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Jul

7

2017

15 Uncomfortable Things That Will Make You More Successful

Published by in category Daily, Management, Office Life, pop culture, Professional Development, TOFU | Comments are closed

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In a truly beautiful letter to his daughter Yolande, Sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois extolled the virtues of being uncomfortable.

Yolande was headed to a new school halfway around the world from the neighborhood and people she knew. It was years before women had the right to vote, and decades before the Civil Rights Movement.

Du Bois knew she would have more than a few fish-out-of-water moments. Instead of trying to shield her from them, he asked her to revel in them:  

Don’t shrink from new experiences and custom. Take the cold bath bravely. Enter into the spirit of your big bed-room. Enjoy what is and not pine for what is not. Read some good, heavy, serious books just for discipline: Take yourself in hand and master yourself. Make yourself do unpleasant things, so as to gain the upper hand of your soul. Above all remember: your father loves you and believes in you and expects you to be a wonderful woman.”

I am no W.E.B. Du Bois. I have neither his fortitude nor his stunning way with words. What I do have, however, is a small history of uncomfortable experiences that have made me stronger, and an endless sea of animated GIFs through which to illustrate those experiences.Boost your resume and join 30,000 marketers by getting inbound  marketing-certified for free from HubSpot. Get started here. 

Here are a handful of uncomfortable situations in which you should take De Bois’ advice and “Take the cold bath bravely.” You’ll be better off as a result.

(And remember: Investing in your career and developing new skills can often feel daunting — especially when you have a day job. If you’re looking for something you can work towards at your own pace, check out this on-demand marketing course.)

15 Uncomfortable Things That Will Make You More Successful

Brace yourself. It’s about to get awkward.

1) Learning to Take a Compliment

Source: Reaction GIFs

Tell me if this sounds familiar: You work exceedingly hard. You’ve honed your skills. You know when you’ve done great work and take a quiet pride in it. And yet, the moment someone verbalizes it in the form of a compliment you can’t seem to string two words together. Instead, you revert into one of the following

  • The babbling-response.
  • The self-deprecating response. 
  • The total and complete blackout. 

That nonsense has to stop. Here’s how to take a compliment:

  1. Realize that someone is paying you a compliment.
  2. Let them finish.
  3. Seriously, let them finish. 
  4. Take a breath.
  5. Smile and say “Thank you. That’s really good to hear.” 
  6. Move on in the conversation. Don’t over-explain. Don’t undercut yourself. Just thank them sincerely and move on with a question about how their work is going. 

Why is this so hard? According to a study by Acknowledgment Worksnearly 70% of people associate embarrassment or discomfort with the process of being recognized. Sometimes, this response is caused by the dissonance we feel when someone contradicts our own self-doubt.

But that doesn’t explain why people who are genuinely proud of themselves still balk at hearing that same praise from others. For those people, it often comes down to a learned-response. In other words, you are awkward when you receive compliments because I am awkward when I receive compliments — or, if not me, then your mom; your co-workers; your icons. We’re all making each other squirm. 

One way to turn that discomfort on its head is to realize that the compliment has more to do with the person giving it than with you. “When someone is complimenting you, they are sharing how your actions or behaviors impacted them,” explains Business Psychologist Mark Goulston. “They are not asking if you agree.”  So don’t rob them of that moment. 

2) Public Speaking

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Source: Giphy

You knew this one was coming, right? Fear of public speaking is so common it has its own phobia name: Glossophobia.  

Now, I don’t think I need to go into the reasons behind this particular juggernaut of discomfort. We’ve all been there. Having that many eyes and ears on you is stressful. It makes you feel as though any mistake or imperfection will be amplified a thousand times. I’m also certain you realize how compelling a good public speaker can be, and how much it can advance your ability to lead and inspire.

So all that leaves is the classic glossophobia question:  How do you get over it? The answer is a mix of substantial and superficial changes.

Know the essential points.

Do not attempt to memorize your speeches. Instead, memorize your key points and your pivot lines. Pivot lines are the sentences that will move you from one key point to another. They act as navigational guides for your audience and a momentary comfort zone for you. Use these pivot lines to reset, take a breath, and move to your next key point. 

Understand that everyone wants you to succeed.

You are not going into battle. You are not facing a firing squad. These people you are talking to are all decent, interested folks. Many of whom also suffer from glossophobia. So know they are friendly, and talk to them like it.

Fake it.

For this last point, I turn to Harvard Associate Professor Amy Cuddy. She is a brilliant researcher and a  self-proclaimed introvert who noticed something fascinatingly simple about skilled public speakers: They all looked comfortable, and they all appeared to be in command — even if that appearance was all a big ruse.

So she studied what happens to people’s mindset when they stood up straight, casually used the space around them, and otherwise “power-posed.” Turns out the physical act of power-posing can send biological triggers to your brain to reduce cortisol levels and increase testosterone, calming you down and empowering you simultaneously.

(Here’s a blog post on science-backed tips for better public speaking if you want to learn more.)

3) Working With Data

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Source: Reddit

If you don’t take to math easily, then delving into data can be intimidating. But learning to use data to find opportunities and underscore your points is a game-changer in your career.

The trick to mastering data is to learn it in context. Start by getting to know the core metrics that reflect your work. Play with spreadsheets at the close of a month. Learn to recognize trends. Alter the data to see how moving one metric would influence the others. The more time you spend with the data the more natural interpreting it will become.  Once you’ve done that, you can dig into the tougher stuff. Here are a couple of resources to get you started:

4) Waking Up Early

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It’s exhausting, this modern life. While it may seem like you should squeeze as many extra minutes of sleep out of the morning as possible, the opposite is usually true. Your energy, focus and mental capacity are at their highest during the morning hours and proceed to wane throughout the rest of the day.

Take advantage of that time before breakfast when the chaos of the day has yet to set in. For most people, waking up early is a learned practice. 

First, make sure you’re cognizant enough to make the decision. Putting your alarm clock right next to your pillow is bound to result in you hitting snooze from a dazed state. You can’t be expected to make smart choices while you’re still dreaming. In addition, waking up early needs to become a pleasant experience. So if the thought of going straight from your warm bed to a shower or treadmill seems abrupt, then don’t do it. Instead, move from your bed to the cozy corner chair in your living room and read for a bit with a mug of coffee. What you do early on doesn’t matter, what matters is that you use the time in productive ways. (Read this blog post for more tips on becoming a morning person.)

5) Taking Critical Feedback

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Source: ReactionGIFs

This one stings sometimes, but it’s important. Learning to hear criticism without turning your back to it can be one of the most fortifying achievements of your career.

Think of critical feedback as a cheat sheet. In giving you direct feedback, your manager or colleague is giving you a shortcut  — your own personal konami code — to becoming better at your job.

Sometimes, even with the best intentions, taking feedback well can be a struggle. Your impulse will be to protect yourself; to get defensive, or stop listening. So, be conscious of it. Much like accepting a compliment, take a breath when you realize critical feedback is coming your way. Listen to it all without interruption. Write down what you can. Then, ask questions to make sure you’re interpreting it right. 

6) Giving Critical Feedback

Source: Giphy

The only thing worse than taking critical feedback is giving it. I’ve written about this before: Whether you’re a manager or a friend, feedback is an opportunity to help someone get better. Don’t waste it. Good coaches give feedback directly and with respect. Don’t try to soften the blow or talk around the feedback. Doing so may make you feel better but it will only serve to confuse them.

If you’re struggling to be direct, try one clear line followed by detail. For example, “John, what you’re doing isn’t working. Let’s talk through why…”

In addition, feedback is always most constructive if accompanied by recent concrete examples. Telling someone they have a bad attitude isn’t helpful — it’s far better to point to a precise moment in which that bad attitude showed up, and then explain how moments like that can become detrimental in aggregate. Ultimately, knowing how to improve is as important as knowing what to improve. The person receiving the feedback should leave the conversation feeling empowered to change, not broken down. (Here are some more tips on how to give negative feedback without sounding like a jerk.)

7) Fighting through Conflict

 Source: ReactionGIFs

You know what’s more uncomfortable than fighting through a conflict with someone? Settling for an uninspired compromise, and then gossiping about that person over drinks with your coworkers. That’s WAY more comfortable than conflict. (Not to mention, way less productive.)

There are two ways conflict negotiations get botched: Either one side gives in too easily, or both sides are too inflexible to make resolution possible. The cleanest way through conflict is to try to discover what’s motivating the other person. Comment trolls aside, it’s pretty rare for someone to be argumentative for no good reason. Discovering the reason will help you find a better route to solving the conflict. That’s why your best asset in settling conflict is a collection of genuine questions and a patient ear to hear the answers.

8) Exercising

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Source: Giphy

I keep waiting for the study that says that exercise isn’t all its cracked up to be. It’s fair to say that study isn’t coming. Not only is exercise good for your physical health, the ties between exercise and mental capacity are becoming undeniable. (Thanks, science.)

If you like working out, skip right ahead.  If you don’t, here are the only things I’ve found to work. 

Find your reason.

Maybe you want to lose weight. Maybe it helps you think more clearly. Maybe you have three kids, a constantly buzzing phone, and a dog all demanding your attention and exercise is your only chance to be alone. The reasons don’t matter.  Just find the one that feels authentic for you and use it. 

Make the time.

Treat exercise like you treat showering. It’s just something you do; a non-negotiable daily ritual. (Psst … here are 10 little ways to sneak in exercise at work.)

Get over it.

I used to hear about “runners’ highs,” a sort of delusion that sets in after you’ve done it enough that actually makes you believe jogging is fun. That may be the case for some people. It never happened for me, and wanting to like running made it easy to give up when I ultimately didn’t. Du Bois’ advice is worth hearing again here: “Make yourself do unpleasant things, so as to gain the upper hand of your soul.”

Find your genre.

The softer alternative to the above point is to find the exercise format that you hate least. If a crowded gym makes you want to run for the hills, then work out at home or outside on your own. If you find jogging boring, join a class or sports league. Work at it — it’s worth it.

9) Unplugging

Source: Giphy

I love the internet. And smartphones? They’re like personal escape hatches that you carry with you all the time. But maybe “all the time” is not such a good idea.

According to a TIME poll of more than 5,000 people, 84% of respondents said that they could not go a single day without their cell phones, and 20% said they check them once or more every 20 minutes.

It’s not the frequency of usage that’s the problem; it’s what that level of usage does to our focus. Using our smartphones at night can make it a lot harder to sleep. When we use our smartphones nonstop it can be harder to think clearly.

So, here’s an experiment. For two weeks, set aside some screen free time blocks in your day. During that time fight the urge to open your laptop, watch TV, or glance at your phone. Sustain it for 60 minutes or more and see if you’ve gained better focus at the conclusion of the experiment. Then, go find some cat videos on YouTube to celebrate.

10) Networking and Making Small Talk

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Source: Giphy

Everyone has a small-talk formula. Some people start with the weather (nice, mild winter we’re having, eh?), while others ask how things are going with you at work. But here’s the trick to mastering small talk: Get fascinated by it and the person wielding it. It’s a little like being dealt a hand of cards, you can use what you have to get to bigger and more interesting plays.  

If someone asks you how work is, don’t say “fine” — or worse, “busy.” Tell them it’s good and follow up with, “You know, there’s one project in particular that you may find interesting.” If you’re doing the asking, take any opportunity to dive deeper. Use each question as a spring board to the next one. Eventually, you’ll hit on something substantial. 

11) Admitting a Mistake

Source: ReactionGIFs

You know that moment right after you realize you’ve accidentally made a mistake? You know, that moment when the dread plummets into your stomach in one sweeping motion? Uncomfortable doesn’t even begin to describe it.

However, even that can be turned around. The most effective way to replace that sinking feeling in your gut is to assess the situation and take action. Ask yourself:

Is it immediately reversible?

On my last blog post, I had a glaring typo. This was not some extra spacing after a period, this was a blatant blemish smack in the middle of my post. And I missed it. Thankfully Claire Autruong caught it and let me know via Twitter so I could edit the post before it was too late. Claire is my favorite person of the week. (Incidentally, she is also a full-stack freelance marketer — inbound certified and nice as can be — if you’re looking.)

Who should know?

Whom does your mistake affect? Who is in the position who can help you solve it? Quickly scan the list of people that need to know about your mistake and contact them explaining what happened and what you’re doing about it.

What’s your plan?

If the mistake isn’t immediately reversible, you’ll need a plan of action. A good plan is the best antidote to mistake-induced discomfort. Shift from panic to determination as soon as possible, and that discomfort will subside.

12) Getting in Over Your Head

Source: ReactionGIFs

Of all the uncomfortable moments, getting in over your head is probably the one most worth pursuing. Sure, it’s a little scary , and there’s always the chance of failure, but nothing stretches you more or makes you more creative than having no idea what you’re doing.

So how do you put yourself in an over-your-head style situation? Raise your hand. When there’s a project no one wants, step up. When there’s a problem that has existed for years, have at it. Then break it down. Take big challenges and tackle them piece by piece. It may not always be fun, but you will almost always be better for the effort. 

13) Disagreeing With Your Boss

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Source: Giphy

There’s a reason my boss is my boss. He’s really freaking smart. He’s exceptionally good at what he does. So in the times I find myself disagreeing with him there are usually a few moments of internal back and forth before I’m ready to say so aloud. But I do so because I’ve learned that staying quiet is more damaging than polite.

It took me becoming a manager myself to realize how constructive disagreement can be. A perspective that is never tested grows shallow. Sometimes a dissenting opinion will make you reconsider. Sometimes it will make your stance stronger. Either way, the exercise of hearing different angles advances your thinking and improves your outcomes.

So spit it out. “I disagree on that point.” If that feels too direct consider framing it as a question. “What about a different approach?” Most importantly, don’t save up for a major disagreement. Practice coming at issues from different angles now. The more you present constructive counterpoints the easier it will become, and you’ll be more likely to speak up when it matters most.

14) Promoting Yourself

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Source: Giphy

Periodically we survey our team to get a sense for how each employee is feeling about the company and their own career development. One theme that sometimes comes back is how to get ahead without being self-promotional. Usually the comment goes something like this: “It seems like the company always recognizes the same people. I do good work, but it seems like no one notices.”

The honest response to these comments is: You’re right.

Growing companies are chaotic. They churn with activity: breakthroughs and setbacks, new projects and discoveries. Keeping up with it all isn’t practical, so managers rely on signals, and tasteful self-promotion is a valuable signal. 

Self-promotion is sometimes misused to serve the ego, but there’s a way to pull it off that also also serves the company.

We are taught not to be overly self-promotional. We are encouraged to value the achievement rather than the accolades. That message is almost right. It focuses on what matters most but fails to recognize that talking about an achievement can fuel its fire. Promoting an achievement can galvanize others to bring their ideas to it and ensure future efforts learn from it. And yes, it can get you noticed.

The trick here is being judicial. Not everything you do deserves broader attention. But some things do. In those cases, talking about them doesn’t make you an attention junkie it makes you a good communicator. If the personal attention makes you uncomfortable, focus your advocacy on the work itself. Draw attention to the discovery, milestone or lessons uncovered by your effort. The company will be better for it and you will too.

15) Admitting You Don’t Understand Something

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Source: Giphy

I was a good six months into my job as a product marketer for a software company before I finally owned up to not knowing what an API was. I mean I knew what an API was. I’d Googled it, obviously. API stands “application programming interface” and constitutes a set of “subroutine definitions, protocols, and tools for building application software.” Thanks Wikipedia. (I’ll hit you up on that next fundraising round), but for all my internet research, I didn’t really understand what an API did.

Then it came time for me to explain that my company, HubSpot, was opening up more of the helpful little buggers to the public and I did not know where to begin. So, I went to my product manager and did what any ego-protecting protagonist would do, I tried to fake it.

“How would you describe this  —  in layman’s terms — to the average reader?” I asked.

Smooth. Always blame the reader.

“Well, developers are pretty accustomed to APIs so don’t worry about needing to educate them on it.”

Not smooth.

I folded.

“Ok, then, how would you explain it to me? I mean, will you explain it to me? I don’t get it. “

And thus began my relationship with APIs. I still don’t understand all the details of how they work, but I’m much smarter for having gotten over myself and asked the question.

Don’t fake it until you make it. Get over yourself and ask the question.

I’ll stop there …

… but this is really just the beginning. Who knew there were so many uncomfortable things in the world? (Michael Cera. Michael Cera probably knew.)

From negotiating salary to reading “some good, heavy, serious books” as Du Bois suggests, this list could go on and on. Hopefully it will, in the comments below.

What uncomfortable moment have you conquered as a professional? Which are you still working on that you’d add to this list? Share with us in the comments. 

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2016 and has been updated for freshness and comprehensiveness.

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Mar

23

2017

14 of the Best Snapchats to Follow for Inspiration

Published by in category Ecommerce, pop culture, Social Media, TOFU | Comments are closed

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It used to be that Snapchat was seen as a platform geared mostly toward teens and pre-teens. But over the last several years, Snapchat has added features and made changes that have helped to move it into a much broader space.

No longer is it a niche photo-messaging service — it’s become an established media platform valued at over $19 billion and with over 161 million daily users. As for the age range of its user base, eMarketer reports that 34% of all Snapchat users in the U.S. are between the ages of 18 and 24, and comScore found that 69% of U.S. smartphone users ages 13 to 24 use Snapchat. New Call-to-action

That’s why brands from every industry and with all manner of target demographic — from Sour Patch Kids to General Electric, and even HubSpot — are using Snapchat to connect with fans and customers in a way that’s low-cost, but highly personal and engaging. You’ll notice the content these brands post on Snapchat isn’t polished: it’s raw and scrappy and fun. After all, Snapchat is all about letting your brand personality shine and relating to your target audience on a totally human level.

Before we list the best brands to follow on Snapchat, let’s be sure we all know how to follow brands on Snapchat and view content in the first place.

(Click here to skip ahead to the best brands on Snapchat.)

How to Follow Brands on Snapchat

To follow brands on Snapchat, you’ll first have to make a Snapchat account of your own. Snapchat accounts are nothing fancy: no profile picture, no bio, no URL to your website. All you really have to do is download the free Snapchat app (for iOS here or for Android here), and then create an account by entering your email, a username, and a password.

Once you’ve made an account, you’re ready to find and follow brands (and other users).

Step 1: Open the Snapchat app and swipe down on your screen. You’ll be taken to your home screen (below).

Step 2: On the home screen, add friends by clicking the “Add Friends” option.

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Step 3: Time to add some friends. You can add friends in a few ways: by username, from your address book (i.e. your phone’s contacts list), by Snapcode, or from someone nearby.

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To add folks by username, you’ll have to type in exact usernames to find people, as there is no account suggestion option like other social networks have. For example, Sour Patch Kids’ Snapchat username is @sourpatchsnaps, not @sourpatchkids — but you’ll have to type that.

To add a user by scanning a Snapcode, simply take a picture or screenshot of a user’s Snapcode with your mobile device. Then, find the “Add by Snapcode” option by following the steps outlined above, and choose the photo you took of the Snapcode. The app will recognize the Snapcode and add the person automatically.

(The list of brands below includes each brand’s Snapcode, so if you’re reading this post on your mobile device, you can try adding these brands on Snapchat by screenshotting the Snapcodes as you read. Then, later, open the Snapchat app and find “Add by Snapcode” — and you can add each brand one-by-one by finding the corresponding screenshot in your saved photos.)

Step 4: Once you follow the brands you want on Snapchat, you can view Snapchat content the same way you’d view your friends’ Snapchat Stories: Open the Snapchat app, and then swipe the whole screen left to get to your Stories.

Brands aren’t set apart from other users, so you’ll have to find the brands among your friends. Click on a brand’s username to view its Story.

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Now that you know how to find and follow brands on Snapchat and view Stories, let’s get into the best brands to follow on Snapchat.

14 of the Best Brands on Snapchat

1) Sour Patch Kids

Username: @sourpatchsnaps

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Many of the earliest adopters of Snapchat were teenagers, which gave the snack company, Modelez, an incentive to hop on the platform to promote its Sour Patch Kids candy brand.

In 2014, one of the company’s major goals was to grow awareness among its core demographic: candy-loving teenagers in the United States. Because teenagers were reportedly spending more and more time on Snapchat, the brand decided to go there to create fun content teens could share with one another.

The video below is an excerpt from one of its first campaigns back in 2014, called “Real-life Sour Patch Kid.” For the campaign, the company teamed up with Logan Paul, a social media influencer and comedian, who spent five days recording pranks around New York City via Snapchat. It was a play off the brand tagline, “First they’re sour, then they’re sweet,” as the pranks went from “sweet” at the beginning of the five days to more “sour” pranks as the week went on.

Each month, new Stories were released showing the “Real Sour Patch Kids” acting like regular teenagers. Below is an example of them showcasing their “favorite Halloween costumes”:

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Source: Shorty Awards

More recently, Sour Patch Kids started experimenting with Snapchat Spectacles to film a Tasty on BuzzFeed-style “recipe” video — although it’s not quite the same. The Snapchat Story purports to show viewers how to bake cookies with Sour Patch Kids in them, but the baker is as mischievous as the candy Kids. This silly snap showcases the fun and prankster spirit the brand is known for while also demonstrating the neat circular video filmed using Spectacles.

Source: Ad Age

2) Everlane

Username: @EVERLANE

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The retail company Everlane was another early Snapchat adopter, but with an even more daring approach to the then-new social platform. In November 2015, it wrote this on its official blog: “We’re here to make a bold claim. Snapchat is going to become the de-facto social channel for Everlane. Over the past month, we’ve been testing it in small batches and we’re in love.”

Why did Everlane love it so much? Because it found it was an even better way to showcase its radical approach to transparency than other social networks like Facebook.

“Facebook is a spot for updating our community and having one on one conversations,” read the post. “But Snapchat is completely different. Snapchat gives us the chance to explore transparency in a completely new way. No fancy cameras. No editing. Just raw, live, footage. It’s beautiful, and it’s the platform for the modern generation.”

Almost two years later, Everlane hasn’t turned back. The folks at Everlane use Snapchat as kind of a backstage pass into its ecommerce business, events, and culture. It uses the Snapchat Story feature to create narratives around giving tours of Everlane spaces, interviewing customers in brick-and-mortar stores, and previewing new products. As Everlane’s social media lead told Business Insider,

We’re trying to find little bits of what’s going on here daily at headquarters to share with our consumers. I think it’s a rare opportunity for them to see how a brand is being built day in and day out. A lot of bigger companies have already established their brand, so what they’re seeing is something that’s a finished product, whereas we have such a long way to go.”

On #TransparencyTuesday, for example, Everlane uses Snapchat to record a walkthrough of its business or factories — every single one of which team members personally visit.

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Source: Tech Insider

The social team also personally answers questions sent via Snapchat:

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Source: Tech Insider

3) Cisco

Username: @wearecisco

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Let’s face it, networking and telecommunications technology aren’t the most engaging topics on social media. (To be honest, I’m not totally sure what those mean.)  So instead of trying to explain or show highly technical devices on its Snapchat channel, Cisco showcases the other side of its organization: the humans who work there.

In Cisco’s “Day in the Life of an Account Manager” Snapchat series, it chronicles the workday of an account manager as he or she visits different cities and plans on behalf of Cisco. Using emojis, jokes, and lenses, the star of the Story gives the brand a more human side.

Cisco’s Snapchat is a great lesson for B2B marketers who want to engage on social media but aren’t certain of the subject matter. If you don’t think your product or service is that exciting, focus on other aspects of your organization, such as the company culture or lives of employees. Things like events, parties, and behind-the-scenes tours will give your brand personality and will give you more ideas for content to feature.

4) General Electric

Username: @generalelectric

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Would you ever have guessed that General Electric, a multinational conglomerate corporation, would have an active and effective presence on Snapchat?

The brand has actually done an awesome job of using its platform to showcase its geeky personality and to encourage interest in science — something GE has done well on other social media networks like Instagram and YouTube.

One of the best ways GE uses the platform is in a series in which it answers users’ questions by explaining scientific concepts in a concise and fun way. For example, it recently shared some of its findings from its emoji science curriculum, which GE established along with the National Science Foundation.

