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May

25

2017

How to Leverage User-Generated Content in Your Marketing Strategy

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

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These days, the phrase “content is king” still holds true (to an extent). But the rules surrounding content production as well as our understanding of it as marketers has changed. No longer is it about having content in spades, it’s all about quality.

Having one great piece of content is always going to be better than 10 second-rate pieces that don’t add any value for readers. However, if you can consistently produce great content on a regular basis, that’s enough to dominate the online marketing realm.

Unfortunately, about 70% of marketers still lack an integrated or consistent content strategy, based on research from Altimeter. Creating great content is hard, and many marketers still don’t have sufficient knowledge or adequate resources to produce high-quality content on a regular basis. Some produce generic content, which is akin to replicating a cola brand. You’re not innovating and it’ll never be as good as Coke, in which case no one’s going to buy/drink it.

Let’s face it, most brands don’t have the resources or expertise to compete with larger, more established companies with bigger marketing budgets. So how can they create high quality content at scale?

Well, one great way is to crowdsource. No one knows your readers better than they know themselves, and you simply can’t compete with the collective knowledge of an entire audience.

In this article, we’ll focus on why brands should let their users help create value in content.

How to Leverage User-Generated Content

Owned Media vs. Earned Media

Source: The Keep-calm-o-matic

Different types of media can be utilized to improve your organization’s value creation initiatives. One type is “owned media.” This refers to the content that your organization has 100% control over, including your company’s official website, company blogs, and your official social media pages.

Owned media may also come in the form of case studies, whitepapers, and ebooks. These types of media are not only controlled in terms of production, they’re also controlled in terms of distribution, because much of it is “gated”. The primary goal of owned media is to provide value to provide value through content marketing to generate and nurture leads.

Though there are many advantages to having complete control over your content, it doesn’t always work well to build trust with your audience because it isn’t “peer reviewed”. In some cases, owned media can also end up being over-technical, product-centric, and self-serving, hence the lack of appreciation from users. There’s only so much a brand can achieve if all their conversations and interactions are one-way.

The media type at the opposite end of the scale is “earned media.” Simply put, this refers to the media exposure earned by your brand through word-of-mouth. This exposure could stem from your own SEO efforts, high-quality content you publish that goes viral, great customer experience delivered, or pretty much anything else your brand does that compels individual users to create content with your brand’s name on it.

As the title suggests, “earned media” is the type of media or exposure your brand has earned by doing something positive or negative. These also come in various forms, including reviews and feedback, recommendations, press coverage, and articles, amongst others. The reason earned media works so well to build relationships is because it places users into your media channel, turning attention away from your brand and onto your audience.

In terms of building awareness and trust, earned media can be a gold mine. It helps build your community through social proof, and provides you with user-created value that leads to more opportunities for engagement. Not only does it facilitate improved ways to learn about your prospects/customers, it opens up a dialogue for two-way conversations so users can interact with your brand.

Oh yeah, it’s also free.

Benefits of User Generated Content

Why wait for people to start talking about your brand when you can create a channel for them to make themselves heard and facilitate User-Generated Content (UGC)? Every piece of content a user produces on your website or site’s outpost becomes branded UGC. Brands can provide a means for their users to collaborate with them via their website, forums, and social media platforms to power up these channels with activity.

For the users, they create UGC to express themselves and gain recognition. It’s a win-win situation, as brands greatly benefit from the buzz. Here are just some of the advantages for brands:

  • UGC helps brands understand their target audience better.
  • UGC improves site engagement and time spent on the website.
  • UGC increases customer satisfaction through conversations.
  • UGC provides means for other users to connect, which then, builds a stronger community.
  • UGC improves the brand’s search engine ranking and online visibility.
  • UGC is inherently peer-reviewed, making it more trustworthy.

More importantly, UGC creates a competitive advantage for brands that is inherently difficult to replicate because communities can’t just be copied.

Think about the power of sites like Wikipedia, whose moderators are crowdsourced users that help make the site better because they care about being part of an active community. Imagine how difficult/expensive this would have been to accomplish with owned or paid media. Now you see the power of user-created value.

Another great example would be the Inbound.org community, which has over 170k professional marketers who are happy to share their knowledge with other members. Everyone has their own opinions and experiences so this creates an unrivaled source of marketing expertise that makes the community extremely attractive for anyone looking to learn about sales/marketing.

Potential Challenges of Building a Community

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You can’t build an empire in a day. In today’s highly connected world, there are plenty of challenges brands face when trying to build an online community.

While UGC is definitely a cost-effective approach, one bad apple can ruin the bunch. The first problem with UGC is that since it comes directly from users, it can’t be controlled by the brand. This opens up areas for concern with trolling, negative comments and various legal compliance issues, just to mention a few.

As the name suggests, it’s the user that generates the content. Thus, it is their content and they can essentially create whatever they want, whether it’s good for your brand or not.

Which leads us to another challenge, how to maintain and moderate UGC. This is where the community manager comes in. He or she must be able to keep users engaged and set the tone for what themes, subjects and topics users should contribute towards. An experienced community manager should also know how to create content, handle PR issues and provide support to users.

Another challenge is the amount of time need to build a community. It’s not a one-time, big-time deal. Like in-house efforts, UGC requires resources, continued effort and time for it to work.

Some brands launch online communities that offer many features, which can lead to high development costs. For instance, some have extensive communications, search and analytics functions. These features can require huge amounts of resources to develop, all of which could potentially go to waste if the feature doesn’t get used or is fundamentally flawed.

Apart from the above, other potential issues include developing an authentic brand voice, respecting boundaries, keeping your community engaged, and policing content. Though this might seem a little daunting, I can assure you that the benefits of having an active community far outweigh the development and maintenance costs.

How to Encourage Users to Create Value

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At this point you’re probably asking “how do I get users to create value in the first place?”

First, you need to give them a reason to become part of your community. You need to make them WANT to be part of the “squad.” You can tap into their innate desire to belong to a community and help others or you can focus on the opportunity to learn from industry experts.

When a brand engages with their audience online, it sets an example and encourages other users to participate and join the conversation. This is highly evident on social media, especially on Facebook and Twitter where users can communicate with brands directly.

It’s important to know who your audience is at this point, so you can develop themes to ignite their interest. Much like producing owned media, you should first listen to your audience to find out what they’re interested in and what they’re concerned about. Then use this information about your audience to develop themes, topics and subjects that focus on their needs, wants and desires. The more user-centric your system is, the better it’ll work.

To help you along the way, here are the basic principles to creating an online community:

  • Encourage participation through incentivizing.
  • Set a standard for members to follow.
  • Think in terms of the collective.
  • Be honest and transparent with members.
  • Promote your community to attract new members.
  • Be persistent and contribute regularly to develop a voice.
  • Allow members to be independent.

The Power of Communities

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In its simplest form, members of a community help each other grow. Communities offer people support, encouragement and expert knowledge along with providing a sense of belongingness.

For brands, communities can be just as powerful. The stronger your community, the more likely it is that it will help you sustain your business. When it comes to establishing your brand as an industry leader and thought innovator, there’s not much that’s more compelling than having your own strong community.

Not convinced? Here’s the proof:

  • 86% of Fortune 500 companies report communities provide insights into customer needs (Sector Intelligence)
  • 71% of companies use customer collaborations for market research (Aberdeen)
  • 64% of companies state the brand community has improved their decision-making (Innsbruck University)
  • 53% of Americans who follow brands on social are more loyal to those brands (Convince & Convert)
  • 80% of brands say that their community building efforts have resulted in increased traffic (HubSpot)

Think about companies like Uber, Airbnb, Facebook, and Alibaba. The nature of their business models depend entirely on their communities. The larger they are, the more value they provide to individual members. But, keep in mind that these are extreme cases whereby the products are essentially the communities themselves.

Though many businesses won’t have the need or ability to create a community-centered website, they can always have a presence on social media and via blog comments, which can be just as beneficial. Online communities can help further showcase your brand’s products or services and attract new members to come aboard. Bottom line, you need to bring your community into your marketing.

Think of it as a channel for free marketing and PR. Now, who wouldn’t want that?

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May

12

2017

10 Content Curation Tools Every Marketer Needs

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

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“Curation” is one of those words that’s always conveyed coolness to me. Take, for example, the job of curating art for a gallery, or curating music for a soundtrack. Cool, right? Content curation is just as much fun — and just as important.

For the uninitiated, content curation consists of finding material relevant to your audience from a variety of sources, and sharing it strategically through your communication channels. For example, writing a roundup blog post of great marketing examples would require you to curate strong samples of content relevant to what you’re writing about. And while very cool, it can be tricky. There are many, many social networks, news feeds, emails, and infographics full of such content that can demand your time and attention.

That’s why the responsibility of content curation is important. Think of it as being a successful wedding DJ: Your selections can’t all be ad hoc and safe. After all, people can only hear Kool & The Gang’s “Celebration” so many times before the floor clears, and that sort of playlist isn’t personalized for your audience. But if you know your audience, you can accurately gauge the temperature of the room and have the confidence to give the people what they want.

Download our free guide here for more content marketing tips and hacks.

The same goes for content curation. Instead of just rounding up the most generally popular things on the web, pick the ones that are going to be the most relevant and interesting to your audience, and provide the context around them that makes your site a destination. Of course, we never said that was easy. Where do you find this content, anyway, especially given the information overload we opened with? Good news: We’re here to help you prioritize the resources by outlining some of our favorites below.

But First, What Makes A Successful Content Curator?

1) Content curation should be personal.

NextDraft

The beauty of news roundup NextDraft is the personal touch and context that its chief curator, Dave Pell, gives to each story. I don’t just want a bunch of browsable links — I want to know why I should read this stuff, and how it pertains to me. That personalized context creates a type of bond between curator and reader that something like simple link aggregators don’t humanize quite as much.

2) Content curation should build value.

Here’s a little secret: No matter which industry your customers are in, all of them want to stay informed, but also save time. Just like you, they have demands and can’t possibly keep up with all the latest news in their industry — but they want to. Helping to solve this problem through personalized content curation presents a huge opportunity for brands to build a relationship with their audience.

If you can deliver a curated experience that saves your customers time in getting the information they need, you’ve taken a major step on the path of building trust and loyalty.

3) Content curation should offset promotional content.

Customers can grow tired of brands ceaselessly promoting their own wares, which is why progressive brands think beyond products or features. The relationship customers have with brands today transcends the product itself — after all, that’s part of the foundation of inbound marketing. So while a product may initially attract you to a specific brand, it’s what the brand holistically offers after the purchase — like great content or remarkable service — that keeps you around.

For example, I own only one jacket from the brand Arc’teryx, and yet, I follow it on YouTube and Twitter, and receive its emails. Why? Because the company is doing more than pushing products on me. Rather, it’s also pushing content and an experience that brightens my day. Check out this film series, A Skier’s Journey, that the brand played a role in producing:

4) Content Curation Shouldn’t Take All Day

At last: We’ve arrived at our favorite tools for content curation. Thanks to a slew of websites and technologies, it’s never been easier to find the external information that will serve as a resource for your customers. But they need to be prioritized — so here’s our list, to help streamline your content curation efforts.

10 Content Curation Tools Every Marketer Needs

For Beginners

If you’re thinking, “Yeah, I occasionally share a relevant post with my customers when I find one,” congratulations — you’re curating content. Unfortunately, you’re not doing so on a sustainable scale that makes you a trusted source.

But don’t worry — there are better ways to curate content for beginners that are completely free. Here are three simple sources of information to help you start getting in the habit of curating content, without being overwhelmed by complex tools, subscription fees or convoluted dashboards.

1) Pocket

Pocket

Pocket is a great place to get into the habit of accruing content to save and share later. Instead of a laundry list of bookmarks or countless emails you’ve sent to yourself with links, it keeps all your interesting images, articles, and videos in one place for reference. You can group articles with tags, and the site’s built-in search functionality makes finding those articles easy. Plus, it integrates with over 500 other apps, like Evernote, for seamless integration.

