More Than Half Of School Support Staff Spend Their Own Money On School Essentials, Study Shows

More than half of school support staff are spending their own money on food for hungry children, tampons, pencils and books at cash-strapped schools, a new GMB study shows.

The union, which surveyed thousands of teaching assistants and other support staff, said the stories showed the “desperate situation” schools are facing. 

Staff report having to bring toilet paper, plasters, wipes and first aid necessities for their poorly funded schools.

HuffPost UK revealed last week that hundreds of “wish lists” on Amazon’s website carry the names of schools, with many including appeals for people to buy basic supplies ordinarily purchased through everyday budgets.

Recent research by the Association of School and College Leaders found 24% of school bosses said they expect the need for voluntary contributions from parents in order to keep funding mainstream activities.

The GMB’s research show the burden for buying school supplies often falls to the lowest paid members of staff at schools.

Over three quarters of staff told the GMB that their school has been forced to make “significant financial cut backs” as Conservative underfunding of education bites.

In a nationwide survey of members, more than 4,600 school support staff responded to the question “Have you felt obliged to spend your own money on things for the children (food, toilet paper, brought resources from home etc)?”

Barbara Plant, president of the union and a former teaching assistant, called the results of the study “horrifying”.

She said: “A generation of children’s education is being compromised as staff numbers are cut and classes get larger. Meanwhile staff are left out of pocket bringing basic necessities like toilet paper from home.

“Their goodwill is being taken advantage of because they care so much about the children at their schools. The government needs to stop denying that school budgets are being cut – the reality is in front of us.

“If staff cuts continue then many schools will struggle to fulfil their statutory obligations. It’s absolutely vital that schools get the extra funding they need as soon as possible.”

One person who responded to the survey described the challenges their school faces.

“The budget is extremely tight and the kitchen will only prepare a certain amount of food,” the school worker said.

“If the children do not have enough money for a lunch or do not like or drop their lunch, they often do not get another one. I have provided food for these children sometimes. I have also spent my money on books for the library and things for projects in school.

“I also bring in things from my own children as equipment in school is broken or has bits missing. There is no money to replace these items in school so the children go without.”

Another person who responded said: “Due to lack of resources I provide at least 90% of stationery. I regularly provide food and drinks to students. Also toiletries and sanitary products. I regularly clean and repair clothing at home.”

Another member of support staff highlighted the plight of children who are living in poverty. “We have some children under a child protection plan that don’t have any food at home. We buy them food and will cook food to be frozen to see them through the holidays.”

A government spokesman said: “We want all children to have the very best chances in life … We continue to support the country’s most disadvantaged children through free school meals and are provide schools with £2.5billion through the pupil premium to support their education.”

Previously a spokesperson for the Department for Education told HuffPost UK: “Core school funding will rise to a record £43.5bn by 2020 – the highest ever – and 50% more per pupil in real terms than in 2000. We are giving every local authority more money for every school in 2018-19 and 2019-20. In fact, this year a typical primary class will get £130,000.”

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With IGTV, Instagram is Becoming Television for the Mobile Generation

The way we consume content has always been driven by technology.

In the early 20th century, cinema was the clear leader, with 65 percent of the U.S. population attending the cinema each week in 1930.

Then came the television, and scarcity turned into abundance. Instead of having to go to the cinema to watch the news or a catch a bit of light entertainment every week, it could be viewed from the comfort of your own home, daily.

Following this, the percentage of people that went to the cinema each week took a steep decline:

And now, as traditional TV viewership declines, the next-generation television and entertainment product will almost certainly be in your pocket.

From Facebook Watch to Twitter’s live video broadcasts, and most recently, the launch of IGTV, a new app for watching long-form, vertical video from your favorite Instagram creators, it’s clear that social platforms are vying to be – and likely will become – the next big broadcast channels.

Introducing IGTV

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IGTV is a standalone vertical video app, and unlike on Instagram, videos aren’t limited to one minute. Instead, each video can be up to an hour long.

As soon as you open the IGTV app, a video will start playing – much like when you first turn on a TV. This means you don’t have to search to start watching content from people you already follow on Instagram.

“Also like TV, IGTV has channels,” Instagram co-founder, Kevin Systrom said on the Instagram blog. “But, in IGTV, the creators are the channels. When you follow a creator on Instagram, their IGTV channel will show up for you to watch. Anyone can be a creator – you can upload your own IGTV videos in the app or on the web to start your own channel.”

Vertical videos have changed the way in which many of us create and consume content, capturing a large percentage of the video-watching market in the process.

Last year Facebook revealed that its users were more likely to watch vertical videos for longer than traditional 16:9 videos, so it makes sense that Instagram would want to follow suit and embrace, full-screen, vertical video (aside from Stories).

And at IGTV’s launch event, Systrom, explained: “The tools we watch video on are old and out of date. Think about it-we still watch videos formatted for TV, on a vertical screen.”

Examples of IGTV content

1. Manchester City FC

Manchester City FC shared a video containing every single one of the team’s goals in the Premier League during the 2017/18 season.

On Twitter, Manchester City social media manager, Christopher Parkes-Nield, explained: “Seeing lots of accounts just dipping toes in with repackaged one-minute clips in vertical rather than square in-feed. We kicked-off with all 106 #ManCity PL goals from last season – that’s over 37 minutes-worth.”

