New USPS Postage Rates Go Into Effect on January 21

New 2018 USPS Postage Rate Changes Go Into Effect on January 21

 

The proposed new postage rates by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) are going to be implemented on Sunday, January 21, 2018.

The USPS filed a notice to increase the price of mail services with the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) in October 2017, with the implementation slated for January 2018. Come Sunday, regular mail, as well as shipping services, will be affected by the price hike.

The cost of shipping has become a significant expenditure since the arrival of online commerce. For many small businesses looking to compete with large companies offering free shipping, even the slightest increase will hurt the bottom line.

When the USPS announced the increase, it said Mailing Services product prices would go up by around 1.9 percent, and most Shipping Services products would see an average increase of 3.9 percent. Domestic and international shipping products will also see an increase, including Priority Mail Express, Priority Mail and Parcel Select.

Sunday, January 21, 2018 USPS Postage Rate Changes

Starting on Sunday, First-Class Mail letters up to one ounce will increase from $0.49 to $0.50. The price for each additional ounce will remain at 21 cents. Metered letters and domestic postcards will go up by one cent from 46 to 47 cents and from 34 to 35 cents respectively.

Priority Mail Flat Rate prices will go up by five cents across the board:

  • Flat Rate Envelope – $6.65 to $6.70
  • Legal Flat Rate Envelope – $6.95 to $7.00
  • Padded Flat Rate Envelope – $7.20 to $7.25
  • Small Flat Rate Boxes – $7.15 to $7.20
  • Medium Flat Rate Boxes – $13.60 to $13.65
  • Large Flat Rate Boxes – $18.85 to $18.90

The price for retail Priority Mail Express will go up by 3.9 percent, while Priority Mail Express Commercial Base and Plus will see a 3.7 percent increase.

If your business uses Priority Mail, Priority Mail Express or First-Class Package Service you might be eligible to get discounts over the retail rates. Contact your local USPS office to see if you qualify and see what kind of deals you can get. The discount you get will depend on the volume you ship, which will let you negotiate a better rate.

If you want to take a look at the proposed changes, you can go here to learn more. The information gets posted on the day it takes effect, so you have to wait until January 21, 2018. However, you can go to October 6, 2017, on the calendar and see Docket No. R2018-1 for Mailing Services and Docket No. CP2018-8 for Shipping Services.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “New USPS Postage Rates Go Into Effect on January 21” was first published on Small Business Trends

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The 29 HBO shows that critics and audiences both agree are wonderful

Big Little LiesHBO

HBO has given us the gift of some of the greatest TV shows of all time – like “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “The Wire,” and “Game of Thrones” – throughout its history of original programming.

But HBO has also released a lot of prestige shows that critics love, but normal people don’t. And the other way around.

When audiences and critics agree, however, you know the show is definitely worth your time. This is especially relevant now that old shows are available to binge-watch on HBO Now or HBO Go.

So which shows do both groups agree on? There’s “Game of Thrones,” of course, but there are also 28 more that make the cut.

We ranked these universally beloved HBO shows according to their scores on Rotten Tomatoes, which aggregates critic reviews and audience scores and assigns each show a score. We chose shows with a combined score average of over 80 percent, then ranked them by those averages (with audience score breaking any ties). 

Here are all the HBO shows that critics and audiences agree on, according to their scores on Rotten Tomatoes:

(Note: We left off animated, children’s, documentary/reality, and foreign programming, as well as miniseries, with a few notable exceptions.)

29. “Big Love” (2006-11), five seasons

Playtone Productions

Critic score: 85%

Audience score: 77%

Average: 81%

“A very original, extremely well-acted and complexly written drama.” – SFGate

28. “The Young Pope” (2017), one-season miniseries

HBO

Critic score: 78%

Audience score: 85%

Average: 81.5%

“‘The Young Pope’ is TV’s equivalent of a dorm-room poster of Bob Marley blowing smoke or the Lenny Bruce mugshot: a depleted symbol of a radical reaction to society that finally most clearly represents the status quo.” – Collider

27. “Vice Principals” (2016-2017), two seasons

HBO

Critic score: 82%

Audience score: 85%

Average: 83.5%

“The two leads remain horribly entertaining as small men with huge chips on their shoulders.” – Entertainment Weekly


See the rest of the story at Business Insider

The State of Social 2018 Report: Your Guide to Latest Social Media Marketing Research [New Data]

What’s in store for the social media industry in 2018?

The way consumers use social media channels is constantly evolving and as marketers and entrepreneurs, we need to adapt to these changes.

To better understand these changes, plus what’s ahead for 2018 and beyond we teamed up with Social Media Week to collect data from over 1,700 marketers and create the State of Social Media 2018 report. The report shows us how marketers, from businesses of all sizes, are approaching social media marketing.

Ready to jump in?

A handy guide to navigating what’s coming up next in the social media world.

Contents:

3 Key social media takeaways to guide your marketing in 2018

1. There are huge opportunities in the messaging space (only 20 percent of marketers have used messaging apps for marketing)

Messaging platforms have grown at an incredible rate over the last couple of years. And there are now more people using the top four social messaging apps (WhatsApp, Messenger, WeChat, and Viber) than the top four social media apps (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn)1.

Despite this incredible growth, our State of Social 2018 survey found that just 20 percent of businesses have invested in marketing through messenger platforms:

After seeing such high user growth for the past few years, companies like Facebook will begin to focus on how they can monetize chat apps which will open up new advertising opportunities for marketers.

Right now, marketers still appear to be investing more time and resources into social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, but as organic reach continues to decline (more on this below), we’ll see a greater number of marketers experiment with messaging apps as a way to connect with their audience.

2. Companies that invest in social media ads are more than twice as likely to say social media marketing is “very effective” for their business

When we asked respondents how effective social media marketing has been for their business 45 percent said “somewhat effective” and a further 29 percent believed that social media marketing had been “very effective”.

However, when we split these results based on whether or not the respondents had invested in ads, we found that businesses that have invested in social media ads are more than twice as likely to report that social media marketing is “very effective”.

Whereas businesses that have not invested in ads are more than twice as likely to report that the effectiveness of social media marketing for their business is “uncertain” or “very ineffective”.

3. Engagement is the #1 way to measure ROI from social media advertising

When we asked respondents how they measure the ROI of their social media advertising campaigns, 42 percent said engagement, followed by leads (17 percent) and sales (15 percent):

When we broke down the data by business size, engagement was still the #1 way both small and large businesses measure ROI from social media advertising:

This appears to be the continuation of a trend we noted in 2017, where social media is becoming more about engagement than driving traffic or making direct sales.

State of Social 2018: The full report

About the State of Social Media survey and data

For this report, we surveyed over 1,700 marketers (1,796 to be precise) from businesses of all sizes. You can view a more detailed breakdown on the data at the bottom of this post.

How marketers are using social media platforms: 7 insights you need to know

1. Facebook is still the leading platform for marketers (96 percent of businesses use Facebook)

Facebook is the leading platform for marketers with 96 percent saying their business is actively using it. Twitter was close behind with 89 percent of respondents saying they use the platform for their business.

