The Hello Bar is a simple notification bar that engages users and communicates a call to action.

Unusual Twitter Uses

We all know that Twitter can help grow your business, connect with influencers and fill your sales funnel.

But there’s way more you do on Twitter. How you can use Twitter to get ahead is only limited by your imagination.

Check out these tips to get your brain buzzing.

1. Sneak Into Conferences

Ever been to a conference where you could share your thoughts on Twitter? It’s a growing trend. Academics have latched onto this and realized they can sneak into conferences through the back door by following the conference Twitter feed.

People will usually Tweet conference highlights, so you’ll get the best stuff without spending the time or money attending.

Academic Meghan Duffy explains how she started attending conferences via Twitter:

This summer, because I was moving to Michigan, I wasn’t able to make it to either Evolution or ESA. I was, however, able to follow along with both meetings, by following tweets with the conference hashtags (#evol2012 and #esa2012). Following the tweets from Rosie Redfield’s plenary at Evolution was a particular highlight.

You can do this with business conferences too. All you need to do is find out the conference hashtag, and look out for prolific tweeters who are attending the conference.

Tip from: Meghan Duffy.

2. Ask Anything – And Get Quick Answers from Real People

Google may be the king of search, but that doesn’t mean it will always serve up the answer you need.

When it’s a real person you need help from, Twitter is ideal. Adam Zeis writes:

Twitter is also an amazing tool for getting quick answers to pretty much any questions you may have. I’ve used it for help when making a purchase (choosing between two items), getting opinions on certain topics and settling disputes with friends. Depending on the amount of followers you have, you can easily ask nearly anything and you will instantly receive an answer.

It beats out searching the web for results in many cases, and often nets you answers you wouldn’t be able to find by simply searching.

Tip from Adam Zeis.

3. Connect With Study Buddies

Need to swot up on a new topic? Twitter is a fantastic learning tool. You can find help and support from other learners who are digging into the same subject as you.

Medical student Brittany Chan explains how she began using Twitter as a study booster:

I started using Twitter as a way to waste time when I needed a break from studying. Then something crazy happened. Twitter transformed from a major distraction to a valuable study tool. I began to tweet questions to fellow med students about concepts I didn’t understand, and they responded. Other students would tweet their confusions, and I’d attempt to explain the mechanism of a drug or the purpose of the alanine cycle. Many times, several others would chime in to augment our collective understanding or ask additional questions.

Chan also uses Twitter to keep herself updated on the latest research in her field:

As a medical student and future pediatrician, I follow accounts of official medical associations, such as the AAP (@AmerAcadPeds) and AAMC (@AAMCToday), leading medical journals, including JAMA (@JAMA_current) and The Lancet (@TheLancet), as well as several different kinds of physicians who frequently tweet interesting new articles.

Tips via: Brittany Chan.

4. Discover Job Opportunities – Before They’re Advertised

We’ve written before about how Twitter is great at helping you find hidden opportunities.

You can also use Twitter to discover jobs before they’re even advertised as available. Follow the employees at a business you’d like to join, and you’ll get to see the inner workings of the company.

In an article on using Twitter for job hunting, Simon Caine explains he does this:

I found following existing employees (particularly recruitment officers) much more helpful than following the company’s Twitter account. Individuals are much more likely to respond. Plus it may help you stay one step ahead of the rest of the job market: they’ll often tweet if they’re changing jobs, which let’s you know there’s a vacancy.

I found lots of companies had a list called “staff” where you can find the employees, but you can also search by users’ bios using Google. I’d recommend following the list itself. It saves time and has the advantage that whenever a new member of staff joins the company you will get their tweets automatically (once they’ve been added to the list).

Tip via Simon Caine.

5. Find New Ways of Thinking

Twitter isn’t only great for getting your questions answered. It’s also handy if you want to challenge yourself by answering questions.