2. The Economist

The Economist published a 9-minute show a pioneering eco-resort that is trying to prove that tourism can help to revive and protect marine life.

3. National Geographic

National Geographic debuted on IGTV with a 47-minute documentary hosted by Will Smith. The documentary titled ‘One Strange Rock: Home’, follows NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson as she returns home to Earth.

How we got here: From photo sharing to long-form video

Raymond Loewy was one of the 20th century’s most prolific and influential designers. And the theory behind all of his designs was a simple one, called MAYA: Most Advanced Yet Acceptable.

He said to sell something surprising, make it familiar; and to sell something familiar, make it surprising.

For an example of Loewy’s theory in action, look no further than Instagram.

Five years ago, an Instagram product that focused purely on longer-form, mobile videoes may have been met with skepticism. And in 2013, we might all have been thinking, “I’d never watch a 15-minute show on Instagram.” But now, it feels like a natural progression.

When Instagram first launched it was an app that enabled users to filter and share photos. In 2013, videos were added, allowing users to share 15-second clips to their Instagram feed. Next came 60-second videos, vertical video formats, full-screen live video experiences and Stories.

Now, IGTV, though brand new, feels somewhat familiar and a next logical step for Instagram.

How will brand content evolve on IGTV

Will we all have to start producing, high-quality TV-like experiences for Instagram?

Maybe.

If you have the time, budgets and skillsets to put together this type of content, then yes, it might be a great play for your business.

But as video content gets longer, production values and time investment increase. And whilst creating a bunch of engaging, sub-10-second videos for a story on Instagram is a science in itself, creating a 15-minute video is a completely different challenge.

Success on IGTV will be more akin to creating and growing a YouTube channel than an Instagram profile and we’ll see plenty of experimentation from brands and creators alike to see what works on this new platform.

Content production likely won’t be the only way to make IGTV work for your brand, though.

Getting paid has always been a problem for creators and at the IGTV launch, Systrom confirmed that Instagram is focused on ways to help creators to make a living.

Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, recently launched its Brand Collabs Manager to help creators land sponsorship and partnership deals so we could see partnerships and sponsorships between brands and creators become a trend on IGTV, with brands seeking to align themselves and create content alongside stand-out IGTV creators.

And while there aren’t any ads on IGTV at launch, they’ll be on the way soon and ads could also be a way for brands to reach their audience through IGTV. With longer-form content, we may also see Instagram experiment with new ad types such as pre and mid-roll ads.

Over to you

What do you think about IGTV? Are you excited to create and consume long-form content on Instagram? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Coffee and Community: Foster Coffee Company on Growing Their Social Media Following and Business

Too busy to read? Just click the play button below to listen to this post.

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“We love coffee, but we love community and people more.”

This Foster Coffee Company credo isn’t just a brand statement.

It’s at the heart of their social media strategy too.

We spoke to co-founder Nicholas Pidek and marketing associate, Justin Ozanich, about how social media has helped them grow their community and business.

“Two and a half years ago we were just brewing coffee at the farmers’ market, and we learned early on that social media was a huge part of our strategy to grow our business. You know, we were serving coffee one day a week. Saturday mornings we would get up at 5 a.m. and serve people from 7 till 1… but we were able to use social media every day of the week to touch people.” – Nicholas

What began as two friends experimenting with craft coffee at a farmers’ market has become a local business success story.

Foster Coffee Company now has two thriving locations in Michigan, where people gather to drink great coffee, work, converse, celebrate the local community and build relationships. Along the way, that initial partnership has blossomed into a team of coffee and community enthusiasts, whose faces feature regularly on their social media platforms.

Part of our strategy with growing was just producing really good content.

We’ve got some really great resources at our disposal of people who work for pretty much next to nothing because they believe in the brand – to take photos for us and come out and shoot our product and photograph people, to really tell people our story.

Our philosophy is products are great and there are so many great companies out there that have the most beautiful photographs of their cappuccinos, and their lattes, and that’s something that we do speckle in there, but primarily people are attracted to people. So we want people to see other people interacting with each other and with our products at the same time.

People drive our community, not products.” – Nicholas

Foster Coffee Co instagram photos

Discovering Buffer through a personal touch

With a people-first philosophy and content strategy, Nicholas started exploring ways to better plan out social media campaigns and expand Foster’s reach on social. His exploration into social media management platforms even involved a serendipitous personal connection, the exact kind of thing their coffee shops aim to cultivate.

“Early on, I started using Buffer and just kind of did the gamut of looking at what platforms were out there. I was just really thrilled with the platform.

Adam, who works for Buffer, started coming into Foster, and when I found out that he was working for Buffer, that was kind of a cool connection there – that someone from this company is actually working in our coffee shop.” – Nicholas

Buffer is the ideal publishing platform for Foster because it enables them to plan, schedule and deliver their content in a consistent, yet flexible way.

“I start off with photographs, so really our Buffer scheduling starts at the photoshoot. We capture new content on a weekly basis and decide the direction of that content anywhere from two weeks to a month in advance – where we want our publishing schedule to go. Two weeks seems to be a sweet spot for us. It is far enough out that we can stay ahead of the schedule without scrambling to find content, and at the same time it’s not that difficult it add something or make changes or last minute – we can just click and drag stuff around.

I use the calendar feature in Buffer all the time. I schedule pretty much exclusively from that perspective.

