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Apr

29

2017

April Social Media News: AR on Facebook, Ads on Snapchat & More

Published by in category Social Media | Comments are closed

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April showers bring May flowers (depending on where you live). This April also brought an onslaught of augmented reality, or AR, from a few of your favorite social media apps.

Just like last month, Facebook and Instagram continued to compete with Snap Inc. in April, with all three apps launching new products and features to keep more users and marketers spending their time there.

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This is good news for marketers: Social media platforms are making it easier to do your job well. The tricky part will be figuring out where your audience wants to hear from you most, and where to best spend your time and resources producing and promoting content.

We’re here to help. The list isn’t exhaustive, but you can expect to learn the major highlights in the social media space this month — what was launched, what changed, and what these stories could mean for marketers. And if you’re too busy to read the full roundup, here’s a quick video recap:

10 of the Biggest Social Media News Stories This Month

1) Facebook announced new AR, VR, and AI initiatives at F8 2017.

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Source: Facebook

At the annual F8 Facebook Developers Conference, CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook’s next act would be further steps into the worlds of augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and artificial intelligence (AI). With the launch of new products like the Camera Effects Studio, the AR Studio, and Facebook Spaces, Zuckerberg hopes to make the Facebook camera “the first augmented reality platform.”

Down the line, Facebook plans to launch AR glasses and new 360-degree capable cameras, in addition to some truly mind-bending Building 8 initiatives, such as technology to type with your brain and hear with your skin. These announcements caught most of the headlines, but we think what was left off of the F8 agenda is just as important.

With almost no mention of Facebook Instant Articles, publishers, or Pages, it’s clear that Facebook is doubling down on high-tech visual content. So what does this mean for marketers? It’s tough to outsmart the News Feed algorithm and to drive content views and engagement. Our advice is to publish no more than 3X per day, to invest in live and native video content, and to connect with your audience and customers on Facebook Messenger (but more on that later).

2) Facebook surpassed 5 million monthly advertisers.

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Source: VentureBeat

Facebook also announced this month that it had achieved more than 5 million monthly advertisers — 75% of which came from outside of the United States. Digging into this massive number reveals even more interesting insights: 50% of these advertisers are mobile advertisers, and Facebook amassed more than 1 million new advertisers in less than one year.

These advertisers only represent about 8% of businesses with Pages, so it’s likely that Facebook will keep updating its Ads Manager to make advertising on Facebook more enticing, especially on mobile. Read our ebook for ideas on how to optimize your brand’s Facebook Page for more effective advertising on the mega-popular platform.

3) One in five Facebook videos are broadcast live.

Facebook’s head of video, Fidji Simo, shared a video announcing just how rapidly Facebook Live had grown in popularity — both among publishers and among viewers. One in five videos on Facebook is a Facebook Live broadcast. What’s more, Facebook Live watch time has increased more than than 4X longer over the last year.

Last year, Facebook announced it would start giving Facebook Live broadcasts greater weight in the News Feed algorithm as a result of its popularity. This increase in watch time could precede another algorithm adjustment favoring live broadcasts, so if you aren’t already doing so, recording Facebook Live videos could help your content earn more engagement and discovery in the News Feed. Read our guide for going live on Facebook here.

4) There are 100K active bots on Facebook Messenger.

facebook-messenger-bots

Source: CNBC

Facebook Messenger was another hot topic at the F8 conference, and one of the biggest announcements about the messaging app was that there are now 100,000 active bots deployed on the platform every month. Furthermore, Facebook announced that 2 billion messages per month were shared between Messenger users and businesses.

Messenger is becoming popular for customer service and content distribution, so Facebook announced changes to the platform to make it more discoverable and easy to use as a standalone product. These changes include a Discover tab on the home screen of Messenger and “smart replies” businesses can use to auto-answer frequently asked questions.

Marketers might consider using Messenger as part of their customer service or content distribution strategies — especially if their audiences are already highly engaged on Facebook. You can subscribe to HubSpot content using Messenger here.

5) Apple Clips achieved 1 million downloads in four days.

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Source: TechCrunch

Apple launched Clips, a media editing app designed to create photos and videos specifically for social sharing, and it rapidly achieved up to 1 million downloads in the four days after its launch in the App Store.

It’s still early to tell how the app will continue to perform, but App Annie noted that Clips was beating out Instagram’s own photo editing app, Layout, in the App Store during that period. This data is only based on United States numbers, but stay tuned for more coverage from us on media editing apps you should be using for easy social media sharing.

6) Pinterest kills the Like button

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Source: Pinterest Blog

In a blog post published this month, Pinterest announced it would be removing the Like button from the visual search platform and sticking with the Save button as an indicator of Pins’ popularity. Pinterest put this change into practice with an email to Recode: It stated, in no uncertain terms, that Pinterest isn’t about virtual reality or connecting with friends. Instead, it’s about visual content discovery.

If marketers are spending a ton of time using Pinterest as a social networking tool, they might want to rethink their strategy and metrics now. Instead, consider shoppable Pins if you sell products as a better use of Pinterest’s discoverability capabilities.

7) Snapchat added Geofilters to its ads API.

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Source: MarketingLand

Snapchat announced it would be adding Sponsored Geofilters to its ads API this month, making it easier for brands to customize and launch Geofilters for specific locations and events.

This is a big win for Snapchat. Now, advertisers can track the performance of Sponsored Geofilters within the Snapchat Ads API and get more insight into advertising ROI on the platform. We’ve talked before about how Snapchat’s analytics aren’t as robust as the other social media platforms it’s competing with, so this change makes almost all Snapchat advertising options available within the API for easy customization and performance analysis. Now, only Sponsored Lenses aren’t available in the API, and we’ll keep you posted if and when that changes as Snapchat’s parent company, Snap Inc., grows.

8) Snapchat started measuring foot traffic to brick-and-mortar locations.

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Source: MarketingLand

Snapchat has started using a Snap to Store measurement tool that lets advertisers see how much foot traffic to physical locations was generated by Snapchat ad views. The measurement shows which visitors used Snapchat while in the brick-and-mortar location, how many people who visited had seen the ad on Snapchat, and the difference in foot traffic between visitors who saw the ad on Snapchat and visitors who hadn’t.

The Snap to Store measurement tool is still in the experiment phase with a few large brands for now, but we’ll keep you posted when it rolls out to all users. The measurement doesn’t distinguish between different locations if your brand has a chain of stores, so this might be a better fit for smaller businesses to test out.

9) Snapchat launched AR world lenses.

On the first day of Facebook’s F8 conference, Snapchat announced new AR lenses users could start adding to their photos and videos. With world lenses, users can add 3-D moving shapes and images to content to add another layer of fun and variety to their Snaps.

AR and VR features are the next logical step for Snap Inc., Snapchat’s parent company that rebranded itself as a camera company back in 2016. The announcement of world lenses just before Facebook announced its own AR camera capabilities at F8 was smart (and sneaky) timing, as marketers around the world start to consider how to incorporate AR into their visual content efforts.

Our advice — as always — is to experiment and iterate based on results. See if your audience responds and engages with world lenses on Snapchat and AR filters on Facebook, figure out what works, and replicate it in future posts.

10) Instagram Stories beat Snapchat’s user numbers.

instagram-stickers.pngSource: Instagram

Instagram Stories have officially attracted more users than Snapchat’s entire user base, hitting 200 million users this month. With roughly 161 million users to its name, Snapchat continues to face increased competition from its virtual replica on Instagram.

Case in point: In the same blog post announcing the user milestone, Instagram also demonstrated its new Selfie Sticker feature, which lets users take a mini-selfie that they can attach to images and videos in other Stories. If this sounds familiar, you’re right on the money — Snapchat introduced Scissors, which do the exact same thing, in December 2016.

More advertisers and marketers are turning to Instagram over Snapchat for their ephemeral marketing efforts. We suggesting focus your efforts on which platforms audiences are most engaged on, while still keeping a pulse on other platforms that might experience a resurgence if new tools or products are announced.

It’s not exactly a news story, but we wanted to make you aware of a new social media content creation tool, too. This month, HubSpot and Shakr teamed up to create StoriesAds.com, a platform to easily create videos for Instagram’s vertical format. Using StoriesAds.com, brands can easily create vertical videos for Instagram Stories and ads directly in a browser, so check out the tool the next time you plan to launch an Instagram campaign to make better content, more easily.

Did we miss any big social media stories? Share with us in the comments below.

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Apr

29

2017

9 Link Building Email Outreach Templates That Actually Work

Published by in category Inbound Marketing, SEO | Comments are closed

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Thanks for joining me here on the HubSpot Marketing Blog today. I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you all a few things you might not know about me.

I’m ambidextrous (I can write with both hands), I’m the adoptive mother of three cats (one of whom is named Kitty), and before coming to HubSpot, I spent a lot of time writing and sending link building outreach emails.

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Inbound links back to your website play an important role in achieving your inbound marketing goals. They also require strategy and diligent work to come by. I would know — I worked very hard to earn inbound links for a long time.

Whether you’re just starting out with inbound link building or you’re getting fatigued by nobody replying to your outreach emails, I wanted to help you out. I’ve created nine different templates for killer outreach emails that you can borrow and adapt for your own link building strategy.

What Is Link Building?

Before we dive into the templates, let’s quickly review the basics of inbound link building. If you’re already caught up to speed, skip ahead to check out the templates.

Inbound links, otherwise known as backlinks, are links pointing toward your website from another website.

Here’s an example: Check out this publishing volume experiment analysis on the Moz Blog. If you’ll notice, the previous sentence contains a link pointing toward Moz’s website. That’s a backlink. And if you read the article, you’ll notice it contains a link pointing back to our website here at HubSpot. That’s a backlink, too.

Now that we all understand what inbound links are, why are they important?

  1. Inbound links drive traffic to your website. In the example above, the HubSpot blog earned traffic from any of Moz’s blog readers who followed the link to HubSpot’s website.
  2. Inbound links improve your search engine rankings. Inbound links tell search engines that your website knows what it’s talking about — otherwise, why would someone link to it? The more inbound links you earn from high-quality sites, the higher your website will rank in search engine results pages (SERP).

To sum up, inbound links are valuable because they help your website rank higher in search, which helps more people find your organization, start clicking around, and eventually become a lead.

Link building is the process of obtaining those inbound links. When your website is a high-powered, well-respected content engine, other sites and individuals online will link to your content organically — without you having to ask. But if you’re like a lot of other inbound marketers out there, your website still has a ways to go.

A dedicated link building strategy starts with an ask — usually via email — and that’s where these templates come in.

Link Building Outreach Rules

But before we get to the templates, some rules.

There are right and wrong ways to go about improving your site’s SEO, and inbound link building — when done correctly — is generally regarded as one of the right ways. You’re pitching your content to publications that might be interested in sharing it with different audiences. A backlink is just the cherry on top.

However, there are wrong ways to go about asking for inbound backlinks, and I want to make sure you sure understand the rules of the road before you start emailing.

1) The best way to generate quality backlinks is to publish exceptional content publishers organically cite.

That being said, a dedicated backlink outreach strategy can be helpful for newer websites or if you’re promoting a specific piece of exceptional content. The more content you produce and, in turn, promote with social media content and backlinks, the more search engine authority your site will accumulate.

2) Only pitch guest posts or backlinks that add value for the reader.

Instead of asking your contacts to randomly link back to your site somewhere on theirs, ask publishers if you can write for their blogs or conribute new ideas and data for content they’re already working on. Offers such as these will result in quality backlinks that provide readers with valuable information.

3) Send individualized emails to specific publishers.

Never, and I mean never, mass email an enormous contacts list with a pitch template. It’s spammy, impersonal, and likely won’t get you the results you want anyway. Adapt the templates below if you like them, but it’s critically important to individually craft specific emails for particular publishers.

The first step of your outreach process should always be researching publications and specific people who might be interested in your content. You shouldn’t start with typing up an email and sending it to everyone in your industry with a website. Read on for new ideas for how to ask for an inbound link — in ways that are polite, clever, and might just get you that backlink.

Note: These email templates are based on emails I’ve sent and received. Any references to industries, companies, or individuals are meant to illustrate these fictitious email examples.

9 Link Building Outreach Email Examples to Try

1) The preview

If you don’t have any connections with the person you’re pitching, offering a preview might be an effective way to share your content. With this type of email, you’re asking first if the recipient would like to see the piece of content you’d like them to link to. The key to getting a reply is making sure you’ve personalized your email and enticed the reader with enough details to get them to reach back out.

Interest in new infographic about social media stats?

Hi Sophia,

Happy Friday! I’m reaching out because I’m an avid reader of your work on the SocialVille blog — I loved your latest piece about social media news.

I just followed you on Twitter, and I saw you’ve been tweeting about Facebook’s F8 conference. What did you think of the event?

I work over at SocialWorld, where we conduct market research and collect data for social media analysts and experts. We recently produced an infographic detailing a breakdown of the social media market and what changes you can expect over the next year.

Would you be interested in checking it out? I’d love to see what you think.

Let me know if you’re interested, and I can send you the infographic to take a look.

Best, Jack

2) The exclusive offer

If you’ve produced new research or data with surprising or intriguing results, it might be worth pitching your content as an exclusive before pressing publish on your own blog. An exclusive offer to a top-ranking publication in your industry could get you a lot of traffic from a single link, so it might be worth adjusting or reconsidering your own publication schedule.

When pitching to top journalists whose inboxes are probably flooded, keep your subject lines detailed and your emails short to communicate as much information in as few words as possible.

Exclusive: New data about Snapchat ads

Hey Sophia,

I’ve been reading your coverage of the competition heating up between Snapchat and Instagram, and I wanted to let you know that we’re releasing new data about Snapchat ad usage this week.

Among other insights, we found a surprising number of brands and publishers that were regularly advertising and publishing on Snapchat have started transitioning over to Instagram, where they achieve higher ad clickthrough rates.

I’d be happy to give you exclusive early access to our full report to be the first to write about it on the blog this week — what do you think?

Best, Jack

3) The DYK

Everyone likes to learn a fun fact. Couch your pitch as a “did you know” moment to pique the recipient’s curiosity to read the rest of your content for more fun and new information. If you were able to teach them something new, they may want to feature your fresh insight for their own readers.

DYK bots are more popular than blogs?

Hi Sophia,

Did you know that there are more than 100,000 active bots on Facebook Messenger?

If you aren’t already communicating with your audience via Facebook Messenger, you could be missing out on an opportunity to provide better customer service — and faster.

We rounded up more Messenger bot usage stats in a new report that I’ve attached below. Do you think it would be a good fit for an article on the SocialVille blog? Thanks in advance for checking it out, and let me know if you have any questions.

Best, Jack

4) The personalized pitch

The most critical part of a successful outreach email is personalization. I’m not talking about addressing your email to the correct name and spelling everything correctly — although you should definitely do both of those things. By showing the recipient that you know who they are and what they’re about, your pitch reads as genuine, and you read as a comprehensive possible partner.

It’s easy to write, “I loved your last article about [subject],” but it takes some digging and understanding to write, “I love reading your monthly social media news series. Did you catch the latest Facebook update that came out today?” Make sure your email shows that you’ve taken the time to understand what the person is all about and what they regularly cover.

Hi from a fellow Snapchat diehard

Hi Sophia,

I know you’ve been closely following the social media smackdown between Snap Inc. and Facebook — and I know who we’re both rooting for. So I wanted to show you this interactive timeline we created that compares the growth trajectories of the two companies.

Snap Inc. is similar to Facebook in a lot of ways, but its path to growth into the billions is mired with more competition. But this competition hasn’t limited Snapchat’s engagement — users are spending up to half an hour a day inside the app.

I noticed that you publish a social media news roundup every month featuring the latest stories and research, and I wondered if you thought this timeline could be a good inclusion. Let me know if you have any questions about the data!

Thanks, Jack

5) The offer

Nobody likes having extra work on their plate, so why not pitch doing the work for them? If you pitch a great idea alongside an offer to write a guest post, the recipient might be more inclined to say “yes.” But remember to do your due diligence before pressing “send.” If the person you’re pitching has already written about a specific angle a few times before, make sure you’re pitching something new and different to avoid getting ignored.

Offer to write up new report for SocialVille?

Hey Sophia,

You’ve written previously about successful Facebook ads and headlines, and I wanted to share some new research my team has put together about effective Facebook ad copy. We found that Facebook ads under 20 words in length performed significantly better than longer ads, along with a ton of other eye-opening stats.

Do you think this would be a good fit for the SocialVille blog? I’d be happy to write it up for you to take the legwork out of it. Let me know if you’d like me to get started.