2. Facebook organic reach continues to decline (only 21 percent of respondents haven’t noticed a decline in the past 12 months)

Facebook is constantly tweaking its News Feed algorithm and it appears that organic reach has once again declined over the past 12 months with just 21 percent of people “disagreeing” or “strongly disagreeing” with the below statement:

3. Video is a top priority for 2018 (85 percent of businesses would like to create more video content)

Video has been booming across social channels for the past couple of years and 85 percent of businesses are keen to create more video in 2018:

When we asked what’s currently holding businesses back from creating more video content lack of time and budget were the two main blockers:

4. Facebook is dominating the paid advertising space (94 percent of marketers have used Facebook Ads)

Facebook is the most popular platform for paid ads (94 percent), followed by Instagram (44 percent), with LinkedIn and Twitter tied in third place (26 percent):

Looking ahead, 67 percent of businesses are looking to increase their social media advertising budget in 2018:

5. Images are the most shared type of content (95 percent of businesses post images to social channels)

Ninty-five percent of respondents said their business posts images, with links (85 percent) being the second most shared content type:

6. The rise of stories (68 percent of marketers are planning on creating more stories in 2018)

Last year, only 29 percent of State of Social respondents had created stories on Instagram or Snapchat. This year 42 percent have created stories on Instagram (just 11 percent had created stories on Snapchat):

Further to this, 68 percent of respondents plan to create more stories content in 2018:

7. Live video hasn’t yet caught on (only 31 percent of marketers have broadcast live video)

In our last State of Social report, 26 percent of marketers said they had created live video content. In 2017, 31 percent of marketers said they had broadcast live content-just a 5 percent increase:

For those who have created live video, Facebook was the number one platform of choice, ahead of Instagram and Periscope (Twitter):

Live video could still present a huge opportunity in 2018, though. Facebook’s Head of News Feed, Adam Mosseri, recently revealed that live videos on average get six times as many interactions as regular videos. This could be especially valuable for Page owners as Facebook is making changes to their News Feed algorithm to give people more opportunities to interact with the people they care about.

Check out the full State of Social 2018 report below

The data: Who took part in the survey?

For this report, we surveyed over 1,700 marketers from businesses of all sizes. The majority of respondents work at companies who focus on both B2B and B2C customers (43 percent), while 33 percent work at purely B2B companies and 25 percent at B2C companies. 49 percent of our respondents work at businesses with 1-10 employees. At the other end of the scale, 7 percent of respondents work at companies with over 200 employees.

Company size

Just under half (49 percent) of the people who took our survey work at companies with fewer than 10 full-time staff. A further 21 percent work at companies with between 11-50 full-time team members. Here’s the full breakdown:

  • 49 percent: Fewer than 10 people
  • 13 percent: 11-25 people
  • 8 percent: 26-50 people
  • 8 percent: 1,001+ people
  • 7 percent: 51-100 people
  • 6 percent: 101-200 people
  • 5 percent: 201-500 people
  • 4 percent: 501-1,000 people

Marketing team size

The majority of respondents in our survey work closely with a small number of colleagues in their marketing teams or act as the sole marketer at their company:

  • 41 percent of respondents were the only marketer at their company
  • 38 percent of people worked in marketing teams of between 2-5 colleagues
  • 11 percent of people work in marketing teams larger than 11 people
  • 9 percent of people work in marketing teams of between 6-10

Industry breakdown

Twenty-three percent of those who took the survey work at organizations in the marketing, PR, and advertising space. Other industries include: Media and Publishing (11 percent); Non-Profit (10 percent); Education (8 percent);  Consumer Products (8 percent); IT & Services (6 percent);  Software (5 percent); E-commerce (3 percent); Medical & Healthcare (3 percent); Financial (3 percent); Travel & Tourism (2 percent); Financial Services (2 percent); Government (2 percent); Law & Legal Services (1 percent); Other (15 percent).

⬆ Back to the top.

Over to you

Thanks so much for checking out our State of Social 2018 report. We hope you enjoyed the data and discovered some useful takeaways for your business.

P.S. We’ve made the data open and available to anyone in this Google Sheet (feel free to make a copy and interrogate in any way you’d like – we’d love to hear what you might find). You can also download a copy of all the State of Social 2018 charts here.

Feature image via Jaelynn Castillo. 

20 Top Social Media Tools to Try in 2018

Now that 2018 is here and in full swing, you might be looking for new social media tools to add to your marketing stack.

According to Scott Brinker of the Chief Marketing Technologist Blog, there are now more than 5,000 tools in the marketing technology landscape1.

So where do you start?

As part of our State of Social Media 2018 campaign, we partnered with the team at Product Hunt to put together a list of the latest trending social media tools for marketers to try in 2018.

Keep reading to see the full list and learn how to use the tools, or click over to the Product Hunt collection with all of 2018’s best social media tools.

The 20 Best New Social Media Tools to Try in 2018 and How to Use Them

The 20 best new social media tools to try in 2018

Here’s an overview of all the 20 social media tools (not arranged in any order). Feel free to click on any that catches your eye to skip to it!

I’m sure I’m missing some of the great new social media tools out there. If you know of any, it’ll be great if you could share them in the comments section below.

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1. Crello

A simplified graphic design tool with 10,000 free templates

Price: Free (with some design elements at $0.99)

Description: Crello is a new, free graphic design tool for creating social media, web, and print images. It provides 10,000 free design templates and millions of stock images and free design elements.

How to use Crello:

You can either create a graphic from scratch or use one of Crello’s nicely-created templates. Using drag-and-drop, you can easily add, edit, and move design elements around on your graphic.

Here’s a quick video on how to create a graphic with Crello:

Now, you can even create animated designs with Crello!

Here’s what a Product Hunter has to say:

Crello review

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2. Fastory

Craft stunning Instagram stories, share them everywhere

Price: Free or enterprise pricing

Description: Fastory is like Canva for Stories, as a Product Hunter described it. It’s an online graphics editor that allows you to create animated or static stories easily.

How to use Fastory:

The Fastory editor will guide you through three simple steps to create an engaging story.

  1. Choose an animation for your text
  2. Choose or upload a video or photo
  3. Add your logo

When you “publish” your stories on Fastory, it will send the stories to your email. You can then download them on your mobile phone and upload onto Instagram or Snapchat.

Social media tool 2018: Fastory

Note: Stories created with the free version come with a Fastory branding in the lower-left corner.

Here’s what a Product Hunter has to say:

Fastory review

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3. Storyheap

Manage your Snapchat & Instagram Stories

Price: $49 per month, $99 per month, or $199 per month (with a 7-day free trial)

Description: Storyheap might be the only tool around that lets you manage your Instagram and Snapchat Stories – create, schedule, and analyze your stories – from a single dashboard.

How to use Storyheap:

Storyheap works like most social media management tools, except that it focuses on stories only. To schedule a story, upload an image or video and select your posting time. Storyheap will then add that story to your queue.

Besides creating and scheduling stories, you can also see the performance of your stories (e.g. views and screenshots) and the growth of your accounts (e.g. followers, average views, and open rate).

Social media tools 2018: Storyheap

It might be good to note that some people are concerned about whether Storyheap is violating Instagram and Snapchat’s Terms of Service, though Storyheap seemed to have found a workaround that doesn’t violate the terms.

Here’s what a Product Hunter has to say:

Storyheap review

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4. Botletter

Send newsletters on Facebook Messenger

http://cards.producthunt.com/cards/posts/107800?v=1

Price: Free (for 1,000 messages every month), $23.50 per month, $53.60 per month, $85.50 per month, or custom pricing

Description: Facebook Messenger is growing as a promising marketing channel. With Botletter, you can grow your Messenger subscriber list, send your subscribers messages on Messenger (or botletters), and analyze your performance.

