Category Archives: Marketing Strategies

The 7 Most Useful Google Sheets Formulas

Lately, the best part of my day has been figuring out the cool new things I can do in Google Sheets — which, yes, definitely means I need to get out more, but also means I can share my favorite formulas with you.

How to Use Formulas for Google Sheets

  1. Double-click on the cell you want to enter the formula in. (If you want the formula for the entire row, this will probably be the first or second row in a column.)
  2. Type the equal (=) sign.
  3. Enter your formula. Depending on the data, Google Sheets might suggest a formula and/or range for you.

V-LOOKUP Google Sheets Formula

V-lookups, are by far, the most useful formula in your tool-kit when you’re working with large amounts of data. The V-lookup formula looks for a data point — like, say, a blog post title or URL — in one sheet, and returns a relevant piece of information for that data point — like monthly views or conversion rate in another sheet.

For example, if I want to see how much traffic a specific set of blog posts got, I’ll export a list from Google Analytics, then put that list in another tab and use the V-LOOKUP function to pull views by URL into the first tab.

The only caveat: The data point must exist in both cells, and it must in the first column of the second sheet.

Formula:

=VLOOKUP(search_criterion, array, index, sort_order)

Let’s walk through an example, which should make this a bit easier to understand.

In the first sheet, I have a list of blog posts, including their titles, URLs and monthly traffic. In the second sheet, I have a report from Google Analytics with average page load time by URL. I want to see if there’s any correlation between page speed and performance.

An example:

=VLOOKUP(A2,’GA Avg. Load Time’’!$1:$1000,2,FALSE)

IFERROR Google Sheets Formula

Any time you’re using a formula where more than 10% of the return values lead to errors, your spreadsheet starts to look really messy (see the above screenshot!).

To give you an idea, maybe you have two columns: one for page views and another for CTA clicks. You want to see the highest-converting pages, so you create a third column for page views divided by CTA clicks (or =B2/C2).

About one-third of your pages, however, don’t have any CTAs — so they haven’t gotten any clicks. This will show up as #VALUE! on your sheet, since you can’t divide by zero.

Using the IFERROR formula lets you replace the VALUE! Status with another value. I typically use a space (“ “) so the sheet is as clean as possible.

Here’s the formula:

=IFERROR(original_formula, value_if_error)

So for the above situation, my formula would be:

=IFERROR((B2/C2, “ “)

COUNTIF Google Sheets Formula

The COUNTIF formula tells you how many how many cells in a given range meet the criteria you’ve specified. With this up your sleeve, you’ll never have to manually count cells again.

Formula:

=COUNTIF(range, criterion)

Let’s say I’m curious how many blog posts received more than 1,000 views for this time period — I’d enter:

=COUNTIF(C2:C500,“>1000”)

Or maybe I want to see how many blog posts were written by Caroline Forsey. If the author was in Column D, my formula would be:

=COUNTIF(D2:D500, “Caroline Forsey”)

LEN Google Sheets Function

Have you noticed Google Analytics cuts off the “http://” or “https://” from every URL? This posed a major issue for me when I wanted to combine data from HubSpot and GA — the V-Lookup function wouldn’t work because the URLs weren’t identical (“https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing versus “blog.hubspot.com/marketing).

Luckily, there’s no need to manually change every URL. The LEN function lets you adapt the length of any string.

=LEFT(text,LEN(text)-n)

=RIGHT(text,LEN(text)-n)

So, let’s say the full URL is in column I. To remove the “https://” string and make it identical to the URL in the Google Analytics tab, I’d use:

=RIGHT(I2, LEN(I2)-8)

If you wanted to remove the last characters in a cell, you’d simply change RIGHT to LEFT.

Array Formula for Google Sheets

Rarely do you need to apply a formula to a single cell — you’re usually using it across a row or column. If you copy and paste a formula into a new cell, Google Sheets will automatically change it o reference the right cells; for example, if I enter =A2+B2 in cell C2, then drag the formula down to C3, the formula will become =A3+B3.

But there are a few drawbacks to this. First, if you’re working with a lot of data, having hundreds or thousands of formulas can make Google Sheets a lot slower. Second, if you change the formula — maybe now you want to see =A2*B2 instead — you have to make that change across every formula. Again, that’s time-consuming and requires a lot of processing power. And finally, the formula doesn’t automatically apply to new rows or columns.

An array formula solves these issues. It’s one formula, with one calculation, but the results are sorted into multiple rows or columns. Not only is this more efficient, but any changes will automatically apply to all your data.

ARRAYFORMULA(array_formula)

Let’s suppose I want to see how much non-paid traffic we’d gotten in March and April. That requires subtracting paid traffic from total (column D from column C) and then adding the totals together. Two separate formulas.

Or, I could use an array formula:

=ARRAYFORMULA(SUM(C2:C5-D2:D5)

The second part, SUM(C2:C5-D2:D5), should look somewhat familiar. It’s a traditional addition formula — but it’s applied to a range (cells C2 through C5 and D2 through D5) instead of individual cells.

The first part, =ARRAYFORMULA, tells Google Sheets we’re applying this formula to a range.

I could also use an array formula to look at the non-paid traffic specifically from updates (not new content) in March and April.

Here’s what that would look like:

=ARRAYFORMULA(SUM(C2,C4-D2,D4))

IMPORTRANGE Google Sheets Formula

I use to spend a ton of time (and processing power) manually copying huge amounts of data from one spreadsheet to another. Then I learned about this handy formula, which imports data from a separate Google Sheets spreadsheet.

Suppose our resident historical optimization expert Braden Becker sent me a spreadsheet of the content he updated last month. I want to add that data to a master spreadsheet of all the content (both new and historically optimized) we published. I’d use this formula:

IMPORTRANGE(spreadsheet_url, range_string)

Which would look like:

IMPORTRANGE(“https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/abcd123abcd123”, “Update Performance!A2:D100”)

How to Split Text in Google Sheets

Splitting text can be incredibly useful when you’re dealing with different versions of the same URLs.

To give you an idea, let’s suppose I’ve created a spreadsheet with every URL that received at least 300 views in January and February. I want to compare the two months to see which blog posts got more views over time, fewer, or around the same.

The problem is, if I do a V-LOOKUP between the two tabs, Google Sheets won’t recognize these as the same URLs:

https://blog.hubspot.com/sales/songs-for-maximum-motivation (regular URL)

https://blog.hubspot.com/sales/songs-for-maximum-motivation?utm_medium=paid_EN&utm_content=songs-for-maximum-motivation&utm_source=getpocket.com&utm_campaign=PocketPromotion (tracking URL)

https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/create-infographics-with-free-powerpoint-templates (regular URL)

https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/create-infographics-with-free-powerpoint-templates?utm_medium=paid_EN&utm_content=create-infographics-with-free-powerpoint-templates&utm_source=getpocket.com&utm_campaign=PocketPromotion (tracking URL)

It would be awesome if I could get delete everything after the question mark in the tracking URLs so they matched the original ones.

That’s where the split text formula comes in.

=SPLIT(text, delimiter, [split_by_each], [remove_empty_text])

Text: The text you want to divide (can be a string of characters, such as https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/create-infographics-with-free-powerpoint-templates?utm_medium=paid_EN&utm_content=create-infographics-with-free-powerpoint-templates&utm_source=getpocket.com&utm_campaign=PocketPromotion, or a cell, like A2)

Delimiter: The characters you want to split the text around.

Split_by_each: Google Sheets considers each character in the delimiter to be separate. That means if you split your text by “utm”, it will split everything around the characters “u”,”t”, and “m”. Include FALSE in your formula to turn this setting off.

In the example above, here’s the formula I’d use to split the first part of the URL from the UTM code:

=SPLIT(A2,“?”)

The first part is now in Column B, and the UTM code is in Column C. I can simply delete everything in Column C, and run the V-LOOKUP on the URLs in Column B.

Alternatively, you can use Google Sheet’s “Split text to columns” feature. Highlight the range of data you want to split, then select “Data” > “Split text to columns.”

Now choose the character you want to delimit by: a colon, semicolon, period, space, or custom character. You can also opt for Google Sheets to figure out which character you want to split by (which it’s smart enough to do if your data is entered uniformly, e.g. every cell follows the same format) by choosing the first option, “detect automatically.”

I hope these Google Sheets formulas are helpful. If you have any other favorites, let me know on Twitter: @ajavuu.

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Unriddled: Apple's Latest MacBook, Another Facebook Data Loophole, and More Tech News You Need

Welcome one, welcome all to another Wednesday: the day that marks the halfway point — almost — to the weekend.

As we find ourselves halfway through July and grasping tightly to the weeks of summer that remain, we know you don’t have a ton of time to devour news. So, in keeping with tradition — we’ll keep this week’s “Unriddled” quick.

It’s our Wednesday tech news roundup, and we’re breaking it down.

Unriddled: The Tech News You Need

1. Apple Releases a New Macbook Pro

Apple announced last week the latest release in its MacBook Pro lineup, calling it “the most advanced Mac notebook ever.” Among its news features, the company says, are faster computing, an improved Retina display, and the ability to prompt Apple’s voice assistant with verbal “Hey Siri” commands — and, according to some early users, a quieter keyboard. But there may be more beneath that (hushed) surface, with rumors floating that the subdued typing volume is actually a way of masking the manufacturer’s known keyboard reliability issues. Dieter Bohn of The Verge shares more first impressions. Read full story >>

2. Facebook Privacy Loophole Discovered in “Closed” Groups

CNBC reported last week that Facebook has closed a loophole that allowed the identities of members of closed, private groups on the platform to be scraped with the use of a Chrome browser plug-in. The issue was discovered when the moderator of a closed group came upon the Grouply.io browser extension, which allows third parties (like marketers) to harvest private member information like names, employers, and locations, among others. A Facebook spokesperson told CNBC that the extension has been shut down. Read full story >>

3. Uber Steps Up Its Background Checks

Uber is reinforcing its efforts around safety, telling Axios that it will now conduct ongoing background checks on drivers, rather than performing them on a one-time occasion. Partnering with background check provider Checkr and safety data company Appriss, this move is the latest of Uber’s efforts, largely under CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, to improve the company’s reputation, especially when it comes to rider safety. The announcement of these efforts was shortly followed by reports that the company is under investigation by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for gender inequity. Read full story >>

4. The Tech Giants Go to Washington (Again)

Policy representatives from Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter appeared before the House Judiciary Committee in a hearing on social media filtering practices — the second one to take place this year. All three were facing allegations that they filter or suppress conservative content — but little of that particular topic was actually discussed during the hearing. Tony Romm of The Washington Post has more. Read full story >>

5. Twitter Follower Counts Drop

Following the previous week’s report that Twitter has been conducting sweeping account suspensions, the company announced last week that it would delete locked accounts from total user follower counts, causing many of them to drop. Read full story >>

6. The Genius Marketing of HQ Trivia

In the world of tech, it’s hard to go too long without hearing a reference to the HQ Trivia app. But what’s all the hype about — and what can we learn from its success? Read full story >>

That’s all for today. Until next week, feel free to weigh in on Twitter to ask us your tech news questions, or to let us know what kind of events and topics you’d like us to cover.

How to Block Websites on Chrome Desktop and Mobile

Let’s say you want to block certain websites, like Facebook or Pinterest, on your work computer to ensure those distractions aren’t inhibiting your productivity.

Or, maybe you just want to guarantee all Google searches aren’t available to your six-year-old.

Whatever the case, blocking a website on Chrome desktop or mobile is an easy and simple process. Best of all, it’s just as effortless to unblock those sites — so you can scroll through Pinterest, post-workday.

How to Block Websites on Chrome Desktop

  1. Go to the Block Site extension, and click “Add to Chrome”.

 

2. Click “Add extension” in the pop-up box.

3. You’ll see an icon at the top right of your Chrome screen — an orange shield with a circle and a diagonal line through the middle.

 

4. Let’s say you’re feeling a little bitter from a recent World Cup loss, and want to block sports’ sites for a while. Simply go to a website, click that orange shield icon in the top right, and click “Block this site”.

 

5. Now, you won’t be able to reach cbssports.com (or any other website you chose). You’ve successfully blocked it. To unblock the site, click “Edit your list” in the top right (or click the icon, and then click “Edit block sites list”).

 

6. Each of your blocked websites will have a “minus” icon to the right — click that minus button, and your site will be unblocked.

 

How to Block Websites on Chrome Mobile (Android)

If you often surf the web via Chrome on your Android, you might need to block certain websites to ensure increased productivity at all times of day. Here are six easy steps to block websites on your Android Chrome browser (or any Android browser):

  1. Open Google Play Store and install the BlockSite app.
  2. Open the downloaded BlockSite app.
  3. Click “Enable” to allow the app to block websites.
  4. Click “Got it” — this will take you to your Accessibility settings.
  5. Select “BlockSite” and turn the switch from “OFF” to “ON”. Then click “OK” in the pop-up window.
  6. Click the “+” button in the bottom right.
  7. Enter any websites you want to block and click the check mark in the top right corner.