Thanks for your consideration, Jack

6) The mention

Everybody likes to see their name in print. A clever way to angle for a backlink is to mention a product or an individual in a published piece, then circle back and share it with them. Ask for their feedback to get them reading the post, and they might link to it or share it on social of their own accord.

Your data featured in our latest report

Hey Sophia,

I love reading your stuff on the SocialVille blog! In fact, we featured your recent data about the impact of tools on productivity in our report on the growth of productivity as a business — I’ve attached the PDF below, and we’ve also shared it on Twitter.

I wonder if you’d be able to check out the report and let me know what you think or if I missed any important stats.

Thanks in advance for checking it out, and thanks for such an interesting write-up.

Best, Jack

7) The social proof

Social proof is the concept that consumers will be influenced by what others are already doing. For example, if you head to the bottom of this blog post, you’ll notice that we ask you to subscribe, noting that 300,000 marketers have already subscribed. That’s social proof in action: You might be more likely to subscribe now that you know hundreds of thousands of people are already doing it.

So, if you’ve published a great piece of content that people are responding positively to, tell people that when you pitch it for backlinks. They might be more inclined to cite you if other people in their field are already doing so.

Guide to Instagram ad analytics

Hi Sophia,

I’m sure you get a lot of content submissions, but I wanted to bring to your attention to a new guide we released about the ins and outs of Instagram ad advertising.

This helpful how-to guide tells you everything you need to know about advertising on Instagram and how to drive ROI, in addition to sharing real-world examples of ads that delivered results. Shameless #humblebrag here — the guide has been downloaded more than 5K times and has been retweeted more than 4K times — so I wanted to make sure you had a chance to check it out.

Do you think it would be a good fit for the SocialVille blog? I’d love to get your thoughts.

Best, Jack

8) The joke

Tread carefully with humor, but if you’ve perused their social media and they seem like they would appreciate a goofy joke, it could be a smart way to get your recipient’s attention.

As in the rules of the workplace or cocktail parties, avoid making jokes about politics, religion, or anything rated PG-13 and up.

What do cats, cooking videos, and your latest blog post have in common?

… they all went viral on social media!

Forgive the silly joke, but I knew cats would get your attention. I loved your recent piece about social media predictions for the coming year, and I wondered if you’d given any thought to predictions for where SEO is headed, too.

Here at SearchWorld, we predict that AMP and machine-learning will take center stage in Google’s quest to make search easier and more intuitive for the searcher.

We put together a report about how SEO has evolved and other predictions for where we think it’s headed next, and I think it would be a great reference if you decide to write a follow-up piece about the future of SEO. I’ve attached the report below — take a look, and let me know if there are any changes you’d suggest!

Thanks in advance, Jack

9) The response

This is another risky outreach strategy, but it could pay off if you do it properly.

The ultimate way to demonstrate that you’re an avid reader (instead of just saying so) is to respond to someone’s work with an opinion — even if it’s divergent. Other options besides the counterpoint in the example below could include:

  • A case study of you taking their advice and applying it to your brand
  • A different content format on the same subject — for example, a video explainer instead of a blog post
Quick question about your Facebook F8 recap

Hey Sophia,

Thanks for writing such a thorough recap of Facebook’s F8 conference. It was super helpful for those of us who couldn’t attend in person or watch the live stream!

I thought you made an interesting point about the competition heating up between Facebook and Snap Inc., but I think you could be missing a bigger idea here. I think it’s not as much a competition for users as it is a competition for features innovation vs. features execution.

I wrote up my take on the brands’ competition on our blog today and cited your recap — would you like to take a look? Maybe we could collaborate together on a blog post or video on how social media marketers should best evaluate the two companies’ competing apps.

Thanks, Jack

Email Link Building Best Practices

So, you might have noticed that these aren’t the traditional templates you can copy and paste into your own inbox.

And that’s because I don’t want you to simply plug in these emails and replace them with your own pitch. Part of the reason successful link building takes time and effort is because you have to craft a personalized email every time. You should use the guidelines I’ve outlined above, but copying and pasting the same exact message is just bad news for all involved. Don’t do it.

Below are more of my link building outreach email best practices:

1) Edit, then edit again.

Nothing makes me less interested in responding to a pitch email than when there is immediately a typo or grammatical error as early as the subject line — or my name. Double-check to ensure that all names are spelled correctly, that capitalization is perfect (Hubspot vs. HubSpot), and that punctuation is perfect.

On the other side of editing, cut your email down wherever you can. It’s better for your email to be on the shorter side than too long, so try to delete any extra words and phrases that aren’t completely necessary.

2) Keep your subject lines short and sweet.

My rule of thumb for subject lines is to avoid making them complete sentences. Stick to the important details to communicate as much enticing information in as few words as possible. If your brand name is recognizable, make sure to name drop yourself, too.

3) Don’t fake flattery.

If it’s easy to tell when someone’s compliments are inauthentic in person, it’s even easier to tell via email. Don’t flatter people you’re contacting for the sake of it — genuinely compliment their work, their insights, or their achievements, and take the compliment a step further to add value with your own content.

4) Do the legwork before you send.

Demonstrate that you know what you’re talking about by doing your research before you press “send.” When you think you’ve found the right person to pitch, take some time to research what they’ve written about in the past and what they discuss on social media. Pay attention to timing, too. If an author has just written about social media statistics, they might not want to write about the same angle one week later, so try to bring a new or related pitch to the table.

5) Don’t follow up more than once or twice.

Let’s face it — we’re all busy. Even if your outreach email is impeccable, it could get lost in someone’s inbox during a busy morning. You should feel free to reach out once to follow up, but don’t go overboard in pestering someone if they’re not getting back to you. After one or two follow-ups, let your pitch go, and reach out to them with another pitch further down the line.

For more link building strategies and best practices, the pros over at Moz can point you in the direction of more replies and backlinks and fewer ignores and “no”s. For more must-have SEO strategies to tackle in 2017, check out our free guide here.

Do you have an email link building outreach email that got you great results? Share with us in the comments below.

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Apr

28

2017

5 Essential Skills Marketers Need to Succeed This Year [Infographic]

Published by in category Daily, IGSS, Professional Development | Comments are closed

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The marketing landscape evolves at what often seems like a bewildering pace. There are changes in consumer preferences. There are updates to search algorithms. And, we can’t forget the frequent updates and features added to various social media channels.

For that reason, being a successful marketer today might appear to require a never-ending list of skills. Where do you need to excel — content creation, social media, web analytics, or all of the above … and more?

Relax. In a perfect world, it would be possible to constantly maintain all of these skills at an expert level. But in reality, it’s okay — and helpful — to prioritize. The question remains, however: What skills do marketers need the most to both keep up with the industry, and be good at their jobs?

Luckily, the infographic below from TEKsystems outlines five crucial skills — largely digital ones — that marketers need to succeed this year:

  • Digital Advertising
  • Social Marketing
  • Website Design/Development
  • Content Development
  • Mobile Marketing

It’s a helpful guideline for marketers who want to help their brands stay up to speed, as well as job seekers and recruiters who want to know which knowledge is the most valuable in today’s landscape. We’ve elaborated a bit on each one below the image — so read on, and learn more about the skills you need to start, continue, or foster a lucrative marketing career.


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5 Essential Marketing Skills to Succeed in 2017

1) Digital Advertising

Many marketers are trained to draw a bold line between marketing and advertising. But the latter, in its digital and analytical form, has become the work of the savviest marketers. That includes things like creating strategic ads on different social media channels, as well as pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns. According to TEK systems, some of the other specific skills that fall under this umbrella are:

  • Search engine optimization/marketing (SEO/SEM)
  • Digital business analytics — data like Google Analytics and Facebook Insights
  • Digital project management

2) Social Marketing

Long gone are the days of simply posting the occasional photo or update on social media. Social marketing has become far, far more complex — so much so that many brands dedicate full-time roles to it. Within this realm, you might see many overlapping skills with digital advertising, like understanding the same analytics and managing PPC campaigns.

While there’s a detailed subset of skills required in social marketing, the major ones fall under strategizing and managing social media posts and presence, according to each channel. That’s one form of content strategy, which we’ll get to.

3) Website Design/Development

As the infographic puts it, “The website is the face of your brand.” It’s often the first line of interaction that a customer will have with your company — that’s why an optimal user experience is imperative. After all, that’s one of the core principles of inbound marketing: Create the content that’s going to draw and benefit your buyer personas.

For that reason, here’s yet another area where — like most of these five skills — understanding content strategy is going to be important. But that’s not the only knowledge required here. TEKsystems also identifies the following top skills sought after by marketing hiring managers:

  • UX design
  • Front-end development
  • Web development
  • Consumer and behavioral analytics
  • Product management

4) Content Development

Finally — content gets its own category. Of course, understanding how to develop the best content for your various distribution channels is important. But then, there’s understanding how to develop consumable content that doesn’t necessarily reside on your social networks or website copy, like reports, or other downloadable items. And in addition to being well-produced and informative, it should be sharable, and a content developer needs to understand how to create something of that nature. Related skills, therefore, include:

  • Analytics
  • Project Management
  • SEO/SEM

5) Mobile Marketing

Mobile is gradually becoming the primary way we consume online content — 48% of consumers, for example,  start mobile research with a search engine, while 26% start with a branded app. That’s why mobile marketing has become such a valuable skill, from understanding how customers use mobile, to how a brand’s digital presence and content can be optimized for that platform.

And while mobile marketing might be a bit different from mobile development — the latter is a bit more technical — it doesn’t hurt to at least understand how that (and app development) contrasts from traditional web development. Additionally, valuable skills here include:

  • Mobile traffic analytics
  • E-commerce analytics
  • Mobile design

The More You Know

We’re not suggesting that marketers need to become experts in every single one of these areas. However, if there’s a specific area of marketing that interests you the most, or into which you’d like to move, understanding where you’ll need to excel can help you get there that much faster.

Plus, as your brand and the landscape continue to evolve, this list can serve as a good reference when you feel like you might need to brush up on certain skills, or at least become more aware of them when it’s necessary. That way, in addition to honing your own skills, you can understand where you might need to focus team-building efforts.

What are your most sought-after marketing skills? Let us know in the comments.

This post was originally published in January 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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Apr

28

2017

6 Cover Letter Examples That Got Something Right

Published by in category Canonical, Daily, Professional Development | Comments are closed

Let’s face it: A job search is, typically, anything but fun.

It’s almost as if it carries its own stages of grief. At first, there’s denial of its demoralizing nature. Then comes the anger over either radio silence or rejection from prospective employers. Of course, there’s bargaining — “I promise to never complain about work again, if I can find a new job!” That’s often followed by depression, and the idea that one is simply just unhireable. Then, there’s acceptance: “This is awful, but I have to keep trying, anyway.”

But we have good news. It is possible to have a little fun with your job search — and maybe even make yourself a better candidate in the process. The magic, it turns out, could be in your cover letter.

It may be true that 63% of recruiters have deemed cover letters “unimportant,” but that doesn’t mean yours has to contribute to that statistic. In fact, it might be that cover letters are deemed insignificant because so few of them stand out. Here’s an opportunity for you to exercise your creativity at the earliest stage of the recruitment process. Personalization, after all, goes beyond replacing the title and company name in each letter you send to recruiters. Download our free guide here for more interviewing and screening tips to build  your team.

What does that look like in practice, and how can you make your cover letter stand out? We found six examples from job seekers who decided to do things a bit differently.

Note: Some of these contain NSFW language.

6 Cover Letter Examples That Nailed It

1) The Short-and-Sweet Model

In 2009, David Silverman penned an article for Harvard Business Review titled, “The Best Cover Letter I Ever Received.” That letter contained three complete sentences, as follows:

short-and-sweet.pngSource: Harvard Business Review

One might argue that this particular letter is less than outstanding. It’s brief, to say the least, and the author doesn’t go into a ton of detail about what makes him or her qualified for the job in question. But that’s what Silverman likes about it — the fact that the applicant only included the pieces of information that would matter the most to the recipient.

“The writer of this letter took the time to think through what would be relevant to me,” writes Silverman. “Instead of scattering lots of facts in hopes that one was relevant, the candidate offered up an opinion as to which experiences I should focus on.”

When you apply for a job, start by determining two things:

  1. Who might oversee the role — that’s often included in the description, under “reports to.” Address your letter to that individual.
  2. Figure out what problems this role is meant to solve for that person. Then, concisely phrase in your cover letter how and why your experience can and will resolve those problems.

The key here is research — by looking into who you’ll be reporting to and learning more about that person’s leadership style, you’ll be better prepared to tailor your cover letter to focus on how you provide solutions for her. Not sure how to learn more about a leader’s personality? Check out any content she shares on social media, or use Growthbot’s Personality Profile feature.

2) The Brutally Honest Approach

Then, there are the occasions when your future boss might appreciate honesty — in its purest form. Livestream CEO Jesse Hertzberg, by his own admission, is one of those people, which might be why he called this example “the best cover letter” (which he received while he was with Squarespace):

Brutally honest.pngSource: Title Needed

As Hertzberg says in the blog post elaborating on this excerpt — it’s not appropriate for every job or company. But if you happen to be sure that the corporate culture of this prospective employer gets a kick out of a complete lack of filter, then there’s a chance that the hiring manager might appreciate your candor.

“Remember that I’m reading these all day long,” Hertzberg writes. “You need to quickly convince me I should keep reading. You need to stand out.”

3) The One That Says “Why,” Not Just “How”

We’ve already covered the importance of addressing how you’ll best execute a certain role in your cover letter. But there’s another question you might want to answer: Why the heck do you want to work here?

The Muse, a career guidance site, says that it’s often best to lead with the why — especially if it makes a good story. We advise against blathering on and on, but a brief tale that illuminates your desire to work for that particular employer can really make you stand out.

Why Example.pngSource: The Muse

Here’s another instance of the power of personalization. The author of this cover letter clearly has a passion for this prospective employer — the Chicago Cubs — and if she’s lying about it, well, that probably would eventually be revealed in an interview. Make sure your story is nonfiction, and relatable according to each job. While we love a good tale of childhood baseball games, an introduction like this one probably wouldn’t be fitting in a cover letter for, say, a software company. But a story of how the hours you spent playing with DOS games as a kid led to your passion for coding? Sure, we’d find that fitting.

If you’re really passionate about a particular job opening, think about where that deep interest is rooted. Then, tell your hiring manager about it in a few sentences.

4) The Straw (Wo)man

When I was in the throes of my own job search and reached one of the later stages, a friend said to me, “For the next job you apply for, you should just submit a picture of yourself a stick figure that somehow represents you working there.”

Et voilà:

AZWstrawCoverLetter.jpg

I never did end up working for the recipient of this particular piece of art, but it did result in an interview. Again, be careful where you send a cover letter like this one — if it doesn’t match the company’s culture, it might be interpreted as you not taking the opportunity seriously. Be sure to pair it with a little bit of explanatory text, too. For example, when I submitted this picture-as-a-cover letter, I also wrote, “Perhaps I took the ‘sense of humor’ alluded to in your job description a bit too seriously.”

5) The Exercise in Overconfidence

I’ll admit that I considered leaving out this example. It’s rife with profanity, vanity, and arrogance. But maybe, in some settings, that’s the right way to do a cover letter.

A few years ago, Huffington Post published this note as an example of how to “get noticed” and “get hired for your dream job”:

THE-EPIC-COVER-LETTER.jpgSource: Huffington Post

Here’s the thing — if the Aviary cited in this letter is the same Aviary I researched upon discovering it, then, well, I’m not sure this tone was the best approach. I read the company’s blog and looked at the careers site, and neither one indicates that the culture encourages … this.

However, Aviary was acquired by Adobe in 2014, and this letter was written in 2011. So while it’s possible that the brand was a bit more relaxed at that time, we wouldn’t suggest submitting a letter with that tone to the company today. That’s not to say it would go unappreciated elsewhere — Doug Kessler frequently discusses the marketers and brands that value colorful language, for example.

The point is, this example further illustrates the importance of research. Make sure you understand the culture of the company to which you’re applying before you send a completely unfiltered cover letter — if you don’t, there’s a good chance it’ll completely miss the mark.

6) The Interactive Cover Letter

When designer Rachel McBee applied for a job with the Denver Broncos, she didn’t just write a personalized cover letter — she designed an entire digital, interactive microsite:

Source: Rachel McBee

This cover letter — if you can even call it that — checks off all of the boxes we’ve discussed here, in a remarkably unique way. It concisely addresses and organizes what many hiring managers hope to see in any cover letter: how her skills lend themselves to the role, why she wants the job, and how to contact her. She even includes a “traditional” body of text at the bottom, with a form that allows the reader to easily get in touch with her.

