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How We’re Using Influencers to Drive Engagement on Social Media: A HubSpot Experiment

Ask any social media manager what they stress out about on any given day, and the answers you receive may vary.

Some worry about having enough content to publish while others might worry about posting on the company page from their personal account. But almost all social media pros will agree upon one: news feed algorithms.

Manage and plan your social media content with the help of this free calendar  template.

Social media algorithms are designed to serve audiences up the most relevant, interesting content possible — after all, social networks are about being social, and Instagram and Facebook want you spending more and more time within the apps interacting with friends — and content — you love.

But recent algorithm changes on major social networks have also made it tougher for brands and publishers to get content noticed and surfaced in busy news feeds — where billions of people are sharing content every day around the world.

We’ve started experimenting with different ways to leverage content on social media. Posting more frequently isn’t the answer — it’s posting great content that people want to share and interact with. Read on to learn more about the experiments we’re running and the early results we’ve seen.

How We’re Increasing Engagement on Social Media

1) Using Influencers and Gamification to Leverage Engagement

Facebook and Instagram each adjusted its respective news feed algorithm a few times last year. Instead of showing news need updates in chronological order, both algorithms now favor content from friends and family over publishers, and content that users interact with — by liking, commenting, viewing, and sharing posts.

Social media algorithm changes can be tricky for publishers and marketers — especially when we read stress-inducing statistics about Facebook’s algorithm reducing organic reach for publishers by roughly 40% over the last few years.

The answer to getting noticed in busy news feeds is to get people clicking, viewing, and interacting with your posts. But how can you get noticed in the first place — especially when there are so many users and pages also competing for attention?

We started experimenting with mobilizing and incentivizing our Instagram audience to engage more frequently with our posts. We’re rewarding people we think will love our content and engage with it by helping them see it first — and in some cases, win prizes.

Influencer Pods

The Goal:

We want to cultivate more engagement with our Instagram posts by creating our own influencer pod. Influencer pods are made up of — you guessed it — influencers in a particular vertical. They join specific, invite-only groups to engage with one another’s posts in an authentic and mutually beneficial way. Pods help content get viewed higher up in the Instagram feed, which makes it easier for even more people engage with the content — in their feeds, or in the Explore tab.

The Experiment:

We created our own influencer pod with several other well-known companies creating great content in similar worlds to us, such as social media, technology, and design companies. Whenever someone posts new content, they let the group know, and if the other companies find the post interesting, they will like the post and write a genuine comment on the post. Check it out in action:


The Results:

Our pod has started to generate 10-20 additional comments per Instagram post from relevant influencers within HubSpot’s vertical. These engagements help us (and fellow pod members) rank in Instagram’s feed, and they inspire a little social proof, too. If Instagrammers see influencers and companies they know and love engaging with HubSpot on Instagram, they might want to check us out, too.

Instagram Comment Contests

The Goal:

We want to help our audience engage with content we think they’d love by running an Instagram comment contest. We want to generate authentic comments on our Instagram posts from fans — and reward them for it, too.

The Experiment:

We created the #First60 contest on Instagram. Here’s how it works:

1) We encourage followers to “Turn on Post Notifications” from HubSpot to make sure they didn’t miss the contest announcement.

2) We post an Instagram Story when we’re getting ready to publish a new Instagram post as part of the contest that urges followers to be among the first people to comment “#First60” for the chance to win a prize.


3) Our followers comment on our posts, and we select prize winners and send them swag.


We’re rewarding people who love our content and engage with it by helping them see it first, and in turn, we’re able to generate a lot of engagement on our posts.

The Results:

Like the influencer pods, this Instagram contest generates 10-20 additional comments per Instagram post. The engagement helps us rank in the feed, turning on notifications helps us get our content in front of more of our fans, and everybody likes swag — the contest fosters good will with our audience, too.

Tl;dr: Social Media Engagement

Just like how we thought about different video devices like on-page SEO for social media, think about generating buzz and engagement on social media the way you think about optimizing search engine results with off-page SEO elements.

Inbound links from websites with high domain authority signal to search engines that your content is authoritative and worth clicking on.

Similarly, comments, likes, views, and shares are signals to social media algorithms that the content is authentic and that people like it. These engagements signal that the content should be bumped up higher in news feeds, which will help it then get discovered by more people to engage with it down the line.

P.S. We recently launched our first Facebook comment contest — with a much bigger prize offering. Check our the HubSpot Summer Startup contest here:

3) Rethinking How Social Media and PR Work Together

We’ve only just started this last experiment, so we don’t have detailed methods and results to share yet. But we wanted to give you a rundown of how we’re changing the way we use social media — to earn PR placements, instead of simply promoting them.

Simply put, everyone lives and breathes on social media. In fact, when you factor in messaging apps, social media is where people spend more than half of their time on their mobile devices — with Facebook at the helm.

And where PR used to be all about traditional media placements — in news outlets — it’s transforming to be about social, too.

We’ve found that, when pitching press outlets, you ned to help drive traffic through social to make it worth the effort of PR professionals. In addition to traditional outlets, publications are now generating traffic from native content within social platforms. So if you want to engage with members of the press and PR professionals today, you need to analyze their social media pages to learn what kind of content they’re sharing — before pitching.

The stories you pitch need to be relevant to their audiences — and not just yours. Whatever you learn about the outlets you want to target, incorporate that knowledge into content that you create.

The Goal:

We wanted to see if a social media-based PR campaign would get us more press placements and mentions on Facebook.

The Experiment:

With the Summer Startup contest, we pitched the story to journalists with accompanying data — about what people’s career dreams are, and what they love (and don’t love) about their jobs — to create a newsworthy, research-based story that earned coverage for our contest.