And as a bonus, Pocket tweets out their @PocketHits for the most-saved articles on their platform — a must-follow if you’re active on Twitter. For other “read-it-later” apps like Pocket, check out Instapaper.

2) Twitter Lists

TwitterLists

Twitter can be a streaming mess if you don’t organize the accounts you follow. That’s where Twitter lists come in handy — curated groups of Twitter users that you can categorize and follow separately from the rest of your feed. Here’s one that I created, which I continually manage and update. Even better, if you create a Pocket account, you can easily save articles from Twitter directly into your account.

Click here to learn how to start your first Twitter list.

3) Newsletters

Newsletters serve as a fantastic daily reminder to get your content curation done. For example, I follow HubSpot on Twitter, but don’t always get a chance to see its tweets when I’m busy. Fortunately, HubSpot also offers an email subscription. That way, if I don’t catch something notable on social media, I’m likely to catch it on email.

Whatever industry you’re in, stay on the lookout for newsletter subscriptions. And if a good one doesn’t exist in your industry, that’s the perfect opportunity to create one. But before you start your own newsletter, learn from what other outlets are doing. Here are a few that are doing a great job in original content curation:

  • Redef: Jason Hirschhorn, one of the pioneers in social media and formerly the co-president of MySpace, has launched a site curating the best in media, sports, fashion, music and technology. Subscribe to one of Reder’s newsletters for a taste of one of the best in content curation.
  • Quartz Daily Brief: Quartz has figured out how to make a text-heavy newsletter a stalwart in the news business with its Daily Brief. The beauty of the newsletter, because it’s text-based, is the cross-platform functionality. Without heavy images, the Daily Brief loads quickly on phones, tablets, and desktops, making it easy to read on any device.
  • Internet Brunch: Digital agency Big Spaceship created Internet Brunch to help folks “find the best news, GIFs, and trends from across the Internet.” From holidays, to current events, to celebrity birthdays, this roundup is sure to cover the important stuff that helps readers stay in the loop.

For Intermediates

Here are some great sources for when you’ve got the basics covered — resources like newsletters, social media, and read-it-later apps. But you’re looking for something a little more comprehensive, and if you’re willing to pay for a subscription, these are the comprehensive, algorithmically generated digests of news, feeds, and content to check out.

4) Scoop.it

Pricing: Free – $67/month

Scoopit

I like to think of Scoop.it as a nexus of content curation and social media, with a Pinterest-like user interface. Start with a topic of interest, and Scoop.it will not only generate the most relevant articles to view and share, but also, will suggest complementary topics and other Scoop.it users to follow. The site sends a daily update of the topics you follow, too, to help you keep pace with the most relevant articles to share.

The free version allows you to monitor one topic for posting, on two social media accounts. For a more robust platform that follows multiple topics for sharing across all your social channels, you might want to look into the paid options.

5) Feedly

Pricing: Free – $18 per user, per month

Feedly

Feedly is a supercharged RSS Feed. Here, content curation takes two routes: There’s web browsing 1.0 which is essentially visiting one site at a time, copying a URL, and pasting it accordingly. Then, there’s the news aggregation route that’s powered by Feedly. By simply adding a few of your favorite sources to Feedly, you can aggregate and browse these feeds in one place from your desktop and mobile devices. You can find a visual tutorial here.

6) Storify

Free options available | Demo of paid products by request

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Storify helps makes sense of an increasingly overwhelming and noisy social web. The concept is simple: Users can search, browse or create stories from social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. From there, they can use that content to — as the name suggests — tell or follow a story.

At first glance, Storify’s comprehensive features and uses might be a bit confusing, so since it’s free to sign up for one version, it might be worthwhile to create an account and tinker around with it, to learn how it works.

7) Sniply

Pricing: $29 – $299/month

Sniply

Sniply is a conversion platform — by way of content curation. In a nutshell, it allows users to add a call-to-action to everything they share. “For example,” the site reads, “you can attach a button to the page that links to your own website, so that people can discover you while they read.”

It’s also a custom link shortener, so you can create branded links that are short enough to share on Twitter and the like. Here’s a quick video to show how it works:

For Advanced Users

Now we’re getting into some serious, enterprise-level curation software. These solutions work best for companies looking for a proven platform that’s capable of working with a team of users, editors, and content curators.

Enterprise-level curation provides users with advanced algorithms to find quantitatively relevant content for their audiences, a centralized publishing platform, and the ability to customize content, teams, and publishing channels.

8) Curata

Pricing information not available | Demos upon request here

Curata

The power of Curata lies in its ability to recommend and help users discover content relevant to their respective audiences, without a ton of human labor. Users can fine-tune, customize, and categorize content sources for review, and then distribute them, all from one central platform. The publishing and promotion allows you to repurpose curated content across your blog, social, newsletter, and automated marketing platforms.

9) PublishThis

Pricing information not available | Demo available by request

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Like Curata, PublishThis promotes the reliability of its algorithm to source relevant content for your audience–saving the time and headache that go with daily curation. It’s largely powered by what it calls Big Content, which is illustrated in this image below:  

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In addition to customizing curated content to specific audiences, PublishThis also helps users manage and distribute original content, as well as adding conversions. As noted above, pricing information isn’t made publicly available, but a demo can be requested here.

10) TrapIt

Pricing information not available | Demo available by request

Trapit

Trapit may have once been designed purely for content creation, but now, its capabilities have expanded into employee advocacy — tools that help employees “follow best practices” on social media, as well as helping internal leaders become established thought leaders — and social selling.

Of course, the content element still remains. Some of the major pillars of Trapit’s platform include the ability to discover, organize, personalize, and distribute content. That’s where the social selling comes in — it helps users prospect, network, and build relationships by sharing the information that’s going to be most relevant to their targeted audiences.

Which Tool Is Right For You?

Before you select the best tools for your business, it’s important to understand the role content curation will play in your marketing operations and the size of your team. If you’re a one-person marketing department, for example, the beginner and intermediate options should suffice for your needs. As your business and team grow, content curation may play a larger role and require more powerful software.

At that point, some of the advanced tools will help save time curating and getting everyone on the same page. Regardless of your team or business size, content curation should become a part of your content marketing strategy. Great curators build trust with their audiences and become an indispensable resource as they help to sift through online information to distribute what’s worth reading.

What curation tools have you found most helpful? Let us know in the comments.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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May

11

2017

Is Interactive Video the Next Big Thing? 3 Creative Examples from Brands

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

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It’s hardly a revelation to say that online video content is phenomenally popular. Millions of words have been written on the subject, and millions more will no doubt follow.

But one of the great things about marketers is that we’re always looking for what’s next. We know that it’s not enough to rest on our laurels, or rely on things that have worked in the past.

And when it comes to what’s next for video — I believe something is happening that we should all be feeling extremely excited about. Because, quite simply, it could enable us all to take video marketing to the next level all over again.

Is Interactive Video the Next Big Thing?

Limited Limitations

Some fairly obvious characteristics have made video the web’s most engaging media type when compared to text, images and combinations thereof. It’s the perfect blend of audio and visual elements, drilled down into bite-sized chunks that appeal to the modern viewers’ desire for immediate understanding.

But that’s not to say it’s quite the perfect storytelling device. It’s close, but falls down in one simple area: when it comes to interacting with video content, users have only really been able to play, pause, rewind and fast-forward.

Interactive video changes that. In a nutshell, this emerging technology combines video content with user input — allowing viewers to take a wide range of actions while watching video content.

They can click areas of the screen to define their own journey, answer questions, complete forms, buy products, download content and more — often without leaving the player window.

Interactive Video In Action

That’s a pretty broad definition and maybe not the easiest concept to visualize — so let’s take a look at some real-world examples.

We created the below example to explain the general idea behind interactive video and demonstrate a few possible use cases:

4 Interactive Video Examples from Brands

Now that we have a general understanding of what interactive video is and what it’s capable of, let’s take a look at some examples used by real brands.

1) Warner Bros | Focus

Ever seen the 2015 movie Focus starring Will Smith and Margot Robbie?  The guys at Warner Bros rolled out  a clever interactive video campaign to build awareness pre-release.

In the movie, Will Smith plays a con-artist — and the video lets the viewer make their own choices to see whether they have what it takes to pull off the perfect con.

Give it a shot and ask yourself: which would you be more likely to share with a friend? This gamified experience, or a traditional movie trailer?

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2) UK Resuscitation Council | Lifesaver

The next example was produced by the UK Resuscitation Council as an impactful way to educate viewers about safe, effective CPR. These are skills that we all hope we never need, but they could make the difference between life and death. It’s reported that CPR can double the chances of survival in cases of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.

Take a look at the video and just consider how much more impactful this campaign might be than a pamphlet or even a simple, linear instructional video. As the old proverb goes: “Tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I might remember, involve me and I’ll understand.”

Involving the viewer in the process of actually performing CPR in this way is much more visceral — and it certainly imprinted the basics of CPR on my own mind, in a way that I can’t imagine would be possible with other media types.

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3) Deloitte | Will You Fit Into Deloitte?

Another, more business-focused example would be this gamified recruitment experience for Deloitte. Broadly speaking, the campaign aims to educate potential recruits about the Deloitte culture while allowing the viewer to evaluate their own suitability to work within that culture.

Recruitment videos can be a little dry and boring, so this is a nice way to infuse things with a little fun without going too far off-message.

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Looking Ahead for Interactive Video

Like all new technology, interactive video might have started as a sort of “fringe” technology that seemed slightly intimidating, inaccessible and, most importantly, unaffordable. Now, that’s slowly changing. Costs are falling, businesses are getting inspired and the technology is increasingly available and accessible, even for SME’s and startups.

With all that said, adoption is far from widespread. Wyzowls state of video marketing survey 2017 suggests that, even among committed video marketers, adoption of interactive video is around the 24% mark. What’s interesting, though, is that 92% of those who’ve tried it, reported that they’ve found interactive video to be an effective tool for their business.

There are lots of exciting things happening in the world of video marketing — short-form, 360 and even VR — but interactive video might just be the most exciting of all. We can’t wait to see more brands serving up unique, interactive experiences to their customers as we all find out more about its potential for success.

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May

6

2017

A Brief History of Content Marketing, Back to the Future Edition [Infographic]

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

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If you ask us, there are three things that we marketing nerds might love more than anything else: History, visual content, and the 1985 film Back to the Future.

So when it came to our attention that our friends at Uberflip combined all three of them, we were thrilled, to say the least. An infographic that uses our most beloved 1980s movie characters to explain the history of content? Be still, our beating hearts.

In all seriousness, have you ever thought about where this whole idea of content marketing really began? Perhaps you’ve wondered what its earliest forms looked like, before there was social media, blogs, or even — gasp! — the internet. After all, it’s the very thing that, for many of us, can make or break an online presence. So who do we have to thank for it?

This fun infographic has the answer, pointing out some of the most important landmarks and developments in content marketing’s history along the way. Let’s hop back in time, and figure how we got to the present — something that was once a rather futuristic vision.



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May

4

2017

5 Examples of Creative Shoppable Content from Brands

Published by in category Content Marketing | Comments are closed

Remember the good old days of catalog shopping? A simpler time when you could flip through pages of a glossy magazine, ogling at advertisements that captured your attention, drew you in, and immediately transformed you into an interested customer.

A lot has changed for brands since those nostalgic times. Thanks to social media and content inundation, brands are having difficulty bridging the gap between browsing and buying. How can you turn engagement into actual conversions?

Have you ever browsed a blog, social media feed, or other digital publication and instantly discovered a product you love? Did you spend the time scanning the website or search engines trying to find it? Probably not.

Retailers have often relied on visual content to capture the attention of consumers. However, the abundance of branded content has made it increasingly difficult to encourage actual purchasing — making the pathway to conversion more crucial than ever.  

What Is Shoppable Content?

Shoppable content is a form of visual commerce in which marketers use compelling imagery (often formulated in a storytelling format) with actionable purchase points or product recommendations, streamlining the conversion path from browsing to purchase.