For example, if something awesome is happening in the shop or if we have something unique that pops up, it’s really easy to insert that into the schedule. We don’t have to be married to a plan, which is a great feature.” – Justin

Foster's Buffer calendar

“One of the things that I think has really helped us, as far as social media engagement and growing our following goes, is early on Nick understood the power of really great content, instead of just settling for mediocre.

He took the initiative to make sure that we have really good photographers working with us regularly to produce great content that represents our vision. I really like that because it shows our audience that we have a certain level of care for every aspect of our business and want to bring our customers the best in every avenue.

We want them to know that we really care about our product, and that we really care about them and their experience, and I feel that is transferable through those photos. And then when they generate their own content about Foster, they also understand that we care about their experience and are willing to share their images on social.” – Justin

Harnessing user-generated content is something the team at Foster are being more deliberate about. It’s an opportunity to generate word-of-mouth, build loyalty and create advocates for their brand.

“We are reaching a certain level of popularity, where people from all walks of life with varying degrees of photography skills are drawn to capture their version of community attached to our brand. So now we’re sprinkling these into our feeds to feature other people’s viewpoints of the Foster vision.” – Nicholas

Making decisions with data

Social media analytics are also playing an increasingly important role in helping to guide content decisions.

“One of the things that I really like about Buffer is how I can build out as far as I want into the foreseeable future, but really start to tailor campaigns if we see certain trends within the industry. We can get ahead of that and it’s really easy to customize the publishing schedule afterwards.

We want to know our top performing posts for the year, we want to know what content was in those posts, so that way we can build a better model moving forward of content that generates more engagement.

Because as we know, the more engagement we can get online, the more that’s going to translate to a possible sale, or somebody walking through our doors, or checking out our website and maybe making a purchase that way” – Justin

A peek inside Foster Coffee Company’s social media analytics

Foster's Top Posts

Foster Engagement report

(Advanced Analytics and Reports are available on Buffer for Business plans)

They’re also exploring how social media tools can help with their market positioning and benchmarking their growth.

Being a small business, one of the best ways that we’ve found to determine our market position is with social media.

We aren’t directly competing with large publicly traded companies and franchises, but in a way we are. From a purely economic and capitalistic viewpoint, we’re all competing for coffee consumers. We intentionally add an altruistic community-centric mission to our vision, but through our social engagement measurement systems, we can at least get a rough estimate of the market position of the purely profit-driven companies around us in comparison to ours. We can measure how we’re both making an impact based on our reasons to exist.” – Nicholas

Say hello to amazing coffee

If you’re ever in town and in need of a fresh brew, do pop by Foster Coffee Company in either Owosso or Flint and say hello. Aside from excelling on social media, they’re great people who make amazing coffee!

Foster Coffee Company: Key Stats

2013: year founded by Jonathan Moore and Nicholas Pidek

2: the number of coffee shop locations

15k+: combined social media audience

30%: year-on-year social media follower growth

Instagram | Facebook

We hope you found this case study useful! Ready to grow your small business? Getting started with Buffer is easy. Learn more about our plans and try it free.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey Preview: Debating Philosophy And Waging War In Ancient Greece

Los Angeles – Assassin’s Creed, one of the most recognisable game franchises, is having something of a renaissance.

Released last year, Assassin’s Creed Origins was a complete reset for the series and heavily moved the games towards being a fully-fledged role-playing game. As far as I’m concerned, it paid off. Origins was beautiful to look at, challenging to play and it felt like the developers had created something really solid to build on.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is the next game in the series, and from the hour or so I spent exploring the vast oceans and idyllic islands of Ancient Greece it looks like we might have another winner on our hands.

The game uses the same engine as Origins, and short of three very big changes (which I’ll go into in a moment), it looks and feels exactly the same. Ubisoft are playing it safe then, which is fine by me.

While it feels the same, the first of the three changes they’ve made fundamentally alters the whole Assassin’s Creed series: You can choose to play as a male or female, for the entire game.

That sounds silly, but for over a decade Assassin’s Creed has focused on the character that Ubisoft created for you. You were simply there for the ride, and for most of those journeys you played as a man.

You can play as either Alexios or Kassandra, a mercenary who is descended from Leonidas himself and carries the legendary Spartan King’s spear.

This shouldn’t be a big deal and the industry has been painfully slow in accepting that over half of its audience is actually female. Times are changing and the last 24-months have seen the release or reveal of games like Horizon Zero Dawn, Tomb Raider, Cyberpunk, The Last of Us Part 2 and now Odyssey. All of these games have a female lead character.

The second big change in Odyssey is that there are now multiple-choice answers to every conversation, and the choices you make can have potentially devastating consequences on the characters around you.

It also means that you can now build and develop relationships the characters around you, so much so that Ubisoft has confirmed that you can even become romantically involved with some of them.

By letting you choose how you approach conversations and situations Assassin’s Creed has finally moved into fully-fledged RPG territory.

The last big change is to the combat. You no longer have a shield, this is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that it makes the combat feel far quicker, and more fluid. You can’t just stand back and wait for the right moment, instead you’re constantly moving – dodging and parrying as you look for weak spots.

The curse is that it makes the barrier for entry much higher. A shield gave you a safety net, however in Odyssey you’re thrown in at the deep end.

To compensate Odyssey presents you with a new feature – four powerful ‘super’ attacks which can be swapped in or out and customised to the four directions on the D-pad. One of them is a hilariously lavish ‘300′ style Spartan kick that sends the recipient flying off across the ground, another removes a shield from an enemy and then promptly uses it to punt them again, flying across the ground.

