percent of suburbanites rated the communities where they live as overall excellent or good, compared to 75 percent of urban dwellers and 78 percent of rural residents.

Another study on city happiness found that residents are happier if they feel connected to their cities and neighborhoods and feel positively about the state of city services.

So wherever you live, make sure to get involved in your community for maximum happiness.

6. Listen to sad songs: They provide emotional release

How could sad songs make us happy? And why do we seek them out?

That’s the question researchers wanted to answer with a survey of 722 people from around the world.

They discovered that there are 4 main reasons we take comfort in melancholy songs:

  • They allow us to drift off into imagination
  • They might provide us catharsis (emotion regulation)
  • They allow us to relate to a common emotion (empathy), and
  • They’re divorced from our actual problems (no “real-life” implications)

Researchers determined that “listening to sad music can lead to beneficial emotional effects such as regulation of negative emotion and mood as well as consolation.”

7. Spend money on experiences, not items

Here’s one that’s easy to understand but might be tougher to fix.

We know that spending money on life experiences will make us happier than spending money on material things (and it does!) but we can’t seem to stop ourselves from choosing the wrong option.

That’s what a study in The Journal of Positive Psychology found as they surveyed people before and after they made purchases.

The series of studies concluded that we’re more likely to spend on items than experiences because we can quantify them more easily and we want to see the best value for our dollars.

However, they found that the study subjects reported that after they spent, experiences brought them greater well-being and they considered them to be a better use of money.

So if we can keep that in mind, it’s possible to have our cake and eat it, too—definitely something to be happy about!

8. Set tiny, attainable goals: Make someone smile

It might be cliché, but making someone happy will make you happy, too.

And science says the more specific you can be with your goal, the better.

University of Houston professor Melanie Rudd found that a group of people who were told to make someone smile felt both happier and more confident that they’d actually achieved their goal than a similar group who’d been told simply to make someone else happy.

Even more interesting: In a separate experiment, people wrongly predicted that going for the bigger goal would make them happier.

“If you can meet or exceed your expectations of achieving a goal, you will be happier than if you fall short of your expectations,” Rudd explained.

9. Look at beautiful things: Design makes us happy

Could looking at a beautiful object make you feel happier?

The smartphone company HTC conducted a study that says yes.

In a series of laboratory and online experiments, volunteers looked at and interacted with objects that fell into 3 categories: beautiful, functional, or both beautiful and functional.

Their reactions uncovered some interesting findings, like:

  • Well-designed objects that are both beautiful and functional trigger positive emotions like calmness and contentment, reducing negative feelings like anger and annoyance by almost a third.
  • Purely beautiful objects (not functional) reduce negative emotions by 29%, increasing a sense of calmness and ease.

Objects that were both beautiful and functional created an especially high level of emotional arousal:

In general, people feel happier looking at and using beautiful objects that work well.

10. Eat more fruits and veggies

We know being healthier makes us happy, but can carrots give you purpose?

I have to admit I didn’t expect such a direct link between happiness and eating a lot of fruits and vegetables as researchers in New Zealand report.

Their 13-day study of 405 people who kept food diaries showed that people who ate more fruits and vegetables reported higher than average levels of curiosity, creativity, and positive emotions, as well as engagement, meaning, and purpose.

Even more interestingly, participants often scored higher on all of those scales on days when they ate more fruits and vegetables.

“These findings suggest that fruit and vegetable intake is related to other aspects of human flourishing, beyond just feeling happy,” writes the research team.

This article originally appeared on Buffer.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME apps

24 Great Free Apps and Tools to Help You Build Strong Habits

phones
Getty Images

Good habits are the crucial building blocks of a better, healthier, happier way of life

I have a lot of things I want to accomplish in the upcoming year. Some of them are really small things (like learning to make hashbrowns, a breakfast food that has confounded me for years) and some are really big, like learning to live a more minimalist life.

In the past, I have begun each new year with great intentions but found following through really difficult—like many of those who create goals for the new year.

I think that’s because change is hard. We all want to improve and become better people — healthier, more productive, a better partner or friend. But it can be tough to stick to new behaviors.

So this year, I decided to get a little help from technology and research around the ideas of habit formation and willpower. By examining things like how smokers quit, why student perform well and how New Year’s resolvers stay on track, researchers are starting to discover how we can create lasting change in our lives.

The key? Habits. Good habits, it seems, are the crucial building blocks of a better, healthier, happier way of life.

But where do good habits come from? How do you create them?

Building an awesome habit

We’ve written about habits before on the blog. One of the most beneficial posts for me was Joel’s simple method to create a new habit:

  1. Start so small you can’t fail
  2. Work on the small habit for as long as it takes to become a ritual (something you’re pulled towards, rather than which requires willpower)
  3. Make a very small addition to the habit, ideally anchored to an existing ritual

creating-habits

 

So it seems getting a little help building that initial habit could help a lot. Fortunately, there are tons of great tools and apps out there that want to lend a hand.

Here’s a look at some of the best free tools and apps I could find for building stronger habits.

Apps and tools to build strong habits

Web apps

21 Habit

The concept is simple: You pledge $21 that says you’ll keep up your new habit for 21 days, the time it takes to ingrain it as a habit. Each day you succeed, you get $1 back. Each day you fail, you forfeit $1, which 21habit donates to one of several charities.

42Goals

A simple tool for tracking your daily goals and keeping a log of your daily activities. Templates are provided for tracking all sorts of activities and habits, and you can also create your own custom goals. Data you collect is displayed in the style of chart you specify.

Beeminder

Beeminder puts a little sting into habit formation by requiring you to pay up if you aren’t able to keep your goals. You commit to pay something — initially $5 — after the first time you get off track with your new habit.

Chains.cc

This motivational tool uses the “don’t break the chain” method to help build good habits and break bad ones. Each day you complete a task you want to keep up, a visual streak grows. Bonus: There’s also an iPhone app for on-the-go habit-building.

Daytum

Whether you would like to tally a day or a year, Daytum helps you collect and visualize the most important statistics in your life—whatever they might be—and create an up-to-the-moment personal dashboard. Also has a companion iOS app!

Go F#^ing Do It

This site definitely doesn’t mince words! Nor does it shy away from its goal—helping you create new habits through accountability. All you need to get started is a goal, a deadline, some money and someone to act as your witness. If you don’t meet your deadline, there goes your cash.

HabitForge

This site is designed around accountability—a proven motivator in creating new habits. There are daily check-ins and progress reports, and a community to encourage you. You can even join or build a team of others working on the same thing as you.

Habitgrams

Set simple reminders to be sent through your choice of email or text.

iRunuRun

Focusing on a greatness method that zeroes in on tracking and quantifying focus on recurring behavior, this tool is a powerful performance and accountability platform. Also comes with an iOS app!

Lifetick

This web app first focuses on core values and then breaks them down into smaller goals and habits, with tons of visual progress reports. Also cool is the “Dreams” feature, where you can create and add to your lifelong “bucket list.”

Momentum

So this one is not quite a habit builder, but still too cool not to mention! Momentum is a personal dashboard designed to eliminate distraction and provide inspiration, focus, and productivity. Choose your goal or focus for the day and Momentum will gently remind you of it each time you go to open a new tab.

stickK

stickK focuses on incentives, accountability and community to help you keep up your habits. Each user creates a unique Commitment Contract to achieve goals within a particular timeframe. If you are unsuccessful, stickK lets your friends know about it. You can also put money on the line for any contract.

TinyHabits

BJ Fogg has studied human behavior for 20 years. His TinyHabits is a free, ongoing 5-day session in which you learn about habits, select 3 new habits you want and respond to a daily email. In less than 30 minutes total, he promises skills that will benefit you for a lifetime.

Both iOS and Android apps

HabitRPG

Life’s a game with HabitRPG, which rewards you for completing tasks and goals with gold, points, progress and more features. If you don’t complete tasks, your can loses health or even die and lose the progress you’ve made. You can also add friends to your group for community and accountability.

Lift

I have really enjoyed using Lift. The app does a great job is facilitating habits by breaking them down into small pieces and getting you into a routine. Check in when you complete goals of your choosing (popular ones include floss, run, meditate and more). For almost every habit there’s a great Q&A going on and an expert-led group that can help you come up with achievable goals.

iOS apps

Balanced

A simple way to celebrate daily successes that also creates motivation you may not even know you had. It starts you out with 50 suggested activities, so you’ll easily be able to find a new goal to work toward. Choose the ones that are right for you, or add your own to create your individual happiness list. Balanced gives you positive feedback, lets you know if you are on a streak, and keeps you aware of when you last did each activity.