.@WhiteHouse In honor of the #WHScienceFair we’re doing some #EmojiScience on our Snapchat. Check it out! cc: @POTUS pic.twitter.com/WWjeIWicbp

— General Electric (@generalelectric)
April 13, 2016

In addition to sharing emoji science findings, GE also encourages Snapchat followers to interact directly. “Just add ‘generalelectric’ on Snapchat, send us an emoji, and we’ll send you some science,” GE wrote on its Tumblr. Here’s an example of the “science” followers might get in return:

GE’s global director of innovation Sam Olstein said about Snapchat, “The disappearing nature of its content encourages repeat usage and provides us with a unique way to celebrate invention with an expanding community of young fans.”

(To learn more about GE’s creative content, check out this episode of The Growth Show.)

5) Gatorade

Gatorade doesn’t have a Snapchat account of its own, but thanks to its epic sponsored lens Snapchat at the Super Bowl last year, we think it deserves a place on this list. (Note: A Snapchat lens is essentially a creative filter for your selfies. It’s what you see when your friends send Snapchats of them puking rainbows. Learn how to use Snapchat lenses here.)

Here’s what Gatorade did: When a football team wins a game, it’s customary that the team dumps whatever sports drink is in the team cooler onto their coach’s head. During the Super Bowl football game in 2016, the folks at PepsiCo-owned Gatorade released a genius Super Bowl Snapchat lens that let anyone give themselves a Gatorade bath, too.

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Image Credit: Adweek

To create the ad, the folks at Gatorade partnered with Snapchat to purchase a sponsored lens, which costs around $450,000 per sponsored lens on normal days, and up to $750,000 on “peak days” like holidays and the Super Bowl.

Then, Gatorade had professional tennis player Serena Williams — whom Gatorade sponsors — star in the ad above. The ad shows her getting virtually “dumped on” by a cooler of orange Gatorade, thanks to the lens. The company tweeted out a GIF of the Snapchat to get the momentum going, and by the end of the day, the sponsored lens had reportedly been viewed over 100 million times.

6) Warby Parker

Username: @warbyparker

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At Warby Parker, Snapchat is used for a variety of topics: everything from showcasing products (“Today on Snapchat, we try on our favorite Crystal frames in 15 seconds”) to giving users a chance to hear from the company’s co-founder Neil Blumenthal (“Our co-founder Neil Blumenthal is inside the secret room today. Tune in on Snapchat as he answers your questions!”).

Warby Parker has several Snapchat series, including one called “Desk Job.” In one recent Snapchat Story, Warby Parker featured one of its brand creative managers for his five desk essentials. Once a Snapchat Story is up, the brand promotes them on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. (I noticed it didn’t promote them on Facebook, which is probably a good thing: On Facebook, it’s important not be selective about what you publish and focus on quality, rather than quantity, of posts.)

Tune into Snapchat for Desk Job—today, Brand Creative Manager Matt discusses his five desk essentials! pic.twitter.com/QblOWLOv2x

— Warby Parker (@WarbyParker)
April 19, 2016

7) GrubHub

Username: @grubhub

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GrubHub, also an early Snapchat adopter, has been putting out content on about a weekly basis since late 2013. But Grubhub uses Snapchat a little differently than many of the folks on this list. Rather than producing one-way content, GrubHub focuses on building out an active community by sending out Snapchat messages that require responses, like exclusive coupons, contests, giveaways, and promotional codes.

The screenshots below are from a story it released where followers could send back a Snapchat of a “food doodle” for a chance to win a prize. (You can watch the Story in its entirety here.)

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Image Credit: Fast Company

During the 2016 holiday season, GrubHub set out to “deliver joy” by posting Snapchat Stories filmed from the perspective of a delivery person wearing Snapchat Spectacles. Snapchat is all about authentic, behind-the-scenes looks at a brand, and most people don’t think of the point-of-view of a delivery person when they think GrubHub. This campaign gave the brand a more personable, human side while showcasing some cool new tech.

8) The New York Times

Username: @thenytimes

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The writers, editors, and other folks at The New York Times use Snapchat a little differently — sometimes poking fun at their misunderstanding of it, other times using it as a storytelling platform (and then analyzing it in writing later).

For example, check out the Snapchat Story below from Nick Bilton, one of The Times’ writers. The Story is very meta: It shows his friend teaching him how to use Snapchat so he can write a story for The Times about how to write Snapchat Stories.

Like other brands, it’s very much a raw, behind-the-scenes look into the life of the writer. “I’m not actually writing right now. I’m just kind of pretending,” says Bilton at one point during the Story.

Here’s another example of a Snapchat Story from The Times that’s a little more serious. This one was part of an analysis of what makes an objectively good Snapchat Story, which later culminated in this piece by Talya Minsberg. For the piece, she recruited journalists at The Times to participate in a mobile challenge to create an objectively good Snapchat Story.

So, what makes an objective good Snapchat Story? Minsberg says it’s nearly impossible to define, but “the best Snapchat stories generally are ones that tell a narrative in a personal, visual way that pulls in and keeps the viewer.”

Another important takeaway from her piece is this: “Even Snapchat stories must uphold the same standards as anything else published by The Times. There are just more doodles and emojis in a Snapchat story than you would see in print!”

9) DJ Khaled

Username: @djkhaled305

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DJ Khaled may not be your typical brand, but he has single-handedly redefined the celebrity presence on Snapchat — and there’s a lot brands can learn from him. In March 2016, less than a year after DJ Khaled had even heard of the app, it was reported that his Snapchats were attracting around 3 million to 4 million viewers each.

What’s his secret? First, his style of shooting videos is really effective. He likes to pair mundane daily routines — like putting on deodorant and watering his plants — with funny commentary and one-liners.

He has some mantras he repeats like “another one” and “bless up,” which he’s parlayed into some really expensive merchandise. He also likes to share “keys to wisdom,” and even got his own geofilter on a road trip to Las Vegas for New Year’s Eve (which anyone can do, by the way).

The combination of backstage pass-like topics, hilarious one-liners, and fun use of emojis makes Khaled’s account very shareable and followable.

10) Domino’s Pizza UK

Username: @DOMINOS_UK

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The folks at Domino’s Pizza have never been afraid to experiment with new social media channels. It was the first brand to use Tinder as part of a 2015 Valentine’s Day campaign, and its “Tweet to Eat” campaign let fans order pizza via Twitter by sending a pizza emoji.

As for its global presence, Dominos’ social media teams around the world have adopted the platform at different times. For example, Domino’s Australia started using Snapchat as early as 2013, sending out Snapchat Stories (like the one screenshot below) that aligned with campaigns the brand was doing elsewhere on social media.

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Image Credit: brandchannel

The U.K. team at Domino’s Pizza didn’t get on Snapchat until January 2016, but it started out with a pretty cool experiment that led to a lift in orders. On January 20, 2016, Domino’s U.K. turned its Snapchat Story into a short film, titled “Dough to Door.”

The film follows the journey of a Domino’s delivery driver who hits a few obstacles on his way to deliver a pizza to a customer — including an alien invasion. According to The Drum, it also showed a sequence of random letters throughout the film that amount to an exclusive discount code customers could then use online.

The folks at Domino’s found that the low-budget effort led to an increase in orders. “The film drove a lot more orders then we would’ve expected even though it wasn’t really a massive driver for us,” Nick Dutch, Dominos’ head of digital strategy, told Business Insider.

Because Snapchat doesn’t offer much in the way of analytics (unless you are using Snapchat for paid advertising), the only way Dutch’s team was able to attribute that increase in orders to Snapchat was because of the unique discount code — so keep that in mind when you’re creating Stories of your own.

11) The Washington Post

Username: @washingtonpost

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The Washington Post uses Snapchat to cover breaking news stories. In fact, starting this year, the newspaper will begin covering breaking news for Snapchat. The Washington Post covers each and every breaking political and news story out there, and by sharing Snapchat coverage, the paper can provide its followers with a behind-the-scenes look at what’s going on in Washington much faster than if reporters had to write up and publish an article.

Here’s a Snapchat Story The Post recently published about the President’s joint address to Congress. The story features narration and captions to explain what’s going on, behind-the-scenes details, and includes short video hot-takes with members of Congress that viewers wouldn’t otherwise have access to. Check it out below:

In just a few minutes, The Washington Post used Snapchat to cover a story that might require a lot more time to read or watch on the news. If you create content for a blog or publication that covers breaking news, experimenting with Snapchat might be an easy way to get stories out faster.

12) NASA

Username: @nasa

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NASA publishes fantastic explainer video series on its Snapchat, and it makes them entertaining and easy to follow whether you’re a space nerd or a casual visitor. It uses Snapchat to cover breaking news stories about space, to explain complicated concepts, and to interview people.

In the Snapchat Story below, NASA reviews the return of Astronaut Scott Kelly a year after the end of his yearlong space mission. It also hypes a new study NASA is running based on DNA samples from Kelly and his twin brother to investigate the viability of long-term human missions to Mars.

This story is undeniably cool — who isn’t curious about what’s on Mars? It’s also a well-constructed Snapchat Story that uses narration, images, text, and emojis to tell a story quickly and effectively.

13) Bustle

Username: @bustledotcom

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Bustle uses its Snapchat channel to produce original or repurposed content in the same style as content on its website: listicles. Bustle produces a ton of entertaining and informative list-style content, and it features instructional videos and lists in step-by-step format on Snapchat.

In this Snapchat Story, Bustle provides DIY beauty instructions in a fun, easily replicable way. The useful and affordable beauty hack caters to its target audience of real women.

In another Story, Bustle creates a Snapchat version of a Black History Month booklist. It echoes the structure of a lot of its list-style blog posts. The summaries are a nice touch to pique viewer interest, too.

Marketers can easily create original or repurposed content in this Snapchat format. Break down a recent blog post, give followers advice, or simply record a behind-the-scenes look at how your organization does a common process. It’s unique, engaging, and doesn’t require a ton of creative lift behind it.

14) HubSpot

Username: @hubspotinc

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While there are a lot of B2C brands doing cool things with Snapchat, there are far fewer B2B companies that have successfully built a following. This is a challenge we wanted to take on here at HubSpot, which is why we launched our Snapchat channel in March 2016.

To make our Snapchat channel valuable, we’re using it to serve as both a marketing and a recruiting channel — a place where we can showcase our unique culture and perks, our awesome employees, and the inbound philosophy.

On the marketing side, we like to give followers a good look inside the company and showcase our culture. The goal here is to be educational, informative, and lovable, which are very familiar goals on our marketing team.

For example, when MTV News Editor Rachel Zarrell (formerly of BuzzFeed News) came to HubSpot to speak about viral content, we showcased some of her talk — and what employees thought about it afterward — on Snapchat.

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On the culture side, we want to position HubSpot as a destination — and hopefully spur viewers to check out our other online offers like our blog, website, careers page, and so on. The key for us is using a human voice that fits in the Snapchat world, rather than a voice that’s stuffy or ultra-professional.

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We’re also committed to community service and involvement, so we like to feature that aspect of our culture on Snapchat, too. Here are our chronicles of a recent bone marrow registry drive we hosted for HubSpot employees:

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What are your favorite brands to follow on Snapchat? Share with us in the comments.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2016 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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Dec

8

2016

28 of the Best Chrome Extensions for SEO, Productivity & More

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For all of the greatness that the internet affords — cute animal videos, GIFs, and interesting blogs — I think its biggest downside is how distracting it can be. How many times have you sat down to work and been pulled into a pit of procrastination?

Perhaps you get absorbed in updates on social media, or maybe you click through Wikipedia trying to determine what exactly Gina Rodriguez’s first TV role was (it was on Law & Order). No matter where you click online, it’s easy to be pulled into a black hole of distraction and low productivity.

Enter Google Chrome browser extensions. The Google Chrome web store offers a variety of different tools that help you be more productive with just one click. We can’t guarantee that they will make YouTube videos less tempting to watch, but we recommend them for busy marketers who want to make their time online more efficient. We’ve broken them down into different categories if you want to jump ahead:

Social Media, SEO, Content Sourcing, Blogging, Productivity

Please note: All of these are free tools, but some of the services that they work with have paid features or subscriptions, and those prices are included below.  

28 of the Most Useful Google Chrome Extensions for Marketers

Social Media

1) bitly

This extension lets marketers quickly and easily shorten links and share them on social media directly from their browser. This is particularly useful for social media marketers, given that Twitter has a 140-character limit.

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Image courtesy of bitly.com

Price: Free; bitly Enterprise pricing varies depending on company size

2) BuzzSumo

BuzzSumo provides insight into how content is performing. When you’re on a web page, click the extension to show metrics such as the number of social shares and backlinks to a piece. This tool provides an easy way to see how much engagement your content is generating. You could also use BuzzSumo to perform competitor analysis to uncover strategies that might make your content more shareable.

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Price: Free with limited number of link analyses; BuzzSumo Pro starts at $99/month

3) Pinterest

This extension allows you to easily save items onto your Pinterest boards without navigating away from what you’re doing. What’s neat about this tool is that it shows you multiple pinnable items available on each website so you can save more than one item to your board at a time. (Normally, you would have to click into each blog post or image in order to separately pin each to your boards individually.)

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Price: Free

4) Save to Facebook

Facebook’s new “Save” feature lets users aggregate links, images, and videos they find on Facebook in one location in their account. This bookmark allows you to do the same from anywhere on the web, making Facebook a centralized place to save content you’re interested in checking out later. (As you can see, in addition to inbound marketing, I’m also interested in learning more about footwear and vegan recipes.)

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Price: Free

5) RiteTag

RiteTag shows you how hashtags are performing on Twitter and Facebook before you post content. Once you log in to RiteTag using your Twitter or Facebook credentials, it checks the hashtags you begin typing in real time and color codes them: 

  • If your hashtag is green, it means the hashtag will help your content be seen now.
  • If your hashtag is blue, it means the hashtag will help your content be seen over time.
  • If your hashtag is gray, you should select a new hashtag because it has low levels of engagement.
  • If your hashtag is red, you should select a new hashtag because it’s so popular, your content will disappear into the crowd.

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Price: Free

6) List Builder for Twitter

If you’re following a hashtag or event on Twitter, you may want to make a list of users tweeting about topics you’re interested in, which is time-consuming to do manually. With the List Builder for Twitter, you can navigate to a hashtag or trending topic and build a list of all users tweeting, or you can select which users you want to add to a list. Here’s an example of the tool in action: I built a list of all users tweeting “#INBOUND16.

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If you’re a HubSpot customer, you can easily create lists using the social streams featuring in the HubSpot Social Monitoring tool

Price: Free

7) Instagram for Chrome

Want to keep tabs on Instagram notifications without having to constantly check your phone? With this extension, users can see what’s happening on their Instagram content directly within their browser.

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Price: Free

SEO

8) MozBar

The MozBar is a Chrome extension that allows SEO marketers to easily get insights about different websites without leaving their web browser. With one click, you can find search ranking and link coding information about all of the search results on a Google results page.

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Image courtesy of Moz

Price: Moz subscriptions start at $99/month

9) Check My Links

Check My Links does what it says it will: It quickly scans web pages and shows you which links are working properly and which are broken. With this extension, marketers can ensure that their own websites are functioning properly for their visitors. Additionally, marketers can check for broken backlinks to their content on other websites to build backlinks to their content and increase their domain authority.

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Price: Free

10) NoFollow

NoFollow quickly indexes web pages and identifies links that are coded with the nofollow metatag. Nofollow links aren’t crawled by search engines and don’t contribute to search engine authority, so SEOers can use this extension to determine if external sites are backlinking to them with followed, or indexed, links. Additionally, you might use nofollow links on web pages you don’t want crawled, such as a landing page or thank you page, and this extension can easily double-check if you’ve coded links correctly. In the example screenshot below, nofollow links are highlighted in red.

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Price: Free

11) Impactana

Impactana’s Chrome toolbar offers a wealth of SEO, social media, and content marketing information about any web page. Its two biggest metrics are “Buzz,” which measures a website’s reach on social media, and “Impact,” which measures SEO metrics such as clickthrough rate, backlinks, and time on page. It also shares details like author and publisher contact information that are useful for PR professionals.

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Price: Impactana subscriptions start at $99/month

Content Sourcing

12) HubSpot Collect

Whether you’re conducting research for a project or simply reading different articles online, you most likely come across resources that you want to save and return to for later use. That’s where HubSpot Collect will come in. Instead of saving content to another application or document, you can save it directly to your HubSpot software for easy reference when you sit down to write a blog post or web page. Coming soon to HubSpot software, Collect will automatically generate author attributions and citations if you want to cite a link you saved for a blog post.

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Price: HubSpot Marketing Software starts at $200/month

13) AwesomeScreenshot

AwesomeScreenshot is a screen capture extension with capabilities for annotation and photo editing while staying in your browser. Once you take a screenshot of a selected area of your screen or an entire web page, you can crop, highlight, draw shapes, and blur sensitive information.

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 Price: Free

14) Evernote Web Clipper

Evernote is a note-taking and organization app that can be shared across teams for content collaboration. With the Evernote Web Clipper extension, users can save links onto a clipboard within their Evernote app for later reading and reference.

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Price: Free

15) Giphy for Chrome

Everyone loves animated GIFs. They make emails, blogs, and social media posts engaging and funny, and with this extension, you can easily grab a GIF from Giphy’s huge database for whatever content you’re working on without navigating away.

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Price: Free

16) Bookmark Manager

Manually bookmarking websites can sometimes be a tedious process, so Google created this extension to organize websites you want to save without having to open a new tab. Save websites to bookmarks, create folders, and add notes for later reference.

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Price: Free

17) OneTab 

When you conduct research for a piece of content, it’s easy to get swamped in multiple open tabs with great resources you want to cite. The trouble is, once it comes time to write and refer back to the sources, it’s hard to navigate between all of the tabs. Luckily, OneTab lets you put multiple different URLs into a single tab for easy reference.

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Price: Free

Blogging

18) Grammarly

Grammarly is my go-to app for reviewing blog posts for proper spelling, grammar, and word use. You can drop large pieces of text into the desktop application for review, or you can use the handy Chrome extension to call out any grammar errors you’re making while typing on the web. Here’s an example of Grammarly pointing out an error I was about to make in a tweet:

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Price: Free with subscription upgrades for more in-depth reviewing

19) Google Dictionary

Have you ever come across a word you’re not familiar with while doing research online? Instead of Googling it in a separate tab, quickly highlight the word and click on the Google Dictionary extension to get the definition.

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Price: Free

20) Office Editing for Docs, Sheets & Slides

For those times when you and your coworkers are working on computers with different operating systems, or want to collaborate on a live document together, check out Office Editing. This extension lets you easily drop Microsoft Office files into Google Drive to view and edit them without needing the software installed on your hard drive. Here’s an example of an Excel file that I dropped into my Google Drive:

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Price: Free

21) QuickWrite Text Editor 

Sometimes it’s hard to free yourself of distractions to write productively, especially if you’re writing online. This extension quickly opens a new tab for a clean and neutral text editor that auto-saves while you’re working if you need a break from where you normally write.

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Price: Free

Productivity

22) ToDoist

ToDoist is a project management tool that lets you create highly organized and visually appealing to-do lists across all of your devices. What’s neat about the Chrome extension is that you can see your to-do list, or your team’s shared lists, and add tasks to it without having to open a separate tab, app, or device.

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Price: Free for Basic; $29/year for Premium

23) Rapportive

Rapportive uses LinkedIn account information to provide details about the recipient of an email you’re drafting. This is a great way to get details about someone you’re trying to connect with and to ensure that you’re contacting someone on their correct email address.

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Price: Free

24) Momentum

Momentum is a simple Chrome extension that replaces blank new tabs with beautiful photography, inspiring quotes, weather reports, and a space for you to write down a priority for the day when you open up your browser for the first time. (Don’t worry — the temperature is in Celsius, it’s not that cold in Boston.)

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Price: Free

25) StayFocusd

StayFocusd lets you budget your time on specific websites so you can eliminate distractions when you need to buckle down and work. It’s highly customizable — you could set your time limit to 20 minutes on Twitter and only five minutes on Facebook, for example. It also has neat features like the Require Challenge: Once you set time limits on sites, if you want to go back and change your settings, you have to complete a challenge (think: retyping a piece of text without typos or answering questions).

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Price: Free

26) LastPass

LastPass is a password manager that auto-fills in passwords for all of the accounts you save with this extension. You only have to remember one password: your LastPass password. This saves you time, headaches, and increases the security of your personal data.

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Image courtesy of LastPass

Price: Free

27) Add to Trello

If you use Trello for project management, team collaboration, your content calendar, or just a personal to-do list, this extension lets you easily add links as cards to your Trello boards.

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Price: Free; Trello subscriptions start at $9.99/user/month

28) Extensions Manager

We couldn’t give you 27 different extensions to try out without also suggesting Extensions Manager. Try this tool to organize all of your extensions so they don’t take up half of your browser’s screen. It shows you what extensions you have operating on Google Chrome and gives you the option to hide some of the icons to keep your browser better organized.

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Price: Free

Now that your browser is loaded with extensions to make marketing easier on a day-to-day basis, test them out to see what time and efficiencies you’re able to save. When you’re ready to work on your next piece of content, try these content curation hacks and tools to make that process simpler, too. 

What’s your favorite Google Chrome extension? Share with us in the comments below.

Learn about all the product launches from INBOUND 2016

Dec

5

2016

30 Secret Santa Gift Ideas Your Coworkers Will Love

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They see you when you’re slacking. They know when you come in late. They know if you’ve been bad or good so be good for your work’s Secret Santa exchange.

But that’s not how the song — or the Secret Santa exchange — really goes …

You spend all day with your coworkers, but come time for your annual gift exchange, you’re stuck trying to figure out exactly what Suzie will want that’s also in your price range. Download more holiday resources to help your business succeed this season from  HubSpot's #HolidayHub

We want to help. We’ve compiled a list of awesome Secret Santa gift ideas that are bound to meet all different budgets and personality types. From hot sauce kits to leather mouse pads, this roundup should take some of the stress out of your shopping experience.

30 Secret Santa Gift Ideas for Your Coworkers

$10 and Under

1) Engraved Pencil Set

Price: $8.00

Whether you type your notes or take them by hand, these hand stamped pencils are just plain cool. The sets come in a variety of different themes — from motivational words to Harry Potter references — and they’re guaranteed to make putting together a to-do list a lot more fun.

Willing to chip in a few extra bucks? Pair a set of these pencils with a journal for a thoughtful and practical gift.

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2) Toaster Grilled Cheese Bags

Price: $9.99

While almost every office has a toaster, few have a stovetop. This rules fresh, delicious grilled cheese off the list of lunch options … or does it? When you give the gift of toaster grilled cheese bags, your recipient can toast up the perfect sandwich in minutes. The reusable, Teflon-coated bags can also be used for heating up other foods like pastries and leftover pizza.

Got a gluten-free coworker? They can even protect their food from cross contamination using these handy bags.

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3) Printed Socks

Price: $8.00

Nothing beats a great pair of socks, am I right? Not only does everyone need them, but there’s also such a wide variety of options available online that you’re bound to find a pair for any and every personality.

Know of a few pizza lovers in the office? This pepperoni-clad pair would make the perfect gift.

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4) Sushi Pushpins

Price: $9.00

Shopping for the office sushi addict? Look no further than this trendy desk trinket.

Stuck in a maki cushion, each pearl-shaped fish egg is a pushpin in disguise. Pin up your favorite notes, photos, and menus using these handy tacks — or just admire the holder on your desk.

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5) Waterproof Notepad

Price: $7.00

You never know when your next great idea is going to strike. In fact, it might even be the shower.

With a waterproof notepad from AquaNotes, you can jot down important shower notes before they slip your mind — perfect for whipping up impromptu grocery or to-do lists.

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6) Tech Cloth

Price: $9.99

Between oil, dust, spills, and smudges, our devices take a beating. But with a Smart Cloth on hand, you can polish up the screen on your smartphone, tablet, camera, or computer without having to worry about scratching the surface. No liquids or sprays needed.

You can even toss The Smart Cloth in the wash, making it easy to keep germ-free.

