How to find volunteer work online

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There’s an infinite number of worthy causes and organizations eager to have volunteers, but if you’re just getting started, it can be difficult — even discouraging — to weed through all the options.

Luckily, many sites and platforms can help you find the best volunteer opportunities that fit your interests and skills. From Catchafire, which helps busy professionals apply their skills to volunteer work, to DoSomething, which helps young people take meaningful action based on their passions and time preferences, you’re bound to find volunteer work among the eight resources we’ve rounded up below.

This list isn’t exhaustive, and doesn’t include extended, government-sponsored volunteer opportunities such as AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps. But these resources will help you get started volunteering, and find local, convenient opportunities near you.

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Instagram tops 300 million active users, likely bigger than Twitter

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Facebook’s billion-dollar Instagram acquisition is looking better and better.

Instagram announced Wednesday that it now has more than 300 million monthly active users, up from 200 million in March.

At that level, Instagram likely has about as many or more users than Twitter, which announcedin October that it had 284 million active users in the third quarter. Either way, what’s clear is that Instagram’s user growth is far outpacing that of Twitter.

“We’re thrilled to watch this community thrive and witness the amazing connections people make over shared passions and journeys,” Kevin Systrom, Instagram’s cofounder and CEO, said in a blog post.

In addition to the user numbers, Instagram announced that it will be introducing “verified badges” for celebrities and brands. It is also in the process of cutting down on “spammy” accounts.

The app is still in the process of monetizing its audience, having introduced ads in November 2013 and rolling out video ads in October 2014.

Facebook agreed to acquire Instagram for $1 billion in 2012, an amount that shocked people at the time, but now sounds comparatively cheap.

“There’s no way you could figure out how much we’re worth independently because so much of our growth and our success is because of our very tight-knit relationship with Facebook,” Systrom told The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday in response to a question about what Instagram would be worth today. “As an independent company, it would have taken a lot longer to get to this point.”

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World Wide Web inventor says Internet should be ‘human right’

The computer scientist credited with inventing the World Wide Web says affordable access to the Internet should be recognized as a human right, as a report showed that billions of people still cannot go online and government surveillance and censorship are increasing.

Tim Berners-Lee said Thursday the Internet can help tackle inequality — but only if it comes with the rights to privacy and freedom of expression. The Briton, who launched the Web in 1990, made the remarks as he released his World Wide Web Foundation’s latest report tracking the Internet’s global impact.

The Web Index found that laws preventing mass online surveillance are weak or nonexistent in more than 84% of countries. It also said that almost 40% of surveyed countries were blocking sensitive online content to a “moderate or extreme degree,” and that half of all Web users live in countries that severely restrict their rights online.

Almost 4.4 billion people — most of them in developing countries — still have no access to the Internet, the Web Index said.

“It’s time to recognize the Internet as a basic human right,” Berners-Lee said. “That means guaranteeing affordable access for all, ensuring Internet packets are delivered without commercial or political discrimination, and protecting the privacy and freedom of Web users regardless of where they live.”

Denmark, Finland, and Norway were ranked as top overall, meaning they were best at using the Internet for economic, political and social progress. At the bottom of a list of 86 countries were Yemen, Myanmar and Ethiopia.

Berners-Lee was working an engineer at the CERN laboratory in Geneva when he proposed the idea of a World Wide Web in 1989.

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Facebook cozies up to publishers with new tools

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Facebook is already the most important platform for online publishers. Now, the social network also wants to be the favorite.
Facebook launched a new set of publisher tools on Wednesday that provide greater ability to target posts and promote timely content, as well as greater automation.The move comes at a time when publishers are basking in the massive amount of traffic that Facebook sends, while also voicing some concern about increasing reliance on the social network.

The biggest addition is the interest targeting, which uses Facebook’s vast trove of data to create subject areas that can be added to posts. Just about anything can be a target, including locations, celebrities and sports teams. A user does not need to have “liked” LeBron James on Facebook for this to work. Rather, if a user has clicked on a LeBron James story recently, they may end up being targeted by posts that have selected James as an interest to target.

Social managers will also now be able to put end dates for when posts should stop receiving promotion in News Feeds. The purpose of this tool is to encourage news publishers to post more timely stories, such as weather forecasts or game recaps. The stories will remain on Facebook, but will not receive promotion after the set end date.

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IMAGE: FACEBOOK

The third tool, called Smart Publishing, takes some of the guesswork out of which stories to post on Facebook. The tool, which will be available only to a limited group of media outlets before a broader rollout, tracks which stories users are posting to Facebook, and publishes them to the News Feeds of people that have liked that organization’s page. For instance, if enough people post a link to the same Mashable story, Facebook will recognize that and push it out to people who have liked Mashable.

However, these stories will not automatically appear on the Facebook pages of a given media outlet; rather, it will appear in the back-end analytics that social media managers use. That dashboard, called Domain Insights, is also getting a refresh, with a new interface and greater detail on referral traffic.