Take Cover

We’d like to add a sixth stage to the job search: Experimentation.

In today’s competitive landscape, it’s so easy to feel defeated, less-than-good-enough, or like giving up your job search. But don’t let the process become so monotonous. Have fun discovering the qualitative data we’ve discussed here — then, have even more by getting creative with your cover letter composition.

We certainly can’t guarantee that every prospective employer will respond positively — or at all — to even the most unique, compelling cover letter. But the one that’s right for you will. That’s why it’s important not to copy these examples. That defeats the purpose of personalization.

So get creative. And, by the way — we’re hiring.

What are some of the best cover letters you’ve seen? Let us know in the comments.

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Apr

28

2017

Why Agencies That Conduct Market Research Grow Faster

Published by in category marketing agency | Comments are closed

You’re a busy marketer. Your days are full of client meetings, brand research, marketing strategy sessions …

Who has time to do market research for their own marketing agency?

If you think market research is for clients only, better think again. As a marketer, it’s equally important for you to understand your market, its wants and needs, the state of your competition, and your place in the marketing ecosystem and pecking order.

Make no mistake — market research for your own firm is no purely-academic exercise. Think of it this way: the better you know your audience, the more easily you can turn prospects into clients. Incredible as it may seem, most professional services firms, including marketing agencies, don’t know their audiences as well as they should. As a result, they’re missing out on opportunities to gain more clients and get more business out of current ones.

So why don’t more marketing firms do research? Well, because many think, for some reason, their clients are “different” so that the input won’t yield any insights. Others think research simply won’t impact growth.

We beg to differ.

We’ve conducted our own research on research (yes, really) and discovered that there are some significant benefits for marketing firms. Firms that regularly research their client markets (at least quarterly) grow more than ten times faster than firms that don’t conduct research. 

If you’re willing to go all-in and conduct research on a frequent, more-than-quarterly basis, your firm can really take off, compared to agencies that do no research. Our research confirmed that more than one-third of high-growth firms conducted target audience research regularly and at least once a quarter (see below chart). Virtually none of the no-growth firms conducted frequent research.

Data from Hinge’s 2017 High Growth Research Report

Research not only drives growth, it also impacts profitability. For instance, when Hinge studied the effects of research on growth and profitability, we found that firms that conducted frequent research realized 19.9% profitability, whereas firms that did not conduct research reported only 11% profitability.

What makes research so effective? There are a number of ways that firms become better positioned to secure prospects and grow their client relationships through research. These include:

  • Having a clear understanding of emerging issues and trends in order to determine which services to develop and offer.
  • Uncovering areas in which your firm has misjudged or misread their clients, such as what market influences are keeping them from growing their relationship with your firm.
  • Identifying purchasing or other types of patterns that you haven’t noticed since you are so deeply engrossed in your day-to-day interactions with your clients.

As Hinge has done research for ourselves and our clients, we’ve identified ten research questions that can drive growth and profitability. Below is a sample of the questions we have found to have a big impact for our clients.

Why do your best clients choose your firm?

Understanding what great clients find appealing about a firm can help the firm attract others like them.

What are those same clients trying to avoid?

This is the flip side of the first question and offers a valuable perspective. The answer can provide clues as to how to avoid being ruled out during the early rounds of a prospect’s selection process. The answer can also help shape business practices and strategy.

What is the real benefit your firm provides?

Firms are often surprised to hear the true benefit of their service, as viewed through their clients’ eyes. Once they understand this, they are able to enhance or even develop new services with other real benefits.

So what’s the best way to conduct research?

Believe it or not, Rule Number One is do not do it yourself. That’s right. Have someone else do it for you. Why? Because respondents are more likely to provide honest answers to a third party. If you insist on doing the research yourself — which is better than doing no research at all — be aware that you may capture only a portion of the overall picture.

Here are three more tips for conducting effective research:

1) Phone interviews are best. 

Nothing beats a live interview. Even reluctant participants will open up to a skillful interviewer. In fact, the greatest insights are often volunteered outside the scope of the questionnaire.

2) Online surveys are second best—but they don’t have to be second rate. 

An online survey will never capture the same insights as an interview, but a well-crafted online survey can still reap valuable information. Surveys also tend to be easier and less expensive to implement. Just remember, your response rate is likely to be very low.

3) Don’t limit it to your current clients. 

Cold prospects are more difficult to get on the phone, but they provide—by far—the most accurate picture of your marketplace. Clients who got away offer invaluable insights into your weaknesses. Similarly, lapsed clients can help you understand how to become more relevant and engaged.

And what should we do with all this research?

There are any number of ways you can use it, limited mostly by your goals and imagination. Here are just a few ideas on how you can use your research to enhance your reputation, generate leads and bring in more clients:

  • Tweak or redefine your positioning to differentiate your firm from competitors.
  • Introduce new services that prospects have indicated want.
  • Use it as an entrée to bring former clients back into the fold.
  • Offer new services to current or former clients.
  • Anticipate clients’ needs.

Most important, you can boost your credibility with your target market and increase your visible expertise by pulling data and results from your research findings to write blog posts and articles that address urgent market challenges, to publish a research study, and as fodder for speeches, seminars, and webinars.

So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get researching. The sooner you get started, the sooner your firm will reap its rewards.

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Apr

27

2017

Choosing a Date for your Goal

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So you want something to change. Maybe you need more money, want to reach a business goal, or just long for better health or relationships. Can you see yourself as though you’ve already achieved it? Can you feel how you expect to feel when it’s accomplished? These are some of the first steps to powerful and effective goal-achievement, … Continue reading Choosing a Date for your Goal

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Apr

27

2017

How to Repost on Instagram: 4 Easy Ways to Reshare Content

Published by in category Daily, Social Media | Comments are closed

repost-on-instagram-compressed.jpg

Where most social media feeds are almost distractingly busy — full of photos, videos, and text updates from friends and brands you follow — Instagram is different because you can only look at one post at a time.

And while this simple, clean interface makes to easy to focus on the beautiful photography and interesting videos on Instagram, it also leaves something to be desired: the ability to easily repost other users’ content.

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But fear not: for every problem, the internet has afforded a solution. We tested out four different ways to repost content on Instagram in a few simple steps. All of these methods are free, but some require you to download an app from the iOS App Store or Google Play first.

How to Repost on Instagram: 4 Methods to Try

1) Use Repost for Instagram

Download Repost for Instagram for iOS or Android devices to share content from other Instagram users from your mobile device. Here’s how to do it:

respost-step1.jpg

Open your Instagram app, and find a photo or video you’d like to reshare.

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(Psst — do you follow HubSpot on Instagram?)

Tap the … in the upper-right hand corner of the post. Then, tap “Copy Share URL.”

repost-step3-1.jpg

Open Repost for Instagram. The post you copied will automatically be on the homepage.

repost-step4-1.png

Tap the arrow on the right-hand side of the post. There, you can edit how you want the repost icon to appear on Instagram.

repost-step5-1.png

Tap “Repost.” Then, tap “Copy to Instagram,” where you can add a filter and edit the post.

repost-step6.jpg

                   repost-step7.png

Tap “Next.” If you want to include the original post’s caption, tap the caption field and press “Paste,” where the original caption will appear with a citation.

repost-step8.png

When you’re ready to share the post, tap “Share” as you would a regular Instagram post. Here’s how the post appears on your Instagram profile:

repost-step9-1.jpg

2) Use InstaRepost

Download InstaRepost for iOS or Android devices to share content from other Instagram users from your mobile device. Here’s how to do it:

Open InstaRepost, log in using your Instagram credentials, and authorize it to access your account information.

instarepost-step1.jpg

InstaRepost will only show you a small selection from your Instagram feed. If you know what post you’re looking for, head to the search magnifying glass to look at the Explore tab or enter a username.

instarepost-step2.jpg

                  instarepost-step3.jpg

Once you’ve found a post you want to reshare, tap the arrow in the lower right-hand corner. Then, tap “Repost,” then “Repost” again.

instarepost-step4.jpg

instarepost-step5.0.jpg

instarepost-step5.jpg

Navigate to your Instagram app, and tap “Library.” The post will be saved to your camera roll.

instarepost-step6.png

Add a filter and edit the post as you would any other. Then, tap “Next.”

instarepost-step7.png

Tap the caption field to paste the original caption. The repost won’t include a citation, so we suggest adding one by typing “@ + [username].” Then, press “Share.”

instarepost-step8.png

Here’s how the post appears on your Instagram profile:

instarepost-step9.jpg

3) Use DownloadGram

DownloadGram lets Instagram users download high-resolution copies of Instagram photos and videos to repost from their own accounts. Here’s how to do it:

Open your Instagram app and find the post you want to repost. Tap the … icon in the upper-right hand corner of the post and click “Copy Share URL.”

downloadgram-step1.jpg

downloadgram-step2-1.jpg

Navigate to DownloadGram and paste the URL into the field. Then, tap “Download.”

downloadgram-step3.jpg

Tap the green “Download Image” button that will appear further down the page.

downloadgram-step4.jpg

You’ll be directed to a new web page with the downloadable image. Tap the download icon, then tap “Save image.”

downloadgram-step5.jpg

downloadgram-step6.jpg

Return to your Instagram app. The image will be saved to your camera roll, so edit it as you would any other Instagram post.

downloadgram-step7.png

The repost won’t include a citation, so we suggest adding one by typing “@ + [username].” Then, press “Share.” Here’s how the post appears on your Instagram profile:

downloadgram-step8.jpg

4) Take a Screenshot

This method doesn’t require any or other websites to repost on Instagram. It’s worth nothing that this method only works for reposting photos. Here’s how to do it:

Find a photo on Instagram you’d like to repost, and take a screenshot:

  • For iOS: Press down on the home and lock buttons simultaneously until your screen flashes.
  • For Android: Press down on the sleep/wake and volume down buttons simultaneously until your screen flashes.

Tap the new post button in the bottom-center of your Instagram screen. Resize the photo so it’s properly cropped in the Instagram photo editor.

screenshot-step1-1.png

Edit and filter the post like you would any other Instagram post.

screenshot-step2.png

The repost won’t include a citation, so we suggest adding one by typing “@ + [username].” Then, press “Share.” Here’s how the post appears on your Instagram profile:

screenshot-step3.png

Do It For the ‘Gram

Now that you’ve learned how to repost on Instagram, you can diversify your profile with content sourced from friends, family, and brands. Use the methods above — being sure to cite the source of the original post — to quickly and easily reshare your favorite content. And if you’re looking for more ideas for sourcing and creating Instagram content for your brand, download our free guide to using Instagram for business here.

Do you use any of these methods to repost on Instagram? Share with us in the comments below.

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Apr

27

2017

45 Engaging Examples of Interactive Storytelling in Content Marketing

Published by in category Content Marketing, Daily | Comments are closed

As inbound marketers, content plays an important role in attracting attention to our company and building trust with our prospects. Our content can come in many different formats, and the format we choose can speak volumes about the research and ideas within.

Interactive content has become increasingly more popular as brands try to cut through the noise and keep prospects’ attention long enough to deliver a message.

So how exactly do you harness audience’s ever-decreasing attention span? By giving them an active role in their content consumption process by publishing stories with interactive elements. Such tools can increase engagement, on-site dwell time, and social share rates.

Free Download: 45 Interactive Content Examples to Inspire Your Next Content Project

HubSpot and Playbuzz joined forces to scour the web for amazing examples of interactive storytelling. Each industry poses its own obstacles and unique characteristics, but share one common denominator: Interactive content works for all topics and audiences.

Let’s take a look at a few examples from the ebook:

Interactive Content Examples from Real Brands

1) The Wall Street Journal

playbuzz promo post 1.png

Delivering a large amount of information is a challenge for content creators. This example from the Wall Street Journal does so using searchable, visual stats. The facts are arranged in a number of ways, including a recorded timeline for readers to hit “play” and simply watch.

How can you incorporate this into your content marketing? Search is an interactive action on its own and can be easily incorporated into your content. Using search provides readers with a task to keep them engaged while presenting a healthy amount of information in a positive manner. Adding search options very much depends on the content you create, but tools like FlippingBook and Viostream make even PDF and video content searchable.

2) National Geographic

playbuzz promo post 2.png

Some of the most inspiring forms of interactive content match the topics they address. This example allows readers to follow the ancient cave paintings as if they are touring a prehistoric cave, with color-coded topics to provide insights.

How can you incorporate this into your content marketing? Making history come to life can be a hard task. Don’t shy away from numbers and important facts, but don’t skimp on the imagery and engagement, either. Leave the canvas clear for creative imagery and video, while the text wraps the visuals but does not interfere.

3) Orbitz

playbuzz promo post 3.png

Whether or not your travel partner will make or break your trip is one question all backpackers ask themselves before embarking on a new adventure. Orbitz knew what was on their audience’s mind and created an online quiz that addresses this burning question — specifically for business travelers.

How can you incorporate this into your content marketing? Everyone loves interactive quizzes, but when creating one for your business, always think of what your audience would spend time in investigating. This is particularly true when you wish to exchange results for readers’ contact information.

How to Get Started with Interactive Storytelling

If you’re new to creating digital content, start small with a simple quiz or flashcards embedded in a blog post with Playbuzz. These assets perform well at the top of the funnel because they motivate the user to share and see how their peers stack up against their own experience. Experiment with new formats, topics, and which stage in the buyer’s journey your content serves.

When it’s time to build something more sophisticated, consider working with a developer to determine how to build the user experience and interactive elements you’re looking for. And remember to experiment. That means release early and often so you’re consistently collecting feedback and iterating on your interactive content.

Download the full guide here to learn from over 40 more examples of interactive storytelling, ranging in complexity and industry vertical.

What types of interactive content have you encountered around the internet? Share with us in the comments below.

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Apr

27

2017

10 of the Best Ads from April: Hygge, Apocalypse, and a Robot Baby

Published by in category Daily, marketing agency | Comments are closed

Although we haven’t been fortunate enough to see more than a few scattered days of sunlight here in Boston, I’m told it’s technically spring.

In addition to rain, April also brought us some stunning new creative work from agencies around the word. Our monthly ad round-up features a German-produced animated short, a delightful Danish beer ad, and a clever insurance spot from Japan starring a rugby team from New Zealand. 

Did you miss any of these ads from April? Scroll down to check them out, and get inspired to tackle your next big project. 

10 of the Best Ads from April

1) AIG Japan

New Zealand’s national rugby union team, the All Blacks, hit the pedestrian-heavy streets of Toyko in this unexpectedly charming spot for AIG Japan. The three-minute ad opens with the uniform-clad players tackling seemingly random (and reasonably stunned) Tokyo residents — but things quickly take a heartwarming turn.

About half-way through the TBWAHakuhodo-produced video, it becomes apparent that the All Blacks were actually saving people from unpredictable disasters — a car running a red light, a pile of debris falling from a construction site, and a sudden laptop fire.

“[The ad] was an arresting way to show our fantastic relationship with the All Blacks, demonstrate the idea of risk prevention, and create a strong connection to the Japanese audience,” said Matthew Walker, AIG Japan’s senior vice president and regional chief marketing officer.

 

2) Carlsberg

Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen ponders the secret source of his home country’s enviable happiness in Carlsberg’s latest UK campaign. Produced by London-based agency Fold7, the ad follows Mikklesen as he peddles his way through Copenhagen, magically passing through hedges, into stylish, minimal apartments, and over a rustic table set for a hyggelig gathering.

His tour ends (where else?) at a Carlsberg brewery, where Mikklesen enjoys a cold Carlsberg pilsner and decides that this is the real secret of Danish happiness … probably.

 

3) Student Flights

If you’re young, you better enjoy traveling while you can — before you become an uncool, perpetually exhausted parent. That’s the message of this spot for Student Flights, a company that specializes in travel deals for the university set.

To really drive that message home, Johannesburg-based agency TBWAHunt Lascaris convinced a hip millennial to carry around a wailing, pooping “Babybot” for a few days at a music festival. The poor guy in question, Loyiso Madinga, is promised a free trip to New York if he can survive a weekend with Babybot unscathed. His initial assessment of the challenge? “How hard could this be … right?”

As expected, having a baby at a music festival isn’t super fun — even if that baby is Wifi-enabled and made of metal. 

 

4) Netto

Ever wonder where the Easter Bunny came from? European supermarket chain Netto teamed up with German agency Jung von Matt and production house Mill+ to share their whimsical imagining of the egg-laying rabbit’s origins (Hint: it starts with a hen and a rabbit meeting each other at a night club.)