They can also be passive or active with one of them allowing me to instantly restore a portion of my health. They’re not permanently available and can only be earned through fighting enemies. It took me a while to really get the hang of them, but by the end I was commando rolling and Spartan kicking my way around the battlefield.

The game itself is set across Greece and the many islands that surround it. To get around you’ll run, ride on your horse or as has become customary with the series, take control of your ship and engage in huge naval battles.

The naval component of the game again feels almost identical to that of Origins with the objective being to cripple or ram enemy ships until they can be boarded and their loot stolen.

As is tradition with Assassin’s Creed one of the characters I encountered during my demo was Socrates (spelled Sokrates in the game). The philosopher is apparently a close personal friend of yours and in the brief conversation I had with him I was given a small mission which thanks to the multiple choice chat system allowed me to approach it in the way that I wanted.

Having completed the mission (saving a man from a prison), the developer turned round and revealed that despite being nothing more than a side-mission the way I had approached it would have massive consequences later on in the game.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey feels like they’re heading in a really interesting direction with the series. By taking the excellent foundations of Origins and then building more RPG-elements on top of it they’ve created a game that finally lets you feel like the individual choices you make might actually affect the world around you.

Throw in some shameless ‘300′ style combat, a philosopher and the game’s beautiful setting and Odyssey is shaping up to be a worthy addition to the series.

HuffPost UK has travelled to the E3 video games conference with the help of Activision. Our journalism remains entirely independent.

How the Instagram Algorithm Works in 2018: Everything You Need to Know

How exactly does the Instagram feed work?

That question has puzzled marketers ever since Instagram first introduced its algorithm in July 2016.

The Instagram algorithm was introduced to help surface the best, most relevant content to each user every-time they check their feed. Until now, though, the inner-workings of the feed have been kept under wraps, but recently Instagram shared the six key ranking factors publicly for the first time.

In this post, we’ll break down the Instagram feed for you. We’ll go through the factors that influence the ranking of your content and explain why the Instagram algorithm is actually great for marketers.

Let’s go!

Buffer for Instagram now comes with direct scheduling! Schedule single-image posts or set reminders to post videos and multi-image posts at your best times to grow your Instagram following. Learn more today.

How does the Instagram algorithm work?

Recently, Instagram invited a small group of journalists to their San Francisco office to put an end to the rumors and share how the Instagram feed ranking algorithm really works.

Instagram revealed that there are three main factors that determine what you see in your Instagram feed:

  • Interest
  • Timeliness
  • Relationship

There are also three additional criteria that play a smaller part in your Instagram feed rankings:

  • Frequency
  • Following
  • Usage

We’ll discuss each factor in a little more detail below.

The 3 most important Instagram feed ranking factors

1. Interest: How much Instagram predicts you’ll care about a post

When the algorithmic timeline was announced, Instagram mentioned that it would show you content that you’ll likely be interested in first:

The order of photos and videos in your feed will be based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post.

Content that is relevant to your interests will rank higher on your feed. But how does Instagram know your interests? One way could be to look at the genres of content (e.g. travel, food, fashion, sports, etc.) you have interacted with in the past.

With the level of photo recognition technologies available now, I believe it’s possible for the algorithm to categorize posts into simple genres such as travel, food, fashion, and more – and possibly even more sophisticated genres. The algorithm could also look at the hashtags used.

If there’s a certain genre of content that you engage with more frequently (e.g. food), Instagram might rank content of that genre (e.g. food, restaurants, etc.) higher on your feed.

An Instagram spokesperson told Business Insider that ranking of Instagram posts is not a popularity contest. Posts with less engagement that are more relevant to you can still appear right at the top of your feed.

2. Timeliness: How recent the posts are

The next key ingredient in the Instagram algorithm, as shared by Instagram a while back, is timeliness.

The order of photos and videos in your feed will be based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post.

Instagram wants to show you posts that are recent and, consequently, more relevant.

Something from last week might not interest you as much as something from an hour ago, so Instagram will likely show you more recent posts rather than posts from a few days or weeks ago – even if the older post had received a lot of engagement.

This implies that recent posts likely rank higher in your feed and that the timing of your post is still relevant.

According to a talk from Instagram’s Thomas Dimson, and my personal experience (admittedly, a sample size of only one), it seems that the Instagram algorithm re-orders only the new posts between your current visit and your last visit.

For example, if I visited Instagram at 11 PM last night and again at 9 AM this morning, and there were 50 posts created in between. The algorithm would sort only those 50 posts created and not include posts from before 11 PM last night. Based on my personal experience, if I were to scroll past all those 50 posts, I’d see the same posts in the same order as when I last visited (11 PM last night).

(If your personal experience is different from this, it’d be great to hear from you!)

If this is true, it could mean that the best time to post is when your followers are most active as there would be less competition (e.g. between 9 to 10 AM in the image below).

Feed sorted only within vists

(Image from Thomas’s slide deck)

3. Relationship: The accounts you regularly interact with

In a June 2016 announcement about the feed ranking algorithm, Instagram stated the following:

And no matter how many accounts you follow, you should see your best friend’s latest posts.

Just like Facebook, Instagram doesn’t want you to miss important posts from your friends and family, such as a post about your friend’s engagement. This implies that content from your “best friends” likely ranks higher on your feed.