Interactive and shoppable content are now necessary assets for digital retailers. Convenience and a subpar return policy are no longer enough to capture new audiences and encourage customer loyalty. In fact, according to a recent shoppable content report, 33 percent of retailers stated that the improvement of customer’s digital experience was a top three priority in 2017.

ECommerce brands championing this new form of social and content marketing are breaking down the traditional constructs of digital shopping. Their websites and marketing channels have transformed into experiences that are an inventive step beyond the dull and dated eCommerce environment.

If you’re one of the 33% looking to improve customer experiences this year, take a look at the brands doing it best.

5 Examples of Creative Shoppable Content 

1) Visual Storytelling with Scotch & Soda

Traditionally, lookbooks were an industry insider tool. They were used to attract coverage from press and to showcase new products to potential retail buyers.

Over the years, lookbooks have transformed into public-facing marketing assets used to convey the inspiration of a collection, and to breathe life into the products being sold.

Dutch clothing retailer Scotch & Soda fully captures the creative inspiration behind the Spring/Summer 2017 collection in their latest shoppable lookbook experience. The exotic scenery conveys the story behind the product. A story of creative discovery found in nature — specifically the rainforest.

Someone who browses a lookbook will spend around twice as much as the average app shopper, and also browse twice as long. The interactive design elements provide an engaging experience that drives sales and increases time on site — while the content communicates authenticity and the brand’s identity.

2) All Saints User-Generated Content

User-generated content (UGC) is arguably the content marketing trend of 2017. It infuses personality into products by transforming them from objects into relatable lifestyles. The use of UGC on a website or in a campaign increases conversion by 29%, making it an essential asset for sales and customer engagement.

Social media has inspired us to be fascinated with the lives of others, and UGC capitalizes on this trend. By incorporating visual content from actual customers, All Saints successfully alleviates the pressure of purchasing with an experience similar to that of scrolling through a social media feed.

The images act as a product endorsement from other satisfied customers, and the shoppable elements make it easier to discover the product information necessary to make a purchasing decision.

3) Net-a-Porter Shoppable Editorials

Fashion lovers and lifestyle brand enthusiasts have always had an immense love for magazines. Nobody knows this better than Net-a-Porter, which was established on the foundation of exceptional content.

The digital publication and luxury eCommerce retailer has continued to attract customers with insider interviews, seasonal trend reports, and style edits — similar to the content traditionally produced by lifestyle magazines.

The company’s success was built on the largest flaw of lifestyle publications: shoppability and product discovery. Print publications left readers on a wild goose chase when they discovered products in editorials. Net-a-Porter capitalized on this frustration by adding the ability to shop directly within online content.

4) Shoppable Videos from Kate Spade

Shoppable video has become a hot topic in recent years. With video marketing undeniably on the rise, allowing users to shop products directly from videos is an obvious progression to bridge the gap from viewer to customer.

However, the popularity of inserting shoppable product tags in videos highlighted a critical issue: viewers of shoppable videos weren’t completing as many purchases because checking out would interrupt the viewing experience.

Clothing and accessories label Kate Spade realized this early on. For their 2016 holiday video campaign — featuring Anna Kendrick — the label tried something new. They eliminated the friction of exiting a video when shoppable elements were clicked, trading it for a feature that compiled the list of products into a cart viewed at the end of the video.

Instead of ruining the viewing experience for interested consumers, the brand tailored their marketing efforts and technologies to their needs.

5) Shoppable Images on Crate & Barrel’s Blog

Crate & Barrel’s blog is a haven for DIY lovers and food enthusiasts. The brand regularly partners with social media influencers across many beats to amplify their reach. This strategy ensures that they consistently provide quality and authentic content their target audience will love.

Everyone knows that content is king. However, many retailers have struggled with converting blog readers into buyers. Crate & Barrel makes it easier for website visitors to purchase the items featured in posts by adding shoppable product tags into images that feature the brand’s products. Pairing shoppable content with how-to guides allows the brand to leverage moments when readers have the highest intent to purchase.

Closing the Gap Between Engagement and Purchase

Traditional content marketing efforts no longer suffice when attracting and engaging customers. Brands and retailers must lessen the friction between content and their products.

These brands have perfected the art of using shoppable content to engage new audiences, convert more customers, and increase discovery. Use these examples to guide you on your journey for the ultimate customer engagement strategy.

Would you ever consider using shoppable content on your website? Share your take in the comments.

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May

3

2017

How to Use Infographics to Get Leads From Your Website

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

infographics-and-lead-gen-compressor.jpg

I’m a sucker for a good infographic. Sometimes, it seems like it’s hard to come across a truly remarkable one — one that’s achieved the perfect trifecta of good design, readability, and reliable data. But when they’re well-executed, infographics work wonders, transforming complex topics and dry statistics into visually enticing content. They’re liked and shared on social media 3X more than any other type of content. And, as a result, they can be an excellent tool for driving more traffic to your website.

But here’s a fun fact: Infographics can also be a helpful device to generate more leads.

Generally, the same rules apply here as for creating any effective visual content — it serves as a conversion path as a result of shareability and informative nature. New Call-to-action

But what are the specifics there? What are the different ways to create the infographics that are going to generate leads? We identified five of our favorite ways to go about doing that, and outlined them below.

5 Ways to Use Infographics to Get Leads From Your Website

1) Represent an offer with an infographic.

How are you generating leads today? You might be creating downloadable content that’s gated by forms, or offering a free trial. Whatever those offers might be, pick one and break down the different ways it can be promoted.

To start, make a list of the 10 most interesting things about your offer, like the problems it will solve and the most important information it contains. Think: helpful bits of trivia, the most outstanding statistics it contains, and the best solutions it offers.

For example, let’s have a look at this infographic that was created by HubSpot Marketing Blog Editor Carly Stec:



Infographic example

This particular infographic could be an excellent lead generation tool for, say, a comprehensive guide to blogging. While writer’s block is just one pain point in blogging, it’s one that many people experience. Isolating that particular challenge and fleshing it out in a well-designed, shareable image is an excellent way to tease and promote the larger piece of content.

2) Know the design resources available to you.

If you don’t have a designer at your disposal, fear not — there are plenty of design resources available, many of them free.

One of them is this package of five free infographic templates. They’re in PowerPoint, and are very easy to customize. Just input the 10 pieces of information you selected in the previous step, and tweak the graphics to fit the data. At risk of sounding like a complete nerd — this part is really fun.

Otherwise, sites like Canva and Venngage are both free and easy to use a variety of visual content, including infographics — both also offer paid upgrades if you’re looking for something a little more advanced. Here’s a silly one that HubSpot Marketing Blog Senior Staff Writer Amanda Zantal-Wiener created — about her dog, not to be used for lead generation — for free using the former:



Lead gen infographic

3) Write a blog post to showcase the infographic.

Now that you’ve created your beautiful infographic, you’ll need a place to host it — ideally, somewhere on your site where people will find it.

Your blog is one such venue, and a post is a good way to exhibit your infographic. Even better, you don’t have to write a ton of copy. The visual content should “speak for itself,” if you will, so a small paragraph above the image with introductory text should suffice.

That said, the title of this blog post should still be interesting and optimized, primarily for two reasons:

  1. You want people to find your content organically with the right search criteria.
  2. Remember, one of the best things about infographics is how much they’re shared on social media. Having a strong title to go with a shared social post can encourage people to click on it.

4) Add a call-to-action to your blog post linked to your offer.

Next, you’ll want to create a landing page for your offer — you can click here to do that in your HubSpot marketing software. That way, visitors can fill out a form in exchange for the content you’ve created, and each completed form is a new lead.

Next, create a call-to-action (CTA) to insert into the blog post that’s hosting your infographic. That should be hyperlinked to your landing page — here’s an example of what that might look like:

ct-blog-cta-essential-guide-to-internet-marketing_ns

Not sure how to start creating a CTA? Check out this article with steps for doing so in your HubSpot software.

5) Make it easy to share your infographic via social media.

With certain blogging platforms, like HubSpot’s Content Optimization System, social sharing buttons will be added to each of your blog posts by default. But if your blogging platform doesn’t include that feature, AddThis is a great alternative. Simply sign up for an account, configure your social sharing bar, and add a bit of code to your blog.

AddThis

You can also add “Pin It” buttons like we did above, using Pinterest’s widget builder.

Also, consider turning sections of your infographic into ready-made tweetable images, like BookBub did for their infographic, “Using Back Matter to Sell More Books“:

bookbub-backmatter-infographic-social-images.png

But remember — shareability isn’t just about including the buttons that make it easy to post content with one click. And while that convenience is important, the content itself has to be worth sharing.

So, just to reemphasize, make sure your infographic also meets a high standard of design and helpful information. After all, 42% of B2B marketing professionals state that a lack of quality data is their biggest barrier to lead generation, so make sure the information you include is both reliable and beneficial.

Let’s Get Visual

Lead generation accounts for a big portion of many marketing budgets — in fact, 58% of marketers plan to increase theirs in the coming year.

Using infographics for this purpose is one of the most frugal ways to boost your lead generation efforts. And while creating quality visual content can take time, it can also pay off — so make sure what you’re producing is worth the investment.

How have you used infographics to generate leads? Let us know in the comments.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2014 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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May

3

2017

20 Creative Writing Prompts That'll Help You Beat Writer's Block [Infographic]

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

Creative Writing Prompts.jpg

I’ve written a lot of blog posts over the past few years. (Read: I’ve stared at a lot of blinking cursors on blank screens over the past few years.) And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about business blogging, it’s that getting started is often the hardest part.

When you’re tasked with writing regularly and writing well, it’s natural to feel some pressure. My advice? Rather than letting that stress overcome you, consider what you can do to regain control of your time and output.

One technique I’ve found to be incredibly helpful in these situations is the act of freewriting, or writing continuously for a set period of time without worrying about accuracy, punctuation, or usability.

Trouble is, sometimes coming up with a topic to freewrite about can also leave you feeling stuck or stumped. That’s why we put together a handy list of creative writing prompts below to help you get started.

Creative-Writing-Prompts-Infographic



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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

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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

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.

sejvREM3G7-iloveimg-compressed (1).gif

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.

LeiQz3vJLI-iloveimg-compressed.gif 

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

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 1.39.48 PM.png

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

20

2017

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

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

2017StateofContentMarketing-compressor-1.jpg

“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.



HUBSPOT-IG-STATE_OF_CONTENT_MARKETING_SURVEY.png

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Mar

30

2017

How Visuals Will Impact Marketing in 2017, According to New Data [Infographic]

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

There’s a reason most children’s books are filled with pictures.

Sure, the pictures help parents keep their children still and quiet for the few minutes they’re reading to them. And that’s largely because visuals are engaging and help explain complicated concepts better than text alone.

Save countless hours using these free, pre-made templates to design your  infographics.

Whether you’re reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar or a blog post, the lesson remains the same. For one, visual content increases memory recall. What’s more, articles with images every 75-100 words tended to get double the social media shares of articles with fewer images in a BuzzSumo analysis. So needless to say, visuals such as infographics, videos, or images should be integrated into your content marketing strategy.

There are a few hurdles to creating and promoting visual content, but there are big payoffs, too. Venngage surveyed 300 marketers to learn about their visual content marketing strategies in 2016 to predict trends for 2017. Overall, the marketers surveyed recognize the immense value of creating visuals to increase content quality and engagement but struggle with finding the time and resources to do it well. Read more marketing statistics and trends for the year ahead in the infographic below.

visual-content-marketing-statistics-2017.png

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Dec

6

2016

Google Is Shifting to a Mobile-First Index: What Marketers Need to Know to Prepare

Mobile-First-Google-compressor.jpg

We’re living in a mobile-first world. For most of us, that means from the moment you wake up in the morning, your phone becomes a part of your daily routine — from silencing your alarm, to reviewing the daily news, to checking email, and so on.

And search engines are seeing the result of this trend: search queries on mobile have now surpassed desktop-based queries.

Now you may be thinking, my website is already mobile-friendly … so I’m set, right?