How to use Botletter:

Using Botletter is very similar to using most email marketing tools. The main difference is that while you send emails with email marketing tools, you send Messenger messages with Botletter.

Besides crafting your message, you can also add a Messenger card with an image, title, and call-to-action.

Social media tool 2018: Botletter

Here’s what a Product Hunter has to say:

Botletter review

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5. PixelMe

URL shortener for savvy marketers

http://cards.producthunt.com/cards/posts/113473?v=1

Price: $10 per month, $29 per month, $79 per month, or custom pricing (with a 7-day free trial)

Description: PixelMe is an URL shortener that allows you to include a retargeting pixel in a link. When people click on your PixelMe links, you’ll be able to retarget them with ads on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and more.

How to use PixelMe:

All you have to do to set up your PixelMe account is to add the pixel IDs of the ad platforms you want to use. For example, for Facebook ads, that would be the Facebook Pixel.

Once you have done that, simply copy and paste your link into PixelMe and let it generate a shortened link for you. Now, share away! When enough people click on that link, you’ll be able to create a custom audience in the ad platforms and retarget them with a very relevant ad.

Social media tool 2018: PixelMe

Here’s what a Product Hunter has to say:

PixelMe review

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6. Promo

The easiest way to create marketing videos, from Slidely

http://cards.producthunt.com/cards/posts/101193?v=1

Price: $49 per month, $99 per month, $199 per month, $359 per month, or enterprise pricing (You can try the editor for free and pay only when you want to download any videos.)

Description: Promo claims to be the easiest video maker on the market (and many Product Hunters agree with the ease of use). With a library of over 2.8 million premium video clips and licensed music, Promo can help you create high-quality videos in just a few minutes.

How to use Promo:

To get started, you can search and choose a video from Promo’s massive library or upload your own video clips. Promo’s videos come with nicely designed text placeholders so all you have to do next is enter your copy and logo. Promo would have even picked a music for you (though, you can change it if you want to).

Social media tools 2018: Promo

Here’s what a Product Hunter has to say:

Promo review

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7. Typito

Create stunning videos fast, easy, and online

http://cards.producthunt.com/cards/posts/109639?v=1

Price: Free, $5 per month, $30 per month, or enterprise pricing (with a 7-day free trial. You can pay $5 per video to remove the Typito watermark.)

Description: Typito has been described as “Canva for video”. Its drag-and-drop interface allows you to quickly create engaging videos with beautiful typography, images, and videos.

How to use Typito:

Once you upload your video clips and images to Typito, you can easily add text, icons, and music to your video. With its simple interface, you can change the text style, change the font, drag and move it around, and more.

In addition, you can convert your video into a landscape video, a square video, a letterbox video, or a vertical video with just a click. (We found that our square and letterbox videos receive the higher average engagements, views, and completion rate on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter than our landscape videos.)

Social media tools 2018: Typito

Here’s what a Product Hunter has to say:

Typito review

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8. Anchor Videos

Magically transform audio to video and share it anywhere

http://cards.producthunt.com/cards/posts/105506?v=1

Price: Free

Description: Anchor Videos is a new feature in Anchor, a popular audio network app, which allows you to turn your audio recordings into beautifully animated videos with your transcript.

How to use Anchor Videos: 

Once you have recorded your audio using the Anchor app, tap on the video button. Anchor will instantly transcript your audio and let you share an animated video of your audio and transcript to the various social media platforms. You’ll be able to check and edit the transcript before creating the video.

Here’s a quick video on how to do that:

Here’s what a Product Hunter has to say:

Anchor Videos review

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9. Adioma

Infographic maker based on visual language

http://cards.producthunt.com/cards/posts/74769?v=1

Price: $39 per month, $69 per month, $299 per month, or custom pricing from $10,000 per infographic onwards

Description: The people behind the popular Funders and Founders infographics created Adioma so that people can create similar awesome infographics easily.

How to use Adioma:

To create an infographic with Adioma, simply type the text you want to include. Adioma will do the design work for you – it’ll suggest relevant icons, automatically adapt the design to the amount of text you have, and more.

You can even upload all your text at once, and Adioma will generate the infographic! Here’s a quick walkthrough of Adioma:

Here’s what a Product Hunter has to say:

Adioma review

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10. Smartmockups 2.0

Create stunning product screenshots without using Photoshop

http://cards.producthunt.com/cards/posts/104913?v=1

Price: $69 (There’s a free trial where the mockups created will have a watermark.)

Description: Smartmockups lets you create photos of your product (digital, print, or apparel) in realistic backgrounds, without needing help from a designer.

How to use Smartmockups:

You can create an awesome-looking mockup of your product in just four steps:

  1. Select a mockup (such as a laptop, a business card, or a t-shirt)
  2. Upload your image (or grab a screenshot from a URL)
  3. Adjust your mockup (such as change the device color or add a background)
  4. Export your mockup in the size and quality you prefer

Here’s a quick GIF of how it looks like to create a mockup with Smartmockups:

Social media tools 2018: Smartmockups 2.0

Here’s what a Product Hunter has to say:

Smartmockups review

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11. ContentStudio

Data-driven content suite to grow your social accounts

http://cards.producthunt.com/cards/posts/110869?v=1

Price: Free, $15 per month, $47 per month, $97 per month, $197 per month, or enterprise pricing

Description: ContentStudio is a social media content curation tool that allows you to discover content, schedule posts, and automate campaigns.

How to use ContentStudio:

A main focus of ContentStudio, as its name might have suggested, is to help you find content quickly. Using its discovery feature, you can search for a particular topic, select content sources, and filter the content as you prefer.

Once you have found the content you want to share on your social media profiles, you can share it using ContentStudio’s composer, which will recommend images and hashtags for your post.

Social media tool 2018: ContentStudio

Here’s what a Product Hunter has to say:

ContentStudio review

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12. Campsite

Turn a single bio link into unlimited

http://cards.producthunt.com/cards/posts/109699?v=1

Price: Free

Description: Campsite solves a problem that many Instagram marketers face – having only one link for the entire Instagram account – by creating a mobile-friendly page where you can list multiple links.

How to use Campsite:

To add a new link to your Campsite page, enter the link title and URL and toggle the “Enabled” switch.

If you want people to know that a link is associated with a particular Instagram post, you can select that Instagram post and the image would appear beside the link.

Social media tool 2018: Campsite

Here’s what a Product Hunter has to say:

Campsite review

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13. Tagwin

Instagram contests & giveaways made easy

http://cards.producthunt.com/cards/posts/103992?v=1

Price: Free, $19 per month, $29 per month, $49 per month, or $79 per month

Description: Running Instagram contests is a great way to drive engagement and reach on InstagramTagwin makes the process simple and easy.

How to use Tagwin:

It takes only a few minutes to set up your contest in Tagwin. You can set the entry conditions such as to follow your account and to like a post. Once you have set up the contest, you can track the contest entries on the Tagwin dashboard.

Social media tool 2018: Tagwin

Here’s what a Product Hunter has to say:

Tagwin review

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14. Insense

Facebook and Instagram ads on behalf of influencers

http://cards.producthunt.com/cards/posts/108469?v=1

Price: $299 for 25 creator deals per month, $999 for 50 creator deals per month, or enterprise pricing (Product Hunters get a discount)

Description: Influencer marketing is becoming more and more popular on social media. Insense is a platform that connects you with influencers and lets you manage and run sponsored influencer campaigns.