I also believe that the Instagram algorithm studies your past interactions to determine your “best friends”. In a talk about designing and implementing the Instagram algorithm, Thomas Dimson also shared in his talk how Instagram could have determined the people you care about:

  • People whose content you like (possibly including stories and live videos)
  • People you direct message
  • People you search for
  • People you know in real life

While these might not be the exact criteria used in the Instagram algorithm, they give us a hint that Instagram probably considers the accounts you frequently interact with as “people you care about”. And it has confirmed that content from these accounts will rank higher on your feed.

An Instagram spokesperson also told Business Insider that profile searches are a signal Instagram looks at when ranking posts in your feed. When you search (regularly) for certain profiles, it likely indicates that you are interested in the account’s posts and might not have seen them on your feed.

Instagram might then rank their posts higher on your feed so that you don’t have to search for their profiles to see their posts, improving your Instagram experience.

Thomas from Instagram also mentioned in his talk that when they experimented with the new algorithm, the number of searches went down. They took it as a good sign as it meant that people are seeing the posts they are interested in without having to search for their favorite profiles.

3 additional Instagram feed ranking factors

Frequency: How often a user opens Instagram

Every time a user opens up Instagram, the algorithm will try to show the best posts since their last visit.

So if you open Instagram once daily, you’ll likely see the posts that Instagram’s algorithm feels are the most relevant for that day. However, if you open Instagram hourly, Instagram will try to show you most relevant content you haven’t yet seen before.

Following: Content from all accounts a user follows

If you follow thousands of accounts on Instagram, the algorithm must sort through more content in order to decide what to show you each time you open up the app. This means users who follow large numbers of people might see less from each individual account, whereas users who follow just a few select accounts are likely to see more from their closest friends or favorite accounts.

Usage: How long a user spends on Instagram

Whether a user tends to browse Instagram in short bursts or longer sessions can also affect what the algorithm shows. If a user prefers to short visits to Instagram, the algorithm will ensure it shows the most relevant posts first, whereas for users who prefer longer browsing sessions it may provide a deeper catalog of fresh content to browse.

Quickfire Instagram feed FAQs

Are photos or videos preferred by the Instagram algorithm?

In short, no. Instagram doesn’t give extra weight to either videos or photos within its feed. However, if the data shows that a certain user prefers to engage with videos over photos, then that specific user may see more video content in their feed.

Does posting too frequently affect ranking?

Instagram accounts aren’t down-ranked for posting content frequently. Though Christina d’Avignon, a product designer for Instagram feed, did tell The Verge: “we do make sure your feed feels diverse so we may break up posts.”

Are business and personal accounts treated differently by the algorithm?

As reported by Techcrunch: “Instagram doesn’t give extra feed presence to personal accounts or business accounts, so switching won’t help your reach.”

Will posting Stories or Live videos affect ranking?

Creating Instagram Stories or live broadcasting withiInstagramam won’t affect how your content ranks within the feed.

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Why is the Instagram feed algorithm is great for marketers

As the number of users on Instagram increases, the number of posts will likely increase, too.

When users follow more people, the number of posts in their feed will increase. The natural result of this is that the impressions (or organic reach) of each post will fall – unless every user spends more time on Instagram looking at all the additional posts.

The reality is that people usually don’t see all the new posts when they visit Instagram. A study by Instagram themselves found that before the algorithm, on average, users missed 70 percent of the posts on their feeds and 50 percent of the posts from their friends. Now, though, Instagram’s 800 million users reportedly see 90 percent of their friends’ posts.

But as long as you are creating engaging, relevant, and timely content, the algorithm is actually an advantage to you. It will help to surface your great content to more of your followers than when posts were arranged reverse-chronologically.

Instagram Algorithm - Feed Before and After

(Graphic inspired by Thomas’s slide)

Here’s another way to look at it: Without this algorithm, one quick way to get your Instagram followers’ attention would be to post many times a day. If most brands follow this strategy, the number of Instagram posts would increase dramatically, and the organic reach of each post would fall proportionally – even if it’s a quality post.

With this algorithm, brands are encouraged to post only their best content, and the quality of their content will determine their reach. Brands with the best content overall will stand out more easily now than without the algorithm.

Here’s a bonus: The Explore tab also uses an algorithm to surface content based on the user’s interests and past behaviors. It is another brilliant way for your great content to reach more people!

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Over to you

Instagram marketing is an incredibly exciting, ever-changing topic. And I believe that the Instagram algorithm is great for both brands and users in the long run – though it may have resulted in drops in organic reach for some accounts.

I’d love to head any thoughts you might have on the Instagram feed and the ranking factors listed above. How are you currently approaching Instagram marketing? Feel free to drop us a comment and let us know.

A version of this post was originally published in April 2017. This version has been updated based on new information shared by Instagram.

6 Shortcuts to Speed Up Your Social Media Scheduling Process

As a social media manager, you likely spend a good chunk of your day scheduling content for your brand’s social media profiles.

We understand the challenge. Social media scheduling can be a time-consuming process.

So we would love to help!

In this post, I’ll be sharing some ways you can save time while scheduling content for social media using Buffer.

How to Save Time While Scheduling Content for Social Media

6 ways to save time scheduling content for social media

1. Create a posting schedule

Buffer posting schedule

Instead of selecting a time for every single post you’re scheduling, Buffer (and several other social media management tools) allow you to create a posting schedule that can help take all that hassle away.

Your Buffer posting schedule is a schedule of your preferred posting times. Whenever you schedule a post (i.e. “Add to Queue”), the post will fill up the next available time slot on your posting schedule.

For example, for the screenshot above, imagine that we have posts scheduled until Sunday. The next post we schedule or “Add to Queue” will fill up the Monday 7:47 AM slot and be posted on that day and time.

So rather than having to select a time every time you schedule a post (which can be quite troublesome), you can simply hit “Add to Queue”. Hassle-free.

You can find your posting schedule in Buffer by going to Settings > Posting Schedule.

Pro tip: Your posting schedule is unique to each of your connected social media accounts. As your best times to post for each social media platform is likely different, this will allow you to create unique posting schedules for each social media accounts.

2. Use a browser extension

Buffer browser extension

With our browser extension (available on Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Opera), you can easily schedule any great content you come across online.

The browser extension will enable you to do three powerful ways of scheduling. (There’s a fourth way for advanced users. See pro tip below!)

Schedule from the web

Whenever you come across an article that you think your audience might like, click on the Buffer extension button on your browser. You’ll see a Buffer composer appear in the middle of your browser. From there, you can select the social media accounts you want to share to and customize the post for each social media platform.

Schedule from within an article

Here’s an even faster way to schedule a post once you find an article worth sharing.

If you want to attach an image to your post, hover over the image and you’ll see a button appear on the image. When you click on the “Share image” button, the same Buffer composer will appear. But this time, the image will already be attached to your post.

Buffer share image

If you want to share a quote from the article instead, highlight the quote, right-click, and select Buffer > Buffer Selected Text.

Buffer selected text

This time, the text will appear in the Buffer composer in quotation marks, with the link appended to the post.

Buffer share a quote

Schedule retweets from Twitter

Finally, you can even schedule Twitter retweets from the platform directly.

When you have the Buffer browser extension installed, you’ll see an additional button at the bottom of tweets.

Schedule retweet

When you click on it, you’ll see the Buffer composer again but this time with the tweet you want to retweet. You can add a comment (optional) or the retweet will appear as a native retweet on Twitter.

Buffer retweet

You can also click on the retweet button on Twitter and select “Buffer Retweet”.

Pro tip: The fourth way of scheduling is to schedule a piece of content for multiple times all at once with Buffer’s Power Scheduler. Here’s a full walkthrough of this feature if you would like to learn more about it.

3. Select a suggested media

Suggested media for Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest

Here’s one of our unique and most-loved features: Suggested media.

Whenever you drop a link into the Buffer composer (or whenever you use the Buffer browser extension), we’ll automatically pick up the images on that website and suggest them to you.

There’s no need to download an image from a website and upload it to your post again.

For scheduling to Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, you’ll see some suggested media below the message box. Simply click on any to attach it to your post. You can include up to four images for Twitter and one for Instagram and Pinterest.

For Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+, you’ll see a link preview instead – how your post will look like when you share the link on the social media platform directly. If the website has multiple images, you can choose an alternative image by using the arrows on the image.

Suggested media for Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+

Pro tip: If you prefer to attach an image to your Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+ post instead, click on “Replace link attachment with image or video” to see the suggested media.

4. Schedule on the go

Buffer iOS app

What if, while you’re commuting or taking a lunch break, you find a great content that you want to share to your brand’s social media profiles?

If this happens to you often, you might find a social media management app handy. 

With our app (Android and iOS) installed on your phone, you can share from most apps such as the browser or Pocket. Here’s how it looks like in on an iPhone:

Share from any app on mobile

For iOS, you’ll first have to turn on the share extension. You can do so under “Settings” > “Set up Extension”, where you’ll see a set of short instructions.

P.s. Our iOS app just won the Webby Awards for best practices for mobile sites and apps!

Buffer and The Webby Awards

Pro tip: If you like sharing or scheduling social media posts from your phone, here are the 10 top features of our mobile apps to help you share smarter.

5. Have a list of your favorite websites

Buffer Content Inbox

A big part of scheduling content for social media is finding and curating the content. It can be challenging to “simply” find content whenever you want to.

Where do you go to find content?

One of my favorite tips is to create a list of your favorite websites that you know produce great content. If you’re not sure where to start, here are 70+ websites for topics such as business, marketing, education, design, and more.

Once you’ve found them, pop them into your Content Inbox in your Buffer dashboard (available on our paid plans).

Your Content Inbox can be found under the “Content” tab > “Content Inbox”. Here, you can add up 15 RSS feeds to your Content Inbox and have new content from your favorite websites delivered to you whenever they are published.

Buffer Content Inbox: Add and remove feeds

Whenever you find an article that you want to add to your Buffer queue, hit “Add” and customize the message. (The title of the article will be pre-populated but just having the title alone isn’t the best for engagement and, in turn, reach.) Otherwise, you can hit “Dismiss” or ignore the article in your Content Inbox.

Buffer Content Inbox: Add post

Pro tip: We understand that different content works well on different social media platforms. So each of your connected social media accounts has its own Content Inbox, meaning you can add up to 15 RSS feeds for each social media account.

6. Reshare your top content (with a twist)

Buffer: Most popular posts

The last way to minimize the time it takes to schedule content is to re-share your top content (with a twist!)

Because of the algorithmic timelines, not all of your followers would have seen all your posts. So it makes sense to reshare some of your best posts for those who might have missed them. And since those posts have done well recently, they would likely do well again.