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7) Reusable To Go Box

Price: $9.99

There’s no shame in brown bagging your lunch at work, but why opt for a brown bag when you can reheat last night’s homemade Pad Thai in style?

This eco-friendly container is reusable, microwavable, and dishwasher safe. What more could you want?
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8) Portable Hot Sauce

Price: $9.99

Coming from a hot sauce addict, there’s nothing worse than suffering through a bland meal without access to your favorite spicy condiment.

Thanks to this convenient set of Sriracha2Go key chains, you can carry a personal stash of the good stuff around with you at all times. Simply toss it in your purse or attach it to your keys to ensure you’ve got access to heat when you need it most.

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9) Dry Erase Sheets

Price: $6.16

Use these sheets as an impromptu discussion tool, a place to post motivational quotes, or a home for your to-do list. Each sheet has a full-adhesive backing that leaves behind no residue, making them easy and convenient to tack up in the office or at home.

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10) Cord Keeper

Price: $9.99

While the world of technology continues to push us in the direction of a more wireless world, we’ve all got a pair of standard headphones we keep holding on to — no matter how tangled the cord gets.

Lucky for all of us, these handmade cord “wontons” exist to help keep our headphones, USB cords, and other accessory wires nice and neat. They come in a pack of three, so you can throw one in your car, keep one on your desk, and toss one in your bag.

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$25 and Under

11) Salsa Grow Kit

Price: $12.00

Got a coworker with a green thumb? Gift them this awesome salsa growing kit, complete with six seed packets for Roma tomatoes, jalapeños, verde tomatillos, cilantro, scallions, and beefsteak tomatoes.

Once the seeds sprout in the recycled egg carton planter, transfer them into larger pots until they’re ready for picking.

Not sold on salsa? There are kits available for pizza and cocktails, too.

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12) Wine Infused Coffee

Price: $19.95

Gift hunting for a coffee drinker who also loves wines? Why not pick up a bag of Merlot-infused coffee beans.

This brew is made with 100% Arabica beans that are aged in oak wine barrels. Serving as the perfect post-meal treat, this unique gift will be a hit with any adventurous coffee enthusiast.

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13) Plant Nanny

Price: $16.95

Don’t let the burden of watering plants keep your coworker from taking time off to relax and recharge. With the help of these terracotta watering stakes, they can throw on their OOO message and hit the road without having to hire a plant sitter.

How does it work? It’s simple: The stakes house a recycled bottle that’s designed to release just enough water to keep plants alive and well.  

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14) Smartphone Card Game

Price: $19.99

The name of the game is “Game of Phones.” And the rules are pretty straightforward: Grab your smartphone and have one player (the judge for the round) draw a card. Everyone else gets 60 seconds to dig up a funny response to the prompt on the card using their phone. It’s like a digital scavenger hunt — and it’s bound to be hilarious.

This one’s perfect for anyone that loves to host friends or family for game night.

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15) Travel Cup

Price: $14.99–$19.99 (+$3.99 for travel lid)

There are a ton of travel mugs out there to choose from, but Tervis tumblers seem to offer it all: customization, portable cooling, self-warming system, dishwasher armor, and a lifetime guarantee.

Whether you’re buying a gift for an avid golfer, shopper, foodie, or Patriots super fan, there’s bound to be a Tervis that lines up with their interests and personality.

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16) Adult Coloring Book

Price: $12.18 (Paperback)

Coloring isn’t just for kids anymore. Believe it or not, this trendy hobby offers more than a dose of nostalgia — adult coloring books are actually believed to relieve stress, too. In fact, while The American Art Association doesn’t think these books are enough to replace therapy for those who need it, it does support the use of coloring books for “pleasure and self care.”

There are a wide variety of books to choose from, but we recommend “Color Me Calm” by Lacy Mucklow: a Zen coloring book that supports meditation and relaxation. Trust us, your stressed out deskmate will thank you.

Screen Shot 2016-11-30 at 8.22.44 PM.png

17) Fruit Infuser Water Bottle

Price: $18.65

Stay hydrated and enjoy the sweet taste of your favorite fruits with this handy water bottle from Fruitzola.

Fill the inside tube with fruit or a combination of your choice — strawberries, lemons, kiwis, watermelon, and mint all work well — and enjoy the taste of fresh, flavored H20 all day.

Fruit_Infuser_Water_Bottle.png

18) Musical Pillow

Price: $19.19

For many, listening to music, a meditation app, or a podcast before bed can make it easier to drift off to sleep. Trouble is, it’s tough to get comfortable with a pair of headphones in.

Enter: The Sound Asleep Pillow.

Deep inside this unique pillow lies a built-in speaker that connects to your phone or music player via a headphone jack. The coolest part? The sound from the speaker is only audible to the person resting their head on it, which is great if you don’t want to disturb your spouse or significant other.

Musical Pillow.jpg

19) Espresso Sampler

Price: $23.00

Treat your coworker to this four-part specialty espresso sampler from Seattle’s world-renowned roasters. Each sampler comes with tasting notes, roaster profiles, and brewing tips. (If you’re lucky, maybe they’ll share.)

espresso sampler.jpg

$50 and Under

20) Smartphone Projector

Price: $31.95

Transform your smartphone into a big screen projector with this retro-inspired cardboard structure. Simply slide your device into the compartment for an instant cinema-like feel.

You can make this gift even better by throwing in a box of popcorn to complete the viewing experience.

iPhone_projector.png

21) Make Your Own Hot Sauce Kit

Price: $34.95

Whether you’re making chili for a rainy day, wings for the big game, or tacos for Tuesday’s dinner, a little homemade hot sauce can make all the difference.

With this awesome kit, recipients can whip up six signature sauces that are seasoned to their exact liking. The kit even includes customizable labels for a fun, personalized touch.

Hot Sauce Kit.png

22) Bottle Loft

Price: $38.00

Seriously, how cool is this? These handy storage strips adhere to the ceiling of your refrigerator and can hold up to a six pack of bottles of your choice. Plus, the magnets are super strong: they can hold over 3X the weight of an average 12 oz. bottle.

With all the space you’ll save, you’ll have plenty of room for snacks. It’s the perfect gift for your office beer enthusiast.

Bottle Loft.png

23) Leather Mouse Pad

Price: $36.00

Looking for a sophisticated, practical gift option? Grab a leather mouse pad from Ugmonk’s shop.

Not only does this sleek pad provide a smooth surface for your mouse, but the leather is also known to weather and darken slowly over time to take on a one-of-a-kind look. How cool.

Black Mouse Pad.jpg

24) Gourmet Marshmallows

Price: $30.00

Step your hot chocolate game up with a box of gourmet marshmallows. From boozy flavors like bourbon to sweet flavors like eggnog, these handcrafted marshmallows are good enough to eat straight from the box.

Screen_Shot_2015-12-04_at_3.12.21_PM.png

25) Streaming Stick

Price: $49.99

The Roku Streaming Stick works with any television that has an HDMI port, and offers over 1,200 apps, including Netflix, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, Pandora, and many more. It’s a perfect gift for nearly any coworker.

Streaming-Stick-Partners-Remote-US-wShadow-RGB-WEB1.jpg

26) Tea Drops

Price: $34.00

Enjoy hot and fresh tea on the go thanks to these dissolvable, pressed tea drops. Made from just a few simple ingredients — finely-sourced tea, sugar, and spices — these tiny morsels are perfect for a busy coworker looking for an easy, healthy beverage to sip on.

This particular sampler set includes five drops of each of the following flavors: citrus ginger, vanilla white, rose earl grey, sweet peppermint, and matcha green tea.

Tea Drops.png

27) Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle

Price: $35.00 (17 oz.) / $45.00 (25 oz.)

We’ll admit it, we actually have a crush on this water bottle from S’well. Yes, a water bottle crush. Not only is it sleek and stylish — it comes in tons of colors and prints — but it’s non-toxic, non-leaching, vacuum sealed, and BPA free.

What’s more, it keeps your drinks cold for 24 hours, and hot for 12.

17oz_White-Marble_Cap-Off.jpg

28) Wireless Speaker

Price: $39.99

Wireless speakers are the perfect gift for anyone in your office. Whether they use it to listen to podcasts while they cook, bring tunes to the beach, or create a custom surround sound movie experience, this little Jam Plus speaker packs a big punch. (Full disclosure: I love this speaker so much I bought another one … and one for my brother.)

Screen_Shot_2015-12-07_at_7.29.38_PM.png

29) Cacti Coasters

Price: $31.00

Help your coworkers keep their desk nice and neat with this buildable set of cacti coasters.

The set comes complete with six green leaf coasters that you can mix and match to create different landscapes within the pot. Build them up or stack them close, they’re there when you need a place to put your drink — and still look really cool when you don’t.

cacti-coasters.jpg

30) Mobile Lens Kit

Price: $26.00

If you pulled your social media manager’s name out of the Secret Santa hat, we’ve got just the thing: Help them up their Instagram game with this handy mobile lens kit. The kit includes fisheye, wide angle, and macro lenses, complete with a universal clip that’s compatible with most smartphones and tablets.

Mobile Lens Kit.png

What are your go-to gift ideas? Share them with us in the comments section below.

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

Visit the holiday resource hub for all your holiday marketing needs.

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

22

2016

8 Interesting Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Google’s Algorithm

Fun_Facts_Algorithm.png

It’s not often that you see the word “fun” and “algorithm” in the same sentence. (Okay, fine. Maybe you do, if you’re a marketing nerd like I am.) But think about this: Google has really been around for over two decades. With a history like that, there’s got to be at least some compelling trivia, right?

Believe it or not, algorithms are really cool. I mean, they get us our search results, after all.But how does Google’s algorithm work? And how has it evolved over the course of so many years? Download our free on-page SEO template here to help you plan and organize your  blog's SEO strategy. 

We thought you might ask that, so we put together some fun facts about Google’s algorithm, and how it’s shaped the way we search today.

What the Heck Is an Algorithm, Anyway?

To quote Google itself, “Algorithms are the computer processes and formulas that take your questions and turn them into answers.” They cut through its estimated “trillions” of web pages in existence to find the information you’re looking for.

Think about that for a second. “Trillions.” One trillion, numerically, looks like this:

1,000,000,000,000

Imagine if there were no algorithms, and we had to somehow sift through that amount of information ourselves. Luckily, Google has developed an algorithm that can read — at a pace few of us can begin to fathom — different signals from these pages that indicate how likely they are to answer your search query.

But it’s not just about the words on the page. Algorithms can also read how recent the content is, how likely it is to be spam, and how it pertains to your location.

As marketers, all of this stuff matters. Where and how your pages rank in Google can make or break your organic search traffic, so it’s important to understand how the algorithm works and how to ethically optimize for it. What’s more, it’s crucial to be adaptable — the Google algorithm has changed a lot over the years, and will continue to do so as it becomes even more user-friendly.

8 Fun Facts About Google’s Algorithm

1) Google’s overall algorithm has had one name since 2013: Hummingbird.

Source: Search Engine Land

If you do keep up with the changes to Google’s algorithm, you’ve probably seen some colorful names assigned to them — Panda, Penguin, and Pigeon to name a few.

However, those names have only been assigned to updates made to the overall algorithm itself — which today is called Hummingbird. It was formally announced in September 2013 and created to make search results more “precise and fast” like the bird itself, according to Search Engine Land [SEL].

SEL has one of the best analogies we’ve seen to describe the algorithm at-large — Hummingbird is a “recipe” with hundreds of “ingredients.” These ingredients are the different pieces that help the algorithm determine the quality of those trillions of pages, and how well any one of them might answer your search.

2) Google makes changes to its algorithm roughly 500 times per year.

Source: pyxle

SEO community Moz states that Google makes between 500-600 changes to its algorithm annually, most of which are so minor that the public doesn’t usually hear about them.

Even without those minor changes, however, Moz has recorded no less than 140 updates to the Google algorithm since 2000.

Because the list was fairly dense, I enlisted the help of a colleague to count the items accurately. In splitting it up into two sections — the eight years before and after 2008, respectively — we noticed something interesting. The first eight years only listed 25 updates of note, whereas the latter had 115.

So why have there been so many more updates in the recent years? It could have something to do with the massive increase in users. But it could also be about changes to the way we search. For one, we’re searching on our phones a lot more — 51% percent of digital media is consumed via mobile — which has led to more than one crackdown by Google on pages that aren’t optimized for such platforms.  

We’re also starting to see an uptick in voice search. And while there currently aren’t precise formulas to plan or rank for those kinds of searches, we imagine that Google will start changing its algorithm for them — after all, it’s seen a 3400% increase in voice queries since 2008.

Like we said — understanding the algorithm requires agility. It’s only going to continue to change, so in order to maintain good search standing, marketers should learn to adapt.

3) One of the original goals was to cut through spammy content from advertisers.

Original algorithm paper

Source: Stanford InfoLab

Google’s “history in depth” dates back roughly 20 years — in 1997, co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were working on their first search engine, which they then called BackRub.

Then, in 1998, the pair published a paper at Stanford titled “The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine.” That’s where we see one of the first mentions of PageRank, which is the technology that Google continues to use to help rank search results.

But there’s one thing in the admittedly dense text that really stood out. At the time of writing the paper, Page and Brin noted, “the predominant business model for commercial search engines is advertising. The goals of the advertising business model do not always correspond to providing quality search to users.”

We can’t help but geek out over the fact that Google remains loyal to that thesis. When I previously interviewed my colleague Marcus Andrews about the algorithm, he told me, “Google is very focused on the user.”

In fact, you could say that’s why Google has continued to make so many changes to the algorithm. It’s finding new ways to get the best content to users.

Just have a look at the search engine’s “Steps to a Google-friendly site” — one of the first things listed is to “provide high-quality content on your pages.” Eighteen years later, Google is working toward the original vision of its founders.

4) PageRank was named after Google co-founder Larry Page.

Google_Founders.png

Source: Stanford InfoLab

When the name “PageRank” is assigned to the technology that helps Google rank pages, it seems fairly intuitive. But it was actually named after one of Google’s co-founders, Larry Page, whose young mug can be found to the right in the image above.

PageRank itself has quite a history. While its technology was in many ways beneficial, it was also very confusing, even to some expert SEOs. That’s why SEL published the in depth article, “What Is Google PageRank?” — very few people understood it.

Google says that PageRank is what “looks at links between pages to determine their relevance.” But SEL says it’s more like a voting system, in which inbound links to a given page count as votes toward its authority. So, the more votes, the more authority. The clincher? Anyone could view a site’s PageRank.

In spring of 2016, Google announced that while it would still be using PageRank technology to internally adjust its algorithm, the public would no longer be able to able to view any of its data. For some, that was happy news, according to SEL and its “retrospective on how [PageRank] ruined the web.” Apparently, PageRank’s emphasis on being linked to created a lot of annoying, borderline spammy behavior — like links becoming available for purchase.

Today, the technology for ranking has become more discerning, thanks in large part to MozRank, which is a “link popularity score.” To learn more about using MozRank for SEO and tracking competition, check out our HubSpot Academy guide here.

5) There’s a Google Dance — but it’s not what it sounds like.

Google dance

Source: Search Engine Land

Our inner marketing nerds wish that “The Google” was actually a physical dance move. In actuality, though, Google Dance was actually the name applied to the sudden changes to its rankings, back when the algorithm used to majorly change every month.

Marketing Land credits forum WebmasterWorld for originating the term, and also for assigning different geographically-inspired names to each dance, like “Boston” in February 2003 and “Florida” later that year. But Florida, it seems, was the last dance — or the last salient one, anyway. That’s when Google stopped making major updates to its algorithm every month, and instead started making the general under-the-radar adjustments it does today.

But to keep track of these changes, especially the minor ones, it can help to keep an eye on the MozCast Google Weather Report. It assigns a temperature that indicates how much the algorithm has changed since the previous day — the higher and stormier the conditions, the greater the shift to Google’s rankings.

Don’t be sad — earlier this year, Google hosted an event at the SMX West conference called “Google Dance” to celebrate “an annual gathering for search marketers.” 

6) There isn’t *really* a reason behind the names for updates.

Google_Names.jpg

Source: Wade Creative Network

I would really love to think that there’s an adorable story behind assigning the name “Penguin” to an algorithm update. But according to Moz, there isn’t really a formal naming method.

Similar to the names for Google’s “dance moves,” WebmasterWorld users also named most of the other updates — “Boston,” because it was announced at SES Boston, and others in the same way that hurricanes are named, though it’s rumored that “Dominic” came from a Boston pizza place

Moz also reports that some of the self-named algorithm updates, like “Caffeine,” “Panda” and “Vince” came from Google itself, and that the latter two were named after Google engineers. 

7) Algorithms are also getting smarter for image searches.

Google cloud vision API

Source: Forbes

Recently, Google announced the debut of the Pixel, its newest smartphone. Among its brag-worthy features? “The highest rated smartphone camera. Ever.

Part of what makes the camera so great are its “its world-class software algorithms,” said Google camera product lead, Isaac Reynolds. That can be attributed to Pixel’s HDR+ algorithm, which helps users capture the best quality photos, despite lighting or movement conditions.

What does that have to do with Google’s search algorithm? Well, nothing directly. But it does show even more progress toward the quest to yield the best content for users, including images. In the realm of visual searches, it’s all about the Cloud Vision API — the technology that allows Google to analyze and determine the content of images.

Late in 2015, Google made that API accessible to the public, which allows geeks like myself to play with it and see how it reads the content of their own photos. Naturally, I had to take it for a spin, first with an image of my dog:

Screen_Shot_2016-10-12_at_11.25.56_AM.png

Next, I tried it with this nice photo of HubSpot’s blogging team: 

blogging team labels

Blog team facial analysis

Whoa. How did it know that I had, in fact, uploaded a photo of a black dog? And how did it know that the second photo was of a team experiencing joy?  

It’s that sneaky, remarkable algorithm, which has been programmed — we predict using tons of existing images with various facial expressions, objects, landmarks, and more — to detect and recognize the elements and objects within an image.

Cool, huh? Give it a try here.

8) There’s a human side — the “search evaluators.”

searchqualityevaluatorguidelines.png

Source: Google

Google enlists the work of human beings to evaluate the quality of search results. Each year, there are roughly 40,000 of these “precision evaluations,” as Google calls them, in which search evaluators determine the quality of results for different searches .

There’s a 146-page document that explains the guidelines used by search evaluators when rating results. It seems to be largely intended for people who are interested in becoming evaluators. But upon exploring the guidelines, the information might also help developers and marketers determine what constitutes search quality.

Different sections of it can even be useful to people who are just getting started with SEO. Have a look at the “Your Money or Your Life” section, which goes into evaluating a page’s potential implications for a user’s health and finances, for example. Some of the criteria might look like common sense, but it also provides some unique insights on how to keep your content accountable, especially if you’re giving advice.

There are also three different sections each dedicated to the highest, lowest, and medium quality pages. Again, what might seem like common sense can actually serve as valuable information to marketers — for example, if a page is deemed to have a “true lack of purpose,” it will be classified as “lowest quality.”

That’s something to keep in mind as you develop and manage your content. Have a read, and see if anything on your pages needs to change.

Have Fun With Search

So, there you have it — algorithms can be fun, after all, especially when you get to play with photo recognition API.

But with a history as rich as the one belonging to Google’s algorithm, there’s sure to be some interesting trivia, and just a splash of drama along the way.

We can’t wait to see what’s next. And, as always, we’re here to keep you posted.

What are your favorite pieces of the Google algorithm history? Let us know in the comments.

free guide: make your site mobile-friendly

 
free guide: learning seo from the experts

Nov

22

2016

8 Interesting Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Google’s Algorithm

Fun_Facts_Algorithm.png

It’s not often that you see the word “fun” and “algorithm” in the same sentence. (Okay, fine. Maybe you do, if you’re a marketing nerd like I am.) But think about this: Google has really been around for over two decades. With a history like that, there’s got to be at least some compelling trivia, right?

Believe it or not, algorithms are really cool. I mean, they get us our search results, after all.But how does Google’s algorithm work? And how has it evolved over the course of so many years? Download our free on-page SEO template here to help you plan and organize your  blog's SEO strategy. 

We thought you might ask that, so we put together some fun facts about Google’s algorithm, and how it’s shaped the way we search today.

What the Heck Is an Algorithm, Anyway?

To quote Google itself, “Algorithms are the computer processes and formulas that take your questions and turn them into answers.” They cut through its estimated “trillions” of web pages in existence to find the information you’re looking for.

Think about that for a second. “Trillions.” One trillion, numerically, looks like this:

1,000,000,000,000

Imagine if there were no algorithms, and we had to somehow sift through that amount of information ourselves. Luckily, Google has developed an algorithm that can read — at a pace few of us can begin to fathom — different signals from these pages that indicate how likely they are to answer your search query.

But it’s not just about the words on the page. Algorithms can also read how recent the content is, how likely it is to be spam, and how it pertains to your location.

As marketers, all of this stuff matters. Where and how your pages rank in Google can make or break your organic search traffic, so it’s important to understand how the algorithm works and how to ethically optimize for it. What’s more, it’s crucial to be adaptable — the Google algorithm has changed a lot over the years, and will continue to do so as it becomes even more user-friendly.

8 Fun Facts About Google’s Algorithm

1) Google’s overall algorithm has had one name since 2013: Hummingbird.

Source: Search Engine Land

If you do keep up with the changes to Google’s algorithm, you’ve probably seen some colorful names assigned to them — Panda, Penguin, and Pigeon to name a few.

However, those names have only been assigned to updates made to the overall algorithm itself — which today is called Hummingbird. It was formally announced in September 2013 and created to make search results more “precise and fast” like the bird itself, according to Search Engine Land [SEL].

SEL has one of the best analogies we’ve seen to describe the algorithm at-large — Hummingbird is a “recipe” with hundreds of “ingredients.” These ingredients are the different pieces that help the algorithm determine the quality of those trillions of pages, and how well any one of them might answer your search.

2) Google makes changes to its algorithm roughly 500 times per year.

Source: pyxle

SEO community Moz states that Google makes between 500-600 changes to its algorithm annually, most of which are so minor that the public doesn’t usually hear about them.

Even without those minor changes, however, Moz has recorded no less than 140 updates to the Google algorithm since 2000.

Because the list was fairly dense, I enlisted the help of a colleague to count the items accurately. In splitting it up into two sections — the eight years before and after 2008, respectively — we noticed something interesting. The first eight years only listed 25 updates of note, whereas the latter had 115.

So why have there been so many more updates in the recent years? It could have something to do with the massive increase in users. But it could also be about changes to the way we search. For one, we’re searching on our phones a lot more — 51% percent of digital media is consumed via mobile — which has led to more than one crackdown by Google on pages that aren’t optimized for such platforms.  

We’re also starting to see an uptick in voice search. And while there currently aren’t precise formulas to plan or rank for those kinds of searches, we imagine that Google will start changing its algorithm for them — after all, it’s seen a 3400% increase in voice queries since 2008.

Like we said — understanding the algorithm requires agility. It’s only going to continue to change, so in order to maintain good search standing, marketers should learn to adapt.

3) One of the original goals was to cut through spammy content from advertisers.

Original algorithm paper

Source: Stanford InfoLab

Google’s “history in depth” dates back roughly 20 years — in 1997, co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were working on their first search engine, which they then called BackRub.

Then, in 1998, the pair published a paper at Stanford titled “The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine.” That’s where we see one of the first mentions of PageRank, which is the technology that Google continues to use to help rank search results.

But there’s one thing in the admittedly dense text that really stood out. At the time of writing the paper, Page and Brin noted, “the predominant business model for commercial search engines is advertising. The goals of the advertising business model do not always correspond to providing quality search to users.”

We can’t help but geek out over the fact that Google remains loyal to that thesis. When I previously interviewed my colleague Marcus Andrews about the algorithm, he told me, “Google is very focused on the user.”

In fact, you could say that’s why Google has continued to make so many changes to the algorithm. It’s finding new ways to get the best content to users.

Just have a look at the search engine’s “Steps to a Google-friendly site” — one of the first things listed is to “provide high-quality content on your pages.” Eighteen years later, Google is working toward the original vision of its founders.

4) PageRank was named after Google co-founder Larry Page.