Good Habits

Another “don’t break the chain” habit builder based on Jerry Seinfeld’s famous advice— with an added visual emphasis.

HabitClock

Need a wake-up call and a habit builder? HabitClocks not only wakes you up but also helps you perform morning routines that will improve your daily mood and productivity.

Loggr

If you want more control over how to create and track your habits, Loggr could be the answer. This app allows you to track, quantify, view and export any data—you choose what’s important to you.

Logsit

An easy way to keep track of your time and activities in order to get more insight into your behavior patterns. Reminders adjust to your behavior, and progress bars show the time until your next reminder.

Way of Life

Get the data you need to build better habits with Way of Life, which seems to track your habits in every visual way possible. As you collect more and more information, the idea is that you will be able to easily spot positive and negative trends in your lifestyle.

Android apps

The Fabulous

A habit-building app that focuses first on creating an awesome morning routine and then add other rituals to install healthy habits and mindfulness in your life. Users get tips for healthy living and a coach to motivate you to go further.

HabitBull

HabitBull lets you set reminders for each habit and displays them on days when you need to be successful, so you can use it as a to-do list, a calendar planning tool or checklist or a repeating reminder. Try to get a long streak for the habit you are working on by covering your goals—the longer the better!

Pledge

Pledge will remind you to do tasks you often neglect and highlight streaks and high scores so that you stay motivated and can focus on your goals. It also promises to “slightly judge you” if you don’t keep your promises, in case you might find that motivational.

I’m excited to try more of these tools to help me build strong habits in the new year and beyond. Maybe one of them could work for you, too!

As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence therefore is not an act, but a habit.”

This article originally appeared on Buffer.

TIME Careers & Workplace

To Create a New Habit, First Know You’re Going to Break It

woman writing
Getty Images

One of the key parts of building habits might be to know that you will not flawlessly create your habits

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

I’ve been obsessed with thinking about, adjusting and building upon my habits for a long time now, and working on good habits is probably one of the things that’s helped me the most to make progress with my startup. In addition, it seems like habits are now becoming popular again. This is a great thing, and books like The Power of Habit are helping lots of people.

Perhaps one of the things that is rarely discussed with habits is failing with them. How do you keep going with building habits when you fail one day, or you have some kind of momentary setback?

I thought it might be useful for me to share my thoughts on habits, and particularly the aspect of failing with habits.

Building an awesome habit

There are the steps I’ve found that work best to create a new habit:

  1. Start so small you “can’t fail” (more on the reality of that later)
  2. Work on the small habit for as long as it takes to become a ritual (something you’re pulled towards rather than which requires willpower)
  3. Make a very small addition to the habit, ideally anchored to an existing ritual

creating-habits

How I built my most rewarding habit

The habit I’m happiest with is my morning routine. It gives me a fantastic start to the day and lots of energy. To build it, I took the approach above of starting small and building on top.

I started my habit a few years ago when I was based in Birmingham in the UK. The first thing I started with was to go to the gym 2-3 times per week. That’s all my routine was for a long time. Once I had that habit ingrained, I expanded on it so that I would go swimming the other two days of the week, essentially meaning that I went to the gym every day at the same time. I’d go around 7:30, which meant I awoke at around 7 a.m.

Next, I gradually woke up earlier, first waking up at 6:45 for several weeks, and then 6:30. At the same time, I put in place my evening ritual of going for a walk, which helped me wind down and get to sleep early enough to then awake early. Eventually, I achieved the ability to wake up at 6 a.m. and do an hour of productive work before the gym. This precious early morning time for work when I was the freshest was one of the things that helped me get Buffer off the ground in the early days.

The next thing I made a real habit was to have breakfast after I returned from the gym. I then worked on making this full routine a habit for a number of months. I had times when I moved to a different country and had to work hard to get back to the routine after the initial disruption of settling in. It was whilst in Hong Kong that I achieved being very disciplined with this routine and wrote about it.

My morning routine

Today, I’ve built on top of this habit even further. Here’s what my morning routine looks like now:

  • I awake at 5:05am.
  • At 5:10, I meditate for 6 minutes.
  • I spend until 5:30 having a first breakfast: a bagel and a protein shake.
  • I do 90 minutes of productive work on a most important task from 5:30 until 7am.
  • At 7 a.m., I go to the gym. I do a weights session every morning (different muscle group each day).
  • I arrive home from the gym at 8:30 a.m. and have a second breakfast: chicken, 2 eggs and cottage cheese.

It may seem extremely regimented, and I guess perhaps it is. However, the important thing is the approach. You can start with one simple thing and then work on it over time. I’m now working to build around this current habit even more.

Failing while building your awesome habit

One of the most popular and simultaneously most controversial articles I’ve ever written is probably The Exercise Habit. It’s one that has been mentioned to me many times by people I’ve met to help with their startup challenges. I’ve been humbled to find out that a number of people have been inspired by the article to start a habit of daily exercise.

Whilst in Tel Aviv, I met Eytan Levit, a great startup founder who has since become a good friend. He told me he had read my article and was immediately driven to start a habit of daily exercise. I sat down and had coffee with him while he told me about his experience, and it was fascinating.

He told me that he did daily exercise for four days in a row, and he felt fantastic. He said he felt like he had more energy than ever before, and was ready to conquer the world. Then, on the fifth day Eytan struggled to get to the gym for whatever reason, and essentially the chain was broken. The most revelatory thing he said to me was that the reason he didn’t start the habit again was not that he didn’t enjoy the exercise or benefit greatly from doing it. The reason he failed to create the exercise habit was the feeling of disappointment of not getting to the gym on that fifth day.

Get ready and expect to break your habit

“I deal with procrastination by scheduling for it. I allow it. I expect it.” – Tim Ferriss

What I’ve realized is that one of the key parts of building habits might be to know that you will not flawlessly create your habits. You are going to break your habit at some point. You are going to fail that next day or next gym session sooner or later. The important thing is to avoid a feeling of guilt and disappointment, because that is what will probably stop you from getting up the next day and continuing with the routine.

In a similar way to how Tim Ferriss deals with procrastination, I believe we should not try so hard to avoid breaking our habits. We should instead be calm and expect to break them sometime, let it happen, then regroup and get ready to continue with the habit.

Perhaps we took too much on, and we cut back a little or try to add one less thing to our habit. Or maybe we just had a bad day. That’s fine, and a single failure shouldn’t stop our long-term success with building amazing habits.

This article originally appeared on Buffer.

TIME Careers & Workplace

The Most Overlooked Aspects of Creating a Lasting Morning Routine

Rooster on fence at dawn, crowing
Getty Images

Waking up early sets the tone of “making a choice” for the day

“Those that get up at 5 a.m. rule the world.” – Robin Sharma

Those who know me, know that I love my morning routine. I’m always making adjustments to it, and at its core it revolves around waking up early (before sunrise), working on something important for 90 minutes, and then hitting the gym. I recently shared my most recent routine in a blog post about creating new habits.

Today, I want to share a couple of things about my routine that I’ve neglected to mention in previous articles. These two aspects have enabled me to create a morning routine that has lasted several months, and it’s through my morning routine truly becoming habitual that I’ve seen massive benefits. I hope that these two insights can help you, too.

Why wake up early in the first place?

Before I jump into those two key insights that helped me, I want to share some of my thoughts about why you might want to wake up early at all.

Firstly, I’ve observed that many of the most successful people wake up early. In fact, I don’t know anyone who consistently wakes up before 6 a.m. who isn’t doing something interesting with their life. Some of the top CEOs are well known for waking up super early, many of them at 4:30 a.m.

Additionally, I feel that waking up early sets the tone of “making a choice” for my day. If I leave it to fate as to when I roll out of bed, then I feel like that’s the outlook I’m taking in general. On the other hand, if I choose to get up early and do amazing things in those quiet hours, that’s when I feel like I’m grabbing hold of my life and controlling where I go. That’s the choice I want to make.

Finally, I’d like to ask you – are you working for someone else and have the desire to create your own startup? If that’s the case, then do you leave your “startup building time” to the evening? Why do it after 8 hours of work? You’re going to be exhausted and struggle to be motivated.