With our Pro and Business plans, you can easily find your top posts in last seven, 30, 90, or more days in your Buffer dashboard > Analytics > Posts Report. Click on “Most Popular” to find your recent top posts, and click on “Re-Buffer” to add that posts to your Buffer queue.

It’s best to write a new message for your posts to keep things fresh and engaging. You could even change the media (though sometimes it’s the media that helps a post do well). This is especially important for Twitter since they have tightened their rules on sharing similar content.

Re-Buffer

Pro tip: Besides filtering by “Most Popular”, you can also filter by “Most Clicks”, “Most Comments”, etc. and by post types (e.g. “Link Posts”, “Image Posts”, etc.)

Over to you: How do you save time while scheduling for social media?

While scheduling content for social media is a fun task for social media managers, it can get quite time-consuming at times. I hope the tips I’ve shared in this post can help you speed things up a little.

It’ll be great to learn from you, too. What tips and tricks do you use to minimize the time it takes to schedule content for your brand’s social media accounts?

Image credit: Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Social Media Engagement is the New Social Media Marketing: How To Do It Well

At Buffer, we think a lot about the future of social media.

It started as a way for friends to connect online, evolved into a broadcasting channel, and is now a place for brands to provide personalized, human experiences with their audience and customers.

Social media is as much about engagement with other people as it is about sharing content.

It’s why we call it “social” media.

Here are just a few reasons why social media engagement is a vital part of any social media marketing strategy.

1. Simply broadcasting content results in low reach and referral traffic

Over the last few years, organic reach (on Facebook in particular) has dropped so dramatically that some people have questioned the viability of organic posting at all.

In 2017, Buzzsumo analyzed 880 million Facebook posts and uncovered a sharp decline in engagements. This is linked to a perceived push by social media platforms to encourage brands to use advertising to boost their reach.

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Reach and engagement on organic Facebook posts are declining

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In 2018, Facebook also announced that they would change their post ranking algorithm to prioritize personal posts over brand page posts in the News Feed. A key part of the change is that they are using “meaningful engagement” as an important signal that a post should be prioritized.

In other words, posts with more active and thoughtful interactions will get more reach.

There’s a fascinating insight into why Facebook are taking this approach in this explainer video from their Newsfeed team.

“Interacting with people is associated with a greater sense of well-being… On the other hand, just scrolling through your Facebook feed, passively reading or watching without interacting with others, tends to make people feel worse.” – Facebook

2. People expect businesses to respond on social media, and fast

Twitter and Facebook have become the first places people go to for customer support, product enquiries or just to say thank you to businesses.

Back in 2013 it was estimated that 67% of consumers use Facebook and Twitter for customer service, and that was five years ago! With the rise of Facebook Messenger usage, that number is likely to have trended upwards as over 8 billion messages are exchanged between people and businesses on Messenger alone each month.

This report by Sprout Social also suggests that using social media is now the top choice for people seeking customer service.

Graph about social media being top choice for customer care

The speed at which business respond is also important. According to research commissioned by Twitter in 2016, 71% of their users expect a response within an hour.

3. Social media engagement increases loyalty and generates word of mouth.

People love positive interactions with brands on social media. Here’s just one example of nice tweet someone shared about Buffer.

screenshot of a positive tweet

There’s also a ton of data that suggests that answering complaints on social media increases customer advocacy and reduces churn. For example, Jay Baer’s research found that answering a complaint on social media can increase customer advocacy by as much 25%.

On the flipside, in Sprout Social’s research they discovered that 30% of customers who are shunned by brands on social media are more likely to switch to a competitor.

What’s more – social media experiences are, by design, both public and easy to share. This creates a compounding impact on positive experiences, compared to say, an email exchange or phone call.

The Twitter exchange below is a neat example of how thoughtful and fun social engagement between a customer and brand can go viral. Aside from garnering hundreds of retweets, it got picked up by news outlets including Buzzfeed and the Mirror.

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4. You can learn directly from customers and prospects

We use social media to learn from our customers and community about how we can improve their experience.

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Having this direct line to customers enables us to build relationships, develop empathy and ultimately build a better product for our users.

Social Media Engagement Challenges and How to Overcome Them

Looking again at the Sprout Social study, apparently brands are only responding to 11 percent of messages on social media and are sharing a whopping 23 promotional messages for every response to their social audience.

If we extrapolate this into the makeup of total social media activity, the contrast is stark and pretty worrisome!

social engagement vs promotion chart

The benefits of social media engagement seem clear, so why haven’t more brands fully embraced it as a marketing strategy?

I believe there are three key challenges that, on the surface, seem quite daunting for marketers and their organizations.

  1. Finding the resources to engage with all relevant conversations
  2. Quality control: maintaining a consistent, authentic voice and tone
  3. Measuring the impact of social media engagement

The best brands on social media turn these challenges into opportunities, and this is how you can nail your social media engagement too.

1. Engaging with all relevant conversations

Staying on top of “mentions” on social media, tapping into relevant conversations, and filtering out irrelevant social chatter is the basis of most social media engagement strategies.

Our marketing team at Buffer uses our own product, Buffer Reply, to focus in on relevant conversations across our key social networks and respond to them quickly.

Buffer Reply Dashboard

Reply is a little different to other social media engagement tools because it is more like an inbox rather than a collection of feeds or streams.