Set to a innocent, heart-wrenching rendition of “Beautiful, Always,” the animated short packs a surprisingly poignant punch. It’s sure to make even the coldest little hearts grow three sizes.

 

5) The New York Times

Oscar-nominated director Darren Aronofsky (of Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan fame) lends his talents to this Droga5-produced spot for The New York Times. The stark, one-minute ad series is part of the Grey Lady’s first brand-focused ad campaign in a decade.

Aronofsky met with several New York Times photojournalists, asking them to recount their experiences covering some of the most impactful stories from recent years. As the photojournalists discuss their fieldwork and motivations, images from the trips in question flash across the screen.  

 

6) Unilever

Pricey, trendy beauty products aren’t necessarily worth the hype, according to Unilever’s latest marketing stunt. Vice’s digital agency Carrot invited a group of real beauty influencers to try a fake new shampoo: Evaus (Spoiler alert: that’s just discount hair care brand Suave spelled backwards).

Packaged in a sleek, minimal bottle, Evaus products were a big hit with the influencers, who raved about how shiny and soft their hair felt after 10 days of using the line. When producers reveal that the “startup” hair care brand is really just $3 Suave shampoo poured into fancy schmancy bottles, the influencers are shocked — and then seemingly delighted at the great value.

“We found seven of 10 women think higher-priced brands are more trustworthy,” Jen Bremner, Unilever marketing director explained to AdAge. “That really was the inspiration. We wanted to peel back the labels and convert the skeptics.”

 

7) Entourage

To promote Entourage, a French app aimed at reconnecting neighborhoods with their homeless populations, TBWAParis decided to take an unconventional, offline approach to viral marketing: writing directly on banknotes.

The agency asked homeless community members to pen short messages directly on paper bills. Each hand-written note reveals something that homeless people wish everyone else knew. Take this example from the case study video below: “For me, Pierrot, homeless for 19 years, this bill has a lot of value, but not as much as a hello.”

The hope is that the simple messages with encourage Parisians to download the Entourage app, which helps people offer support and make social connections with homeless folks in their neighborhood.

 

8) SubHub

When the inevitable robot apocalypse finally spells fatal disaster for the human race, won’t you wish you shelled out to see that Sia concert?

Goodby Silverstein & Partners produced this cinematic, YOLO-fueled spot for StubHub, encouraging you to buy those concert tickets “before it’s too late.” The ad balances sleek, action-movie pacing with an unexpected, hilarious ending.

 

9) Pedigree

BBDO New York resurrected a little-known story from the Revolutionary War to promote Pedigree’s “Feed the Good” campaign.

In 1777, General George Washington and his troops were in the midst of a battle against British Forces Commander-in-Chief William Howe when one of Washington’s men discovered Howe’s dog wandering lost near the American camp. Instead of harming the lost pup (as some of Washington’s men reportedly suggested), Washington benevolently returned the dog to Howe with a kind note. The true story reflects Pedigree’s belief that dogs bring out the best of us.

 

10) Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Here’s one for the IT guy or gal in your office.

In this playful Publicis New York-produced ad for Hewlett Packard Enterprise, a sad, bobble-head IT employee named Brian is forced to deny his colleagues’ earnest requests due to inadequate legacy technology. That is, until his office gets Hewlett Packard Enterprise — at which point Brian transforms Pinocchio-style from a plastic bobble head doll into a guy who can finally say “yes.”

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Apr

26

2017

The Character Count Guide for Blog Posts, Videos, Tweets & More

Published by in category Blog, Canonical, Content Marketing, Daily, SEO, Social Media | Comments are closed

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When it comes to writing text for your blog and social media posts, many marketers wonder, “But what’s the character limit?” It’s never a simple question — sometimes, it’s answered by parameters established by certain channels. And on other occasions, it’s more a question of what’s ideal.

For example, you probably know the character limit for a tweet is 140, but did you know that the ideal length is actually less than that? (Hold tight — we’ll explain why.) While we’ve written before about optimizing your actual content, we thought it would be helpful to gather the numbers of character limits — both enforced and ideal — for different online channels, all in one place. Manage and plan your social media content with the help of this free calendar  template.

Below, you’ll find a more detailed guide to character limits and ideal character counts for posts on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, SnapChat, and YouTube.

The Length & Character Count for Everything on the Internet

1) Blog Posts

1-6nX_PYNpn0Ajc0tardzIkg.pngSource: Medium

Quick reference:

  • Post length: 2100 words
  • Title: Under 60 characters
  • Meta Description: Under 155 characters

Post Body

When it comes to the length of blog posts, there are a few different items to consider. For example:

  • According to Medium, posts with an average read time of seven minutes captured the most attention.
  • The average reading speed of native English-speaking adults remains commonly cited as 300 words per minute, according to research conducted in 1990.
  • At that reading rate, the ideal post length is 2100 words.
  • That aligns with research previously conducted by serpIQ, which indicated that, on average, the top 10 results for most Google searches are between 2,032 and 2,416 words.

That means that this ideal word count can address goals around both readability and SEO. But that’s just the actual body of the post. Plus, when we looked at our own blog on organic traffic, we found that the sweet spot was 2,250–2,500 words.

word-count-vs-organic-traffic.png

But that’s just the post body — let’s have a look at the other areas of text that comprise a full blog post.

Title

The length of your title depends on your goals, and where it will appear.

Let’s start with SEO. Do you want this post to rank really well in search? It turns out, that often has to do with the dimensions of each entry on a search engine results page (SERP). For Google, titles of search results are usually contained at a length of 600 pixels — which Moz measures as being able to display the first 50-60 characters of a title tag. So, if you don’t want your title to get cut off in the search results, it might be best to keep it under 60 characters. But when in doubt, you can double-check the length of your meta description and title tags with this handy tool from SEOmofo, or you can use Moz’s title tag preview tool.

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Then, there’s optimizing your title for social sharing. On Twitter, for example, consider that each tweet has a limit of 140 characters — however, if you include an image, that doesn’t count toward the limit. But consider that even the average shortened URL takes up about 23 characters — that leaves you with about 116 characters left for the title and any accompanying text.

In our own analysis at HubSpot, we found that headlines between 8–12 words in length got the most Twitter shares on average, while headlines with either 12 or 14 words got the most Facebook Likes.

headline-length-vs-social-shares.png

Meta Description

A meta description refers to the HTML attribute that explains the contents of a given webpage. It’s the short description you see on a SERP to “preview” what the page is about.

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 12.22.10 PM.png

Moz notes that Google seems to cut off most meta descriptions — which are sometimes called snippets — after roughly two lines of text — though there’s some conjecture that, like title tags, it’s actually based on pixel count. In any case, it amounts to about 160 characters, though this particular outlet recommends keeping it at 155.

Again, you can double-check the length of your meta description and title tags with this handy tool from SEOmofo.

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2) Facebook

Quick reference:

  • Status updates: 63,206-character maximum | Ideal length is 40 characters
  • Video: 120-minute maximum | Ideal length is two minutes

Status Updates

Facebook’s character limit on status updates is 63,206. However, that’s far from ideal, says HubSpot Social Media Marketing Manager Chelsea Hunersen. “The social gurus will throw around the number 40 characters. That data seems to be backed up by BuzzSumo’s ranking of HubSpot’s own Facebook Page.

But why 40, specifically? “Ideally,” Hunersen says, “you’ll want to use the copy in a status update to provide context for whatever you’re linking to.” That said, she notes, the copy of the status update itself isn’t as important as the copy in the meta title or meta description that gets pulled in when you insert a link into your post. That’s right — social media posts have their own meta data too.

“Often, people look at the image of the article and then directly down at the meta title and meta description for context clues,” she explains. “A lot of people don’t realize you can change those.”

Even on Facebook, it’s still best to keep your meta title to fewer than 60 characters, and to 155 for meta descriptions. There are some resources available to those familiar with coding that let you play around with social media metadata character counts, like these templates. But unless you’re a developer, we recommend keeping it short and sweet.

Video

While Facebook allows a maximum of 120 minutes for videos, we wouldn’t advise posting anything that long, unless you’re doing a special, social-media-only screening of a full-length film.

According to research conducted by Wistia, two minutes is the “sweet spot” — even a minute longer than that shows a significant drop in viewership. “Engagement is steady up to [two] minutes, meaning that a 90-second video will hold a viewer’s attention as much as a 30-second video, the research reads,” so “if you’re making short videos, you don’t need to stress about the difference of a few seconds. Just keep it under [two] minutes.”

b3c077ee5e1cad372628b599fceca8c7717cd4ba.jpgSource: Wistia

However, optimal length can vary depending on the topic. “If you produce something as catchy as BuzzFeed and Refinery29 are putting out there, it can be up to five minutes long,” says Hunersen.

Regardless of the length of your video, Hunersen reminds us that all Facebook videos start without sound, meaning users have to make a conscious decision to stop scrolling through their feeds and unmute the video. Facebook videos should be visually compelling from the get-to, make sense without sound, and be engaging enough to encourage the user to stop and watch.

3) Twitter

Quick reference:

  • Tweets: 140-character maximum
    • Does not include images, videos, polls, or quotes tweets
    • Ideal length is 120-130 characters
  • Hashtags: No more than two
  • Videos: Maximum length is two minutes and 20 seconds

Length of Tweets

Marketers everywhere rejoiced when Twitter finally eased up on its character count parameters, and such media as images, videos, and polls, as well as quoted tweets, ceased counting toward its 140-character limit.

Still, the “Quote Tweet” feature remains available, providing even greater character-saving measures. That happens when you press the rotating arrow icon to retweet a post, and then add a comment in the text box provided. You’ve still got 140 characters all to yourself to comment.

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Ideal Length Overall

Like so much of what we’ve covered, it seems that when it comes to the overall length of a tweet, aim for short and sweet. (See what we did there?) That’s resonated in research conducted by social media scientist Dan Zarrella, who found that tweets with 120-130 characters showed the highest click-through rate (CTR):

Screen-Shot-2013-08-16-at-10.51.12-AM.pngSource: Buffer

The same goes for hashtags. While they can technically be any length up to 140 characters, remember that people will want to accompany the hashtag with other copy. Short hashtags are always better. Ideally, your hashtags should be under 11 characters — shorter if you can.

Also, in a single tweet, stick to one or two hashtags, and definitely don’t go over three. Buddy Media found that all tweets with hashtags get double the engagement metrics than tweets without any. But tweets that kept the hashtags to a minimum — one or two — have a 21% higher engagement than tweets with three or more.

Screen-Shot-2014-04-06-at-6.45.50-AM.pngSource: Buffer

Videos

You can post a video on Twitter by importing a video or recording it using the Twitter app. In any case, the maximum video length is two minutes and 20 seconds.

4) LinkedIn

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Profiles

Here’s a handy list of some of LinkedIn’s most important profile character maximums, according to Andy Foote:

  • Professional headline: 120
  • Summary: 2,000
  • Position title: 100
  • Position description: 2,000 (200 character minimum)
  • Status Update: 600 characters — however, Foote also notes that, “if you select to also post on Twitter from LinkedIn, only the first 140 characters will show on your Twitter post.”

Original Content

With LinkedIn’s publishing platform, users can now compose and share original written content with their networks, or publicly. Of course, that comes with its own character counts, according to Foote:

  • Post headline: 100
  • Post body: 40,000

5) Instagram

Quick reference:

  • Bio: 150-character maximum
  • Hashtags: Maximum of 30
  • Captions: Ideal length is under 125 characters

Since Instagram is, first and foremost, a platform for sharing photos and videos, the primary focus is typically your visual content. However, it’s always helpful to provide some context, and let users know what they’re looking at.

Given that, here are some helpful character counts for the text you include with your visual content:

Captions

While Instagram doesn’t seem to specify a maximum total number of caption characters, it does note that, within users’ feeds, the caption is cut off after the first three lines. For that reason, it’s advised to limit captions to 125 characters. However, don’t leave out important information just for the sake of keeping your entire caption visible. Instead, frontload it with crucial details and calls-to-action, leaving any hashtags, @mentions, or extraneous information for the end.

As for Instagram Stories, there doesn’t seem to be a ton of detail on character limits there, either. However, because the text overlays the visual content — which is the focus — don’t obscure too much of the photo or video with a caption.

6) Snapchat

Quick reference:

  • Character limit: 80 per post

Speaking of not obscuring visual content — that brings us to Snapchat.

Instagram Stories was, many believe, an effort to emulate the features of Snapchat, to create an opportunity for users to share quickly-disappearing photos and videos. And again, because the focus here is on the visual, you’ll want to prevent distracting viewers from it with too much text.

According to Teen Vogue, Snapchat’s character limit is 80 per post, which is more than double its previous 31-character limit. And, if you’re looking for more guidance, just look to this particular app’s name, and remember the “snap” element of it — a word that implies brevity — and try not to ramble. Here’s a great example of how SXSW uses its captions efficiently:

7) YouTube

Here we have yet another network that’s focused on visual content, leading some to incorrectly assume that accompanying text — like titles and descriptions — don’t matter as much.

That’s not entirely false — as a video-hosting platform, YouTube should primarily be used to showcase a brand’s quality videos. However, like any other visual content, it needs context. People need to know what they’re watching, who it’s from, and why it matters.

Unfortunately, YouTube doesn’t appear to provide any specific parameters over its character counts — except for your channel description, which according to the official help site is limited to 1,000 characters. But other than that, it seems that the only guideline available is the alert display that lets you know, “Your [title or description] is too long,” if you’ve entered too much text in either of those fields.

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 2.57.09 PM-1.png

In this case, we would advise taking the same approach as adding text to support your visuals on Instagram and Snapchat. Like the former, a video’s description is cut off after the first line or two, so frontload the most important descriptors and CTAs, leaving extra details for the end.

Show Your Character

As you set out to determine the length of your text, regardless of the platform, remember to do so with the user in mind. Many of these channel-mandated character limits are established for that reason — to keep audiences from getting bored or overwhelmed.

Like anything else in marketing, however, it’s never an exact science, despite the best data. We encourage you to follow these guidelines, but don’t be afraid to experiment if they don’t always work. Test different amounts of text within your various channels, and keep track of how each post performs. From there, you can make decisions about which types of content, as well as its accompanying titles and descriptions, are the most well-received from your audience.

How do you approach text with different online channels? Let us know in the comments.

This post was originally published in January 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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Apr

26

2017

6 Business Challenges Every Small Business Struggles With (And How to Fix Them)

Published by in category Business, Daily | Comments are closed

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In the first few years of business, small companies come up against a lot of different challenges. Some are harder than others to overcome — and according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 20% of small businesses fail by the end of their first year. By the end of their fifth year, 50% go under; and by the tenth year, that number rises to 80%.

With survival rates like that, it’s easy to understand why folks face the first few years of business with trepidation. But in fact, many common business problems and challenges are actually fixable, from difficulty finding customers, generating leads, and building an email list, all the way to hiring the right people and balancing quality and growth. Many times, you’ll find you need to take a step back, take the time to understand the pain points you’re feeling, and re-think your strategy.

Here are six challenges every small business faces, along with some tactical advice about how to fix them. (And if one of the challenges you’re facing is growing your email lists and generating leads, then be sure to save your seat for our live workshop that’s taking place on Thursday, April 27 at 1:00 P.M. EST.)

6 Small Business Problems & How to Fix Them

1) Finding Customers

This first one isn’t just a small business problem. The marketers at well-known companies like Apple and Toyota and McDonald’s don’t just sit around waiting for the leads to come in: Even the biggest, most successful companies have people working hard every single day to find new customers.

But for small businesses that aren’t a household name, finding customers can be particularly difficult. For example, there seem to be so many channels you can choose to focus on … how do you know what to prioritize and where to allocate resources?

How to Fix It:

Finding customers starts with figuring how who your ideal customer actually is. Spraying and praying doesn’t work for anybody — you need to make sure you’re spreading the word to the right people.

Craft an idea of what your target customers look like, what they do, where they spend time online by building your buyer personas. (Here are some free buyer persona templates to get you started.) Creating very specific ones can dramatically improve your business results. Once you’ve built your buyer personas, you can start creating content and getting in front of your target customers in the places they spend time online and with the messages that they care about.

2) Hiring Talented People

Hiring is often one of the biggest challenges for small businesses, especially since small business executives tend to feel under-resourced to begin with. Hiring new employees is a big deal and a complex process, and the cost of onboarding is an average of over $4,000 per new employee for most companies. And if you don’t hire well, employee turnover can be very, very expensive.

But, as CEO of 2020 On-site Optometry Howard Bernstein said in our panel on how to start a business, it’s impossible to know everything yourself. That’s why finding and hiring the right people — and the people who are really excited about what you’re doing — matters.