I advise you to think about what is a higher priority for you—your dream of a startup, or your work for someone else? Perhaps start working harder on yourself than on your job. When I started Buffer whilst working 5 days per week, it was the choice to work an hour first thing in the morning each day when I was freshest that made a huge difference.

So, if you’re thinking about starting an early morning routine, here are two things that took me a while to notice:

1. Craft your evening routine to get enough sleep

two-tips-evening-routine-simple

One of the most important things I’ve found when I have attempted to keep up an early morning routine for several days and weeks in a row is that if I let my daily sleep amount get much below 7 hours for too many consecutive days, I will burn out sooner or later.

The best way I have found to counteract this is to decide how much sleep I need (for me it’s about 7.5 hours a night) and then figure out the exact time I need to be in bed. Once I’ve done this, I set up a 30-minute winding down ritual (for me, it’s going for a walk) that allows me to disengage from the day’s work and not have work in my head when I hit the pillow.

The key thing I’ve found is that in order to wake up early over a sustained period of weeks, this evening ritual is just as important as how much I think about my morning routine.

2. Wake up early on weekends, too

two-tips-weekend-routine

Another key aspect I’ve found to having a consistent early morning routine over a long period of time is to pay particular attention to the weekend as well as the week. I certainly believe that allowing imperfection and some slack at the weekend is important, but I personally made the mistake of having a weekend wake-up time that was too divergent from my week day wake-up time. Only once I started to think about the weekend, I hit a chain of many days of early mornings.

Once you’ve decided when you want to wake up during the week, I recommend that you don’t wake up much more than 1 hour later at the weekend. This also probably means that you still need to go to bed quite early on Friday and Saturday night. The problem arises when you wake up several hours later on Saturday and Sunday, and then want to wake up super early again on Monday.

The most likely thing is that Monday will be a little later, and Tuesday too. Perhaps by Wednesday you are back to your early morning waking time, but you will not feel that magical state of gliding along, having several days in a row of early mornings and productive quiet hours.

If you don’t try to wake up at a similar time at the weekend, it is similar to giving yourself jet lag every weekend. By waking up at a similar time at the weekend, you don’t stretch your body, and therefore you can achieve long term consistency with your morning routine.

This article originally appeared on Buffer.

Read next: 5 Best Morning Rituals for a Super Productive Day

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME technology

People Don’t Buy Products, They Buy Better Versions of Themselves

LinkedIn
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

A feature is what your product does; a benefit is what the customer can do with your product

There is the famous story about Steve Jobs when he invented the iPod and everyone in the news and the rest of the tech industry scratched their head a little. MP3 players had been around for quite a while, what was so different about the iPod?

Of course, people argued many things were different, but one of the key aspects was how Jobs marketed and presented it:

“1,000 songs in your pocket”

When everyone else was saying “1GB storage on your MP3 player”, telling people about the product, Apple went ahead and made you a better person, that has 1000 songs in your pocket.

Our friends over at User Onboarding wrote an incredible post and graphic, showcasing how this framework looks on a higher level.

In particular, the image itself proved to be popular—understandably. It’s a great way to describe clever marketing that focuses on benefits rather than features.

I’ve heard people talk about using benefits instead of features in marketing, but I’ve always struggled to understand the difference. For this post, I explored this in a bit more detail and dug up some examples of companies who do this well.

Features vs. benefits – how to grasp the difference

Here’s how our friends at User Onboarding explained features vs. benefits:

People don’t buy products; they buy better versions of themselves. When you’re trying to win customers, are you listing the attributes of the flower or describing how awesome it is to throw fireballs?

It also included this Tweet from Jason Fried on the topic:

When I read about this some more, I found some great blog posts that broke it down even further. One from the ideacrossing blog describes features as “what your product or service has or does” and benefits as “what the features mean and why they are important.” In fact, oftentimes products contain features, that are absolutely unused, which can be a big source of waste.

So, it seems like features are the “what” of your product or service, while benefits are the “why” behind it.

I also found a really neat, old marketing quote that’s often attributed to Theodore Levitt (he attributes it to Leo McGinneva in this paper), on why people buy quarter-inch drill bits:

They don’t want quarter-inch bits. They want quarter-inch holes.

So, the customer wants to make a quarter-inch hole for some reason. They buy a quarter-inch bit for their drill in order to achieve this. Marketing the drill bit based on its features (it fits into your drill) wouldn’t be as successful in this case as marketing it based on the benefits (you can create a quarter-inch hole).

So after all of this reading, I finally distilled the difference into a sentence that I think makes it easy to distinguish between features and benefits:

A feature is what your product does; a benefit is what the customer can do with your product.

But hey, enough the theory, let’s dig up some amazing examples from some of the best companies out there:

Some great examples of companies making you a better version of yourself

To get a better idea of how this works in practice, I thought it would be useful to take a look at some well-known companies who use benefits in their marketing strategies. Here are a few that I found:

Evernote: Remember Everything

Evernote can’t remember everything for you. In fact, it can’t remember anything—it’s software. What it does is offer features to let you save and organize things. Remembering everything is what you can do with Evernote—the benefit!

Twitter: Start a conversation, explore your interests, and be in the know.

Twitter has used a few different benefits in their tag line on the homepage but they’re still focused on benefits. Each of these three things is something you can do with Twitter. Not a feature of the product. Of course, for saving time on Twitter with scheduling your Tweets and seeing analytics, I hope you’ll still find Buffer useful.

Nest Thermostat: Saving energy is a beautiful thing.

I love this one, because it’s so clever. In just six words, the Nest Thermostat tagline tells you what the biggest benefit is (you’ll save energy), and something about what makes the product unique (it’s well-designed; it’s “a beautiful thing”).

LinkedIn: Be great at what you do.

LinkedIn has gone even further by referencing the customer in their tagline. Saying “Be great at what you do” makes it clear that the idea is you’ll be great at what you do if you use LinkedIn. It’s very customer-focused, rather than pushing features of the product or company mottos front-and-center.

Github: Build software better, together.

Another super simple, but clear tagline. Github has a really obvious benefit to sell to customers, and features don’t even play a part in the tagline.

I’m sure there are lots more companies doing this well. Do you have a great example?

Oh and if you liked this post, you might also like 5 ways to get through writer’s block or content marketing fatigue and 6 Powerful Communication Tips From Some of the World’s Best Interviewers, which are right in the same direction of coming up with a better way to communicate with your customers.

This article originally appeared on Buffer.

TIME Careers & Workplace

The 3 Most Important Words You Should Learn Right Now

How To Ace A Job Interview: 7 Research-Backed Tips
Chris Ryan—Getty Images/Caiaimage

Hard to say—but very important

One thing I’ve learned at Buffer is that being open to not knowing things seems to be the best way to learn quickly and teach others at the same time. So many of our biggest hits on the blog have come from saying, “We don’t know the answer. Let’s find out!”

On many matters, we haven’t any authority.

Is this an OK way to get by?

We’ve found great success in not knowing, and there’s no reason why you can’t, too. While we can certainly see the value in establishing yourself as an authority in your industry, being the answer-man or answer-woman isn’t the be-all, end-all of your options.

You can survive and thrive by embracing “I don’t know.”

Here’s what we’ve learned so far.

The leading authorities on not knowing

An interesting phenomenon occurs when you’ve been not knowing things for as long as we have. You become an authority on not knowing.

That seems to be the case here at the Buffer blog. We’d like nothing more than to be known as a go-to source for social media content. When you think about social media, we’d love for you to think of us!

At the same time, we understand that we may not be authorities on everything social media—we may not have all the answers right away, near at hand.

And that seems to be alright.

Instead of being authorities on social media, we can be authorities on thorough research, fascinating statistics, and personal experience. In other words, there is more than one way to cement yourself in the minds of your followers beyond traditional authority. If we can earn a reputation as a go-to source for social media content by embracing what we don’t know, then the opportunity’s there for you to do the same.

If you aren’t able to claim authority in your chosen field, you can still seek after a subset of authority. You can be an authority on:

Find whatever it is you’re good at, and become the best you can be. Soon enough, your Facebook and your Twitter and your blog will be known for the quality, exceptional work you do, regardless of what it is that you don’t know.

The authority pyramid

So maybe authority means more than expertise, influence, and confidence. If we expand our definition, we can each find our own path to authority, however it may look.

Impostor syndrome: We all feel like we don’t have all the answers

I’ve had moments where I wasn’t sure I was cut out for my job. Have you had these moments, too?