How to Block Websites on iOS Devices

There are a few apps in the app store that allow you to block websites on your iOS device. Here are two options with similar functions:

  1. Zero Willpower: This app is $1.99, and lets you create an easy list of all websites you want to block from Safari on your iPhone. Even better, there’s a timer, so you can block a website for a limited period of time.
  2. Site Blocker: Similar to Zero Willpower, Site Blocker lets you block distracting or unwanted websites on Safari on an iOS device, and includes a timer and suggestions as well. This app is free.

Now you’re all set to block distracting websites from your Chrome browser on desktop or Android. If you find you’re still struggling with productivity, take a look at our Ultimate Guide to the Best Productivity Apps.

The 8 Essential Management Skills You Need to Lead a Successful Team

Last week, on the Fourth of July, I was feeling rather patriotic, so I decided to binge watch the HBO classic Band of Brothers. The critically acclaimed mini-series takes place in Europe during World War II, recounting Major Richard Winters’ leadership of Easy Company from a grueling boot camp to the invasion of Normandy and on to the end of the war. The series is a touching tribute to these brave soldiers, and in my humble opinion, it deserves all seven of the Emmys it won.

But if there’s one thing I’ll remember about this show, it’s a scene that’s only three minutes long: Major Winters orders an ambush on Axis soldiers who are resting in an embankment across a field from them. But before his soldiers can charge, he tosses a smoke grenade and bolts across the field alone. He wanted the Axis to target him before they could target his men.

Major Winters was willing to sacrifice his own life to preserve his company’s, and his courage and selflessness remind military leaders everywhere that you should serve others before you serve yourself. If you lead a team at work, this scene will also resonate with you — your job is to help your people succeed and achieve their goals.

But being a great leader isn’t something you can easily pick up and just start doing. Like any other skill, you have to work on it. So before you start channeling your inner Major Winters, here are eight management skills you need to learn to lead a team toward success.

The 8 Essential Management Skills You Need to Lead a Successful Team

1. You make your people feel safe at work.

Major Winters was an easy leader to follow because he always trekked into danger first, fought for his men, and did everything he could to protect them. He absorbed most of the risk so his men had a better chance of survival. And they respected and revered him for it.

Great leaders are always willing to protect their people, even if it means sacrificing their own interests, comfort, and a good metric or two. They want their people to feel safe at work. They want them to always know that they won’t get chewed out or lose their job if they fail. Their people know they can grow from these failures. And this results in a higher level of trust and cooperation.

When a leader risks and sacrifices herself to protect and improve her people, they’re willing to move mountains for her. Why? Because they know she’s already doing the same for them.

2. You can change your mind.

Even the smartest people get things wrong. But what seperates a good leader from a great one is the ability to admit that they’re wrong and change course in light of new information. Unfortunately, a lot of leaders won’t change their minds, even if it’s the right choice, because they don’t want to seem weak. Others have too much pride to admit that they’ve made a mistake. They’d rather pull rank and remind their subordinates that they’re in charge.

But admitting you were wrong requires a lot more strength than sticking to something that hurts your team or company, just because you’ve invested a lot of time and effort into it. For instance, Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat, a company that provides open-source software products, decided to go to market without integrating a newly acquired product into one of their new technologies in 2008. He didn’t want to spend three months rewriting code and making it open source. But he soon discovered that he had made a huge mistake: Red Hat’s associates and customers didn’t like using the product. And the only move the company could make was to rewrite the code. It would push them a year behind schedule.

The delay angered and frustrated his employees, and most of them thought Whitehurst wasn’t competent enough to run the business. But instead of blaming the issue on external factors, Whitehurst blamed himself. He owned up to his mistake and told the company why he made his decision. They then understood the rationale behind his decision. Not long after, many of his employees told him how much they appreciated his honesty and that he changed his mind about their go-to-market strategy. And that’s what ultimately earned him back their trust and support.

3. You understand the importance of team bonding.

Sometimes, team outings can feel like a forced way to bond — kind of like the annual Christmas get-together with your cousins growing up — but after a slightly awkward beginning of the night, you’re having a great time. And by the end of the night, you don’t really want to go home.

Solving an escape room or participating in a scavenger hunt can contribute to this fun, but most of it stems from bonding with your team on a personal level and learning about each others’ personal stories.

Sharing stories and having positive social experiences is the best way for a leader to develop trust with their team. Both of these things trigger the release of oxytocin, the hormone that helps us empathize with people, and it prompts us to help, relate, and care about others in the same way we do for our families. In other words, it’s the best way connect.

Having genuine conversations about what you and your team are passionate about, your lifestyle, and career motivations will break down barriers and build your team’s trust with each other and you, their leader. And this personal trust is what you need from your team to passionately support your overall mission and purpose.

4. You’re empathetic.

Every good leader should be able to be empathetic, right? Well, according to two Canadian neuroscientists, the higher you climb the corporate ladder, the harder it is to feel empathetic.

The part of your brain that triggers empathy is the mirror system. And whenever you see a person do something, it activates the thoughts and intentions that spark when you do the same exact thing. This helps you understand what motivates that person’s actions. But when you hold power over others, like in most leadership roles, the mirror system isn’t very stimulated, making it harder to place yourself inside other people’s shoes.

To stay on the same level as your team, consider trying a management technique called perspective-taking. If your colleague says something that frustrates you, take a step back and ask yourself why they took that position. How do they feel? Where is this perspective coming from? If you were in their role before, try to remember what it was like doing their job. Think back to your biggest fears and challenges. What made you feel threatened or insecure? Ultimately, perspective-taking will allow you to understand the root cause of your team’s problems and help solve for them.

5. You challenge your team.

During the 1988-89 NHL hockey season, Brett Hull led the St. Louis Blues with 41 goals scored. And after the season ended, he walked into his exit meeting with his head coach, Brian Sutter, expecting nothing but praise. But Coach Sutter didn’t give him any praise at all. In fact, he told Hull he needed to get better. Hull had the potential to be one of the greatest hockey players to ever live, but he could only be a Hall of Famer if he improved his work ethic. The next season, Hull arrived to St. Louis in the best shape of his life. And he almost doubled the number of goals he scored, with 72. The season after that he scored 86 goals. Hull was eventually inducted into the NHL Hall of Fame, and it’s all thanks to a coach who pushed him to train and perform at his best.

Like Brett Hull, everyone on your team can level up. Even your top performers. And to help them enhance their work ethic and skill set, push them to reach their potential and let them handle their own projects. They’ll be grateful for your guidance at the end of the day.

6. You don’t let your emotions influence your decision making.

Great leaders do what’s right, even if it causes a great deal of emotional pain. If they need to let someone go, even if they personally like them, they let them go. When they need to give constructive criticism to someone, even if they don’t want to hurt their feelings, they tell them what they need to improve on. The easy way out never pays off in the long term, and great leaders can blast through any anxiety or discomfort to do what’s best for their team.

7. You’re transparent.

Great leaders trust their people, especially with information. They know their team can sense problems in the organization. And since humans have a psychological bias that makes them more scared of ambiguity than risk, they make sure to provide as much information as possible about the issue and clearly communicate that they’re doing everything they can to resolve it.

Keeping things under wraps will only make their team feel anxious and unsafe — if they know something’s wrong, and they know their leader hasn’t disclosed all the information, they’ll ruminate about the worst possible outcome. And this is likely to scare the leader’s team and make them lose trust in him.

8. You acknowledge and appreciate your top performers.

As a leader, you must know how to make your team feel valued. It’s one of the most important emotional needs to meet. If you don’t, your team will feel unhappy at work — failing to recognize employees is one of the most common causes of employee dissatisfaction. To make them feel important to the team, happier, and incentivize them to keep improving, recognize and reward your employees for their accomplishments. You can does this in front of their peers, one on one, or even on Slack. This is also a way to inspire other members of your team to improve and earn recognition too.

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Scooter-Sharing Is a Big Deal. There's Just One Problem: No One's Heard of It

Everything old is new again. 

That’s so often the case with fashion, movies, and other key elements of pop culture. And now, it’s true of the modes of transportation we use to get around — in some cities, anyway.

When I was in San Francisco in April, it seemed that — in nearly an instant — everyone was talking about electric scooters and the new system of sharing them: scooter-sharing. 

My fellow tech reporters were tweeting jokes about their popularity. Abandoned, unreturned scooters were strewn about sidewalks throughout the city, many residents still trying to figure out how they ended up there, or what purpose they even served.

Nevertheless, this mode of transportation — which many of us haven’t considered since before we had driver’s licenses — has been on the minds of Silicon Valley professionals. Among them are investors, who are leading to the valuation of some of the companies behind electric scooters to reach the billions.

But if you haven’t heard about this new transportation trend — despite its popularity — surely, you’re not alone. (That’s what our research shows, anyway.) Allow us to enlighten you, and figure out if (or how) scooter-sharing will go mainstream.

Will Scooter-Sharing Be the Next Uber? Maybe, Once People Hear of It

What Is Scooter-Sharing?

The concept of scooter-sharing is comparable to the models of Uber, Zipcar, or city bike rental programs. With scooter-sharing, electric scooters are available to rent for short-term periods, and some of the companies behind them — like Lime — offer similar systems for traditional bicycle rentals. 

Equally similar to ride-sharing systems like Uber and Lyft, most scooter-sharing also requires an app through which users can unlock a scooter for a ride by scanning a QR code on the handles. Here’s what it looks like on Lime (since Lime-S, its scooter-sharing service, isn’t available in Boston yet, I was obligated to pretend-scan a plant on my desk.)

 IMG_2172

Scooter-sharing companies, at least in San Francisco, are currently stuck in what Megan Rose Dickey of TechCrunch calls “a bit of a legal gray area” — they aren’t fully regulated, though they’ve faced issues in cities like Indianapolis and Honolulu, and  the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is looking to create some sort of legislation that would formalize how these companies operate within the city.

Some companies appear to have rules, however, such as requiring a helmet or a valid driver’s license to operate the scooter, the latter of which is a traffic law. (When I downloaded both Lime and Bird, I wasn’t asked to provide proof of a valid driver’s license, though I also didn’t get to the point of fully unlocking a scooter.)

Bird asks users to bring their own helmets, while Lime provides the option to purchase one from the company — though, again, it’s unclear how either verifies that the rider is following that guideline.

IMG_2174 IMG_2170 IMG_2175

The (Un)Awareness of Scooter-Sharing

Several arguments have been made in favor of scooter-sharing permeating the market. It’s been advertised as an alternative to automobile use, as Lime’s own data indicates that 60% of users said their Lime-S ride replaced a trip that would have otherwise been by car — personal, rideshare, or taxi.

And while scooter-sharing’s relationship with public transportation is up for debate, it appears as though this newer mode of transportation might complement bus or subway systems. That same data from Lime also indicates 40% of users got to or from public transit stations on one of its scooters.

electric-scooters-in-san-francisco-6

electric-scooters-in-san-francisco-5

Source: Lime

It’s worth mentioning that Lime’s survey sample was 7,000 scooter riders in San Francisco — for context, that’s about .08% of the city’s population, which has placed a market cap of 1,250 Lime-S scooters (which 93.8% of the company’s survey respondents said was too few).

But outside of this tech-centric metropolis, what do people think of scooter-sharing? According to our data, most haven’t really heard of it.

090a6ebd-0d92-415b-a41f-32b60192607b

This data raises the question: Can scooter-sharing go mainstream, and if it can, how will it get there?

The Sustainability of Scooter-Sharing

Here’s the thing about ride-sharing systems that use traditional automobiles: They’re complicated.

Lyft, for instance, has communicated an intention of reducing car ownership overall by making its services more widespread. That can have several implications for the environment, city planning, aging populations, and others who drive less for a number of reasons.

But Christina Bonnington of Slate points out a bit of a contraction there: Although “250,000 Lyft users abandoned vehicle ownership in favor of ride-sharing, and half of its users reported driving less frequently now … the company put 520,000 additional drivers on the streets” in 2017.

How good that is for the environment is up for debate.

That’s where the impact of bike- and scooter-sharing programs come in. The scooters run on battery power, eliminating any fossil fuel emissions. As for bicycles — well, they’ve been known as one of the eco-friendliest and healthiest modes of transportation for years.

The same could soon be said of traveling by scooter. Lime, for its part, reports that more than 250,000 trips have been taken on its scooters since its San Francisco launch, which translates to an “offset in airborne pollutants … equivalent to 280,389 lbs CO2 saved.”

And while it might not be a vigorous cardiovascular workout, it could be argued that it’s still healthier than a mode of transportation where the commuter is largely sitting — whether that’s in a car, bus, or subway train.

But just as many emerging transportation trends before it — like ride-sharing and autonomous vehicles (the second of which is still in it earliest days) — there are safety concerns to consider alongside the benefits. Scooter riders still need to share the road with cars (riding on sidewalks is discouraged), and as I mentioned earlier, the enforcement of the helmet requirement is ambiguous.

If I had to predict scooter-sharing’s viability, I would specifically point out how, historically, transportation and related safety concerns have evolved. Automobiles, for example, didn’t always have seatbelts. Once upon a time, helmet laws for traditional bike riders didn’t exist. And as for ride-sharing, we’re watching it continue to iron out its kinks in real time.

But have a look at the progression of user numbers within the ride-sharing industry since 2016 — and where it’s expected to go by 2022. 

Screen Shot 2018-07-05 at 2.56.03 PM

Source: Statisa

When Uber first emerged in 2009, it was nearly unheard of — especially on the east coast. There were few drivers. The idea seemed like a radical novelty. And getting a ride took, if I remember correctly, at least 20 minutes before the car arrived.

At present, scooter-sharing appears to be at a similar point. There appears to be some lack of awareness around it, as well as accessibility — the service is in its earliest stages and is only available in a limited number of cities.

Despite this lack of awareness, investors have taken note.

Take Lime, for instance, which recently received a direct investment from Alphabet (Google’s parent company) — which is part of a bigger $300 million funding round. That round also includes GV — Alphabet’s investment arm — which was also an earlier investor in Uber.

Are we seeing a pattern yet?

Whether good or bad, the concept of scooter-sharing raises eyebrows — and could be here to stay. Let’s watch, and see where this new, niche ride takes us.

How to Find Out Why You Didn’t Get the Job

You send in a stellar resume. You blow the recruiter away in the phone screen. And you wow everyone you speak with during your in-person interview. And yet, you still don’t get the job. Worst of all, you don’t know why you didn’t get it — you either didn’t hear back at all, or received feedback so vague that it’s virtually useless (e.g. “We decided to go with another candidate who was a better fit.”) Is there anything worse?

It’s incredibly frustrating when a recruiter or hiring manager doesn’t share a concrete reason why you were passed over, but if it happens to you, don’t worry. Often, there’s still a way to figure out what went wrong — here’s how.

1. Reach Out to the Decision Maker

If you have the contact info of the hiring manager, it’s best to chat with them rather than a recruiter or HR representative, says Ren Burgett, career coach and owner of 3R Coach.

“An HR manager or recruiter is more likely to give you a programmed HR response such as, ‘We found a candidate that was a better fit for our needs.’ The hiring manager is more likely to give you a candid response,” she explains.

If you haven’t already been in touch with the hiring manager, though, you may want to reach out to someone who can point them in your direction.

“If you don’t have their contact details, you need to get in touch with whoever your point of contact was throughout the recruitment process. Even if they can’t provide feedback themselves, they will be able to pass your query onto someone who can,” says Steve Pritchard, HR Manager at Cuuver.com.

When you haven’t been given the hiring manager’s contact information, it can be tempting to bypass your point of contact and look them up on LinkedIn or Google their email address, but this is a mistake, Pritchard says: “They may not feel too comfortable with you contacting them using a number/email they didn’t provide you with.”

2. Express Gratitude

Nobody wants to engage with a candidate who sounds demanding or presumptuous, so make sure to open your message with a note of thanks.

“Thanking someone for [taking the] time to interview you and provide the opportunity can always start the conversation in a positive manner,” says Shanalee Sharboneau, President and Technical Recruiter at Staffing Science, LLC.

In particular, you should express gratitude for the fact that they are going out of their way to read your note. After all, they don’t have to share feedback with you.

“Show in your request for feedback that you appreciate the recruiter or hiring manager is likely to be busy. This way, you don’t sound too pushy or demanding,” Pritchard adds.

3. Be Positive

You may be upset that you didn’t get the job, but remember: you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. It’s okay to acknowledge that you’re disappointed with the outcome, but don’t express resentment or aggression.

Show “that you are understanding of their decision not to hire you, otherwise, you may sound bitter about not getting the job rather than someone looking for honest feedback to help them with their job search,” Pritchard continues.

And instead of taking a self-deprecating approach like “How did I screw up” or “Where did I go wrong”, frame the conversation as a quest for personal growth.

“Don’t make your question about ‘why’ you didn’t get the job, make your question about ‘how’ you can improve. People are more likely to respond to someone that seeks out growth as opposed to someone that just wants answers,” Burgett says.

4. Keep it Short and Specific

When reaching out for feedback, “make your email no more than one paragraph,” Burgett recommends. After all, they are probably plenty busy with their day-to-day tasks, so you want to make sure to honor their time.

You can save them even more time by avoiding general questions like “Why didn’t I get the job?” and instead drilling down into a few precise issues. Burgett recommends including “two to three specific questions [that] you would like feedback on from the interview process.”

One question that Laura Handrick, Career Analyst at FitSmallBusiness.com, recommends asking is “what might you have done, said or provided differently that would have made the company choose YOU instead of the other candidate.”

5. Open the Door for Future Opportunities

Just because you were rejected from a job doesn’t always mean that you can never apply there again — you may have been a close second. At the end of your message, reiterate your interest in the company (if you are truly interested) and consider adding something like “if anything changes, I’d love to connect regarding future opportunities.”

“That will go far, and many times, new hires fail in the first few months. They’ll remember your graciousness,” Handrick says.

You can also see if they might be willing to refer you to another opportunity.

“Always end the email by asking if they know of anyone else you can reach out to as you continue your job search. If you didn’t get the job, perhaps you can get a lead [for] another job. Use this as an opportunity to network,” Burgett says.

6. Be Patient and Ready to Take No for an Answer

If the person you reach out to fails to respond, don’t ping them every day until they do.

“Giving feedback, particularly constructive feedback, is hard, so allowing time for preparing will likely get you more thoughtful responses,” points out Dr. Dawn Graham, Career Management Director at the Wharton School and host of Career Talk.

Even if they never respond, you shouldn’t pester them, Graham adds.

“Companies tend to avoid giving candidates feedback to avoid opening themselves up to risk,” she explains. “In addition, many hirers have trouble putting their fingers on a clear definition of ‘fit’ or likability, which are two powerful aspects of hiring decisions that can be challenging to put into words. Therefore, they may pass on giving feedback to a rejected job seeker for the sheer reason that even they are unable to verbalize their final decision in a way that will be meaningful to the overlooked applicant.”

Sample Message

Want an example of what exactly you could say to a hiring manager? Burgett recommends the following:

Hi (Hiring Manager),

I wanted to thank you for the amazing opportunity to interview for the position of (job title) with your company. I really enjoyed learning about (company name) and getting to know you and your team during the interview process. I understand you have decided to move forward with another candidate that better fits your current needs.

As I continue my job search, I would love to get your feedback on how I can improve as a candidate. When you have a minute, could you provide insight into what I can improve upon to help me stand out and progress in my career? Specifically, I would appreciate feedback on the following:

1. What is the one skill I can improve upon to help advance my career that may be holding me back?

2. If I had the opportunity to redo my interview, what is the one thing I should have done differently?

I appreciate any candid feedback you can offer as it will help me understand the areas I need to improve. Additionally, if you know of any companies that may be hiring for similar positions or anyone else I should reach out to as I continue my job search, please let me know.

Again, thank you for the opportunity to interview for the position. I wish you and your team continued success.

Sincerely,

Your Name

There’s no doubt that getting rejected from a job you were interested in is upsetting, and it can be doubly so if you don’t hear actionable feedback from the hiring team. But odds are, it’s nothing personal, so try not to take it that way. And remember — the right job is out there. It’s only a matter of time until you find it.

This article originally appeared on Glassdoor and was re-published with permission.

29 Simple Ways to Grow Your Email List

I have some bad news: Your email marketing database degrades by about 22.5% every year.

Your contacts’ email addresses change as they move from one company to another, opt-out of your email communication, or abandon that old AOL address they only use to fill out forms on websites.

As a marketer, it’s your job to make sure you’re constantly adding fresh contacts to your email marketing campaigns so you can keep your numbers moving up and to the right. (But not by purchasing email lists — learn why you should never buy an email list in this post.)

If you’re not working on building your email list already, or you’ve run out of ideas to do so, here are 29 simple ways to grow that email list.

29 Creative List Building Techniques

Using Email

1. Create remarkable email content

Your content needs to be amazing if you want people to stay subscribed and forward your emails to their own network. If it’s entertaining enough, they’ll always look forward to your emails.

2. Encourage subscribers to share and forward your emails

Include social sharing buttons and an “Email to a Friend” button in your marketing emails. That way, you’ll gain access to their friends, colleagues, and networks and expand your contact list. At the bottom of your emails, include a “Subscribe” CTA as a simple text-based link so that the people receiving the forwarded emails can easily opt-in, too.

3. Segment your email lists by buyer persona

Use varying types of email subscriptions to send more targeted content to specific segments of your marketing personas. Email recipients are more likely to click through emails that cater to their specific interests, so if you create multiple, targeted subscription types, you’ll increase the chance that visitors will subscribe to one of them.

4. Reinvigorate a stale email list with an opt-in campaign

Do you have an older list that you suspect has mostly decayed? Create an engaging opt-in message and send it to your old list encouraging contacts who wish to re-opt-in — promising to remove all contacts who don’t respond. Though it might seem counterintuitive to remove folks from your email lists in order to grow them, emailing only engaged contacts could improve your deliverability and increase the odds of your email getting shared with those outside your current contacts database.

5. Add a link to your employees’ signatures

Hyperlinked email signatures can lead people to a landing page where they can sign up for your mailing list. Plus, if you’re already in a natural email conversation with them, subscribing to more emails can be a natural next step.

With New Content

6. Create a new lead-generation offer 

Develop a free ebook or whitepaper and host it on a landing page that asks visitors to provide their email address in order to download it. This is called a “gated offer.” (Need ideas? This blog post lists 23 ways to create lead-generation content quickly and easily.)

7. Create a free online tool or resource

Free online tools make your users’ lives easier, and all they have to do is sign up with their email address. For example, we’ve created quite a few free tools, like Marketing Grader, to gather email addresses.

8. Create ‘Bonus’ Content

Not all gated content is worth it to a website visitor. In order to gain their interest, you need to give them free content first. Start with a blog post that offers beginner advice on a subject, then offer “bonus” content with more advanced tips that they can access by submitting their email address via a landing page.

Using Social Media

9. Promote an online contest

Use your social media accounts to host a free giveaway in exchange for contact information. Encourage entrants to click through to your website and sign up using their email address. 

10. Promote one of your lead-gen offers on Twitter

Create a Twitter campaign to promote an ebook or a free resource to your followers that requires an email address to redeem. 

11. Promote an offer through Facebook that requires an email address

Promote content on your Facebook Timeline that your followers can sign up to access. Be sure to add social sharing buttons to the landing pages and thank-you pages you send them to so you encourage your leads to share those offers with their own networks.

12. Add a call-to-action button to the top of your Facebook Business Page

We added calls-to-action (CTAs) on our Facebook page for HubSpot Academy below. The value in this list building technique is in the destination: Link your Facebook page’s CTA button to a landing page that requires an email address for access to a special resource.

Facebook business page for HubSpot Academy with Sign Up button for email list building

13. Publish links to gated offers via social media

Use your Facebook Business page or LinkedIn Company Page to post links to the same gated offers you might also host on your blog posts. You can also do this in appropriate and relevant LinkedIn group discussions — just be mindful of the topic being discussed to ensure your offer is a welcome addition to the conversation.

14. Use Pinterest to promote gated visual content

Pinterest can play host to visual content that encourages visitors to sign up to see more content. For example, HubSpot created a Pinterest board where we pin the well-designed covers of our marketing ebooks. From this board, we’ve been able to generate new leads and grow our email list.

hubspot-ebooks-pinterest

15. Add engagement features to your YouTube channel

Add hyperlinked “end cards” to your YouTube videos that encourage people to subscribe to your channel via their email address. You can see an example of this below, to the bottom right of the video screen. You can also include links to relevant landing pages in your videos’ text captions below your published video.

End card on HubSpot YouTube video for email list building

On Your Website

16. Ask website visitors for feedback

People enjoy offering feedback on information that pertains to them. On certain pages of your website, include a form that asks visitors what questions they might have about your business. You might also create a live chat tool that invites questions and email addresses from people who have stayed on your website for a certain amount of time.

17. Shorten the length of your lead-capturing forms

It’s tempting to collect as much information on a user as possible right away, but adding too many fields to your landing pages and lead-capturing forms can actually scare people off. Reduce the length of your forms to just two to three fields — you can collect more information from them once you start a conversation.

18. Link to offers across your website that capture email signups

Don’t make people dig around your site to stumble across subscription options. Keep your offers up front, and include calls-to-action on multiple pages of your website. Some key places to consider include your website’s homepage, your ‘About Us’ page, and your ‘Contact Us’ page.

19. A/B test different campaign copy

You might be doing all the right things to generate leads — landing pages, gated content, contests, and more. The problem might be that the design or copy itself isn’t driving the engagement you need. A/B test (also known as “split test”) different aspects of your list-building campaigns with different versions of the same content. This includes the call-to-action text, the color of the gated offer, the time of day you’re posting to social media, and even where on your website these signup forms are placed. Sometimes a small change can drive hundreds more conversions.

20. Create a blog that readers can subscribe to

If you don’t already blog, you should! Blog posts help you increase your ranking on search engines like Google, and allow you collect blog subscribers that you can then upgrade to more actionable email campaigns over time.

21. Guest blog for other websites with a call-to-action

There are tons of websites and publishers out there that cater to your audience — and larger portions of it. Guest blogging for these websites helps you expand your contact list to this audience. When creating content as a guest blogger for another website, include a call-to-action, as well as a link in you author byline, for readers to subscribe to your site’s blog or email newsletter.

22. Include customer reviews on your website and landing pages

Customer reviews are the “social proof” that encourages people to join in on something. It’s one thing for you to tell people to sign up for a campaign, but it’s another thing for your happiest customers to say it too. Publish your best reviews from communities like Yelp right to your website. This adds genuine value to your landing pages when people are on the fence about submitting their contact information. 

With a Partner

23. Run a promotion on a partner website or email newsletter

Similar to guest blogging, partner websites can allow you to target a new but appropriate audience with a campaign on your own website. Use this partner source to direct visitors back to your website — where you’re already collecting email addresses.

24. Host a co-marketing offer with a partner 

Creating an ebook or webinar with a partner can split up the work of content creation and allow you to share the audience of a similar business. After you release your content, split the leads you generate with your partner.

With Traditional Marketing

25. Collect email addresses at a trade show 

Offline events like trade shows are highly anticipated growth opportunities for professionals in your industry. Demo your latest product at an appropriate conference and collect signups in-person. Once you’re back at the office, import these signups into your contact database. Be sure to send these contacts a welcome email that confirms their opt-in to your list. (See #8 in this blog post for tips on sending welcome emails.)

26. Host your own offline, in-person events

Meetups, seminars, hackathons, educational panels, and even your own conferences put you front and center of a networking event, and those who attend are often more qualified to be contacted because they came to your event. Take the opportunity to collect email addresses in exchange for the info and demos you provide at the event.

27. Host an online webinar

Webinars are the perfect opportunity to talk about your industry and access the audience of thought leaders whom you might want to present with. The best part? Webinars are normally registered for via email, making your listeners more willing to be contacted afterward. Collect email addresses at registration.

28. Add QR codes to your display ads

Incorporate a QR code into your print marketing collateral that people can scan for more information on the printed content. Create the QR code such that it requires an email address to access the additional content. (There are many free QR code makers online that make this process easy.)

29. Collect emails in your store

If you have a brick-and-mortar presence where you interact with customers face-to-face, create an email campaign just for those walk-ins. Launch a store membership they can sign up for via email at the register. This is a smart way to keep in touch with repeat customers and reward their loyalty to your product.

These are all examples of things you can start doing today to increase your business’ email database. Many of them are not complicated or difficult to implement. The key is to attack email list-building from as many angles as possible.

As you grow your email list with fresh, opt-in contacts, you’ll be able to nurture them with middle-of-the-funnel offers that allow you to convert early-stage leads into sales-ready leads.

lead flows

 
Free Download Beginner’s Guide to Email Marketing

The Best Coworking Office Spaces in Australia

It’s fair to say that Australia is one of the best places in the world to start a business, boasting a thriving tech industry and an entrepreneurial edge. But starting your own business comes with a ton of expenses — and one of the biggest is finding office space to work your magic in.

The good news is that you can vastly reduce this expense by opting to use one of Australia’s many coworking spaces, where you’ll also benefit from being in the midst of like-minded people who are willing to share ideas. (Not to mention, many of these spaces also offer free coffee!)

Sydney and Melbourne are two of the most active startup hubs in Australia, so we’ve put together a list of the best coworking spaces in each to help you find a space that works for you:

Sydney Coworking Spaces

  1. Fishburners
  2. Tank Stream Labs
  3. Spaces
  4. Hub Sydney
  5. Stone and Chalk

The Best Coworking Spaces in Australia

1. Fishburners

Image Source: Fishburners

Fishburners have locations in Sydney, Melbourne and Shangai, with the Sydney office alone boasting almost 300 companies working out of their space, as well as 500 visitors entering the premises each week. Fishburners also offers some handy perks such as free coffee and Red Bull, as well as a thriving community environment.

Pricing varies depending on the type of membership you choose, but you can take a free tour of Fishburners to get a feel for what membership package would best suit your needs. A huge bonus of joining Fishburners is that you get access to all of their locations mentioned above, regardless of your membership type.

2. Tank Stream Labs

Image Source: Tank Stream Labs

Tank Stream Labs (or TSL to those who know it well) bills itself as a “tech-focused, coworking community for startups and scaleups, with a global focus”. And it’s safe to say that they live up to that billing, with two offices in Sydney that house companies like Buzzfeed, Ashop, and formerly, GoDaddy. TSL also has a large community, with over 400 startups on the books in total and more than $300m raised to date by its members.

3. Spaces

Image Source: Spaces

Landing in Sydney’s Surry Hills from Amsterdam in 2016, Spaces offers 222 coworking desks to choose from, as well as three private meeting rooms. Spaces also provides a virtual office package that gives you access to a private office at Spaces locations for five days a month. If you’re not sure if Spaces is for you, they offer a free one-day trial so you can test their facilities out without dropping a cent.

Image Source: Startup Scene Australia

3. Hub Sydney

After originally opening a single office in Sydney’s William Street in 2013, Hub Sydney has now opened a second office located at Hyde Park in 2018. They offer day passes if you’re only passing through Sydney, or monthly memberships if you’d like a longer stay. Like Fishburners, you’ll get access to any of Hub Sydney’s other locations once you join the community. This means you can set up camp in places like Melbourne, London, Singapore, New York and Santa Monica.

Image Source: The Founder Lab

Based in Sydney’s Winyard Green, Stone and Chalk entered Australia as Asia’s largest Fintech coworking space, and it’s growing fast. It’s secured some impressive partners in Australia already, with the likes of NAB, HSBC and Suncorp amongst the many listed as corporate partners. Stone and Chalk also host regular in-office events with guest speakers from companies like Ernst and Young and Westpac.

Melbourne Coworking Spaces

  1. Framework
  2. Inspire9
  3. The Commons
  4. Hive Studio
  5. The Cluster

1. Framework

Image Source: Creative Spaces

Framework is one of the smaller coworking spaces on this list, but that doesn’t make it any less awesome. They’re based on the edge of Melbourne’s CBD with a tight-knit community of designers, developers, videographers, copywriters, marketing professionals and everything in between. Framework’s aim is to foster a social, professional and collaborative environment to nurture small business growth — you can even take the space for a test drive before making a decision.