Google_Founders.png

Source: Stanford InfoLab

When the name “PageRank” is assigned to the technology that helps Google rank pages, it seems fairly intuitive. But it was actually named after one of Google’s co-founders, Larry Page, whose young mug can be found to the right in the image above.

PageRank itself has quite a history. While its technology was in many ways beneficial, it was also very confusing, even to some expert SEOs. That’s why SEL published the in depth article, “What Is Google PageRank?” — very few people understood it.

Google says that PageRank is what “looks at links between pages to determine their relevance.” But SEL says it’s more like a voting system, in which inbound links to a given page count as votes toward its authority. So, the more votes, the more authority. The clincher? Anyone could view a site’s PageRank.

In spring of 2016, Google announced that while it would still be using PageRank technology to internally adjust its algorithm, the public would no longer be able to able to view any of its data. For some, that was happy news, according to SEL and its “retrospective on how [PageRank] ruined the web.” Apparently, PageRank’s emphasis on being linked to created a lot of annoying, borderline spammy behavior — like links becoming available for purchase.

Today, the technology for ranking has become more discerning, thanks in large part to MozRank, which is a “link popularity score.” To learn more about using MozRank for SEO and tracking competition, check out our HubSpot Academy guide here.

5) There’s a Google Dance — but it’s not what it sounds like.

Google dance

Source: Search Engine Land

Our inner marketing nerds wish that “The Google” was actually a physical dance move. In actuality, though, Google Dance was actually the name applied to the sudden changes to its rankings, back when the algorithm used to majorly change every month.

Marketing Land credits forum WebmasterWorld for originating the term, and also for assigning different geographically-inspired names to each dance, like “Boston” in February 2003 and “Florida” later that year. But Florida, it seems, was the last dance — or the last salient one, anyway. That’s when Google stopped making major updates to its algorithm every month, and instead started making the general under-the-radar adjustments it does today.

But to keep track of these changes, especially the minor ones, it can help to keep an eye on the MozCast Google Weather Report. It assigns a temperature that indicates how much the algorithm has changed since the previous day — the higher and stormier the conditions, the greater the shift to Google’s rankings.

Don’t be sad — earlier this year, Google hosted an event at the SMX West conference called “Google Dance” to celebrate “an annual gathering for search marketers.” 

6) There isn’t *really* a reason behind the names for updates.

Google_Names.jpg

Source: Wade Creative Network

I would really love to think that there’s an adorable story behind assigning the name “Penguin” to an algorithm update. But according to Moz, there isn’t really a formal naming method.

Similar to the names for Google’s “dance moves,” WebmasterWorld users also named most of the other updates — “Boston,” because it was announced at SES Boston, and others in the same way that hurricanes are named, though it’s rumored that “Dominic” came from a Boston pizza place

Moz also reports that some of the self-named algorithm updates, like “Caffeine,” “Panda” and “Vince” came from Google itself, and that the latter two were named after Google engineers. 

7) Algorithms are also getting smarter for image searches.

Google cloud vision API

Source: Forbes

Recently, Google announced the debut of the Pixel, its newest smartphone. Among its brag-worthy features? “The highest rated smartphone camera. Ever.

Part of what makes the camera so great are its “its world-class software algorithms,” said Google camera product lead, Isaac Reynolds. That can be attributed to Pixel’s HDR+ algorithm, which helps users capture the best quality photos, despite lighting or movement conditions.

What does that have to do with Google’s search algorithm? Well, nothing directly. But it does show even more progress toward the quest to yield the best content for users, including images. In the realm of visual searches, it’s all about the Cloud Vision API — the technology that allows Google to analyze and determine the content of images.

Late in 2015, Google made that API accessible to the public, which allows geeks like myself to play with it and see how it reads the content of their own photos. Naturally, I had to take it for a spin, first with an image of my dog:

Screen_Shot_2016-10-12_at_11.25.56_AM.png

Next, I tried it with this nice photo of HubSpot’s blogging team: 

blogging team labels

Blog team facial analysis

Whoa. How did it know that I had, in fact, uploaded a photo of a black dog? And how did it know that the second photo was of a team experiencing joy?  

It’s that sneaky, remarkable algorithm, which has been programmed — we predict using tons of existing images with various facial expressions, objects, landmarks, and more — to detect and recognize the elements and objects within an image.

Cool, huh? Give it a try here.

8) There’s a human side — the “search evaluators.”

searchqualityevaluatorguidelines.png

Source: Google

Google enlists the work of human beings to evaluate the quality of search results. Each year, there are roughly 40,000 of these “precision evaluations,” as Google calls them, in which search evaluators determine the quality of results for different searches .

There’s a 146-page document that explains the guidelines used by search evaluators when rating results. It seems to be largely intended for people who are interested in becoming evaluators. But upon exploring the guidelines, the information might also help developers and marketers determine what constitutes search quality.

Different sections of it can even be useful to people who are just getting started with SEO. Have a look at the “Your Money or Your Life” section, which goes into evaluating a page’s potential implications for a user’s health and finances, for example. Some of the criteria might look like common sense, but it also provides some unique insights on how to keep your content accountable, especially if you’re giving advice.

There are also three different sections each dedicated to the highest, lowest, and medium quality pages. Again, what might seem like common sense can actually serve as valuable information to marketers — for example, if a page is deemed to have a “true lack of purpose,” it will be classified as “lowest quality.”

That’s something to keep in mind as you develop and manage your content. Have a read, and see if anything on your pages needs to change.

Have Fun With Search

So, there you have it — algorithms can be fun, after all, especially when you get to play with photo recognition API.

But with a history as rich as the one belonging to Google’s algorithm, there’s sure to be some interesting trivia, and just a splash of drama along the way.

We can’t wait to see what’s next. And, as always, we’re here to keep you posted.

What are your favorite pieces of the Google algorithm history? Let us know in the comments.

free guide: make your site mobile-friendly

 
free guide: learning seo from the experts

Nov

14

2016

12 Great Examples That Prove the Power of Repurposing Content

Recycling Content.jpg

Stagnant organic traffic is the last thing you want to see when reviewing metrics, but it’s an issue that every marketer deals with at some point.

Those dips and plateaus in traffic can come from industry changes, how your audience digests content, the amount (and quality) of new content you’re producing, or how relevant your older content is.

Sometimes, all your content needs is a little refreshing and repurposing to keep your audience interested. So to inspire your repurposing efforts, I put together some benefits and examples below. Check ’em out. 

Why You Should Repurpose Content

One of my favorite tidbits of advice about content marketing comes from Social Triggers founder Derek Halpern, in a post on why bloggers fail.

“You don’t have to create content day in and day out. You just have to work on getting the content you already have in the hands of more people,” Halpern explains. 

And that’s the main idea behind repurposing content: Take something you’ve created, put a new spin on it, and give it new life.

Aside from the fact that the hard work is already done, here are a few other benefits for repurposing content:

Reaching New Audiences

When you first publish a piece of content, the performance might be average. However, over time, it gains traction and does a little better. When you repurpose that content in a new format and/or update it, you can reach new audience segments that otherwise may have never found it.

Reinforcing Your Message

When discussing the merits of repurposing content, Kevan Lee of Buffer points out that repetition is important with marketing. Marketing’s Rule of Seven states that buyers need to hear your message approximately seven times before they will close the deal.

Rather than covering a topic once and letting it disappear into the archives, repurpose your articles to consistently deliver your message to your audience. This works great if you’re starting with high-value, authoritative content. It makes it easier to find unique ways to reinforce your message.

Improved Organic Visibility

Organic search still provides the majority of site traffic. One study from BrightEdge found that organic search holds a 51% share among traffic sources. If that’s accurate, then repurposing optimized content in various formats can give you a significant lift in organic visibility and traffic.

Publishing a variety of content gives you more access to search real estate for targeted queries. If you publish your content on other sites, then you’ll also (sometimes) have the benefit of backlinks.

How to Choose Content for Repurposing

Chances are, you already have extensive archives of content on your blog. You might even have a lot of off-site content like guest posts that you can leverage.

Instead of getting bogged down with sorting through content individually to find the popular stuff, just go to your analytics. Look at specific metrics to easily sort and rank your content to find the top posts. I recommend paying attention to views, time on site, and social engagement, but you can also simplify the process by ranking content based on the total number of views and how it has declined over time.

For ranking both internal and external content, I also try to include factors such as the amount of post engagement and the quantity of shares.

Something to keep in mind while sorting: Don’t just base it on popularity. A post may have less engagement or traffic than your #1 piece of content, but if it can be updated with valuable data or leveraged around new trends to improve visibility, then it still might be a winner.

12 Examples of Strategic Content Repurposing

1) Joe Pulizzi’s Epic Content Marketing Book

In 2013, Content Marketing Institute founder Joe Pulizzi had committed to publishing another book, Epic Content Marketing, but he struggled to find time to write it.

He needed 25 chapters at about 2,000 words each to complete his book. Every week, he produced content that was relevant to the chapters of his book for LinkedIn and the blog at Content Marketing Institute. As the deadline for the book neared, Joe was able to utilize those blog posts to fulfill all of his content obligations — including the new book.

2) Jay Baer: Short Videos into Multiple Content Pieces

Jay Baer, founder of Convince and Convert, creates three-minute informational videos on a variety of topics — from business to social media. To maximize the reach of this content, his team repurposes his video content into a variety of formats and content pieces to publish on his site. These include:

  • iTunes audio podcasts
  • Blog content for the Convince and Convert website
  • Blog content for the Jay Today website
  • LinkedIn Pulse posts
  • Posts on Medium
  • Promotions through various social channels

3) Copyblogger: Leveraging Slide Decks

Copyblogger’s teams are well-known for the high-quality content they produce on the subjects of copywriting, content marketing, and engaging audiences through the power of words. They’re also no stranger to the power of repurposing content. They took one blog post, The 3-Step Journey of a Remarkable Piece of Content and transformed it into a SlideShare.

That SlideShare presentation has earned 38K+ views to date.

4) Ben Hardy/Goinswriter: Expanding to New Platforms

Ben started blogging in May of 2015 with the goal of growing his audience. He knew having a large readership would help him connect with a traditional publisher, so he began posting on his own blog and repurposed that content on Medium.

Some of his content went viral on Medium, generating a massive surge in traffic back to his site. He added a call-to-action to his Medium articles to opt-in and subscribe to his blog, and within 6 months, he grew his subscriber list from 0 to 20,000.

5) Videofruit: Repurposing Content to Drive a New Product

Launching a new product can be a challenge, and creating an entirely new product is even more difficult. But Bryan Harris simplified the launch of new products with content marketing.

Pulling from his most popular posts, he compiled data that revealed the needs and interests of his followers in order to develop a new product they would be most likely to purchase. The result: He banked $10,000 within 24 hours of launch.

6) Internet Business Mastery: Creating Audio Blogs to Boost Downloads

Jeremy and Jason host the Internet Business Mastery podcast, but they also have individual blogs to maintain. They decided to run an experiment where they read and recorded their more popular blogs and then uploaded them to their podcast. Those audio blogs saw 60-100% more downloads than their featured podcasts. 

7) ProBlogger: From Blog to Ebook

Darren Rowse, founder of ProBlogger, received a lot of positive feedback on his series, “31 Days to Build a Better Blog.” To streamline the content and monetize it, Rowse packaged the series into an ebook and started selling it for $29.99. Even years after the initial launch, the book is still available, and it’s even bought and used as material in online courses.

8) Matthew Woodward: Driving Subscribers with LinkedIn

In 2015, SEO professional Matthew Woodward started using LinkedIn as a publishing platform to expand his audience reach. His strategy included repurposing previous content that had been featured and creating follow-up articles to his popular content. By recycling just a few of his popular posts, he quickly snagged over 300 new subscribers at a 76.15% conversion rate.

9) Matthew Barby: To the Frontpage of BuzzFeed

Matthew Barby, head of growth at HubSpot, managed to make it to the frontpage of BuzzFeed not once, but twice. Rather than creating brand-new content, he repurposed content into a listicle featuring high protein vegetarian recipes. With a little paid social boost, he got the attention of editors and scored over 140,000 views.

10) Backlinko: Boosting Organic Traffic

Brian Dean of Backlinko received a great case study from a user, but instead of promoting it on its own, he added it to an older post and promoted that updated content to his social followers and subscribers. With a simple update and a quick promotion, that old post saw a 111.37% increase in organic traffic.

11) Moz: Whiteboard Fridays

The team over at Moz consistently creates Whiteboard Friday videos to provide visual demonstration and engagement to their audience. Those videos are distributed individually, but they’re also turned into blog posts with video transcriptions. That’s a perfect recipe for optimization and organic traffic.

12) Buffer: The “No New Content” Challenge

The Buffer team rolled out a brief experiment in 2015 to see what would happen if they stopped producing new content and only repurposed/refreshed their existing content. This strategy involved repurposing two to three new pieces each week for one month. At the end of the experiment, organic search traffic grew over 4%. New SlideShare presentations nabbed almost 200,000 views, and one Medium post captured 2,888 views and made it into the Top 20 for a day.

Write Less, Promote More

There are tremendous benefits to repurposing content, and it’s an easy way to fill the gaps of your content schedule because most of the work has already been done.

Go back through your data, find your best-performing content, and transform it into something new that will lift your organic traffic and leads. Take a cue from all the successful examples I’ve listed here — it’s a lot easier than you think.

How have you repurposed content before? What kind of results did you see from your efforts? Share your story with me in the comments below.

free guide to historical blog optimization

Nov

14

2016

12 Great Examples That Prove the Power of Repurposing Content

Recycling Content.jpg

Stagnant organic traffic is the last thing you want to see when reviewing metrics, but it’s an issue that every marketer deals with at some point.

Those dips and plateaus in traffic can come from industry changes, how your audience digests content, the amount (and quality) of new content you’re producing, or how relevant your older content is.

Sometimes, all your content needs is a little refreshing and repurposing to keep your audience interested. So to inspire your repurposing efforts, I put together some benefits and examples below. Check ’em out. 

Why You Should Repurpose Content

One of my favorite tidbits of advice about content marketing comes from Social Triggers founder Derek Halpern, in a post on why bloggers fail.

“You don’t have to create content day in and day out. You just have to work on getting the content you already have in the hands of more people,” Halpern explains. 

And that’s the main idea behind repurposing content: Take something you’ve created, put a new spin on it, and give it new life.

Aside from the fact that the hard work is already done, here are a few other benefits for repurposing content:

Reaching New Audiences

When you first publish a piece of content, the performance might be average. However, over time, it gains traction and does a little better. When you repurpose that content in a new format and/or update it, you can reach new audience segments that otherwise may have never found it.

Reinforcing Your Message

When discussing the merits of repurposing content, Kevan Lee of Buffer points out that repetition is important with marketing. Marketing’s Rule of Seven states that buyers need to hear your message approximately seven times before they will close the deal.

Rather than covering a topic once and letting it disappear into the archives, repurpose your articles to consistently deliver your message to your audience. This works great if you’re starting with high-value, authoritative content. It makes it easier to find unique ways to reinforce your message.

Improved Organic Visibility

Organic search still provides the majority of site traffic. One study from BrightEdge found that organic search holds a 51% share among traffic sources. If that’s accurate, then repurposing optimized content in various formats can give you a significant lift in organic visibility and traffic.

Publishing a variety of content gives you more access to search real estate for targeted queries. If you publish your content on other sites, then you’ll also (sometimes) have the benefit of backlinks.

How to Choose Content for Repurposing

Chances are, you already have extensive archives of content on your blog. You might even have a lot of off-site content like guest posts that you can leverage.

Instead of getting bogged down with sorting through content individually to find the popular stuff, just go to your analytics. Look at specific metrics to easily sort and rank your content to find the top posts. I recommend paying attention to views, time on site, and social engagement, but you can also simplify the process by ranking content based on the total number of views and how it has declined over time.

For ranking both internal and external content, I also try to include factors such as the amount of post engagement and the quantity of shares.

Something to keep in mind while sorting: Don’t just base it on popularity. A post may have less engagement or traffic than your #1 piece of content, but if it can be updated with valuable data or leveraged around new trends to improve visibility, then it still might be a winner.

12 Examples of Strategic Content Repurposing

1) Joe Pulizzi’s Epic Content Marketing Book

In 2013, Content Marketing Institute founder Joe Pulizzi had committed to publishing another book, Epic Content Marketing, but he struggled to find time to write it.

He needed 25 chapters at about 2,000 words each to complete his book. Every week, he produced content that was relevant to the chapters of his book for LinkedIn and the blog at Content Marketing Institute. As the deadline for the book neared, Joe was able to utilize those blog posts to fulfill all of his content obligations — including the new book.

2) Jay Baer: Short Videos into Multiple Content Pieces

Jay Baer, founder of Convince and Convert, creates three-minute informational videos on a variety of topics — from business to social media. To maximize the reach of this content, his team repurposes his video content into a variety of formats and content pieces to publish on his site. These include:

  • iTunes audio podcasts
  • Blog content for the Convince and Convert website
  • Blog content for the Jay Today website
  • LinkedIn Pulse posts
  • Posts on Medium
  • Promotions through various social channels

3) Copyblogger: Leveraging Slide Decks

Copyblogger’s teams are well-known for the high-quality content they produce on the subjects of copywriting, content marketing, and engaging audiences through the power of words. They’re also no stranger to the power of repurposing content. They took one blog post, The 3-Step Journey of a Remarkable Piece of Content and transformed it into a SlideShare.

That SlideShare presentation has earned 38K+ views to date.

4) Ben Hardy/Goinswriter: Expanding to New Platforms

Ben started blogging in May of 2015 with the goal of growing his audience. He knew having a large readership would help him connect with a traditional publisher, so he began posting on his own blog and repurposed that content on Medium.

Some of his content went viral on Medium, generating a massive surge in traffic back to his site. He added a call-to-action to his Medium articles to opt-in and subscribe to his blog, and within 6 months, he grew his subscriber list from 0 to 20,000.

5) Videofruit: Repurposing Content to Drive a New Product

Launching a new product can be a challenge, and creating an entirely new product is even more difficult. But Bryan Harris simplified the launch of new products with content marketing.

Pulling from his most popular posts, he compiled data that revealed the needs and interests of his followers in order to develop a new product they would be most likely to purchase. The result: He banked $10,000 within 24 hours of launch.

6) Internet Business Mastery: Creating Audio Blogs to Boost Downloads

Jeremy and Jason host the Internet Business Mastery podcast, but they also have individual blogs to maintain. They decided to run an experiment where they read and recorded their more popular blogs and then uploaded them to their podcast. Those audio blogs saw 60-100% more downloads than their featured podcasts. 

7) ProBlogger: From Blog to Ebook

Darren Rowse, founder of ProBlogger, received a lot of positive feedback on his series, “31 Days to Build a Better Blog.” To streamline the content and monetize it, Rowse packaged the series into an ebook and started selling it for $29.99. Even years after the initial launch, the book is still available, and it’s even bought and used as material in online courses.

8) Matthew Woodward: Driving Subscribers with LinkedIn

In 2015, SEO professional Matthew Woodward started using LinkedIn as a publishing platform to expand his audience reach. His strategy included repurposing previous content that had been featured and creating follow-up articles to his popular content. By recycling just a few of his popular posts, he quickly snagged over 300 new subscribers at a 76.15% conversion rate.

9) Matthew Barby: To the Frontpage of BuzzFeed

Matthew Barby, head of growth at HubSpot, managed to make it to the frontpage of BuzzFeed not once, but twice. Rather than creating brand-new content, he repurposed content into a listicle featuring high protein vegetarian recipes. With a little paid social boost, he got the attention of editors and scored over 140,000 views.

10) Backlinko: Boosting Organic Traffic

Brian Dean of Backlinko received a great case study from a user, but instead of promoting it on its own, he added it to an older post and promoted that updated content to his social followers and subscribers. With a simple update and a quick promotion, that old post saw a 111.37% increase in organic traffic.

11) Moz: Whiteboard Fridays

The team over at Moz consistently creates Whiteboard Friday videos to provide visual demonstration and engagement to their audience. Those videos are distributed individually, but they’re also turned into blog posts with video transcriptions. That’s a perfect recipe for optimization and organic traffic.

12) Buffer: The “No New Content” Challenge

The Buffer team rolled out a brief experiment in 2015 to see what would happen if they stopped producing new content and only repurposed/refreshed their existing content. This strategy involved repurposing two to three new pieces each week for one month. At the end of the experiment, organic search traffic grew over 4%. New SlideShare presentations nabbed almost 200,000 views, and one Medium post captured 2,888 views and made it into the Top 20 for a day.

Write Less, Promote More

There are tremendous benefits to repurposing content, and it’s an easy way to fill the gaps of your content schedule because most of the work has already been done.

Go back through your data, find your best-performing content, and transform it into something new that will lift your organic traffic and leads. Take a cue from all the successful examples I’ve listed here — it’s a lot easier than you think.

How have you repurposed content before? What kind of results did you see from your efforts? Share your story with me in the comments below.

free guide to historical blog optimization

Nov

7

2016

19 Brands with a Cult Following (And What You Can Learn From Them)

brand following.png

Ever wonder how Dollar Shave Club turned razor subscriptions into a billion dollar exit? Or how LaCroix’s fans strong-armed their beloved bubbly’s way to the top of the sparkling water food chain? The answer is simple. They inspire impressive devotion from their large fan bases.

That’s especially true among Millennials — 62% of them tend to stick with one brand, compared to 54% of the population at-large. How does a brand garner that kind of advocacy? I found myself asking the same question, so I compiled a list of 19 brands with faithful followings, along with the marketing tactics that might contribute to their cult status. Download our essential guide to branding here for even more tips on branding  your company. 

Note: It’s easy to look at the behemoth brands below and feel a little overwhelmed. From one marketer to another, stop, breathe deeply, and give yourself a break. The strategies these brands employ don’t require billions of dollars or global teams. They’re simple enough that even a lone marketer can incorporate them into their next campaign — that’s why we love them.

19 Brands with a Cult Following (and What You Can Learn From Them)

1) Southwest Airlines

Southwest.png

Source: Brand New

When I say Southwest, you probably think of cheap fares, funny flight attendants, and drink coupons. If you also think of great branding, there’s a reason for that. In September 2014, Southwest unveiled a branding refresh that earned positive media attention and made marketers swoon.

Southwest rolled out a PR campaign for its rebrand, explaining the reasoning and research behind the airline’s new look. It included videos that maintained the company’s playful brand voice while touting the new message, “Without a heart, it’s just a machine.” Southwest proved that sharing its new identity was as much a part of the rebrand as the redesigned packages of peanuts.

Branding Best Practice: Own Your Rebrand

Your rebrand may not be at the scale of a major airline, but it’s still a big undertaking, so don’t hide the results. And remember, it works in a number of sectors — at least half of nonprofits, for example, say that a rebrand has increased their revenue.

Use your rebrand as a way to create buzz within your industry. Make it clear why you felt a rebrand was necessary, how you considered your audience, and what the positive results will be. Think of it as another way to reinforce your new image and foster adoption of your refreshed identity.

2) LaCroix

LaCroix.png

Source: LaCroix

Do you know someone who’s obsessed with LaCroix? Hypothetically, you might be addicted to the fizzy water yourself (raises hand slowly). Sales for the bubbly drink have more than doubled over the past two years, but chances are, you won’t see a ton of LaCroix TV ads.

Instead, LaCroix has executed some impressive social media campaigns, specifically with Instagram. In 2015, the brand grew its Instagram followers from 4,000 to 30,000 in just eight months. Today, it has almost 60,000 followers.

But how? First, LaCroix engages with anyone who tags the brand, no matter their number of followers. If you’re lucky, you might even receive a free case of Pamplemousse for posting a photo. Second, LaCroix is quick to adopt relevant trending hashtags like #Whole30approved (to promote its partnership with Whole30 nutrition) and branded ones like #LiveLaCroix. Third, Instagram micro-influencers are smartly targeted with free products and other perks in exchange for featuring LaCroix in lifestyle images shared with their large following.

Branding Best Practice: Discover Where Your Audience Hangs Out

Find out who your target audience is and where they’re hanging out. LaCroix knew that 55% of online 18-29-year-olds are active on Instagram and doubled down on efforts there. By promoting user-generated photos and rewarding influencers, LaCroix went from sitting on dusty grocery store shelves to becoming a drink of choice for Millennials.

