Posts by Alyson Shane

How to Use LinkedIn to Grow Your Personal Brand and Scale Your B2B Company

- by Alyson Shane

By Starling Social President, Alyson Shane

The key to success in business is trust. After all, people want to work with, and buy from, people who they know, like and trust - and LinkedIn is the best platform for business-to-business (B2B) brands to reinforce those connections. 

LinkedIn is also the best place for the people who run B2B businesses to grow their personal brands and reinforce their values and showcase the work they do to their communities.

In this post we’re going to be covering both of these topics: how to grow your personal brand, and scale up your B2B company, on this important and powerful platform.

Let’s start with the basics:

What’s a Personal Brand?

Let’s start with the basics: a “personal brand” is exactly what it sounds like!

Your “personal brand” is an extension of who you are. I love this description from Sprout Social that states: it’s the process of defining and promoting what you stand for as an individual. 

When people think about you or speak about you, it’s your personal brand that they’re talking about, so it’s important to define what makes you, you.

Some questions you can ask yourself include:

  • What are my values and how do I express them?
  • What do I want to be known for?
  • What’s my area of expertise and how can I share what I know?
  •  What makes me unique and sets me apart from others in my industry?

Once you’ve hammered out some answers to these questions, it’s time to start thinking about how to apply them to your LinkedIn presence.

How to Use LinkedIn to Grow Your Personal Brand

Let’s start with some actionable steps to level-up your personal brand on the platform:

1. Optimize your LinkedIn profile

Your profile is often the first thing people see when they find you on the platform, so this is an important first step. 

Basically, you want your profile to showcase who you are, what you do, and why people should connect with you at-a-glance. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Use a square, professional picture. Make sure the image aspect ratio is 400 x 400 px (pixels) wide. It should clearly show your face and, ideally, not be a selfie.

    • You also have the option to post a profile video, but these are limited to 30 seconds so make sure to make them count!

  • Use your background image strategically. This is prime real estate, so something related to what you do, your business’ brand, or something similar is ideal here.

  • A headline that showcases your skills, and what makes you unique. This is the first thing most people will see, so make it memorable if you can! Here’s an example of what mine looks like:

  • Hashtags that mention what you do. These are debatable (I don’t like using them, personally) but experiment and see what works for you!

  • Links to relevant works in the Featured section. This could be places you’ve been published, your own published work (I do this a lot) or your resume, if you’re looking for work.

  • Make the most of your “About” section. Spend some time writing an engaging description of who you are and what you do. This area gives you the opportunity to dig into what’s in your headline, preemptively answer questions, and expand on the unique skills and experience you bring to the table. Here’s what mine looks like: 

Protip: take your personal branding a step further by customizing your LinkedIn URL. This can help you stand out in search results for your name and looks more professional than the generic URL LinkedIn generates for you. Here’s what mine looks like:

See? Short, snappy, and highly personalized!

2. Build Your Network + Start Engaging

Once you’ve got your profile properly set up, it’s time to start making connections and growing your network. To get started, focus on sending connection invites to people like:

  • Friends
  • Current and former colleagues
  • Old classmates
  • Industry leaders you respect
  • Vendors you’ve worked with
  • Other professionals in your city and network

That being said, when connecting with people on LinkedIn, there are some “best practices” to keep in mind: 

  • Personalize your connection request. You don’t have to do this, but taking an extra minute or two to write a short message explaining why you want to connect helps “humanize” your request and can make it look less spammy.

  • Start with people you already know. Before you start trying to connect with friends-of-friends, focus on building a strong network of people you already know, like, trust, and respect. Then you can move onto making broader connections with other people in their networks and your industry.

  • Join relevant LinkedIn groups. If you’re looking to connect with other people in your industry and “tap into” expertise on the platform, then Groups are the way to go. There are a few “ground rules” to follow, however:

    • Spend some time in the group before engaging. This will help you know if it’s the right fit for your goals, and help you avoid looking like you joined the group just to spam everyone.

    • Share relevant content and post useful, helpful comments. Remember: you’re not in a group to sell; you’re there to learn and be part of a community.

    • Do not go heavy-handed on promoting yourself. Groups are communities of like-minded people and over-promoting yourself can come across the wrong way.
  • Engage with your connections. This is a no-brainer; spend time on the platform every day (Monday - Friday, anyway) leaving thoughtful, supportive, and insightful comments. Over time, others will see the way you interact and hopefully want to connect with you, too.

Important: Never Lead With a Personal Ask or Pitch

I mean it. Don’t do this in a comment, or in a DM, or anywhere.

Leading with an “ask” or a pitch feels slimy, because it is. It shows that you don’t actually value the person or the connection; all you’re out for is to benefit yourself, and that rubs people the wrong way and can sour the relationship from the get-go.

If you want to work with someone or pitch them on a service, you need to spend time getting to know them first and, eventually, message them and focus on how you can provide value for them.

3. Start Creating and Sharing Content

Now comes the fun part: creating content to share with your connections! 

LinkedIn offers lots of ways to showcase what you know and highlight what you do, including single-image posts, carousels, videos, and even newsletters.

Regularly sharing content on LinkedIn reinforces you as a subject matter expert, and helps you build a reputation as a go-to source for insights and information about your industry. The more you publish, the more credibility you can build for your personal brand.

Of course, if you’re new to the platform then this is easier said than done. Here are a few topics to consider to help you get started:

Identify the Framework of Your Personal Brand

Let’s start with the basics. Consider things like:

  • What do you want to accomplish with your personal brand? 
  • Which types of connections do you want to reach?
  • Which topics are you passionate about?
  • What’s your personal backstory?

Be as specific as possible in answering these questions, since they’ll provide the foundation for your personal brand.

For reference, here’s what the framework for my personal brand looks like:

My mission is to empower others by de-mystifying the complicated world of digital marketing and content strategy.

My target audience are marketers and business owners who are too busy (or overwhelmed) to keep up-to-date on the latest strategies, and who might be looking to outsource their digital marketing to a team of experts (aka, me and my team).

To help them reach their goals, the topics I talk about are:

  • Industry news and updates
  • Social media tips and strategies
  • Content marketing insights 
  • Business leadership and company culture

Sharing these kinds of updates positions me as a thought leader in my industry, and an expert that they feel they can trust to turn to when they need the services Starling Social offers.

The next step is to build out your personal backstory. 

Of course, everyone is different brings a unique blend of skills and perspectives to the table, so I can’t really dedicate what your backstory should look like, but some things to consider include:

  • How you got to where you are
  • Unique experiences that shaped who you are
  • Hands-on education and learning you’ve received
  • Achievements you’ve earned
  • How these elements help you bring a fresh take and expertise to the table

Don’t stress about nailing this right from the get-go; it’s normal to work to refine these stories over time, and over the course of multiple posts!

How to Use LinkedIn to Scale Your B2B Company

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty! Now that we’ve covered how to establish a presence on LinkedIn, it’s time to take what we’ve learned and apply it to scaling your B2B (business-to-business) company on the platform.

First Off: Why Use LinkedIn for B2B Marketing?

There are several reasons why you should be investing your time promoting your B2B company on LinkedIn, including:

Brand Awareness

Just like your personal brand, LinkedIn is a great place to magnify your company’s visibility and improve people’s perceptions of you and the work you do. 

4 out of 5 LinkedIn users are in decision-making roles, meaning that a strong presence here can help them learn about your work, successes, and generate high-level brand awareness that can lead to future opportunities. 

Lead Generation

Lead gen math is easy math: more leads = more opportunities for sales, and LinkedIn’s search filters make it super easy to identify potential leads in your target audience and develop personalized outreach campaigns to get them through the door.

Traffic Generation 

Driving Traffic

Whether you’re driving traffic back to your website, or keeping your followers within the LinkedIn ecosystem by directing them to articles you’ve published on the platform, maintaining an active presence on LinkedIn can help get those eyeballs on the material you’ve worked so hard on.

This is also true for generating traffic to landing pages for campaigns you’re running, new product or service offerings, and anything else you want to promote. 

Thought Leadership

It’s important to position yourself as a subject matter expert, but don’t sleep on the chance to reinforce your business’ expertise, unique value proposition (UVP), and the skills you bring to the table.

If potential leads see your company sharing relevant, interesting, and thought-provoking content, it reinforces the narrative that you’re at the bleeding edge of your industry and can move more leads through the pipeline.

This goes beyond just publishing your own posts, too. Make sure that your B2B brand is also answering questions “as” your brand in groups and on other people’s posts, too. 

Strategies for Scaling Your B2B Brand on LinkedIn

Besides organic (unpaid) posting and replying in the comments section, there are several things you can do to elevate your B2B brand on the platform. Let’s explore a few: 

Lead Gen Forms

Lead gen forms are exactly what they sound like: they’re lead generation forms that you can use to collect data without a landing page and amplify your sales efforts by connecting with people who are interested enough in what you offer to fill out a form.

LinkedIn Ads

This tip probably comes as no surprise to anyone. If you have an optimized business profile and are already posting organic content on a regular basis, then ads are a great way to amplify your reach and connect with an even wider target audience.

Be aware that LinkedIn ads are the most expensive type of advertising, so it’s important to be prepared and have all your campaign details (budget, timeline, targeting, goals, etc.) hammered out in advance.