The tools have been in the works for about six months, according to Andy Mitchell, director of news and global media partnerships at Facebook, and were built in collaboration with media partners that made a variety of requests for improvements to its publishing platform.

It is hard to overstate Facebook’s importance to online publishers. It was already widely known that Facebook is a major traffic driver for online publishers, moving about 20% of traffic to news sites. New data from Chartbeat shows that its mobile numbers could be even higher, particularly in the growing and lucrative mobile space.

“Facebook is significantly larger on mobile than any other traffic source,” said Josh Schwartz, chief data scientist for Chartbeat. “The homepage basically goes away on mobile.”

The flood of Facebook traffic has been accepted with open arms by publishers eager to boost engagement and overall reach. Facebook has also reportedly explored a deal in which publishers would put content directly on Facebook’s mobile app, with the two parties splitting revenue.

Facebook’s affinity for publishers, David Carr of the New York Times wrote, “is a bit like that big dog galloping toward you in the park. More often than not, it’s hard to tell whether he wants to play with you or eat you.”

That fear is something marketers know all too well. Facebook was one of the best platforms for online engagement, providing the ability to interact with users and inform them at will. That was until Facebook tweaked its algorithm. Suddenly, marketers were not reaching users — even fans of the pages they had meticulously built — without additional paid reach.

Asked if that could ever happen to news publishers, Michael Cerda, product management director at Facebook for new publisher tools, said that the value of news content — which helps surface what Mitchell and Cerda called “the 10 most important things — precludes that from ever happening.

“We’re not thinking of it that way,” Cerda said. “We see it as a value exchange. This is great content. It’s useful for us because we both spend time on Facebook. It’s useful for people because they’re finding the 10 most important things.”

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10 best tech companies to work for in 2015

Out of the 50 options, the top 10 tech companies ran the gamut, from digital management giant Adobe to the iPhone overlords of Apple. However, many a tech name was beat out by other well-known companies, such as Nestle Purina, Chevron and (maybe best of all?) In-N-Out, the West Coast fast food joint, which actually nabbed the third overall spot.

6 YouTube Tips Inspired by a YouTube Chef

Everyone wants to make a viral video these days. But I argue that it’s much more impressive to have 50 videos with 100,000 views than one video with over 5 million. It’s nice being the flavor of the month, but sustained excellence is much better for brand building. One of my favorite examples is Food Wishes, a popular cooking YouTube channel. While the content is superb, the channel also employs YouTube best practices like an art form. Read on to learn what the channel does well and how you can adapt its video practices to your brand.

Title, Thumbnail, and Description

These three elements are the most important in making sure your content gets found by the people who would enjoy viewing it. And it’s especially important that all three work together to compliment your videos.

1. Your Title and Thumbnail Should Tell the Same Story

Your title and thumbnail do a lot of work for you. They tell potential viewers why they should watch and provide an introduction to the video. That way, you don’t have to start the video with a long explanation of what the video is about. You can just jump right in.

Take the Food Wishes example below. Because of an accurate title and beautiful photograph of the end product, there’s no confusion as to what you’re about to watch after you click. The title is also crammed with keywords like “Recipe,” “How to,” and “Fancy Tartar Sauce.”

Food Wishes Remoulade Recipe

2. When it Comes to Titles, Concision is King

YouTube gives you 100 characters to work with, but you want to keep titles under 70 characters to make sure they aren’t truncated by most search engines (that includes YouTube). If you’re interested in some bonus points, I would suggest keeping it less than 50 characters. That just about makes it truncate-proof.

3. Think About Adding a Custom Thumbnail

Thumbnails are intended to give the viewer a visual preview of the video, kind of like a mini-movie poster. YouTube usually gives you a nice variety of images to choose from, but sometimes there aren’t any stills in your video that properly represent the content within. That’s where custom thumbnails come in.

Take a look at the example below. In honor of the channel’s 1000th video, Chef John decided to post a video responding to some of the most frequently asked questions he receives from fans. In this instance, he didn’t want to risk having people click on the video expecting a recipe and being disappointed, possibly resulting in dislikes. This custom thumbnail shows viewers something is different about this video and the title corroborates the story.

Food Wishes Custom Thumbnail

So, if YouTube isn’t giving you what you need, or you feel like your thumbnail needs more information, think about adding a custom thumbnail. One important thing to remember: your account must be verified and in good standing to upload a custom thumbnail.

YouTube Best Practices Custom Thumbnail

4. Make the Most of Your Descriptions (in 157 Characters or Less)

This is where you have a little more room to be creative. In the description, you can explain the background of the video, provide links to products mentioned, list timestamps to important sections, and more. It’s really up to you.

YouTube gives you 157 characters before making viewers click “Show More” to keep reading. So make sure you get all of your important keywords in before then. If there’s an important link you want to send viewers to, make sure you have it early in the description.

Corn on the Cob Description

As you can see below, a huge benefit of having a link early in a description is that it is clickable right from the search results page.