How to Fix It:

It’s easy to hire with a short-term mindset: send out a job description, screen applicants, and make a decision. But because of the high costs of hiring right, it’s important to invest a significant amount of time in the hiring process. Don’t settle for good employees when you can find great ones, even if it takes longer. It’s the great employees that will help your company get to the next level.

Just like you create buyer personas for your customers, create candidate personas for your job candidates. Your personas should be different for each new role that you’re hiring for, but will share some underlying traits around company culture.

Next, take ownership of attracting candidates to your company’s brand and make them interested in learning more. This will help you build a recruiting pipeline that will give hiring the same predictability as sales. Then, turn those leads into applicants.

3) Spreading Brand Awareness

It can sometimes seem like today’s biggest brands seemed to have popped up out of nowhere. How did they become a household name? How did they grow that quickly? Can your business grow like that, too?

Of course, most of these companies’ hard work, failures, and rejections happened behind the scenes. But there are strategies for spreading the word about your brand and building a great reputation that you can start right away.

How to Fix It:

There are many ways to spread brand awareness, but the three I’ll touch on here are PR, co-marketing, and blogging.

  • PR: Public relations is less about paying for a spot in a news blog, and more about focusing your voice and finding your place in the market. I recommend reading this great post from FirstRound Capital on what startups and small businesses often get wrong about PR, which also includes some great, tactical tips on how to figure out who’s covering your industry, building relationships, and working with reporters. You can also download our free public relations kit to learn how to maximize your public relations efforts with inbound marketing and social media.
  • Co-marketing: Partnering with another brand will help you inherit some of their image and reputation and create brand evangelists outside your circle. It’s a fantastic way to gain a large volume of new contacts alongside your organic marketing efforts. You can read our ebook on how to get started with co-marketing for more helpful information.
  • Blogging: Running a consistently high-quality blog will also help you build brand awareness. Not only does a blog help drive traffic to your website and convert that traffic into leads, but it also helps you establish authority in your industry and trust among your prospects. Many people find out about HubSpot because of our blog posts. It’ll also help you build an email list, which brings us to our next point …

4) Building an Email List

As if it isn’t hard enough to build an email list, did you know your email marketing database degrades by about 22.5% every year? That means you have to increase your email list by almost a quarter to just maintain it, never mind grow it. It’s the marketing team’s job to find ways to constantly add fresh, new email contacts to your lists.

But what many people call “building an email list” is actually buying an email list — and buying an email list is never a good idea. I repeat: Never a good idea. Not only will your email deliverability and IP reputation be harmed, but it’s also a waste of money. If your current strategy is to buy or rent email lists, then it’s time to regroup and find better places to put those resources.

How to Fix It:

Instead of buying or renting lists, build opt-in email lists. An opt-in email list is made up of subscribers who voluntarily give you their email address so you can send them emails. One great way to build an opt-in list is by creating great blog content and making it easy for people to subscribe — which, at the same time, will help you increase your online presence, build up search authority, and create evangelists from your content.

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[Example of a subscribe CTA on Help Scout’s blog.]

You can also revive older lists that you think are mostly decayed by creating an engaging opt-in message and sending it to your old list encouraging contacts who wish to re-opt-in and promising to remove all contacts who don’t respond.

To learn more strategies and tips, register here for our live workshop on growing your email subscribers.

5) Lead Generation

Another problem most small businesses share is lead generation — specifically, generating enough leads to keep the sales team happy. If that sounds like you, you’re not alone: Only 1 in 10 marketers feel their lead generation campaigns are effective.

But generating leads that are both high quantity and high quality is a marketing team’s most important objective. A successful lead generation engine is what turns website visitors into prospective customers and keeps the funnel full of sales prospects while you sleep.

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[Lead generation is part of the “convert” stage of the inbound methodology.]

How to Fix It:

To make the lead generation process work for your business, you need to first optimize your existing website for leads. Your website is the most important tool you have for turning prospects into customers. Look through your website and ask yourself:

  • Do each of your webpages clearly guide visitors to take action, or do they leave them wondering what to do next?
  • Do you use a tool that automatically pulls the submissions from your forms and puts them into your contact database, like HubSpot’s free lead generation tool?
  • Are you creating custom landing pages for every single campaign that you run?
  • Do you have lead generation CTAs on each of your blog posts? (Do you have a blog at all?)

Prioritize the most popular pages on your website first. Most businesses have a few, specific pages that bring in the majority of their traffic — often the homepage, “About” page, “Contact Us” page, and maybe one or two of your most popular blog posts. Read this blog post to learn how to figure out which pages to prioritize, and how to optimize them.

Finally, be sure to take advantage of free lead management software. Affording marketing in general is a big challenge in and of itself, so finding and implementing the most robust free marketing tools can be a game changer. HubSpot Marketing Free, for example, has features like a form-scraping tool that scrapes any pre-existing forms you have on your website and adds those contacts to your existing contact database. It also lets you new pop-ups, hello bars, or slide-ins — called “lead flows” — that’ll help you turn website visitors into leads immediately.

6) Balancing Quality and Growth

“There’s this mix of building scalability early, versus doing what you have to do to get it all done,” Nick Rellas, co-founder and CEO of Drizly, told our panel of startup executives about starting his own business.

This is a tricky one, especially since every situation is different. You’ll see this problem arise in all areas of business: in product development, in marketing and content creation, in hiring, and so on. For example, many business executives will push growth at all costs. But if you grow your company too quickly, you’ll find yourself having to hire quickly. This can overwhelm your experienced team members because it takes a while to train people. And if you don’t train people well, it can end up backfiring.

How to Fix It:

Unfortunately, there’s no perfect answer here. “Depending where you are in your business’ lifecycle,” says Rellas, “the scale will tip one way or the other, but I do think you need both at different times.”

What it comes down to is not obsessing over every detail, but obsessing over the right details. Obsessing over product perfection, for example, might not be as important as obsessing over customer service. It’s better to put your fears aside and launch a product that isn’t perfect because you can always update and improve it. After all, once your products are in the hands of your customers, you can learn much more quickly what’s working and what isn’t.

Obsessing over customer service, however, is worth the extra effort. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos puts it well in his 2016 letter to shareholders: “There are many ways to center a business. You can be competitor focused, you can be product focused, you can be technology focused, you can be business model focused, and there are more. But in my view, obsessive customer focus is by far the most protective of Day 1 vitality.” (“Day 1” is what he refers to as a period of growth and innovation, whereas “Day 2” is stasis, irrelevance, and slow demise.)

While these are just a few of the many business challenges facing small businesses every day, there are many others out there. Are there other challenges your small business is facing that you want to bring up? Share with us in the comments below — and don’t forget to share your ideas for solutions, too!

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Apr

26

2017

How We Grew Our Organic Traffic by 43% Without Publishing a Single New Blog Post

Published by in category Blogging, Daily, SEO | Comments are closed

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Today I’m going to show you how we boosted our organic traffic by 43% over a 3 month period.

The best part is, we did it without publishing any new content, spending any more money on marketing or adding any additional resources to our team.

We call the strategy, The Mission Week, and I will tell you exactly how we do it.

But First, a Little Story …

I am the founder of small business-focused job board called Proven.

In October of 2015, we made the difficult decision to completely forgo building a sales team and focus all our efforts instead on acquiring customers via content marketing and SEO.

We knew that given the price point of our product, it was not economically viable for us to have people make sales calls. We needed a lower cost solution to bringing in new customers.

This led us to seeking a content marketing and SEO strategy.

Like many companies new to blogging, we rushed into it full steam, cranking out tons of new posts. We started to realize that this was a doomed strategy. We had hundreds of posts, but were barely moving the needle on our overall traffic. We figured we could only get a traffic boost as long as we were creating new content.

In early 2016, we started to learn a lot more about content promotion and link building. This led to a number of content successes, like ranking in the top 5 on Google for the search term“job board”, but after a while, this growth started to tail off.

Our content promotion was unfocused, lacked clear goals, and as a result, great pieces of content were not ranking well.

Finally, this all changed when our amazing Director of Marketing, Caileen Kehayas, invented The Mission Week.

What is a Mission Week?

Our Mission Weeks consist of choosing one piece of content that’s under performing and everyone on the team focuses their promotional efforts only on this piece of content.

 We gamify the process by assigning points to different types of promotional activities.

 For example, sending an outreach email might get you 1 point, you can earn 2 points for broken link building and 5 points for writing a guest blog that links to the article. Each person must accumulate 20 points to complete their mission for the week.

Regardless of your role in our company, you can participate. If you aren’t comfortable writing articles, you can earn points through outreach emails, discovering linking opportunities or responding to relevant questions on Quora.

As part of the promotion, we will do minor content updates and perhaps update the title and meta tags of the article.

The weekly point goal is small enough that it doesn’t take up so much time that it becomes overwhelming. Team members can easily earn enough points without compromising their regular workloads. 

Involving everyone at Proven — even those outside of the marketing team — helps create more dynamic and diverse supporting content. We all have different backgrounds and skill sets, and everyone is focused on promoting the same piece of content. With everyone participating, it’s a great opportunity for team building across different departments.

A Mission Week Case Study

In January 2016 we published an article called How to Interview: The Definitive Guide. After being live for 10 months on our blog, it never cracked the top 10 for Google search results for any high value set of keywords.

We chose this article back in late October as our first Mission Week.

This article now ranks 5th on Google for “how to interview”, and has 49 backlinks from 27 domains.

Screen Shot 2017-04-24 at 12.57.52 PM.png

So, how did we do it?

Resource Link Building

Each participant was awarded 1 point for an outreach email sent to a site that was linking to similar content. Primarily, we use a resource link building strategy that I wrote about previously.

During this week, each person on the team sent an average of 18.5 outreach emails to sites linking to similar content.

To research 15 to 20 different possible sites and send them an email doesn’t take up too much of a person’s week. However, if someone was left doing all this outreach on their own, it becomes a huge tedious job that eats up a large portion of their week.

Guest Blogging

Each participant was awarded 5 points for writing an article that contained a link to this blog post.

During this week, our team produced 7 related articles that our Director of Marketing helped publish to different sites.

Again, writing one support piece is not too bad, but writing 7 is completely unreasonable for our small team.

Content Updates

We updated the title of the article to How to Interview Job Candidates (The Definitive Guide), because adding brackets to your title can help increase CTR on Google. We also updated the introduction and gave the design of the page a bit of a face lift.

All of these things help to improve CTR, bounce rate and dwell time, which are all ranking factors for Google.

Social Promotion

As part of the mission, we schedule promotion of the article on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+. We typically schedule up to 8 tweets for a single article, changing up the text and hashtags we use. If one tweet is performing really well, we will re-use it again and again on different days and different times.

Quora Answers

Each participant was awarded 2 points for finding and answering a relevant Quora question. Although these are no-follow links, it does help to create brand awareness, referral traffic, and authority in the industry.

During the week, we had one team member answer 5 questions on Quora.

Results

As mentioned, this article now ranks 5th on Google and went from delivering close to zero organic traffic to now being one of our top performing pieces.

We’ve seen consistent movement in our Google rankings for every subject of a Mission Week thus far. Following the same process outlined above, we did a Mission Week for this article about job ads.

We now rank 2nd on Google for ”job advertisements” ahead of industry giants like Indeed and CareerBuilder.

Organizing Our Missions

Each week, our marketing director chooses the article with the most SEO potential that is under performing.

She puts together a document outlining the following:

  • Article title
  • Article URL
  • The keywords we are targeting
  • Current rankings for those keywords
  • Suggestions for supporting article topics
  • Search suggestions for finding sites that may link to us

Separately, we track in a shared spreadsheet all the outreach emails we send so that we don’t accidentally email the same person. This is also good for historical reference because it’s sometimes worth revisiting and following up with any outreach emails that get sent.

Transforming The Way We Promote Content

Mission Weeks have completely transformed the way we actively promote our content. Prior to having the Mission Weeks, we used a lot of the same promotional strategies, but it was not focused and many team members didn’t have clearly defined weekly goals to work towards.

Now, every week, everyone knows exactly what they need to accomplish. Marketing, engineering, customer support and the executives of Proven all participate, driving towards the same goal of accumulating 20 points. We brag to one another over Slack when we complete our missions or land a new link, which is typically followed by a barrage of GIFs.

Not only has The Mission Week process grown our organic traffic, it’s increased our new customers significantly in a short period of time.

I strongly encourage you to give it a try. You can play with the point system and weekly goal based on the needs and resources of your company.

Would you consider running a Mission Week at your company? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Apr

26

2017

7 Steps to Documenting a Content Marketing Strategy That Works

Published by in category Daily, marketing agency | Comments are closed

I already know what you’re thinking. You saw the words content marketing and strategy together in the headline and thought, “Oh, cool, another article telling me how important it is to have and actually write down my strategy — just what I need.”

Don’t worry, that’s not what this is.

You already know that having and documenting your strategy is important because you’ve probably read the same reports and case studies that my team and I have read. But there’s a pretty big difference between knowing you should do something and knowing how to do it — which might explain why 89 percent of B2B marketers use content, yet only 37 percent have documented strategies.

The marketing team at Influence & Co. spent the last couple months of 2016 carefully researching, planning, and creating a content marketing strategy for this year. What follows is an exploration of exactly which elements our team determined a successful plan must include to drive results, empowering you to create your own documented content strategy.

How to Document Your Content Marketing Strategy

Part of what makes a documented strategy so powerful is that every person on your team — from your content creators to your senior-level directors and everyone in between — can see what, why, and how your company is communicating.

This alignment makes it easier to get buy-in, crowdsource content, and pull employees into the distribution process, and it makes your efforts stronger because it extends your reach beyond the marketing team.

For your strategy to be helpful to your whole company and not just your immediate marketing team members, it has to address a few major questions, like:

  • Why are we utilizing content marketing as a strategy?
  • Who are we trying to reach with our content?
  • What are we hoping to accomplish?
  • How does this fit into our overall marketing strategy?
  • How will we measure success?

If you start with these questions in mind, the actual pieces of your strategy should come easily. In fact, each of the following components of your strategy should help you clearly answer those questions, align your team, and hold you accountable. Here are seven key elements your content marketing strategy must include:

1) Overall Mission

Before you get too far into the weeds, ask yourself, “What’s the real reason we’re investing in content?” And if the answer is anything close to “Well, we just know we should be doing content,” stop immediately and spend more time thinking about why you’re making this critical, valuable, and time-consuming investment in the first place.

If you do have a well-thought-out answer, write it down. Are you preparing to use content so your marketing team can generate leads and attract new customers? Are you trying to build brand awareness and credibility?

No matter your reason for investing in content marketing, it needs to take a prominent place at the beginning of your strategy; that overall mission will guide the rest of your document and keep your team on track when it’s time to execute.

2) Target Audience Personas

You may have included some general ideas about your audience members when you outlined your mission, and while that’s a helpful place to start, it’s not nearly detailed enough to start creating content for them.

Before you craft any content or develop any distribution plan, you have to know who you’re trying to reach. You aren’t creating content for the general public, you’re creating it to attract specific individuals who can contribute to your company’s goals.

You need to research and create detailed audience personas. If your personas inform the content you create, your content will do a much better job of speaking to the exact audience you’re targeting.

3) Content Mix Plan

Once you know why you’re creating content and for whom, you can determine what type to create. Depending on what your marketing funnel looks like, you’ll need a couple different types: content that educates and engages prospects at the top of the funnel and encourages them to learn more, as well as content for the bottom of the funnel that answers very specific questions and addresses objections to working with you.

That content can take any number of forms, from guest-contributed articles on online publications to blog posts, white papers, email campaigns, sales enablement materials, and more. What’s especially important here is thinking through the variety of earned, owned, and paid media you’ll need to keep prospects moving through this funnel.

4) Content Creation Process

You could follow each of the above steps exactly and still fall flat on your face when it’s time to actually put pen to paper. Creating content of your own and turning your company leaders into content creators takes time and effort.

So before you dig into executing your content plan, determine which processes, workflows, and resources make the most sense for your team. Perhaps taking advantage of content creation tools will make your job easier, or partnering with an agency to help may be a better solution.

5) Editorial Calendar

Consistency is key in content marketing. It’s your opportunity to build trust with your audience members, nurture them, and become a resource for them. Once you know what kinds of content you need to create, it’s time to develop a calendar or schedule to make sure you deliver.

Your editorial calendar should detail how often you need to publish to keep your audience engaged and when you’ll distribute your published pieces. Mapping out your target deadlines for different pieces will keep your process on track.