How to use Insense:

First, you have to create a campaign brief that’ll be read by the relevant influencers. Interested influencers will then respond to your campaign brief.

Once you have decided which influencers to work with, you can communicate with them through the Insense platform. When the sponsored post is published, you can even boost the influencers’ posts using Facebook Ads Manager.

Here’s a short walkthrough of creating an influencer campaign with Insense:

Here’s what a Product Hunter has to say:

Insense review

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15. Quuu Promote 3.0

Promote your content to influencers

http://cards.producthunt.com/cards/posts/99478?v=1

Price: $40 per month, $70 per month, $150 per month, $300 per month, or $500 per month (with a 14-day free trial)

Description: Quuu is a social media tool that suggests content for your social media sharing. Quuu Promote, on the other hand, lets you promote your content by suggesting it to the regular Quuu users.

How to use Quuu Promote:

To promote your content through Quuu Promote, you just have to create the social media post you want Quuu users to share, and select the interest group that your content belongs to. After your post is reviewed, it will be suggested to Quuu users who want content suggestions from that interest group, and then shared on social.

<img data-attachment-id="21558" data-permalink="https://blog.bufferapp.com/new-social-media-tools-2018/social-media-tools-2018-quuu-promote&quot; data-orig-file="http://blog.bufferapp.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/social-media-tools-2018-quuu-promote.png&quot; data-orig-size="1662,1027" data-comments-opened="1" data-image-meta="{"aperture":"0","credit":"","camera":"","caption":"","created_timestamp":"0","copyright":"","focal_length":"0","iso":"0","shutter_speed":"0","title":"","orientation":"0"}" data-image-title="Social media tools 2018: Quuu Promote" data-image-description="" data-medium-file="http://blog.bufferapp.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/social-media-tools-2018-quuu-promote-300×185.png&quot; data-large-file="http://blog.bufferapp.com/wp-co

20 Top Social Media Tools to Try in 2018

Now that 2018 is here and in full swing, you might be looking for new social media tools to add to your marketing stack.

According to Scott Brinker of the Chief Marketing Technologist Blog, there are now more than 5,000 tools in the marketing technology landscape1.

So where do you start?

As part of our State of Social Media 2018 campaign, we partnered with the team at Product Hunt to put together a list of the latest trending social media tools for marketers to try in 2018.

Keep reading to see the full list and learn how to use the tools, or click over to the Product Hunt collection with all of 2018’s best social media tools.

The 20 Best New Social Media Tools to Try in 2018 and How to Use Them

The 20 best new social media tools to try in 2018

Here’s an overview of all the 20 social media tools (not arranged in any order). Feel free to click on any that catches your eye to skip to it!

I’m sure I’m missing some of the great new social media tools out there. If you know of any, it’ll be great if you could share them in the comments section below.

Section separator

1. Crello

A simplified graphic design tool with 10,000 free templates

Price: Free (with some design elements at $0.99)

Description: Crello is a new, free graphic design tool for creating social media, web, and print images. It provides 10,000 free design templates and millions of stock images and free design elements.

How to use Crello:

You can either create a graphic from scratch or use one of Crello’s nicely-created templates. Using drag-and-drop, you can easily add, edit, and move design elements around on your graphic.

Here’s a quick video on how to create a graphic with Crello:

Now, you can even create animated designs with Crello!

Here’s what a Product Hunter has to say:

Crello review

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2. Fastory

Craft stunning Instagram stories, share them everywhere

Price: Free or enterprise pricing

Description: Fastory is like Canva for Stories, as a Product Hunter described it. It’s an online graphics editor that allows you to create animated or static stories easily.

How to use Fastory:

The Fastory editor will guide you through three simple steps to create an engaging story.

  1. Choose an animation for your text
  2. Choose or upload a video or photo
  3. Add your logo

When you “publish” your stories on Fastory, it will send the stories to your email. You can then download them on your mobile phone and upload onto Instagram or Snapchat.

Social media tool 2018: Fastory

Note: Stories created with the free version come with a Fastory branding in the lower-left corner.

Here’s what a Product Hunter has to say:

Fastory review

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3. Storyheap

Manage your Snapchat & Instagram Stories

Price: $49 per month, $99 per month, or $199 per month (with a 7-day free trial)

Description: Storyheap might be the only tool around that lets you manage your Instagram and Snapchat Stories – create, schedule, and analyze your stories – from a single dashboard.

How to use Storyheap:

Storyheap works like most social media management tools, except that it focuses on stories only. To schedule a story, upload an image or video and select your posting time. Storyheap will then add that story to your queue.

Besides creating and scheduling stories, you can also see the performance of your stories (e.g. views and screenshots) and the growth of your accounts (e.g. followers, average views, and open rate).

Social media tools 2018: Storyheap

It might be good to note that some people are concerned about whether Storyheap is violating Instagram and Snapchat’s Terms of Service, though Storyheap seemed to have found a workaround that doesn’t violate the terms.

Here’s what a Product Hunter has to say:

Storyheap review

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4. Botletter

Send newsletters on Facebook Messenger

http://cards.producthunt.com/cards/posts/107800?v=1

Price: Free (for 1,000 messages every month), $23.50 per month, $53.60 per month, $85.50 per month, or custom pricing

Description: Facebook Messenger is growing as a promising marketing channel. With Botletter, you can grow your Messenger subscriber list, send your subscribers messages on Messenger (or botletters), and analyze your performance.

How to use Botletter:

Using Botletter is very similar to using most email marketing tools. The main difference is that while you send emails with email marketing tools, you send Messenger messages with Botletter.

Besides crafting your message, you can also add a Messenger card with an image, title, and call-to-action.

Social media tool 2018: Botletter

Here’s what a Product Hunter has to say:

Botletter review

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5. PixelMe

URL shortener for savvy marketers

http://cards.producthunt.com/cards/posts/113473?v=1

Price: $10 per month, $29 per month, $79 per month, or custom pricing (with a 7-day free trial)

Description: PixelMe is an URL shortener that allows you to include a retargeting pixel in a link. When people click on your PixelMe links, you’ll be able to retarget them with ads on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and more.

How to use PixelMe:

All you have to do to set up your PixelMe account is to add the pixel IDs of the ad platforms you want to use. For example, for Facebook ads, that would be the Facebook Pixel.

Once you have done that, simply copy and paste your link into PixelMe and let it generate a shortened link for you. Now, share away! When enough people click on that link, you’ll be able to create a custom audience in the ad platforms and retarget them with a very relevant ad.

Social media tool 2018: PixelMe

Here’s what a Product Hunter has to say:

PixelMe review

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6. Promo

The easiest way to create marketing videos, from Slidely

http://cards.producthunt.com/cards/posts/101193?v=1

Price: $49 per month, $99 per month, $199 per month, $359 per month, or enterprise pricing (You can try the editor for free and pay only when you want to download any videos.)

Description: Promo claims to be the easiest video maker on the market (and many Product Hunters agree with the ease of use). With a library of over 2.8 million premium video clips and licensed music, Promo can help you create high-quality videos in just a few minutes.