Corn on the Cob

The Intangibles

There is a lot of visual evidence that shows why Food Wishes employs YouTube best practices, but it’s what you can’t see that really makes this channel shine.

5. Limitations Can Actually Strengthen Your Content

If you’ve watched a video or two, you’ve probably noticed how the only parts of the host that appear in his videos are his hands and his voice. Chef John explains in his FAQ video that this style was born out of lack of equipment. He only had one camera and a microphone so instead of a traditional multi-camera cooking show where the chef walks around the kitchen, he just focused on the food.

As the saying goes, “But out of limitations comes creativity.” This style is actually what makes Food Wishes so successful. It helps the viewer feel like they’re cooking along with the host and removes a lot of the intimidation that comes along with cooking.

6. Have a Clear Mission

From day one, Chef John’s mission has been about one thing: helping people learn how to cook. That mission has determined everything he does, from the recipes he selects to his explanations to his filming style. Having a clear strategy and mission is the most important factor in successful brand building. Once you have a solid foundation, the rest (brand identity, brainstorming, content creation, marketing, etc.) becomes so much easier.

Follow these YouTube best practices and you’re sure to see an increase in viewership. To what YouTube channels do you subscribe? Why do you like them? Share in the comments.

What’s the Difference? Comparing Google Analytics and Adobe SiteCatalyst

As a digital analyst, I split my time between two primary tools: Google Analytics and Adobe SiteCatalyst. Using both of these tools is challenging because they require different mindsets and skills. Google Analytics could be likened to a chic, suave, easy-to-use product, while SiteCatalyst is the more bulky, yet powerful product. One is easy on the eyes; the other takes a bit longer to love. Distinguishing key differences between these two primary tools gives digital analysts the ability to use the best of what each has to offer.

Site Implementation

Google Analytics is a free tool and can be easily implemented on your website. Obtaining data can be as easy as implementing the Google Analytics Java Script onto your site. However, Google Analytics does permit the flexibility to do a custom implementation that allows a user to get the most out of the tool. Custom implementation allows for custom variables, cross and sub-domain tracking, virtual pageviews, and event tracking. Google Analytics offers up to 5 custom variables for free and only limits events to 500 per session. New features include custom dimensions and metrics as well as cost uploads for various paid campaigns.

SiteCatalyst implementation requires cost and more in-depth development work. The implementation is always customized and differs depending on specific needs, metrics, and goals. The upfront work and investment for SiteCatalyst is greater than Google Analytics, but if done properly, the information gathered will be more tailored to your specific metric needs. In addition to tracking web actions the Omniture suite offers various options for data integration across an enterprise’s data infrastructure.

Custom Variables

SiteCatalyst has the advantage of required custom implementation, which provides the option for the creation of custom traffic, event, and conversion variables. These variables are set in advance to give specific information about your visitors rather than looking at all visitors in aggregate. You can see the visitors who clicked through on a campaign versus the visitors who purchased a product. SiteCatalyst allows up to 75 traffic variables, 100 event variables, and 75 conversion variables, all of which can capture whatever data you would like.

Google Analytics also has the ability to set custom variables but only allows up to 5 custom variables with the free version. Like SiteCatalyst, these custom variables can be set to expire after different measurements: a page view, completion of an event, or at the visit level.

SiteCatalyst variables differ in that they can be set to expire after a specified period of time and can also be stacked on top of each other, so you can see the sequence of events taking place.

In the future, Google Analytics is moving to be more flexible in terms of custom variables. Google’s newer product,Universal Analytics will allow for 20 custom dimensions and custom metrics. These will be implemented easier than Google Analytics current version of custom variables, and they will be more similar to the custom variables we see in Site Catalyst.

Report Suites

SiteCatalyst allows for distinctive reporting suites of various data sets. If your company’s website has several sub-sites, SiteCatalyst allows the different sub-sites to have their own suite for data, which can then get rolled-up into one large suite. This allows seeing metrics broken down for each sub-site. Report suites allow you to see the different paths a visitor may take between sub-sites. These reports also allow the creation of one dashboard that can be applied with different report suites.

Instead of reporting suites, Google Analytics allows for the creation of different data profiles. Profiles are versions of your data with permanent filters applied.

Another way that Google Analytics allows a user to look at data in sections is with segmentation. A user can apply up to four segments and make comparisons across each of these segments. SiteCatalyst does not allow for the comparison of segments. In order for a comparison to occur in SiteCatalyst, a user must export the data from different segments and compare outside of SiteCatalyst.

Combining the Two

As a digital analyst, I have to balance the trade-off between ease of use and complexity. There are times when Google Analytics is best to use because the information is gathered quickly and easily. However, in-depth answers often need to be determined by SiteCatalyst. Limiting yourself to one tool can also be limiting for your business. I have found using these tools in conjunction gives the greatest value to your analytics work. You can check out a more in-depth dive on what these tools should be measuring by reading our Pace Perspective on measuring the value of custom content.

What tools have you found to be most beneficial for reporting your analytic data? We would love to hear your recommendations or suggestions in the comments below.