LinkedIn Ad Campaign Groups

A “campaign group” is also exactly what it sounds like: it refers to groups of LinkedIn ad campaigns that you can manage at scale.

This approach isn’t something that’s widely discussed (I don’t know a lot of marketers who know about this feature, to be honest) but by placing related campaigns in the same “campaign group” you can:

  • Set objectives that apply to all campaigns in the group
  • Set budgets and schedules that apply to all campaigns in the group
  • Manage the status of every campaign in the group in one place
  • Review and export campaign metrics from the campaigns in the group

If you plan to run lots of different ad campaigns at once, this “protip” will make your life a million times easier, trust me!

Optimizing Your Company Page

We actually published a longer article about this back in late 2023 which you can find here, but here are some of the most important takeaways:

Schedule Your Posts in Advance

We’re big advocates of “batching content”, which refers to the process of creating a “batch” of content at once, then pre-scheduling it so you don’t have any gaps in your content schedule.

LinkedIn has a built-in scheduler, or you can use tools like Buffer or Sprout Social if you prefer to use a 3rd party option.

Follow Company Pages “As” Your Page

You can Follow company pages from your personal profile (and I encourage it) but a power move to generate more brand awareness for your business is to make a point to follow them “as” your company page, too.

This tactic adds greater viability for your Company Page, specifically, and encourages the people who manage the other Company Pages to follow you back, too.

Invite Your Connections to Follow Your Page

 This is another one of my favourite B2B brand awareness tactics. You can use your personal profile to send invites to your connections to encourage them to follow your Company Page.

While this is an effective tactic, there are some basic ground rules to follow to not come across as spammy (which we don’t want):

  • Don’t invite people you just connected with. Wait until they know you a bit better before making the “ask” of them.

  • Send personalized invites when appropriate. This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, but a little context and a personalized note makes people feel important and not like you’re just spamming them with invites.

  • Re-up your invites as they happen. LinkedIn allows you to send up to 250 requests per month, and while that might seem like a lot it’s actually easy to hit the limit if you’ve got lots of connections. Luckily, as people accept your connection requests you “get” those invites back and can re-issue them to more people in your network, allowing you to exceed the 250 invite limit if your follow requests are accepted throughout the month. 

These are just a few tactics available to you! Like I said above, you can dig into more strategies in this post about LinkedIn Company Page features you need to be using. 

Start Making the Most Out of LinkedIn Today

We’ve covered a whole lot in this piece (it’s +2400 words, whoops!) so I hope this gives you a strong jumping-off point to start getting active and promoting yourself and your B2B business on this powerful platform.

If you’re looking for more insights to level-up your digital marketing knowledge, subscribe to our weekly newsletter which is jam-packed with the latest news and strategies. 


How to Take a "Bricks and Feathers" Approach to Your Content

- by Alyson Shane

Raise your hand if you’ve ever found yourself in this situation: 

You’ve spent several hours putting together a piece of long-form content, but now you’re left trying to figure out how to get as much mileage out of that giant piece of content as possible. 

Enter the concept of “bricks and feathers”, a handy way to think about getting the most out of the effort you put into your content marketing strategy.

Not only does this approach save time (so important!) but it also adds a cohesive element to your content across all your digital channels, from your blog, to social media, newsletter and more.

Today I’m going to be digging into this useful concept and discussing how your business can use it to your advantage, so let’s dive right in:

Why the “Brick and Feather” Strategy Works for Content Marketing

The “brick and feather” strategy works because it solves a lot of the pain points that marketers face, including:

Scalability: You only have so many hours in the day, and by adopting this approach you can get more mileage from the content you share.

Cadence: Using “feathers” from your “bricks” allows you to speed up your content cadence and fill in gaps in your content queue.

Message discipline: Everything you publish should meet your customers at a stage in their buyer’s journey, and this approach bakes in message discipline so your audience feels trust and familiarity with your content.

What are “Bricks and Feathers”?

I was first introduced to this concept while researching content strategies for a talk I gave at the Engage Digital Media Summit way back in 2018. 

I was looking for a succinct way to sum up something that I’d learned through my hands-on experience running Starling Social that I could introduce to my audience and help them understand without taking up too much time in my talk.

Here’s a summary of what I shared on stage that day:

Bricks: A long-form piece of content that you spend a lot of time creating.

This could be a blog post, whitepaper, eBook, case study… you get the idea. If you spend more than a few hours on a signal piece of output, it counts as a brick.

Bricks are also pieces of content that take time to consume on your audience’s end, too. A good piece of long-form content helps move your prospects further down the sales funnel, can open up conversations, and positions you as a subject matter expert.

Bricks are also effective because they increase the search engine optimization (SEO) value of your website. Long-form content is more likely to be referenced and linked-to by other sources online, which helps drive traffic to your site.

Feathers: Short-form content used to promote long-form content.

Once you have your “heavy” brick produced, it’s time to break it up into snackable chunks, aka your “feathers”. 

Some examples of feathers include:

  • Social media posts promoting the piece and sharing insights from the piece.
  • Videos exploring key themes and acting as calls-to-action to read the whole thing.
  • Statistics and visuals that sum up key parts of your content.
  • Newsletters that share “snippets” of your content and link back to it on your site.

Each “brick” can be turned into multiple types of “feathers” and easily extended into weeks or even months of content!

Bricks and Feathers: The Best of Both Worlds

Using this approach to your content saves time, amplifies the ROI of your long-form content, and can keep potential customers coming back to your website over and over, eventually encouraging them to contact you.

If you want to chat more about how this strategy can work for your business, drop us a line!


Everything You Need to Know About The Current State of Threads

- by Alyson Shane

By Alyson Shane, President

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (and with the current state of social media, we don’t blame you), you’ve probably heard about Meta’s alternative social platform to Twitter/X: Threads.

As Twitter/X continues to hemorrhage users and lose public trust and confidence, Threads is moving in to replace the once-mighty microblogging platform and create a safer, more inclusive, and ultimately more positive space for people and brands alike.

Starling Social has been on Threads since the beginning (we actually left Twitter/X late last year) and several of our clients have been exploring opportunities on the platform, too, which is why I wanted to share an up-to-date deep dive on Threads so you can decide if a switch to the platform is right for you.

Let’s dive right in:

What is Threads?

Like I said above, Threads is Meta’s alternative to Twitter/X. It launched in July of 2023 and started out strong, amassing over 100 million subscribers within the first week.

Threads, like Twitter/X, is a “microblogging” platform, meaning that the content on the platform focuses on short, text-based updates vs. platforms like Instagram or TikTok which focus on images and video, primarily.

The platform was pretty bare-bones at the outset, but within a few weeks Meta had been rolling out updates since pretty much Day One.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the most important features on the platform:

What Are the Most Important Threads Features?’

Meta’s been rolling out updates constantly since last July, meaning that there’s a lot to cover. With that in mind, I’ll be breaking it down into some high-level features, and digging into some in a more meaningful way because I think they matter most. 

Trending Topics

Similar to other platforms, users on Threads can now explore “trending topics” that the algorithm (more on that below) thinks they might be interested in based on what they’ve posted.

“Trending topics” shows the number of active discussions on each topic, allowing users to stay up-to-date on trending discussions and join relevant conversations.

In January, app researcher Alessandro Paluzzi shared a screenshot showing that “Today’s Topics” appeared to be available.

In mid-February Threads confirmed that they were currently testing the option with U.S. users, with the intention of rolling it out worldwide. This signals a strong intention to replace Twitter/X as the go-to- platforms for timely news and updates worldwide. 

Voice Threads

Last fall Threads rolled out the “Voice Threads” feature, allowing users to create new voice threads, or reply to other people’s posts with a voice message. Once a user taps the microphone icon a voice recording and captions are automatically generated (and edited!)

This seems to be a nod to apps like the 2021 platform Clubhouse, but I’m not sure how popular this feature is turning out to be?

Anecdotally I’ve seen almost zero content published with just an audio recording, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be opportunities to make use of this feature in the future.

Account Switching

If you work in digital marketing then you can appreciate what a huge deal this is. The update allows users to switch between multiple accounts without logging out and back in by clicking the icon in the top-right corner.

You can also add more profiles (perfect for social media managers), but the exact number of accounts seems to be a bit murky, so my recommendation is to start small and prioritize the most important accounts you need to manage, first.

Sorting Account Engagement

I love this feature! Under your “Activity” tab, you can sort how other users have engaged with your content to get a sense of what’s most popular and how your account is growing. You can drill down into several categories, including:

  • All
  • Follows
  • Replies
  • Mentions
  • Quotes
  • Reposts
  • Verified (hows when a “verified” account has engaged with you)

Send Posts as Instagram Direct Messages

Direct Messaging (DMs) has been available on Threads since late last year, but if you want to share a Threads post to your Instagram profile, now you can do that, too!

This is a smart play in my view, since a lot of memes and “hot takes” that get shared across social platforms tended to come from Twitter/X previously (and still do, in some cases) — this ability means you can find something funny, entertaining, or interesting on Threads and share it easily without the need to grab a screenshot and manually upload it to another platform.

This also reinforces ties between Threads and Instagram, too, which should help more users start moving to the platform.

Keep Track of Your Likes

This is a common feature in other apps, too (Instagram also allows you to do this, but it’s more “hidden” in your profile). 

In your profile, just click “Your Likes” to see all the Threads posts you’ve liked recently. 