Denise Graveline explains how she finds this helpful:

Sometimes, the best way to see something anew is to be questioned about it by someone who’s genuinely curious and doesn’t know you well. My followers on Twitter ask me all sorts of questions–about my blog, about public speaking, about social media, about food and travel and playing guitar–that prompt me to think with care about what I do. It’s a great playback machine.

The free plug-in InboxQ lets you search for questions in your niche.

Tip via Denise Graveline.

Over to You

Do you use Twitter in any out-of-the-box ways? Let us know about them in the comments, below.

Twitter Ideas

The interwebs are greedy. The more great content you create, the more you’re expected to create.

But what happens when the well runs dry? What should you do when you’re parched for ideas?

How can you create awesome content, day after day?

Turn to Twitter, and you’ll find a well of inspiration that’s ever flowing.

Here are three simple techniques you can use.

1. The Andrew Chen Method

Entrepreneur and angel investor Andrew Chen uses a simple three-step formula to help him come up with things to write about.

  1. Tweet an insight, idea, or quote.
  2. See how many people retweet it.
  3. If it catches, then I write a blog post elaborating on the topic.

Sharing an idea in a tweet only takes him a minute or two. If the tweet gets ignored, he’s not lost much at all. But if it’s picked up and retweeted, he knows he’s got a great idea that he should expand upon.

2. Check You’re Writing in the Right Direction

Spirituality author and storyteller Donald Miller uses Twitter while he’s writing books. He shares ideas from the book to find out whether his readers will appreciate what he’s writing about.

Miller explains:

I recently used Twitter to find out what themes and ideas would stimulate thought. I would tweet an idea I was writing about, and if it got re-tweeted or stimulated conversation, I was more eager to use it in my book.

Here are Donald’s four steps for getting ideas on Twitter:

  1. Tweet a chapter idea and ask if anybody has given the idea any thought. If you hear crickets, skip that chapter.
  2. Got a powerful one-liner? Tweet it and see if it gets re-tweeted. You might turn that one-liner into a complete paragraph or more.
  3. Stuck on an idea? Tweet and ask anybody if they’ve read an interesting article about it. Twitter is a great resource tool.
  4. Use Twitter to summarize an idea. The great thing about 140 characters is it makes you condense your thinking, which is often the essence of good writing.

3. Split Test Headlines

Leo Widrich of Buffer App uses Twitter to split test headline ideas. Here’s the steps he follows:

1.) Find 2 headlines for an article that you think will perform well.
2.) Tweet both of these headlines at roughly the same time, at least 1 hour apart. Here I’ve found that doing the 2 Tweets both in the AM or both in the PM works best – 9am is much more similar to 10am, then say 12pm is to 1pm. So going with clear “morning” or “afternoon” times is crucial.
3.) Compare the data for which headline to settle on.

In one test Widrich conducted, one tweet got twice as many clicks as the other tweet, so he had a clear winner.

Over to You

Have you ever used Twitter to come up with ideas? What techniques do you use?

Infographic

Back in 2012, infographics were riding high. They were the marketing tool of choice for content marketers. Left, right and centre, infographics were everywhere.

Yep, we even wrote and published a book on infographics.

In the two years up to 2012, search volumes for infographics increased by a whopping 800%. Content marketers who used infographics saw an average of 12% more traffic compared to those who didn’t (Stats from this infographic).

As the social media powerhouse Jeff Bullas has pointed out, infographics are so effective because they:

  • Are Attractive. Good looks draw eyeballs and create “addictive content”.
  • Are Scannable. The web has transformed the way we read and take in content. People skim-read instead of pondering every word. Infographics are highly scannable, so they’re perfect for the modern reader.
  • Have Viral Potential. Infographics are easy to share, and people love to share them.
  • Show that You’re an Expert. Infographics display a ton of data in an easy to understand way. As such, they can position you as an expert in your field.

Now wonder they were so popular. They were every content marketers’ dream.

All this rings true with our experience at Social Caffeine. One of our most popular content pieces of all time is an infographic on the best (and worst) times to post on social media.