We’re not alone. Psychologists call this impostor syndrome, and it applies to those of us who are unable to internalize accomplishments. Despite outward evidence that we’re great at what we do, we’re convinced that we’re frauds and undeserving of our place.

This level of “I Don’t Know” is more common than you might think. The term has been around since the 1970s, and researchers believe that up to 70 percent of people have felt the effects of impostor syndrome at some point.

If you’re interested in finding out if you have any characteristics of impostor syndrome, you can take the Clance Impostor Scale survey and see where you land. For each statement in the survey, you mark how true it is of you. For example,

  1. I tend to remember the incidents in which I have not done my best more than those times I have done my best.
  2. I often compare my ability to those around me and think they may be more intelligent than I am.
  3. At times, I feel my success has been due to some kind of luck.

Part and parcel of impostor syndrome is the feeling of not knowing—the lack of expertise that we’ve been talking about so far. Via the Crew blog, here is a simple illustration that shows how impostor syndrome feels:

Impostor Syndrome chart

In the same Crew blog post, Andrea Ayres explains what the manifestations of impostor syndromemight look like, how people may compensate for feeling like a fraud. Do either of these sound familiar to you, whether you’ve done them yourself or witnessed them from colleagues?

Overdoing: When people prepare to an almost obsessive level, putting in much more effort than is realistically needed in order to ensure they don’t fail

Underdoing: People will under prepare or put off doing something until the last minute so they can blame any possible failures on a lack of readiness, as opposed to their actual ability. If you don’t really try you can’t really fail, right?

Of course, neither of these outcomes is preferable. Overdoing will lead to pressure and burnout; underdoing will lead to poor quality and performance.

With the prevalence of impostor syndrome being as great as it is, there must be a better way to survive and thrive while feeling like you don’t have all the answers. Here’s one way that we’ve found.

Giving yourself permission to not know it all

I believe part of the reason for the pressures of impostor syndrome is that there is a stigma around not knowing something. If you feel like an impostor because you don’t have all the answers, it’s because somewhere along the line you learned that it’s best to have all the answers all the time.

Not only is this impossible, it might not even be the best way to go about it.

I’m fortunate to work at a place that embraces the “I don’t know.” Buffer’s values highlight the fact that it’s okay to not have all the answers. We phrase this in terms of curiosity, improvement, listening, and humility.

Here are some choice phrases pulled from our Buffer culture slide deck:

You take the approach that everything is a hypothesis and you could be wrong

You approach new ideas thinking, “What can we do right now?”

You are suggestive rather than instructive, replacing phrases such as “certainly” and “undoubtedly” with “perhaps,” “I think,” and “my intuition right now”

You seek first to understand, then to be understood

Does your company share this belief? I’d be interested to hear which perspective your work takes on the matter of authority and knowledge.

It certainly helps to have an employer so openly embrace the idea of not knowing. And at the same time, there is power in the individual assertion that you don’t have to know it all. Even if your company isn’t outspoken on the matter, you can change your personal philosophy and give yourself a break from chasing authority. You may find this new mindset refreshing, among the many other benefits of embracing the power of “I don’t know.”

3 incredible effects of embracing what you don’t know

“I don’t know” and trust

Jason Freedman of 42 Floors shared a story about a competitive hiring process where one of the key deciding factors for the candidate was Freedman’s openness about not knowing an answer. When Freedman said, “I don’t know,” the candidate was sold. Here’s the reason why:

When people say I don’t know, it lends credibility to everything else that they’ve said.

Think about someone who always seems to have an answer for everything. You’ve maybe wondered along the way if he or she really could know all this stuff, right? But when you admit to not knowing, you give power to the things you do know. People learn to trust your responses to questions and to know they can get an honest answer from you at all times.

“I don’t know” and innovation

Stay hungry, stay foolish

This quote from entrepreneur Sahar Hashemi plays off the idea of embracing the power of “I don’t know” as it relates to curiosity—a key to innovation. Hashemi believes that being clueless and curious is essential to entrepreneurship. Without it, you no longer dream, tinker, and ask “why not.” In this way, knowing too much can actually be a detriment.

“I don’t know” and creativity

Would you hire someone with little experience in your industry? Common sense might say no; however, some would argue that inexperience might be just the thing a company needs.

Nils Sköld writes about this idea on Medium, telling how a lack of knowledge can actually be an ideal way to spur creativity and think outside the norms of an industry. Have you experienced anything similar to this?

My theory is this: when you know everything about an industry, you don’t know whats good for it. What an industry needs is people who have no idea on how it operates. People that don’t know that there are any rules. While it is good to break rules and to push boundaries, it’s much better to just never know that any rules exists.

Our key to not knowing: “We don’t know the answer. Let’s find out!”

In our experience, there’s a bit more to the matter of not knowing than simply embracing our lack of knowledge.

We’d be sunk if we stopped at “I don’t know.” That’s why we follow up by finding out.

Much of our blog content comes from experience. We hunt for answers to our questions (and your questions!) and we report back with what we find.

What we lack in authority on social media, we make up for by seeking input from our audience in chats and conversations and by approaching our social updates with a curious, open attitude.

Embracing “I don’t know” is an opportunity to discover. We’ve found that having an attitude of improvement, experimentation, and curiosity makes it such that there’s no need to worry about not knowing this or that.

If we don’t know, we’ll find out.

Over to you: In what ways has not knowing benefited you?

Having authority in your industry is great, but it isn’t the be-all, end-all for growth. You can enjoy authority in many number of different ways from being the expert of experts to being the expert of your unique perspective.

We’ve embraced the power of “I don’t know,” and we’ve seen the benefits for trust, innovation, creativity, discovery, and so much more.

If you liked this post, you might also like The Beginner’s Guide to Putting the Internet to Work for You: How to Easily Save 60 Minutes Every Day and The Big List of IFTTT Recipes: 34 Hacks for Hardcore Social Media Productivity.

Kevan is a content crafter at Buffer, the super simple social media management tool. His social media and productivity tips have appeared in Fast Company and Lifehacker, and he’s always on the lookout for a good headline pun. Connect with him on Twitter .
TIME Social Media

Here’s the Best Way to Promote Yourself on Social Media

buffer-app-logo

This post is in partnership with Buffer. The article below was originally published on Buffer.

Written by

 

If you’ve been to any of Buffer’s social media accounts recently (take Twitter, for instance), you may have noticed that the lion’s share of stories we share come from us. We tweet our own stuff. We toot our own horn.

It would certainly seem that we are in the minority with this strategy. There seems to be a a fine line between sharing enough of your own stuff and sharing too much. Most people would rather err on the side of just enough (or even less) in their social media strategy.

We all want to see our content read and shared widely, but no one wants to look like an attention hog. How much self-promotion is too much self-promotion? It’s a great question. Here’re some thoughts.

6 popular ratios for sharing content on social media

There are quite a few methods out there for choosing what to share. Most of these methods skew heavily toward sharing content you curate from other sites and sprinkling in your own stuff here and there. Here are 6 popular ratios.

5-3-2

Introduced by TA McCann from Gist.com, the 5-3-2 rule of social media sharing aims for a blend of your content, others’s content, and personal updates. Note that the 5-3-2 is not a daily quota but rather a ratio for any group of 10 updates you post over any timeframe (same goes for the rest of these ratios, too).

  • 5 should be content from others
  • 3 should be content from you
  • 2 should be personal status updates

5-3-2 rule

4-1-1

Much like the 5-3-2 rule, the 4-1-1 Rule seeks a good ratio of content from others, content from you, and reshares. Popularized by Andrew Davis of Tippingpoint Labs and Joe Pulizzi of Content Marketing Institute, the 4-1-1 looks like this in practice:

  • 4 pieces of relevant, original content from others
  • 1 retweet for every 1 self-serving update

555+

Shai Coggins of Vervely has a somewhat unique approach to a balanced sharing schedule. The 555+ Guideline seeks to add some variety to a timeline and to keep your social media profile from “looking like a pulpit.”