3) In-N-Out

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Source: In-N-Out

Let’s not even get started on the In-N-Out vs. Five Guys and Shake Shack debate. That’s a blog for a different day (and, probably, a different website). But if you’ve been to California, you might have made at least one stop for a Double-Double Animal Style — one of In-N-Out’s more notable menu items. And, the chain maintains its fervent following by knowing that meals like that are part of its brand, even being a bit protective of it.

The brand is comprised of burgers, fries, and shakes, as it has been for 68 years, insulating it from fad-food missteps. And while it’s tough to find an In-N-Out beyond the west coast, the brand extends much further. In September 2016, a pop-up shop came to London, selling out of burgers in an hour. “These events also help to protect the In-N-Out Burger brand,” the company said in a statement, “in important regions like England and Southeast Asia.”

Branding Best Practice: Protect Your Brands

It’s been said that your brand is more important than the product or service you sell. Building a brand strategy, getting buy-in from your team, and sticking to the plan are important parts of ensuring that your marketing efforts reinforce your brand standards.

4) Trader Joe’s

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Source: Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s products draw levels of adoration that would make something like pumpkin spice jealous. (I mean, hello, cookie butter.)

So what’s the secret sauce in the brand’s marketing efforts? Well, the funny thing is, it doesn’t really have any. Trader Joe’s doesn’t have an official Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram account, nor will you see television ads. What it does offer are great products that the brand is openly passionate about.

But they have discovered one thing that works. The Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer newsletter is one of the brand’s dedicated marketing channels — and people seem to love it. With a selection of featured items and an astonishing amount of copy, the Flyer waxes eloquent on Trader Joe’s hotdogs, apple cider, and more.

Branding Best Practice: Be Strategic About the Channels You Engage In

What the success of Trader Joe’s doesn’t mean: you should shut down all marketing channels and “let your product speak for itself.” Unless you start selling products like cookie butter by the gallon, that strategy probably isn’t right for you. But it does mean that stepping back and taking an unbiased look at which unconventional channels could work for you. What’s your brand’s “Fearless Flyer”? Figure out what makes your brand different, and capitalize on it with something unexpected.

5) Saturday Night Live

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Source: Giphy

Saturday Night Live (SNL) first aired in 1975. And while a 41-year run is prone to its share of tough seasons and dry spells, this sketch variety has remained strong and relevant.

While a talented cast might be the backbone of the show, it’s the weekly guest hosts and musical talent that keep each episode topical and trending. That impressive lineup allows SNL to leverage current events (e.g., when Ronda Rousey hosted after her impressive six-win UFC streak). It also allows the show to test out different hosts and bring back fan favorites, like Justin Timberlake.

Branding Best Practice: Incorporate Guest Contributions Into Your Content Strategy

While having a strong, core content team is important, guest contributions are a great way to keep your brand relevant and credible. But remember — these guests have to be aligned with your brand. Think of it as a co-marketing agreement. These partnerships have to be strategic and both parties have to benefit from it. Check out our tips on how co-marketing works in branding here.

6) IKEA

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Source: Home Designing

IKEA has a simple vision: “to create a better everyday life for the many people.” And while some patrons might give credit to the in-store meatballs — the brand is rumored to sell three million each day — IKEA turns to research to learn what its consumers really want.

But there’s no reliance on customer surveys and downloaded data. Instead, design experts are actually sent into people’s homes to learn what’s important to them and what their pain points are. That information is funneled into content that’s relevant to customers, ranging from the brand’s over 50-year-old catalogue, to the award-winning web series “Easy to Assemble,” which ran for four seasons.

Branding Best Practice: Do More Than Audience Surveys

Understanding your audience goes deeper than sending out a survey. That’s said to be especially true of Millennials, who are more interested in conversing with a brand (see LaCroix’s Instagram example above) than spending time on a questionnaire. Finding out what motivates and challenges your consumers is arguably the most important part of a marketer’s job, which also means you have to allocate your marketing time and resources accordingly. Focus on the conversation — engagement through social media and other conversation-centric platforms can help bring your user personas to life.

7) Dollar Shave Club

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Source: Brandfolder

Razors are not exactly an exciting topic. In fact, they’re probably a topic that most of us avoid discussing — because, gross. But when Dollar Shave Club (DSC) burst onto the startup scene in 2012 with a launch video that people are still talking about, it made shaving worth talking about.

The deep care for the brand is often evident, like in one interview with Brandfolder: “From our packaging to our digital presence, the DSC brand identity informs everything we do.” That devotion to the brand shines through every piece of marketing content produced. From witty emails, to carefully branded packaging that makes you stop and read your razor wrappers, DSC’s brand is carefully and craftily infused into everything they do.

Branding Best Practice: Organize Your Brand Assets

How do you incorporate your brand identity into each piece of marketing you own? With brand consistency. While your brand might have several moving parts, they have to be cohesive — in fact, 90% of consumers expect this kind of consistency across all channels, especially when shopping for a product or service. Not sure where your brand inconsistencies might be hiding? Check out this list.

And once you have achieved that consistency, consider using digital asset management: the technology that makes any of your digital branding collateral — logos, images, and standards, to name a few — easily accessible to your team (and ready to implement).

8) Apple

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Source: Apple

Year after year, new Apple product announcements get people talking — whether it’s industry chatter or consumer debate. So how does the tech giant manage to generate buzz about yet another new iPhone, even now?

For one thing, the launch messages tend to be simple and consumer-focused. For example, the iPhone 7 landing page reads that this version “dramatically improves the most important aspects of the iPhone experience.” See that? Experience. Before I even read the list of features that follows, I’m already thinking about which aspects of my iPhone are most important to me, and how much better they’ll be on this new device.

Branding Best Practice: Keep it Simple

Choose the benefits that matter to your customer and build a marketing strategy around them. And don’t forget to keep that marketing message simple and unapologetic — focusing on too much at once can lead to brand confusion, which might be why 69% of consumers are more likely to recommend a brand based on its simplicity.

Focusing on benefits in a no-frills way can also imply confidence. For example, Apple was noticeably unapologetic about removing the headphone jack from the iPhone 7. Instead, the official announcement proclaimed, “Oh yeah … and the headphone jack from over 100 years ago has been removed (shocker) for the more versatile Lightning port.”

9) Starbucks

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Source: TechGenie

Mobile has seen some interesting developments as of late. 51% percent of digital media is consumed via mobile (versus 42% on desktop), and voice search is on the rise. It makes sense for marketers to be focused on mobile, and Starbucks is no exception.

When Starbucks introduced the “Order & Pay” feature of its app in 2014, it saw adoption rates between 4-10% in stores. The brand capitalized and built on that, creating an in-app experience that remembers and recalls your favorite orders, suggests pairings, and guesses where you’d like to pick up your order.

Branding Best Practice: Invest in Mobile Marketing

If you’re not investing time and resources into your mobile marketing strategy, you might want to get started, especially when it comes to building an app for your brand — 56% of digital time is spent using them.

But if an app is out of reach or not relevant for to your brand (after all, just look at the Trader Joe’s example), how else can you elevate your mobile strategy? Start by making sure your site is mobile-friendly, and look into push notifications or other unique offerings that your organization can use to its advantage.

10) Zappos

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Source: ReferralCandy

Zappos has built its brand around customer service — a brand that CEO Tony Hsieh has defended and protected over the years, even famously saying, “Zappos is a customer service company that just happens to sell shoes.” At any other company, it might be considered inefficient for a customer service rep to engage in an almost 11-hour phone call with a customer, but at Zappos, that kind of dedication is encouraged.

But it doesn’t stop there. From sending flowers to a bereaving customer, to overnighting free shoes to a best man whose footwear hadn’t made the flight to the wedding, Zappos leads with a customer service story and keeps their fans coming back from more.

Branding Best Practice: Delight Your Customers

In a marketplace where consumers have hundreds and even thousands of choices at their mobile-savvy fingertips, you need to set yourself apart. And sometimes, all your consumer needs to make a decision between you and three other competitors is exceptional service — especially since U.S. businesses collectively lose about $41 billion dollars each year because of bad customer service. (I suppose sending flowers can’t hurt, either.)

11) TED

As marketers, we have our favorite TED talks. Maybe yours is Simon Sinek explaining the golden circle, or my personal favorite, Susan Cain speaking on the power of introverts. Regardless, TED talks have become a go-to resource for quick, insightful information across almost any topic.

In a time when consumer attention spans are shorter than those of goldfish, TED does what might seem impossible to some marketers. The brand holds five million YouTube subscribers captive for talks that average 20 minutes in length. There’s no flashy light show or catchy theme song — just solid storytelling that’s largely spread by word of mouth.

Branding Best Practice: Focus on Quality Content

Put time, effort, and money into creating quality content. While you might be able to grab someone’s attention for eight seconds with a catchy headline, valuable content is what will transform that one-time view into a regular reader, and hopefully, a customer. Plus, quality content is imperative to SEO — without it, your rankings can take a serious hit.

12) Lululemon

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Source: Lululemon

Lululemon is one of the hottest fitness brands in the market today. Ask someone why she spent just short of $100 for a pair of yoga pants, and you might get a lecture on the superior quality of Lululemon’s products. That’s the kind of brand loyalty sought after by every marketer on the planet, and it starts with Lululemon ambassadors.

While consumer word-of-mouth is one form of brand loyalty, Lululemon fosters a more formal type of ambassador in yoga teachers and fitness trainers who have been selected to represent the brand’s values and lifestyle. They lead classes at storefronts on weekends, share photos of themselves wearing the brand, and provide aspirational advertising.

Branding Best Practice: Experiment with Influencer Marketing

Brand ambassadors are a form of influencer marketing — which, according to Twitter, is responsible for 49% of user purchases. Look at who the movers and shakers are in your industry, and learn how you can partner with them through guest contributions, using, or writing about your product.

13) SoulCycle

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Source: SoulCycle

Telling a colleague that you’re headed to the gym can elicit a number of responses. You might hear, “good for you,” or receive a grimace face that says, “I feel your pain.”

But SoulCycle, similarly to Lululemon, has found a way to rebrand your workout. One visit to its website or Instagram profile is all it takes to find mantras about pushing your body to its limits with your #SoulMates and #SoulSquad. By sending the message that exercise is a community-bound opportunity, SoulCycle makes it seem like less of a chore, and more like an exclusive club.

Branding Best Practice: Market to Your Consumer’s Emotional Side

How can you make your product or service sexier? Consider how you can tap into your client’s emotions, and touch on the things that are important to them. In fact, a study that measured consumers’ brain activity in response to ads found that higher activity indicated a 23% increase in sales volume. And considering that 60% of consumers who feel a “high brand connection” are more likely to make a purchase — even at a higher price point — it quite literally pays to understand their potential feelings toward your brand.

14) Life is Good

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Source: Life is Good

Life is Good was founded in 1994. Within 11 years, the brand was boasting $50 million in sales — having never run a single ad — and $100 million by 2015.

What was the strategy behind that rapid growth and success? Say sibling co-founders John and Bert Jacobs, it was simple — “rely on the good vibes and social power of their community to spread the word,” according to Inc.

Instead of traditional marketing, Life is Good pours its advertising dollars into different events for its charity, Life is Good Playmakers. In addition to impressive sales, these efforts have resulted in an avid fan following and even partnerships with celebrity musicians.

Branding Best Practice: Think Outside the Advertising Box

Consider new, less traditional forms of advertising — especially since 84% of Millennials, for example, don’t even like advertising. By sponsoring local events or supporting a charity that aligns with your company’s mission, you could generate more than just good PR. You could also gain fans who respect and appreciate your work. Plus, 80% of consumers believe that corporations can (and should) work to benefit their communities — a win-win for both brands and the people they serve.

15) Moleskine

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Source: The Next Web

Moleskine is not just a notebook. It’s “a free platform for creativity,” Maria Sebregondi, Moleskin’s head of brand equity once said. What’s more, it’s found a way to make paper cool and relevant in the digital age.

The notebook brand expertly balances its heritage past — touting Hemingway and Picasso among its early brand advocates — with the digital present, launching a smart notebook and companion app. This balance of yesterday and today helps maintain the brand’s relevance — and appear to consumers who love the latest tech, but still have nostalgia for paper.

Branding Best Practice: Allow Your Brand to Evolve

Every brand should evolve. Our shortened attention spans aren’t limited to the content we consume — they apply to the products we adopt, as well. It is possible to maintain your brand’s legacy while also letting your marketing evolve, but it requires being flexible and open to your product changing.

16) Chaco

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Source: Chaco

Chaco is a lifestyle and outdoor footwear brand with an active following. Just look at its Instagram profile — it’s packed with user-generated photos of fans hiking, adventuring, and camping in these colorful sandals. And that’s key — such bold visuals increase people’s willingness to read a piece of content by 80%.

The branding also travels well, hitting up music festivals and gear shops around the country in what Chaco refers to as “Z the World Tour.” The tour allows the brand to interact with consumers in-person, advocate for the product, and raise awareness directly.

Branding Best Practice: Don’t be Afraid to Put a Face with Your Brand

Consider taking your marketing on the road. Sales teams often suggest closing deals through in-person meetings and, sometimes, marketing can follow the same strategy. Want to recruit brand advocates? Let them experience your brand in a tangible way.

17) CrossFit

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Source: CrossFit

CrossFit, a workout regimen created by CEO Greg Glassman, is today a billion-dollar business with what some describe as a cult-like following. So what’s in the CrossFit Kool-Aid everyone’s drinking? Great marketing, of course.

Similar to SoulCycle, CrossFit taps into the desire for community. CrossFit’s website wastes no time nodding to that idea with photos of and journal entries from its “elite” pool of members. The brand could have called them “testimonials,” but CrossFit’s careful use of language ensures that its messaging reads more like a movement, and less like a product. Another example of this strategic word choice: describing itself as a phenomenon that’s “harnessing [a] natural camaraderie.

Branding Best Practice: Inspire Ownership in Your Brand

How can you give your audience more ownership in your brand? Simple language tweaks like calling your audience a “community” instead of “members” can go a long way in building brand advocates. That goes back to the idea of shared values that we mentioned earlier — 64% of consumers cite that as the main reason for even having a relationship with a brand.

18) GoPro

GoPro makes handheld video cameras that are high quality and easy to use. The return has been huge — in 2011, less than a decade after being founded, the brand saw a 112% increase in net income after spending only $50,515 on marketing. In 2013, marketing costs went up by $41,000 and income by $28 million.

Maybe that has something to do with the company’s expertise in putting user-generated content to work for their brand. By simply encouraging its audience to use the #GoPro hashtag when posting images captured by its camera, GoPro succeeded in building strong brand loyalty and a powerful content machine. At least, that’s how I see a company with 6,000 user-branded videos uploaded to YouTube every day.

Branding Best Practice: User-Generated Content is King

How is your audience using your product or service? That information might already be out there and on social media — it just doesn’t have a branded hashtag yet. Once you get that information, ask users to tag your brand or submit content for you to post on your own networks. Some companies, like West Elm, are hopping on this trend by almost exclusively featuring user-generated content on their social media feeds — a smart strategy that can conserve your marketing budget.

19) Philz Coffee

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Source: MINT

Philz is a California coffee chain with a rabid following and well-cared for social media channels. In 2014, when content marketer and Philz devotee Caitlin Roberson tweeted her displeasure at the brand’s then-generic Twitter responses, Philz tweeted back their apologies. Today, you’ll find genuine and customized responses to followers on each of the coffee house’s social media channels — especially on Twitter.

For a business that built its brand on delicious coffee and a small shop vibe, that’s an important part of the marketing strategy. Could the social media team get by just fine by continuing to post generic responses to their followers? Probably. But going the extra few steps leaves their fans with anything but a bitter taste — in fact, a personalized customer service experience on Twitter, for example, leaves people 83% more satisfied.

Branding Best Practice: Talk to Your Customers Like They’re Real People

Make sure you’re interacting with your consumers in a genuine and rewarding way. Yes, it takes time to thoughtfully respond to customers through on social media and customer support channels, which are sometimes one in the same. But the benefit to both your brand and your consumers, however, will be well worth the extra brainpower — since Roberson’s noted interaction with Philz, the brand’s Twitter following has nearly doubled.

If You Build It…

Take time to really understand what motivates and moves your audience, and create a content and brand marketing plan accordingly. Stay confident and genuine in your message. Then, share it with your audience in a relatable way. You might just find yourself with advocates who believe in your brand as much as you do.

How are you building your brand’s following? Let us know in the comments.

free guide to branding your company

Nov

3

2016

10 of the Best Podcasts About Business and Management

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Today’s workforce is always on the go and multitasking. We’re busy, we’re distracted, we’re ambitious, and we’re always on the hunt for new sources of inspiration. That’s why business management-oriented podcasts are so perfect for today’s professionals.

A recent comScore survey found that 22% of U.S. internet users listen to podcasts at least once a week. It makes sense. Whether commuting to our offices, schvitzing at the gym, or sitting at our desks, podcasts provide hands-free enrichment. Enthusiasts listen in order to strengthen and freshen skills, to learn about new business success models, and to explore new perspectives on leadership and management – all while going about our regular routines.

Let’s be frank. Who has the time to keep up with all our favorite blogs and social feeds nowadays? Since the majority of podcasts are light in tone and conversational in structure, they make it easy to explore business challenges and trends from multiple perspectives. Listening in on these discussions can feel like having coffee with a group of expert colleagues, deliberating the latest trends in a freeform conversation.

Here are some highly recommended management and leadership podcasts.

10 of the Best Podcasts About Business and Management

1) For social media and the entrepreneurial grind: Gary Vaynerchuk

AskGaryVee Podcast

Source: her heartland soul

Outspoken thought leader Gary Vaynerchuk has taken his colorful personal brand to new heights with his hit podcast, The #AskGaryVee Show. Vaynerchuk delves into a variety of topics such as business management, entrepreneurship, millennialism, social media, ethics, leadership, and self-starting.

In episode 192, Vaynerchuk reveals that he’s finally starting to think about having a different perspective on work, perhaps recognizing that there are important things in life beyond the non-stop hustle that makes him famous. On the other hand, this man has taken just three vacations over the course of his life. (And he’s not alone — 53% of Americans haven’t taken a vacation in the past year.) So, if you have thick skin and you’re looking to get both practical and inspirational information on how to create the career you were meant to have, Vaynerchuk is your man.

Wildly entertaining, crass and impassioned, Vaynerchuk’s podcast will have you hooked. New episodes go up sporadically, but there are typically several uploaded each week.

2) For perspectives from the top: Jill Geisler

What great bosses know Podcast

Source: Work Happy: What Great Bosses Know

What Great Bosses Know is hosted by Jill Geisler — a leadership, management, and news media expert who teaches at Loyola University Chicago’s School of Communication. In this podcast, Geisler shares practical lessons for managers who want to be great bosses.

In “How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge,” for example, Geisler gives an overview of her tips for getting recognized as management material, even when serving in a junior role. People who emerge as rising stars in organizations, Geisler says, consistently offer constructive solutions to problems – and take the lead on implementing them. They constantly learn, grow and connect what they’re doing to overall organizational strategies. They stay calm under pressure, and they’re generous with resources and information, but always in a way that doesn’t detract from their own productivity. And there are fewer of them out there than you might think — 51% of managers say they’re not even engaged at work.

If you’re looking to build the essential skills that inspire others to perform at their best, this engaging and practical podcast is likely to give you plenty to chew on. Geisler posts two episodes each month.

3) For getting your leadership development fix: Richard Rierson

Dose of Leadership Podcast

Source: Dose of Leadership

Former U.S. Marine Richard Rierson’s Dose of Leadership Podcast is a fantastic place to find educational and inspiring interviews with dozens leaders from a wide swath of industries. The podcast focuses on leadership development and ethics, featuring influencers of all types, from entrepreneurs, to authors, to military heroes, to faith-based leaders.

“Fear and uncertainty are never going to go away,” said Rierson in a rare solo episode in which he explored the importance of confidence. Along with being calm, consistent, and courageous, Rierson explained that being confident is one of the “Four Cs” that form the core of a leader’s personal charisma.

Interviewing some of the bigger names in business — such as Barbara Corcoran, Steve Forbes, Fred Smith, and Bob Burg — Rierson’s podcast is a must if you’re working on leadership development. His episodes don’t air on a regular schedule, but two to six episodes come out over the course of most months.

4) For exploring the success mindset: Nathalie Lussier

off the charts business podcast

Source: Nathalie Lussier Media

Digital strategist and entrepreneur Nathalie Lussier’s podcast, Off the Charts Business, is packed with short, actionable advice to move your business forward. In iTunes, it’s listed under a section for “Inspiring Women’s Voices”, thanks in part to Lussier’s interviews with women entrepreneurs and business experts across the globe. The guests provide a diverse range of perspectives on professional success, management, and work-life balance.

In one episode, Australian coach Leonie Dawson — who runs the Shining Biz + Life Academy — discussed the importance of documenting goals for the purpose of business planning. That’s huge — 82% small business owners say that envisioning their goals have helped to actually accomplish them.

“The more that you’re in tune with where you’re going,” she said, “you will very, very naturally see what it is that you need to start doing and what you need to stop doing, in order to make sure that your business and life goals come true.”

Airing bi-weekly, Lussier’s episodes discuss what it takes to run a growing business — like productivity skills and the right mindset. This thought leader provides loads of inspirational and actionable advice on email marketing, digital product development, website creation, business management, and more of the best business resources.

5) For freelance development: Daniel DiPiazza

Rich20Something podcast

Source: Daniel DiPiazza

Rich20Something host Daniel DiPiazza is a self-taught millennial entrepreneur. DiPiazza is an advocate for being your own boss, and takes a friendly approach to professional self-discovery, freelancing, leadership, and business organization. Freelance advice is a hot space to be in, too — the rise of the gig economy seems to have inspired a new generation of side-hustlers and aspiring “solopreneurs.” But it can be scary to get started, which might be why DiPiazza welcomed guest Mark Dhamma, a performance coach for entrepreneurs, to talk about facing one’s fears.

DiPiazza’s podcast has yet to settle into a set schedule, but there are typically four to five episodes each month. You can access them via YouTube or iTunes.

6) For faith and communication: Andy Stanley

Andy Stanley Leadership podcast

Source: Stitcher

The Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast takes a faith-infused approach to leadership, efficiency, communication, and lifestyle. An author of dozens of books, Stanley is a big believer in character, clarity, courage, and competency as the pillars of leadership.

In one episode, guest Glen Jackson — co-founder of brand communications agency Jackson Spalding — explains the first three of his “seven pillars of preeminence.” To build a truly exceptional organization, Jackson believes, leaders must build trust, strong relationships, and a focused marketing communications program. And, he discusses how you know when you’ve achieved preeminence.

Stanley is a pastor, communicator, author, and founder of the North Point Ministries in Alpharetta, Georgia. His podcast has a lot to offer business professionals of all backgrounds — episodes are posted on a monthly basis.

7) For team building and success stories: Jesse Lahey

Engaging Leader podcast

Source: Engaging Leader

The Engaging Leader podcast, hosted by author and HR consultant Jesse Lahey, is dedicated to discourse about leadership and communication principles. Knowing that meetings are a point of contention — 33.4% of their participants say it’s not a productive use of time — consultant Karin Hurt came on the show to talk about “How to Lead Meetings That Get Results (and That People Want to Attend).” Her advice was to overtly state the objective of every meeting, and to invite only the people who truly must attend if those objectives are to be met.   

Lahey conveys key business lessons through storytelling and humor, often sharing engaging stories as springboards for giving over valuable advice about work-life balance, teamwork, and leadership development. Episodes are published on the 1st and 15th of each month and last 30 minutes.

8) For book-driven business insights: Jeff Brown

Read to Lead Podcast

Source: Read to Lead Podcast

Hosted by seasoned broadcaster Jeff Brown, each Read to Lead episode examines a different business book. Brown drills down to talk about each book’s take on personal development, leadership, business, productivity, marketing, and entrepreneurship.