6) Distribution Plan

Distribution is all about getting your content to the right people at the right time. That can mean publishing articles in publications your target audience members are already reading, using a paid distribution plan on social to attract readers to your white paper, or simply including your content in your email newsletters.

Your distribution plan should be part of your documented strategy because knowing where and how you plan to distribute your content informs the type of content you create, how often you do it, and which processes you utilize. It’s a key part of your content marketing strategy, so don’t start executing the strategy until you’ve thought it through.

7) ROI Calculator

Remember when you identified your overall mission at the beginning of this document? You need to identify from the beginning how you’re going to measure success with this campaign, and now’s your chance to match metrics to your goals to gauge how well your content is helping to achieve that mission.

Set some benchmarks you want to hit concerning traffic to your website, leads generated, or opportunities created through content, and set up a plan for tracking this using anything from your own modest spreadsheets to a robust software package.

If this documented strategy seems like a lot, that’s because it is. Nobody said that content marketing was simple, but it’s well worth the investment, especially when you set yourself up for success. And with these seven must-have elements detailed in your documented content strategy, your team will be off to a fantastic start.

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Apr

25

2017

8 How-To Videos We Love (and Why)

Published by in category Daily, Social Media, Video | Comments are closed

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Have you ever learned how to do something with the help of an internet search?

The answer is most likely a resounding “yes.” Most recently, I taught myself how to fold a fitted sheet with a helpful video from homemaker extraordinaire and friend of Snoop Dogg Martha Stewart.

Videos are an especially compelling way to learn how to do something online because, well, the video shows you exactly how to do it. I’m not alone here, either — 4X as many customers would prefer to watch a video about a product, rather than read about it. So if you’re among the many marketers producing more video content this year, there could be a lot of value in making videos specifically for those in your audience who are trying to learn how to do something, too.

In this post, we’ll explore just how popular these searches are on YouTube and what you can learn from eight how-to videos about how to make great teaching videos of your own.

How-To Video Searches Are Popular

How-to searches are incredibly popular. Think about just in your own life for a moment, and reconsider my question at the beginning of this blog post.

As it turns out, 91% of smartphone users consult their various devices seeking help completing a task. But these searches aren’t all happening on Google. People are searching for videos to learn how to do things on YouTube.

According to Think With Google, how-to searches are increasing 70% year-over-year on YouTube, and more than 100 million hours of how-to videos were watched in North America alone in recent years.

8 How-To Videos on YouTube to Learn From

1) How to Fold a Fitted Sheet

You may recognize the title of this how-to video — it’s the one I mentioned earlier in this very blog post. Are you always gets stymied when putting away fitted sheets on laundry day like me?

What I love about this video is how it showcases personality. It’s a simple how-to video of humans demonstrating how to do something, without any animations or high tech features, but it’s still extremely effective at teaching the viewer. Stewart and her guests make jokes about how hard it is to fold the sheet — Stewart even joking that her inability to do so led to her divorce — and they show the viewer how easy it is to get tripped up in the process. Stewart and her guests also have empathy for the viewer and show exactly how to avoid pitfalls along the way.

Takeaway for marketers: If you want to create a how-to video “hosted” by a real, live human, make sure they act like a human. Videos are an easy way for brands to showcase personality, so put yourself in the shoes of your viewer, and infuse humor, sincerity, and empathy into your instructions. If the concept you’re explaining is complicated, tell the viewer that. If you had no idea how to use your product at first, share that. Speaking like a human — instead of reading off a script like a robot — will make your video memorable, effective, and enjoyable, too.

2) How to Cook Perfect Pasta

Tasty on BuzzFeed shares cooking and recipe videos that frequently go viral on YouTube and other social media and reach millions of people every month. But this video isn’t one of Tasty’s trademark recipe videos — it’s one of several how-to videos that break down common or difficult cooking skills step-by-step. 

In this video, Tasty uses hyperlapse to speed up the cooking demonstration and get the viewer the information they need as quickly as possible. This fast-paced filming style is eye-catching if it starts auto-playing in a social media feed, too. Tasty chose a smart how-to search term, too — there’s a ton of search volume around the phrase “how to cook pasta.”

Takeaway for marketers: Viewers prefer YouTube videos on the shorter side, so sped-up hyperlapse filming helps conserve time and creates a neat visual effect. Work backward and conduct keyword research to learn what terms your audience is searching for to find a topic to make your video about.

3) How to Escape Quicksand

Evidently, Princess Buttercup’s tragic fall into quicksand in The Princess Bride wouldn’t have been quite as terrifying in real life.

In this how-to video, Tech Insider uses captions and animations to break down a complicated concept. I wasn’t exactly searching for information on how to escape quicksand when I found this video, but the unique subject matter made me instantly click, intrigued. What’s more, the sound isn’t required — although it does add dramatic effect — which might make people more likely to click and watch all the way through, since many social media videos are watched on mute.

Takeaway for marketers: Your how-to videos don’t necessarily need to be about a dry topic related to your industry. If you create a fascinating piece of content that goes viral, you’ll generate interest in your brand that way. Animations and captions help to show — rather than explain — trickier concepts like quicksand, so consider these visual elements for high-level explanations. And if there’s a way to make your videos volume-agnostic, do so. Some videos will require narration or other sounds, but the visual elements mentioned previously could do the talking for you.

4) How to Blow Out Curly Hair

Anyone who’s ever gotten a blowout knows that it can be expensive and time-consuming to have it professionally done.

So Bustle cleverly made a how-to video that teaches viewers how to DIY and save money — a motivating factor behind many how-to online searches, I suspect. This video is also short, which MiniMatters suggests for enticing viewers to watch videos all the way through. YouTube counts a view as once a video has been watched for approximately 30 seconds, so viewers with short attention spans might be more likely to stick around for that long if they see a video is shorter, like this one.

Takeaway for marketers: Almost everybody wants to save money where they can, so think about ways your how-to video could help viewers do that when brainstorming topics. When filming, try to keep videos as short as possible to attract viewers and keep them watching all the way through to steadily increase your number of YouTube views.

5) How to Add a Friend to a Group

In this short and sweet how-to demonstration video, Facebook infuses humor to provide context for the topic it unpacks. It gives the viewer a chuckle, and research shows that content that elicits strong positive feelings makes the material more memorable and sticky.

Takeaway for marketers: Don’t be afraid to be humorous and silly in your videos — even if it’s a little dorky, like in this example. It helps place the lesson your video teaches in context for your viewer and shows off the more personable side of your brand.

6) How to Asana: Planning with Asana calendar

Asana cleverly brands its how-to video series as “How to Asana,” and all of the videos in the series feature a consistent theme. All of the videos in this series are under two minutes in length, are hosted by the same person, and feature an eye-popping yellow background. The meat of the video consists of a screencast of someone using the Asana calendar tool, but these branding details bring life to what would otherwise be a rather boring video.

Takeaway for marketers: If you’re thinking about creating a how-to video series, take the extra time to make it memorable and recognizable. These efforts will make videos look more professional and will make viewers want to keep tuning in for more helpful videos if they know they can expect more.

7) How to Create an Animated GIF in Photoshop

Who else here loves GIFs? That’s right — everyone loves GIFs.

But before I watched the video above, I had no idea how easy it was to make my own. That’s the ideal reaction to a how-to video, by the way — “that was so easy.”

Adobe’s how-to video is a great example of a software demonstration video because it zooms in on only the necessary information. Instead of confusing the viewer by showing the entire Photoshop interface, the video features magnified animations of only the buttons and tools they need to accomplish the task at hand.

Takeaway for marketers: If you’re making a technology demonstration how-to video, consider how it will appear to any first-time product users watching. Try to minimize any confusion by only filming elements of the technology needed for your video so viewers can follow along on their devices.

8) How to Increase Your Facebook Reach and Outsmart the Algorithm

You might be hesitant to create videos to explain a complicated subject matter, but that could actually be the most effective medium to help your audience understand something.

In this video, my colleague Megan Conley breaks down the many nuances of Facebook’s News Feed algorithm in a clear and concise manner. Then, graphics, animations, and screencasts supplement what she talks about with data visualizations to make the stats and figures more memorable for the viewer. Finally, the video ends with helpful next steps viewers can take to solve the problem outlined in the video. The video isn’t about how to use HubSpot software at all — it’s only in the business of helping people get better results.

Takeaway for marketers: The most compelling how-to video might be one that doesn’t mention your product at all. Think about what questions your audience might be asking and establish your brand as a thought leader with helpful videos that don’t end with a sales pitch.

How to Make How-To Videos

Now that you have inspiration from real-life B2B and B2C brand videos, start thinking about how you could create helpful content for your audience.

Create buyer personas and use these to inform your strategy. What types of questions does your audience ask about your product? What questions do they ask about your industry? What problems does your product solve that you could demonstrate in a video? Use tools like Google Trends and HubSpot’s Keywords tool to learn more about the types of searches your audience is conducting and what content you could create to answer those questions.

What’s the best how-to video you’ve ever seen? Share with us in the comments below.

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Apr

25

2017

Is an MBA Worth the Money?

Published by in category Daily, Professional Development, Tactical | Comments are closed

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Here on the HubSpot Marketing Blog, I haven’t exactly made it a secret that I went to business school. It was an experience that provided two years’ worth of fodder, lessons learned, and other actionables that I like to share here.

But there’s one question I have yet to answer, at least in this venue, about the time spent earning my MBA: Was it worth it?

It’s a question I considered even before I began applying to different business schools, and one in which I’m certainly not alone. When I asked my colleagues if any of them had experienced the great “Should I get my MBA?” debate, there was a clamor of responses. Many of us — all marketing professionals — had experienced the same decision-making process, which made us realize how many other marketers out there must be going through the same thing. Download our free SEO ebook here for more tips from experts on increasing  your search rankings. 

While the topic seems to be eternally up for debate, we agree that there are instances when people should, in fact, go for an MBA — but it’s important to have a clear idea of what those circumstances are, and if they really apply to you. And if they don’t, fear not: There are alternatives. We’ve outlined the factors that do make an MBA worth the investment — and the other things you can do until that day arrives.

When an MBA Is Worth the Money

1) When you know exactly what you want out of it.

Before I began studying for the GMAT — the required admission exam for most MBA programs — I spent about five years deciding whether or not to apply to business school. I had a lot of questions, many of which were shared by my colleague, Mimi An, when she was faced with the same decision. For her, she told me:

The biggest things to consider were if I was at a place where I couldn’t progress further in my career, if I wanted to change function or industry, if I wanted to move, and what exactly I wanted out of the degree. I couldn’t answer the last question. In fact, the answer was ‘no’ to most of my questions. I could still progress. I did not want to change function. I did not want to move. I didn’t know what I expected to get out of it.”

According to Investopedia, the average cost of an MBA is $140,000 — and $260,000 if you’re not working or earning any income while you’re in school. Think of it this way: Would you spend that much on a luxury car or new condo if you weren’t sure why you were buying it? That’s a big chunk of change to spend on something that you aren’t certain is going to benefit you in some way.

Of course, for many people, the answer to those questions is overwhelmingly “yes” — in fact, they were for me. At the time, I wasn’t progressing in my career and I wanted to move, which are two fundamental reasons why I ultimately made the decision to go to business school. But not everyone will have the same responses to those important questions, nor do they come easily to anyone — so be sure to put sufficient time into them.

2) When your work isn’t teaching you what you need to grow.

There’s an important point that An made in her quote above — how much room for growth you have in your current career trajectory, whether that means you’re able to progress in your current job, or do it elsewhere.

If you’re not getting the right learning opportunities in your current workplace, but you’re also short on some of the skills to progress in another role or company, it might be time to think about getting an advanced degree. It’s what Jim O’Neill, HubSpot’s chief information officer, realized early in his career here, when he was also considering leaving to pursue an MBA.

“I couldn’t get it out of my head that I’d be giving up more by leaving the company at that stage than I’d ever be able to learn in business school,” he said. “And while I still might want a graduate degree someday, I was lucky to stay, learn, and grow over the following six years.”

But again — everyone’s experience is different. When O’Neill was contemplating this decision, HubSpot happened to be scaling up, which forced him to learn a lot of crucial business lessons as a byproduct of being in the throes of a company’s earliest stages. Not everyone will be in that same position, and some people will have to seek the lessons O’Neill learned elsewhere.

Depending on the program you choose, an MBA could be the best place to gain this knowledge. So when you’re making this decision, carefully evaluate where you are in your career, and how much you can learn on your current trajectory without an advanced degree.

3) When you actually have the time to dedicate to it.

During my first semester of business school, I was working full-time while also completing my coursework. Granted, most of my classes were at night, which on the surface seems like a convenient arrangement. But as any student will tell you, your academic work extends far beyond the hours you spend in the classroom. There are exams to study for, papers to write, and group projects to complete.

In other words, if you add that to your current professional workload — your nights and weekends are pretty much toast. At least, that was my experience.

That may seem like a sacrifice you’re willing to make, but think about it, in the context of the previous points. Even if you’re certain of your reasons for pursuing an MBA, do you really have the time to dedicate to it? Will you also be able to sufficiently take care of yourself, and spend enough time with loved ones to maintain a measurable level of mental health?

It’s easy to think that the answers to those questions are “yes” — in fact, I told myself that I would have plenty of time to work out between classes or before work in the morning, and to cook healthy meals ahead of time on the weekends. And while that was sometimes true, it required extremely strict time management, and left precious little time to actually relax.

My colleague, Karla Cook — who’s working full-time while pursuing her master’s degree — agrees. “I tell people the only reason they should work full-time while pursuing a graduate degree is if they get offered an opportunity that falls in the ‘dream job’ category,” she explains. “If that’s not the case, then it’s probably not worth completely killing yourself over, because you will have no free time.”

But the good news is, it’s temporary. Business school doesn’t last forever — though it might seem like that while you’re going through it. But before you seriously consider going through this kind of program, have a clear idea of what’s going to make it “worth it” to you. Having that goal in mind gives you something tangible to keep you motivated during these stressful periods.

4) … And when you have the money saved.

They say that “time is money” — and just as you must be sure you’re willing to sacrifice the former, you also have to make certain that you have the latter. Remember those aforementioned dollar figures we cited about the true cost of an MBA? File this point under deciding what will make the degree “worth it,” with “it” being the hundreds of thousands of dollars that your degree will likely cost.

When you’re deciding whether or not to go to business school, ask yourself if you can afford to take on student loan debt. If you’ve just bought a house, paid for a wedding, expanded your family, or bought a car — the answer might be “no,” unless you happen to have a lot of liquid funds at your disposal.

That said, loans aren’t the only answer. You should also see what other resources might be available to you, like scholarships or fellowships, some of which might even be available through the school you end up attending.

When you begin selecting which programs you’ll apply to, explore their respective policies on merit-based financial aid — that’s the kind that you don’t usually have to repay. There are several guides to external merit scholarships available to MBA students, as well, like this one from GoGrad.org.

5) When the program’s career resources will actually help you.

At risk of sounding like a broken record, this point also speaks to the idea of what will make an MBA program “worth it.” Again, everyone’s priorities are different, but if you’re going to business school with the hope of advancing your career with a new employer, make sure the school you choose has the right resources to support your job search.

This factor is one that institutions know prospective students take seriously. In the Graduate Management Admission Council’s Alumni Perspectives Survey Report 2017, 91% of respondents indicated that they found their MBAs to be “professionally rewarding,” and many schools feel a lot of pressure to uphold that significant figure for their own students. For that reason, many graduate students have found advertised career services to sometimes be a bit embellished. Cook echoes that sentiment, and says she’s come across many graduate programs that lack “any useful career benefits,” despite what they claim.

In my own MBA experience, those services weren’t exactly embellished, but they were removed from the university’s budget after I had committed to the program. That wasn’t entirely negative — experiences like those can teach some students crucial lessons on networking and other valuable job search skills. Evaluate the resources available to you through a very fine lens, and consider how much of a priority they are in selecting a business school.

6) When your employer will cover your tuition.

This one seems a bit obvious, but it requires some reading between the lines, so to speak. If your employer will reimburse your MBA tuition, it might seem like a proverbial no-brainer to take advantage of that benefit. But understand what will be required if you do.

First, understand that you’ll most likely have to pay taxes on any amount of reimbursement you receive over $5,250. Also, some employers require you to stay with the company for a certain amount of time upon completion of your degree as a condition of receiving this benefit. Once again — ask yourself what your reasons are for pursuing an MBA. If they include progressing your career in a new work environment, taking a route that requires you to stay with the same employer for at least two years after you graduate might not be the most optimal one.

You might notice that many of these considerations work in tandem. For example, the point above about tuition reimbursement from your employer could be countered by having enough money saved to invest in the degree yourself, or being in a position to use student loans. That’s why we encourage you to spend ample time thinking about all of these factors — getting an MBA isn’t a minor decision.

When an MBA Is Not Worth the Money

1) When you should get a different degree.

Maybe — just maybe — you’ve decided against getting an MBA because it’s simply not the right degree for your career trajectory, or for what you’re hoping to do. If you’re looking to specialize in corporate communications, for example, it might be worthwhile to look into graduate programs that specialize in it, and have the catered career resources to support it.

That idea re-emphasizes the importance of knowing exactly what you’re hoping to gain from an MBA. When you outline your goals, compare them to the standard coursework required of an MBA, and see if they align. If not, it might be time to look into a different academic concentration.

2) When you can work for an emerging or early-stage business.

Remember O’Neill’s great story of how much he learned from sticking with a company that was scaling up — in lieu of pursuing an MBA? As we mentioned earlier, working with a company in its earliest stages often forces its employees, whether they like it or not, to learn a ton of business fundamentals.

In a valuable MBA program, you should learn such fundamentals as managing budgets, personnel, projects, and — when the company really begins to take off — scaling it to keep up with that growth. Sounds a lot like the type of thing that managers have to learn with a new, emerging business, doesn’t it? If that’s the type of work and knowledge you crave, it could be time to look for job opportunities with a company in these early stages.

3) When you can use individual courses to gain the skills you’re missing.

When I was in business school, I was fortunate enough to have some truly great professors. But I also learned something else — without naming names, I realized that while many academic instructors are experts in their respective fields, that doesn’t mean they excel when it comes to teaching.

That meant, for certain subjects, I sometimes had to seek outside resources to supplement classroom teachings — most notably, Khan Academy, an online provider of free classes and courses. I found out about it through a classmate in a particularly difficult class, and once I started using it for that particular topic, I saw how much knowledge the site has to offer.

And while I wasn’t about to abandon my MBA to self-teach via this resource alone, it did make me realize that, for individual areas and skills, sites like these can be a tremendous help to those who aren’t ready to pursue a full degree, but want to improve their professional credentials. And Khan Academy — despite offering a plethora of courses on subjects ranging from economics to art history — is hardly the only resource of this kind. Our favorites include Coursera, edX, HubSpot AcademyLynda, and Udemy. Even better, some of these sites, like Coursera, actually offer classes taught by faculty of some top-tier schools, including Stanford.

To B-School, or Not to B-School

Deciding whether or not to pursue your MBA is a pretty big decision — it can be a significant investment of both time and money. But, for many, it’s worth it. And now, you have a checklist to help make that decision just a little bit easier.

And as for me — the verdict is in. My MBA was worth it. In the thick of my coursework, I did sometimes question, “Why am I doing this?” Plus, I agree that there are many times when the investment just isn’t necessary. But in the end, I remain very happy with my decision to go to business school. I got to experience living in a new city, gain new skills, and figure out what I don’t want to do, which, to me, is a milestone in one’s career progression.

All in all, I think of it as a very productive use of my time — and I want it to be for you, too. You’ll make the right decision. But please, don’t make it in a hurry.

What are your thoughts on pursuing an MBA? Let us know in the comments.

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Apr

23

2017

#22: Lessons Learned Since Writing Jackrabbit Factor

Published by in category Uncategorized | Leave a Comment

I released the Jackrabbit Factor book in 2005, and then in 2006 the real life lessons began. What I’ve taken from those experiences has been amazing.  I’m grateful for every one of them, even though thinking right in the middle of it all was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life! … Continue reading #22: Lessons Learned Since Writing Jackrabbit Factor

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Apr

21

2017

Brain Typing & Skin Hearing: Everything You Need to Know About Facebook's 2017 F8 Conference

Published by in category Daily, Social Media | Comments are closed

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Since its launch in 2004, Facebook has been the leader of social media innovation and change. We’ve seen Facebook change the way we talk, text, share, and connect around the world.

Today, Facebook is no longer an option for marketers. Globally, almost 2 billion people use Facebook, and more than 1 billion people use Messenger. What’s more, over 1 billion users log onto Facebook every day. People go to Facebook for news and content consumption more than ever, and they use Facebook to connect with brands and publishers, as well as their friends and family.

Simply put, if you’re not using Facebook for advertising, video marketing, and content sharing, you’re behind the curve.

Each year since 2007, Facebook has hosted Facebook F8, its annual Developers Conference. This event is when Facebook typically announces new products and innovations marketers and developers can use to connect in different ways. In this post, we’ve rounded up some of the biggest announcements from F8 2017 and major themes marketers should pay attention to as Facebook continues to evolve.

What is F8?

F8 is the Facebook Developers Conference. F8 2017 was held on Tuesday, April 18th and Wednesday, April 19th, and it included numerous announcements about new products, new features, and future initiatives Facebook would be working on. Although it’s titled for developers, previous F8’s have included product announcements and demos that are meaningful for social media marketers, too. Facebook also announces changes to other platforms and products it owns during F8, most notably on Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

In previous years, Facebook used F8 to announce products and features as ubiquitous as the launch of Facebook Live, Messenger bots, Instant Articles, and the mobile Like button, among others. It’s hard to imagine Facebook without these things now, right?

Where is Facebook now?

For the purposes of this blog post, it’s valuable to quickly recap some of the major changes that have taken place since F8 2016 — because a lot has changed. If you’re caught up to speed, skip ahead to the latest announcements from F8 2017.

Facebook Journalism Project

In January 2017, Facebook launched the Facebook Journalism Project to identify and prevent the proliferation of fraudulent content (“fake news”) on the platform. Additionally, the Facebook Journalism Project entails Facebook creating more tools for media publishers to analyze content performance and continuing to improve Instant Articles.

News Feed

In June 2016, Facebook adjusted its algorithm to display content from users’ family and friends first in the News Feed — ahead of content from publishers and Pages. Publishers now have to think more creatively about how to generate engagement and reach on the platform.

Live Video

Facebook Live was announced at F8 2016, and since then, it’s exploded in popularity. In fact, Facebook learned that users were spending 3X more time watching Facebook Live videos than traditional videos, so it adjusted the News Feed algorithm again to give Facebook Live videos more News Feed real estate. Additionally, Facebook Pages can now broadcast live from desktop computers in addition to mobile devices.

Facebook also launched Instagram Live in November 2016. It’s different from Facebook Live in that live Instagram videos disappear once the broadcast ends. But like Facebook Live, Instagram pages that are broadcasting live get first priority at the top of the Instagram feed.

Ephemeral Messaging

Facebook has borrowed a significant amount of “inspiration” from Snapchat since F8 2016. Facebook has replicated Snapchat’s key feature — ephemeral, or disappearing, photos and videos — on Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger, and on Facebook itself. At the time of F8 2017, more people are using Instagram Stories than the entire Snapchat app, so it will be interesting to see the moves Facebook and Snapchat make to keep competing next.

Now that we’re all caught up to speed, let’s dive into some of the biggest announcements from F8 2017.

The Biggest Announcements from F8 2017

At the start of his keynote address, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg declared that the 10-year plan for Facebook was made up of three endeavors: augmented and virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and connectivity. Let’s dive into product announcements and future projections from F8 2017.

Augmented & Virtual Reality

One of Facebook’s biggest pushes at F8 was improvement upon reality with the help of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).

For those of you who might be confused on the difference (don’t worry, so were we):

Augmented reality is a real-world view superimposed with technologically-generated images, sounds, and other effects. Recent examples of augmented reality include Pokémon GO and Snapchat’s world lenses:

Virtual reality consists of digitally-simulated three-dimensional images that people can interact with by means of headsets and wearable sensors. Recent VR use cases include video gaming and experiential marketing.

Here’s how Facebook plans to invest in AR and VR in the coming year:

1) Camera Effects Platform

Facebook is taking its camera to the next level and creating the “first augmented reality platform.” Within the camera on Facebook and Messenger, users can already add filters, frames, drawings, and emojis, but Facebook wants to take it even further.

Frames Studio

The Facebook Frames Studio lets anyone design custom frames to surround their profile pictures or other pictures taken with the Facebook camera. You can create custom frames for events and communities or make public frames for anyone on Facebook to use. Here’s a draft of a frame I made featuring the HubSpot sprocket. It’s very basic (I’m a writer, not an artist), but you get the idea — you can add any art or effects to a frame that you’d like.

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AR Studio

The Facebook AR Studio helps create augmented reality elements Facebook users can incorporate into their photos and videos. Think 3-D images and responsive masks — Zuckerberg’s example was filling an office with 3-D Skittles. Developers can create different camera effects that respond to movement, geography, and surrounding objects. This feature is currently in beta, but developers can apply to start experimenting and creating now.

Check out a few examples:

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Source: Facebook AR Studio

2) Facebook Spaces

On the VR side of things, Facebook Spaces is a new virtual reality app where users can hang out with their friends — in full VR — with the help of the Oculus Rift VR headset. For now, it’s only launching in beta, but the idea is that users can interact with their friends in Facebook Spaces the same way they would in person. It goes to show you how heavily Facebook is investing in VR.

Discover how detailed and advanced some of the movements are in its explainer video here:

3) AR Glasses

They haven’t arrived yet, but during the second day of F8 2017, Facebook’s Chief Scientist of Oculus Research Michael Abrash said fully AR glasses were on the Facebook horizon. He envisioned glasses that improve vision and hearing, bolster intelligence, and are socially acceptable enough to become ubiquitous. So far, Google and Snap Inc. have created wearable glasses cameras — with varying degrees of success — so we’ll keep you posted on any Facebook glasses developments.

4) 360-Degree Camera

Facebook announced new Surround 360 technology that will allow users to film highly immersive 360-degree videos with “six degrees of freedom.” The circular camera allows videographers to rotate the camera viewfinder like a person’s head would to film in full 360-degree capabilities. Here’s what the two cameras look like:

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Source: Facebook

Below is our video recap from the first day at F8, featuring most of these AR and VR announcements:

Connectivity

In his opening keynote, Zuckerberg also prioritized Facebook’s commitment to helping the world connect online — by means of Facebook, of course. Facebook plans to do this with Terragraph technology; here’s the scoop.

6) Terragraph

Facebook is testing its Terragraph technology to increase data accessibility and transfer speeds around the world. It’s set new records in data transfer speeds and is testing a citywide mesh millimeter-wave data transfer system in San Jose, California. Technology like Terragraph helps more people get online with the help of their smartphones, so while there isn’t a direct takeaway for digital marketers here, it’s neat to see Facebook helping get more people online.

Artificial Intelligence

Facebook’s camera platform — for Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram — is now “AI-infused.” This means it can understand facial expressions, surroundings, and movement, as well as understand and annotate videos.

Facebook’s new Camera Effects Platform gives developers the tools to use AI for more creative photography and video recording. It’s also partnering with companies like Amazon and Microsoft to run AI algorithms on mobile phones.

Building 8

Building 8, Facebook’s research team dedicated to creating social-first consumer products, is working on silent speech communications projects that will let users type 100 words per minute — with their brains. (That’s 5X faster than the average smartphone user can type.) Building 8 is also creating hardware and software so users can hear information — with their skin.

These projects are still works in progress, but the announcements remind all of us that AI isn’t right around the corner — it’s now. Read more about how AI could change your job in a recent HubSpot Research report.

Messenger

Over 1.2 billion people use Facebook Messenger, but the platform isn’t just for humans. There are over 100,000 monthly active Messenger bots, and they’re changing the way businesses communicate with prospects and customers. Facebook reported at F8 that 2 billion messages are sent between people and businesses each month. To that end, it’s created new tools and features to make it easier for Messenger users and businesses to get in touch on the platform.

7) New Facebook Messenger Features

Below are some of the biggest Messenger announcements marketers should take note of. You’ll notice that most of these changes are designed around getting users to spend more time in Messenger:

  • A Discover tab on the Messenger home screen so users can easily search for bots that will point them in the right direction
  • Messenger Codes, which users can scan with the Messenger Camera to easily connect with businesses
  • Messenger’s AI assistant, M, can suggest ordering food from delivery.com when users are talking to friends and bring up getting dinner, for example. (Creepy, or delicious? Both?)
  • More bots for playing games
  • Smart Replies, which allow businesses to let bots automatically respond to frequently asked questions submitted via Messenger

Below is our video recap of the second day at F8, which centered heavily on these big announcements from Building 8:

Key Takeaways from F8 2017

Facebook vs. Snap Inc.

Facebook has been copying Snapchat features, and now it wants to take those features and do them bigger — and better — than its competitor. Coincidentally (or maybe not), Snapchat announced AR world lenses on the first day of F8. To me, the two cameras appear to be neck-in-neck in terms of capabilities. Facebook and its respective platforms claim significantly more users than Snapchat, so keep your eyes peeled for a race to innovate between these two social media titans.

All About AR, VR & AI

If you’re daunted by the idea of buying more equipment, taking more photos, and making even more videos, don’t rush to experiment with a bunch of new tools and technologies all at once. Start small — maybe by creating a custom frame in the Frames Studio — and add AR elements to photos you share on Facebook to see if your audience responds positively. If you can’t determine good use cases for experimenting with AR or VR, don’t waste your time and resources, but keep an eye out for events or settings in which these new technologies could be a good fit for your audience on Facebook.

No News for Publishers

Most conspicuous to me was the lack of mention of publishers on Facebook. It doesn’t appear that much is changing when it comes to the News Feed algorithm or Facebook Instant Articles anytime soon, which could be meaningful for marketers. It could be that Facebook will start prioritizing AR and VR visual content in the News Feed over links and status updates — much like how Facebook Live videos are now prioritized. As always, we’ll keep you posted on any algorithmic changes that could impact your organic Facebook performance.

Until next year …

We know this is a lot of information, and it isn’t immediately clear how, if at all, these innovations will change the way marketers use Facebook. When it comes to new technology and social media innovation, our advice is usually this: Experiment with any and all new technology. If your audience engages with it, keep going. If they ignore it, don’t try to force it.

In the meantime, we’ll keep you posted on more news from Facebook and our suggestions for how to keep tailoring your approach to Facebook marketing. And since F8 didn’t make much mention of Instagram, we wanted to launch a product of our own: We partnered with Shakr to create StoriesAds.com, where marketers can automatically create vertical videos tailored for the Instagram Stories platform. Try creating an engaging Instagram video — in under two minutes — today. No video skills required.

What were your impressions of F8 2017? Share with us in the comments below.

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Apr

20

2017

How to Overcome the Fear of Not Being Liked

Published by in category Uncategorized | Leave a Comment

I’ve spoken to a few audiences in my lifetime, and I’ve experienced that sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach as I’d anticipate standing in front of a room full of strangers, worrying about what they’d think of me and what I had to say. Sometimes I would feel the anxiety for days (or even weeks) before an event. Thank heavens … Continue reading How to Overcome the Fear of Not Being Liked

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Apr

20

2017

Where We Are: The 2017 State of Content Marketing [Infographic]

Published by in category Content Marketing, Daily, IGSS | Comments are closed

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“Less than 10% of those surveyed were definitely sure how to implement content marketing.”

Sound familiar?

If it does, you’re clearly not alone. Content marketing — and keeping up with it — can be confusing, even to those who understand its importance. Many of us have heard the phrase “content is king.” But what, exactly, does that look like here and now, in such a rapidly changing landscape? New Call-to-action

We grabbed that opening statistic from the helpful, intriguing infographic below, compiled by Zazzle, based on the results of its 2017 State of Content Marketing Survey of marketers in the UK. But instead of simply looking at the latest trends, it sought to examine the pain points and decision-making process of today’s content marketer. And if you’re in the business of making life easier for that audience — well, we suggest having a look.

Do you think the same trends hold true in your neck of the woods? Read on, and see where your current strategy and priorities align with the data illustrated here.



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Apr

20

2017

How to Launch a Virtual Conference for Lead Generation and Customer Acquisition: A Step-by-Step Guide

Published by in category Daily, event marketing, inbound sales, lead generation | Comments are closed

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When we say “virtual conference,” we don’t just mean webinars. We mean interactive, live panels and microsites dedicated to the single purpose of promoting one event with various sessions a person can “attend.”

Virtual conferences have become a more popular medium to develop and reach large audiences. From marketing to recruiting and sales to education, businesses in various industries have realized hosting online events are far cheaper than an in-person event — making it cheaper to build awareness around a brand.

We’re going to get into a lot, but by the end of this post, you’ll see the value in hosting a virtual conference and know how to organize and host your own event. You’ll have another medium to accelerate brand awareness, generate more leads, and develop authority as an industry leader.