  • 5 updates about you and your content
  • 5 updates about others
  • 5 responses/replies
  • + miscellaneous posts that add value like #FollowFriday or user-generated content

Rule of Thirds

Mentioned on the Hootsuite blog by Sam Milbrath, the Rule of Thirds is a perfectly balanced way to split up your social media posts. It works like this:

  • 1/3 of your updates are about you and your content
  • 1/3 of your updates are for sharing content from others and surfacing ideas
  • 1/3 of your updates are based on personal interactions that build your brand

Golden Ratio – 30/60/10

The Golden Ratio from Rallyverse covers similar ground as the 5-3-2 rule, albeit with a couple small tweaks to the percentages and the content. Here’s how Rallyverse proposes an ideal sharing ratio:

  • 30 percent owned
  • 60 percent curated
  • 10 percent promotional

The 20-to-1 rule

This ratio by Michael Hyatt varies a bit from the ratios above in that it is not a strictly, cut-and-dry social media formula. The ratio has a lot to do with the way you update but moreso with the type of message you’re sending with your posts. Here’s how Hyatt explains things:

This phenomenon is what I have come to call the 20-to-1 rule. It represents a ratio. It means that you have to make 20 relational deposits for every marketing withdrawal. This isn’t science. I don’t have any hard, empirical evidence to prove it.

Buffer’s ratio for sharing content on social media

In the above examples, the scales are tipped quite heavily in favor of sharing content from others. Our ratio at Buffer is going to seem quite contrary.

Our social media updates are 90 percent our own content and 10 percent from others, and many days those numbers are even more lopsided.

Take Sunday, for instance. Here is a breakdown of a group of 10 updates we posted to our Twitter account. Green check marks are our own content. The orange exclamation point is content from others.

 

Buffer

This selection of updates has a 90:10 ratio of our content compared to others’s content. Had I grabbed 10 updates from Monday, all 10 might have been Buffer content.

Clearly, we lean heavily toward sharing our own stuff.

Though we’re in the minority with our sharing ratio, we’re not alone. Some of the world’s best players in content share nearly exclusively from their own archives, blog, and marketing. Looking at the most recent 10 posts from Moz on Twitter, all 10 of them are Moz content. The most recent 10 posts from Brain Pickings are all links back to the Brain Pickings blog.

So what is it about us outliers? What do we see that others don’t?

Self-promotion can work when you add value and engage

Self-promotion has a bad reputation because it is so often associated with marketing, advertising, and social timelines that do nothing but pitch, pitch, pitch regardless of how it makes their audience feel. No wonder the term “self-promotion” makes you fidget in your seat. We’ve been trained to think of it in a certain way.

Well, can I let you in on a secret? You can be self-promotional and still provide value.

Self-promotion can be a good thing if your content is outstandingly useful and always adds value. This is how we think of our social sharing at Buffer. If we share the best content we have and do so in a helpful, actionable, high-utility way, we believe we are doing right by our audience.

Value takes a front seat, and self-promotion sits in the back. Both elements are there, but the high value of outstanding content is what matters most.

Since we post up to 14 times per day on Twitter, filling those posts with our own content—and ensuring that the content stays outstanding and helpful—requires a deep pool of posts. We are fortunate to have deep archives of evergreen content to pull from on the Buffer blog; we can grab stories that were originally written more than a year ago that still have application today.

So reason number one why we toot our own horn: Providing value.

Reason number two: We value transparency and sharing our work.

Austin Kleon wrote a book, Show Your Work!, about this very concept of being self-promotional without being a turnoff. He calls it a book for people who hate the idea of self-promotion. Here’s the outline for what the book covers. Take note of points three, four, and six.

Austin Kleon Show Your Work

“Tell good stories” is akin to sharing outstanding content. “Open up your cabinet of curiosities” and “share something small every day” equate to the notion of transparency, camaraderie, and community.

At Buffer, we feel that sharing our own content on social media is a way to reveal more about us, to show and share our work. Much of our content has a “let’s learn this together” feel, and we’re never shy about sharing our process, warts and all.

The third reason we feel comfortable with our 90/10 split for content sharing is that sharing content is only a piece of our social media strategy. We are also on social media to engage.

Sharing content is a broadcast; engaging the community is a conversation. We’ve found that having both parts to our social presence makes self-promotion all the more powerful. We can share our own content, and our followers know we are still there listening, replying, and engaging.

Our Happiness Heroes reply to nearly every tweet that comes our way, including the conversations that happen with our self-promotion/broadcast content. Here’s a recent reply thread from something we shared.

Also, we’ve started up a weekly series of Twitter chats (the next one is Wednesday, if you’d like to join). These #bufferchats give us yet another opportunity to engage directly with followers and fans.

We’ve found that engagement and sharing go hand-in-hand in a smart automation strategy, even—or maybe especially—a strategy that is as self-promotional as ours.

Baby steps – Start with something small

If you’re interested in getting more comfortable with self-promotion but aren’t quite sure you want to jump all the way to 90/10 like us, you can take baby steps. Start by sharing the same piece of content more than once. We’ve written before that reposting content multiple times can lead todouble the engagement. Reposting helps reach your audience in different time zones and new followers who might have missed the post its first time around.

Garrett Moon of CoSchedule put together a really sharp graphic for showing how you might schedule this reposting of content. Feel free to start with this template, test your results, and iterate from there.

3-social-sharing-timeline

Recap

A recent customer survey found that pushing a sale through self-promotion can drop consumer trust by nearly 50 percent. Stats like this are one reason why folks are scared to try self-promotion.

But can you spot the key phrase in that stat? “Pushing a sale.” Not all self-promotion needs to be sales-oriented. The best kinds are quite the opposite.

From our perspective, it feels that the problem most of the time isn’t self-promotion, it’s self-promotion of content that isn’t adding value. If your content is intriguing and useful, chances are it will be welcomed by readers—no matter your sharing ratio.

It’s about showing your work. It’s about adding value. And in the midst of sharing your own content, stay engaged with those you’re there to serve.

4 keys to self promotion

What is your take on the idea of self-promotion on social media? What ratio do you aim for with your social sharing? It’d be awesome to hear from you in the comments.

P.S. If you liked this post, you might enjoy our Buffer Blog newsletter. Receive each new post delivered right to your inbox, plus our can’t-miss weekly email of the Internet’s best reads. Sign up here.

 

Read more from Buffer:

29 Free Marketing Tools to Improve Your Marketing Starting Today

17 Unique Places to Find Great Content to Share

TIME How-To

The Big List of The 61 Best Social Media Tools

Social Media Monitoring Tools List
Peter Macdiarmid—Getty Images A smartphone displays the Metropolitan Police's Twitter feed during a 2011 protest against government guts in London. Companies are increasingly turning to monitoring social media to improve their businesses.

How managing social media can jumpstart your enterprise

buffer-app-logo

This post is in partnership with Buffer. The article below was originally published on Buffer.

Banana Republic and Susan’s Neighborhood Shirt Shop could be using the same social networks—Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc.—but their marketing plans and their marketing tools are likely quite different. Enterprise solutions are great for the big guys, but the rest of us are in the market for something more our size.

Small businesses are eager to find valuable tools that take a lot of the time and trouble out of social media marketing and that do so without costing an arm and a leg. I think we’d all want tools like that, right?

Well, I went searching for just this kind of simple, easy, cost-effective tool, and I came up with 61 that made the cut. I tried out more than 100 in total, and I’m sure I missed a few along the way (please tell me in the comments or on Twitter which ones deserve a look).

Hopefully you find one or two here that you can use in your small scale marketing that can get you big results.

Social Media Tools for Small Business

Dashboards / Management Tools
SocialBroTweetDeckTweetcasterTwitter ToolsFollowerwonkSocial RankManageFlitterMust Be PresentTweriod

Tweepi

Tweet4Me

Commun.it

Twtrland

NeedTagger

TweeterSpy

Twitter Feed

TweetReach

Twazzup

Topsy

Facebook Tools

LikeAlyzer

Fanpage Karma

Wolfram Alpha Facebook Report

Facebook Custom Audiences

Social Media Analytics Tools

Rival IQ

Buzz Sumo

Klout

SharedCount

Google URL Builder

Visual Content Tools

Infogr.am

Piktochart

Visually

Canva

Compfight

BeFunky

LICEcap

Social Media Monitoring ToolsMentionNutshell MailSocialMentionKeyholeSocial Media Content ToolsNews.meFeedlyPocket

Paper.li

Swayy

Pie

Bottlenose

WordPress Plugins

Digg Digg

Flare

Ivy

Pin It Button for Images

Miscellaneous Tools

Fivehundredplus

Rapportive

Bitly

Rev

Pinterest Board Cover Creator

Jelly

Google+ Page Audit

Powtoon

Cardmunch

IFTTT

Zapier

 

 

Buffer

Before we get in too deep, I wanted to plug a social media tool I’m quite partial to (for obvious reasons). I use Buffer every single day to build a queue of the content I curate and send it out on a regular schedule to my various timelines. It’s simple and easy, and the intuitive analytics on each post make it a breeze to see which posts performed best.