Sure, you are ready for mobile visitors, but your content may not be optimized for the new realities of search. What exactly do we mean by that? Download our free guide here to learn how to design your own mobile-friendly  website. 

Well, Google recently announced that its search results index is essentially being flipped and will prioritize mobile results first:

With Google currently experimenting with this change, there’s a lot you need to know to ensure you’re prepared. But don’t panic, we’ll walk through it all below.

What Is Mobile-First Indexing?

As Google’s Gary Illyes said, this is a big change, so let’s start by discussing some of the details first. Keep in mind this update is currently in testing so you may not notice any differences at the moment.

  1. Mobile-friendly websites matter, regardless of technology. Google has previously stated their preferred method of a mobile-friendly website was responsive design. For this change to mobile-first indexing, Illyes stated that specific mobile site versions and responsive design will work.
  2. SERPs will now be primarily based on mobile content. Today, if you have a page that shows some specific content to desktop-based visitors, but excludes content for mobile visitors, you may notice a change in results because of the mobile-specific content. Because results will start to primarily use mobile content first, you should consider what, and how much content, to add to your mobile version.
  3. AMP-enabled pages are treated as mobile content. If you have Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) for your website, or blog, these pages will be treated as other mobile pages and will be indexed first.

Again, this update is still being tested and is likely still “months away” so many details are still emerging and being worked out. In the meantime, it’s worth starting to prepare for mobile-first indexing.

What About #Mobilegeddon?

One of the primary premises behind the mobile algorithm update, affectionately referred to as Mobilegeddon, was that Google was beginning to establish a separate mobile-index for results.

While it seems that Google may continue to build a separate mobile index, the key part here is that they will flip the indexing from desktop-first to mobile-first.

See the below conversation with Illyes for more:

Mobile-Indexing.png

How You Can Prepare For the Mobile-First World

1) Ensure you have a mobile-friendly website.

Google’s preferred technology utilizes responsive design so your website adapts to the screen-size of the visitor, but if you have a dedicated mobile website (m.example.com) that is fine, too.

HubSpot Customers: Any of your content created using the HubSpot software will utilize responsive design and, as a result, you should be prepared for mobile-first content indexing.

2) Consider if content should be adjusted for mobile.

Most content created specifically for mobile is naturally shorter. You should ensure that your page is still seen as the authoritative source on the content topic you’re writing about, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be long-form content.

Don’t be afraid to consider other types of content — like video and audio — that you can integrate into your strategy. These additional content types can be better for the user experience, and a transcript can be included on the page to ensure the maximum impact for SEO.

Any content you have on pages that is incompatible with mobile devices — i.e., Flash videos — should be replaced as soon as possible.

If you do not have a mobile-friendly website, Google will still index your website but the mobile crawler may appear in your Search Console. Not sure if your website is mobile-friendly? Get your website graded to find out.

3) Prioritize the factors that are important in this new mobile-first index.

What are those factors? Here are two you’ll want to keep a close eye on:

  • Site speed has always been important, but now with a mobile-first index, it’s become even more crucial. This also means you need to be aware of the weight of content on a page, which can drastically affect page speed and has a cascading effect on user experience. More on that here.
  • User experience and engagement have become increasingly important signals for search engines. If a visitor comes to your page and leaves within a few seconds, it’s an indication they didn’t quite find what they were looking for. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if the visitor stays on your page and engages with various links and resources, they are likely highly engaged. In a mobile-first world, consider the experience of that one page, but also how users travel between pages and their experience between each step.

Again, these updates are still actively being discussed, but in the meantime, get involved in the discussion and ensure your website is mobile-friendly.

What questions do you have about the mobile-first shift? Share them in the comments below.

free guide: guide to mobile marketing

Dec

5

2016

How the Brain Processes Different Types of Content [Infographic]

brains-process-content1-compressor-1.jpg

Sometimes, the movie adaptation of a book is better than the book itself. Maybe it’s the acting, maybe it’s the special effects or the soundtrack, or maybe the story is simply better told on the big screen than in our imaginations.

The reason? Different stories are better told in different formats depending on the message they’re trying to convey.

The folks at Main Path Marketing created an infographic to break down common types of content marketing formats and how they communicate information to your audience. And some of their insights may surprise you. For example, did you know that the human brain processes videos 60,000X faster than text? That’s part of what makes how-to videos so popular in online search habits. Save countless hours using these free, pre-made templates to design your  infographics.

Check out the full infographic below for helpful takeaways about how to tailor your content strategy according to how your audience interprets information.

1608_ig_main-path_brains-and-content_v2.jpg

15 free infographic templates in powerpoint

Nov

29

2016

Keyboard vs. Pen: What’s the Best Way to Take Notes?

open letter.jpg

Growing up, I was fascinated by my mom’s shorthand notes. The cryptic symbols she’d write blindly while listening through our 1980s-era phone with a 12-foot cord were a different language — vestiges of a different time. 

“You’ll never need to learn shorthand because you’ll type all your notes,” she explained.

And as it turns out, she was right. These days, many of us have traded in our mechanical pencils and fancy notebooks in favor of laptops to ensure that our every word is perfectly spelled and neatly tucked away in “the cloud.”

It wasn’t until I attended a Bold Talk at INBOUND 2014 about note-taking that I put much thought into the difference between writing and typing notes. In his session — “The Pencil and the Keyboard: How The Way You Write Changes the Way You Think” — New York Times Magazine writer Clive Thompson explained why handwriting is better for taking notes and remembering big-picture thinking, while typing is better for composing your ideas and communicating with others.

Ever since I attended that session, I couldn’t help but wonder: Was he right? Were we doing this all wrong? To get some answers, I dug into some research on handwritten notes versus typed notes. 

Keyboard vs. Pen: What’s the Best Way to Take Notes?

TL;DR: As it turns out, understanding how your mind captures, retains, and recalls information can help you become more productive. Writing notes by hand in long-form will force you to synthesize the information, which helps you remember and recall it. So next time you head to a meeting, consider just a notepad and pen.

When we take notes by hand, we typically can’t keep pace with the information being presented to us. As a result, our brains are forced to quickly synthesize the information into two categories: “important: write this down” and “not important: don’t write this down.”

That simple neurological process is valuable to us, as it begins to stamp those important notes in our memory. In other words, when we’re forced to mentally prioritize information, it becomes a little bit stickier in our mind.

In his Bold Talk, Thompson described a series of experiments conducted by researchers Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer that demonstrated the benefits of handwritten notes:

A couple of scientists decided to test this. They set up an auditorium of people. Half of them took notes on keyboard and half of them took notes handwriting while someone spoke. They wanted to figure out who would remember the most, who would retain the most. They tested them afterwards. It turns out that handwriting won, hands down, pun intended. Handwriting completely won out. People understood more, they retained more, they remembered more when they wrote by hand.”

There are times when typing is optimal, however. Thompson goes on to explain that typing is better suited for communicating information to other people. (Think: Handwriting is for input, while typing is for output.)

Fast-typing, referred to as transcription fluency in this context, correlates to better writing skills because there is less interruption between your thoughts and the composition. Stephen Graham, a scholar of literacy, described this phenomenon as follows:

You can think of the ideas in your head as rushing along and you’re trying to transcribe them onto the page. The faster you can do that when you’re in the act of writing, the less likely it is that words and ideas will escape and get away from you.”

7 Handy Tips for Taking Better Notes:

At the end of the day — with all research aside — the most productive way to take notes will ultimately boil down to what works best for you. But whether you’re typing away or jotting things down by hand, we put together some handy tips and tricks to keep in mind that’ll help you stayed organized. 

  1. Know the purpose of your notes. Do you just need to remember a few key things to follow up on from a meeting? Or are you preparing for an exam that will test you on the details? Knowing your purpose will help you craft the right amount of detail.
  2. Use a lined notebook and *try* to use good penmanship. The extra time you put into your handwriting will save you time later when you’re searching through your notes.
  3. Underline, embolden, italicize, and highlight. Introduce some textual hierarchy into your notes so that you can decipher them more easily later on. Need help mastering italic handwriting? Check out this self-instructional course.
  4. Get the big ideas down on paper. Trying to keep up with a fast-talker? Try just recording any numbers and facts that you know you won’t be able to recall. As soon as you get the chance (as in directly after the lecture) fill out your notes with everything you can remember while it’s still fresh in your mind.
  5. Try a tablet and stylus. Want the memory benefits of handwriting, with the collaborative benefits of digital? A tablet and stylus — like Apple’s iPad Pro and Apple Pencil — can help you speed up the note-taking process.
  6. Learn the ins and outs of bullet journaling. According to the website, bullet journaling is best described as a “customizable and forgiving organization system.” You can learn more about this approach (and other helpful strategies) here.
  7. For meeting notes, record the initials of the person who made the noteworthy comment. This makes it easier for you to follow up with them. Date, time, who’s in attendance, meeting topic, and project are all housekeeping items that add context to your notes for a future — possibly more forgetful — version of yourself.

Ready to Improve Your Skills?

If note-taking is not your strong suit, consider it a skill worth developing that will have compounding effects on your productivity throughout your career. Remember: Typing is best for getting your thoughts on [digital] paper, with as little interference between idea and text as possible. And for content creators, learning how to type quickly will allow you to get your point across with less edits later on.

Want to work on developing your content skills even further? Check out HubSpot Academy’s first-ever Content Marketing Certification here.

Pre-register for HubSpot Academy's all-new Content Marketing Certification Course

Nov

29

2016

Keyboard vs. Pen: What’s the Best Way to Take Notes?

open letter.jpg

Growing up, I was fascinated by my mom’s shorthand notes. The cryptic symbols she’d write blindly while listening through our 1980s-era phone with a 12-foot cord were a different language — vestiges of a different time. 

“You’ll never need to learn shorthand because you’ll type all your notes,” she explained.

And as it turns out, she was right. These days, many of us have traded in our mechanical pencils and fancy notebooks in favor of laptops to ensure that our every word is perfectly spelled and neatly tucked away in “the cloud.”

It wasn’t until I attended a Bold Talk at INBOUND 2014 about note-taking that I put much thought into the difference between writing and typing notes. In his session — “The Pencil and the Keyboard: How The Way You Write Changes the Way You Think” — New York Times Magazine writer Clive Thompson explained why handwriting is better for taking notes and remembering big-picture thinking, while typing is better for composing your ideas and communicating with others.

Ever since I attended that session, I couldn’t help but wonder: Was he right? Were we doing this all wrong? To get some answers, I dug into some research on handwritten notes versus typed notes. 

Keyboard vs. Pen: What’s the Best Way to Take Notes?

TL;DR: As it turns out, understanding how your mind captures, retains, and recalls information can help you become more productive. Writing notes by hand in long-form will force you to synthesize the information, which helps you remember and recall it. So next time you head to a meeting, consider just a notepad and pen.

When we take notes by hand, we typically can’t keep pace with the information being presented to us. As a result, our brains are forced to quickly synthesize the information into two categories: “important: write this down” and “not important: don’t write this down.”

That simple neurological process is valuable to us, as it begins to stamp those important notes in our memory. In other words, when we’re forced to mentally prioritize information, it becomes a little bit stickier in our mind.

In his Bold Talk, Thompson described a series of experiments conducted by researchers Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer that demonstrated the benefits of handwritten notes:

A couple of scientists decided to test this. They set up an auditorium of people. Half of them took notes on keyboard and half of them took notes handwriting while someone spoke. They wanted to figure out who would remember the most, who would retain the most. They tested them afterwards. It turns out that handwriting won, hands down, pun intended. Handwriting completely won out. People understood more, they retained more, they remembered more when they wrote by hand.”

There are times when typing is optimal, however. Thompson goes on to explain that typing is better suited for communicating information to other people. (Think: Handwriting is for input, while typing is for output.)

Fast-typing, referred to as transcription fluency in this context, correlates to better writing skills because there is less interruption between your thoughts and the composition. Stephen Graham, a scholar of literacy, described this phenomenon as follows:

You can think of the ideas in your head as rushing along and you’re trying to transcribe them onto the page. The faster you can do that when you’re in the act of writing, the less likely it is that words and ideas will escape and get away from you.”