This is useful because one of the common complaints about social media platforms that aren’t chronological (or that move quickly, in the case of a platform like Threads or Twitter/X) means that you can quickly lose a post that you’ve liked and want to share.

This option makes it easy to find, reference, and re-share content.

Adding Alt Text for Images

In a push to increase accessibility on the platform, Threads has introduced the ability to add custom alt-text to images and videos.

(Alternative (Alt) alt text describes “why” of an image or video, and in the case of websites, what’s on a page. Alt text is read aloud to users by screen reader software, and it is indexed by search engines. It also displays on the page if the image fails to load.)

Adding ALT text not only increases accessibility on the platform, but helps your content get “indexed” and sorted by the Threads algorithm, which helps users who are looking for content like yours find your posts.

Threads Uses Hashtags, aka Content Topics

Threads has a hashtag-like function that allows you to add a hash “#” before a topis to help you join discussions around that theme.

Hashtags have been around for a while, and were actually popularized by Twitter/X back in the day, but I love how Threads formats them. Take a look:

What I love about this approach is that even if you embed the topic into your text like the example above, it doesn’t decrease readability the way a hashtag does.

Threads Uses Instagram’s Community Guidelines

Threads is a tie-in to Instagram. According to Threads’ Terms of Use (TOS), content on the platform must follow by Instagram’ Community Guidelines, describing it this way:

“We want Instagram to continue to be an authentic and safe place for inspiration and expression. Help us foster this community. Post only your own photos and videos, and always follow the law. Respect everyone on Instagram; don't spam people or post nudity.”

Other topics to avoid on the platform include:

  • Content that depicts self-harm, eating disorders, violence or suicide
  • Sexually explicit or suggestive content
  • Promotes the use of certain regulated goods, like tobacco

API Support is Coming (Hopefully Soon!)

API = Application Program Interface, and refers to how different apps “talk” to one another.

When a platform has API integration, it means that you can post to it from 3rd party sites like Buffer, Later, Sprout Social, etc. — this is a boon for social media managers and people who like to “batch” their content creation and will be a huge asset to the platform when it rolls out.

Threads has confirmed it’s coming and we can even see evidence of that in 3rd party apps, too:

Post Drafts are Coming (Hopefully Soon!)

At the time of this writing, users can’t currently save drafts within Threads, but the platform has confirmed that that’s coming soon, too. 

As anyone who writes content on the web knows, sometimes you have an idea for a post that you don’t want to publish right away — maybe it’s outside of peak hours, or maybe you want to jot down an idea or come back to it, for example. 

Once this feature rolls out you’ll be able to draft posts to your heart’s content.

The fact that Meta listened to its users’ needs right from the get-go is a really positive sign in my view, because it shows a dedication to building a platform with features that will keep attracting and retaining users.

These are just a handful of the most important existing and upcoming features, with more to come I’m sure.

How Does the Threads Algorithm Work?

People love to talk about “the algorithm” no matter what platform they’re on, so let’s spend a little time digging into how the Threads algorithm works:

The Threads Feed is Ranked By AI

In an interesting rhetorical move, Threads doesn’t refer to its algorithm as an “algorithm”, but instead describes it as an “artificial intelligence (AI) system”.

This isn’t actually unusual at all; all algorithms are based on a reactive machine learning AI to  decide what users see on their feeds, but Threads appears to be the first platform openly embracing this language.

The AI Prioritizes Value

Since they’re all owned by Meta, Threads uses the same ranking system as Instagram and Facebook.

Similar to other platforms under the Meta umbrella, Threads’ primary focus when deciding what to show other users is based on how “valuable” the content appears to be. As per Meta:

“Posts that the system predicts will provide more value for you are shown higher in your feed. The system also tries to ensure your feed has a balanced mix of content types.”

The best way to look at this is to ask yourself: what do you want your followers and other users to get out of watching or reading your posts? 

Some things to consider include:

  • Showing them how to do something or sharing your unique perspective on a topic
  • Showing them how to solve a problem 
  • Starting (or participating in) conversations where you’re a subject matter expert and can inform and support your followers
  • Making them laugh or smile (gifs and photos are excellent for this!)

Threads’ AI System Only Impacts Your “For You” Feed

Right now, Threads’ “For You” experience is similar to what you’d get from TikTok’s FYP (For You Page). You can find it by tapping the Threads logo or the Home button, then the For You or Following tabs. 

The Following feed appears to be a chronological one, which is another way that the platform shows that it’s listening to what users want and not trying to shoehorn a bunch of older, less relevant content from the people you follow into this feed.

This might change, of course, but right now you can toggle between the two feeds and get the best of both worlds. 

What Shapes a Users’ Feed?

Like most other platforms, Threads uses a combination of “signals” that decide what content appears in a users’ feed, and in what order. This includes:

Whether or not a user will like a post, including:

  • How many posts someone has seen on their feeds
  • How many posts they’ve “liked”
  • How many posts of an author’s they’ve seen and liked

How likely a user is to view the replies on a post, including:

  • How many times they’ve clicked on an author’s posts in their feed
  • How many times others have clicked to reply to a post
  • How many replies they’ve seen
  • How long since they were last active on the platform

How likely a user is to scroll past a post without engaging with it, including:

  • How many times they’ve seen a post How many times they’ve liked an author’s posts
  • How many times other users have viewed the same post

The “Fediverse” and What That Means for Threads

The term “fediverse” is a portmanteau of “federation” and “universe” and refers to a collection of social networks that can communicate with each other.

Threads has been promising to opt-in to the fediverse by allowing Threads to be accessible by, and exchange information with, other social platforms. (This is also referred to as “interoperability” in technical terms.)

This is important because it means that other platforms like Mastodon and BlueSky can follow you on Threads, even if they aren’t on Threads themselves. Aka, your reach on Threads could potential exceed the 130 million or so existing users and tap into other people’s content on other connected platforms, too.

As an aside, the concept of the fediverse is an exciting new development that has the potential to shake up the “silos” of social media as we know it, so this is an important development to keep an eye on!

Get Started on Threads!

Threads is an exciting new space and is definitely looking ahead at the future of social media and how we connect online. 

If you’re tired of the dumpster fire that is Twitter/X, then Threads offers an exciting new alternative that is definitely worth checking out. Here’s how to get started.

If you’re already on Threads, we’d love to know what your experience is like! Tag @starlingsocial in a post on Threads.


Celebrating 10 Years of Starling Social

- by Alyson Shane

Written by Alyson Shane, President.

In July of this year I’ll have been working for myself for 10 years.

Saying this out loud, or even writing it, feels surreal. Not just because of how quickly the time has passed, but also because I’m in this position at all.

Which is why today I want to share the backstory behind how I got into my industry, the inspiration behind Starling Social, and a little bit of what drives me to be the kind of business owner and leader that I am today.

My Story 

I never expected to run a business. In fact, I never expected to achieve much beyond scraping by at a 9-5 for most of my life.

I had a complicated home life as a kid - I was emotionally and verbally abused, and even moved out to live with friends for a while in Grade 12. I struggled with anxiety that was so intense that I couldn’t focus in school, and as a result my grades were so bad that I didn’t graduate high school on time.

I went to summer school to complete my diploma and worked a string of low-paying retail and fast food jobs for a few years after graduating. I was miserable and directionless.

I moved to Ontario and lived in Hamilton and Toronto for a while, but wound up coming back to Winnipeg as depressed as when I’d left, even though I’d managed to score a job working for the Provincial Government when I came home.

A “safe” union job should have felt like a blessing, but it compounded the negative feelings I had about my life. I felt trapped in a role I didn’t like, in an industry that didn’t excite me, and I started having panic attacks every day and sliding further into depression.

Then, one day, I was sitting on the bus* and the song “Gifts” by Propagandhi came on and a lyric I'd heard hundreds of times before started playing:

“All the slightly insane on the 18 North Main…”

For some reason, this time, the lyric hit me like a ton of bricks.

I thought: this is me. I'm slightly insane on the 18 North Main.

I realized that I needed to pull myself out of my rut and figure out what I wanted to do with my life... but my high school grades weren’t good enough to get into university, so I signed up for night classes at the Adult Education Centre.

I spent the next six months working full time and going to night classes from 6 - 9 PM, Monday - Thursday. It was brutal and I was exhausted all the time, but the support and encouragement I got from my teachers and the Principal at the school (who fast-tracked me so I didn’t have to do the full 12 month curriculum) was incredible. 

I’d never had “adults” in my life encourage me or say I was smart or capable enough to achieve my goals. It was life-changing.

I finished night school, enrolled at the University of Winnipeg, and began working towards my degree in Rhetoric, Writing & Communications. 

While I was a student, an instructor from Red River College’s Creative Communications (CreComm) program reached out and asked if I’d start coming in to speak to first-year CreComm students about personal branding, blogging, and the importance of social media.

(If you know me, you know I’ve been publishing content online since 2002, aka the “pre social media era” and grew up immersed in how content has changed online.)

I was 21, a brand new university student, and suddenly I’d gone from feeling like a stupid nobody, to someone my peers and influencers in my community were looking to for inspiration and guidance.

I graduated with almost straight A’s (turns out I suck at Economics and at writing papers in AP style compared to the MLA style I was used to) and got a job working at a large, established marketing firm right out of university.

I should have been happy… but I wasn’t. 