Screen Shot 2014-04-20 at 8.19.40 PM

Okay, now on with the lists…

 

 

 

Dashboards / Management Tools

 

 

SocialBro

 

A complete Twitter management tool (that also comes complete with Buffer integration), SocialBro can tell you everything you want to know about your Twitter account—community information, analytics on all your posts, and much, much more. There is a 15-day free trial to test out all the features.

 

SocialBro

 

Put this tool to use: The community insights are fascinating, and there’s some real value to be gained from the tweet analytics (pictured above), which show you which posts got the most engagement and when.

 

Tweetdeck

 

Now owned by Twitter, Tweetdeck is one of the most popular tools for complete Twitter management. Tweetdeck lets you track, organize, and engage with your followers through a customizable dashboard where you can quickly see at-a-glance the activity from different lists, followers, hashtags, and more.

 

Tweetdeck

 

Put this tool to use: What do you find yourself checking when you go to Twitter? Whatever it is, you can add it to your Tweetdeck dashboard and see everything in one view with nary an extra click. Could be a huge time saver.

 

Tweetcaster

 

Tweetcaster is a Twitter management tool for iOS and Android devices, and it provides the basics of what you’d expect from a Twitter dashboard plus a few fun extras: enhanced search and lists, hiding unwanted tweets, and photo effects for your pics.

 

Tweetcaster

 

Put this tool to use: Keep the app on the first screen of your phone and tablet so you can easily dip in and out of your Twitter streams when time allows.

 

***

 

Twitter Tools

 

 

 

Followerwonk

 

Followerwonk is one of our favorite ways to analyze and optimize our Twitter accounts at Buffer. With Followerwonk, you can do all sorts of amazingly helpful things like analyze your Twitter followers, compare different users, and search through bios—all for free. There are even more features—like tracking and sorting your followers—that you can access with a 30-day trial.

 

Followerwonk screenshot 2

 

Put this tool to use: One of our favorite uses of Followerwonk is to take the time-of-day charts and sync to a Buffer account. You can also take a close-up look at various stats from those you follow to see which accounts you could maybe prune (because of factors like inactivity).

 

Social Rank

 

This Twitter tool identifies your top 10 followers in three specific areas: Best Followers, Most Engaged, and Most Valuable. Your engaged followers are those who interact with you most often (replies, retweets, and favorites), your most valuable followers are the influential accounts, and your best followers are a combination of the two. Social Rank will run the numbers for free and show you the results today then follow-up each month with an email report.

 

Social Rank screenshot

 

Put this tool to use: Social Rank can help you hone your Twitter focus so that you are aware of the followers who might deserve extra attention. You can even place these MVPs onto a specific Twitter list.

 

ManageFlitter

 

For quite awhile, I read the name of this tool as Manager “Filter,” which actually isn’t too far off from what ManageFlitter does. The Twitter tool helps you filter who you follow: Easily unfollow those who don’t follow you back, those who’ve never changed their profile photo, and those who are inactive.

 

ManageFlitter

 

Put this tool to use: You can batch select these groups of inactive or non-following users in order to give yourself a better following count (and closer to a golden ratio).

 

Must Be Present

 

Built by the team at Sprout Social, Must Be Present searches your Twitter account to find how quickly you respond to mentions. Their engagement reports place you in a percentile based on other accounts so you can see how you stack up to the speed of others.

 

Must Be Present

 

Put this tool to use: Set goals for response time on Twitter, and use Must Be Present to track them. Aim for a certain percentile or a particular average response time.

 

Tweriod

 

Find out when you’ll receive the most exposure for your tweets by letting Tweriod analyze your account. The Tweriod reports break it down into daily and hourly windows when you can expect the highest engagement with what you share.

 

Tweriod

 

Put this tool to use: If you use social media scheduling apps for your automation, it goes without saying that sharing at optimal times would be best. Use your Tweriod insights to check your scheduling, or plan your social media drivebys around this time.

 

Tweepi

 

Tweepi has a number of useful Twitter features, many of which fall into a couple categories: Managing your followers, and supercharging who you’re following. For management, you can unfollow in batches those who don’t follow you back, and you can bulk follow another account’s complete list of followers or who they’re following.

 

Tweepi

 

Put this tool to use: Tweepi’s detailed info on your followers can give you ideas on who to follow or unfollow. Try the cleanup section to bulk edit your connections on Twitter.

 

Tweet4me

 

To schedule tweets from any app, simply ask Tweet4me to do it for you. Once you’re signed up with Tweet4me, you can send them a direct message that contains a certain prefix, containing information on when and what to post.

 

img1

 

Put this tool to use: If you find yourself double-booked and needing to post to Twitter in 30 minutes, Tweet4Me could be your saving grace.

 

Commun.it

 

Commun.it can help you organize, grow, and manage your followers, and it can do so across multiple accounts and profiles. At-a-glance, you can see different parts of your community management, like latest tweets from your stream and which new followers might appreciate a welcome.

 

Commun.it

 

Put this tool to use: Keep on top of who you should be following by listening to Commun.it’s advice on the most influential accounts around your brand.

 

Twtrland

 

Twtrland gives you a snapshot of your Twitter profile and can even track Facebook and Instagram for you as well. Two of Twtrland’s most helpful tools are a live count of how many followers are currently online and advanced search functionality tha tincludes keywords, locations, and companies.

 

Twtrland

 

Put this tool to use: Local companies can perform a location search to see which area accounts are most popular and potentially worth following.

 

NeedTagger

 

A super-powered Twitter search tool, NeedTagger runs language filters and keyword searches to determine which Twitter users might need your product or service. Sounds too good to be true, right? The tool shows you real-time search results and sends a daily email digest of new finds.

 

Needtaggr

 

Put this tool to use: Build a Twitter list of potential customers so you can learn and understand their needs and how they communicate.

 

Tweeter Spy

 

The Twitter click tracking at Tweeter Spy can tell you which tweets result in the most traffic back to your site. To install, you’ll need to insert a line of code at your website, then you can manage your Twitter click stats right through Tweeterspy.

 

Tweeter Spy

 

Put this tool to use: Tweeter Spy has a neat feature that allows you to “Say Thanks” (with a tweet) to Twitter profiles who refer big traffic to your site.

 

Twitter Feed

 

For those looking to feed an RSS of a blog straight to your Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn profile, Twitter Feed has you covered. Simply enter your feed, connect your social accounts, and send your posts away, complete with tracking tools for follow-up.

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-20 at 12.47.42 PM

 

Put this tool to use: If you have feeds for separate categories on your blog, you can set up Twitter Feed to blast only particular content—new product announcements or featured content.

 

TweetReach

 

This Twitter tool shows you the reach and exposure of the tweets you send, collecting data on who retweets you and the influence of each.

 

TwitterReach

 

Put this tool to use: Identify which of your tweets has spread the farthest (and why), then try to repeat the formula with future tweets.

 

Twazzup

 

Twazzup offers real-time monitoring and analytics for Twitter on any name, keyword, or hashtag you choose. The Twazzup results page delivers interesting insights like who the top influencers are for your keyword and which top links are associated with your search.

 

Twazzup

 

Put this tool to use: You can track your first and last name here to see what’s being mentioned about you outside of direct @-replies. You might be particularly interested to peek at the links and influencers associated with your name.

 

Topsy

 

Topsy is as a powerful search engine for Twitter content. Want to know how a certain term is being used on Twitter? You can search links, tweets, photos, videos, and influencers.

 

Topsy analytics

 

Put this tool to use: See how often your blog is being linked to on Twitter. Type in “site:yourdomain.com,” and you can see how many tweets have included inks back to your website (see above for an example of the Buffer blog).

 

***

 

Facebook Tools

 


LikeAlyzer

 

What should you be doing with your Facebook page? LikeAlyzer will flat-out tell you. The Facebook analysis tool comes up with stats and insights into your page and starts off every report with a list of recommendations.

 

LikeAlyzer

 

Put this tool to use: Keep track of where you stand compared to other pages by following the comparison of your page to average page rank, industry-specific page rank, and the rank of similar brands.

 

Fanpage Karma

 

Fanpage Karma shows all sorts of valuable info related to your Facebook page like growth, engagement, service and response time, and of course Karma (a weighted engagement value).