At one point, Brown was joined by management coach and author Michael Bungay Stanier to discuss his latest book, The Coaching Habit. Among other topics, Stanier explained what he sees as the three most common and potent self-perpetuating obstacles to professional achievement: overdependence, overwhelm, and disconnect.

This podcast could be especially valuable If you love reading, but don’t have the time to pick up every business book you’re interested in. It’s a great opportunity to get an inside look. Although Brown doesn’t air on a set schedule, you can access all of his episodes on iTunes and his website.

9) For learning to lead and live intentionally: Michael Hyatt

This is your life Podcast

Source: Michael Hyatt

Publishing executive Michael Hyatt co-hosts his weekly This Is Your Life podcast with emcee-for-hire Michele Cushatt. Some recent episodes have covered things like charisma, handling critics, software recommendations, and getting the most out of vacations.

Hyatt and Cushatt once took on topic of “the cult of busy” in the “6 Ways to Reclaim Your Free Time” episode. With some sobering tough love, they made a compelling argument for individuals to take responsibility for their own busyness levels. After all, 61% of U.S. professionals say they’re too busy to do the things they want, and that’s a problem. That means smart time management requires sometimes saying no.

“It may be that you have a fear of missing an important opportunity. It may be that you have a fear of disappointing other people. It may be that you have some other kind of fear

that keeps you stuck in this area,” said Hyatt, “but the real problem is us.”

Hyatt strives to help each of his listeners “live with more passion, work with greater focus, and lead with extraordinary influence.” With recurring themes including the importance of life planning, writing, healthy lifestyle, and influence, Hyatt’s podcast delivers well-rounded inspiration. New episodes go up every Monday morning on his website.

10) For growing and marketing brass: HubSpot

The Growth Show Podcast

Source: Stitcher

Hosted by HubSpot’s VP of Marketing Meghan Keaney Anderson and CMO Kipp Bodnar, The Growth Show is an exploration of all things relating to business growth. Anderson and Bodnar take turns at the helm, welcoming expert guests to talk about growth: organizational, cultural, conceptual, and team.

In one episode, Bodnar welcomed Candor, Inc.’s Kim Scott, whose “radical candor” framework has transformed the way companies like Apple, Google, Twitter, and Dropbox handle team management. Encouraging us all to unlearn the old adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” Scott championed an approach to feedback whereby managers maximize their abilities to “challenge directly” and “care personally.” The most effective and revered managers, Scott said, are invested in their team relationships enough to give honest feedback, even when it’s negative.

Can’t Hurt to Download

If you’re looking for an easy way to learn about taking your career to new heights, management podcasts are a great solution. Always available with new and engaging insights, this could be the connection between you, greater skills, and stronger leadership. Plus, they’re a great way to add a productive edge to what might otherwise be “time-sucks,” like your commute, cleaning, or getting from point A to B.

What are your favorite management podcasts? Let us know in the comments.

free guide to podcasting

Nov

3

2016

The Top 10 Conversion Lessons One Agency Learned After Critiquing 100+ Websites

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When it comes to website design, creating a page that is visually appealing, aligned with your brand, and optimized for lead generation is no easy task. After all, there are a lot of mistakes you can make in the process.

That’s why — for almost two years now — my team here at IMPACT Branding & Design has been hosting a monthly live website critique called Website Throwdown. Our goal is to help people recognize and correct some of those mistakes, while educating other viewers in the process.

The best part? We critics happen to learn a thing or two about marketing, UX design, and conversion rate optimization (CRO) in the process, too. It’s a win-win. So in the spirit of education for all, I’ve recapped the top 10 CRO lessons IMPACT has learned after critiquing over 100+ websites below.

P.S. – Want your website critiqued in person at INBOUND 2016? We’re hosting a live throwdown in Club INBOUND with the help of special guest like HubSpot’s Luke Summerfield and The Sales Lion’s Marcus Sheridan and George B. Register for INBOUND and then reserve your throwdown slot here.

The Top 10 CRO Lessons One Agency Learned After Critiquing 100+ Websites

Lesson #1: Too many brands are hiding social proof.

So you’ve worked with some highly respected brands and they couldn’t love you more — why aren’t you screaming about it from the rooftops?

After critiquing over 100 websites, we found that a surprising majority of brands hide their social proof far down on their homepage or worse — isolate it to a never-seen page in their navigation.

Nothing speaks more highly of your work than word-of-mouth and by hiding this powerful information where visitors are unlikely to look, you can risk it going completely unnoticed.

To get the most out of social proof, incorporate elements of it into your homepage design where your visitor’s attention is at its highest. (A heatmap from Hotjar can help you determine where this is exactly.) Doing this will help you make a strong impression and immediately establish credibility in the eye of the reader.

Take a look at Contently, for example. On its homepage, the content company shows off who has used its platform before even asking you to watch a demo or learn more. Leading with this social proof builds trust and makes the visitor think, “if it worked for them, it’ll work for me.”

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Elements of social proof you can consider incorporating into your homepage include:

  • Partner/Client logos
  • Testimonials
  • Awards
  • Certifications
  • Reviews
  • Affiliations
  • Social Followings

Lesson #2: Real photography is underappreciated.

“Stock photos of people should never be used to represent your customers or your employees. Lose them,” commented David Meerman Scott during one of our live critiques. (He’ll be critiquing websites with us live at INBOUND, too.)

Now, you’re probably saying, “but, but sometimes I need to use stock photos.” And I get that — especially when you don’t have the budget for a photographer, or you’re in a time crunch. But with so many organizations using generic stock photos prominently on their websites, investing in real photography or custom graphics is an easy way for your company to establish credibility and stand out.

Using authentic, real photos of your team or office can help frame your business in a more genuine, relatable light. This can make visitors feel like they actually know you, and in turn, make them more comfortable doing business with you. 

HubSpot does a great job with this, capitalizing on their real employees, rather than stock models on every page of their site.

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Moral of the story? If you have to use stock photos, choose them wisely — avoid results on the first page, look for unique shots, and steer clear of anything overly cheesy. (If you need help, here’s a list of quality stock photo sites to get you started.)

Lesson #3: Bring differentiation to the forefront.

If people can’t identify your company’s unique value within a few seconds of being on your homepage, chances are you’ve already lost their business.

Attention spans today are low. When visitors first arrive on your site, you need to tell them exactly what makes you different and why they should stick around to learn more.

One of the most effective ways to accomplish this is with a well-thought out and prominently placed value proposition that explains:

  • What you do
  • Who you do it for
  • How you do it differently from your competition

In this article, I discussed how Slack nailed its value prop on its homepage. Just look at this breakdown:

  • What does it do? It’s a messaging app.
  • Who is it for? Teams.
  • How does it do it differently from the competition? It makes working lives “simpler, more pleasant, and more productive.” (Plus, the team behind the Mars Curiosity Rover uses it … and that’s just awesome.)

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Lesson #4: Imagery and messaging need to align.

Your imagery and text should send the same message to — and elicit the same emotions from — your visitors. For example, if your value proposition positions your company as the ideal solution for metropolitan corporations, don’t use photos of small business owners or a local business plaza.

Using misaligned imagery like this can be confusing and send your visitors mixed messages — and nothing manages to cause conversion friction quite like confusion.

Tortuga Backpacks does a commendable job with this, showing a customer wearing its product in a colorful market. The image evokes thoughts of travel, while the copy addresses a common travel pain point: checking a bag.

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Lesson #5: Conversion paths must be clear and direct.

As obvious as it sounds, another lesson we learned on Website Throwdown is that one of the best ways to increase conversions is by making your path to conversion as clear and direct as possible.

Visitors can make the decision to convert or purchase at any time, and when they do, brands like yours need to make sure that the ability to do so is easily accessible.

One company that’s truly mastered this is Dropbox. With a “Try Dropbox Business” call-to-action in its sticky hello bar, the cloud storage company ensures that no matter how far you scroll down the homepage, you have a conversion point within reach when you need it.

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Lesson #6: Avoid carousels and sliders.

If you’re considering a slide or website carousel, click here.

No but seriously, whether it’s HubSpot’s Austin Knight, CMO Kipp Bodnar, or Copyhackers Joanna Wiebe, the sentiments have been the same on Website Throwdown: carousels aka “sliders” have got to go.

Not only do these once-popular homepage features hide messages and take control away from the user, but they can also overwhelm the user, bombarding them with too many options at one time. 

When it comes to your website, each page should have one main message and one main goal for the visitor. And pulling them in different directions with multiple propositions and CTAs in a carousel will only lead to analysis paralysis — and ultimately even fewer conversions.

Lesson #7: Video is a huge advantage.

In Crayon’s 2015 State of Video report, the company found that video appears in 70% of the top 100 search results, while websites that incorporate it tend to see two more minutes of on-screen time than those that don’t.

Simply put, this means that video is powerful.

It grabs your visitor’s attention in a way that text alone cannot and adds more dimension to your brand. Video allows you to put a face and voice to your brand, making it more human. It also allows you to communicate more information about your product, brand, or culture in a shorter amount of time.

The quicker you engage and explain your value to website visitors, the more likely they are to stick around and take action. 

Need inspiration? Check out this roundup of fabulous explainer videos.

Lesson #8: Don’t force visitors to think.

Like I mentioned in lesson #6, giving your visitors too much information can lead to inaction — that’s because you’re forcing them to think.

As Hotjar’s Tara Robertson said on last month’s Website Throwdown, “the last thing you want someone to do when they land on your homepage is think.” People don’t like to think unnecessarily and quite frankly, it can only lead to over-thinking.

As a brand, you don’t want to burden people with the task of interpreting multiple messages or options to determine their next step. Rather, you want to focus on one action that you want taken and tell them exactly how to do it with clear copy and calls-to-action.

Streamlining your messaging and telling visitors what they should be doing next reduces confusion and friction, making it more likely that people will convert. 

Lesson #9: Clear goes further than clever.

Now, I love cheeky copy as much as the next girl, but when it comes to conversion rate optimization, clarity takes precedence.

Whether it’s in your headlines, navigation, or button text, always strive to be clear and concise with your copy to avoid misunderstandings and lost opportunities.

Any language you use on your website must resonate with and speak directly to your buyer persona in order to be effective and drive action. For instance, while labeling your product page “our masterpieces” may seem fun and quirky, if this is not a phrase that will be immediately understood by your persona and drive them to clickthrough, it shouldn’t be used.

Need help saying more with less? Try these six creative exercises for writing more concisely.

Lesson #10: Be human.

At the end of the day, even in a cold, cyber world, people want to interact with other human beings. They want to do business with those they can relate to — individuals who understand their pain points and concerns and will advocate for them.

In this effort, use your website to humanize your brand.

I can’t tell you how many companies we’ve encountered that talk about team members and collaboration on their websites, but never show a single face or name. This doesn’t do much for their credibility.

To avoid coming off cold, share real photos of your team members and show some personality. Include bios of your key team members, or even shoot a short video introducing them to your website visitors. Showing an authentic, personable side to your company can make visitors feel more comfortable doing business with you and yes, you guessed it, converting.

Is your website falling victim to any of the issues I pointed out above? Don’t forget to come meet the rest of the IMPACT crew at INBOUND 2016 for a live website critique. See you there!

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Oct

28

2016

8 Personalities to Look for When Assembling a Content Team

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Not having enough of the right people on your content team is a problem for many of today’s marketers. In fact, 38% of B2B marketers say HR and staffing issues are responsible for delayed success in content marketing, and 22% blame a lack of training and education.

Developing, executing, and measuring a content marketing plan can be difficult under the best of circumstances. But when you’re not adequately staffed, even the most well-conceived content marketing plan can struggle.

That’s why it’s so crucial to have the right roles outlined and fulfilled by the people who can execute them the best. We’ve identified eight personalities that can strengthen your team. As you learn more about them, you might notice that many possess the same qualifications — things like an ability to meet deadlines, good interpersonal skills, and task-specific marketing knowledge.

Check out more about these personalities below — they’ll help bring your content strategy to fruition. 

8 Personalities to Look for When Assembling a Content Team

1) The Taskmaster

This person is your project manager — the one responsible for the successful execution of your projects and campaigns. While creative, the taskmaster should also be proactive and action-oriented. After all, this person is your closer, or as we like to say around here, the overseer of getting stuff done.

The importance of well-executed project management is especially clear when comparing high-performing companies to low-performing ones. According to the Project Management Institute, in a workplace culture that emphasizes project management, 71% of projects actually meet their original goals. Compare that to the 51% of projects in non-project-management cultures, and it’s clear — companies that prioritize project management do better — period.

The taskmaster has a lot on his or her plate — things like budgets and being able to identify and prevent possible issues. But there’s technology out there that can benefit the taskmasters of the world, like the Projects app in your HubSpot software.

2) The Wordsmith

Not only does this person write well, but he or she is agile enough to do so in different voices and tones, based on your content topics and personas. In other words, the wordsmith brings your ideas to life through language. Plus, this person is able to create compelling work quickly — like the rest of the team, he or she should be deadline-driven enough to keep deliverables on track.

To state the obvious,  you can’t create content without a content creator. And it’s not just about writing — it’s about being able to do it well. These days, that’s a rare asset — American businesses spend up to $3.1 billion on training employees for basic writing skills.

The wordsmith should be well-versed in the goals and audience of the content — that’s what’s going to help him or her make it engaging. In many ways, this person is a translator who’s able to convert abstract ideas into tangible composition. And being able to work independently, as well as part of a team, is essential here, as the wordsmith must understand the ideas being communicated by his or her colleagues, and work with it autonomously.

3) The Grammar Geek

While the wordsmith gives the content life, the grammar geek is an editor makes your brand look smart. He or she holds brand values high and serves as the champion for consistency and quality across all channels.

Here’s why your grammar geek is so vital. If you publish content that contains errors, you risk losing sales. For some businesses, in fact, a single typo was speculated to result in an 80% drop in sales.

The grammar geek has a passion for language — preferably, the one in which your content is being published. But he or she also understands how to write specifically for the format of what you’re producing. Digital content, for example, sometimes takes on a different voice than print, so make sure this person is fluent in both.

And make sure this person works well with your wordsmith — chances are, they’ll have to share a back-and-forth to get a polished finished result.

4) The Artist

The strongest content teams have someone who can turns ideas and data into beautiful visuals. The artist supports your content marketing efforts by designing images, infographics, logos, and collateral — online and print — that adhere to brand style guidelines.

Compelling visuals are imperative in today’s landscape — articles with one image for every 75-100 words get twice as many social shares than articles with fewer images. You’ll need someone who can create them in a way that aligns with your brand, and is proficient in the technology used to create them. An innate sense for color, text style and layout wouldn’t hurt, either.

Make sure this person will thrive in a client-facing role, too — he or she will likely have to communicate with multiple parties and be able to understand their respective visions.

5) The Growth Hacker

Of course, it’s always good to have a master of numbers and data on your team. How else can you accurately measure and analyze the ROI of your content marketing? This person love metrics, A/B testing, and proving that ROI. In fact, it’s possible your growth hacker has a t-shirt with Peter Drucker’s famous management quote, “What gets measured, gets managed.”

The growth hacker should be more than just a data hound, though. This person truly understands what Peter Drucker meant when he wrote, “Intelligence, imagination, and knowledge are essential resources, but only effectiveness converts them into results.”

Your growth hacker helps reveal what’s effective. That, in turn, shows the team how to funnel its time and talents into the right actions to produce the right results. That requires an ability to develop, execute and report on a comprehensive content strategy — on that both attracts potential customers and retains existing ones. Plus, this person should be able to collaborate with sales and operations, because you’ll need their help to meet objectives.

6) The Social Butterfly

Your social butterfly is in charge of content distribution, promotion, and amplification. They have an affinity for social media and branding and enjoy interacting with people online.

Why is this team member important? You can thank the rules of good, old-fashioned word-of-mouth marketing. After all, After all, content consumption on Twitter has increased by 25% in the past two years alone — and 76% of its users are likely to recommend a brand after a positive social media interaction with it.     

Like the rest of your content team, the social butterfly must understand the goals of the project and the audience — that’s necessary in order to effectively communicate on social media. This person should be generally skilled in content distribution and promotion, and know how to engage influencers to drive interest around the brand and build customer loyalty. And it doesn’t hurt if this person knows how to manage paid promotions and campaigns on such social networks as Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram, and Snapchat.

7) The Risk-Taker

Every content team needs someone who challenges colleagues to try something new. Your group needs this dreamer to come up with the occasional crazy idea — because it might just work after all — and, you won’t know if you don’t try.

This individual’s unique perspective keeps your content approach from getting stale, or lost in any project chaos. And while the risk-taker role is a scary one for some teams to embrace, there’s evidence that taking risks can be beneficial — when done with caution.

But maybe that fear comes from a desire to emulate other brand leaders; if the big guys are doing it “this way,” we should, too. Or, a team may be afraid of looking dumb or silly. If you find yourself a little uncertain about the risk-taker role, ask yourself, “What content have I seen that’s really stood out to me lately? Was it the same-old-same-old, or was it something different, edgy or new?”

Obviously, your risk-taker should have a big-picture mindset, and a sense of adventure. This person shouldn’t be too preoccupied with what other people think, either. But remember: He or she must know how to take a calculated risk.

8) The Rule-Follower

To keep the risk-taker (and everyone else) in check, make sure you fill the role of rule-player. This person ensures that your content follows industry best practices. If you’re in a regulated industry, this role becomes even more important — violate any codes of conduct, and your content marketing efforts might get your company into hot water.

This rule-following team member is someone who executes on the finer, more mundane parts of the strategy. Though unsexy to some, the details are important, and they need to be thoroughly ironed out before your content goes live.

To that end, the rule-follower has a meticulous and methodical personality, with the ability to ask critical questions. And believe it or not, there are some who find joy in the execution, so to speak, and not just the strategizing — this person should have that quality.

Make It a Combo

So what happens if you can’t have a team this large? Not every company has the capacity for an eight-person content team. That’s okay — combinations are possible, and some are more important than others.

  • Make sure you have one risk-taker and one rule-follower. The risk-taker can come up with all the outta-this-world ideas, and the rule-follower can reel them back to earth. One becomes the yin to the other’s yang.
  • However, your taskmaster and growth hacker can be combined. Both are usually super-organized and meticulous; they like numbers, project management tools, and spreadsheets, and it’s fairly easy to find these traits in the same person.
  • You cannot combine your wordsmith and your grammar geek. Everybody needs an editor, right? Or as Ann Handley wrote, “Editors are not optional. Period.” And while wordsmiths can make great editors, it’s always challenging to review your own work — that’s why they call it a “second set of eyes.”
  • But, you can combine your social butterfly with your wordsmith. Creative types have a natural affinity for promotion, and your wordsmith should be able to compose the right kind of copy for your social networks.

Most content marketers are familiar with the pain of trying to do too much with too few resources. The usual result? We end up doing little to none of it well. Having these personalities on your team will help you produce better, more consistent content that your audience will want to click, read, and share.

How have you made the most of your content team? Let us know about your top content personalities in the comments.

learn how to hire an all-star marketing team

 
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Oct

7

2016

How to Find a Great Mentor at Any Stage of Your Career

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Have you ever had your mind blown by a little kid’s wisdom?

More often than not, they tend to have surprisingly astute yet simple observations in life. (Case in point — noting to my Dad, at age two, that my Mom “keeps the money in her purse” when I was told he couldn’t buy a toy I wanted.)

While it might be a stretch to call kids our mentors, the occasional profoundness of children reminds us that youth doesn’t always preclude wisdom. And the same goes for mentorship. It doesn’t have to be limited to kids, teens, and people early in their careers. As we progress in life, that guidance shouldn’t disappear — there isn’t an age that deems us unfit to be mentored. Download our leadership guide for actionable advice & guidelines from  HubSpot's Dharmesh Shah. 

But when it comes to being mentored later in our careers, many of us aren’t sure where to begin. There are many ways to go about finding a mentor at any age, though, and we’re here to suggest a few. (And to learn more about finding a marketing mentor, check out these tips from HubSpot Academy.)

How to Find a Mentor at Any Stage of Your Career

1) Ditch your preconceived notions of experience.

We tend to believe that mentors are supposed to be older, wiser, and more experienced. Today, that logic is a bit flawed — we live in a time when being professionally experienced means many things.

Some younger generations are more experienced in jobs that didn’t exist a decade ago. And then there are those who are more advanced and know the broad spectrum of certain career paths. There’s an upside to learning and teaching both. As it turns out, we all need guidance.

New York Times assignment editor Phyllis Korkki recently covered this phenomenon, describing how, in her mid-50s, her 27-year-old Social Strategy Editor made her better at her job. In an act of reverse mentorship, the younger colleague taught Korkki how to use Snap chat, which she says, “stretched me as a journalist and a person.”

I, too, was hesitant to jump of the Snapchat train at first. But when I started this job and befriended one of my slightly younger colleagues — one of whom brilliantly explains Snapchat here — I decided that it might be a good idea to figure it out. And lucky for me, she was more than happy to help.

That wasn’t all my colleague taught me, though. I’ve actually learned a lot from her in just a few short months — including how to toss any age- or experience-related connotations around mentorship away.

2) Know that mentorship goes both ways.

When I asked my colleague, Staff Writer Aja Frost, about her thoughts on being a mentee at any point in life, she provided some interesting insights.

“I think everyone should simultaneously seek mentorship and give it,” she told me. “Being both makes you better at both. If you know the type of mentorship you like to accept, you can also dole out that type.”

Korkki touches on this concept, noting that the only thing that could have improved the experience was if she, too, had mentored her younger colleague. It wasn’t until she had grasped Snapchat well enough to take over the New York Times account for a day that she asked her mentor, “What do I have to offer?”

So really, the best mentorships are balanced. It can be hard to ask for help, and to remember to offer it in return. But don’t hesitate to surface your own strengths and offer guidance in return — that “give and take” approach helps both parties see the value in the relationship. It becomes clear that that the investment of time is worthwhile.

Not to mention, helping someone out makes you feel good. As my colleague Adrienne Ober put it, “Being a mentor can be a huge boost to your own confidence. When people ask me questions, I go, ‘Oh, wow. You want to know what I think?”

3) Leverage your own network.

A few years ago, I was in the midst of a very difficult career decision and didn’t know who to ask for advice. It wasn’t until several weeks that I realized I had an entire network — former clients, supervisors, and colleagues — to call upon for mentorship. Why hadn’t I turned to them earlier?

It turns out that most of us suffer from something called inattentional blindness, which is essentially the psychological term for not being able to see what’s right in front of us, so to speak. So when we’re particularly engaged in a decision or situation that’s occupying most of our time, inattentional blindness could explain why we miss helpful resources that are actually quite readily accessible — like our own respective networks.

Once you take stock of your network, you might be surprised how well-received a request for advice can be. And unless you’ve burned every professional bridge you’ve ever known, there’s likely someone in your life whose advice you can seek. They might even be able to introduce you to someone in their network that fits your criteria.

4) Know what it is that you need.

When seeking a mentor, it’s important that you’re (at the very least) prepared to answer one pivotal question: “So, what do you want?”

Be sure to have some goals in mind when you seek out this kind of guidance. Knowing that will achieve two things — getting the information you need, and being able to seek out the right kind of mentor.

Take my above example of when I sought mentorship within my own network to help with a difficult decision — to quit a bad job without having another one lined up. I didn’t want to be shut down with a hard “no.” But I also didn’t want a quick, impractical “yes.” I needed someone who could pragmatically walk through the pros and cons, and evaluate options that I hadn’t thought of. (There it is again — inattentional blindness.)

When you look for a mentor, make sure you have a comprehensive purpose in mind. Think of the difficult questions you haven’t been able to ask. Having those criteria in mind will help you find the right person to provide the guidance you need.

5) Attach the right parameters to “success.”

In addition to experienced, wise, and older, we tend to think of the best mentors as successful. But there’s a problem — like “experience,” “success” today take s many different forms.

Our reasons for seeking advice are diverse, and with them come varied signs of success. Some traditional metrics are outdated — having great wealth, finding a spouse, and settling down in a big house isn’t everyone’s idea of accomplishment. In fact, most people value happiness at work over a big salary — almost 70% would take a pay cut for a job that they were passionate about.