I still struggled with anxiety and, now, a heaping dose of Impostor Syndrome, and I had a hard time fitting into my role. 

I spent the next few years jumping from job to job, never finding a fit and butting up against rules that didn't make sense, processes that felt outdated, and a lack of agency and creative control over my deliverables and workday.

Around this time I picked up a small freelance copywriting contract. It wasn’t much, just a few blogs a month for a small amount of money, but the idea that I could make money on the side of my 9-5 was like a wake up call. 

I said as much to my boyfriend (now husband) and he said: “You know, you could do this for a living if you wanted.”

At the time I shrugged him off; I couldn’t imagine myself leaving the safety and comfort of a reliable paycheck.

“Give it a year and see how it goes” he said “pick up a few more contracts and see how it feels.”

So that’s what I did… and within a year I was making more money freelancing than I was at my 9-5. 

I started working for myself that summer and I’ve never looked back since.

(I got a tattoo of the Propagandhi lyric on my arm to celebrate my 1st full year as a business owner, and to remind myself of how far I've come.)

Starting Starling

I managed things by myself for the first few months, but after landing what felt (at the time) like a huge contract with a sales consulting firm based out of New York, I realized that I needed to bring on supports; I couldn’t scale this on my own anymore.

I started bringing on team members to support the workload I’d built and realized that freelancing as “Alyson Shane” wasn’t going to cut it if the people my clients were talking to day-to-day weren’t me.

Why “Starling” Social?

It wasn’t that hard to figure out what I wanted to call my agency.

I’ve always been attracted to starlings. They’re a beautiful, interesting bird, and “murmurations of starlings” - the name for when large groups of the birds fly in mesmerizing patterns through the sky - is one of my favourite expressions. 

Starlings are songbirds, and mimics. In addition to their stunning performances in the sky, starling’s are known for being able to mimic sounds, other animals… even humans!

As a marketing agency, our goal is to “mimic” our client’s brands and sound like them, so the link between the bird, and the agency, fell naturally into place.

Building Out Processes

I never went to business school. Heck, I’m a digital marketer who never even studied marketing!

Everything I know has been self-taught, either through hands-on experience or by consuming as much material about a subject as I can.

I taught myself to build out processes to keep my fully remote team connected and productive 

(this was in the pre-COVID era when being a fully remote business was less common)

and I’ve invested heavily in training sessions like one I did with Hatch London where I spent three intense days learning the ins and outs of building successful Facebook (Meta) Ads campaigns.

I’ve gone through startup accelerators like YCombinator’s Startup School to learn business strategies and how to think strategically about managing a small, agile, and nimble team without investing in too much overhead and developing systems 

I’m also a voracious reader and have an intimidatingly long RSS Feed of websites, blogs, and resources that I check every day so I can stay at the top of my game. 

I also curate and write Starling Social’s weekly digital marketing newsletter every week as a way of keeping myself accountable and keeping my skills as sharp as possible. 

(If you want to subscribe to that, you can do so here.)

Identifying Differentiators

Let’s be real: in a city where the CreComm program, alone, graduates hundreds of students a year, it sometimes feels like you can’t turn a corner without bumping into another digital marketer or agency owner.

In a city like Winnipeg, you really have to lean into what makes you different - luckily I’ve got heaps of that in spades!

It took me longer than I’d like to start leaning into these differentiators (hello, Impostor Syndrome) but some of the things we bring to the table include:

  • My 22 years’ experience publishing content online. I started publishing in the pre-MySpace era (hello, Geocities!) and have hands-on experience crafting content, telling stories, and using every social network as it’s evolved to understand how they work together, and what makes them different.
  • My degree in Rhetoric, Writing & Communications. Unlike a lot of my peers, I studied persuasive language, so I have an academic-level understanding of how humans communicate, how we do it differently across different mediums, and how it’s changed over thousands of years.
  • I’m a writer. In my view, this is the biggest competitive advantage I have as a marketer. I love writing and do it for fun, and because of my experience I’m a fast, adept, and efficient writer. This also means I hold my team to an extremely high standard when it comes to the content we create for our clients. 

Making It Work

Building a successful agency is more than a clever name and a great tech stack - you have to constantly work at it and find new ways to learn, grow, and build connections.

I say this all the time, but the main reason that I was able to scale Starling Social as quickly as I did was because I was a “big fish in a small pond” - I practically lived on Winnipeg Twitter, building connections and making sure people knew who I was, and I blogged regularly and used my writing skills to publish useful how-to articles, guides, and strategies that reinforced me as a subject matter expert.

To date, over 90% of Starling Social’s local business has been referral business, and most of our national and international clients have also come from connections I made at conferences, online, or through friends-of-friends who’ve referred us.

Sure, I have a sales partner who helps generate leads for me, but that business is a drop in the bucket compared to the work we’ve done thanks to good old-fashioned personal branding and networking. 

I also do a ton of public speaking (I average about one talk, webinar, or podcast interview per month) which not only keeps me fresh, but also allows me to empower others and share the knowledge I’ve built over my decades publishing online, and my almost-decade working in this industry.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work*

All this being said, my efforts wouldn’t mean much if I didn’t have a team of incredible humans behind me. 

The talented, driven, and creative people at Starling Social handle the day-to-day interactions with our clients so I can do all the fun stuff I just outlined above. 

I’ve learned to lean on my team and to make sure that they always feel like they can lean on me, too.

I take what I do seriously for myself and my clients, of course, but mostly I put in effort for them. I want them to feel confident and secure in my leadership, and to know I’ve always got their backs.

(I often say “my job is to make sales, close leads, and eat sh*t so you guys don’t have to.”)

One of my tenets is “if it’s not written down, it doesn’t exist” and as a writer this is one of the things that sets me apart from other agencies: I have extremely well-documented, repeatable processes for almost everything we do.

When we need to solve a new problem, I get down in the trenches with my team and spend time developing how-to guides that they can use and come back to - this eliminates guesswork, helps them be more efficient, and ensures consistently high-quality output whether we’re in the same room or not.

I don’t just do this because I’m an A-Type person; I want to empower my team to do their best work, and they’re less likely to succeed if they’re muddling through a problem, or constantly asking me for advice on how to do something.

This approach also shows my team how committed I am to their success, which (as I said above) is the most important thing to me.

* Sorry/not sorry to Alicia who hears me say this like every other day, haha.

What’s Next?

Looking ahead, I’m excited about what’s to come. 

I feel like I’m hitting a stride with my business, and that Starling Social is poised for even more growth and to partner on some impactful and important projects.

Starling Social has won multiple awards, I've personally won awards for my community impact through pro bono work we do, and we regularly receive glowing testimonials and feedback from our happy clients.

I get to work with friends (and clients who feel like they’re friends), do creative work that I enjoy, and build a life for myself and the people who work for me that allows us to (mostly) have a healthy work/life balance, take trips, and soak up the best of what our city and community has to offer.

I don’t know what the future holds, but from here it’s looking brighter than ever.

Cheers to 10 years, and to many, many more!


10 Ways to Celebrate "Get to Know Your Customers Day" 2024

- by Alyson Shane

Get to Know Your Customers Day falls on the third Thursday of each quarter (January, April, July, and October) and is a great opportunity for small businesses to connect with their customers and show their appreciation for their support.

This day recognizes the importance of understanding who your customers are, and what their needs, interests, and preferences are so you can serve them better.

This is a lesser-known special day for small and medium enterprises (SME)s, so today I'll be diving into the history behind the day and sharing tips on how to celebrate the day on social media.

Let’s dive right in:

When is Get to Know Your Customers Day in 2024?

Since it’s a quarterly observation, here are the dates for 2024:

  • January 18
  • April 18
  • July 18
  • October 17

(So close to having them all on the 18th!)

The History of Get to Know Your Customers Day

Get to Know Your Customers Day started in 2011 when marketing consultant Lynn B. Johnson created her “Customer Appreciation Month” campaign as a way for businesses to build better relationships with their customers.

How to Celebrate Get to Know Your Customers Day

There are lots of ways to celebrate Get to Know Your Customers Day, including on social media, by sending out surveys, doing customer interviews, and more. Here are a few ideas to get your creative gears turning:

  • Create a social media campaign to recognize and thank some of your biggest supporters.
  • Share a personalized thank-you message to your social channels or via email.
  • Send out a survey to get your customers’ feedback on your products or services.
  • Offer discounts, promotional items, free samples, or special offers to celebrate the day and your customers.
  • Host a customer appreciation event with free workshops on how to use your products or services.

What to Post on Social Media for Get to Know Your Customers Day

Social media is the easiest way to communicate with your audience and thank your loyal customers, but knowing what to say can feel overwhelming so try using these prompts:

  • Share customer stories and how they’ve had a positive impact on your business.
  • Publish polls to gather customer feedback (LinkedIn, Instagram Stories, and Threads are all great for this!)
  • Create user-generated content (UGC) by asking customers to share their positive experiences with your brand on social media and tagging you.
  • Record a video of yourself delivering a heartfelt “thank you” message.
  • Host a Q&A session with team members about the business or topics related to your industry.
  • Host a giveaway for customers who share their experiences on social media.

Which Hashtags to Use for Get to Know Your Customers Day

Hashtags are a great way to help your content get discovered on platforms like Instagram and TikTok, so I recommend including these in your posts celebrating the day:


  • #GettoKnowYourCustomersDay — 39,291 media
  • #CustomerAppreciationDay — 65,791 media
  • #CustomerAppreciation — 1.6M media
  • #CustomerLove — 446,339 media


  • #GettoKnowYourCustomersDay — 197.6k views
  • #CustomerAppreciationDay — 1.1M views
  • #CustomerAppreciation — 52.7M views

Benefits of Getting to Know Your Customers

Understanding your customers’ needs is the fastest way to increase customer loyalty and create more products or services that they love.

Getting to know them better also creates more opportunities for you to create personalized experiences that make them feel seen, valued, and appreciated. These kinds of experiences build trust and help turn one-time customers into loyal brand advocates.

On a related note, repeat customers spend an average of 67% more than new customers, so bringing them back helps dramatically increase your revenue!

It also costs 5x more to acquire a new customer than to bring an old one back, so investing in getting to know your customers can have a big financial benefit for your business, too!

How to Get to Know Your Customers (Year-Round!)

We’ve already talked about social media, surveys, and email marketing as ways to get to know your customers better, so let’s take a look at a few other ways you can learn more about them:

Read and Respond to Reviews

Reading and replying to reviews - whether on Google, Yelp, Amazon, Etsy, or anywhere else - is important. 

Replying to customer views shows that you’re paying attention to their feedback and experiences with your brand, but it can also shed light on issues your customers are having so you can fix them as soon as possible.

Replying to reviews also humanizes your brand, builds trust, and shows that you’re committed to offering the best possible experience. 

Important Tip for Replying to Reviews

Never reply to a negative review with a rude or dismissive comment! Always follow these four rules:

  1.  Acknowledge the person who left the review. Say “Thanks [person’s name] for taking the time to share your experience.”
  2. Apologize for their experience. Say “we’re sorry to hear you had issues with [insert issue here]”
  3. State what you’re doing to make it right. Say “we’re working to resolve it by [insert what you’re doing]”
  4. Move the conversation offline. Say “If you’d like to chat about this further, you can reach us [add the email or url for your contact form]”

Personalize Deals and Discounts

Customers are people, and people want to feel appreciated. 

That’s why offering discounts for their birthday, anniversary, and based on prior purchases is an excellent way to keep customers coming back and learning about their buying patterns and preferences. 

Personalization also helps a customer feel like they’re valued instead of being just a number to your brand. Make sure to include their name in the subject line and at the top of the email, and to emphasize how much you appreciate their business in the body text of the offer.

Look at Website Data

This is such an overlooked way to learn more about your customers! Take a peek under the hood of your Google Analytics (G4) and take note of the following:

  • Behavioral data: what keywords did people use to find your site, What paths they took while they were there. Which pages they’re exiting from, and the content they’re most interested in.
  • Demographic data: the age, gender, location, and devices customers are using can all provide valuable insights about who’s coming to your website and buying from you.  
  • Campaign data: which pages are driving leads and sales, how are customers getting from your landing pages to the purchase pages, and more.

Get to Know More About Your Customers in 2024

Understanding your customers matters more than ever, and Get to Know Your Customers Day is the perfect reason to show them how much you appreciate their support and learn about what they like so you can tailor your products and services to their needs.

If you’re looking for more ways to make meaningful connections with your customers through your digital marketing, then drop us a line.


Starling Social is Leaving Twitter

- by Alyson Shane

By Alyson Shane, President

I’ll keep this short: Starling Social will no longer be posting to Twitter.

This announcement breaks my heart. I’ve been an active Twitter user since 2008, and got so much out of the platform (both personally and professionally) to the point where I often tell people that the reason I was able to scale Starling so quickly was because I was active on the platform when I launched my business.

Twitter - and “Winnipeg Twitter” in particular - used to be something I loved, but since Elon Musk bought it in April of this year it’s increasingly become a toxic, negative, and hostile place.

I tried to hold my nose for as long as I could, but Musk’s decision to reinstate Alex Jones’ profile (based on a poll, I might add) and celebrate it with a X Spaces live discussion with Jones, disgraced former Trump appointee Michael Flynn, and Andrew Tate - who has been accused of rape, child trafficking, and organized crime - among others, is too much for me to stomach anymore.

Every social media platform has its problems, but it’s clear that Twitter is quickly becoming a place that is unsafe for the vast majority of people, and I can’t in good conscience continue to maintain a presence on the platform.

If you visit our Twitter profile you’ll see a pinned post directing you to other places you can find us online, including Threads (which I’m loving, by the way. The vibes are so good!)

For our clients who still use Twitter, I’m playing my recommendations by ear - those who use it as a place to disseminate news still get a decent return on investment out of it - but I’m keeping my eye on the news and anticipating having discussions about whether it reflects well on their brand to be on a platform where the owner literally told advertisers to go fuck themselves.

I hope that you’ll choose to continue to follow us on Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, and Threads, and that if you’re still on Twitter, that you continue to find value in it even when we couldn’t.

Alyson & The Starling Social Team

Tags: Twitter


Our 26 Social Media Predictions for 2024

- by Alyson Shane

Written by Alyson Shane, President.

It’s that time of year again! Somehow 2023 flew right by and we’re starting to look ahead at what the social media landscape looks like for 2024.

For me, staying on top of the latest trends is about more than just being proactive for our clients — staying tuned-into what’s happening also helps me think strategically and anticipate shifts in the industry before they happen.

One of the ways I share the latest news is in Starling’s weekly newsletter (which you can sign up for here) but this post digs deeper into the trends and opportunities I’m keeping my eye on in the coming year.


More Reels + AI-Generated Content

(Just a heads up that you’re going to see this as a theme a lot in this article!)

Facebook is leading the way in integrating AI into its suite of apps, including Facebook where it’s using AI-based recommendations to show Reels to more people.

This tactic has actually led to an increase in engagement on the platform, with time in the app increasing and time spent watching Reels went up by 20% compared to last year.

Facebook is also encouraging users to play with AI by creating generative AI backgrounds for their posts and generative AI stickers, too.

Messaging for Business

People have been switching over to using private chats over posting publicly this year, and Meta has been taking notice, rolling out “Click to Message Ads” earlier this year.

If you run an eCommerce store then you’ve probably noticed this shift, too: 71% of consumers have reported using text messaging to communicate with a business.

While I wouldn’t anticipate WeChat taking over in North America anytime soon (our messaging apps come built into our phones, unlike in other parts of the world) I’d still expect to see Meta introducing more chatbot-centric features, probably using the AI we talked about earlier.

A Bigger Push for VR

Meta (Facebook’s parent company) owns Oculus, which is  the leading company creating virtual reality (VR) hardware, and I’m expecting to see a bigger push to integrate Facebook’s users into Meta’s “metaverse” called Meta Horizon Worlds.

You can see this in their push for users to start interacting more as their digital avatars, including uploading them to games that can be played on iOS and Android. 

Users with Oculus headsets can create their own avatars in VR and use them in different, non-VR contexts like games, which is a pretty smart play on Meta’s part if you ask me.

AR + Passthrough Tech

Okay, I fully cop to this being a bit niche, but one of Starling’s clients is a VR company so I spend more time than the average person thinking about the future of content, and Meta is leading the way in both augmented reality (AR) and in passthrough technology.

(Passthrough uses the sensors on your headset to approximate what you would see if you were able to look directly through the front of your headset and into the real world around you.)

I recently tried out Meta’s Ray Ban Stories glasses (which have been seeing positive reviews) and Oculus’ latest Quest 3 headset with passthrough is pretty impressive, too. 

Meta’s fully integrated AR glasses likely won’t be available until 2027, but as a leader in the space you can pretty much guarantee that the company is going to be pushing this hard in the coming year.


More Video

Even though Instagram stated that they’re going to be pulling back on the amount of video users see in their feeds, I doubt we’re going to see video take a backseat any time soon.

The average person watches 17 hours of online video per week, and 92% of marketers believe that video gives them the biggest return on investment, so I think we’ll see more of this in 2024.

Instagram + AR Shopping

83% of shoppers state that they go to Instagram to find new products, so I expect the platform to keep working on honing users’ shopping experience within the mobile app.

I’m also keeping my eye on Meta's AR play and expecting that we’re eventually going to see a feature similar to Pinterest’s “Pinterest Lens” (see below) being introduced as a way of keeping users shopping within Instagram.

All AI, All The Time

Like Facebook, Instagram has seen big jumps in engagement this year by incorporating AI-fuelled recommendations into what users see on their Timelines.

As we reported in our newsletter a few weeks ago, Instagram’s already testing AI stickers and editing tools, AI-fuelled suggestions for DM replies, and more. 

You can also see Meta pushing the trend of Meta avatar stickers in the app, too, which links back to the “Metaverse push” I was talking about earlier.


TikTok AI

TikTok has been leading the way with AI integration, rolling out text-to-video translation tools, AI profile images, shockingly high-quality AI filters, and more.

The platform is also testing a new AI-chatbot on its Chinese user base, so I'd expect that to roll out to a broader market sometime next year.

While chatbots haven’t really taken off on social media, they do keep users in-stream and if TikTok can link a chatbot to trending content and product discovery it could be a big boon for the platform.

In-Stream Shopping Push

Despite the fact that  40% of Gen Z have stated that TikTok is their go-to search engine, actual shopping on the platform has failed to take off so far, at least in North America.

Last year TikTok rolled out the “Nearby” content feed, and I expect this push for hyper-local discovery to continue in 2024, with TikTok looking to integrate food delivery and local business listings like it’s already done in China.

I could also see TikTok leaning into its AI-generated filters to replicate Pinterest’s AR “Try On” feature (see below) to encourage more users to shop directly from within the app, too.

A Ban in The U.S.?

The idea that the U.S. will ban TikTok pops up in my newsfeed every so often, but I don’t know if I think it’ll actually happen unless political relations between America and China really start to deteriorate. 

(For a great summary of current U.S./China relations, check out this episode of NYT’s The Daily podcast.) 


Snapchat+ Growth

A lot of North American users have fallen away from Snapchat, but the company’s recent Snapchat+ subscription service now has over 5 million paying subscribers, making it the most successful social media offering to date.

Since any new features coming to Snapchat will be offered to Snapchat+ users first, we can expect to see this number continue to increase in the coming year.

Pushing AR “Spectacles”

Snap was the first social app to release camera-equipped sunglasses, but Spectacles just hasn’t taken off and now that Meta is pushing their Ray Ban Stories glasses there’s more competition in the marketplace.

That being said, Snap has been testing their AR glasses for over a year and it seems like they’re planning to roll out a fully AR-enabled version of Spectacles sometime soon.


I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write a separate section for Threads, but X/Twitter seems to be tanking (see below) so I figured it was worth digging into separately.

Gaining Momentum

Like Twitter, Threads seems to be gaining momentum as a result of the Israel-Hamas conflict — though this boost seems to be related more to X’s new approach to moderation. 

A lot of this comes down to Elon Musk and his airing of personal grievances on X/Twitter which is playing a big role in the company’s potential future (see below) and is encouraging a lot of users to re-consider Threads as a nicer, less offensive alternative.

Be warned though: as a brand on the platform it’s important not to get overly sales-y and to stick to topics like company culture, values, and (of course) spicy memes, since that’s what users are coming there to enjoy.

Evolving Features

I won’t pretend to know what Threads has coming, but considering that they’ve been listening to user feedback (something Twitter wasn’t known for) which seems to be earning them some goodwill online.

Recently Threads rolled out a desktop version, easier account switching, “drag and drop” attachments to posts, and are apparently working on a way for users to opt out of having their Threads content shown on Instagram and Facebook, since some users have shared that they don’t want their connections on those platforms to know about their Threads activity.

As someone who comes from the Twitter ecosystem, it’s been refreshing watching Meta be so receptive to user feedback and I imagine more user-led features will roll out on Threads in 2024.

A Kinder, Gentler Space

To put it bluntly: the vibes on Threads are very different from Twitter.

When the app launched there was a lot of chatter about the kind of space users wanted Threads to be, and we’ve seen this push for a welcoming, positive social network continue even as more people have started making a permanent jump over from X/Twitter.

The intentionality that users are bringing to Threads is something that I think will stick around for a while, especially considering how the platform is being contrasted against X/Twitter’s promotion of hate speech and misinformation.

X “or, The App Formerly Known as Twitter”

Elon Musk’s Big Push

I’ll admit: I’m not happy with the direction Twitter is taking, but it doesn’t seem like most people are happy about it, either, so I feel justified.

Anyway, it looks like Musk’s play with Twitter was essentially to gobble up everyone’s data by purchasing the platform so he can turn it into a WeChat-style One App to Rule Them All.

I don’t think this is going to work for a few reasons:

  1. North Americans don’t use WeChat-style apps as much. See my explanation above. We just don’t need an “everything app” the way other parts of the world do, and they’re already embedded into the WeChat ecosystems.

  2. The platform is changing too fast. Specifically in the area of charging a subscription — there isn’t enough perceived value for people to start paying at this stage.

  3. X now has 80% fewer staff than Twitter did, and a lot of the changes Elon wants to make (introducing payments, banking, shopping, etc.) require serious levels of privacy and data protection, and the infrastructure just isn’t there to build that out, even if there was a demand for it.

Focusing on News

Despite these issues, X is still the go-to news source for journalists and people who want to stay in-the-know.

As a result, I could see X putting a focus on timely news content… but I don’t know how that would work long-term.because X limits the total number of posts a user can see in a day.

This could change, of course, but right now X seems to be cutting off its nose to spite its face if you ask me.


This could change, but right now it’s looking like Twitter has a 100% probability of bankruptcy.

This makes sense: ad revenue is still down, advertisers are leaving the platform over Elon Musk’s promotion of antisemitic tweets, subscriptions and projects are failing… it’s just a mess over there.

With this in mind, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Twitter announcing bankruptcy or issuing a warning about it sometime next year.

I believe this is what the kids refer to as the “find out stage” of “Fuck Around and Find Out”.


AR Try On Push

Pinterest has been leading the way in AR-fuelled shopping, with “Try On” released back in 2022 but not really picking up steam. 

To date you can try on makeup and see how furniture might look in your home (a feature the IKEA app has had for a while), but with Meta getting into the AR game and bringing passthrough technology to the North American mainstream I could see Pinterest starting to move to AR-powered clothing Try Ons sometime in the near future. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Pinterest-branded AR displays coming to malls across North America sometime over the next year or two.

AR/VR Wardrobe

One of Pinterest’s features that doesn’t get at much love as it should is Pinterest Lens, a feature similar to a virtual wardrobe that allows you to scan items of clothing (or recipes) and upload them to Pinterest to help the algorithm make better recommendations.

This might be a bit of a stretch, but I could see this feature combined with an AR Try On feature becoming an area the app leans into more heavily in the future.


More Focus on AI

Are you sick of me saying this yet? Well, buckle up because LinkedIn has dedicated more time and resources to integrating AI than any other platform.

You can see it in their generative AI profile summaries, feed post prompts, collaborative articles,  job descriptions, but I expect that the biggest use of AI in 2024 will be improving discovery and helping users see more content they like.

Livestreams + Virtual Events

Despite a bigger push for users to create video content within the app this year, video content and “Lives” on LinkedIn can be hard to find if you aren’t already following the right people.

This is one area where I could see AI solving this problem, and could see LinkedIn introducing dedicated event and video tabs that can be accessed through the Timeline. 

General Predictions for 2024

Here are a few things I’m keeping my eye on that aren’t platform-specific:

User-Generated Content Will Increase

I believe that user-generated content (UGC) is the future of content marketing. 

Today’s consumers are savvy and don’t want their relationships with the brands they follow to be a one-way street, and creating UGC puts them in the driver’s seat and allows them to actively engage with the brands and products they care about.

This is a boon for brands, too — UGC builds community, empowers users to get creative with a brand’s content, and (best of all) it’s free.

A Focus on Authenticity

Users don’t want to hear canned marketing messages and want to support brands that are candid and authentic in how they communicate online. In fact, 88% of consumers report prioritizing authenticity when deciding which brands to support.

Owning up to mistakes, speaking loudly about your values, and putting a focus on transparency with your audience is how brands will succeed in 2024. 

More Hybrid Content

“Hybrid” content refers to content created using AI, and though I touched on this individually in each section, I wanted to mention it here because I think we’re going to see this increase dramatically across all social platforms in the coming year.

Using AI to create text, images (like Canva’s Magic Design tool), video, and more is going to become a lot more commonplace.

ChatGPT Backlash

I’m already seeing this in my circles: brands and consumers alike are starting to sour on the idea of using ChatGPT to create marketing material like social media and blog posts.

This ties into the idea of authenticity I talked about above: using ChatGPT to churn out low-quality content (that looks and feels low-quality) leaves a sour taste in people’s mouths. 

It feels like dialled-in content because it is dialled-in content, and in a world where authenticity and relationships matter above all else, I expect that we’ll see savvy brands leaning away from posting ChatGPT-generated content.

The State of Social Media in 2024

Things change quickly in this industry so it’s hard to predict what’s actually going to happen, but these are my best guesses based on the trends I’m seeing, the news I’m reading, and what I’m seeing when we do our monthly social media reports for our clients.

If you want to stay up-to-date with the latest news, click here to get in on our weekly digital marketing newsletter.

And if you’re ready to work with an agency that takes a proactive approach to the work they do, drop us a line and let’s chat about how we can grow your brand in 2024.


TikTok SEO in 2023: What It Is and How To Do It

- by Alyson Shane

Where do you go when you’re looking for recommendations?

Until recently, most of us went to Google. 

In fact, so many people use Google to find recommendations or look something up that the term “Google” has become synonymous with looking something up, putting it in the same camp as “Kleenex”,”Frisbee” and even “Dumpster” — but all that’s starting to change.

Mobile apps have taken over the market, and TikTok recently overtook Google as the most popular search engine for the first time in 15 years, with 40% of Gen Z stating that TikTok is their go-to search engine.

This shift in how people are searching for new products and businesses represents a new way for businesses and marketers to think about search engine optimization (SEO).

In this article, I’ll cover what TikTok SEO is, why it’s important and share insights on how you can get your content to the top of the Search results page to connect with more of your ideal customers.

What is TikTok SEO? 

TikTok SEO is the practice of optimizing your TikTok videos to rank higher on the “Search” results page so more users can find your content and follow you.

The platform uses a sophisticated algorithm to show users what they want based on their interests, interactions with other posts, accounts they follow, and more.

With an SEO strategy optimized for TikTok, you can create content that the algorithm loves and is likely to be searched and discovered by your target audience.

Why is TikTok SEO Important?

The short answer is: TikTok has a massive user base! If we take a look at TikTok’s user growth you can see that it’s showing no signs of slowing down:

Source:, CNBC + Business of Apps

TikTok may call itself an entertainment hub rather than a search engine, but that doesn't mean it doesn't serve that purpose too.

These days, TikTok has adapted to this explosion in usage and has adapted several search engine-like features like suggested keywords in its search bar and comment sections, putting it in the same league as Google.

So as more users turn to TikTok to look for content, we need to adapt to those changing behaviours.

How Does TikTok’s Algorithm Work?

TikTok doesn’t make their algorithm publicly available, but there are a few high-level details that we’ve been able to figure out. 

The first step is demographics. 

When someone signs up for TikTok, the app will show them content based on their demographics and location, along with any categories that they’ve indicated that they’re interested in.

For me, I’m a 35-year old woman in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. TikTok might start showing my videos of The Winnipeg Jets (our local hockey team), home renovation ideas, how to make cocktails, ice fishing, and other videos based on my age, pronouns, and location.

Some of those things might appeal to my interests, but some might not. So how does TikTok get me to stay in the app?

The algorithm “learns” what I like by analyzing what I scroll past, and what I engage with through likes, comments, and saves. 

TikTok’s algorithm also ties into your cookie history, meaning that it taps into your internet browsing history and curates what it shows you based on what you look at online. 

4 Ways to Optimize Your TikTok Content

Here are four things you need to to to optimize your TikTok strategy: 

  1. Include keywords into your captions and videos
  2. Research and use relevant hashtags
  3. Use trending TikTok Audio
  4. Post longer videos
  5. Be consistent with your niche

Step 1. Include Keywords In Your Captions and Videos

With search, everything is about intent, and that’s expressed in what users type into the search field in order to find what they’re looking for on the platform.

The first step is to weave relevant and detailed keywords that your audience actively looks for. Here's where you should add them:

If you’re not sure where to start, open up the TikTok app and use the search bar’s predictive text. Just type in your starting keyword and see what the app suggests from there:

So if you’re a company selling footwear, you might want to use keywords and phrases like “"athletic footwear”, "sneaker trends", or "sports shoes fashion"

Protip: State your keyword out loud within the first few seconds of your video to make sure the algorithm picks up on it.

Step 2. Include Relevant Hashtags

Using the right of TikTok hashtags can catapult you right into the spotlight of your ideal audience and potential followers.

At Starling, we recommend using a “blended hashtag strategy” which is the process of using both wide-reaching and niche-specific hashtags.

High-level or trending hashtags allow you to reach a wide audience, while niche hashtags allow you to show your posts to people who are already looking for related content in your niche.

How Many Hashtags to Use?

TikTok doesn't set a limit for the number of hashtags you can use, but we recommend sticking to 3 - 5 “blended” hashtags.

This allows you to post captions to stay at the forefront of the post and can keep your TikToks from looking spammy.

Bonus: Use TikTok’s geo-specific tags in your videos to help increase visibility in your area. This is ideal for restaurants and brick-and-mortar stores!

Step 3: Use Trending TikTok Audio

TikTok’s algorithm prefers content that taps into trending audio, so it’s important to check the app often to find out what sounds are blowing up on the platform.

If you’re looking for a trend that’s more niche-specific, just open up TikTok and type in “trending sounds” in the search bar. 

Protip: Choosing the “this week” filter will show you the hottest rising content, and give you some inspiration for how you can recreate it to suit your brand’s needs and message.

Step 4: Post Longer Videos

A lot of what we’ve seen on TikTok to date has been short, snappy videos, but the platform recently announced that users will be able to upload videos of up to 15 minutes, showing that they're encouraging longer-form content.

Not only do longer (5-ish minute videos) appear to be trending with the algorithm right now, longer posts also give you more time to repeat your keywords and increase the likelihood that your video will get picked up and shown to more of your target audience.

Step 5: Be Consistent With Your Niche

Like every social media platform: consistency is key.

Learning how to “work” TikTok’s algorithm and tap into SEO best practices on the platform will teach the algorithm who you/your brand are, what you offer to other users, and which users should see your content.

Start Growing on TikTok Today!

TikTok is one of the fastest--growing social networks out there, and if your brand is trying to reach a younger audience then it’s a “must” for your digital marketing strategy.

If you’re not sure where to start, drop us a line


How to Scale Up Your Content Marketing Efforts

- by Alyson Shane

Whether you're a small business looking to expand your online presence or a seasoned marketer looking for a new level of success, the answer lies in a well-crafted content strategy. 

As businesses grow and expand, scaling up content marketing efforts can be challenging.

Scaling up your content marketing efforts requires careful planning, strategic thinking, and the right tools and resources. It involves increasing the quantity and quality of your content while maintaining consistency and relevance to your audience. Let's break down the essential components of content marketing and content strategy.

The Importance of a Well-Defined Content Strategy

When you have a clear strategy in place, companies can effectively reach their target audience and drive engagement.

It helps businesses understand their needs, interests, and pain points. With this understanding, companies can create content that resonates with their audience, establishing a connection and building trust.

A solid content strategy allows businesses to plan their messaging across various channels and platforms consistently. This consistency enhances brand recognition and strengthens brand identity.

A well-defined content strategy enables organizations to measure their efforts' success accurately. Businesses can track engagement metrics like website traffic, social media interactions, and conversions by setting clear goals and key performance indicators. This data provides valuable insights into what works best for their target audience, allowing for continuous improvement and optimization.

Step 1: Developing Systems and Workflows for Efficient Content Creation and Management

If you know anything about the Starling team, you know that our owner loves good, trackable, and efficient systems.

These systems optimize content creation efforts, enhance collaboration among team members, and guarantee a seamless workflow from ideation to publication. 

One tool that the Starling team leverages for content creation and collaboration is Google Docs. With its real-time editing capabilities and cloud-based storage, teams can work together on documents simultaneously, eliminating the need for time-consuming back-and-forth exchanges. This allows for efficient feedback loops and ensures everyone is on the same page throughout content creation.

Another valuable resource for developing clear workflows (that our team also loves) is Trello. This project management platform enables teams to organize tasks, track progress, and set deadlines in an easy — and visually appealing — interface. By creating boards with lists and cards representing different stages of the content creation process, teams can easily manage assignments, prioritize tasks, and monitor overall productivity.

Embracing these tools saves time and fosters a more productive work environment where creativity thrives alongside effective project management practices.

Step 2: Understanding the Role of SEO in Your Content Strategy

Search Engine Optimization makes your content irresistible to search engines. It's all about finding the right keywords and optimizing your content to rank higher in search results.

a) Who to Target with Your SEO Efforts?

Before you start, get to know your audience inside out. Create buyer personas first. Buyer personas are fictional representations of your ideal customers, complete with demographics, interests, pain points, and behaviours. This helps you think about what your audience is searching for, and tailor your content to their needs.

Next, dig deep into user intent keywords. People type these key phrases into search engines when seeking answers or solutions. Rather than just focusing on generic keywords, consider your audience's specific questions and problems. What are they searching for, and why?

Imagine your audience's journey and thought process. 

  • What challenges do they face?
  • How can your content address those pain points?

By aligning your content with their needs, you attract more visitors and build trust and credibility.

b) What to Focus on When It Comes to SEO?

Pay attention to technical SEO factors like site speed and mobile-friendliness. Google loves websites that load quickly and look great on smartphones. Also, focus on creating high-quality content that's relevant and valuable to your readers.

c) Why Is SEO Essential for Successful Content Strategy?

SEO isn't just a buzzword; it's the key to building organic growth. When you rank higher on search engines, you attract more visitors. And guess what? Those visitors are more likely to convert into customers. 

d) Where to Incorporate Keywords Within Your Content?

Sprinkle your keywords strategically throughout your content. Use them in your title tags, meta descriptions, headings, subheadings, body text, image alt tags, URLs, and even within your internal linking structure. Just remember, don't overdo it; keep it natural.

Step 3: Effective Distribution Channels for Amplifying Your Content Reach

Creating engaging content is only half the battle. You also need to make sure it reaches the right audience. Enter distribution channels.

Social media platforms like Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok,, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, etc. are your megaphones. Share your content there, engage with your audience, and watch your reach grow. Don't forget the power of email marketing campaigns. We could go on about that, but for time’s sake, here’s another blog about writing a killer newsletter. 

Consider guest blogging or podcast opportunities and influencer partnerships. Collaborating with others can introduce your brand to a whole new audience.

Step 4: Crafting Your Content 

Now that you've laid the groundwork for your content strategy, it's time to craft your content. Don’t put out a social media post for the sake of putting out a social media post! Make sure your content is helping you reach one of your goals. 

If your post doesn’t fit into these boxes, should you really be posting it?  

Relevance: Always keep your target audience in mind. Craft content that directly addresses their needs, interests, and pain points. Your content should be a solution to their problems.

Quality: Research thoroughly, fact-check rigorously, and provide valuable insights. High-quality content establishes your authority and builds trust with your audience.

Consistency: Maintain consistency in your posting schedule, brand voice, style, and messaging. This consistency creates a reliable and recognizable content identity your audience can trust.