 

FanKarma

 

Put this tool to use: FanKarma also does insight into Twitter and YouTube, the latter of which might be particularly valuable if you’re building up a video marketing strategy.

 

Wolfram Alpha Facebook Report

 

The knowledge engine of Wolfram Alpha has a neat tool to analyze your Facebook profile. Their Facebook report (a free feature with any Wolfram account) is incredibly detailed—everything from the content you share to the relationship status pie charts of your friends.

 

Wolfram Alpha

 

Put this tool to use: See at-a-glance how your profile updates are being received. If you use your personal Facebook for marketing your business, you can optimize the type of content you share to your profile.

 

Facebook Custom Audiences

 

If you’re advertising on Facebook, you can use a handy, built-in tool to cater to a specific audience of your choosing by telling Facebook whom to target. Upload an Excel file or link directly to your MailChimp lists. Facebook will create a custom audience based on which of your contacts is on Facebook. This feature can be added by clicking on the Audiences link inside Facebook’s Ads Manager.

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-20 at 7.44.51 PM

 

Put this tool to use: Create custom campaigns that target a list of leads or customers. You can get extra specific with these ads since the demographic already has a familiarity with your brand. (Facebook recommends that audience sizes be at least 1,000 people so that your ad dollar is well spent.)

 

***

 

Social Media Analytics Tools

 

 

 

Rival IQ

 

Ever wonder what your competition is up to? Rival IQ tracks a list of brands of your choosing and monitors their activity on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and even SEO. Your free 14-day trial gives you full access to competitor tracking and the dashboards for each of the different networks and search factors.

 

Rival IQ screenshot

 

Put this tool to use: Rival IQ can show you insight into your competition but also insight into your industry as a whole. For instance, learn from the Day of the Week chart to see when content from your industry is most likely to go viral.

 

Buzz Sumo

 

Curious what the most popular content is on any given topic or any particular website? Buzz Sumo has this covered with a search tool that tracks content and ranks according to shares on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest.

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 2.14.13 PM

 

Put this tool to use: With Buzz Sumo, you can use the insights to steer the content you create and share on social media, learning how to craft headlines and what types of content each network is most interested in.

 

Klout

 

Klout figures to be one of the more well-known tools on this list. It collects information on a person’s various social profiles to come up with a popularity score of 1 to 100 and then lets you follow your score over time as it ebbs and flows (ideally flowing upward).

 

Klout

 

Put this tool to use: The site has added quite a bit of functionality beyond Klout score. You can now track topics, view content suggestions, and post straight to your connected social profiles.

 

SharedCount

 

There will be times when you’ll need/want to know how popular your content is (like in a weekly metrics report, perhaps). SharedCount shows you quickly, at a glance, how far and wide a piece of content spread.

 

SharedCount screenshot

 

Put this tool to use: Click over to SharedCount’s multi-URL dashboard to see a table of multiple URLs for a week’s worth of content.

 

Google URL Builder

 

If you’re dabbling in advanced campaign tracking, you’ve likely read up on UTM tracking codes in links. A UTM code is basically extra characters at the end of a link that help flesh out your analytics reports, showing you where your traffic came from and what campaigns it’s all associated with. Google has a free tool to create these UTMs for you.

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-19 at 2.54.18 PM

 

Put this tool to use: Add a UTM tracking to all links that are associated with a single marketing push. That way you can better measure the impact and ROI from your particular event.

 

***

 

Visual Content Tools

 

 

Infogr.am

 

Infogr.am helps you build sparkling infographics by entering information right into the Infogram spreadsheets that are built right in to the editor. Standard features are there, too, like design templates and a full design editor.

 

Infogram

 

Put this tool to use: Visualize a monthly report for your business, and share this on social media. You’ll get the boost of visual content plus transparency.

 

Piktochart

 

Piktochart is a free-to-try infographic creator with a full editor and themes to turn your data into a work of art.

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-19 at 2.38.09 PM

 

Put this tool to use: The next time you have some overly complicated (or lengthy) numbers to share, try putting them into a visual design.

 

Visually

 

If you’d like an extra hand creating visual content like infographics and charts, you can hit theVisually marketplace and find professionals to do the work for you, at up to 1/5 the cost you’d incur going through an agency. Visually specializes in infographics, videos, interactives, and presentations.

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-20 at 7.42.15 PM

 

Put this tool to use: While the pricing is discounted, it’s still an investment (infographics start at $1,000, for instance.) Save your Visually needs for a rainy day, then make a big splash with a feature announcement video or a presentation for investors.

 

Canva

 

There is a lot to love about Canva. The graphic design app has an incredibly intuitive drag-and-drop interface, and the tooltips and templates make it ideal for beginner designers. Everything is free unless you choose to use something from Canva’s library of stock photos.

 

Canva

 

Put this tool to use: One of Canva’s default templates is a Pinterest graphic, which comes premade with optimal size for a pin (735 pixels wide by 1102 pixels tall).

 

Compfight

 

A tool we use regularly here on the Buffer blog, Compfight is our source for creative commons images to accompany our content. For your social media posts, images like these can be great additions to a visual content strategy (just be sure to give credit where credit’s due—each compfight picture comes with attribution).

 

Compfight

 

Put this tool to use: Build a small library of free-to-use photos for upcoming social sharing. Sometimes you may come across a good image that just doesn’t quite fit your needs. Save it for later in your Dropbox or on a private WordPress page.

 

BeFunky

 

A good graphics program can be a boon to your social media marketing. BeFunky is one of the best—and easiest—ones around, with a complete suite of image editing tools like cropping, scaling, filters, text, and more.

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-19 at 12.33.15 PM

 

Put this tool to use: I’m sure you’ve seen inspirational quotes placed beautifully onto inspirational photos. Visual content like this is ideal for social networks, and you can pull this off easily with BeFunky.

 

LICEcap

 

Who doesn’t love GIFs? If your social media presence is strong on a place like Tumblr or Google+, then having GIF-making capabilities can come in handy. LICEcap is a downloadable program that creates GIFs from what you see on your screen.

 

licecap_rules

 

Put this tool to use: Create a GIF of your product or service in action so you can share with fans and potential customers.

 

***

 

Social Media Monitoring Tools

 

 

Mention

 

A good problem to have is when it becomes difficult to keep track of all the different places you are mentioned on social media. Mention prides itself on “going beyond Google Alerts” to track absolutely anywhere that your name or your company could be mentioned online.

 

Mention screenshot

 

Put this tool to use: You might be surprised to find out how often people tweet and share your name online without an @-mention (I know I was). When you subscribe to Mention’s daily email, you get all these wayward HTs right in your inbox, and the web dashboard even flags certain mentions as high priority.

 

NutshellMail

 

Digests can be a neat way to track your social media metrics, and NutshellMail collects your activity on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter (and even places like Yelp and Foursquare) to provide an email overview of your accounts. You set how often and when you want to receive the recap emails.

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-19 at 1.50.31 PM

 

Put this tool to use: If you have a weekly metrics plan, you can have NutshellMail send you a message once a week with an overview of your accounts. You can then extract the data and insights here straight into your weekly report.

 

SocialMention

 

As a tracking tool, SocialMention has some neat bonus insights beyond their in-depth keyword tracking. SocialMention tracks areas like sentiment, passion, reach, and strength to not just tell you what’s being said about your search but how those reactions feel.

 

SocialMention

 

Put this tool to use: While you track your brand or yourself, you can also see how your sentiment changes over time. Are your mentions positive or negative? And how will this change from month to month and week to week?

 

Keyhole

 

The tracking tool keeps track of your hashtag campaign or keyword on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook with a full dashboard of analytics, demographics, and influencers.

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-19 at 8.04.37 PM

 

Put this tool to use: Start a hashtag around an upcoming event, and keep track of the popularity of the tag before, during, and after.

 

***

 

Social Media Content Tools

 

 

 

News.me

 

The daily email from News.me contains the top five stories shared by your networks on Twitter and Facebook. (The email is branded with Digg as the two partnered up.)

 

news.me

 

Put this tool to use: The News.me email arrives every morning, so you can add the email to your social media workflows. Check what your networks are most interested in, then respond right away.

 

Feedly

 

Feedly is one of the best RSS services out there because it does all the basics of RSS well (feed organization, display, etc.) and innovates with some really helpful new features. Plus, it works and looks great on any device you have.