Maybe that’s what you need in a mentor — someone who has taken risks and can help make yours more calculated. Or maybe you’re not sure what it is that’s going to make you happy, and need someone to objectively work that out.

The point is, don’t discount a potential mentor simply because his or her life doesn’t fit the mold of what’s stereotypically deemed successful. In fact, if someone is truly happy at work — which only 38% of people say they are — that, to me, is a sign of success.

It’s Your Turn.

Ready to get out there and start building these valuable relationships? You’ve got this. But remember, mentorship is just that — a relationship.

Show gratitude for what your mentor brings to the table. But don’t ignore what you have to offer — ask how you can be of service, too. Even if you’re an expert on a given topic, chances are, you have something you can teach.

And don’t forget to pay it forward. Even if there isn’t an occasion when your mentor asks you for help, plenty of others could use it. That could be anyone — not just other professionals. Check out the National Mentoring Partnership to learn how to work with kids at an earlier stage.

How did you meet your best mentors? Let us know in the comments.

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Oct

5

2016

8 Tips for Giving Great Peer Feedback

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The last constructive criticism I received was from my cat. After presenting her with the organic, gluten-free food that I’d spent arguably too much money on, she refused to eat it. 

Can you believe that? Does she even care that I consulted blogs and veterinarians about the best diet to put her on? Unfortunately, we’re not great at communicating feedback to each other because we’re of different species.

Luckily, that’s not the case when giving feedback in the workplace. It’s easy to communicate criticism, but it’s not always easy to do it effectively. This can especially be the case when providing peer feedback, which is a trend that’s growing in different workplaces.

Part of assembling a great team means providing helpful feedback so they can grow, and peer-to-peer discussions of strengths and weaknesses is a way to round out the top-down feedback employees receive from their supervisors and glean a fuller picture of how they can improve. In this post, we’ll discuss why peer feedback matters and how to deliver it effectively.

Why Feedback Is Important

Feedback is an important and necessary part of anyone’s career path, whether you’re in your first job out of college or have been a CEO for many years. Feedback from managers, peers, and reports is critical to identifying performance strengths and weaknesses. It provides employees opportunities for growth and education in their roles. What’s more, it often results in improved communication and better understanding of expectations between employees.

You might think that employees dread giving or receiving feedback, especially if it’s negative, but that’s actually not the case. There are some surprising statistics about the importance of feedback to employees who receive it, especially if it’s negative:

Zenger/Folkman surveyed nearly 1,000 employees, and 72% thought their performance would improve with the help of feedback. Additionally, 57% preferred corrective feedback over praise, and 92% of those surveyed agreed with the statement that negative feedback, when delivered correctly, is an effective way to improve performance.

It’s clear that negative feedback is not only desired by employees, but it’s beneficial. So, now the question is how to deliver constructive feedback correctly so employees aren’t demotivated and discouraged by it. One answer to this question is the peer review, or the 360 review.

Peer reviews are designed to provide a broader picture of employees and how they work with others, not just their supervisors. They’re not intended to replace or contribute to regular performance reviews or salary negotiations.

Instead, they’re designed to help employees set goals related to interpersonal and professional skills in the workplace based on feedback managers and peers provide. The goal of peer review is to provide a clear picture of a team’s performance from the inside, out, and to create a team culture and spirit of positive reinforcement as well as constructive feedback from those who know the employee best.

To shed some light on ways to give feedback to your peers that’s helpful, actionable, and not uncomfortable, I’ve rounded up suggestions from my own peers and trusted leadership sources to get you started.

8 Tips for Giving Great Peer Feedback

1) Assume good intent.

This is good advice for anyone on the receiving end of constructive feedback, but it goes for those giving peer feedback as well. As uncomfortable as you might feel providing feedback to your peers, they want to hear from you: 76% of employees surveyed were motivated by positive feedback from their peers.

I asked my colleague, HubSpot Marketing Director Rebecca Corliss, what advice she gives for providing great peer feedback.

“For those who feel uncomfortable giving feedback, I hear you. Especially if you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, it can be really difficult.” Corliss suggests that peer reviewers and feedback recipients view the comments as a gift. “If your feedback is shared constructively and with genuine care for the other person, you’re doing it right.”

HubSpot Sales Blog Editor Leslie Ye echoed this sentiment. “Your peers are there to help you improve, not cut you down or make you feel bad,” Ye says. “Their feedback isn’t a reflection on your worth as a person. Remind yourself of this to make feedback feel less personal.”   

2) Review regularly.

If peer reviews are incorporated regularly over the course of a working relationship, they won’t be viewed as a sporadic and dreaded event only followed by an employee’s mistake. Instead, peer reviews will be part of an ongoing two-way discussion that allows for honest and open communication and faster problem-solving.

I have a weekly check-in where I receive feedback from my manager, and I receive peer feedback each time I submit a blog post to HubSpot Marketing Blog Editor Carly Stec for her review. Communicating regularly about my progress and growth makes it feel less like a review that I dread and more like an ongoing conversation that I look forward to as a way to improve my work.

Stec suggests, “make giving and receiving peer feedback a consistent habit, and it’ll start to feel less intimidating.”

3) Come prepared.

Fractl surveyed 1,100 employees about how they felt about difficult conversations in the workplace, and they found that respondents were more likely to be somewhat or completely satisfied by feedback conversations with a direct report than with a superior. The promising result? Nearly 50% of respondents were somewhat or completely satisfied with difficult discussions with peers.

How do you ensure that feedback conversations between peers are productive and leave all parties satisfied? Come to feedback meetings prepared. A whopping 85% of the survey respondents said they prepared for difficult conversations in advance, and that’s smart advice for any feedback meeting, no matter how casual.

When preparing for a feedback meeting with a peer, have the following questions in mind to ensure that the time is well-spent:

  1. What are your goals? What are you both seeking to get out of this meeting?
  2. How can you both work together to achieve them? How can you help your peer grow and improve?

4) Learn the other person’s style.

As you may already know from previous career experience, feedback can sometimes rub you the wrong way. It might be the content of the feedback, or you might be taking criticism personally, but it could also be because you and your colleague delivering feedback have different communication styles.

Stec suggests that peer reviewers “take time to learn how the person you’re working with prefers to receive feedback — and package your notes accordingly.”

Ye encourages expectation-setting prior to giving feedback so colleagues know what to expect from you early on. “I’m a very direct person and my feedback is the same way. I know that my feedback can come off as blunt or abrupt, so I set the expectation early on that that’s my style, so people receiving feedback aren’t taken aback.”

The easiest way to learn your colleague’s style is to ask: Do they prefer in-person discussions, or emails? Do they want big-picture feedback, or do they want to dive into making changes? Consider asking colleagues about personality assessments, such as the DiSC test, that might provide you with greater insight into how you colleagues communicate and work best.

5) Get to the point.

We’ve written before about the importance of not giving feedback in the form of a “sandwich,” wherein constructive feedback is preceded and followed by positive feedback to lessen the sting of criticism. It can often make your peers feel patronized and condescended to, so skip the sandwich.

Instead, try a feedback flatbread (bear with me here, I’m hungry). Instead of prefacing constructive criticism with praise, dive into the feedback head-on, and follow it up with discussing how their strengths can be used to solve the problem.

In another study, Zenger/Folkman surveyed nearly 4,000 employees who’d received negative feedback asking them if they were surprised by the criticism they’d received, and 74% had already known and weren’t surprised by the feedback. So when you’re preparing to meet with a peer about ways they can improve their work, it’s safe to assume they know themselves fairly well. Address areas of growth and ways they can use their strengths to improve, rather than following a compliment-critique-compliment sandwich recipe.

Ye notes that the compliment sandwich can “obscure the true feedback and often lead to more rounds of back-and-forth,” but she echoes the need to interweave positive comments into peer feedback discussions. “It’s discouraging to not receive any positive feedback, and it’s a missed opportunity to call out and reinforce good habits.”

6) Encourage a growth mindset.

Are you familiar with the fixed mindset and how it compares to the growth mindset? For a quick overview, these concepts were coined by psychologist Carol Dweck in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success:

In the fixed mindset, everything is about the outcome. If you fail—or if you’re not the best—it’s all been wasted. The growth mindset allows people to value what they’re doing regardless of the outcome. They’re tackling problems, charting new courses, working on important issues.”

When providing peer feedback, phrase your comments and challenge your colleague to think in terms of a growth mindset. Instead of focusing on individual tasks your coworker didn’t accomplish, give them feedback about how the skills they’re learning to tackle contribute to the bigger picture of their professional success.

Praising or criticizing peers by telling them what they are — right or wrong, good or bad — can inspire a fear of failure and making mistakes that stagnates learning. Corliss says it best: “Most folks see feedback as a time to sit down and tell people what they’re doing wrong or what they need to do better. While that can be true, I think there’s a better way to view feedback: offering people a reflection of themselves that they may not be able to see.”

Producing successful work is important, but as a peer, it’s important for you to provide feedback that gives your colleagues a fuller picture of their progress and growth that empowers them to experiment and learn new ways to define “successful.”

7) Use the passive voice.

I know, you probably read the title of this section and wondered, “wait, doesn’t this advice go against a cardinal rule of writing?” Before you write me off, hear me out: The passive voice is integral to giving productive peer feedback that’s helpful without being personal. It allows your feedback to focus on the problem, not the individual who you’re critiquing.

Compare these two styles of feedback on the same hypothetical article:

  1. “You didn’t support the claims you made in the article.”
  2. “This article would be stronger with most research to back its claims.”

See the difference? While the two critiques are communicating the same thing —  the article needs more support for its claims — the second is a more productive way to provide feedback to a peer. Focusing feedback around the subject instead of the individual makes it less likely that your peer will become defensive of themselves and will lead to an altogether more productive conversation.

Remember, 57% of Zenger/Folkman’s respondents said they preferred corrective feedback. Your peers and colleagues want to know how to improve, and if it’s your job to help them in that process, you owe it to yourself and your coworkers to have the most productive conversation possible.

8) Embrace technology.

It’s 2016, and it’s time for peer feedback to get with the program. As we mentioned earlier, it’s courteous to learn how your peers like to receive feedback to tailor an approach that works for their learning style, and that can include technology.

Experiment with different ways to deliver constructive criticism electronically, such as via email, Google Drive comments, Slack, or Evernote. One benefit to communicating peer feedback electronically is that it can be documented and saved for future reference.

On the other side of the coin, there are many ways to electronically harness positive peer feedback as well. Here on the HubSpot Marketing team, we use TinyPulse to gauge employee engagement and happiness, but also to give “cheers” to our peers for great work that their supervisors might not have noticed. YouEarnedIt lets employees provide similar real-time praise.

Your peers want to succeed in their roles, and feedback from managers and peers is integral to making that happen. The next time you sit down for a feedback conversation with a peer, ask yourself if you’re doing the best you can to make your criticism fair, actionable, and empowering.

What’s your favorite way to receive feedback from a peer? What’s your advice for giving constructive criticism to your coworkers? Share with us in the comments below.

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Sep

27

2016

How to Make the Most of Your To-Do List: 7 Styles to Try

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In my family, memory is an asset.

It’s not that we’re senile. It’s just that our minds move too quickly. We’re so busy jumping ahead to whatever’s next that we forget what we were doing in the first place.

So if we want to remember anything, we have to write it down. We are a to-do list family.

To-do lists have quite the history. They date back at least to the 1700s, as you’ll see below, and have been the subject of glee, contention, and productivity advice alike ever since. And while they’ve evolved significantly over the years, they still stand to serve a pretty similar purpose: To plan what we need to do.

Download our complete guide to productivity here for more tips to improve your  productivity.

What did that look like, once upon a time? And what does it look like for us today? As it turns out, the answer to the latter is different for everyone, and we’ve identified some of the ways people make to-do lists work for them.

The Earliest To-Do Lists

In his 1791, Benjamin Franklin recorded what was one of the earliest-known forms of a to-do list. But his intention behind the list wasn’t exactly to get stuff done — instead, he used it as a way of making sure he contributed something positive each day. He started his list with the question, “What good shall I do this day?”

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Source: Daily Dot

I won’t lie — Franklin’s to-do list doesn’t look entirely far off from mine. Granted, I don’t usually include the words “diversion” and “contrive” to describe what I need to do on a given day, but our respective lists achieve the same thing. I also schedule time in the morning to eat, and often use the lunch hour for my own version of “overlooking accounts.” You and I aren’t so different, Franklin.

What’s really changed are the different options available to us for creating and organizing to-do lists. Though not nearly as ancient as Franklin’s style, many of us can remember owning a paper day planner — those actually date back to 1924, with the debut of the Wanamaker Diary.

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Source: Boston Globe

But the age of the digital to-do list really started when computer operating systems were including calendar programs in their ensuite software packages, like primitive versions of Outlook Calendar. Those were followed by a 1992 version of a smartphone called Simon — which included scheduling features — and then came calendar-ready PDAs, or personal digital assistants. The first generation of online calendars came along in the early 2000s, which eventually evolved into programs like Google Calendar that could be synced with their smartphone counterparts.

In other words, it’s been a long time since we needed a pen nearby to take note of something — as long as we have a mobile device nearby, we can text reminders to ourselves, enter events into its calendar program, or use a voice search feature to set a reminder.

But I find it so interesting that something that now seems like antiquated technology — the PDA/personal digital assistant — is now become more applicable than ever again. We’re seeing more and more programs that were originally intended to be voice search platforms evolve into virtual personal assistants. So we’ll definitely touch on those, and how they come into play in the modern age of the to-do list.

How to Make the Most of Your To-Do List: 7 Styles to Try

1) The Classic Handwritten List

Around here, we joke about what an old-fashioned gal I can be. I go to bed early, have a collection of film noir, and reminisce for cartoons of the early 90s. I also keep a handwritten to-do list, which — with all of the bells and whistles available to us these days — is almost archaic.

I have a weird system for using my handwritten to-do list, too: I use it in tandem with Google Calendar, which we’ll get to later, and I use it as a shield from distractions.

When I’m working, I might get a random thought of something that I want to look up on the internet, or a personal message I want to send, or an errand I need to run. More often than I’d like, I respond to those thoughts in one of two ways: 1) Dropping what I’m doing to address it, or 2) saying, “I’ll deal with it later,” and forgetting about it.

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But having a notebook beside me while I’m working gives me a place to store these things, without completely interrupting my work to deal with them. Some of them are more important than others, but this way, I have a place to “put away” any distractions. (You’ll notice I use cartoonish exclamation point to indicate “fun” tasks.) And with the rapidly-dwindling attention span of humans, any hack to stay focused is welcome, especially in a deadline-driven line of work.

2) Bullet Journals

It seems like Bullet Journaling is the to-do list du jour. Everyone is talking about it, and yet, so few people seem to understand it.

Even when I surveyed my colleagues who have been giving it a shot, the reviews were mixed — most were falling behind on using it, and the others weren’t sure if it was actually benefiting them. One of them, my fellow marketing blogger Sophia Bernazzani, was kind enough to share a picture of hers:

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A Bullet Journal, Bernazzani explained to me, works for her, “because it easily lets me see my big-picture priorities and daily to-dos all in one place.”

According to a semi-official Bullet Journal website, the strategy is best described as a “customizable and forgiving organization system” that works as an all-in-one “to-do list, sketchbook, notebook, and diary.” Here’s what I was able to deduce from the remainder of the website content:

  • It’s a list of tasks, events, and miscellaneous notes.
  • Lists can be daily, monthly, or yearly.
  • Symbols are used to indicate the category and importance of each item.

What sets it apart from other to-do lists is its purpose to keep people from going nuts over the stuff they didn’t get done. It matches some research performed by a productivity app called iDoneThis, which found that 41% of to-do items are never completed. With the Bullet Journal system, nothing is ever crossed off — it’s just labeled with a new symbol that indicates it needs to be migrated to a future date.

The other differentiator is Bullet Journal’s advice to take daily logs one day at a time, instead of listing those items too far in advance. It also recommends not making these lists too long, which also aligns with research — studies have indicated that the more items on our to do lists, the less we’re likely to get done.

3) The 3-Step To-Do List

Earlier this year, my colleague, Christine Ianni, spoke with Pultizer-winning author and journalist Charles Duhigg about how the most productive people manage their time. He revealed a three-step process that breaks down larger, more difficult steps into micro-steps.

It looks something like this. Start with a blank sheet, and then:

  1. Think of your stretch goal for the day.
  2. Write your goal at the top of your page.
  3. Break your goal down into actionable/measurable steps.

Basically, this method decreases the intimidation factor of big projects. When larger goals each have their own to-do list, they’re re-organized into the smaller steps that lead to it being fully complete.

Curious to learn more about how that works? Check out our interview Duhigg on HubSpot’s The Growth Show.

4) Online Calendars

Here’s where my to-do listing is a bit more hip than an old-fashioned, handwritten inventory of distractions. I’ve written before about my tendency to schedule my day down to the very last detail — my online calendars are great for that.

Notice that I pluralized it — “calendars.” That’s because I have multiple online schedules, for both work and personal items. But thanks to cloud technology and the ability of calendars to merge together in one place — like iCal or my phone’s calendar software — I can have all of this information on a single platform.

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Like a few of my colleagues, I later found out, I use my online calendars in tandem with another to-do list format. Instead of just listing what I need to do, the calendar breaks down how much time I have to complete things throughout my day, from walking the dog to getting my writing done in the morning.

It also helps me remember to take breaks throughout the day. I’m not always so good at actually taking them, but since the most productive people remember to take 17-minute breaks for every 52 minutes of work they put in, I at least include it as an action item for myself. And by aligning them with my handwritten to-do list — where I write down reminders to look into otherwise distracting things — it helps to ensure that those 52 minutes of work aren’t severely interrupted.

What’s also cool about Google is its “Goals” feature, which lets you schedule out longer-term items — like learning a new language, for example — and dictating how much time you want to dedicate to them each day, month, or year. And, Goals keeps you accountable. If another commitment is scheduled during the time originally set aside to work on that longer-term item, Google will automatically reschedule the latter for you. So no excuses — it’s time to learn Japanese! Or, you know, whatever it is that you want to take up.

5) Virtual Personal Assistants

Last week saw the launch of Google Allo, a “smart messaging app” that also comes equipped with Google Assistant — a virtual concierge, if you will. It’s preemptive to the rumored October 4th launch of Google Home, which sources say is likely to use similar technology.

So why does that matter? Well, Google Home is another addition to the growing list of stand-alone virtual assistants that don’t require the use of a mobile device. And among their many capabilities, these in-home virtual assistants should be able to help set reminders.

Google Home will play in the same leagues as Amazon’s Echo, which uses its own voice search technology, Alexa, to assist with these requests and queries. I’ll let Alec Baldwin — who, by the way, you can come see at INBOUND 2016 — help explain:

Google and Amazon aren’t alone in this technology — let’s not forget Siri, one of the original voice search platforms that was programmed to create to-do lists and set reminders.

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Digital personal assistants tend to accomplish different things than the other types we’ve covered thus far. For me, at least, Siri is a great tool for creating or adding things to a to-do list when I’m on-the-go, or don’t have time to go through the process of adding a new event to my calendar.

We anticipate that this method of virtual to-do listing might continue to gain popularity — after all, look at how many major names are entering the space.

6) The “I Did” List

My colleague, Mike Renahan, is rumored around here to know a thing or two about productivity — you can check out some of his articles here. Naturally, I asked him how he organizes his to-do list.

His answer? He doesn’t, really. Instead, he uses what he calls an “I Did” list.

“You write down all the goals you accomplished in a given day,” he explains, “and those dictate what goals you set for yourself tomorrow.”

Here’s an example of what that looks like for him:

I_Did_List.jpg

As you can see, Renahan keeps this running list in a note in his phone so that he can update it whenever, wherever. “I update this list every day when I’m on the train,” he told me. “It helps me reflect on how productive I was in a given day. And from there, I can start planning realistic goals for the following day.”

Renahan’s approach works to resolve the emphasis on the incomplete by focusing on the good things we did on a given day. And instead just adding more and more things to an existing list, his theory says to use the good things to dictate what you’ll do tomorrow.

7) Task Management Apps

Finally, we reach the inevitable “there’s an app for that” method of organizing to-do lists.

Make no mistake — these apps are different than digital personal assistants. Rather than dictating reminders and scheduling items to a separate platform, many of these apps allow you to be in full control of your tasks.

There are tons of task management apps out there — Wunderlist and the aforementioned iDoneThis are two of the more recognizable names.

But among my colleagues, like the Section Editor of the Hubspot Sales Blog, Leslie Ye, it seems like Todoist is the most popular.

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She’s written about it before, and says that being able to triage the items on her to-do list according to their priority is major benefit. Plus, unlike a lot of other task management apps, Todoist has managed to gamify these tasks — the more you successfully complete, the more “karma points” you can earn.

“And accumulating karma points,” Ye explains, “is a fun way to gamify something that is usually a source of stress.”

Feeling organized?

At a time when we seem to be busier than ever — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as that’s been said to improve our cognition — staying organized can become a challenge. But that’s only if you don’t have the right tools and, as we’ve illustrated, there are plenty of those to be found.

As we noted before, not every method is perfect for everyone, and whichever one makes you most productive might not look conventional. These methods can be combined and used in tandem with each other — like I do with handwritten lists and online calendars — or maybe there’s just a singular method that works best for you.

And maybe there’s a really cool, unknown to-do list organization method out there that we need to know about. Got one? Let us know in the comments.

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Sep

23

2016

Why Business Travel Is Making You Sick (And What You Can Do About It)

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I recently read that 45% of Millennials want to travel more for business.

Are they crazy? I mean, I get it. Travel is an opportunity to do something different — to have an experience. But as someone who spent considerable time in seemingly endless business travel, I understand the frequent (non-recreational) flyer’s lament.

While it’s necessary in moderation, it takes its toll — studies show that frequent business travel makes us age faster, not to mention, more prone to cardiovascular disease. And as if that weren’t enough, constant flight exposes us to what the Harvard Business Review calls “pathological levels of germs and radiation.”

It doesn’t have to be that bad — there are ways to stay healthy on the road. By turning these tips into habits, you might not only decrease your chances of getting sick, but business travel can even become an exercise in prioritizing effectively, sleeping better, and learning to make time for yourself.

(Note: These tips are not intended to be substitutes for medical advice — they’re for educational purposes only. Consult your healthcare professional before making any health, medical, or other decisions based on the data within these tips.)

Why Business Travel Is Making You Sick (And What You Can Do About It)

You’re not eating healthily — which is trickier than it looks.

While your brain might require more calories during these intense periods of travel — and want to reward itself with airport junk food — you have to feed it the right kind of sustenance. That means consuming healthy snacks, and not the salty, sugary ones that we usually find on the road.

HubSpot’s VP of Marketing Meghan Keaney Anderson recommends packing healthier options for yourself. “They don’t take up much room,” she says, “and will get you through those long trips.”

Back when I had to travel nearly every week for work, if I didn’t have any meals planned with colleagues or clients, I would bring homemade freezer meals: Portable containers with grilled chicken strips, green beans, and sweet potatoes that I would freeze and throw in my carry-on when it was time to leave.

Make-ahead meals like that are especially helpful if you’re going to be on the road for several days — just call your hotel ahead of time and ask if there’s a refrigerator or microwave in your room. If there isn’t, you can request one — hotels are usually happy to oblige.

You don’t know what’s nearby.

To piggyback on the importance of healthy eating, it helps to know what’s near the place you’ll be staying. That might not be up to you — it’s often up to your client and boss to dictate lodging, especially when you have to stick to places that have a specific corporate rate.

However, with the help of sites like Yelp and Google Maps, it’s easy to make a spreadsheet or list on your phone of what options are available near each hotel you stay at.

If you are able to pick where you stay, “book hotels in downtown areas,” Anderson recommends. “It might be tempting to book the hotel closest to the airport, but staying downtown will minimize your reliance on cabs and let you see the true city.” 

You’re not working out.

The benefits of exercise aren’t exactly a secret. Not only can it help you stay healthy on the road — especially if you find yourself tempted by food that you wouldn’t normally eat at home — but exercise can even mitigate the effects of jetlag.

Depending on how early your day starts — and any evening obligations you might have — that could mean getting up at 4:00 a.m. to fit in a workout. That can be tough if you’re out the night before, trying to impress your boss and schmooze with clients.

But there are ways around that. Try to sneak in a workout after dinner, especially if you just can’t bring yourself to get up so early the next day. (Don’t like going to the gym? Toss some 2-lb dumbbells into your suitcase and find some short exercise videos online that you can do from your hotel room.)

These workouts can be quick — my colleague Lindsay Kolowich has some tips for effective spurts of exercise that add up when you do them throughout the day, even if you’re stuck at a desk (and won’t make you look weird).

Finally, try not to drink too much with dinner. Not only can alcohol derail your efforts to eat healthily, but it’s known to impair your sleep quality by messing with your sleep cycles, especially the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage — that’s crucial to things like learning and balancing your mood.

(And if you’re being pressured to get boozy with colleagues or clients, maybe it’s time consider a career change.)

You’re not sleeping enough.

This step can be tough — see above.

Some people just don’t sleep well in hotels, and that’s completely normal. It’s actually the result of what researchers call the “first night effect,” and it results from a tendency of mammals — like dolphins and whales, for example — to sleep with just one half of their brains at a time, while the other half stays awake and alert.

Humans do this, researchers believe, when we’re in a new environment — we’re more alert, so we can respond to unusual stimuli, or “signs of danger.”

When I noticed that was starting to happen to me, I found it helpful to do something completely unrelated to work before turning in for the night. It can be hard to step away — after all, that’s why you’re on the road. But as a start, don’t look at any of your devices, as that’s been known to disturb your circadian rhythm and keep you awake.

Instead, take advantage of the hotel’s free HBO, or read something relatively mindless — for me, that was usually a home and garden magazine. At the very least, it distracted me from any stress leading up to my commitments the next day, like a big meeting or presentation. And since stress often leads to sleeplessness, as it does for 33% of adults, that helped to mitigate the “first night effect.”

You need to chill out.

We’ve already covered how important stress management is when it comes to your quality of sleep. But remember all those healthy eating tips we shared? Stress can seriously hinder those efforts, too.

There’s a reason why phrases like “stress eating” and “comfort food” are common in our vernacular — in the period of one month, nearly every two in five adults admits to overeating or indulging in unhealthy foods as a result of stress. Combine that with being in a less controlled environment — where there’s a stocked mini-fridge, for example — and we’re much more likely to turn to unhealthy snacks for relief.

But between packing your own food, getting a workout in between client obligations, and getting enough sleep, how the heck are you supposed to find time to even breathe, let alone relax?

Well, here’s where you might have to switch around some priorities. If healthy eating is more of a priority to you than fitting in exercise, then you can use that time to unwind. Maybe the hotel has a pool where you can decompress for a bit, or even a spa that you can use to your advantage.

Otherwise, fit in the relaxation where you can. It might sound impossible, but studies have shown that even 16 minutes of relaxation exercises can help people more effectively cope with stress.

Plus, there are several stress management apps that make it possible to take a mini-relaxation break anywhere. Check out our rundown — a lot of them are free.

You’re not planning your time wisely.

We’ve all heard about the benefits of time management — and I don’t know about you, but I feel better when I have at least a rough idea of what my day will look like.

I use a technique called time blocking, which means I put appointments in my calendar for my own time — things like working out and taking a coffee break, for example. According to some studies, writing down your goals like this can actually improve the likelihood of you actually achieving them.

So while our plans might go awry, scheduling things in advance, at a minimum, gives us a better idea of how much time we have to get them done.

That’s why time management is so valuable during business travel. There’s a lot to fit in during a condensed period of time — by planning these items out on a calendar, you can better prioritize what’s most important to you, whether that’s exercising or using that time for relaxation.

And if you’re having trouble setting priorities, try this two-minute test that will help you determine them.

Time to hit the road …

It might seem like a long list. And it might seem like way too much to take care of when your time is already limited. But it’s okay if you have to pick and choose different tips here, and that’s why we keep harping away at prioritizing. If you have to skip a step, don’t beat yourself up for it — when it comes to correcting less-than-desirable habits, self-forgiveness is much more effective than guilt.

Before you head out, know what’s available to make your trips a little easier. Find out if your hotel offers things like laundry service, in-room yoga, or something as simple as an in-room coffee maker. Having those resources on hand will reduce the amount of time you have to spend looking for them or retrieving them elsewhere.

Happy trails! We’re here to provide tips wherever we can. Do you have a favorite business travel hack? Share it in the comments.

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Sep

21

2016

Want to be a Better Social Media Marketer? Listen to These 10 Podcasts

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The last time I went on vacation, Facebook and Instagram announced two big product changes that I was left scrambling to catch up on when I returned.

Know the feeling? If you work in social media marketing, my guess is you know it all too well.

Social media is constantly evolving, making today an exciting time to work in marketing. This can also mean that you sometimes feel as if you’re falling behind on your general social media knowledge and education.

The solution? Podcasts.

In this blog post, we put together a list of 10 podcast episodes that deliver helpful and actionable guidance for social media marketers looking to brush up on their skills in a quick and entertaining way.

10 Amazing Podcasts About Social Media

1) Marketing Smarts: How ‘Dolphin Tale’ Brought 800,000 Visitors a Year to Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Click here to listen to this podcast episode

In this episode, Kerry O’Shea Gorgone speaks with Chief Marketing Officer of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Bill Potts. They discuss Winter the dolphin, whose story of recovery from losing her tail was chronicled in the movie Dolphin Tale. Thanks to their social media and public relations teams’ relentless work to get Winter’s story shared with local media outlets, she eventually became the star of a hit film (seriously, rent this movie).

In light of the Aquarium’s newfound fame, Potts talks about their strategies for maintaining the momentum of the Dolphin Tale films by investing in social media more than ever. In particular, they’ve experienced a lot of engagement by live streaming video of their animals on Facebook Live, Periscope, and Snapchat. (You can learn how to master Facebook Live with the help of this free guide.)

[Live-streams are] not super-rehearsed. They really are authentic. We focus on the animal, we focus on the story, and we don’t script it. We have an outline of what we want to be reviewed during the live webcast, but we make sure they’re naturally delivered. They’re really not rehearsed. They just happen. We do schedule and plan them, and we do know what’s going to be discussed, but we make it really authentic. It’s a one-take deal.”

Key Takeaways:

  • All organizations have a story to tell, whether it’s about their mission, an individual, or a certain achievement. Give it the direction it needs to garner attention from media.
  • Don’t just talk about yourself: Get others to talk about you on social media and in the press to earn more attention. (Here’s a handy PR guide to help with that.)
  • Live streams should be raw, unscripted, and authentic: You can practice using the technology, but ultimately, remain flexible to allow room for more genuine content. (Check out this live streaming checklist before you get started.)
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment with how and where you’re sharing video content. For example, the aquarium turns over their Snapchat to trainers working with animals 1:1 so followers can see how the aquarium helps marine life up close.
  • Learn about your audience and where to reach them: For the aquarium, it’s mothers on Facebook.

Duration: 25:20

2) Online Marketing Made Easy with Amy Porterfield: How to Get Started with Facebook Live

Click here to listen to this podcast episode

This episode of Amy Porterfield’s marketing podcast features Kim Garst of Boom Social, where they discuss best practices and strategies for using Facebook Live. Main themes of this episode included determining how often to broadcast, apprehension about broadcasting live and making mistakes, and uncertainty about measuring success.

I think the reason live video is so impactful (again, this is my opinion and what I’ve seen through my personal experiences and watching other people) is that people are so attracted to people who are not just real, but people that are relatable. In other words, they can see themselves having that issue.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Consistency is a contributor to successful live streams: Create a regular schedule on Facbeook Live or Periscope to expand your reach after you stop broadcasting live.
  • Carefully choose your broadcast’s headline: Remember, this is an opportunity to grab more attention from followers.
  • Incorporate an offer into pre-outreach for your Facebook Live event. For example, tell followers that you’ll be giving away promo codes, ebooks, or checklists that they can only download if they tune in.
  • Have a strategy to achieve a specific goal for every single broadcast, and don’t just talk for the sake of sharing.
  • Find a way to capture people’s attention while they scroll: Facebook only counts “Views” as users who watched for 10 seconds or more.

Duration: 55:31

3) Social Media Marketing: Content Creation Hacks

Click here to listen to this podcast episode

This episode, hosted by Social Media Examiner Founder and CEO Michael Stelzner, focuses on social media content creation with the help of special guest and social media pro, Nick Westergaard.

In the interview, Westergaard discusses the fact that everyone knows they need to create content, but not everyone knows how to do it most effectively. Many content creators don’t operate with a comprehensive strategy, which can make people object putting in the work to make content pay off. Westergaard mentions the term “checklist marketing,” which he says refers to marketers tackling every new marketing strategy like an item on a to-do list without objectives or strategy in mind.

You have to gamify it a little bit and think about, if you’re creating one thing, how many more things can I create out of this? … By planning one piece of content, I create many.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Try a team approach to social media content creation to both share the workload and curate a diverse array of content — even from colleagues who aren’t marketers.
  • Experiment with user-generated content: Develop a campaign around an event or hashtag so your followers are sharing photos and messages that you can share with your networks.
  • Repurpose content: If you’re writing a blog post or designing an infographic (here are some helpful templates for that), find a way to create smaller pieces of it that can be used as social media posts. Additionally, you can string smaller pieces of content together to create an ebook or guide.
  • Take part in #TBT: Align your older content with current events and re-share it on social media. This takes advantage of nostalgia marketing and re-promotes content you’ve already created.

Duration: 41:08

4) TED Radio Hour: Why Do We Like What We Like?

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In this episode of the TED Talks podcast, host Guy Raz interviews several TED speakers who’ve talked about branding:

  • Filmmaker and Producer of Super Size Me Morgan Spurlock discusses how brands impact our purchasing decisions.
  • Management Advisor and Author Joseph Pine touches on the power of authenticity.
  • Ogilvy & Mather Group’s Vice Chairman Rory Sutherland explores the real versus perceived value of different products.

Their discussions are varied and well worth the full listen, but the overarching theme was how brands’ perception impacts their success (or lack thereof). Pine mentions that customers make choices because they’re bought into the dreams and imagery surrounding big brands, and that once they start using the product, they start to believe the message.

Ubiquity is the death of authenticity.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Take advantage of the opportunity to cultivate and promote what makes your brand unique. There’s always room for bragging on social media — just do it in moderation.
  • Be authentic and real, but don’t say that’s what you’re doing. Consumers want authenticity, not disingenuity.
  • Tell stories with a sense of place to drive greater authenticity: Set the stage when sharing blog posts, updates, and videos on social media so followers can see the kind of activities your organization is up to.
  • A/B test different types of post on social platforms to see how they perform comparatively: Consumers don’t objectively think a product or service is good or bad — branding and marketing messages impact their perception, and that’s in your hands.

Duration: 49:13

5) The Growth Show: Episode 100: Guy Kawasaki’s Unconventional Advice on Growth

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In this episode of The Growth Show, HubSpot CMO Kipp Bodnar sat down with Canva Chief Evangelist Guy Kawasaki to discuss Instagram Stories versus Snapchat Stories, Facebook Live video, and organizational growth challenges.

During the discussion, Kawasaki admits that he prefers Instagram to Snapchat due to its superior content discoverability features and analytics options. And when it comes to Facebook Live, he is bought in.

In fact, he mentions that while taking a break from streaming on vacation, his Facebook reach was only 400,000 users, versus the 1 million users he sees when he’s streaming regularly. (Spoiler alert: He also lets listeners in on his secrets to greater engagement during live streams — but you’ll have to listen to find out what they are.)

I don’t want positive, supportive, wonderful, reinforcing engagement on social media. I want any kind of engagement.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Facebook Live drives greater engagement and reach than publishing recorded video or sharing a YouTube link.
  • When you’re streaming live on Facebook, have a second screen (and ideally a teammate) available to see what comments or questions are rolling in from your audience so you can answer them live.
  • Ask your audience questions while you’re streaming live to increase comments, Likes, and followers.
  • Publish regularly and frequently to increase engagement on social media platforms.

Duration: 35:01

6) Hashtagged: Focusing on Creating Content and Community Versus Being an Influencer with Dan Joyce

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In this episode of Hashtagged, host Jordan Powers interviews Dan Joyce, a content creator on Instagram, about the cultivation of vibrant and engaged social media communities. Joyce was one of Instagram’s very first users.

They swap stories about how they started using Instagram first as a creative outlet, and then eventually as a tool for content creation and personal networking. As a professional content creator, Joyce initially began experimenting with Instagram, but it’s since evolved into a powerful network that photographers and other content creators can harness:

[The] platform has provided a breadth of knowledge about photography and content creation in a way that makes big social network a lot smaller … There are so many types of content being shared on Instagram, it’s created its own ecosystem.”

Key Takeaways:

  • You can’t force becoming an influencer or thought leader, even on social media. Share lots of unique and creative content to grow your social network, and followers will come after.
  • Individuals and brands can use Instagram as a more professional portfolio of photographs and Snapchat as a more lighthearted photo log of their day-to-day.
  • Experiment with the types of posts you share on Instagram: Powers found that when his posts are more about content creation than networking, they end up performing better. (Here are 18 photo and video ideas for Instagram to try.)

Duration: 40:18

7) Inbound Marketing Today: 7 Social Media Mistakes Companies Make & How You Can Avoid Them

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Inbound Marketing Today is hosted by Neil Brown, founder of the Brown Creative Group, and in this episode, he discusses common mistakes businesses are making on social media:

  1. Treating all social media sites as if they’re the same and not changing up how you share content.
  2. Too much automation.
  3. Not posting on social media frequently enough.
  4. Not responding to questions or comments.
  5. Deleting negative posts, comments, and reviews.
  6. Trying to be active on every social media channel.
  7. Not having a lead generation strategy.

You want to use automation to make marketing more efficient, not to appear as a bot. Social media should be social.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Social media is an arm of your customer service team: Aim to be helpful, positive, and delightful to your customers.
  • It’s better for engagement to have a comprehensive strategy for only two social media platforms than to post at random on all platforms.
  • Maintain your voice’s authenticity. You’re a human speaking for an organization, so don’t forget to be real, and connect with people when they seek assistance or give feedback.

Duration: 12:14

8) Social Pros: Why Most Social Media Writing Sucks & How to Fix It

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In this episode of Convince and Convert’s Social Pros, hosts Jay Baer and Adam Brown interview Josh Bernoff — chief troublemaker at Without Bullsh*t — about writing quality content for social media.

Bernoff’s mission is to eliminate convoluted writing from marketing, and he thinks it’s a challenge because we were rewarded for writing long papers when we first learned to write in school. Now, that experience is impacting social media posts, press releases, and blog posts in a detrimental way.

You’re not creating art. You’re creating effective communication, and there’s nothing wrong with doing that simply and directly.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Get to the point. You should aim to say what you mean in the first 2-3 sentences of whatever you’re writing.
  • Adopt Baer’s ROAM content marketing checklist: Who are the readers? What are your objectives? What follow-up action do you want to inspire from the reader? What impression will people have of your organization when they read your content?
  • Always have another set of eyes look over your content, even Facebook captions. Never publish a first draft.

Duration: 53:40

9) #AskGaryVee: YouTube Growth Strategies, Business Risks & VanyerMedia’s New Office

Click here to listen to this podcast episode

In his podcast #AskGaryVee, Digital Marketing Expert Gary Vanyerchuk answers questions from his followers (delightfully coined “VanyerPeeps”), and his entertaining responses make it worth the listen. At the beginning of this episode, Vanyerchuk answers questions from a VaynerPeep about strategies for hacking YouTube growth.

Vanyerchuk believes that for all content creation — be it blog, video, or social media — the distribution is more important than the creation, and that those priorities are often the opposite to modern marketers. It’s not enough to write a great blog post, or produce a great YouTube video: it has to be seen and picked up by the right people, and that won’t happen unless you hustle for it.

You have to continue to bring value and produce good content, but you also need people to know about it.

Key Takeaways:

  • Try collaborating with other YouTubers or influencers in your space on social media. If you can’t offer them exposure, what can you offer them in exchange for their partnership? Always offer value.
  • Use targeted hashtags on Instagram to grow your audience there. Do some research to determine which tags are generating the highest levels of engagement.
  • Join forums within your industry communities to develop a network of support that you can reach out to for social sharing, promotion, and participation in your social media campaigns.

Duration: 17:55 (YouTube answer ends at 8:00)

10) Social Media Social Hour: Behind the Data: A Quantitative Look at the Future of Social Media

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In this episode of Social Media Social Hour, presented by Scoreboard Social and Casual Fridays, host Tyler Anderson interviews CEO of the Social Fresh, Jason Keath, to discuss the outlook of the future of social media. Social Fresh recently conducted a survey of over 500 participants about how brands are measuring, or not measuring, the ROI of their social media strategies.

Anderson and Keath discussed many of the findings in the report, with results often circling back to the outlook that video will continue to dominate social media in terms of engagement and ROI. This episode provides in-depth analysis and conversation without being too lengthy, with lots of helpful tips and actionable next steps for listeners along the way.

No one is seeing a return on what they’re doing on Snapchat right now… but people are passionate about the engagement opportunity.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Prioritize social networks that deliver the greatest ROI: According to the report, those networks are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn (in that order).
  • Instagram is projected to overtake Twitter in terms of popularity and ROI. Keath speculates that it’s because Instagram is less saturated than Twitter, which leads to greater engagement.
  • Get the ball rolling on a video strategy: The number of respondents creating video assets on a monthly basis is growing — it ranked third for assets marketers are creating after images and blog posts.

Duration: 35:10

Are you a social media marketer? What podcasts do you listen to that we missed? Share with us in the comments below.

free social media content calendar template

Sep

8

2016

13 Examples of Super Skimmable Content

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One of the barriers to getting your work read and widely shared in the age of information overload is time. With research revealing that 55% of pageviews are less than 15 seconds in duration, your content needs to provide value and pique interest quickly to align with your readers’ behavior.

This doesn’t mean that you should stop producing long-form content all together. However, it does task you with the challenge of creating more skimmable content that can be read and understood without a ton of effort. Want more data on existing and emerging marketing trends? Pre-register for the  2016 State of Inbound report here.

What does skimmable content look like? While there are many ways you can format your long-form content to make it more digestible, we’ve put together a list of sites that are doing a particularly good job of adapting their content for skim-readers.

TL;DR: Your readers don’t have enough time to fully read your long-form blog content. Use the strategies below to make your content more skim-friendly.

13 Examples of Super Skimmable Content

1) DigiDay

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Last year, DigiDay introduced a TL;DR (“Too Long; Didn’t Read”) button for their articles. When TL;DR mode is turned on, long-form articles transform into shorter paragraphs with the article’s main points for maximum skimmability.

Pro Tip: If you can’t create a TL;DR button on your own site, consider writing an explainer paragraph like DigiDay’s that your readers can check out without having to read or skim your entire article.

2) theSkimm

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When it comes to skimmable content, there’s nothing better than the aptly named newsletter: theSkimm.

The folks at theSkimm curate a newsletter of top stories Monday through Friday, accompanied by a brief summary of each headline. The newsletter is sent out before 8:00 a.m. EST with the intent of allowing readers to skim the news prior to arriving at work. And their approach is working: theSkimm grew its readership to 3.5 million in under two years.

But email isn’t all they offer. In fact, theSkimm’s website is also home to a series of boiled down news stories known as Skimm Guides, like this one on the Olympics:

TheSkimm_Guide.pngSliced up into a series of digestible chunks, these guides cover everything you need to know about a specific topic in a way that’s easy to consume and understand.

Pro Tip: Roundups rock. They’re a great opportunity to beef up your email marketing strategy for subscribers or to publish a highly valuable, skimmable piece to draw more readers to your site.

3) CNN.com

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Most of CNN’s online stories are published with a ‘Story Highlights’ section at the top of each article to allow readers to glean the biggest points without having to scroll through the entire piece. Additionally, their articles are shared with a video or photo explainer from CNN News, which is another option for ease of understanding.

Pro Tip: Create a callout box at the beginning of your article with its main points. Try linking them to the different sections of your article to encourage reading the entire piece.

4) Inc.

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When Inc. publishes articles about companies that are taking part in technology innovation, the article leads off with a ‘Company Profile’ section so readers can understand the need-to-know information about the company and skip to the bottom to learn the big takeaways.

Inc. also uses slideshows in articles, which use engaging visuals and short explainers to help readers skim and distill the most important points:

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Pro Tip: Make a section at the beginning of the article with bulleted who, what, when, where, and why details about your story’s subject to provide readers context before they dive into the rest of your piece.

5) The Week

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Every day of the week, The Week (get it?) publishes “5 Things You Need to Know,” a roundup of political news stories with explainer paragraphs in addition to long-form news content. Readers can check it out on their site, or subscribe to receive it via email.

They also feature a “Speed Reads” section for readers who are on the go:

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Pro Tip: Send a regular roundup of your strongest articles with a short explainer for readers who might have missed them when they were first published.

6) Bustle

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Bustle writes lifestyle articles in formats that allow for skimmability. By using headers and numbered lists in their content, they break up long-form content in a way that allows readers to quickly scan its main points.

Pro Tip: Large pieces of text can benefit from headers, numbers, and bulleting. Formatting will allow you to draw greater attention to your main points and will allow your reader to skim more easily.

7) Newser

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Newser’s slogan is “Read Less, Know More,” and their content’s skimmability achieves that mission. Their articles consist of short explainer paragraphs with links to longer original sources. Newser also uses subheadlines very strategically to drive home the main takeaways from their content.

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Pro Tip: Try linking out to your sources and condensing information you’re citing from them in your actual article. You’ll shorten your article while still providing additional information and value to your readers.

8) The Daily Beast

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The Daily Beast has a feature that allows readers to visualize the progress they’ve made while reading an article. It doesn’t necessarily make the articles faster reads, but it allows the reader to see how they’ve progressed if they’re considering navigating away from the page before reaching the conclusion.

Pro Tip: Add language throughout your post that helps to set the reader’s expectations — whether that be a helpful nudge like, “Keep reading to learn more about XYZ,” or something simple like, “We’ll cover XYZ in more detail in the final section.” Additionally, if your publication can implement a progress bar, be sure to analyze that information to determine where readers are dropping off to inform your future strategy.

9) Circa News

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Circa is a news aggregator devoted to speed reading. Their articles take shape with the help of curated paragraph explainers, tweets, and poll results to create a stream of content on a specific topic or story that can be easily skimmed or clicked on for more information.

Pro Tip: Don’t be afraid to pull in curated visuals — charts, tweets, videos, and so on — to help say more with less.

10) The Verge

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The Verge has an entire TL;DR section of its website for readers who already know that they want to get the information quickly and easily. They position it as its own section on their homepage, like a column, with bright colors to attract more readers.

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The articles feature big, bold quotes and lots of visuals to make it easy to work through, without sacrificing value.

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Pro Tip: If you organize your blog by categories, create one category for quick reads so your visitors can easily identify pieces to skim and pieces to close read.

11) Medium

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Medium has a highlighting feature that allows readers to highlight key phrases in the articles they read, and see which phrases have been highlighted by other readers. This feature allows for skim-reading in a unique and crowdsourced way, and makes it easy for visitors to see what other readers have found interesting.

Pro Tip: Highlight or type in bold key sentences in your article to signal to skim-readers where they should be close reading.

12) The Los Angeles Times

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The Los Angeles Times publishes an Essential California roundup of local news each week featuring short blurbs about news stories in the area and links to the full articles already written about them.

Pro Tip: Do an article roundup featuring your top articles or based on another theme to encourage skimming.

13) The Great Discontent

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The Great Discontent publishes highly skimmable interviews by incorporating introductory sections, images and illustrations, and blocked quotes to break up large chunks of text in visually interesting and reader-friendly ways.

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Pro Tip: Images and coded blockquotes or callout boxes can break up your text to highlight must-read sections for your skim-readers.

Now that you’ve learned how to make your long-form content format more skim-friendly, learn some specific strategies for writing more concisely in your next blog post.

What strategies do you use to make your content more readable? Share with us in the comments below!

State of Inbound 2016


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