Timeliness: Keep your content up-to-date and relevant to current trends and industry developments. Being on top of the latest news and updates positions you as an industry thought leader.

Education: Offer valuable insights, tips, and actionable advice. Providing educational content positions your brand as a valuable resource in your niche.

Entertainment: Incorporate storytelling, humour, and engaging visuals to make your content enjoyable. Entertaining content is more likely to be shared and can increase your content's reach and impact.

As you craft your content, consider how these pillars can be integrated into your pieces. 

The Power of a Well-Thought-Out Content Strategy 

We’re lucky to have an incredible team at Starling who truly cares about the success of each client. These tools are the gears that keep the engine running, but the true power lies in the well-thought-out content strategy. It ensures that every piece we create serves a purpose, resonates with our audience, and contributes to our overall success.

We don't just advocate for these tools; we rely on them to help execute our content strategy.

Google Docs: Google Docs is where we create drafts and collaborate seamlessly. This makes crafting a strategy that aligns with your overall content goals easier.

Trello: Trello helps us break down our content strategy into actionable steps, ensuring that each piece aligns with our overarching goals. 

Buffer: Buffer helps execute a carefully designed distribution plan. It ensures our content reaches the right audience at the right time. Other tools like Later and Hootsuite accomplish the same goals and may be the right choice for your biz.

Remember, tools are only as effective as the strategy behind them. Craft your strategy with care, and adapt it as needed. 

Or, if you are ready to focus on big-picture items and leave your marketing to the professionals, contact us here to book a consultation.


12 LinkedIn Company Page Features You Need to Be Using

- by Alyson Shane

Make the most of LinkedIn's features and tools to enhance your brand's visibility and engagement. 

Here are 12 essential LinkedIn Company Page features you need to use to get the most out of your presence on the platform.

1. Scheduled Posts for Timely Engagement

LinkedIn understands the importance of timing when engaging with your audience. With the "Scheduled Posts" feature, you can plan and post your content when it makes the most sense. This way, you can reach your audience when they're most active and likely to interact with your posts. It's a simple but effective way to boost your engagement rates.

Bonus feature: Scheduling tools like Buffer and Hootsuite only allow you to tag Company Pages in their scheduled content, not people. When you schedule your content in-app, you can also tag people! It's a game-changer for scheduled content. 

2. Audio Events for Interactive Conversations

One of the latest additions to LinkedIn's arsenal is the "Audio Events" feature. This tool allows you to host live, audio-only conversations with your professional community. It’s kind of like the Clubhouse App. You can discuss industry trends, share insights, or chat candidly with your audience. The best part? You don't need any third-party broadcasting tools. It's a great way to connect with your audience in an authentic, low-pressure environment.

From LinkedIn: 

You can choose to host an Audio Event from your individual profile or from your organization’s Page. Only eligible Pages can create an Audio Event. Please note the following when hosting an Audio Event from a Page:

Roles: Any super and content admins can create and host Audio Events on behalf of the Page, and view event analytics.

Notifications: As the Page is considered the event's organizer, notifications are sent to a subset of Page followers, not to the Page admin's connections. 

Hosts: The first 10 super or content admins to join the Audio Event are designated as Host and appear on stage for the event, while other admins will be attendees.

Registration forms: Registration forms are not available for Audio Events.

3. Automated Job Posting for Talent Recruitment

With LinkedIn's "Automated Job Posting" feature, you can easily share your job listings as Page posts. This feature ensures that your open positions get maximum visibility, and the best candidates can find your job listings right on your Company Page. It streamlines the hiring process and helps you connect with potential employees more efficiently.

From LinkedIn

To begin the process:

  • Click on your Profile Picture at the top of the homepage in Recruiter.  
  • Click Product settings in the drop-down menu. 
  • Click Job posting on the left-hand side.  
  • Next to ATS job post sources, click View/Edit. 
  • Click + Add new ATS source.  
  • Fill out the Connect your ATS slide-in window with the following information:  
    • ATS 
    • Job source URL 
    • Company page on LinkedIn 
    • Applicant source tracking URL (optional) 
    • Additional information (optional) 
  • Click Add source.  

4. Following Other Pages for Better Networking

As we know, LinkedIn is all about networking. We love this newer feature because you can expand your connections by following other Pages as your Company Page. Keeping track of trending conversations and engaging in industry discussions can establish your brand as an active participant in your niche. It's an effective way to curate your feed, build professional communities, and distinguish your brand voice.

5. Organic LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms for Quality Leads

The "Organic LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms" feature lets you collect leads directly from your Company Page without redirecting users to external landing pages. It's easy to capture prospects' contact details and other relevant information — while keeping them on the LinkedIn platform.

To set up an organic lead generation form, visit your LinkedIn company page. In the left-hand side menu, scroll past the page analytics and locate the 'Add Lead Gen Form' option. Click on it to review LinkedIn Page Terms, then activate the lead generation forms.

6. Post as Your Company Page for Increased Reach

This is an obvious, but important feature. Consistent posting on your LinkedIn page lets you react to, comment on, and share posts, which expands your reach and visibility. 

When we say “post as your company page,” we don’t just mean feed posts. Spend some time commenting on other pages, sharing posts, answering questions and starting meaningful conversations on the platform. 

7. Mention and Hashtag Integration for Better Discoverability

Who doesn’t love to be @’d?! Enhance the discoverability of your Company Page's articles and newsletters with mentions and hashtags. 

Mentions: When you mention other LinkedIn members or companies in your posts, it shows that you're engaging with others in your industry and alerts the people or companies you've mentioned. They'll get a notification about your mention, which can spark their interest in your content. Plus, it's a friendly way to give credit or acknowledge someone's expertise.

Hashtags: Using relevant hashtags in your posts makes it easier for users interested in those topics to find your content when they search for or click on those hashtags. It's a great way to tap into trending conversations and connect with an audience already interested in your content.

8. Employee Engagement for Brand Advocacy

Your employees can be powerful brand advocates. Encourage them to follow and engage with your Company Page. Bonus points if you can get your employees to list your company as their employer. This mutual connection boosts your Page's visibility, making reaching customers and potential employees easier. Having real people listed as employees on your page humanizes your brand — that’s a good look for you!

9. Post Content from Partners and Other Companies

Sharing content from partners and other companies on LinkedIn:

  • Adds value to your followers
  • Diversifies your feed
  • Helps build connections in your industry

When you curate and share valuable content, you give your followers a broader perspective and keep them engaged. Plus, it's a great way to expand your network and establish credibility in your field. Recognizing others' expertise fosters meaningful connections.

10. Pinned Comments for Guiding Conversations

You can now pin comments to the top of the comment section! This feature is ideal for highlighting frequently asked questions, spotlighting community members, or showcasing engaging responses. It ensures that the most important and relevant discussions remain visible, driving more engagement and interactions.

But don’t forget to make sure your pinned post always has timely content. Pinning content with “old news” makes it look like your page isn’t active. 

11. Start a Newsletter on LinkedIn 

LinkedIn newsletters are a channel to share curated content, insights, and updates directly with your followers. Much like traditional newsletters, they offer a way to engage your audience regularly.

Creating a newsletter on LinkedIn is a straightforward process. You can initiate it from your Company Page and customize it to align with your branding. Once set up, you can send periodic updates to your subscribers.

Newsletters are an excellent tool for showcasing your industry expertise, promoting thought leadership, and informing your audience about the latest trends and developments. They provide an opportunity to establish your Company Page as a valuable source of information.

LinkedIn has engagement metrics available for newsletters, providing valuable insights into what resonates most with your audience. Use these insights to refine your content strategy and tailor your newsletters to better serve your followers. 

P.S. if monitoring your engagement analytics on your newsletters sounds incredibly boring, we include those in our monthly reports! 

12. Scheduling Articles for Timely Engagement

Posting regularly is important, but it's equally crucial to time your posts to reach your target audience when they're most active.

LinkedIn allows you to schedule articles in advance. Now, you can plan your content calendar strategically and ensure your articles are published during a time when your audience is actively engaged.

To schedule an article on your LinkedIn Company Page, follow these simple steps:

Create Your Article: Begin by drafting your article as you normally would. Craft compelling content, add images, and make sure it aligns with your content strategy.

Select the Publish Date: After finishing your article, instead of immediately publishing it, click on the dropdown arrow next to the "Publish" button. From the dropdown menu, select "Schedule."

Choose the Date and Time: A scheduling window will appear, allowing you to choose the date and time you want your article published. Pick a time when your target audience will likely be active on LinkedIn.

Confirm and Schedule: Once you've set the date and time, confirm your selection. Your article will now be scheduled for publication, and you can view and manage your scheduled posts in the "My Articles" section of your Company Page.

Scheduling articles allows you to maintain a consistent posting schedule — even during busy periods, so you don’t need to worry about “going dark” during your most chaotic seasons. It also enables you to target different time zones effectively, expanding your reach to a global audience — if that’s what your goal is. 

Scheduling articles can help you strategically align your content with specific events, campaigns, or industry trends. By taking advantage of the scheduling feature, you can optimize your content strategy on LinkedIn, deliver valuable insights to your audience, and enhance your Company Page's overall impact.

If this seems like a lot to manage, or if you're looking for expert guidance in optimizing your LinkedIn strategy, the team at Starling Social is here to help! Contact us here for personalized support and take your LinkedIn presence to the next level.


Older posts »