How to use Promo:

To get started, you can search and choose a video from Promo’s massive library or upload your own video clips. Promo’s videos come with nicely designed text placeholders so all you have to do next is enter your copy and logo. Promo would have even picked a music for you (though, you can change it if you want to).

Social media tools 2018: Promo

Here’s what a Product Hunter has to say:

Promo review

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7. Typito

Create stunning videos fast, easy, and online

http://cards.producthunt.com/cards/posts/109639?v=1

Price: Free, $5 per month, $30 per month, or enterprise pricing (with a 7-day free trial. You can pay $5 per video to remove the Typito watermark.)

Description: Typito has been described as “Canva for video”. Its drag-and-drop interface allows you to quickly create engaging videos with beautiful typography, images, and videos.

How to use Typito:

Once you upload your video clips and images to Typito, you can easily add text, icons, and music to your video. With its simple interface, you can change the text style, change the font, drag and move it around, and more.

In addition, you can convert your video into a landscape video, a square video, a letterbox video, or a vertical video with just a click. (We found that our square and letterbox videos receive the higher average engagements, views, and completion rate on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter than our landscape videos.)

Social media tools 2018: Typito

Here’s what a Product Hunter has to say:

Typito review

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8. Anchor Videos

Magically transform audio to video and share it anywhere

http://cards.producthunt.com/cards/posts/105506?v=1

Price: Free

Description: Anchor Videos is a new feature in Anchor, a popular audio network app, which allows you to turn your audio recordings into beautifully animated videos with your transcript.

How to use Anchor Videos: 

Once you have recorded your audio using the Anchor app, tap on the video button. Anchor will instantly transcript your audio and let you share an animated video of your audio and transcript to the various social media platforms. You’ll be able to check and edit the transcript before creating the video.

Here’s a quick video on how to do that:

Here’s what a Product Hunter has to say:

Anchor Videos review

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9. Adioma

Infographic maker based on visual language

http://cards.producthunt.com/cards/posts/74769?v=1

Price: $39 per month, $69 per month, $299 per month, or custom pricing from $10,000 per infographic onwards

Description: The people behind the popular Funders and Founders infographics created Adioma so that people can create similar awesome infographics easily.

How to use Adioma:

To create an infographic with Adioma, simply type the text you want to include. Adioma will do the design work for you – it’ll suggest relevant icons, automatically adapt the design to the amount of text you have, and more.

You can even upload all your text at once, and Adioma will generate the infographic! Here’s a quick walkthrough of Adioma:

Here’s what a Product Hunter has to say:

Adioma review

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10. Smartmockups 2.0

Create stunning product screenshots without using Photoshop

http://cards.producthunt.com/cards/posts/104913?v=1

Price: $69 (There’s a free trial where the mockups created will have a watermark.)

Description: Smartmockups lets you create photos of your product (digital, print, or apparel) in realistic backgrounds, without needing help from a designer.

How to use Smartmockups:

You can create an awesome-looking mockup of your product in just four steps:

  1. Select a mockup (such as a laptop, a business card, or a t-shirt)
  2. Upload your image (or grab a screenshot from a URL)
  3. Adjust your mockup (such as change the device color or add a background)
  4. Export your mockup in the size and quality you prefer

Here’s a quick GIF of how it looks like to create a mockup with Smartmockups:

Social media tools 2018: Smartmockups 2.0

Here’s what a Product Hunter has to say:

Smartmockups review

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11. ContentStudio

Data-driven content suite to grow your social accounts

http://cards.producthunt.com/cards/posts/110869?v=1

Price: Free, $15 per month, $47 per month, $97 per month, $197 per month, or enterprise pricing

Description: ContentStudio is a social media content curation tool that allows you to discover content, schedule posts, and automate campaigns.

How to use ContentStudio:

A main focus of ContentStudio, as its name might have suggested, is to help you find content quickly. Using its discovery feature, you can search for a particular topic, select content sources, and filter the content as you prefer.

Once you have found the content you want to share on your social media profiles, you can share it using ContentStudio’s composer, which will recommend images and hashtags for your post.

Social media tool 2018: ContentStudio

Here’s what a Product Hunter has to say:

ContentStudio review

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12. Campsite

Turn a single bio link into unlimited

http://cards.producthunt.com/cards/posts/109699?v=1

Price: Free

Description: Campsite solves a problem that many Instagram marketers face – having only one link for the entire Instagram account – by creating a mobile-friendly page where you can list multiple links.

How to use Campsite:

To add a new link to your Campsite page, enter the link title and URL and toggle the “Enabled” switch.

If you want people to know that a link is associated with a particular Instagram post, you can select that Instagram post and the image would appear beside the link.

Social media tool 2018: Campsite

Here’s what a Product Hunter has to say:

Campsite review

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13. Tagwin

Instagram contests & giveaways made easy

http://cards.producthunt.com/cards/posts/103992?v=1

Price: Free, $19 per month, $29 per month, $49 per month, or $79 per month

Description: Running Instagram contests is a great way to drive engagement and reach on InstagramTagwin makes the process simple and easy.

How to use Tagwin:

It takes only a few minutes to set up your contest in Tagwin. You can set the entry conditions such as to follow your account and to like a post. Once you have set up the contest, you can track the contest entries on the Tagwin dashboard.

Social media tool 2018: Tagwin

Here’s what a Product Hunter has to say:

Tagwin review

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14. Insense

Facebook and Instagram ads on behalf of influencers

http://cards.producthunt.com/cards/posts/108469?v=1

Price: $299 for 25 creator deals per month, $999 for 50 creator deals per month, or enterprise pricing (Product Hunters get a discount)

Description: Influencer marketing is becoming more and more popular on social media. Insense is a platform that connects you with influencers and lets you manage and run sponsored influencer campaigns.

How to use Insense:

First, you have to create a campaign brief that’ll be read by the relevant influencers. Interested influencers will then respond to your campaign brief.

Once you have decided which influencers to work with, you can communicate with them through the Insense platform. When the sponsored post is published, you can even boost the influencers’ posts using Facebook Ads Manager.

Here’s a short walkthrough of creating an influencer campaign with Insense:

Here’s what a Product Hunter has to say:

Insense review

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15. Quuu Promote 3.0

Promote your content to influencers

http://cards.producthunt.com/cards/posts/99478?v=1

Price: $40 per month, $70 per month, $150 per month, $300 per month, or $500 per month (with a 14-day free trial)

Description: Quuu is a social media tool that suggests content for your social media sharing. Quuu Promote, on the other hand, lets you promote your content by suggesting it to the regular Quuu users.

How to use Quuu Promote:

To promote your content through Quuu Promote, you just have to create the social media post you want Quuu users to share, and select the interest group that your content belongs to. After your post is reviewed, it will be suggested to Quuu users who want content suggestions from that interest group, and then shared on social.

<img data-attachment-id="21558" data-permalink="https://blog.bufferapp.com/new-social-media-tools-2018/social-media-tools-2018-quuu-promote&quot; data-orig-file="http://blog.bufferapp.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/social-media-tools-2018-quuu-promote.png&quot; data-orig-size="1662,1027" data-comments-opened="1" data-image-meta="{"aperture":"0","credit":"","camera":"","caption":"","created_timestamp":"0","copyright":"","focal_length":"0","iso":"0","shutter_speed":"0","title":"","orientation":"0"}" data-image-title="Social media tools 2018: Quuu Promote" data-image-description="" data-medium-file="http://blog.bufferapp.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/social-media-tools-2018-quuu-promote-300×185.png&quot; data-large-file="http://blog.bufferapp.com/wp-co

The State of Social 2018 Report: Your Guide to Latest Social Media Marketing Research [New Data]

What’s in store for the social media industry in 2018?