 

Feedly

 

Put this tool to use: You can follow any number of relevant blogs and sites in your industry, and if you’re pressed for time, you can scan Feedly’s share counts next to each story or turn on the Featured posts section to quickly pick out the content that is most valuable and shared. (See screenshot above for an example.)

 

Pocket

 

With Pocket, you can grab the content on your social networks that looks good to you and read it later in a stripped down, easy-on-the-eyes view.

 

Get Pocket

 

Put this tool to use: Combined with IFTTT or Zapier (see below), you can send favorite stories straight from Pocket to Twitter.

 

Paper.li

 

Paper.li lets you create a daily newspaper of your favorite tweets and stories and share this paper with your followers.

 

Paper.li

 

Put this tool to use: Create an industry-specific daily or weekly newspaper, and take advantage of the extra opportunity to connect with and recognize some of your influencers.

 

Swayy

 

Looking for new content to share? (Aren’t we all?) Swayy can be a helpful tool for finding stories based on your interests, as determined by the stuff you’ve shared before. Connect your Twitter or Facebook account for free, and Swayy will check your audience for the type of content they might like best and make suggestions based on its findings.

 

Swayy screenshot

 

Put this tool to use: Sharing interesting content on social media is a great way to build your authority and expertise on a topic. Customize Swayy’s suggested topic matches so that you get only the most accurate suggestions.

 

Pie

 

Team collaboration on social media can be a very helpful asset when it comes to keeping a queue filled. Pie is designed to make this process as simple as possible as you can collect the neat stories you find online and chat about them with your social media team or your team in general. There is even a Pie browser extension that makes it possible to add stories straight from the browser.

 

Pie screenshot

 

Put this tool to use: Collect the cool stories you find online, and use feedback from your coworkers to decide what gets shared to your social accounts. You can make it as simple as a two-Like minimum for getting the go-ahead to post.

 

Bottlenose – Sonar Solo

 

The free version of Bottlenose’s enterprise tool helps you see which topics and keywords affect your brand in real-time. Here’s q peek at how the tool highlights trending content based on your interests.

 

Bottlenose

 

Put this tool to use: If your brand is big into LinkedIn, this may be a helpful tool for discovering popular content from the network.

 

***

 

WordPress Plugins

 

 

 

Digg Digg

 

Built by the team here at Buffer, the Digg Digg plugin adds a floating share bar to all of your posts so your readers can easily share to Twitter, Facebook, Buffer, and almost 20 more sites.

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-20 at 1.46.13 PM

 

Put this tool to use: If a floating bar isn’t your style or doesn’t fit with your blog layout, customize the Digg Digg bar to appear fixed at the top or bottom of every post.

 

Flare

 

Built by the team at Digital Telepathy, Flare is a social share plugin for WordPress sites and part of an overall website-boosting suite of products delivered through the Filament plugin. Filament allows you to drag and drop your social share buttons wherever you’d like on your site.

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-20 at 1.53.03 PM

 

Put this tool to use: Find the place that makes the most sense for your share buttons—sidebar, header, footer, etc.—and fix it up easily.

 

Ivy

 

Another part of Digital Telepathy’s Filament plugin is Ivy, a simple tool that allows your website visitors to highlight any passage of text and share directly to Twitter, Facebook, or email.

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-20 at 1.55.16 PM

 

Put this tool to use: Ideally your visitors will be the ones putting this tool to use, but you can help them along with a little prodding to “highlight to share.”

 

“Pin It” Button for Images

 

Add a “Pin It” button to all the images on your blog with this free WordPress plugin. Each time a visitor hovers over an image, they’ll see a stylized “Pin It” button appear on the image and can share directly to Pinterest.

 

screenshot-1

 

Put this tool to use: If you are hoping to attract more Pinterest shares to your blog, the Pinterest button for images could be a real boon. It’s great for blogs with lots of highly visual content.

 

***

 

Miscellaneous Tools

 

 

 

FiveHundredPlus

 

This tool for LinkedIn connections works as a digital tickle file. You can place your contacts into different columns for weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annual reminders to get in touch with your contacts.

 

500+

 

Put this tool to use: Place your key influencers into a monthly column so that you can be reminded to stay in regular contact.

 

Rapportive

 

With Rapportive, you can get a heap of information on each of your email contacts, including the social accounts they’re connected with and where they’re employed. Currently Rapportive works only with Gmail.

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-20 at 2.17.31 PM

 

 

 

Put this tool to use: When you make a connection with a new person over email, Rapportive can show you how to followup for connections on their various social networks.

 

Bitly

 

Shortening a URL on Twitter can be a must as you try to squeeze inside the 140-character limit.Bitly is one of the original link shorteners (and integrated with Buffer, too). If you use Bitly on its own, you’ll get a full history of the link’s performance as well as an overview of all the links you’ve ever shared.

 

Bitly

 

Put this tool to use: You can use bitly outside of Twitter, too. Consider cleaning up some long or ugly URLs when you’re posting to Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+ or even when you’re writing an ebook or email.

 

Rev

 

Rev is a complete transcription and translation service that can help convert your audio or your English into the format and language you need.

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-19 at 2.58.40 PM

 

Put this tool to use: If you conduct interviews of your customers, you can use Rev to convert the audio to text for easier assimilation into marketing personas or social media profiles.

 

ShareRoot Board Cover Creator

 

ShareRoot has a handful of tools that are specific for boosting Pinterest engagement, promotion, and measuring. Some tools are inactive or under development, but one that is live now is a Pinterest Board Cover Creator that lets you create images to use as the cover for your different pin boards.

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-19 at 2.34.41 PM

 

Put this tool to use: Build some really awesome Pinterest covers to make your overall page stand out to new visitors.

 

Jelly

 

An app for iOS and Android, Jelly is billed as a social search engine—you ask questions with photos, maps, and friends and get the answers from people who know best. For instance, show folks your location and get recommendations from locals on where to eat.

 

Jelly

 

Put this tool to use: Brands can connect on Jelly and then be able to view which of their followers on other social networks are active on Jelly. This gives brands an extra opportunity to connect and add value where their customers spend their time.

 

SteadyDemand’s Google+ Page Audit

 

For an overview of the health of your Google+ page, you can use SteadyDemand’s tool to investigate what’s working and what’s not. The tool couldn’t be simpler: Just input the URL of your company’s Google+ page (ours was https://plus.google.com/u/0/+Bufferapp/posts) and then see the report on all your page activity.

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 2.11.27 PM

 

Put this tool to use: Google+ insights are much harder to come by than those on Facebook and Twitter, so tools like this can help show you if all your G+ marketing has been worth it or not.

 

Powtoon

 

Are videos part of your social media marketing plan? If you’re anxious to jump into video content, Powtoon can be a free way to test and see if it might work for you. With Powtoon, you can create and edit video clips and upload straight to YouTube.

 

Powtoon

 

Put this tool to use: Put together a product demo for what you sell, and share this on social media to give people a visual demonstration of what your business is about.

 

CardMunch

 

This free iOS app has you take a picture of a business card and then stores the information into your contacts and finds the person on LinkedIn. Great for expos and conferences.

 

Cardmunch

 

Put this tool to use: Scan the business cards of new contacts you meet and quickly see on LinkedIn which connections you have in common.

 

IFTTT

 

Social is just a small part of what IFTTT can do. The Internet automation app can do everything from text you tomorrow’s weather to automatically update your Twitter with your Instagram photos. IFTTT connects with more than 90 channels, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

 

IFTTT

 

Put this tool to use: You can sync IFTTT with your Buffer account to schedule things like Buffering each Twitter post that you favorite.

 

Zapier

 

Zapier is a bigger version of IFTTT—more channels to connect but not quite free. You do get to create five free recipes before upgrading, so you can try out Zapier with tools like MailChimp and Disqus and 250 more.

 

Zapier

 

Put this tool to use: You can sync your email campaigns with your social accounts, sending links to your campaigns as tweets, posts, or Buffers to all your favorite social places.

Are there any social media tools here that you might try? Any of your favorites that weren’t included? I’d love to build the list out even more, and your input would be excellent! Share your favorites in the comments.

Image credit: HVargas

Kevan is a content crafter at Buffer, the super simple social media management tool. His social media and productivity tips have appeared in Fast Company and Lifehacker, and he’s always on the lookout for a good headline pun. Connect with him on Twitter.

Read more from Buffer:

29 Free Marketing Tools to Improve Your Marketing Starting Today

17 Unique Places to Find Great Content to Share

dfdf

 

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser