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Dec

16

2017

Profitable Author Preview-How to Make a Bestseller

Published by in category Podcast | Leave a Comment

Is there a book in you? In this special edition of the Rare Faith podcast, John Robinson interviews me about my experience as an award-winning, three-time best selling author. Listen in to find out how you can get YOUR book outlined, completed, and successfully marketed. Get specific tips for overcoming obstacles and achieving your book-publishing … Continue reading Profitable Author Preview-How to Make a Bestseller

Dec

15

2017

How Prepared Are Marketers for the GDPR?

Published by in category Daily, gdpr | Leave a Comment

Disclaimer: This blog post is not legal advice for your company to use in complying with EU data privacy laws like the GDPR. Instead, it provides background information to help you better understand the GDPR. This legal information is not the same as legal advice, where an attorney applies the law to your specific circumstances, so we insist that you consult an attorney if you’d like advice on your interpretation of this information or its accuracy.

In a nutshell, you may not rely on this as legal advice, or as a recommendation of any particular legal understanding.

If your line of work involves, well, the internet — chances are, you’ve heard about the General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR).

You’ve most likely also heard about the ways it will impact your work — especially if you’re a marketer. After all, in marketing, our responsibilities largely boil down to outreach and building an audience, and sometimes, that involves obtaining, storing, and processing the personal data of users who come across our content.

But if you’re not based in the EU and think the GDPR won’t affect you — think again. If you market your products to people in the EU or monitor the behavior of people in the EU — even if you’re based outside of the EU — the GDPR will apply to you.

So, how prepared are marketers for the GDPR? (Spoiler alert: The answer is “not very.”) And for those who are, what are they doing to prepare for May 2018, when the GDPR comes into force?

To understand that, we’ll go over how consumers view the GDPR, which informs the way marketers should be thinking about it. Then, we’ll dive into the ways businesses are preparing.

How Consumers View the GDPR

HubSpot surveyed consumers in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland about their general opinions on data privacy laws. In total, 81% agree these laws are a good thing. And after receiving a detailed description of the GDPR, 90% agreed that the principles established by the GDPR were good for consumers.

Consumers Agree the GDPR Is a Good Thing

Among EU consumers, data privacy laws are well-received — especially the GDPR. It’s interesting to note that this feedback comes from an audience outside of the U.S., where data breaches have been making headlines for years — most recently, two of the more noteworthy incidents came from Equifax and Uber

That reinforces the idea that U.S.-based companies should still be highly concerned with this European Regulation. Data security is a global issue — and in this age, it’s easy to observe what’s happening in other countries.

Here’s where regulations like the GDPR become the marketer’s responsibility. In a recent webinar led by BetterCloud, digital security expert Jodi Daniels spoke to the importance of GDPR as a brand awareness issue. Calling it a “big competitive advantage,” she noted that complying with and prioritizing data security laws sends the message to users that you care about their safety.

That concern and transparency is something that a growing number of consumers will not only expect, but demand. In fact, we found that 91% of consumers expect companies they work with to be completely transparent about how, exactly, their data is being used — which can cause hesitation in submitting data.

But that’s just the beginning. Even if a company is completely transparent about the use of personal data, less than a quarter of consumers would still find them “very trustworthy” — and half would find them “somewhat trustworthy.”

In other words, when it comes to truly earning the trust of consumers, marketers and their businesses certainly have their work cut out for them — and we suspect that much of this sentiment is the result of the recent data breaches we mentioned earlier. GDPR compliance is a big, crucial step.

So, what are some of the ways in which businesses are preparing for this Regulation that will take effect in roughly six months?

How Prepared Are Marketers for the GDPR?

Marketers have about five months before the GDPR comes into force. But our data doesn’t show the most promising picture — of the 363 business leaders and marketers we surveyed, only 36% of them stated that they had heard of the GDPR.

Marketers Are Not Well-Prepared for the GDPR

Yes, you read the above information correctly: Less than half of the business leaders and marketers we surveyed are even aware of the GDPR. And as for how much preparatory knowledge they have about the Regulation in general — well, that’s not looking too encouraging, either.

But not all hope is lost. There is some preparation underway, and for the most part, companies (about half of those represented by those we surveyed) are addressing the GDPR by updating their contracts and data protection policies, many of whom are working with their vendors to do the same.

However, what’s less encouraging is that 22% of our survey participants admitted that, at the time of taking the survey, they hadn’t started doing anything yet to prepare for the GDPR.

That lack of preparation could be the indirect result of the fear that some marketers seem to have of the GDPR’s impact on their businesses. Over half of them, for example, expect to see their email marketing lists shrink.

That expectation could stem from the GDPR’s inclusion of “right to erasure,” which is essentially the right of an individual to request that all personal data about him or herself is erased by the “controller” of that data (i.e., the organization that collected the data) with undue delay in certain circumstances. And given that option, 59% of European consumers say — they would take it. 

Finally, it seems that marketers and business leaders are largely preparing to change the ways they collect consumer data. Email opt-ins and sales-related calling practices will largely be impacted, many expect, and marketing teams will continue to grow their focus on such outreach tools as social media and traffic-building content and SEO strategies.

Simply put, consumers in Europe view the GDPR with a highly positive sentiment, and marketers need to respond in kind. As transparency becomes even more valued, companies can view it, in part, as a vehicle of brand awareness — one that will now be dictated by strict rules.

If you still have questions, we’ll continue to follow the GDPR closely in the months leading up to May 2018, when it comes into force. In the meantime, visit our checklist to help businesses work on their GDPR compliance.

Dec

14

2017

9 Proven Tactics of a Successful Local Facebook Marketing Strategy

With 2.2 billion active users, it might seem like turning followers into paying customers on Facebook would be easy. At least a few of those users will want what you’re selling … right? Unfortunately, targeting a local market on Facebook is a little more challenging than that.

Building a local Facebook marketing strategy is challenging, but extremely rewarding when executed correctly. Here are nine proven Facebook marketing tactics you can use to drive foot traffic, build brand awareness, and increase revenue potential.

9 Tactics for Your Local Facebook Marketing Strategy

1. Share Reviews

Standing out can be difficult when you’re surrounded by hundreds of other businesses all vying for attention. The key often lies in using social proof. People trust businesses that can prove what they say is true — especially if that proof comes from a customer.

Here are two review tactics we use:

  • Share screenshots of positive reviews from other social sites.
  • Ask customers to share the experience they’ve had with your business.

Screenshot positive reviews on sites like Yelp and Google+, and then share them on your Facebook page. Tag the reviewer’s business in your post with a sincere “Thank you,”, or just happily boast that you have the best customers. Sharing screenshots of emails from happy customers works too, just be sure you ask permission first.

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If you’re just starting out and your business doesn’t have any reviews yet, give your audience an incentive to leave positive feedback. Ask your followers how their last experience was at your business. Offer a product giveaway to the first five people that leave a comment describing why they love your company. Even if you don’t get an official Facebook review, someone will probably comment on their experience. That’s social proof.

2. Create an Event

Having a live band perform at your restaurant this weekend or throwing a big sale at your retail store? Facebook events are a great way to notify your followers and generate some buzz for your business. Even if people can’t attend in person, it shows that your business is actively engaged with the community.

Creating an event on your Facebook page is easy. First, navigate to the “Events” tab.

Select the blue “Create Event” button.

Fill in the details:

  • Date and time
  • Event category
  • Event keywords
  • A link to the ticketing website

Finally, add a compelling photo, and you’re good to go.

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A few tips to improve the reach of your Facebook event:

  • Add directions or a map to make it easy for people to find your event.
  • Invite up to 500 people.
  • Share your event and/or promote it as an ad.

3. Use Groups

Groups offer a wide variety of local Facebook marketing advantages. Some of the best include:

  • Listing and selling products
  • Building a community
  • Establishing expertise
  • Networking
  • Offering great customer service

The possibilities for creating and managing a group on Facebook are only limited by your imagination. Groups are the perfect place to create a controlled community within your target audience. As the admin of the group, you can approve or reject all posts, accept or block members, and direct the commentary.

Groups allow you to build a micro-community that is hyper-focused on the subject of your choosing. For example, a business that sells laptop cases could create an entire Facebook group centered around laptop cases and their various uses, the best kinds, how to determine product quality, and humorous customer stories.

4. Share Local Content

One thing that’s consistent across Facebook is that people love to celebrate local pride. Align your business with famous events, history, people, landmarks, sayings, and other nuances that are part of your city’s identity. Share content from local organizations that captures the essence of your locale and will interest to your audience.

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These are examples of good local content topics:

  • 13 Things Keeping Austin Weird
  • How Boston’s “R”-less Accent Became So Famous
  • The Best Festivals to Attend this Summer in San Diego

Make your Facebook page an extension of the culture and traditions surrounding your location.

5. Mention Local Businesses, Events, and Groups

If you’re looking for ways to build engagement and gain traction, tag accounts that share content which aligns with your audience’s interests. As with all things on social media, tagging can be overdone, so don’t start tagging pages in every post. Rather, choose the ones that will have the greatest impact and provide value to your audience.

Tagging is another great way to support local marketing efforts. Build hype for an event your company is hosting using a Facebook live video, or showcase company culture with a group photo at the next conference you attend. One word of caution: if you decide to try Facebook live, write a script. The last thing you want to do is live-stream without a plan.

In addition to page tags, groups can also be tagged. This is especially effective when you’re attending industry events or working on collaborations. Athletic wear brands, such as Puma, do an exceptional job promoting their collaborations on Facebook.

6. Tag Locations & Events

I’m not talking about tagging your latest check-in at Olive Garden, I’m talking about event marketing, company outings, and business development trips. Manning a booth at Comic-Con? Post a group picture that tags the event and location. Taking the team out for someone’s Birthday lunch? Tag the location and upload a boomerang. Checking out your latest digital billboard downtown? Tag the location and upload a picture.

Add some variety to your Facebook page by tagging locations and show off your company’s personality at the same time.

7. Run a Contest

Everybody likes to win things. There are many different ways to run a Facebook contest. The two most popular include hosting a promotion on a Facebook app or on your Page’s Timeline.

Pay close attention to Facebook’s content rules because disregarding them could get your contest shutdown. Here are just a few things you can’t do:

  • You can’t require participants to share a page or post on your Timeline to enter
  • You can’t require participants to like a page to enter
  • You can’t require participants to tag themselves in pictures to enter

The list goes on. Review a thorough breakdown of what you can and can’t do when running a Facebook contest here. Helpful hint: even though you can’t require page likes, photo tagging, and timeline posting, you can still encourage the audience to complete those actions.

8. Encourage Foot Traffic

Retail companies often struggle to make Facebook work in their favor. The biggest problem is getting people online to come into the store. Here are a few tips to start turning Facebook followers into foot traffic that have revenue potential:

  • Create polls and contests centered on popular products and their uses
  • Run regular in-store events your customers are interested in
  • Promote in-store coupons, giveaways, and sweepstakes
  • Build a shop directly on Facebook where your customers can purchase your products
  • Align your page with causes your audience cares about

Think of Facebook as your marketing email and your store as the landing page. In order to get people from the digital universe to visit your physical business, you need to have a compelling message and offer they can’t refuse. For example, if there’s a large sales conference in town you could create a set of Facebook ads that are focused on the area surrounding the conference center and targets sales professionals over the age of 21. Offer a lunch discount and provide all the details they need to make a quick meal grab before heading to their next session.

9. On-Site Promotion of Your Facebook Page

Try to convert the foot traffic your business attracts into online brand advocates. Use signage, receipts, business cards, flyers, coupons and more to ask for page likes, check-ins, reviews, and posts on your Facebook Timeline.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Give away a $200 gift card that requires participants to post a picture taken in front of a branded mural, sign, or display that tags your Facebook page.
  • Offer a 20% off discount for everyone who checks-in at your store on a Wednesday.

Executing successful Facebook local marketing tactics requires consistent testing and experimentation. What works for a retail business might not work for a restaurant, and vice versa.

Take the time to figure out what your audience responds to the best and what generates the most business for your company through Facebook. Successful Facebook local marketing can take time. Be patient, detail oriented and persistent.

 

 

Dec

14

2017

Why I Needed to Have a Bad Day

A number of  years ago I was having a particularly horrible, edgy day. I was angry at everyone, and everything around me. Even things that weren’t all that bad felt intolerable. I don’t even know what originally set me off, but I was totally out of emotional control. And then the final straw: doggie poop … Continue reading Why I Needed to Have a Bad Day

Dec

13

2017

10 Hard Truths About Management No One Tells You

I remember talking with an acquaintance a few years back who had recently graduated from college about how she envisioned her career progressing. Here’s how she broke down the steps:

  1. Get a job.
  2. Master that job.
  3. Manage other people doing that job.
  4. “Run sh*t” (her exact words).

I find that this is often how management is perceived by individual contributors (myself included before I became a manager). “Running sh*t” sounds pretty awesome, right? And I felt confident that once I was handed this ultimate power, I would become a new enlightened version of my individual contributor self. The vision for my team would be revealed to me! I would know exactly how to execute on said vision! I would coach my team to success and would be positively drowning in progress and praise!Click here to download leadership lessons from HubSpot founder, Dharmesh Shah.

Today, I’m cringe-laughing as I write these sentences. The perception I had of management turned out to be quite different than the brass tacks realities. Spoiler: I did not ascend to a higher plane of enlightenment when my title changed. I was still myself, with all my faults, and dealing with a totally new set of challenges.

Don’t get me wrong — for all the missteps and pitfalls and uncomfortable realizations, being a manager is easily the best job I’ve ever had. The phrase “the best hardest job” that often gets applied to parenting also holds for management in my opinion. The fulfillment I get from watching my team learn, grow, and ultimately kick ass is second to none.

This post is not intended to dissuade anyone from management. Instead, it’s an attempt to provide a glimpse into the not-so-glamorous parts of “running sh*t” that don’t get talked about as often as the pros. It’s my hope that this information can help people considering management make a fully informed decision — and let current managers know that if they’re experiencing any of the things on this list, they’re not alone.

10 Hard Truths About Management No One Tells You

1) Management can be lonely.

When you’re an individual contributor on a team, you have a built-in support system. You’re naturally grouped with people who do the same thing you do, or if not, at least have deep context into your work. And this network comes in handy when you need a sounding board, a brainstorm partner, or just someone to vent to.

But when you’re the manager of a team, there’s by definition only one of you. There’s no one else in the same role who you can turn to when you’re stuck, or confused, or frustrated — and that can sometimes leave you feeling lonely.

This isn’t to say that it’s impossible to find support as a manager. The key word is “find.” As a manager, you have to intentionally seek out fellow leaders and actively build a support network (and I guarantee that you will need it).

2) You stop practicing your craft.

You probably got your job as a manager because you were particularly good at whatever you were doing as an individual contributor … but in your new role, you actually stop doing that thing. The manager’s role is to help their team execute their craft particularly well. And because you’re playing an enablement role instead of actually doing the work, your skills are probably going to get a bit rusty.

For example, content is my craft, but I haven’t actively been in the weeds for a few years now. A peek at entry-level content creation jobs reveals that employers are now looking for video and design skills in addition to writing … of which I have neither. I could probably get a job as a manager of a content team, but as a creator? Maybe not.

This is why I think it’s dangerous to think of management as a promotion — it’s actually a totally different job. When you take a step towards management, you take a step away from your functional area of expertise. It’s a trade-off that I’ve been personally very happy with, but a trade-off nonetheless.

3) GSD turns into GTD.

At HubSpot, we’re fond of the acronym GSD, which stands for “get sh*t done.” We love people who love to cross things off a to-do list.

But considering that managers are enablers of people who execute tasks instead of executing those tasks themselves, “GSD” really doesn’t fit anymore. Instead, I think “GTD” more appropriately describes the work of managers, where “T” has two meanings:

  1. Get Thinking Done
  2. Get Talking Done

The first definition of “GTD” refers to strategic planning, which requires quite a bit of reflection and rumination. The second definition refers to enabling team members through coaching, providing feedback, and training. Neither of these “GTD” modes lend themselves to crossing items off a to-do list.

I’ve often heard new managers accustomed to executing tasks fast and furious remark that they feel like they’re not “doing anything” in their new role. This isn’t true — their work is just as vital and important — but it happens on a more ongoing cadence and isn’t neatly completed at the end of a day or week.

4) You don’t get as much feedback.

As an individual contributor, you (hopefully) get feedback on a timely and consistent basis. Do something awesome, and you’ll get near instant validation. Fumble on a project, and you’ll get constructive criticism soon after.

When you’re a manager, the feedback loop slows thanks to the nature of the GTD grind. Your manager doesn’t have as much visibility into your “thinking” and “talking” work as they do with more task-oriented output, and this means you’ll probably get periodic packages of feedback at certain milestones rather than an ongoing stream.

On the flip side of the equation, it can feel uncomfortable to give your direct manager feedback. To encourage your reports to weigh in on your performance, consider putting anonymous mechanisms in place, or ask them to share their thoughts with your manager.

5) You have to do hard things (and you still have the same feelings).

Giving constructive criticism, conducting performance reviews, resolving conflicts, making sometimes unpopular decisions — managers have to do a lot of things that aren’t exactly a barrel of laughs. And remember when I said I didn’t become a magically different person when I took on a team? I was also surprised to discover that I had the same feelings I did when I was an individual contributor.

Telling someone that they made a mistake or that their work isn’t up to par sucks — manager or not. Personally, I struggle with nerves when delivering constructive criticism. Even if I know a certain piece of feedback will be beneficial to the person long-term, I still have to contend with a pounding heart and sweaty palms when the moment arrives. But, I force myself to get the words out, because I know it’s what I need to do to be effective in my role.

Being a manager means signing up to feel the feelings and do the hard things anyway. Which brings me to a somewhat related point …

6) Management is emotional.

In addition to contending with your own feelings, as a manager, you’re also more frequently on the receiving end of others’ emotions. Work is emotional, and if you have a good relationship with your reports, they’re going to express frustration, stress, worry, anger, and a whole host of other emotions to you. Tears will be shed. Voices will be raised. Eyebrows will be crinkled. Sometimes all at once.

What I didn’t understand before I became a manager is how hard it can be to be the person on the other side of the table in these situations. Because you’re a human with empathy, your reports’ feelings will probably rub off on you to some extent.

On one hand, this is good thing — to foster trust with your employees, you have to put yourself in their shoes and see things from their perspective. But be wary that you don’t go overboard and cross into sponge territory, or start to feel responsible for others’ emotions. Managers have to remain objective to make sound decisions, and you can’t let someone else’s anger or frustration or guilt cloud your view on a situation.

When you feel like you’re crossing into “emotional burnout” zone, have a few coping mechanisms on hand that you can employ in a pinch — and don’t feel guilty about using them. If a walk to clear your head will help you gain perspective and shake off emotional baggage, it’s not a sign that you’re bad at your job; on the contrary, it’s what you need to be good at your job. Don’t forget that.

7) Self-regulation, all day, every day.

I’ve just spent several paragraphs talking about all the emotions managers contend with, both their own and others’. The kicker? You actually need to be far more careful about how you express your feelings as a manager than as an individual contributor.

To understand why, consider the following two scenarios:

Scenario 1: Manager walks into a team meeting, slams the door, and bangs her laptop down on the table. She is visibly upset, with a scowl on her face. “I just heard that our budget is being slashed by 10% next year, which is total BS,” she huffs. “I’m so pissed; I don’t know why we even bother trying. We always have to deal with this crap and I’m fed up. I guess I’ll try to figure out where we can save money … ugh.”

Scenario 2: Manager walks into a team meeting, closes the door, and sits down at the table. She seems calm and serious. “Hi everyone, thanks for joining. Unfortunately, I have some bad news. I just heard from Finance that we need to cut our budget by 10% next year,” she says. “I’ll be honest — I’m frustrated by this and I’d understand if you were too. That said, it’s the reality of the situation, and I think there are some cuts we can make that won’t negatively impact our work. I’ll share my ideas via email and I’d like to hear yours as well.”

This is essentially the same message, but delivered in two completely different ways. How do you think the team members left the meeting feeling in Scenario #1 vs. Scenario #2? Both are likely to be upset, but I’m guessing that the employees in the first situation are going to be a lot less productive and a lot more worried for the rest of the day than their counterparts in the second.

People take their emotional cues from their leaders. This doesn’t mean that managers can’t be authentic with their direct reports — it just means they have to be deliberate about how they express their feeling so as not to create a chain reaction of negativity and stress.

To me, self-regulation means being mindful to not let your own emotion get in the way of delivering a clear message. It’s not easy, but it’s critically important. Pro tip: Invest in a good stress ball or join a gym with punching bags.

8) You spend less time in the spotlight.

As I said above, managers are enablers, not executors. If a project your team worked on was a smashing success, the lion’s share of the credit goes to the executors (as it should!). As the manager, you’re more likely to be clapping on the sidelines than standing in the spotlight, and that can be hard to swallow for people who’ve recently transitioned from an individual contributor role.

This has been one of the parts of management that agrees with me the most — I actually prefer cheering from the sidelines, and get more enjoyment out of watching my team get recognized than getting recognized myself. I’m not here to judge — neither preference is better or worse than the other — but it’s worth asking yourself where you’d rather stand when the praise starts rolling in.

9) You’re the “sh*t umbrella.”

If you want to “run sh*t,” you have to deal with sh*t. I use the term “sh*t umbrella” to describe two essential functions of managers:

  1. Protecting your team from distractions so they can focus on execution.
  2. Doing the essential drudgery that no one else wants to do.

Let’s start with the first point. One of the reasons I love working at HubSpot is that there are a ton of innovative ideas being discussed at all corners of the company. The downside? At times, these ideas can become distracting or cause confusion. It’s my job to contextualize external information and help triage requests from other departments — sometimes referred to as “blocking and tackling” — so that my team can spend their time actually, you know, doing their jobs.

As for the second scenario — while it’s not good to protect your team from work, it is a good thing to show you’re willing to do the soul-crushing stuff so they don’t have to, at least temporarily. When the buck stops with you, it’s ultimately your responsibility to ensure that what needs to be done gets done — no matter how sh*tty.

10) Your relationships change.

While this one isn’t really a surprise, it can be hard to swallow nonetheless. If your company tends to promote from within, it’s probably a common scenario for people to become managers of their former peers or teammates … and that can be awkward. Because your relation to each other has changed, that means your relationship has to change as well. Peer-to-peer vent sessions and gut checks are suddenly off the table, replaced with formal one-on-one meetings and manager-employee feedback. Even if you’re not directly managing former peers, people have higher expectations of their leaders, which means you have to act accordingly both on and off your team. (Read: shotgunning beers on Friday afternoon might not be the best look anymore).

If you’re currently in this situation, be warned that it will make you feel some feelings (see #1). According to managers I’ve talked to who have been through this, the best way to mitigate the ensuing awkwardness is to address it head on. Clearly setting expectations and creating space for both of you to recalibrate will help you proactively forge the next chapter of your relationship instead of spending time lamenting what you’re leaving behind.

What are your own “hard truths”?

Those are some of the uncomfortable realizations and situations I’ve been through in my relatively short management tenure, and I am not an expert by any others, so I’d love to hear about others’. Tweet me your own “hard truths” or let me know how your perceptions around management have (or have not) changed after reading this post @emmajs24.

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Dec

12

2017

Does Business Blogging Still Get Results in 2017? New Data from 1,000 Bloggers [Infographic]

Published by in category Blogging, Daily, Popular | Leave a Comment

2017 marks the fourth consecutive year Orbit Media Studios has tapped the insights of 1000+ business bloggers to publish a research report on blogging statistics and trends.

In some cases, the annual blogger survey reflects subtle developments, but in others it reveals some significant changes. However, with four years of data in the books, a theme has clearly developed:

“Bloggers are reporting stronger results from content marketing,” says Orbit Media’s co-founder Andy Crestodina.

“When asked to report on the effectiveness of their efforts, almost 30% of respondents reported ‘strong results.’ The vast majority of bloggers are seeing rewards from their efforts and meeting their goals, whatever they might be.”

Each year, Andy delivers the survey’s findings in a meaty post detailing the data and expressing his conclusions. This year, the survey breaks down into 11 questions across three categories:

  1. Changes in the blogging process
  2. Blog content trends
  3. The promotion and measurement tactics business bloggers employ

Andy and I also collaborate each year on an infographic (see below) to present the most interesting findings in simple terms.

At the risk of reducing the suspense, the answer to the headline above (and headline of the infographic), “Are bloggers still getting results?” is …

Yes.

85% claim their blog delivers strong results or some results. The number represents a 6% increase compared to the year prior.

Peruse the infographic below to discover more about the tactics business bloggers used in 2017 and how it compares to years past.

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Want some historical context? Last year, HubSpot’s post Which Blogging Tips Get Results? features a summary of Orbit Media’s findings from 2014, 2015 and 2016.

 

Dec

11

2017

7 Questions to Ask Before Working With a Micro-Influencer

The way we ask for recommendations has evolved.

Whereas once upon a time we may have asked a neighbor to recommend a product or service, 47% of millennials now turn to social media for recommendations and reviews before deciding on a purchase.

But these consumers aren’t always going to the social media accounts of brands. Much of the time, they’re visiting the profiles of a special breed of social media personalities: influencers.

Consider this: Close to 40% of Twitter users alone have made a purchase as a result of influencer marketing — and that’s excluding the influence, if you will, of personalities on other channels, like Instagram.

And when we think of influencers, for many of us, A-list personalities and celebrities come to mind. Take Kylie Jenner, for example, who helped catapult the brand Fashion Nova into a favorite online retail brand.

 

#ad Obsessed with my new @fashionnova jeans 🍑Get them at FashionNova.com 😍

A post shared by Kylie (@kyliejenner) on Dec 27, 2016 at 6:57am PST

Sure, celebrities might significantly help boost your sales and achieve your marketing goals. But let’s face it: most of us can’t afford their price tags. After all, it’s reported that Kylie Jenner gets $400,000 for a single promotional Instagram post.

The good news is that marketers and startup business owners now have another option that will allow them to tap into the power of influencer marketing without putting their ROI in jeopardy.

This option comes in the form of a unique group of social media users collectively known as micro-influencers.

What Is a Micro-Influencer?

Micro-influencers are social media users — unlike typical celebrities, experts, or public figures. They’re individuals who work or specialize in a particular vertical and frequently share social media content about their interests. Unlike traditional “influencers,” micro-influencers have a more modest number of followers — typically in the thousands or tens of thousands — but they boast hyper-engaged audiences.

Why Use Micro-Influencers?

At first, opting to use micro-influencers for your marketing campaign may sound counterintuitive. Would it be more beneficial to tap an influencer with millions of followers, as opposed to getting a micro-influencer with just a few thousand followers?

Not necessarily.

That’s because when it comes to influencer marketing, the level of engagement is more crucial. It is one of the key metrics that will help you gauge the effectiveness of your influencer marketing campaign.

In a study done by Markerly, a converse relationship was discovered between the number of followers an influencer has, and the level of engagement each post gets. In other words, as the number of followers increases, the engagement rate decreases.

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Source: Markerly

In its own study, Expercity found that micro-influencers not only generate 22.2X more conversion than the average social media user, but that 74% of them are rather direct in encouraging their followers to buy or try a product or service they’re endorsing. That communicates credibility and transparency, which can help to build a loyal following.

Cost is another reason why many brands are now turning to micro-influencers. According to a study done by Bloglovin’, 97% of micro-influencers charge $500 and below for a sponsored post on Instagram.

Macintosh HD:Users:adeleyuboco:Downloads:1*SoYJLiz3vcTbEIGL8GTnLg.png

Source: Influence

Additionally, 87% micro-influencers charge $500 and below for a sponsored blog post.

Macintosh HD:Users:adeleyuboco:Downloads:1*Wmgc1Mj6lG-zPqEU_2Gb3w.png
Source: Influence

Finding the Right Micro-Influencer for Your Business

With so many micro-influencers out there, it’s no surprise that 73% of marketers point to finding the right one as one of their biggest challenges.

Macintosh HD:Users:adeleyuboco:Downloads:Screen_Shot_2016-02-22_at_16.01.41.png

Source: Econsultancy

Of course, you can choose to hire an influencer marketing agency to help you find the right micro-influencers for your campaign. But if you want to be more hands-on in finding the right micro-influencer, here are seven questions you’ll need to answer very carefully.

1. What are your goals?

The first thing to consider when finding the right micro-influencer is to look at what you’re aiming to achieve. Do you want to generate more leads for your business? If so, look for micro-influencers that frequently host contests or giveaways on their social media accounts — especially if they involve encouraging their followers to sign up in exchange for free trials, products or access to an exclusive event.

2. Who are the micro-influencer’s followers?

When reviewing the followers of the micro-influencer you want to reach, look at to how well they align with your brand’s buyer personas. Some of the things to consider are:

  • Where are the majority of the micro-influencers’ followers based (geographically)?
  • Are they mostly male or female?
  • Which type of posts resonates with them the most?

3. Is the micro-influencer already a fan?

Working with a micro-influencer that’s already using your product or service has several benefits. For starters, he or she might already be posting about your company and products — so a partnership is more natural and appears more genuine to followers.

Also, micro-influencers who are fans of your products and brand are more likely negotiate lower fees. Some may even be willing to collaborate with you in exchange for some free products or services.

One way to find these micro-influencers is to perform a general search for blog posts mentioning your brand. Since Google ranks sites based on content quality, there’s a good chance that the first two or three results belong to a micro-influencer in your niche.

Another is by using a tool like Gatsby.ai (which has an integration with HubSpot) to your website. Gatsby helps you search through your customer database for micro-influencers that have bought your products, and help you quickly retrieve their information so that you can reach out to them.

4. How engaged is the micro-influencer’s audience?

As I mentioned earlier, a micro-influencer’s engagement rate is one of the key metrics that will help you determine the success (or lack of it) of your influencer marketing campaign.

Review the social media accounts of the micro-influencer to see how many likes, comments, and shares each post gets. Although likes are good, I often recommend that my clients focus more on the number of comments and shares a post receives. That’s because it requires more effort for a follower to leave a comment on or share a post than it is to click on the like button. Often, followers will only leave comments when they find the post compelling enough for them do so.

5. What kind of content does the micro-influencer produce?

Micro-influencers create their posts based on their own brand and image they want to convey to their followers and compare this against the image you want your audience to associate with your brand. There must be alignment between your perceived brand image the micro-influencer’s, in order to ensure that the posts he or she creates for you don’t look like a mismatch. Followers tend not to appreciate that — after all, they follow this micro-influencer for relevant content.

6. Are they working with your competitors?

If you’re seriously considering using influencer marketing, there’s a chance that your competitors are also doing the same. Take some time to review the posts of the micro-influencers you want to work with, and see if they’ve worked with any of your direct or indirect competitors.

If so, how did the audience respond to the post? Was there anything mentioned by the micro-influencer about your competitors’ products that you can leverage?

7. How many platforms do they use?

Although 80% of micro-influencers point to Instagram as their preferred platform for creating and publishing content, many of them are equally active on their own blogs and in other social media channels. Some even have access to traditional media like TV and magazines. The more platforms a micro-influencer can use to promote your content, the better for you.

Dec

10

2017

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Dec

8

2017

3 Ways Working a Job You Hate Can Benefit Your Career

“We’ll miss you, Cliff.” said Andy, my manager. His face looked long when he was sad. We were both working for a company that just experienced a major product failure, and, unfortunately, it prompted a massive round of layoffs. Since I was just an intern, Andy left the decision to leave or stay up to me.

I decided to leave.

“I’ll miss you guys, too,” I replied. “Thanks again for the opportunity. Let me know what you end up doing after all this chaos dies down.” We both shook hands. “Will do,” he responded. “Keep in touch, Cliff.”

After I packed up my things and said goodbye to the remaining employees, I headed out the office and into the elevator.

As soon as the doors closed, a feeling of liberation washed over me. I let out a booming “Yes!”, followed by a triumphant fist pump. I was finally out of that place. I had dreaded going to work everyday. At the same time, though, I felt a little regretful.

I realized I had essentially just wasted two months of precious internship experience. The company had fired their entire marketing team a week before I started, so I was the only marketer in the office. There was no one to learn from, and I barely had anything to do. Half my time was dedicated to playing ping pong and watching office drama escalate on Slack. Amusing for sure, but not really beneficial for my skillset.

My colleagues jokingly called me “CMO Intern”, but I didn’t think it was funny. If I was the only marketer at the company, who was going to mentor me? And how was I going to develop my skills? It was one of the most frustrating few months of my life.

But even after the pang of regret I felt walking out, I would do it all over again. I’m glad I accepted that internship. I didn’t gain the valuable marketing experience I was expecting, but I did walk away with some surprising career lessons. And without them, I wouldn’t be where I am now, working a job I love

If you currently have a job you’re not too fond of, don’t beat yourself up. We’ve all been there. It hurts, but your suffering will help you figure out what you actually want from your career.

A lot of times, working a job you hate can actually lead you to the one you love. Read on to find out how.

3 Ways Having a Job You Hate Can Benefit Your Career

1) You’ll figure out what you like to do — and what you don’t like to do.

There are a lot of variables that influence your satisfaction at work. And sometimes, you won’t discover what you actually like doing until you figure out what you really don’t like doing.

If you can identify your favorite and least favorite aspects about your current job, you’ll know exactly what to look for in your next job. Ask yourself the following questions to learn more about your personal work preferences:

Do you like your role/department? If you just jumped into a new role or department and you realize you aren’t really enjoying it, then it might be worth exploring different career path entirely. You should also reflect on your favorite aspects about your previous and current jobs, and pursue opportunities that let you do those things.

Is the company too big or too small? -Do you find solace in the financial stability and stockpile of benefits an enterprise company provides? Or do you prefer the passion and hustle it takes to build a startup? Or maybe you favor a blend of the two, at a medium-sized company? If you feel like your current company doesn’t have enough resources to support your growth, then maybe a bigger company is better for you. If your company isn’t challenging you enough, then you could pursue opportunities at a smaller company, where you’ll get more responsibility.

Are you genuinely interested in your company’s industry? When you write blog posts about your company’s industry all day, it’s a lot more enjoyable if you actually like learning about the subject matter (trust me on this one). Work becomes a chore when these topics don’t pique your interest. Whether you work in marketing, sales, product, engineering, or support, if you’re not excited about your company’s industry, it’s tough to stay engaged and satisfied at work. Try pursuing a job in an industry that you’re passionate about, even if it means taking a lesser role or making a lateral move.

Do you feel supported by the company’s culture? Does work run your life? Is the office cliquey? Do people appreciate your work, or does your manager take all of the credit? If you don’t like these things (most people don’t), then you’re better off at a company that treats their employees well. Use Glassdoor to read a company’s employee reviews and evaluate their culture.

2) You’ll learn to appreciate your worth.

When you work for a sub-optimal company, team, or manager, you’ll notice they either don’t give you fulfilling work or don’t know how to leverage your skill set to its full potential. This makes you feel misunderstood or undervalued, and work becomes incredibly frustrating.

But their neglect also teaches you how to gauge your professional value. It helps you recognize your needs and capabilities. By honing your self-awareness, you can determine whether upcoming job opportunities are worth it or not and trade up for the best fit job in the future.

3) You’ll learn how to persevere through tough times — and appreciate the good times even more.

A lot of times, getting better at your passion requires you to do the challenging things instead of the enjoyable things, like polishing a blog post in lieu of a post-work gathering.

In your career, you’ll encounter times where you absolutely hate your job. But if you can persevere and produce results in a less-than-ideal situation, then you’ll enhance your work ethic and truly crush it when your morale is much higher in an ideal situation.

A couple of years ago, I camped out in Florida’s Everglades for nine days, where I paddled over 100 miles through alligator infested waters and only ate dehydrated food.

When my trip ended, I was so grateful to be back in civilization (and safe from alligators). I almost forgot what living in a city was like. But the thing I looked forward to the most was eating a real meal. My friends and I all agreed we would stop at the first restaurant we saw, so when we spotted a Subway, we immediately halted. I ordered a chicken bacon ranch sub, and it was one of the best meals I’ve ever had. I ate another one later that day too.

Losing access to everyday things like normal food, electricity, and community has made me incredibly grateful for them.And I try not to take them for granted anymore, which makes me happier in life. This phenomenon can also happen when your current job situation is less than ideal. You’ll be grateful for the privileges you might not have anymore, and when you exchange that dreaded job for your dream one, you definitely won’t take its perks for granted, enhancing your gratitude, happiness, and performance at work.

A job you hate doesn’t have to be a waste of time.

It’s inevitable, at some point in our lives, we’ll all have a job that we hate. But if you can view this experience as a life lesson and discover what you actually want out of your career, then there’s a good chance the job you hate will eventually lead you to the one you love.

Dec

8

2017

65 Photoshop Shortcuts to Help You Edit Photos Like a Pro [Bookmarkable]

Have you ever accidentally wasted an entire day in Photoshop?

I have. It’s not like you start out aimlessly. You have a simple goal in mind, like cropping a photo, improving the resolution, or changing the size of the canvas. But then, you look at how many options there are — and trying to figure out which buttons to press to execute a single task suddenly turns into an attempt to solve The Riddle of the Sphinx.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just press a button, and magically, do what you wanted to do? Well, we’ve got good news for you: It turns out there are a wealth of Photoshop shortcuts that pretty much work just that way.

By pressing a few keys on your computer keyboard at the same time, you can select tools, manipulate images and layers, and even make adjustments to your project’s canvas. But if we’re being honest, if you’re just starting out with the software, there might be far too many Photoshop shortcuts to remember them all. That’s why we created this guide — for you to bookmark and return to next time your design project leaves you stumped.

Note: All of these shortcuts can be accessed on PC and Mac, but sometimes, they’re different on each operating system. We’ve included both types below, and in the cases where they might be different, Mac instructions appear in italicized parentheses. Also, in these formulas, the plus sign (+) is present only to represent the combination of key commands. On occasion, it might be part of the command itself, like when you press the plus sign to zoom into a part of an image, but otherwise, don’t press the plus sign between commands.

65 Photoshop Shortcuts to Save You Time

  1. Getting Set Up
  2. Choosing the Right Tools
  3. Using the Brush Tool
  4. Using the Marquee Tool (for Slicing/Selecting)
  5. Using Different Blending Options
  6. Manipulating Layers & Objects
  7. Saving Your Work for Later

Getting Set Up

You’d think setting up your content in Photoshop would be second nature. But sometimes, the shortcuts to change the background size, or zoom into your project aren’t what you think. Here are some of the most crucial fundamental shortcuts to know:

1) Control + Alt + i (Command + Option + i ) = Change the image size.

2) Control + Alt + c (Command + Option + c ) = Change canvas size.

3) Control + + (Command + + ) = Zoom in.

4) Control + – (Command +) = Zoom out.

Control + ‘ (Command + ) = Show or hide the grid, the automatically-generated horizontal and vertical lines that help align objects to the canvas.

Choosing the Right Tools

These shortcuts will activate different groups of tools, like “Lasso,” “Brush,” or “Spot Healing Brush.” Within these tools, though, there are different functions. Under the “Magic Wand” tool group, for example, you have the option to execute a new selection or add and subtract from a current one.

Each one of these tools has a keyboard shortcut, and we’ve outlined some of them below.

5) v = Pointer, a.k.a. Move Tool pointer-tool.png 

6) w = Magic Wand magic-wand-tool.png

7) m = Rectangular Marquee, a.k.a. the Select Tool marquee-tool-1.png

8) l = Lasso lasso-tool.png

9) i = Eyedropper eyedropper-tool.png

10) c = Crop Screen Shot 2017-05-26 at 12.09.20 PM.png

11) e = Eraser Screen Shot 2017-05-26 at 12.21.32 PM.png

12) u = Rectangle rectangle-tool.png

13) t = Horizontal Type text-tool.png

14) b = Brush Screen Shot 2017-05-26 at 12.15.15 PM.png

15) y = History Brush history-brush-tool.png

16) j = Spot Healing Brush spot-healing-tool.png

17) g = Gradient Screen Shot 2017-05-26 at 12.14.32 PM.png

18) a = Path Selection path-selection-tool.png

19) h = Hand hand-tool.png

20) r = Rotate View rotate-view-tool.png

21) p = Pen pen-tool.png

22) s = Clone Stamp clone-stamp-tool.png

23) o = Dodge Screen Shot 2017-05-26 at 12.16.48 PM.png

24) z = Zoom Tool zoom-tool.png

25) d = Default Foreground and Background Colors Screen Shot 2017-05-26 at 12.23.24 PM.png

26) x = Switch Foreground and Background Colors Screen Shot 2017-05-26 at 12.25.24 PM.png

27) q = Edit in Quick Mask Mode Screen Shot 2017-05-26 at 12.26.26 PM.png

28) x = Change Screen Mode Screen Shot 2017-05-26 at 12.27.48 PM.png

Using the Brush Tool

With the brush settings, you can change the size, shape, and transparency of your brush strokes to achieve a number of different visual effects. To use these keyboard shortcuts, first select the Brush tool by pressing b. brush-tool.png

29) , or . = Select previous or next brush style.

30) Shift + , or . = Select first or last brush style used.

31) Caps Lock or Shift + Caps Lock (Caps Lock) = Display precise crosshair for brushes.

32) Shift + Alt + p (Shift + Option + p) = Toggle airbrush option.

Using the Marquee Tool (for Slicing/Selecting)

When used correctly, the marquee tool will let you select individual elements, entire graphics, and determine what is copied, cut, and pasted into your graphics.

To use these keyboard shortcuts, first select the Marquee tool by pressing m. marquee-tool-2.png

33) Control (Command) = Toggle between Slice tool and Slice Selection tool.

34) Shift + drag = Draw square slice.

35) Alt + drag (Option + drag) = Draw from center outward.

36) Shift + alt + drag (Shift + option + drag) = Draw square slice from center outward.

37) Spacebar + drag = Reposition the slice while creating the slice.

Using Different Blending Options

Blending options include a number of features to enhance the look of your graphic. You can always choose a blending option by going to the top menu bar, under Layer > Layer Style > Blending Options. Or, you can double-click any layer to bring up the options for that particular layer.

Once you open blending options, you can use keyboard shortcuts to select them without moving your mouse. To use the shortcuts, select the Move tool (“v“), and then select the layer you’d like to use the blending options on. Below are some of the most popular modes.

38) Shift + + or= Cycle through blending modes.

39) Shift + Alt + n (Shift + Option + n) = Normal mode

40) Shift + Alt + i (Shift + Option + i) = Dissolve

41) Shift + Alt + k (Shift + Option + k) = Darken

42) Shift + Alt + g (Shift + Option + g) = Lighten

43) Shift + Alt + m (Shift + Option + m) = Multiply

44) Shift + Alt + o (Shift + Option + o) = Overlay

45) Shift + Alt + u (Shift + Option + u) = Hue

46) Shift + Alt + t (Shift + Option + t) = Saturation

47) Shift + Alt + y (Shift + Option + y) = Luminosity

For more niche blending shortcuts, check out these tips from Adobe.

Manipulating Layers & Objects

If you want to modify an object or get complex with multiple layers, here are some shortcuts you might like to know:

48) Control + a (Command + a ) = Select all objects

49) Control + d (Command + d ) = Deselect all objects

50) Shift + Control + i (Shift + Command + i ) = Select the inverse of the selected objects

51) Control + Alt + a (Command + Option + a) = Select all layers

52) Control + Shift + E (Command + Shift + e) = Merge all layers

53) Alt + . (Option + .) = Select top layer

54) Alt + , (Option + ,) = Select bottom layer

Note: In shortcuts 55-57, the brackets ([ ]) are the keystrokes in the command, and “OR” refers to the actual word — as in, press one bracket OR the other, not the letters “o” and “r.”

55) Alt + [ OR ] (Option + [ OR ]) = Select next layer down or up

56) Control + [ OR ] (Command + [ OR ]) = Move target layer down or up

57) Control + Shift + [ OR ] (Command + Shift + [ OR ]) = Move layer to the bottom or top

58) Shift + Control + n (Shift + Command + n) = Create a new layer

59) Control + g (Command + g) = Group selected layers

60) Control + Shift + g (Command + Shift + g) = Ungroup selected layers

61) Control + e (Command + e) = Merge and flatten selected layers

62) Control + Shift + Alt + e (Command + Shift + Option + e) = Combine all layers into a new layer on top of the other layers. Note: This step gets you one, combined layer, with all elements of that layer in separate layers below — which is different than a traditional merge-and-flatten layers command.

63) Control + t (Command + t) = Transform your object, which includes resizing and rotating

And Finally — Save Your Work for Later

Congratulations — you’ve finished working on your project, and now, you want to share it with the world. Save time saving your project by using these simple shortcuts:

64) Control + Shift + s (Command + Shift + s) = Save your work as …

65) Control + Shift + Alt + s (Command + Shift + Option + s) = Save for web and devices

Dec

7

2017

How to Get Started With LinkedIn’s New Website Demographics

I don’t know about you, but I have an odd fascination with LinkedIn’s “Who’s Viewed Your Profile” feature.

There’s a natural curiosity about who’s checking it out, and why. A fan of my writing? My manager? An ex-boyfriend who’s feeling remorseful as a result of seeing all the great things I’m doing with my life?

Regardless of my own profile viewers, the fact remains that LinkedIn has always served as an interesting platform to digitally network, share information, recruit, and advertise.

It’s that last part where one of the newest developments have taken place. LinkedIn has provided helpful insights and ad tracking for some time now, allowing advertisers to view details about the composition of who this promoted content has reached. But now, LinkedIn has developed new tools for marketers who want to see that same information about the users visiting their websites.Click here to learn about using social media in every stage of the funnel.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to introduce you to LinkedIn’s Website Demographics.

What Is LinkedIn’s Website Demographics?

LinkedIn’s Website Demographics is a free tool that allows advertisers to monitor and analyze which LinkedIn users are visiting their websites. In other words, it sheds light on which types of professionals are visiting the site, to help you better target content and ad campaigns. It filters this audience according to eight criteria:

  1. Job title
  2. Industry
  3. Job seniority
  4. Job function
  5. Company
  6. Company size
  7. Location
  8. Country

Getting Started With LinkedIn’s Website Demographics

1. Make sure you have a LinkedIn Ads account.

Website Demographics are only available to those who already have a LinkedIn Ads account. If you don’t have one, check out this beginner’s guide to setting up and running LinkedIn Ad campaigns.

2. Generate your Insight Tag and add it to your Website.

Once you’ve established an Ads account, go to your Campaign Manager, and click “Website Demographics.”

If you haven’t previously set up Website Demographics, you’ll receive this message prompting you to set up an Insight Tag:

The Insight Tag is essentially a short blurb of JavaScript code that allows Website Demographics to track visitors to a page, as well as conversion and analytics that are crucial when evaluating the performance of a LinkedIn ad campaign. In other words, without it, Website Demographics won’t be able to track any visitor behavior or insights.

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 4.35.33 PM

Copy and paste this code, and it to every page on your domain. According to LinkedIn, the optimal placement for the code is right before the end of the tag, in the global footer.

Once the code has been added to your web pages, add your domain (or domains, if you added it to multiple pages) to the area to the right of the code, where it says “Domains,” as per the image above.

LinkedIn will have to verify that the tag has been added to these URLs correctly, which could take up to 24 hours, but once that’s done, each URL will have the word “verified” next to its name in the domain list.

Be careful: According to LinkedIn, domains must not include “www” when you’re adding them.

3. Build your audience.

Once your Insight Tag has been added and all associated domains have been verified, you’ll need to create a website audience. Don’t let the name of this step fool you — rather than customizing the desired composition of your audience, you’ll actually just be segmenting different URLs for which you want to analyze visitors.

It’ll look like this:

Source: Distilled

For example, you might want to drive a different audience to a specific landing page than you do to a certain blog post. That’s where segmenting audience analytics becomes helpful.

You’ll need a minimum of 300 LinkedIn members to visit a given domain that you’re tracking — until you do, there won’t be any data available in the Website Demographics section of your Campaign Manager. How long that takes really varies — it depends on each page’s average traffic.

4. Monitor and analyze the data.

According to Distilled, “LinkedIn developed and released Website Demographics because it anticipates that with this new information, companies will be more likely to spend on their platform.” That makes sense — the demographics available to track within this new tool match the same targeting criteria available for LinkedIn Ad campaigns. 

That said, the purpose may also be to help LinkedIn advertisers spend more effectively. Let’s say, for example, that prior to setting up your Website Demographics, you already have a LinkedIn Ads campaign running. Once you’re able to capture more detailed data on which types of users are visiting your web pages — according to job title, industry, and more — you’ll be able to see if that information aligns. Does the Website Demographics match the targeted audience criteria you used in your Ad campaign? If not, you now have the data to better inform your audience targeting.

The best part is that this information isn’t restricted to your promotion efforts within LinkedIn. Now, you’re newly equipped with details about the actual human beings visiting your website (with respect to member privacy, says the platform). And while every social media channel has its own trends and patterns of users, having these insights can help you gain a better idea of who’s clicking, and why they might be seeking information from your brand.

I’ll be keeping an eye on the results as more advertisers begin to use and track the results of this tool, but as always, feel free to reach out on Twitter to share your own experience with it.

How to Use Social Media at Every Stage of the Funnel

 I
How to Use Social Media at Every Stage of the Funnel

Dec

6

2017

Brainstorming: You’re Doing It Wrong [Video]

Dec

6

2017

7 Phrases That Indicate You Might Be in a Toxic Work Environment

It’s a situation familiar to many of us: That moment when something just feels off.

You have a less-than-great feeling about your work environment, and then, someone utters a phrase that gives you a sinking feeling.

It’s a feeling that makes that “off” sensation feel even worse — a feeling that makes you think, “Hmm. Maybe it’s not me.”

That’s the feeling that indicates you might be in a toxic work environment.

But how can you be sure, exactly? What do these signaling phrases sound like?Download our complete productivity guide here for more tips on improving your  productivity at work.

We collected the seven that we’ve heard the most — outside of HubSpot, of course — and compiled this list to help you figure out if your instincts are correct.

7 Phrases That Indicate You Might Be in a Toxic Work Environment

  1. “You won’t believe how late it was when I left the office last night.”
  2. “I would love to help you, but … “
  3. ”Thanks, that was my idea.”
  4. “Oh, I can’t even remember the last time I took a real vacation.”
  5. ”That’s not my fault.”
  6. ”I’m sick (again).”
  7. ”Where are you going?”

1. “You won’t believe how late it was when I left the office last night.”

When you work hard, it’s no surprise that you might occasionally have to stay at the office past your typical “quitting time” — like when you’re on the verge of launching a new product, campaign, or event. 

But when you hear about colleagues doing this regularly — especially when they speak boastfully about it — that’s a sign that there might be something not-quite-right with the workplace culture, and its approach to work-life balance.

Take a survey conducted by Staples, for example. It showed that 55% of employees feel like they can’t leave their desks for a break. Sure, 86% also said that these breaks would actually help their productivity — and yet, more than half are hesitant to take them.

So what’s stopping us?

When we hear our peers, colleagues, and managers habitually speaking of late nights at work and industrious weekends — the opposite of taking time to breathe and recharge — it sends the message that it’s expected of everyone, perhaps even implying that breaks and time offline are discouraged. And that, in a word, is unhealthy.

In situations like these, it helps to ask for clarifying information. If there’s a colleague you trust, or if you have a good relationship with your manager, try asking if these hours are expected, or if it might be possible to disconnect on a given evening and weekend for a special event. It might turn out that this lack of work-life balance is not encouraged, and that what you’ve been hearing is the exception — not the rule.

2. “I would love to help you, but … “

I’ll never forget something my boss told me on my first day at HubSpot. “To help you be more successful, I’ll help you with whatever you ask me for help with. The most successful people ask for help when they need it!”

I wish everyone’s managers and teams led with that sentiment. After all, as human beings, we’re already disinclined to ask for help — so when we do and that request is met with a “but,” it’s not exactly going to encourage us to ask for support in the future.

In these instances, I’ve found that it helps to lead by doing — even if this vocabulary or behavior is coming from someone who works above you. Many times, these phrases reflect someone feeling overwhelmed, in which case, it can be beneficial for you to proactively offer help. By actively displaying behavior that discourages a mentality of, “That’s not my job,” you may inspire others to take a similar approach.

3. “Thanks, that was my idea.”

This one, for me, might be the worst phrase on the list. Is there anything worse than someone else being given credit for something you did — and then, that person accepting it without mentioning your role in the accomplishment?

That’s one of the top signaling behaviors of a toxic work environment. It somewhat aligns with the tendency to have the negative parts of your performance pointed out, with little-to-no mention of the positives. When someone — whether it’s a colleague or a manager — takes credit for things that he didn’t accomplish alone (or at all), it can further reinforce a detraction from the things you’re doing well at work.

While it may not result in a sustainable resolution — and can be very difficult to do — it can help to be honest about the situation with the person from whom this behavior is coming. Try saying something like, “I was surprised by your response to the praise received for Project X. While I felt that I contributed a lot to that work, it sounds like your perception may have been different. Do you have any suggestions for how I can improve my contributions?”

That way, you’re not pointing it out in a way that comes from a defensive or finger-pointing manner. Plus, the response you receive to this conversation may indicate just how toxic the situation is. If, for example, the person didn’t even realize his error but retroactively recognizes it, you can work together to change that behavior.

4. “Oh, I can’t even remember the last time I took a real vacation.”

Have you ever heard the term “vacation shaming”?

It’s exactly what it sounds like.

According to research from Alamo Rent A Car, 47% of workers feel shame or guilt at work for taking time off — and 28% are reluctant to do it at all, fearing that they’ll appear less dedicated to their work.

This phrase is similar to the first one we listed about working late, or not taking breaks. When the people around us at work brag about burning the candle at both ends, it reinforces the idea that that behavior is rewarded and that, therefore, we should be doing the same.

But ultimately, that approach is detrimental. In fact, the top 10% most productive employees using business time-tracking software DeskTime have been found to take 17-minute breaks for every 52 minutes of work they put in.

In other words — time off improves the quality of our work. A work environment that dictates otherwise gives us pause.

5. “That’s not my fault.”

Okay, so maybe it’s not phrased exactly this way, but here’s the point: the blame game is never a good sign.

When someone appears to be unable to admit their role or accountability in things going wrong, it can instill fear in those around them — fear that they might be expected to accept blame in a situation for which they didn’t actually do anything wrong. 

And while studies show that many employers believe up to 50% of their respective workforces are comprised of unaccountable individuals, we’ve got news: Managers are responsible for being accountable, too, and for leading by example with it.

In order to create a culture of accountability and eradicate the blame game, it’s important to begin by exhibiting that behavior yourself. You could write an entire book on accountability at work, for example, and if you don’t practice it yourself, no one will take that directive seriously.

If this is new territory for you, start by asking what role you may have had in a less-than-desirable situation — and if the answer if something other than what you want to hear, take a moment to consider the feedback you’ve received, before reacting defensively.

6. “I’m sick (again).”

If all of the above phrases pointed to a single underlying result it would be: stress.

When you’re facing a wave of discouragement to take time off, work reasonable hours, or have confidence in your performance, your lifestyle can start to suffer. You might not allow sufficient time to eat healthy foods, work out, or sleep. And when you combine those factors, the typical result is getting sick.

Before my life at HubSpot, I once worked for a very small company where, every week, at least one employee was sick. And while I didn’t recognize it at the time, I know now that it was a sign of a toxic work environment. It might be normal for there to be an outbreak of a cold during a seasonal change or, say, flu season. But if people in your work environment are regularly and frequently falling ill, it’s a sign that their immunity has suffered — that can stem from an unhealthy lifestyle, which is easy to fall into when the aforementioned items abound.

7. “Where are you going?”

I’ll cut right to the chase. According to a study performed by researchers at Indiana University‘s Kelley School of Business, employees working under a micromanaging boss have a higher mortality rate.

I wish I were making that up. But, seeing as we’ve already discussed the impact of stress and a lack of workplace flexibility on the ability to maintain a healthy lifestyle — it doesn’t exactly come as a surprise, then, that those working in these conditions die younger than their peers who are allowed more independence and balance in their jobs

Micromanaging is typically a sign of distrust. Constantly tracking your team’s behavior and disallowing autonomy communicates that you have little faith in its ability to succeed, which can result in a lack of confidence and motivation brought to tasks and responsibilities.

If you find yourself in this type of situation — on either side of it — look to the results for next steps. Is your team’s performance lacking? If so, and your manager exhibits this type of behavior, it could be helpful to have a conversation about how this approach is negatively impacting your performance.

For the other way around, look inward. Ask your team how you can help, and if stepping away might boost productivity.

Productivity Guide

 
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Dec

6

2017

And Along Came a Spider

A Hardship is always a blessing in disguise. Pay attention to how it “moves” you. Some time ago my eleven year-old daughter came home from orchestra practice simply devastated. She had been the first to arrive, and as the others filed in, nobody chose to sit by her. She sat at the edge of the … Continue reading And Along Came a Spider

Dec

5

2017

FAQ This! Why Should I Care About Amazon AI?

The past three months, it seems, have been a nonstop parade of major tech events and the new product announcements that come with them.

One of the latest was last week’s AWS re:Invent, where Amazon announced a new suite of AI-enabled technology designed with businesses in mind.

And while these new products, features, and tools come with a host of opportunities for the developers, marketers, and others who plan to use them, they also raise a few questions. What are they designed to do? How can they help you? How do they work?

There’s also one less-official question that occurred to me as I learned of these developments. Is Amazon trying to creep into Google’s territory?

Let’s take a look at some of these AI announcements from AWS re:Invent and dig deeper into just what they mean.

What’s Amazon Web Services Doing With AI?

  1. What Is AWS Re:INVENT?
  2. What Were the Major AI Capabilities Announced at AWS Re:INVENT 2017?
  3. What Is Deep Learning vs. Machine Learning?
  4. What Is Amazon Comprehend?
  5. What Is DeepLens?
  6. What Is Amazon Transcribe?
  7. What Is Amazon Translate?

1. What Is AWS Re:INVENT?

AWS re:Invent is what Amazon describes as “a learning conference” produced by Amazon Web Services — that’s what AWS stands for. The intended audience is what it calls the “the global cloud computing community,” but the event features content for anyone who wants to learn how cloud technology can help grow and scale a business. From AdTech, to content delivery, to the internet of things, the conference ranges in learning opportunities from keynotes to certification sessions.

2. What Were the Major AI Capabilities Announced at AWS Re:INVENT 2017?

While a handful of new capabilities were unveiled by AWS, there are four that I’d like to focus on (with a bit of teaser text below on what each one is capable of doing):

  1. Comprehend: text analysis for a variety of content formats
  2. DeepLens: a wireless, artificially intelligent video camera with newly enhanced object recognition
  3. Transcribe: speech recognition technology to convert the spoken word to text
  4. Translate: what it sounds like — advanced text translation technology 

If some of these sound familiar — or seem reminiscent of similar capabilities previously made somewhat famous by a certain search engine giant — chances are, it’s because they are familiar. I’ll delve deeper into this below, but many of these capabilities reflect those for which Google has been known to be a leader, especially in the realm of translation. After all, who could forget this jaunty promotional video on the topic?

 

 

 

3. What is What Is Deep Learning vs. Machine Learning?

The reason why I want to establish the difference between these two technologies (and what they are, in the first place) is that most of these capabilities use one or both. 

Machine learning essentially describes the ability of a machine to learn things — habits, language, behaviors, and patterns, to name a few — without having been programmed to do so, or pre-loaded with that knowledge. It doesn’t describe artificial intelligence in entirety, but rather, is one very important AI capability.

Deep learning is a type of machine learning — and is a bit trickier to explain. Basically, it takes the next (big) step in that it’s designed to imitate the way the human brain works by way of something called neural networks. In our brains, we have biological neural networks in which the action of one neuron creates a series of subsequent actions that ultimately result in our different behaviors.

In technology, artificial neural networks seek to replicate that phenomenon by becoming “trained” to comprehend data based on a certain set of criteria. One of the more notable examples of deep learning in practice is in image recognition, in which neural networks are able to recognize different data patterns or cues to learn what, for example, a cat looks like.

4. What Is Amazon Comprehend?

Amazon Comprehend uses something called natural language processing (NLP) to better understand and determine the meaning within text. It’s an instance of machine learning, in which the technology learns how to comprehend — if you will — and process language as it was intended by the human being speaking or writing it.

Comprehend performs this capability with a series of steps:

  1. Identify the language.
  2. Pick out the phrases that most strongly indicate what the text is about — things like names of people, companies, places, or important events.
  3. Use those phrases to determine if the sentiment of the text is positive or negative.
  4. File that set of text according to its topic within a collection of subjects it has already organized based on patterns it’s observed.

So, how does this technology apply to the real world? Well, it’s particularly helpful in an instance of, say, analyzing written customer feedback. By feeding these comments to an API like Comprehend, marketers can use this technology to synthesize data from their audiences to determine something like thematic areas of improvement.

5. What Is DeepLens?

Simply put, DeepLens is a high definition video camera that was designed with developers in mind. It was built with deep learning capabilities and what AWS Chief Evangelist Jeff Barr describes as “pre-trained models for image detection and recognition.”

In other words, it’s a very smart camera: one that can recognize objects, faces, motions, and creatures (e.g., a dog from a cat). And while that’s very cool — not to mention, somewhat reminiscent of the recently-announced Google Clips camera — there’s a reason why it could prove so helpful to businesses.

To start, DeepLens comes with a number of “templates,” or recognition technologies that users can build upon for their own projects. Object and action recognition, for example, can help to more seamlessly create something like product tutorials or demonstrations, by developing a system or algorithm that learns to recognize how the two are paired for different outcomes.

For example, if you’re demonstrating how a certain cooking appliance can be applied to different scenarios, it seems that DeepLens can be utilized in building a system to recognize the appliance itself (like a standing mixer), the actions the user can take with it (like mixing cake batter), and the resulting outcome (a delicious cake).

Source: Amazon Web Services

 

6. What Is Amazon Transcribe?

Anyone with a journalism background is more than familiar with the headache joy of transcribing spoken interviews. We want to get it just right, be sure not to misquote the interviewee, and communicate what was said in the right context.

If only, back in my earliest days of reporting, there were advanced transcription services available to the common writer.

But now, there’s Transcribe: an AWS service that uses machine learning technologies to recognize the spoken word and transcribe it into text.

While the function itself is fairly intuitive, the benefits might not be. So let’s lay out two instances where technology like this can be applied to a marketer’s world:

  1. Interview transcription. I already covered this a few paragraphs earlier, but let’s say you’re writing up a blog post that requires quotes from a spoken interview. This technology eliminates the time-consuming step of transcribing what was said, and leaves you instead with all of the text from that conversation, allowing you to pick and choose the quotes you want to incorporate.
  2. Video transcription. Accessibility is no longer optional. It’s important to provide a way for individuals who are hearing impaired to be able to consume and enjoy your video content, even without the audio. Transcribing what is said in the video by way of full paragraphs or subtitles allows them to do so — and, it allows those who simply prefer to watch videos without sound to be able to absorb the content, as well.

These are only two of the more prominent examples of how such technology could be applied, but there are many more, from transcribing podcasts, to documenting notes from an important meeting.

7. What Is Amazon Translate?

This development might be my favorite.

Around here, we talk a great deal about approaching marketing with a global mindset. While I might use JetBlue as a remarkable example of marketing, it might not resonate as much with audiences in countries where this airline doesn’t operate.

To put it simply, the internet is a global, international destination. The people reading your content might not regularly engage with the same brands you do, and they might not speak the same language.

That’s why a growing number of developers and marketers are building a multilingual web presence — one where their online properties and content can be seamlessly viewed in the language preferred by the user. It’s a trend that, as HubSpot’s own global presence continues to grow, I take inordinate glee in seeing.

It’s also why I love seeing tools become available that make it easier to approach marketing with a “global first” mindset. Translate is one such tool: a service that uses machine learning to more naturally translate text from one language to another. 

Here’s a look at how it worked when translating a French paragraph to English:

Source: Amazon Web Services

So, here’s the million-dollar question: Is Amazon creeping into Google’s territory?

Maybe.

It’s not the definitive answer I hoped to have, but in these early release days, it might be too soon to tell. While most of Google’s headline-making AI developments are largely consumer-centric (like the previous example of Clips), it is true that the company has been working on its own stack of machine learning capabilities for businesses. Look no further than Google.ai, for example, where the mission is to bring “the benefits of AI to everyone” — including, I assume, marketers.

This is only the beginning.

What are you most excited about? What confuses or scares you, and what fills you with delight? Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts on these AWS AI developments on Twitter, or let me know if you have a question about it.

Dec

5

2017

#36: Monetizing Your Gifts

Published by in category Podcast | Leave a Comment

Marnie Pehrson interviews me to uncover tips for monetizing your gifts and transforming your talents into income. Marnie was one of my mentors in the beginning, and inspired me to put my message into books. You too have gifts and talents that can be monetized. Listen in to be inspired and encouraged to take the … Continue reading #36: Monetizing Your Gifts