We were riding high, soaring through the skies.

Then, Infographics Died

It was a sudden death, too.

Just one year on from the heyday of infographics, they were proclaimed to be “dead”.

In October 2013, Rishon Roberts of Spinnakr wrote:

It’s finally Q4, so I’m going to call it now: 2014 will be the year the infographic finally dies.

And Kenny Van Sittert of Zazzle proclaimed “their time is coming to an end.”

What went wrong?

Here’s the Postmortem

Both Roberts and Van Sittert noticed a similar problem with infographics. Too many people had jumped on the infographics bandwagon. Blogs and websites became flooded with infographics, and readers got bored.

On top of that, “infographics” became a magic button for creating web traffic. If you wanted to go viral, so the logic went, all you had to do was create an infographic and “boom!” Quality didn’t matter. Your data sources didn’t matter. As long as you had an infographic, you were golden.

Needless to say, that line of thinking was deeply flawed.

Infographics, to put it in the words of Van Sittert “became spammy”. They were “quickly scraped together by some overseas designers or interns who [had] little design experience”. And so blog readers began to “treat them with a kind of contempt usually reserved for discarded chewing gum.”

Roberts agreed with Van Sitter’s analysis:

Once everyone trie[d] to create them — and quickly — the importance shift[ed] from quality to quantity, and with a high quantity they’re not as fun anymore.

It doesn’t sound good for infographics, does it?

Infographics are Dead. Long Live Infographics!

Did infographics really die?

We’re not sure.

We certainly agree that they’ve become a magic button for marketers. The world got flooded with them.

But to this day, our infographics remain some of our greatest sources of traffic.

In our view, infographics never really died. It just got harder to stand out from the crowd. So you have to work smarter to get noticed.

“Infographics are dead”, they say. “Long live infographics!” we say.

If infographics died, then they’re on to the road to coming back to life.

Here’s what you must do to stand out from the pack:

Remember the Purpose of Infographics: Sharing Information

Infographics are great for driving traffic to your website or blog. But that’s not their primary purpose. What is? Like all effective content, effective infographics share useful information.

As we wrote in our infographics book:

Infographics are pictures designed to share complex information in a simple way. They take a muddle of raw data, and bring it to focus, in perfect clarity.

University lecturer Alberto Cairo said in a recent interview:

Infographics will have a bright future if the people who design them embrace accuracy, clarity, depth, and service to the public, rather than mere promotion.

Don’t Be Lazy

Infographics don’t just appear at the click of your fingers. Creating good infographics takes time and effort. You’ve got to start with a ton of research to find data that has the power to shock, educate, or provoke an emotional reaction. Then you’ve got to check that data is from a reliable source.

Finally, you’ve got to pull together your data into a quality design. That means investing time designing it yourself (there are low-cost design solutions if you’re not a wizard with Adobe’s software), or hiring out the work to a pro designer.

Talking of quality…

Quality Matters

Your readers aren’t stupid. You should always treat them with the respect they deserve. They can see through any attempts you make to tart up shabby data with graphics.

Likewise, they’re unlikely to share your infographic if your design skills aren’t up to scratch.

As graphic designer Brian Wallace told the Content Marketing Institute:

Quality will always prevail — if you’re careful at what you’re doing. That being said, infographics are (and already have been) getting more complex. No longer solely flat images on the web, they are becoming a mainstay in product packaging, trade show materials, and even annual reports.

Get Interactive

All infographics are still bubbling with life. But interactive infographics hold the keys to the future.

VentureBeat writer Julia Gifford explains:

Interactive infographics differ from static infographics in that they let the viewer interact with them, discovering more on their own. They include elements such as animations and clickable links, which increase the viewer’s engagement as well as the credibility of the infographic itself.

What’s Your Take?

Are infographics dead? Or are they here to stay? What do you love (or hate!) about infographics? Let us know in the comments, below.