We waited until our video had achieved a meaningful number of views to use social proof to strengthen our pitch — which, in turn, drove more video views when publications started writing about it.

(Additionally, we spent significant budget boosting the post on Facebook, which contributed to the significance of its reach and view numbers on Facebook. We recommend sharing content on Facebook, waiting to see what picks up organically with your audience, and boosting high-performing posts.)

The Results:

We’ve earned more social media press mentions for the Summer Startup contest than any other campaign we’ve done in the past — and we’re not done yet.


Tl;dr: Social Media PR

Social media managers across industries are revamping their social media strategies to engage with their audience. If you want a press outlet to share your native social media content, tailor your pitch to its presence on Facebook or Twitter — whichever it shares on more frequently. We recommend incorporating social media into PR pitches to craft a story that translates — in print, and in apps.

free social media content calendar template




Age Is Just a Number: How to Be a Leader at Any Stage of Your Career


I have a confession to make: I used to be embarrassed by my age.

And I don’t mean I was a little bit embarrassed. I’m talking a gut-wrenching level of embarrassment to the point where I would either lie about my age or deny the person a response.

After years of doing everything possible to avoid those four little words, I have managed to overcome my embarrassment — partly because I’m a little older, but mainly because I’ve come to terms with what I have accomplished and the hard work it took to get there.

History is laden with young leaders — trailblazers who envisioned goals that those above them seemed unable to see — and I believe there are more now than ever before. The pace of business is accelerating and I believe it is due to the unbridled energy and enthusiasm of young people who aren’t afraid to say, “I can do this, and I can do it really well.”

Take Mark Zuckerberg, Marissa Mayer, and Amy Schumer for instance. They’re all incredibly intelligent and successful young people who took advantage of a unique opportunity that seemingly no one else could see. They were also dedicated, methodical, strategic, and they understood what it would take to succeed.

I wouldn’t want anyone to suffer the embarrassment and insecurities I’ve felt by being young, hungry, and capable. As a young leader in the making, it’s important you know how to free yourself of this curiously common case of professional ageism. Below are my tips for doing just that.

1) Understand the business.

The most important thing that’s happening in your workplace is the overall health and prosperity of the business. It is vital that you not only work hard in your position, but also that you understand how your role fits in with the rest of the business to drive real results. 

And don’t ever be afraid to demonstrate this intelligence. For instance, if you happen to step into the elevator with the CFO, ask a question that represents your awareness of what matters to them, instead of a casual “So, how’s business?”

2) Be an active listener.

Even if you are a young leader in the making, you are still very much a student of leadership. Listen, ask questions, and soak up as much as possible. Your more experienced colleagues may or may not be leaders, but they’ve no doubt seen many more things than you have. Their insight could be invaluable — even if you don’t agree with their point of view.

3) Demonstrate your abilities

You don’t need a promotion to grow at work. If you think you can lead, then all you need to do is prove it.

This means asking for opportunity to shine, and demonstrating that you can step up when duty calls. It might only be a small task, but others will take notice.

4) Challenge the status quo.

Even the most traditional company should be open to new ideas (and if yours is not, maybe a new job is what you need). Even if the answer is ‘no,’ the fact that you aren’t afraid to reimagine ways of doing things will get you noticed.

It’ll be easiest to do this when you first start a job. When I worked at Microsoft, my mentor told me that you only have about six months to question everything before the position starts to change your lens — so don’t be apprehensive about challenging old ideas.

5) Know what you know (and what you don’t).

I worked really hard during school and was really pleased with where my scores landed, but I would never claim to be an expert in all of my subjects. In that same light, there are frequently aspects of your job that sit outside of your specialty. You should be confident in your expertise, but never be embarrassed by what you don’t know — it’s the only way you’ll ever give yourself an opportunity to learn more.

6) Share your unique thoughts.

No one looks at things quite like you do, and your insight could be invaluable at the appropriate time. Your opinions might not shake the earth every time, but there’s no harming in sharing what you think with others. In fact, it takes guts to share your opinions — especially if they are potentially controversial. So while you may not be a thought leader just yet, you can test the waters by writing blog posts, engaging in Twitter conversations, planning coffee catch-ups, and taking advantages of chance elevator encounters. 

7) Take and give feedback without getting defensive.

Many young leaders get defensive far too quickly, and they guard their ideas like they’re children. Push that zeal aside for a moment and take on feedback in any form — good or bad. You should also become able to share feedback with others as they’ll respect your honesty, even if they don’t show it the first time. The more feedback you receive and the more you give, the better you’ll become at yielding positive outcomes. Everyone will improve around you … which is what leadership is all about.

8) Take well-assessed risks.

Being young and bold can have its clear advantages. With less to lose, taking strategic risks will be key to your success. Zuckerberg, Mayer, and Schumer took risks, but they were meticulous in their execution and confident in their abilities. They were lucky in some ways, but they were also prepared and sure of themselves.

9) Remember, not everyone is like you.

If you’re reading this post, you’re likely someone who is interested in growing themselves. Keep in mind that not everyone is interested in moving into a leadership role. Some people prefer being individual contributors who excel in niche opportunities while others maybe just aren’t cut out for leadership in the first place. And that’s okay.

In the past, my inexperience has occasionally lead me to judge my peers harshly because they didn’t have what I call ‘B-HAGs’ (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals). I’ve learnt that to be a great leader, you need to be aware of everything that’s going on around you — and that includes understanding and accepting how your colleagues differ from you.

I believe my story represents the aspirations of many young professionals who share an eagerness — a compulsion — to further themselves both personally and professionally. I just want to make one thing clear to other young leaders who are working hard to improve themselves: Always be proud of who you are and what you have accomplished because that’s the driving impetus of your future success. twitter-logo.png

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