7 Handy Tips for Taking Better Notes:

At the end of the day — with all research aside — the most productive way to take notes will ultimately boil down to what works best for you. But whether you’re typing away or jotting things down by hand, we put together some handy tips and tricks to keep in mind that’ll help you stayed organized. 

  1. Know the purpose of your notes. Do you just need to remember a few key things to follow up on from a meeting? Or are you preparing for an exam that will test you on the details? Knowing your purpose will help you craft the right amount of detail.
  2. Use a lined notebook and *try* to use good penmanship. The extra time you put into your handwriting will save you time later when you’re searching through your notes.
  3. Underline, embolden, italicize, and highlight. Introduce some textual hierarchy into your notes so that you can decipher them more easily later on. Need help mastering italic handwriting? Check out this self-instructional course.
  4. Get the big ideas down on paper. Trying to keep up with a fast-talker? Try just recording any numbers and facts that you know you won’t be able to recall. As soon as you get the chance (as in directly after the lecture) fill out your notes with everything you can remember while it’s still fresh in your mind.
  5. Try a tablet and stylus. Want the memory benefits of handwriting, with the collaborative benefits of digital? A tablet and stylus — like Apple’s iPad Pro and Apple Pencil — can help you speed up the note-taking process.
  6. Learn the ins and outs of bullet journaling. According to the website, bullet journaling is best described as a “customizable and forgiving organization system.” You can learn more about this approach (and other helpful strategies) here.
  7. For meeting notes, record the initials of the person who made the noteworthy comment. This makes it easier for you to follow up with them. Date, time, who’s in attendance, meeting topic, and project are all housekeeping items that add context to your notes for a future — possibly more forgetful — version of yourself.

Ready to Improve Your Skills?

If note-taking is not your strong suit, consider it a skill worth developing that will have compounding effects on your productivity throughout your career. Remember: Typing is best for getting your thoughts on [digital] paper, with as little interference between idea and text as possible. And for content creators, learning how to type quickly will allow you to get your point across with less edits later on.

Want to work on developing your content skills even further? Check out HubSpot Academy’s first-ever Content Marketing Certification here.

Pre-register for HubSpot Academy's all-new Content Marketing Certification Course

Nov

28

2016

How to Write an Introduction: A Simplified Guide

writing intros struggle.png

Blink. Blink. Blink. It’s the dreaded cursor-on-a-blank-screen experience that all writers — amateur or professional, aspiring or experienced — know and dread. And of all times for it to occur, it seems to plague us the most when trying to write an introduction.

I mean, you already have a blog post you want to write. Can’t you just dive in and write it? Why all the pomp and circumstance with this dag-blasted introduction?

Here’s the thing — intros don’t have to be long. In fact, we prefer them to be quite quick. They also don’t have to be so difficult, but they do have to exist. They prepare the reader and provide context for the content he or she is about to read. Download our free guide here for tips to become a better writer. 

Let’s break down exactly how to write an introduction that’s short, effective, and relatively painless. And if you’re ever having trouble churning out those intros, come back here and re-read this formula to lift yourself out of that writing rut.

How to Write a Good Introduction: 3 Components to Consider

As a lover of all things meta, I will, of course, use this post’s introduction as an example of how to write an intro. But it contains different components that create an introduction “formula” — you can refer to that when you get stuck with your own.

1) Grab the reader’s attention.

There are a few ways to hook your reader from the start. You can be empathetic (“Don’t you hate it when…?”), or tell a story, so the reader immediately feels some emotional resonance with the piece. You could tell a joke (“Ha! This is fun. Let’s read more of this.”). You could shock the reader with a crazy fact or stat (“Whoa. That’s crazy. I must know more!”).

For this intro, I went the “empathetic” route.

Intro for intros

Writer’s block stinks. Blank screens and taunting cursors — the worst. Who’s with me?

2) Present the reason for the post’s existence.

Your post needs to have a purpose. The purpose of this post is to address a specific problem — the pain in the butt that is writing intros. But, we have to do it, and therein lies the approach to something important: making writing introductions easier.

Present the Reason for the Post's Existence.png

Just because you know the purpose of your post, doesn’t mean the reader does — not yet, anyway. It’s your job to validate your post’s importance, and give your audience a reason to keep reading.

3) Explain how the post will help address the problem.

Now that the reader is presented with a problem that he or she can relate to — and obviously wants a solution — it’s time to let the audience know what the post will provide, and quickly.

In other words, the introduction should set expectations. Take this post, for example. I don’t want the reader to dive in and expect to see a list of reasons why introductions are important. I want you to expect to read about what makes a good introduction. But if I hadn’t clarified that in the introduction, you might have expected the former. After all, be honest — did you skim over or forget the title of this post already? That’s okay. That’s why we tell the reader exactly what the post will provide, and why it’s valuable.

Explain How the Post Will Help Address the Problem.png

The underlined sentenced is a way of saying, “Keep reading.” We already established that there’s a problem — here’s how I’m going to make it easy for you to solve.

Of course, there are other valid ways to write introductions for your marketing content — don’t feel the need to follow this formula for every single piece of content, as some are more casual than others. But, this guide should help provide a solid framework to follow if you’re just getting started, or if it’s just one of those days when the words aren’t flowing.

But what are some examples of great introductions in the wild? We thought you might ask — which is why we picked out some of our favorites.

5 Introduction Paragraph Examples to Inspire You

1) “Confessions of a Google Spammer,” by Jeff Deutsch

Google Spammer Intro

There are a few reasons why we love this introduction. Immediately, it grabs our attention — how the heck did this guy make fifty grand every month? And just from 10 hours a week?

But unlike some spammy comments that might contain a similar sentiment, he almost immediately serves us something unexpected — he tells us not to do that.

Then, he states the true purpose of the blog — to explain why we should “never, never ever follow in [his] footsteps.” In just three sentences, this introduction has captivated us and validated the story’s existence with a looming life lesson. The takeaway? Keep it short, but powerful.

2) “Announcing the public preview of Azure Advisor,” by Shankar Sivadasan

Azure Advisor Intro

Here’s a great example of an introduction that presents a problem and a solution to it. Sure, it’s easy to build apps on Azure, Microsoft’s cloud platform — but maybe you had some issues with its setup. Well, wouldn’t you know? Azure Advisor is here to address those challenges, and you can preview it for free.

But wait — there’s more. The introduction not only immediately presents a problem and a solution, but it concisely summarizes just how this product provides a fix. And, it explains why the text will be helpful, with the sentence, “In this blog post, we will do a quick tour of Azure Advisor and discuss how it can help optimize your Azure resources.”

That’s a best practice for brands that have made a mistake — even a small one. Technology is great, but it can come with bugs. That’s where an intro like this one can be so helpful. It acknowledges the problem, states what the brand has done to address it, and alerts the reader to continue to learn how that solution will work.

3) “Taste the Season at Sushi Sora,” by Chris Dwyer

Sushi Sora intro

Strong introductions aren’t just important for blogs — they’re essentially to quality editorial pieces, too. That’s why we love this introduction to an article from Destination MO, the Mandarin Oriental’s official online magazine.

Remember that thing we said about a captivating start? In addition to being empathetic or funny, visuals can be huge — not just an actual picture or video, but words that actually help the reader envision what you’re describing. This introduction does just that, with expressive phrases like, “the magical silhouette of Mount Fuji on the horizon.” Well, yeah. That does sound magical. But where can I go for such a view? None other than the “Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo,” the author tells me, especially “from the sushi counter at Sushi Sora.”

Here’s the thing about this intro — it gives the reader something to aspire to. We’ve briefly discussed aspirational marketing before, but this instance is one where it can be used in a brief introduction. After reading this first paragraph, I want to go to Tokyo. And when I’m there, I want to stay at the Mandarin Oriental. Then, I want to take in the views from its high-end sushi restaurant.

With just two sentences, I’ve gone from reading an article with my morning coffee, to fantasizing about a thousand-dollar vacation. So whenever possible, use your introduction to paint a picture, and to help your reader dream.

4) “The Secret Club of Admitting You Suck,” by Janessa Lantz

admitting you suck intro

Let’s read through this introduction from ReadThink together.

I know. I know! I once moved very far away to escape my own failure, too! But I couldn’t admit at the time that I sucked, either! Wow. Janessa Lantz really gets me.

See that? That, right there, is a resounding example of how empathy makes a profound introduction. But how did the story end? Did they buy the house? Did she admit that she sucked? Does she still suck? (Spoiler alert: I work with Janessa and can say, with great confidence, that she is far from sucking.)

The point is, I wanted to keep reading for two reasons — first, I related to the author. Second, it was just plain interesting, and it left me with a cliffhanger. It’s okay to tease your readers. Just make sure you ultimately give them what they’re seeking.

5) “Be a responsible tourist: a PSA from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” by Out of the Blue

responsible tourist intro

I’ll admit it — I’m a sucker for a good travel blog, which is why JetBlue’s official blog appeals to me. But at the same time, I also geek out for almost anything that promotes sustainability. In this piece, those worlds collide.

What makes this introduction work? Honestly, it’s scary. “Decline” and “extinction” are strong words, and absolutely present a problem. But research shows that we’re actually more inclined to keep reading bad news — in fact, a few years ago, our media consumption habits suggested that we prefer it.

But it’s not all bad — and JetBlue quickly turns around a potentially devastating situation with the language of this introduction. And, it includes the reader, by inviting travelers to be part of the solution, but joining the brand in its promotion of responsible tourism.

That’s another formula for presenting bad news to your audience, especially if you’re not the one causing it and you have a solution. Scary information + how you’re helping + how the reader can do his or her part = compelling intro.

Let’s Start

Feeling inspired? Good. Next time you find yourself face-to-face with the dreaded blinking cursor, use these resources and compelling examples to find motivation.

How do you write a good intro, and what are some of your favorite examples? Let us know in the comments.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2013 and has been updated and for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

free guide to writing well

 
free guide to writing well

Nov

28

2016

How to Write an Introduction: A Simplified Guide

writing intros struggle.png

Blink. Blink. Blink. It’s the dreaded cursor-on-a-blank-screen experience that all writers — amateur or professional, aspiring or experienced — know and dread. And of all times for it to occur, it seems to plague us the most when trying to write an introduction.

I mean, you already have a blog post you want to write. Can’t you just dive in and write it? Why all the pomp and circumstance with this dag-blasted introduction?

Here’s the thing — intros don’t have to be long. In fact, we prefer them to be quite quick. They also don’t have to be so difficult, but they do have to exist. They prepare the reader and provide context for the content he or she is about to read. Download our free guide here for tips to become a better writer. 

Let’s break down exactly how to write an introduction that’s short, effective, and relatively painless. And if you’re ever having trouble churning out those intros, come back here and re-read this formula to lift yourself out of that writing rut.

How to Write a Good Introduction: 3 Components to Consider

As a lover of all things meta, I will, of course, use this post’s introduction as an example of how to write an intro. But it contains different components that create an introduction “formula” — you can refer to that when you get stuck with your own.

1) Grab the reader’s attention.

There are a few ways to hook your reader from the start. You can be empathetic (“Don’t you hate it when…?”), or tell a story, so the reader immediately feels some emotional resonance with the piece. You could tell a joke (“Ha! This is fun. Let’s read more of this.”). You could shock the reader with a crazy fact or stat (“Whoa. That’s crazy. I must know more!”).

For this intro, I went the “empathetic” route.

Intro for intros

Writer’s block stinks. Blank screens and taunting cursors — the worst. Who’s with me?

2) Present the reason for the post’s existence.

Your post needs to have a purpose. The purpose of this post is to address a specific problem — the pain in the butt that is writing intros. But, we have to do it, and therein lies the approach to something important: making writing introductions easier.

Present the Reason for the Post's Existence.png

Just because you know the purpose of your post, doesn’t mean the reader does — not yet, anyway. It’s your job to validate your post’s importance, and give your audience a reason to keep reading.

3) Explain how the post will help address the problem.

Now that the reader is presented with a problem that he or she can relate to — and obviously wants a solution — it’s time to let the audience know what the post will provide, and quickly.

In other words, the introduction should set expectations. Take this post, for example. I don’t want the reader to dive in and expect to see a list of reasons why introductions are important. I want you to expect to read about what makes a good introduction. But if I hadn’t clarified that in the introduction, you might have expected the former. After all, be honest — did you skim over or forget the title of this post already? That’s okay. That’s why we tell the reader exactly what the post will provide, and why it’s valuable.

Explain How the Post Will Help Address the Problem.png

The underlined sentenced is a way of saying, “Keep reading.” We already established that there’s a problem — here’s how I’m going to make it easy for you to solve.

Of course, there are other valid ways to write introductions for your marketing content — don’t feel the need to follow this formula for every single piece of content, as some are more casual than others. But, this guide should help provide a solid framework to follow if you’re just getting started, or if it’s just one of those days when the words aren’t flowing.

But what are some examples of great introductions in the wild? We thought you might ask — which is why we picked out some of our favorites.

5 Introduction Paragraph Examples to Inspire You

1) “Confessions of a Google Spammer,” by Jeff Deutsch

Google Spammer Intro

There are a few reasons why we love this introduction. Immediately, it grabs our attention — how the heck did this guy make fifty grand every month? And just from 10 hours a week?

But unlike some spammy comments that might contain a similar sentiment, he almost immediately serves us something unexpected — he tells us not to do that.

Then, he states the true purpose of the blog — to explain why we should “never, never ever follow in [his] footsteps.” In just three sentences, this introduction has captivated us and validated the story’s existence with a looming life lesson. The takeaway? Keep it short, but powerful.

2) “Announcing the public preview of Azure Advisor,” by Shankar Sivadasan

Azure Advisor Intro

Here’s a great example of an introduction that presents a problem and a solution to it. Sure, it’s easy to build apps on Azure, Microsoft’s cloud platform — but maybe you had some issues with its setup. Well, wouldn’t you know? Azure Advisor is here to address those challenges, and you can preview it for free.

But wait — there’s more. The introduction not only immediately presents a problem and a solution, but it concisely summarizes just how this product provides a fix. And, it explains why the text will be helpful, with the sentence, “In this blog post, we will do a quick tour of Azure Advisor and discuss how it can help optimize your Azure resources.”

That’s a best practice for brands that have made a mistake — even a small one. Technology is great, but it can come with bugs. That’s where an intro like this one can be so helpful. It acknowledges the problem, states what the brand has done to address it, and alerts the reader to continue to learn how that solution will work.

3) “Taste the Season at Sushi Sora,” by Chris Dwyer

Sushi Sora intro

Strong introductions aren’t just important for blogs — they’re essentially to quality editorial pieces, too. That’s why we love this introduction to an article from Destination MO, the Mandarin Oriental’s official online magazine.

Remember that thing we said about a captivating start? In addition to being empathetic or funny, visuals can be huge — not just an actual picture or video, but words that actually help the reader envision what you’re describing. This introduction does just that, with expressive phrases like, “the magical silhouette of Mount Fuji on the horizon.” Well, yeah. That does sound magical. But where can I go for such a view? None other than the “Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo,” the author tells me, especially “from the sushi counter at Sushi Sora.”

Here’s the thing about this intro — it gives the reader something to aspire to. We’ve briefly discussed aspirational marketing before, but this instance is one where it can be used in a brief introduction. After reading this first paragraph, I want to go to Tokyo. And when I’m there, I want to stay at the Mandarin Oriental. Then, I want to take in the views from its high-end sushi restaurant.

With just two sentences, I’ve gone from reading an article with my morning coffee, to fantasizing about a thousand-dollar vacation. So whenever possible, use your introduction to paint a picture, and to help your reader dream.

4) “The Secret Club of Admitting You Suck,” by Janessa Lantz

admitting you suck intro

Let’s read through this introduction from ReadThink together.

I know. I know! I once moved very far away to escape my own failure, too! But I couldn’t admit at the time that I sucked, either! Wow. Janessa Lantz really gets me.

See that? That, right there, is a resounding example of how empathy makes a profound introduction. But how did the story end? Did they buy the house? Did she admit that she sucked? Does she still suck? (Spoiler alert: I work with Janessa and can say, with great confidence, that she is far from sucking.)

The point is, I wanted to keep reading for two reasons — first, I related to the author. Second, it was just plain interesting, and it left me with a cliffhanger. It’s okay to tease your readers. Just make sure you ultimately give them what they’re seeking.

5) “Be a responsible tourist: a PSA from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” by Out of the Blue

responsible tourist intro

I’ll admit it — I’m a sucker for a good travel blog, which is why JetBlue’s official blog appeals to me. But at the same time, I also geek out for almost anything that promotes sustainability. In this piece, those worlds collide.

What makes this introduction work? Honestly, it’s scary. “Decline” and “extinction” are strong words, and absolutely present a problem. But research shows that we’re actually more inclined to keep reading bad news — in fact, a few years ago, our media consumption habits suggested that we prefer it.

But it’s not all bad — and JetBlue quickly turns around a potentially devastating situation with the language of this introduction. And, it includes the reader, by inviting travelers to be part of the solution, but joining the brand in its promotion of responsible tourism.

That’s another formula for presenting bad news to your audience, especially if you’re not the one causing it and you have a solution. Scary information + how you’re helping + how the reader can do his or her part = compelling intro.

Let’s Start

Feeling inspired? Good. Next time you find yourself face-to-face with the dreaded blinking cursor, use these resources and compelling examples to find motivation.

How do you write a good intro, and what are some of your favorite examples? Let us know in the comments.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2013 and has been updated and for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

free guide to writing well

 
free guide to writing well

Nov

23

2016

The 34 Best Tools for Improving Your Writing Skills

improve-writing-skills-1.jpg

Words are hard.

Whether you’re a published author or just getting started with blogging, it’s not always easy to string words together in a way that makes sense, sounds good, and makes the reader feel something.

But every marketer should be able to write — and, more importantly, every marketer can write. It’s just a matter of finding the writing environment that works best for you, expanding your vocabulary, asking for feedback (and listening to it), and practicing. Download our free guide here for tips to become a better writer. 

Luckily, there are a slew of great tools you can use to help improve your writing. Check out the list below, and feel free to add the most helpful ones you use in the comment section.

The 34 Best Tools for Improving Your Writing

1) Daily Page

“Writer’s block is a comforting lie we tell ourselves so we can stop writing and go do other, more pleasurable things,” said Beth Dunn, HubSpot’s UX writer and editor. “If your fingers still work, you can write. Sit down at the same time every day and start typing.”

Want to get into the habit of writing every day, but don’t know what to write about? Daily Page emails you a writing prompt every morning, and you have the rest of the day to write your response. Once you’ve written your response to the prompt, you can either share it or keep it private.

2) 750 Words 

Another way to practice your writing is to do a “brain dump” exercise using a tool like 750 Words. “Brain dumping” means getting all that stuff in your head down on paper — without having to worry about incomplete ideas, tangents, and private stuff.

It’s not blogging or status updating — it’s just you, writing whatever you want on a totally private account, without ever having to title your content or tag topics or share with your friends.

What it does do is track your word count so you’re sure to write 750 words (about three pages of writing). Plus, it’s gamified, which makes it kind of fun: You get a point for writing anything at all, two points for writing 750 words or more, and more points if you write consistently. And every time you write, it’ll give you some cool statistics on how much time you spent writing, the feelings and themes of your words, and so on.

Image Credit: 750 Words

3) Twords 

Publishing content on a consistent basis is crucial in the blogging world. Our own research concludes that companies that commit to regularly publishing quality content to their blogs tend get the most website traffic and leads — and those results continue to pay out over time. Tools like Twords can help bloggers commit to writing consistently.

Twords calls itself “the app that nudges you to write.” It notifies you when you haven’t written in a while so you can keep yourself accountable — and even gives you the option to connect with others who will help keep you accountable. It also tracks your writing so you can start to see patterns for the days you’re blogging more versus less, and so on. Finally, it includes some cool resources like a prompt library and articles about habit formation, writing resources, and so on.

Image Credit: Twords

4) Your Own “Swipe File” 

I read about a “Swipe File” on the “Kopywriting Kourse” blog and loved the idea. Basically, a swipe file is just a folder where you can curate cool stuff you come across, like advertisements, copy, emails, etc. “Save things that make you click, sign up, laugh, or go ‘whoa!'” says the post. The purpose? To flip through it for inspiration.

A swipe file can be physical or digital.

  • A physical swipe file would be something like a folder or envelope where you can keep print ads, pieces of copy, letters, and so on for inspiration.
  • A digital swipe file on desktop would be a digital folder, like one on your desktop. Whenever you see something interesting, screenshot it (by pressing Command + Shift + 4 on a Mac or Ctrl + Shift + 4 on a PC) and dragging that screenshot to your swipe folder.
  • A digital swipe on your mobile device is good for all the stuff you see when browsing the internet on your phone or tablet. The author of the post, for instance, created a specific folder in his iPhone and made a Phone Swipe File there. He stores screenshots when he sees something on mobile that grabs his attention.

Image Credit: KopywritingKourse.com

5) Help me Write 

What better way to make sure you’re writing about stuff your audience actually wants to read than by actually asking them? When you create a profile using Help me Write, you can post ideas of what you’re thinking about writing about. Then, you can share those ideas with your network via Twitter, Facebook, email, and so on — and ask your networks what they’d like to read most. They’ll be able to vote on their favorites, and you’ll be able to pick topics and better manage your time. 

Image Credit: HelpmeWrite

6) Blog Topic Generator

Do you have an overarching theme or keywords in mind for your next blog post, but you’re not sure at which angle to tackle it? HubSpot’s Blog Topic Generator could come in handy. Simply type in three keywords, and the tool will auto-generate five potential topics for your post. If you’re not keen on the suggestions, you can always click “Try Again” and it’ll give you five more topics.

7) Trello

Writing efficiently and organizing well is a part of writing well. Use a tool like Trello to collect content ideas, assign them to different members of your team, attach due dates, collaborate with other team members, track their progress, and move them from conception to completion.

Here at HubSpot, we add all our blog post ideas to Trello, turning each idea into a card that we can expand on with notes and move from list to list with a simple drag-and-drop.

8) Google Docs

There are many ways you can use Google Docs to improve your writing. For example, you can use the research tool to do online research on the topic you’re writing about, find quotes or educational information, and so on (see #4 on this list). You can use it to request edits or comments from your peers. It even has a built-in dictionary.

One of my favorite ways to use Google Docs to improve my writing is by crowdsourcing ideas from my coworkers. Here at HubSpot, the blogging team uses this method all the time — and it shaves off a significant portion of research time that goes into curated posts. The result? Better examples and more comprehensive posts with less effort.

9) Quora & 10) inbound.org

Speaking of crowdsourcing, Quora is a great place to go for crowdsourced answers if you want to reach outside your network. Simply search for a keyword, follow topics related to the topics you’re interested in, and/or post your own questions.

If you’re looking for answers from inbound marketers specifically, inbound.org is a great place to source answers from professionals. Here’s an example of a post where the author asked about people’s productivity and time management habits.

11) Blog Post Templates & 12) Ebook Templates

If you’re all set on a topic but need help with organizing your writing so it’s interesting to read, you may want to check out our free, downloadable blog post templates or ebook templates, depending what you’re writing.

  • The blog post templates will give you an outline of five different types of blog posts: how-to posts, listicles, curated collections, SlideShare presentations, and newsjacks.
  • The ebook templates are available as both PowerPoint and InDesign files. All you have to do is paste in your text, drop in your images, add your company’s logo, and voila — a finished ebook.

13) HubSpot Composer

For HubSpot customers, Composer is a new distraction-free writing tool that helps writers easily turn their brainstorm ideas and research notes into a blog post. Composer handles the work of formatting drafts into blog posts — users can copy and paste text from Microsoft Word or Google Docs into Composer, and Composer will automatically reformat them for blog publication with the press of a button.

Other team members can collaborate and share comments on documents in Composer so bloggers can get team feedback prior to publishing content on their blogs. Check it out in action below:

composer.png

14) oTranscribe 

If you’re writing something that includes an interview with someone else, oTranscribe is a great tool that’ll make the transcription process much less painful — allowing more time for your own writing and analysis.

There are a lot of transcription tools out there, but this one is one of my favorites. It’s a web app for transcribing interviews created by Elliott Bentley, a graphics writer at Wall Street Journal. The audio player is integrated with the editor meaning you won’t have to click back and forth. You can pause, play, rewind, and fast-forward using keyboard shortcuts. Every second, it automatically saves the transcription to your browser’s storage. You can export it to plain text or Google Docs. Finally, it’s open source under the MIT license.

15) Coffitivity

Ready to start writing? Here’s a tool that’ll boost your productivity. A study out of the University of Chicago found that a moderate level of ambient noise, or “white noise,” helps people be more creative. While there are a lot of white noise generators out there, Cofftivity is my favorite. It offers non-stop café background sounds at varying intensities, from “Morning Murmur” and “University Undertones” to “Lunchtime Lounge” and “Brazil Bistro.”

16) E.ggtimer.com & 17) Tomato Timer

If you like to write with a little pressure (or you’re just on deadline), then tools like e.ggtimer.com and Tomato Timer are useful (and free). Both of these tools offer a “pomodoro” option, which refers to the Pomodoro technique: a time management technique created by Francesco Cirillo based on periods of distraction-free work followed by short breaks — which is supposed to be optimal for productivity.

18) ZenPen 

If you don’t do well with distractions while you’re writing on a computer, then use a tool like ZenPen to help block out all the distractions and focus on your writing. It’s a web app that gives you a “minimalist writing zone.” There are a few, minimalist features available to help you stylize the text, add hyperlinks, and block quotes. Once you’re done, simply copy the text and paste it in your blog editor or wherever you’d like it to go.

19) Power Thesaurus & 20) Thesaurus.com 

Power Thesaurus isn’t just any thesaurus: It’s a crowdsourced thesaurus that provides alternative word choices from a community of writers. The word suggestions are totally original, and are based on the editorial work of a team of writers and years’ worth of reviews visitors’ suggestions.

But hey, when you want a good ol’, regular Thesaurus, you can’t beat Thesaurus.com.

21) OneLook Thesaurus

In addition to its thesaurus functions, OneLook Thesaurus also has a “reverse dictionary”: users can type in a definition or group of words related to the word they’re searching for and find the right word for their piece. Users can also type in a category of items, and OneLook will serve up multiple words that fall under that umbrella.

For example, here’s what happens when you search for “study animals.” OneLook then ranks synonyms according to how related or distance they are from the original search query. This is a great tool for when you have that “what’s the word for this?” moment and can’t bug your deskmate.

onelook.png

Image Credit: OneLook Thesaurus

22) Twinword Writer 

Here’s another help that’ll help you if you get stuck on a word and don’t want to leave your browser or skim through synonyms. If you type using Twinword Writer, it’ll automatically sense if you pause because you’re stuck on a word. Then, it’ll analyze the context of your writing and open a box suggesting alternate words you can use. You can also click any word to get suggestions.

23) Prompts 

If you like typing out posts or ideas using your iPhone and tend to hit a wall in the middle of a thought or idea, this $2.99 iOS app may be worth the investment. It uses an algorithm to make suggestions for what you should write next. It also tracks stats about your writing habits, can remind you to write regularly if you allow it, and lets you schedule the best day and time to write based on your writing history.

Image Credit: Prompts

24) BrainyQuote 

You may also find you want to include a quote from a famous author, politician, celebrity, or other public figure to strengthen your writing or inspire your readers. BrainyQuote is a library filled with millions of interesting quips that you can search by speaker (from Aristotle to Dr. Seuss to Audrey Hepburn) or by topic (like peace, success, leadership, and more).

25) Hemingway App

Ernest Hemingway, admired for his succinct writing style, is the namesake for this handy editing app. Want to make your content more easily readable? Paste your text into this free web app and it’ll assess your writing and identify opportunities to make it simpler. First, it sums up how readable your writing is with a grade. Then, it suggests how to improve readability. (Read this blog post for more tips on simplifying your writing.)

26) AtomicWriter 

Here’s another tool that’ll assess your writing — but this time, it’ll assess it depending on your specific target audience’s reading level and which content they relate to the most. After all, writing for your target audience is an important part of content marketing.

How? Simply hook up your Google Analytics and social media accounts to AtomicWriter, and then paste your content into the app. It’ll analyze your historical data and engagement data from those accounts, and then tell you whether it’s suitable for your target audience. 

Image Credit: Jeff Bullas

27) ProWritingAid

Here’s another tool that evaluates your writing, but it boasts some unique features that differentiate it from the tools above. For example, ProWritingAid highlights overused words, redundancies, plagiarism, and sentence length, making it easy for writers to identify trouble areas and strengthen them. 

The free version of this tool only analyzes 3,000 words at a time, so the $40 investment per year for Premium may be worthwhile if users publish multiple pieces of content per month. 

Here’s an example of what ProWritingAid looks like in action:

grammarcheck.png

Image Credit: ProWritingAid

28) Grammarly & 29) Correctica

Once the actual writing part is done, it’s time to edit. While human editors will be able to catch most grammatical errors, editing tools like Grammarly and Correctica are great tools for triple-checking before you press “publish” or “send.” Both free tools check for grammatical errors — and Grammarly even checks for plagiarism.

30) Draft 

When you upload your document to draft (from cloud services like Dropbox, Evernote, Box, or Google Drive), there’s a lot you can do with it. You can edit your document, share it with colleagues or friends, and manage your friends’ suggestions — much in the same way you can with Google Docs.

One big differentiator, though? It calls itself the “Uber for copyediting”: Draft lets you call on a staff of reviewers to get suggested edits, for a price. (Learn about more features here.)

Draft Screenshot.png

Image Credit: Draft

31) Cliché Finder 

Unleashed too many clichés in your most recent piece of content? To help your writing be more specific, it’s generally best to avoid clichés. To ensure you leave no stone unturned, paste your text into Cliché Finder and it’ll highlight any you missed so you can replace them with more specific text.

32) Listly

When you’re creating list posts — like this one — it’s easy to hit a wall. Sure, you know there are other great examples out there, but you’ve already exhausted the ones you know of. With Listly, you can invite your audience to contribute to your list. The Listly community can then vote on list items to move them up the list. 

You can either embed the interactive list in your post or use it do conduct research before you publish to ensure that the examples, items, or tips you’re including are the best of the best.

33) Style Guide

The more content your business puts out, the more consistent that writing and messaging should be. This includes everything from what official names to call your products or services, down to whether to use an Oxford comma.

At some point, most companies accept that they’ll need to develop a writing style guide: a document that indicates the basic rules of writing we’ll all agree to follow (like whether I should’ve capitalized the “a” after the colon in this sentence).

Most businesses adopt either the AP Stylebook, or the Chicago Manual of Style. If you want to customize your style guide, you can download the writing style guide template we’ve created here.

34) WritePls

If you type “how to improve writing skills” into Google, you’ll notice that there are almost six million search results. WritePls has organized the best of the best articles about writing into specific categories for different writing types (fiction, nonfiction, and emails), as well as articles about general writing, growth hacking, and resources for ebooks and online education.

This is a great home base for new and experienced writers alike. Blogging and email writing are two very different crafts, and WritePls has collected a variety of great resources to help any writers working on any type of project to refer to in a one-stop shop.

Which tools for improving one’s writing would you add to the list? Share with us in the comments.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2015 and has been updated and for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

free guide: how to be a better copywriter

 
free guide to writing well

Nov

23

2016

Instagram Launches Live Video & Ephemeral Messages: Here’s What You Need to Know

Instagram Updates Recap.jpg

Some of the greatest discoveries of all time came to fruition at the intersection between two ideas. Think about it: Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pajama jeans, and sporks … just to name a few.

This week, Instagram proved the power of cross-pollinating ideas once more when it announced the addition of live video on Instagram Stories and disappearing photos and videos in Instagram Direct.

If those new feature announcements look and feel a whole lot like the experiences you’re used to on Snapchat and Facebook Live, your instincts aren’t wrong. Instagram’s new features directly reflect a larger shift in the user’s desire to share content “freely and in the moment,” as explained in the official announcement. Download our complete guide to using Instagram for business and marketing here. While these features will be rolling out globally over the next few weeks, we wanted to make sure you were equipped with the know-how to start planning your strategy right now. Below, we’ll dive into each of the new features in detail, covering everything you need to know about what to expect, how to get started, and what this means for social media managers and marketers.

What’s Different About Instagram’s New Features?

To answer the question that everyone is asking themselves right off the bat: Yes, the live content update does seem eerily similar to Facebook Live.

But there are actually some noteworthy differences that set Instagram’s live video feature apart. And from a technical standpoint, Instagram’s live content is better represented as a healthy mix between Facebook Live and Snapchat.

The key difference between live video on Instagram Stories and Facebook Live is that live Instagram video disappears once the publisher finishes the broadcast, creating the transient experience offered by Snapchat.

“It’s a bi-directional experience, and you only get that when you’re actually live with someone,” Instagram’s Head of Product Kevin Weil told Recode.

But that’s not the only difference. According to that same Recode article, Instagram has no plans to pay media companies or celebrities to hop on a broadcast. This suggests that live Instragam content is intended to be less about creating important moments that need to be saved, and more about sharing unscripted, real-time experiences with friends and family.

Wired Staff Writer Davey Alba echoed this in her recap of the announcements:

With Instagram Stories, Facebook seems to be trying out a tack it used (to great effect) with messaging, splitting the use cases for Facebook Messenger (a tool for expression, as CEO Mark Zuckerberg explains it) and WhatsApp (a “more utilitarian” messaging app). Similarly, Facebook Live looks to be a more robust tool for archiving important video, while Instagram Stories is for your friends’ eyes only.”

As for the introduction of disappearing photos and videos in Instagram Direct, the divergence from Snapchat’s functionality is less obvious. In fact, one of the only major distinctions between the two is that Instagram makes it easier for users to continuously send disappearing messages to a set group of friends, whereas Snapchat requires you to manually select recipients each time.

In other words, the process for sending Instagram’s ephemeral direct messages mirrors a “group text” experience, which is informed by the company’s knowledge of users’ adoption of Instagram Direct over the last year. Since that launch, users have grown from 80 million to 300 million people around the world — and many of them are using the messaging feature to share content with group threads, according to the official announcement.

Ready to see these updates in action? Let’s walk through each step.

How to Get Started with Live Content and Disappearing Messages on Instagram

How to Go Live on Instagram:

1) Open the Instagram app and navigate to ‘Your Story’ in the top left corner.



Instagram Live 2.jpeg

2) Toggle left at the bottom of the screen to select the ‘Live’ option. Then, tap ‘Start Live Video.’

Slack for iOS Upload-2.(null).jpeg

Just like on Facebook Live, comments will appear in a feed at the bottom of the screen during your recording. Here’s an example we captured:

Instagram Live comments.jpeg

In the live view, you can also keep tabs on the number of viewers checking out your broadcast by referring to the number in the top right corner.

3) Once you end the broadcast, you’ll see the following screen, complete with a final view count and timestamp. To return to your feed, tap ‘Done.’

Slack for iOS Upload-3.(null).jpeg

We recommend taking note of the total number of viewers and the duration of your broadcast to inform your strategy in the future.

Looking for more ways to inspire your videos down the line? Check out the Explore tab to view live stories from others. Simply tap ‘Top Live’ to watch live stories unfold in real time, and swipe right and left to skip ahead or go back.

Top Live Stories Instagram.jpeg

How to Send a Disappearing Message on Instagram:

1) Open the Instagram app and swipe right to open the camera view. You can snap a photo by tapping the white circle button, or hold the button down to capture a video.