The way consumers use social media channels is constantly evolving and as marketers and entrepreneurs, we need to adapt to these changes.

To better understand these changes, plus what’s ahead for 2018 and beyond we teamed up with Social Media Week to collect data from over 1,700 marketers and create the State of Social Media 2018 report. The report shows us how marketers, from businesses of all sizes, are approaching social media marketing.

Ready to jump in?

A handy guide to navigating what’s coming up next in the social media world.

Contents:

3 Key social media takeaways to guide your marketing in 2018

1. There are huge opportunities in the messaging space (only 20 percent of marketers have used messaging apps for marketing)

Messaging platforms have grown at an incredible rate over the last couple of years. And there are now more people using the top four social messaging apps (WhatsApp, Messenger, WeChat, and Viber) than the top four social media apps (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn)1.

Despite this incredible growth, our State of Social 2018 survey found that just 20 percent of businesses have invested in marketing through messenger platforms:

After seeing such high user growth for the past few years, companies like Facebook will begin to focus on how they can monetize chat apps which will open up new advertising opportunities for marketers.

Right now, marketers still appear to be investing more time and resources into social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, but as organic reach continues to decline (more on this below), we’ll see a greater number of marketers experiment with messaging apps as a way to connect with their audience.

2. Companies that invest in social media ads are more than twice as likely to say social media marketing is “very effective” for their business

When we asked respondents how effective social media marketing has been for their business 45 percent said “somewhat effective” and a further 29 percent believed that social media marketing had been “very effective”.

However, when we split these results based on whether or not the respondents had invested in ads, we found that businesses that have invested in social media ads are more than twice as likely to report that social media marketing is “very effective”.

Whereas businesses that have not invested in ads are more than twice as likely to report that the effectiveness of social media marketing for their business is “uncertain” or “very ineffective”.

3. Engagement is the #1 way to measure ROI from social media advertising

When we asked respondents how they measure the ROI of their social media advertising campaigns, 42 percent said engagement, followed by leads (17 percent) and sales (15 percent):

When we broke down the data by business size, engagement was still the #1 way both small and large businesses measure ROI from social media advertising:

This appears to be the continuation of a trend we noted in 2017, where social media is becoming more about engagement than driving traffic or making direct sales.

State of Social 2018: The full report

About the State of Social Media survey and data

For this report, we surveyed over 1,700 marketers (1,796 to be precise) from businesses of all sizes. You can view a more detailed breakdown on the data at the bottom of this post.

How marketers are using social media platforms: 7 insights you need to know

1. Facebook is still the leading platform for marketers (96 percent of businesses use Facebook)

Facebook is the leading platform for marketers with 96 percent saying their business is actively using it. Twitter was close behind with 89 percent of respondents saying they use the platform for their business.

2. Facebook organic reach continues to decline (only 21 percent of respondents haven’t noticed a decline in the past 12 months)

Facebook is constantly tweaking its News Feed algorithm and it appears that organic reach has once again declined over the past 12 months with just 21 percent of people “disagreeing” or “strongly disagreeing” with the below statement:

3. Video is a top priority for 2018 (85 percent of businesses would like to create more video content)

Video has been booming across social channels for the past couple of years and 85 percent of businesses are keen to create more video in 2018:

When we asked what’s currently holding businesses back from creating more video content lack of time and budget were the two main blockers:

4. Facebook is dominating the paid advertising space (94 percent of marketers have used Facebook Ads)

Facebook is the most popular platform for paid ads (94 percent), followed by Instagram (44 percent), with LinkedIn and Twitter tied in third place (26 percent):

Looking ahead, 67 percent of businesses are looking to increase their social media advertising budget in 2018:

5. Images are the most shared type of content (95 percent of businesses post images to social channels)

Ninty-five percent of respondents said their business posts images, with links (85 percent) being the second most shared content type:

6. The rise of stories (68 percent of marketers are planning on creating more stories in 2018)

Last year, only 29 percent of State of Social respondents had created stories on Instagram or Snapchat. This year 42 percent have created stories on Instagram (just 11 percent had created stories on Snapchat):

Further to this, 68 percent of respondents plan to create more stories content in 2018:

7. Live video hasn’t yet caught on (only 31 percent of marketers have broadcast live video)

In our last State of Social report, 26 percent of marketers said they had created live video content. In 2017, 31 percent of marketers said they had broadcast live content-just a 5 percent increase:

For those who have created live video, Facebook was the number one platform of choice, ahead of Instagram and Periscope (Twitter):

Live video could still present a huge opportunity in 2018, though. Facebook’s Head of News Feed, Adam Mosseri, recently revealed that live videos on average get six times as many interactions as regular videos. This could be especially valuable for Page owners as Facebook is making changes to their News Feed algorithm to give people more opportunities to interact with the people they care about.

Check out the full State of Social 2018 report below

The data: Who took part in the survey?

For this report, we surveyed over 1,700 marketers from businesses of all sizes. The majority of respondents work at companies who focus on both B2B and B2C customers (43 percent), while 33 percent work at purely B2B companies and 25 percent at B2C companies. 49 percent of our respondents work at businesses with 1-10 employees. At the other end of the scale, 7 percent of respondents work at companies with over 200 employees.

Company size

Just under half (49 percent) of the people who took our survey work at companies with fewer than 10 full-time staff. A further 21 percent work at companies with between 11-50 full-time team members. Here’s the full breakdown:

  • 49 percent: Fewer than 10 people
  • 13 percent: 11-25 people
  • 8 percent: 26-50 people
  • 8 percent: 1,001+ people
  • 7 percent: 51-100 people
  • 6 percent: 101-200 people
  • 5 percent: 201-500 people
  • 4 percent: 501-1,000 people

Marketing team size

The majority of respondents in our survey work closely with a small number of colleagues in their marketing teams or act as the sole marketer at their company:

  • 41 percent of respondents were the only marketer at their company
  • 38 percent of people worked in marketing teams of between 2-5 colleagues
  • 11 percent of people work in marketing teams larger than 11 people
  • 9 percent of people work in marketing teams of between 6-10

Industry breakdown

Twenty-three percent of those who took the survey work at organizations in the marketing, PR, and advertising space. Other industries include: Media and Publishing (11 percent); Non-Profit (10 percent); Education (8 percent);  Consumer Products (8 percent); IT & Services (6 percent);  Software (5 percent); E-commerce (3 percent); Medical & Healthcare (3 percent); Financial (3 percent); Travel & Tourism (2 percent); Financial Services (2 percent); Government (2 percent); Law & Legal Services (1 percent); Other (15 percent).

⬆ Back to the top.

Over to you

Thanks so much for checking out our State of Social 2018 report. We hope you enjoyed the data and discovered some useful takeaways for your business.

P.S. We’ve made the data open and available to anyone in this Google Sheet (feel free to make a copy and interrogate in any way you’d like – we’d love to hear what you might find). You can also download a copy of all the State of Social 2018 charts here.

Feature image via Jaelynn Castillo. 

The State of Social 2018 Report: Your Guide to Latest Social Media Marketing Research [New Data]

What’s in store for the social media industry in 2018?

The way consumers use social media channels is constantly evolving and as marketers and entrepreneurs, we need to adapt to these changes.

To better understand these changes, plus what’s ahead for 2018 and beyond we teamed up with Social Media Week to collect data from over 1,700 marketers and create the State of Social Media 2018 report. The report shows us how marketers, from businesses of all sizes, are approaching social media marketing.

Ready to jump in?

A handy guide to navigating what’s coming up next in the social media world.

Contents:

3 Key social media takeaways to guide your marketing in 2018

1. There are huge opportunities in the messaging space (only 20 percent of marketers have used messaging apps for marketing)

Messaging platforms have grown at an incredible rate over the last couple of years. And there are now more people using the top four social messaging apps (WhatsApp, Messenger, WeChat, and Viber) than the top four social media apps (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn)1.

Despite this incredible growth, our State of Social 2018 survey found that just 20 percent of businesses have invested in marketing through messenger platforms:

After seeing such high user growth for the past few years, companies like Facebook will begin to focus on how they can monetize chat apps which will open up new advertising opportunities for marketers.

Right now, marketers still appear to be investing more time and resources into social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, but as organic reach continues to decline (more on this below), we’ll see a greater number of marketers experiment with messaging apps as a way to connect with their audience.

2. Companies that invest in social media ads are more than twice as likely to say social media marketing is “very effective” for their business

When we asked respondents how effective social media marketing has been for their business 45 percent said “somewhat effective” and a further 29 percent believed that social media marketing had been “very effective”.

However, when we split these results based on whether or not the respondents had invested in ads, we found that businesses that have invested in social media ads are more than twice as likely to report that social media marketing is “very effective”.

Whereas businesses that have not invested in ads are more than twice as likely to report that the effectiveness of social media marketing for their business is “uncertain” or “very ineffective”.

3. Engagement is the #1 way to measure ROI from social media advertising

When we asked respondents how they measure the ROI of their social media advertising campaigns, 42 percent said engagement, followed by leads (17 percent) and sales (15 percent):

When we broke down the data by business size, engagement was still the #1 way both small and large businesses measure ROI from social media advertising:

This appears to be the continuation of a trend we noted in 2017, where social media is becoming more about engagement than driving traffic or making direct sales.

State of Social 2018: The full report

About the State of Social Media survey and data

For this report, we surveyed over 1,700 marketers (1,796 to be precise) from businesses of all sizes. You can view a more detailed breakdown on the data at the bottom of this post.

How marketers are using social media platforms: 7 insights you need to know

1. Facebook is still the leading platform for marketers (96 percent of businesses use Facebook)

Facebook is the leading platform for marketers with 96 percent saying their business is actively using it. Twitter was close behind with 89 percent of respondents saying they use the platform for their business.

2. Facebook organic reach continues to decline (only 21 percent of respondents haven’t noticed a decline in the past 12 months)

Facebook is constantly tweaking its News Feed algorithm and it appears that organic reach has once again declined over the past 12 months with just 21 percent of people “disagreeing” or “strongly disagreeing” with the below statement:

3. Video is a top priority for 2018 (85 percent of businesses would like to create more video content)

Video has been booming across social channels for the past couple of years and 85 percent of businesses are keen to create more video in 2018:

When we asked what’s currently holding businesses back from creating more video content lack of time and budget were the two main blockers:

4. Facebook is dominating the paid advertising space (94 percent of marketers have used Facebook Ads)

Facebook is the most popular platform for paid ads (94 percent), followed by Instagram (44 percent), with LinkedIn and Twitter tied in third place (26 percent):

Looking ahead, 67 percent of businesses are looking to increase their social media advertising budget in 2018:

5. Images are the most shared type of content (95 percent of businesses post images to social channels)

Ninty-five percent of respondents said their business posts images, with links (85 percent) being the second most shared content type:

6. The rise of stories (68 percent of marketers are planning on creating more stories in 2018)

Last year, only 29 percent of State of Social respondents had created stories on Instagram or Snapchat. This year 42 percent have created stories on Instagram (just 11 percent had created stories on Snapchat):

Further to this, 68 percent of respondents plan to create more stories content in 2018:

7. Live video hasn’t yet caught on (only 31 percent of marketers have broadcast live video)

In our last State of Social report, 26 percent of marketers said they had created live video content. In 2017, 31 percent of marketers said they had broadcast live content-just a 5 percent increase:

For those who have created live video, Facebook was the number one platform of choice, ahead of Instagram and Periscope (Twitter):

Live video could still present a huge opportunity in 2018, though. Facebook’s Head of News Feed, Adam Mosseri, recently revealed that live videos on average get six times as many interactions as regular videos. This could be especially valuable for Page owners as Facebook is making changes to their News Feed algorithm to give people more opportunities to interact with the people they care about.

Check out the full State of Social 2018 report below

The data: Who took part in the survey?

For this report, we surveyed over 1,700 marketers from businesses of all sizes. The majority of respondents work at companies who focus on both B2B and B2C customers (43 percent), while 33 percent work at purely B2B companies and 25 percent at B2C companies. 49 percent of our respondents work at businesses with 1-10 employees. At the other end of the scale, 7 percent of respondents work at companies with over 200 employees.

Company size

Just under half (49 percent) of the people who took our survey work at companies with fewer than 10 full-time staff. A further 21 percent work at companies with between 11-50 full-time team members. Here’s the full breakdown:

  • 49 percent: Fewer than 10 people
  • 13 percent: 11-25 people
  • 8 percent: 26-50 people
  • 8 percent: 1,001+ people
  • 7 percent: 51-100 people
  • 6 percent: 101-200 people
  • 5 percent: 201-500 people
  • 4 percent: 501-1,000 people

Marketing team size

The majority of respondents in our survey work closely with a small number of colleagues in their marketing teams or act as the sole marketer at their company:

  • 41 percent of respondents were the only marketer at their company
  • 38 percent of people worked in marketing teams of between 2-5 colleagues
  • 11 percent of people work in marketing teams larger than 11 people
  • 9 percent of people work in marketing teams of between 6-10

Industry breakdown

Twenty-three percent of those who took the survey work at organizations in the marketing, PR, and advertising space. Other industries include: Media and Publishing (11 percent); Non-Profit (10 percent); Education (8 percent);  Consumer Products (8 percent); IT & Services (6 percent);  Software (5 percent); E-commerce (3 percent); Medical & Healthcare (3 percent); Financial (3 percent); Travel & Tourism (2 percent); Financial Services (2 percent); Government (2 percent); Law & Legal Services (1 percent); Other (15 percent).

⬆ Back to the top.

Over to you

Thanks so much for checking out our State of Social 2018 report. We hope you enjoyed the data and discovered some useful takeaways for your business.

P.S. We’ve made the data open and available to anyone in this Google Sheet (feel free to make a copy and interrogate in any way you’d like – we’d love to hear what you might find). You can also download a copy of all the State of Social 2018 charts here.

Feature image via Jaelynn Castillo. 

How Roborace plans to improve autonomous cars through racing


When I showed up at the Nvidia booth at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), there wasn’t much to see. There was a green race car in the middle and a bunch of people standing around it. I took pictures of the car and was about to move on, but then, I noticed there was no cockpit on the car. I was looking at a Roborace vehicle.