I helped launch Inbound Sales Day here at HubSpot, and I’m here to teach you how it’s done. Continue reading to download my project management templates and emails I used to book speakers — all available for free.

Table of Contents

1) What is a virtual conference?
2) Why should you host a virtual conference?
3) A Virtual Conference by HubSpot
4) How to plan a virtual conference
Set the vision
Speaker outreach
Creation of assets
Promotion
Go Live
Analysis
5) Learning Lessons

How to Plan a Virtual Event

What is a virtual conference?

Imagine a conference. There are dozens of rooms, booths with vendors trying to sell you their product, and a lot of people walking around. You might run into some very influential leaders in your industry, and you expect to see people on stage sometime during the event. You’re excited to hear them share lessons and tips they’ve learned from their own experience and journey to success.

Now, imagine a similar experience — but without having to leave your desk.

You log into an “event” online, where you can meet and interact with people through messaging platforms. You go into “rooms” (aka web pages) where you can watch speakers present their knowledge in the form of a recorded video.

It’s a simple concept: Get the content you would receive at a conference on your own time, when it’s convenient for you. It aligns perfectly with the culture and popularity of on-demand services, such as:

Lyft: on-demand car rides

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Drizly: on-demand alcohol

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Soothe: on-demand massages

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Virtual conferences: on-demand quality content and insights about the industry.

Virtual events began in 1993, presented by Alan Saperstein and Randy Selman. They started by videotaping trade show exhibitors booths and attaching the video to HTML floor maps. These events have become more popular among marketers for their lower cost and effort to produce.

Here’s an example of an HTML floor map:

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Examples of virtual events include:

You might be thinking, “There’s no way these events were produced by a small team.”

That’s fair. But I can tell you that I coordinated and launched Inbound Sales Day, a full-day virtual event with over 10 hours of video that garnered over 15,000 registrations globally. And I did most of it by myself in only three months. For a comparison, the team that organizes HubSpot’s live INBOUND event has over 10 people involved in planning the event for the entire preceding year.

It’s possible to host and launch one of these things, even with a small team, but why should you host a virtual conference in the first place? Why not just host a physical event instead?

There are numerous benefits to hosting online events. Let’s dive in.

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Why should you host a virtual event?

Consider some of the reasons you’d host a conference, either virtual or in-person:

  • To grow awareness for your business — Depending on your market, there may already be competitors or other companies targeting the same target audience as you. You can use an an online conference as a means of partnering with those other companies.
  • To generate leads
  • To acquire new customers
  • To create a revenue stream from sponsorships. People host these conferences strictly as a revenue stream. (Curious how? Sam Parr explains how he made a profit from hosting Hustle Con.)
  • To build relationships with influencers

Below are expenses to consider for a physical event (based on a 400-person hosted by Hustle Con):

  • Venue ($5,000)
  • Vendors, i.e., caterer, bartender, decorator, photographer, videographer, etc. ($10,000)
  • Equipment rental ($2,000)
  • Licenses and permits (dependent on venue)
  • Transportation and parking for attendees and speakers (dependent on venue)
  • Service fees and gratuities ($1,000)
  • Speakers’ fees ($0 – $10,000+ per speaker)
  • Signage ($500)
  • Registration materials ($300)
  • Security and staff ($2000)

Even for a smaller event, that totals at least $20,000. Soon, you’re underwater and either hiring contractors or using half your team’s day to get all the little details right. To top it off, there always seem to be attendees or speakers who are an absolute nightmare to deal with.

I’m getting stressed just thinking about it.

For an online conference, a few weeks of work and a small budget are all that’s needed. In fact, all of the software I used to organize everything was free:

  • Trello for project management (check out my free template below)
  • Google Sheets to manage the assets (you’ll get a template of this, too)
  • YouTube to host videos
  • Dropbox to host files
  • Canva to create images

Plus, when you create assets for your event online, you continue reaping the benefits of long-tail keyword SEO and organic traffic from evergreen content for months to come.

Depending on your resources, you may want to hire freelancers to help you with asset creation or to run Facebook ads to get more awareness about your event.

In many cases, you end up cutting expenses dramatically by hosting an online event instead of an in-person conference. Let’s dive into how we decided HubSpot should host an online conference about inbound sales.

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A Virtual Conference by HubSpot

HubSpot revolutionized marketing in 2006 by introducing the concept of inbound marketing and telling the story of how marketing had changed. Since then, sales has also changed, and we’ve introduced the concept of inbound selling.

However, similar to when inbound marketing was a new concept in 2006, people needed to be educated about the concept of inbound selling.

We had various goals that overlapped with each other when thinking about hosting a virtual event:

  • Spread the message of inbound selling
  • Generate leads for our sales products
  • Develop authority in the sales industry
  • Promote the first sales-focused track at our INBOUND event

What better way to educate our audience and develop credibility around inbound selling than by hosting real experts to talk about it? Influencers already have an audience who will listen to them. They have their own methodologies and many of those ideas aligned perfectly with inbound selling.

By hosting a virtual conference, we were able to scale influencer marketing and associated the credibility of those influencers with the HubSpot brand.

Plus, with the changing landscape of content and more consumers preferring video content, this was an opportunity to develop high-quality video content we could continue to use.

Still interested in hosting your own online conference? I’m going to lay out all the steps I took to organize Inbound Sales Day that you can replicate for your own event. I’ll also give you the project management and email templates I created that kept me organized throughout the whole process.

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How to Plan and Execute A Virtual Conference

Before we jump into the planning, decide how you’re going to manage the project. I used a combination of Trello and spreadsheets to manage my work.

I laid out all activities in my project management Trello board, which gave me a bird’s-eye view of the timeline, what needed to be done at the moment, and what was coming up. This allowed me to catch situations where I would need to delegate work or ask for help ahead of time.

Get my Virtual Conference Project Management Trello Template here.

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All assets that were created (landing pages, emails sent, social posts, videos, etc.) were listed in the asset management spreadsheet. This way, I had access to every asset in one place without having to search for it.

The campaign was executed in six phases, which I’ll walk you through below:

  1. Set the vision
  2. Conduct speaker outreach
  3. Create assets
  4. Promote
  5. Launch
  6. Analyze

Phase 1: Set the vision

What do you want the event to look like? What topics do you want to cover? Who’s your audience? How many registrations do you expect? (Use this spreadsheet to help set those expectations.)

All of this will be important for your speaker outreach as those will be your selling points. If you can pinpoint your target audience (try the MakeMyPersona tool to help with that), you can find speakers who also want to reach that audience. If you have a set number of expected registrations, you can attract speakers with an idea of what their reach will be if they participate.

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Phase 2: Conduct speaker outreach

The most important step to producing a viable virtual conference is to get speakers in your industry. This will benefit you in two ways:

  1. You can build relationships with these industry experts
  2. You can associate your brand with these experts, making yours more credible

I highly recommend getting experts within your company to speak on the subject matter and promote the event by giving a talk or interviewing another expert so that your employees will come to be seen as trusted industry thought leaders.

My goal was to get on a video call with the potential speakers I emailed. A video call allows you to sell them on the idea and show them how excited you are.

Here’s the email template I used:

Invitation to Participate in [NAME OF VIRTUAL CONFERENCE]

Hi [NAME]!

[YOUR COMPANY] is launching [NAME OF VIRTUAL CONFERENCE], a virtual event for [#] [TYPE OF PEOPLE YOU’RE TARGETING] on [DATE] and we would love to have you as a featured speaker.

We’re inviting top experts in [INDUSTRY] to help [PROFESSIONALS] become more successful by providing actionable information about [BROAD OVERVIEW OF TOPICS].

I watched your talk on [TOPIC] and think you’d be a great fit for our audience.

If you’re interested in speaking, we have many speaking options available that can be flexible with your schedule. I’d love to discuss them with you on a quick call.

Let me know if you’re interested and we can schedule time this week or next to talk through the details.

For your convenience, here’s a link to my calendar so we can schedule time right away: [MEETINGS LINK]

Best,

[YOUR NAME]

Pro tip: If you’re a HubSpot customer, I recommend using the HubSpot Sales Meetings and Templates tools to make scheduling meetings really, really easy.

Once I got the meeting scheduled, I made sure to hit the following points for each conversation:

  1. Explain the event and why you’re doing it.
  2. Emphasize what the speaker would get out of participating. (We emphasized that we were aiming to reach over 10,000 salespeople and they would get their own landing page with links to their website and social profiles.)
  3. Tell them about other speakers you’ve booked to develop credibility around your event and that it’s something worth being a part of.
  4. If they’re interested, explain what we need from them right then and there: I asked for a rough title and outline of their talk, and the format they preferred (live Q&A, recorded interview, or recorded lecture-style video).

After the call, I immediately sent a follow-up email which:

  • Recapped the call included topic and format of their talk
  • Attached a speaker agreement form
  • Asked for their availability to schedule introduction to interviewer, recordings, and dry-runs
  • Listed specific deadlines of when everything is due

Here’s a template I used:

[NAME OF VIRTUAL CONFERENCE] Call Recap

Hi [NAME]!

I’m glad we got to connect today. We’re very excited that you’re going to join us for [CONFERENCE NAME]. Here’s a recap of what we discussed earlier — feel free to revise any of it.

  • Working session title: [SESSION TITLE]
  • Working session description: [DESCRIPTION]
  • Format: [FORMAT]
  • What I need from you by [DATE]:
    • Bio (max 200 words)
    • Preferred headshot
    • A page you want us to link to
    • A rough outline of your presentation

Again, it was great connecting today! Please let me know if you have any questions.

Hope you have a great week!

Best,

[YOUR NAME] 

A week later, I followed up again for all those items. Speakers are really busy, and it’ll take a few emails and calls to get those details from them. This is why I suggest you begin the process at least two months before your launch date.

Some speakers will ask for a packet with more details. You can use this template to create your own speaker packets.

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Phase 3: Create assets

On my Trello board, I laid out a timeline of when all assets were created and used the spreadsheet to keep track of them as they were created.

Get my asset management spreadsheet here.

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Landing Pages

Your landing page is going to be a selling point for your event to get speakers and attendees. Don’t expect to attract many of either if your page doesn’t look sharp.

Below you can see the homepage, agenda page, and session pages we created for Inbound Sales Day.

The homepage highlighted the benefits of attending and the various speakers we featured.

The agenda page shared more details about what topics will be discussed and the main takeaways of each talk. This gave viewers an opportunity to see who would be speaking and do their research or reach out to influencers before the event.

The session page is where the fun happened. Each video had its own landing page on the HubSpot domain so viewers wouldn’t have to leave our website to see the content. We had over two-dozen of these pages.

Landing Page Agenda Session Page

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Click the images to see the full versions

Video Hosting

I recommend using YouTube Live to broadcast live videos and to host all videos to take advantage of its video SEO. I then embedded all the videos on landing pages so people wouldn’t have to leave our website to watch the video.

Video Production

There were three different session formats which each required different preparatory measures. Here was my process for each format:

  • Live Q&A
  1. Speaker chose topic
  2. Researched their online material (blogs, videos, interviews) and created a Google Doc of canned questions
  3. Introduced the speaker to the employee who would host the session via email and set up a call to develop their rapport
  4. They reviewed the list of questions together and brainstorm more questions
  5. We prioritized top five canned questions to ask in case there were no live questions
  6. A week before the live session, get on a call with the speaker to do a final check-in (the meeting was hosted using a private YouTube Live session so they understood how to sign in)
  7. Live broadcast: Speaker was expected to sign into YouTube Live an hour ahead of time for audio and video check, review the talk points with HubSpot host, and build rapport for the session
  • Recorded Interview
    1. Speaker chose topic
    2. Researched their online material (blogs, videos, interviews) and created a Google Doc of canned questions
    3. Introduced the speaker to the employee who would host the session via email and set up a call to develop their rapport
    4. They would review the talk track outline and go back and forth about what topics the speaker would want to hit on
    5. We agreed on five questions that would be asked by the interviewer to guide the conversation
    6. Booked an hour with the speaker and interviewer which gave enough time for audio and video check, review talking points, and record at least twice (in case the first run was too rough
  • Recorded Lecture
    1. Speaker chose topic and provided outline of talk track
    2. Provided feedback on their outline based on what our sales audience is interested in (based on previous campaigns and blog performance)
    3. Two recording options:
    • Book an hour of their time to record the session via YouTube Live
    • They recorded on their own and sent the video

    Question Submission Form

    For live events, we created a Google Form for people to submit questions ahead of time. These questions were used to inform talking points for relevant sessions.

    Social Media Images

    The obvious goal for social media images is to make a person stop scrolling through their newsfeed and read what the event was about. We went with blinking GIFs that included photos of the speakers.

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    Phase 4: Promote

    As with content distribution in general, this was the most difficult part of the process. We leaned into speakers a lot and asked them to promote the event to their email list and on their blogs and social profiles.

    Speakers: Email, Blog & Social

    We asked each speaker to send an email to their list, write a blog post, and post on social media about the upcoming event. We made it as easy as possible for speakers to promote the event by creating speaker promotion packets, which provided pre-written emails, blog posts, social media copy, and images. All they had to do was copy and paste the text and insert the image.

    We also gave each speaker their own unique tracking URL (learn how to do it using HubSpot software) to use in promotional materials. This showed us how much interest each speaker drove and how many registrations they contributed.

    Don’t start a packet from scratch, get the free speaker promotion packet template.

    Blog Posts

    Brainstorm blog post topics based on the topics your speakers will discuss, and come up with a publishing cadence for your promotional posts. If you already have an editorial calendar, I’d suggest you avoid making every post promotion and instead periodically insert promotional posts.

    Social Posts

    I met with HubSpot’s Social Media team two months before the event launch to discuss the campaign and come up with a promotional cadence that made sense for each channel.

    I used this spreadsheet to organize all social media posts. I wrote most of the copy in bulk and scheduled the posts in batches as each date came up.

    Get my asset management spreadsheet template here.

    Your promotion strategy will vary depending on which channels you have access to. I sat with my team and brainstormed promotional tactics before deciding which were most viable. A few of those included:

    • Pop-up forms on highly trafficked site pages
    • Calls-to-action on the home page
    • Posts in relevant LinkedIn and Slack groups
    • Links to the event in sales reps’ email signatures

    Pro Tip: Use our free tool, Lead Flows, to easily build pop-ups on your website.

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    Phase 5: Launch

    The night before your launch, make sure:

    • All recorded videos were hosted on YouTube
    • Landing pages that hosted videos were tested
    • Reminder email to registrants have been scheduled so they remember to watch the videos
    • Emails are pre-scheduled to notify speakers to log into YouTube Live an hour before the broadcast time

    On the day of the event:

    • Monitor your social media hashtag if you have one
    • Keep an eye on your email if case people have trouble accessing the event

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    Phase 6: Analyze

    To prove that the virtual conference was worth the time and effort, do an analysis of the traffic and registrations you received, how many video views you got, and send a survey to your registrants.

    The best way to prove value is to tie it all back to revenue. How many qualified leads did you get, and what is the monetary value of a lead? How many new software signups did you get and what is the worth of each signup? How many new clients did you get and how much are they paying you?

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    Learning Lessons and Tips for Hosting A Virtual Conference

    As always, no matter how successful the event, things can always be better. Here are a few things I wish I had done differently that you can learn from.

    Align with your sales team.

    This event would’ve been great for sales enablement. Sales reps could use the conference as a piece of content to share with prospects and be helpful. It’s also good to let reps know about the event and how to talk about it in case prospects bring it up on a call.

    Get speakers with large audiences.

    This may be more difficult for your first event as you start developing credibility for your event, but get speakers with large audiences if you can. It’s even better if you can get them to commit to driving a certain number of registrations.

    Have a post-event plan.

    Ideally, you’re going to get a lot of registrations for the event. What are you going to do with them after the event? Have a communication plan for your registrants, whether it’s sending them content, telling them about your products or services, or asking for feedback. Don’t leave them hanging.

    Build anticipation before the event.

    How can you get registrants to share the event before it happens? Maybe a contest or giveaway? How can you get registrants to engage with speakers before the event?

    As more companies work to get a foothold in their industries and the marketing industry evolves to encompass more video content, virtual conferences will become more and more common. And as with any marketing tactic, as virtual conferences become more common the medium will become less effective.

    Host your first virtual conference now before your competitors and gain first-mover advantage. Good luck.

    Here are all the resources and templates I’ve shared throughout this post:

    Want to have a one-on-one conversation diving deeper into how you can host a virtual conference? Get in touch with me to have a quick conversation.

    Thanks to Kendrick Wang, Cambria Davies, and Scott Tousley for reviewing drafts of this post.

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