Instagram Message.jpeg

2) To add text or doodle on your photo or video, use the annotation icons in the top right corner.

Add Doodle Instagram Message.jpeg

(Need artistic inspiration? Check out this roundup of clever Snapchat drawings.)

3) When you’re ready to send the message, tap the white arrow button.

Send Private Instagram Message.jpeg

4) Time to select your recipients. You can either select one or several people to send the message to directly or tap ‘New Group’ in the top right corner to create a group message.

To select users to add to a direct message, simply tap the circle next to their name to turn it into a blue check mark. If you’re creating a group, tap ‘Create’ in the corner once you’re done adding recipients.

(Note: You have the option to name the group, too. This makes it easy to find and use it again when you want to send a message to the same people.)

fae4a21e-617b-4e9a-a7b6-8ee6568a6b1f_960.jpg

5) To view your direct messages, tap the new airplane icon in the top right corner of your feed or swipe left.

A few things to note about sending and viewing messages:

  • A blue ring will appear around a new message in your inbox.
  • In a group message, you can see others’ responses, as well as who else has seen them.
  • To send a response, simply tap the user’s faded profile photo.
  • You’ll be notified if a friend replays or screenshots your message.
  • You can only send disappearing messages to those you follow — regardless of whether your account is private or public.

View Instagram Messages.jpeg

So now you know how to get started, but what does this all mean for marketers and the future of Instagram? Let’s walk through all of that below.

The Era of Ephemeral Marketing Is Here

As marketers, you already know the importance of catering your social media content distribution to the platform you’re publishing on. You might turn to Twitter for snappy, 140-character breaking news, or Snapchat for a selfie of you and your coworker disguised by a funny filter. But the etiquette on Instagram was in a league of its own — until just recently, at least.

“Each social network has its differentiating factor, and Instagram has always been a place to showcase the most beautiful, curated version of your life,” explained HubSpot’s Social Media Marketing Manager Marissa Emanuele in a post following the announcement of Instagram Stories back in August.

The introduction of Instagram Stories was the social network’s first foray into a more authentic and open sharing environment, as it lowered the stakes for those feeling pressure to produce the perfect Instagram post. Unlike the traditional Instagram post, Stories could be unpolished and even a little silly.

By opening up the platform to live video and disappearing content, it’s clear Instagram is making a more aggressive shift towards becoming a network where users have the freedom to share whatever they want — whether it be raw, picturesque, or somewhere in between.

“We want Instagram to be a place where you share all of your moments,” Weil told Recode. “[That includes] the more private moments or the inside jokes that are relevant not for your entire Instagram following but for a smaller group of folks.”

Depending on your industry and audience, Instagram’s move towards a more consolidated platform for capturing and sharing moments could mean a few different things for your strategy.

“If you’re a one person marketing team, managing an ongoing Snapchat presence and an ongoing Instagram Stories presence is a little crazy,” noted Emanuele during a Facebook Live recap of the announcements yesterday afternoon. (Check that out below.)

It might not make sense for you to stretch yourself thin across every single platform. Emanuele’s rule of thumb: Don’t be on a channel just to be on a channel.

So how do you determine which channels are right for you?

“I think it’s all about testing,” explained one of HubSpot’s Content and Growth Marketers, Katherine Boyarsky, in the same live broadcast. “I probably wouldn’t [have] bet on our audience being on Snapchat. But they are,” she added.

In other words, take what you’ve learned above and give it a try — the response might surprise you, or at the very least validate your instincts about your audience’s preferences.

And whether these new features are right for you or not, Instagram’s announcement signals a larger sea change in marketing. Authenticity and real-time, ephemeral experiences are beating polished and hyper-produced content, and you should be thinking strategically about how to incorporate them into your marketing efforts.

Need help getting up to speed on some of the other real-time advancements on social media? Check out our guide to Facebook Live here, as well as our guide to Instagram Stories here. And for more on our reaction to these new Instagram announcements, check out the two-part Facebook Live recap from Emanuele and Boyarsky below:

Part One:

Part Two:

What questions do you have about the latest Instagram news? Share them in the comments.

how to use instagram for business

Nov

23

2016

Instagram Launches Live Video & Ephemeral Messages: Here’s What You Need to Know

Instagram Updates Recap.jpg

Some of the greatest discoveries of all time came to fruition at the intersection between two ideas. Think about it: Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pajama jeans, and sporks … just to name a few.

This week, Instagram proved the power of cross-pollinating ideas once more when it announced the addition of live video on Instagram Stories and disappearing photos and videos in Instagram Direct.

If those new feature announcements look and feel a whole lot like the experiences you’re used to on Snapchat and Facebook Live, your instincts aren’t wrong. Instagram’s new features directly reflect a larger shift in the user’s desire to share content “freely and in the moment,” as explained in the official announcement. Download our complete guide to using Instagram for business and marketing here. While these features will be rolling out globally over the next few weeks, we wanted to make sure you were equipped with the know-how to start planning your strategy right now. Below, we’ll dive into each of the new features in detail, covering everything you need to know about what to expect, how to get started, and what this means for social media managers and marketers.

What’s Different About Instagram’s New Features?

To answer the question that everyone is asking themselves right off the bat: Yes, the live content update does seem eerily similar to Facebook Live.

But there are actually some noteworthy differences that set Instagram’s live video feature apart. And from a technical standpoint, Instagram’s live content is better represented as a healthy mix between Facebook Live and Snapchat.

The key difference between live video on Instagram Stories and Facebook Live is that live Instagram video disappears once the publisher finishes the broadcast, creating the transient experience offered by Snapchat.

“It’s a bi-directional experience, and you only get that when you’re actually live with someone,” Instagram’s Head of Product Kevin Weil told Recode.

But that’s not the only difference. According to that same Recode article, Instagram has no plans to pay media companies or celebrities to hop on a broadcast. This suggests that live Instragam content is intended to be less about creating important moments that need to be saved, and more about sharing unscripted, real-time experiences with friends and family.

Wired Staff Writer Davey Alba echoed this in her recap of the announcements:

With Instagram Stories, Facebook seems to be trying out a tack it used (to great effect) with messaging, splitting the use cases for Facebook Messenger (a tool for expression, as CEO Mark Zuckerberg explains it) and WhatsApp (a “more utilitarian” messaging app). Similarly, Facebook Live looks to be a more robust tool for archiving important video, while Instagram Stories is for your friends’ eyes only.”

As for the introduction of disappearing photos and videos in Instagram Direct, the divergence from Snapchat’s functionality is less obvious. In fact, one of the only major distinctions between the two is that Instagram makes it easier for users to continuously send disappearing messages to a set group of friends, whereas Snapchat requires you to manually select recipients each time.

In other words, the process for sending Instagram’s ephemeral direct messages mirrors a “group text” experience, which is informed by the company’s knowledge of users’ adoption of Instagram Direct over the last year. Since that launch, users have grown from 80 million to 300 million people around the world — and many of them are using the messaging feature to share content with group threads, according to the official announcement.

Ready to see these updates in action? Let’s walk through each step.

How to Get Started with Live Content and Disappearing Messages on Instagram

How to Go Live on Instagram:

1) Open the Instagram app and navigate to ‘Your Story’ in the top left corner.



Instagram Live 2.jpeg

2) Toggle left at the bottom of the screen to select the ‘Live’ option. Then, tap ‘Start Live Video.’

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Just like on Facebook Live, comments will appear in a feed at the bottom of the screen during your recording. Here’s an example we captured:

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In the live view, you can also keep tabs on the number of viewers checking out your broadcast by referring to the number in the top right corner.

3) Once you end the broadcast, you’ll see the following screen, complete with a final view count and timestamp. To return to your feed, tap ‘Done.’

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We recommend taking note of the total number of viewers and the duration of your broadcast to inform your strategy in the future.

Looking for more ways to inspire your videos down the line? Check out the Explore tab to view live stories from others. Simply tap ‘Top Live’ to watch live stories unfold in real time, and swipe right and left to skip ahead or go back.

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How to Send a Disappearing Message on Instagram:

1) Open the Instagram app and swipe right to open the camera view. You can snap a photo by tapping the white circle button, or hold the button down to capture a video.

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2) To add text or doodle on your photo or video, use the annotation icons in the top right corner.

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(Need artistic inspiration? Check out this roundup of clever Snapchat drawings.)

3) When you’re ready to send the message, tap the white arrow button.

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4) Time to select your recipients. You can either select one or several people to send the message to directly or tap ‘New Group’ in the top right corner to create a group message.

To select users to add to a direct message, simply tap the circle next to their name to turn it into a blue check mark. If you’re creating a group, tap ‘Create’ in the corner once you’re done adding recipients.

(Note: You have the option to name the group, too. This makes it easy to find and use it again when you want to send a message to the same people.)

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5) To view your direct messages, tap the new airplane icon in the top right corner of your feed or swipe left.

A few things to note about sending and viewing messages:

  • A blue ring will appear around a new message in your inbox.
  • In a group message, you can see others’ responses, as well as who else has seen them.
  • To send a response, simply tap the user’s faded profile photo.
  • You’ll be notified if a friend replays or screenshots your message.
  • You can only send disappearing messages to those you follow — regardless of whether your account is private or public.

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So now you know how to get started, but what does this all mean for marketers and the future of Instagram? Let’s walk through all of that below.

The Era of Ephemeral Marketing Is Here

As marketers, you already know the importance of catering your social media content distribution to the platform you’re publishing on. You might turn to Twitter for snappy, 140-character breaking news, or Snapchat for a selfie of you and your coworker disguised by a funny filter. But the etiquette on Instagram was in a league of its own — until just recently, at least.

“Each social network has its differentiating factor, and Instagram has always been a place to showcase the most beautiful, curated version of your life,” explained HubSpot’s Social Media Marketing Manager Marissa Emanuele in a post following the announcement of Instagram Stories back in August.

The introduction of Instagram Stories was the social network’s first foray into a more authentic and open sharing environment, as it lowered the stakes for those feeling pressure to produce the perfect Instagram post. Unlike the traditional Instagram post, Stories could be unpolished and even a little silly.

By opening up the platform to live video and disappearing content, it’s clear Instagram is making a more aggressive shift towards becoming a network where users have the freedom to share whatever they want — whether it be raw, picturesque, or somewhere in between.

“We want Instagram to be a place where you share all of your moments,” Weil told Recode. “[That includes] the more private moments or the inside jokes that are relevant not for your entire Instagram following but for a smaller group of folks.”

Depending on your industry and audience, Instagram’s move towards a more consolidated platform for capturing and sharing moments could mean a few different things for your strategy.

“If you’re a one person marketing team, managing an ongoing Snapchat presence and an ongoing Instagram Stories presence is a little crazy,” noted Emanuele during a Facebook Live recap of the announcements yesterday afternoon. (Check that out below.)

It might not make sense for you to stretch yourself thin across every single platform. Emanuele’s rule of thumb: Don’t be on a channel just to be on a channel.

So how do you determine which channels are right for you?

“I think it’s all about testing,” explained one of HubSpot’s Content and Growth Marketers, Katherine Boyarsky, in the same live broadcast. “I probably wouldn’t [have] bet on our audience being on Snapchat. But they are,” she added.

In other words, take what you’ve learned above and give it a try — the response might surprise you, or at the very least validate your instincts about your audience’s preferences.

And whether these new features are right for you or not, Instagram’s announcement signals a larger sea change in marketing. Authenticity and real-time, ephemeral experiences are beating polished and hyper-produced content, and you should be thinking strategically about how to incorporate them into your marketing efforts.

Need help getting up to speed on some of the other real-time advancements on social media? Check out our guide to Facebook Live here, as well as our guide to Instagram Stories here. And for more on our reaction to these new Instagram announcements, check out the two-part Facebook Live recap from Emanuele and Boyarsky below:

Part One:

Part Two:

What questions do you have about the latest Instagram news? Share them in the comments.

how to use instagram for business


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