Daniel Simon, the creator of sci-fi cars in Tron: Legacy, designed the green vehicle as the first driverless electric racing car. It weighs 2,204 pounds and is about 15.7 feet long. It has four motors and one big battery, and it can go more than 200 miles per hour. It also has an Nvidia Drive PX2 brain, capable of up to 24 trillion AI operations per second. Soon, it will be upgraded to Xavier, Nvidia’s new AI chip with 9 billion transistors.

Roborace’s creators hope the car could be the foundation of a racing competition among the creators of autonomous car software. In this case, it isn’t always the fastest car that is the best. It’s the one that can avoid pedestrians and other obstacles on a course that isn’t a simple oval, said Rod Chong, chief creative officer, in an interview at CES.

The hardware – the actual car – for the different teams will be the same, and the competition will take place in software. It could lead to better AI, much like early race cars led to the creation of disc brakes, Chong said. Chong, who previously worked on the Project Cars games, said Roborace will also have a gaming angle to it. I also spoke with Bryn Balcombe, chief technology officer at Roborace.

Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation.

Above: Roborace CTO Bryn Balcombe and chief creative officer Rod Chong

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

VentureBeat: Tell me what you are doing.

Rod Chong: The Roborace project started about two years ago. Our founder was looking at what could be the next step for motorsport. There’s been a movement in racing toward [electric vehicles], and we can see that a lot of the manufacturers are going that way, but we also need to look for other ways to use racing to push technology forward.

Traditionally, motorsport has always pushed the development of cars. A lot of major milestones in automotive technology have come from racing. In the late ’50s, Jaguar introduced disc brakes in racing, and there are many more examples. We see now that there’s this mass movement toward intelligent driving and autonomous vehicles. Our aim is to develop a platform, an entertainment event and media platform, that can be used to promote these technologies and push development through competition and challenges.

Our vision for what these cars [are] going to do – they’ll be in forms of competition but something that’s quite new. I’m looking at all aspects of motorsport, but we probably won’t use many traditional forms. What is racing, usually? It’s a field of cars going around in a loop, and after a certain distance, the first one over the finish line wins. We want to make sure what we’re doing is road relevant, though. We’re going to have obstacle vehicles on track when the cars are driving. Obstacle avoidance will be a thing. In real-world conditions, that’s an important technology that participating companies will have to develop.

VB: You could put pedestrians out there on the track.

Chong: We could have automated or autonomous obstacles to mimic that kind of thing, yeah. The cars will challenge each other through that. But also want to have augmented reality elements. We’re designing something that looks more like a video game, almost. Those elements are part of the competition. It might be that the car can see an AR obstacle or AR vehicle. If you’re watching it, maybe you can see those virtual elements in a broadcast, or maybe, we have a gaming element happening live at the same time. But the car can see that and respond to it.

We have another car that has a cockpit, unlike this car here, the Robocar. That car can have a human driver. We’re going to play with the interaction and the learning that AI can pick up from drivers. It may be that in the future, we’ll have several teams. One of the cars will have a cockpit with a professional driver, and then, we’ll have two of these Robocars that have to learn from the driver. There’ll be a collaboration happening. But we still have to design all these elements.

VB: Is this electric?

Chong: Yeah, this is electric. But our ultimate aim is to save lives. Hopefully, through pushing the technology, we can improve the living conditions in cities.

VB: It’s kind of like a more entertaining DARPA challenge.

Chong: Yeah, where the cars are going really, really quickly.

VB: How far along is this? What happens next?

Chong: Right now, we’re doing the final elements of engineering. This is a display model. The car’s been running since last year, but we have to develop it, so it can go at high speed and be very reliable. We’re doing some cooling changes on the bodywork. By the end of May or early June, we’ll be finishing the engineering on this. We’re not ready to talk about a race schedule yet.

VB: How much work has gone into the car so far?

Chong: About a year and a half.

VB: Are other companies going to be building their own cars?

Chong: Right now, the basic premise is that we provide the hardware platform so that the different groups coming in can provide the driving-intelligence layer. The hardware is all equal, and then, competition comes in with the software. We’re calling it a championship of intelligence, a competition between software engineers.

VB: So someone like AImotive could compete.

Chong: Yeah, they could.

VB: What was interesting enough about this for you to change jobs?

Chong: To me, it’s a positive contribution. It’s hard to resist. You just look at the car. I get to work with this thing? It’s amazing. I view it more as a robot that happens to have wheels than a car, really.

VB: Do you think there are lessons to draw from video games here?

Chong: Oh, yeah. My entire history of working in games, I’m going to apply all that to the competition formats.

VB: With AR, you’re creating a virtual track, almost.

Chong: There are many different ways we can play this. You could have a multiplayer league between AI systems, autonomous driving systems, doing multiplayer simulation gaming together. They’re learning how to race. That could be exciting.

VB: There’s less risk for humans here, too. You can go crazy with the hardware.

Chong: If you look at motorsport, different famous race series, often the fastest laps are from 20 years ago. They’re trying to slow the cars down, adding limitations. You could build a car so fast that a human driver would pass out or die because it’s too much to handle. We can do things with these cars because we don’t have to think about the safety of the driver. We could make it insanely fast or do things that are just crazy. We’re thinking of trying things where two cars are running opposite ways around a track. Or just having traffic on a racing track. Normally, that’s not done at all.

VB: Putting in obstacles, it becomes about learning how to navigate [them] instead of just going the fastest.

Chong: It’s going to be exciting. If you have 10 autonomous delivery vans crawling around a track, and then, a pack of these racers flashing past them, that’s going to be very exciting to watch.

VB: And if you crash them, it’s not as big a deal.

Chong: Ultimately, what we’re striving for is that doesn’t happen. The sensors on the car and the autonomous driving systems are able to predict what’s going to happen. But it’s through the competition that those systems are learning. The goal is to push forward for the sake of safety.

VB: And you could make a video game spinning off from it.

Chong: It should be a video game from the beginning. In typical motorsport, you have a racing series, it becomes famous, and then, they try to do a deal for a video game or an esport afterward. Our goal is to have that be part of the design from the beginning. But these are goals. I’ll get back to you on that one.

Above: Nvidia’s new Xavier system on a chip.

Image Credit: Nvidia

VB: Are these logos actual sponsors yet?

Chong: These are just people we’ve had discussions with so far. The main collaborator is Nvidia. We use their hardware and technology, the Drive PX2. We’ve announced that we’re moving to the Drive Pegasus platform in the summer with the Xavier. That opens up completely new competition formats for us. You end up with a much more intelligent platform. I often describe traditional motorsport as being a level-two automation problem, lane keeping and adaptive cruise control. This enables up to pitch toward a level-four or level-five competition, where we can have these cars on track racing through a traffic environment.

VB: Is it more power efficient as well?

Chong: We’re not really worried about power consumption. We just want to know how much compute power we have to drive the intelligence in the software. That’s what’s critical. Moving to Pegasus gives us that.

VB: What else can you say about the design so far? Why does it look this way? Why would you build a self-driving race car to look like this?

Bryn Balcombe: The first design decision was, no human cockpit. It’s a provocative move in the market. It says, “This car can drive itself.” There’s no confusion. When you look at this, there’s no mistaking that you can’t have a human in this car. That’s the first thing. And then, when you look at the design, you can manipulate the aerodynamics in new ways because you don’t have space taken up by that human pilot. You don’t have to build airflow around them. The radiator ducts go in, and the radiator sits where the pilot would normally sit.