It’s a bit like a traditional email inbox, where all relevant messages, whether they’re from Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, appear in the order that the conversation was started. Having threaded conversations neatly organized in one inbox saves our team a huge amount of time. We don’t have to jump between multiple streams and we don’t have to dig through every conversation to see what it’s about or whether it needs a response.

Our team also uses Reply to prioritize certain conversations – for example customer support issues. We have automation rules (which you can learn more about here – they’re quite magical) set up to move certain types of conversations to specific folders, so that we can better manage how we respond to them.

Screenshot of automated rules in Reply

We also use filters to weed out conversations that on the surface appear like they might be relevant but are actually totally unrelated to our business.

Buffer Reply filters screenshot

Reply isn’t the only tool available to help make social media engagement easier and minimize the time it takes to find and respond to social media posts and messages. There are a number of different options available, depending on your needs. Here’s a list we put together with some of our favorites.

2. Maintaining a consistent, authentic voice

Putting yourself out there on social media can be scary. Will people like what you have to say? Are you putting your brand in its best light?

Having an authentic voice on social media is important but not as easy as it sounds. It’s important because it humanizes your brand – whether that’s a company big or small, or a personal brand – and encourages people to respond and talk about you positively.

It’s difficult because things like “voice” and “tone” are quite subjective. Here’s how Kevan, Buffer’s director of marketing described the challenge in a previous blog post:

“We don’t want brands talking at us as if we are dollar signs. We want authentic communication. Finding a voice for your social media marketing can be difficult because the concept is somewhat unlike other optimization strategies online. Voice is not a statistic you can track or a design element you can tweak. Voice goes deeper than that.”

As an example of how to develop your social media voice, here’s a four-part formula suggested by Stephanie Schwab, writing for Social Media Explorer. She breaks voice down into tone, character, language, and purpose.

A chart about finding your brand voice

Establishing a voice and tone is also one of the subjects in our Social Media 101 email course. You can check out the notes for it here (and feel free to take the entire course if you’re interested!)

Having a clear voice and tone guide is especially helpful when there are multiple people engaging on social media on behalf of a brand.

But what does that look like in practice?

At Buffer, we have a tone guide (which you read about here along with some other guides that we think are quite inspirational). We use this guide to help empower our team. We also provide our whole team with access to Reply to engage with our community.

Here are some tactics we use to engage with people on social media authentically and efficiently.

Personal signatures

Everyone on our team has a personal signature set up in Reply to help humanize our social media responses.

screenshot of Reply settings

Here’s what it looks like on Twitter:

A twitter reply

GIFs and emojis

Emojis and GIFs have become a massive part of the language of social media. We use emojis and GIFs to add personality to our social media conversations and convey our feelings more efficiently.

A facebook reply

Assigning conversations to teammates

Reply has a neat feature that enables us to automatically assign social media conversations to specific people on the team. If it’s a technical support query, it might go to one of our customer support advocates. If it’s a shoutout or someone seeking general social media advice, we can route the message directly to our social media manager Bonnie. This helps us provide a better, faster experience for the people we engage with.

As a backup, we also have a some pre-written replies to some of the more common (or tricky) conversations we have on social media, which are available to our team – only if they need it.

Saved Replies screenshot

In general, we encourage each other to write our own, personal social media messages.

3. Measuring the impact of social media engagement

In my opinion, being able to quantify the return-on-investment is the biggest thing that holds brands back from investing in social media engagement.

It’s often not quite as straightforward as measuring clicks on an ad campaign, or sales from an email promotion.

At Buffer, we measure success through multiple lenses.

Customer support impact

How many messages are we responding to on social media? Are we responding (and resolving issues) faster? Is it reducing the number of support requests we receive through other channels, like email?

Reply tracks our key customer support metrics for us and lets us export the data to CSV so that we can aggregate it with statistics across our other main support channel – email.

Below is an example of one of our reports in Reply. It lets us compare message volume with response time. We can also see how much engagement is happening on each platform.Reply response time screenshot

Brand impact

The impact social media engagement has on your brand is more difficult to measure because someone’s journey with your brand is nonlinear and attribution is murky. Brand perceptions are built up over time and through multiple channels.

At Buffer, the brand metric that we focus on is reach – the number of people who are coming into contact with Buffer each week. We have an annual goal for reach, and we track weekly progress against it. For example, this year we are aiming to reach 105 million people!

Brand reach goals

We treat social media as a component of total reach, and it is a big contributor for us to our total reach number.

In the table below, Social Reach is the total number of people who see our content within a social media feed and Social Engagement is the cumulative total of likes, comments, shares and clicks, etc.

We include Social Engagement because it helps us measure the quality of our reach. By engaging with our audience on social media ourselves, we try to drive both of these numbers up!

Social media reach and engagement

Ultimately, how you measure the effectiveness of engaging with people on social media depends on your goals.

We believe that social media is for branding – so we engage with people on social media to provide quick and friendly customer support, build affinity with our brand, and grow our reach.

You might have different goals for your social media program, so how you measure your social media engagement should line up with those goals.

For example, your goal might be to develop an email list, or build a network of influencers, or drive downloads of your app.

Over to you

Do you have a social media engagement strategy? How do you measure it? We’d love to learn from other marketers! Feel free to leave a comment below or engage with us on social media. <img src="http://s.w.org/images/core/emoji/2.4/72×72/1f609.png&quot; alt="