2. Inspire9

Image Source: Creative Spaces

In business since 2011, Inspire9 is well known in the Melbourne startup community and has offices in both Richmond and Footscray. Like others on this list, Inspire9 holds regular in-office events and promote a strong focus on a collaborative environment between members. They’ve got packages to suit all needs, including daily and weekly passes, as well as a 24/7 residency package for the workaholics among us.

3. The Commons

Image Source: Creative Spaces

The Commons is one of the largest coworking spaces in Australia, with Eventbrite, Yeti and Almo among its members. The Commons has offices in Cremorne, South Melbourne and Collingwood, and offers a host of membership packages, including a customised private office. They’ve even got a photo studio and green screen if you need to get creative and save on the cost of a photo studio

Image Source: Hive Studio

4. Hive Studio

Located in Collingwood, Hive Studio offers a boutique workspace for small startup businesses, focusing on a community atmosphere and shared creative-minded environment. Depending on your needs, Hive Studio offers both desk space and office space, where you can rent up to seven desks in your own, lockable mini office. Pricing is also all-inclusive, so no hidden costs.

Image Source: Spacely

5. The Cluster

This is one of the best equipped coworking spaces on the list, with no less than six multimedia meeting rooms and 2,500m squared of hightech office space that overlooks the Yarra River in Melbourne’s CBD. They offer a multitude of packages including flexi desks and private offices, while also providing a call answering service as part of their higher-end packages. Members of The Cluster include Amaysim, Mexia and Point Advisory.

Those are, in my opinion, some of the best coworking spaces you’re likely to find. But, there’s a plethora of others available if none of these suit your needs. If you’re in the process of starting your own business in Australia and aren’t quite sure what you have to do next, you can also take a look at this handy checklist to help you tick off the main items on your list.

This Strategy Helped the HubSpot Blog Break a Year-Long Traffic Plateau

Presiding over a 10+ year old blog has a lot of unique challenges. There are some days when it seems like we’ve covered all there is to cover, and others when it doesn’t seem like we can possibly keep up with changing trends and technologies fast enough.

From where you sit, it might seem like we’ve figured it all out — we’re one of the largest and most visited B2B blogs on the internet, we have a team of extremely talented and motivated staff writers, and we still manage to find new stories you want to read on a daily basis.

But growth doesn’t just happen — you have to work at it, and then keep working at it.

There isn’t one magical strategy that will keep your blog growing forever. Your approach needs to constantly evolve to fit your changing needs as a property.

When I joined the HubSpot Blog team in 2016, our editorial strategy looked drastically different than it does now.

About once a month, our entire team would gather in a conference room for a brainstorm session. Armed with coffee and spreadsheets full of topic pitches, we’d spend a few hours going around the room, discussing what we wanted to cover for the month. At the end of the meeting, we’d leave with a solid list of articles to get started on.

For a long time, this process served our interests well. Our team developed a keen sense of what our audience wanted to read, and an extensive knowledge of what we’d already covered. But as our property grew and our audience expanded, it became clear that something was missing.

We could no longer manage our archives and identify topic gaps (areas we haven’t yet covered on the blog) by gut feeling alone. Although we had some processes in place to pinpoint gaps and select pieces for historical optimization on an article-by-article basis, none of these methods were scalable or precise enough to keep up with what our readers were searching for — and those issues starting catching up with us.

Rediscovering our momentum meant completely changing the way we plan, write, and optimize content. In March 2018, we started to see the impact of these changes: a new all-time traffic record across our three blogs — Marketing, Sales, and Service — and a renewed sense of purpose for the future. After months of traffic plateaus and uncertainty, we know where we’re headed now — and we’re ready to share our new strategy with you.

The Blog Traffic Plateau of 2017

I won’t sugarcoat it: 2017 was a tough year to be a blogger. Between 2014 and 2016, we’d become accustomed to seeing month-over-month traffic growth without regularly switching up our strategy. When 2017 hit, that line started to flatten out, and then — even more alarming — decline. And it wasn’t just us — Unbounce, Wordstream, and WordPress all saw some form of traffic decrease in 2017.

Traffic to the HubSpot Blog 2014 – 2017

To say we were confused would be an understatement. Up to this point, we thought we’d perfected the formula for sustainable traffic growth: Traffic from existing posts in organic search + new traffic from new posts = steadily increasing traffic, forever … right?

It turns out it wasn’t nearly that simple. Our usual protocol for fixing a slump — changing publishing volume, leaning into more clickable topics, historically optimizing a handful of our heavy-hitting posts — wasn’t having a significant impact. This downward trend wasn’t just a temporary dip in our numbers — it was starting to look like the new normal.

So we did what any good content marketing team would do, and cracked open our reporting dashboards to take a deeper look. Unfortunately, what we discovered after many hours of analysis and many coffees consumed wasn’t comforting. Much like the factors behind the mysterious decline of the bee population, there seemed to be multiple culprits converging to create a disaster.

We’d gone looking for a single root cause, and found several macro trends instead:

1. Social algorithms (and users) love native content.

Social media has long been a (relatively) dependable distribution channel for digital publishers, but recent algorithm changes across multiple social networks increasingly favor native content over links that take users off site. The shift makes perfect sense from the social networks’ perspectives — they want users to spend as much time as possible on their network — but it hurts publishers who depend on social traffic.

2. Conversational search is constantly improving.

Google has gotten a lot better at understanding the intent behind a specific query, and as a result, they’re able to serve up extremely relevant pieces of content to meet your exact query. This is great news if you regularly use a home assistant device, but bad news if you’re a publisher looking to capture organic traffic from multiple long-tail keywords with a single, comprehensive piece of content.

Back in 2012, a post on “The Best Interview Questions” might have appeared as a top result in searches for “great interview questions,” “interview questions to ask an interviewer,” and “what questions to ask during an interview.” But in 2018, those long-tail search queries are more likely to result in entirely different SERPs with entirely different top results. This means many of our “ultimate guides” started ranking for fewer long-tail keywords, resulting in organic traffic losses on some of our most highly-trafficked pieces.

3. Featured snippets and other on-page search features are taking a toll on CTR from SERPs.

You’re probably familiar with Google’s featured snippets: those short lists or paragraphs that appear at the top of a SERP and (usually) directly address your query. In addition to featured snippets, there are also a number of other on-page search features that push a piece of content ranking number one even further down your screen.

While these quick answers have certainly made the search experience faster for users, they’re eating our organic traffic — even on SERPs where we hold the number one organic result. People don’t have any reason to click through to a blog post (even if it’s ranking number one) if the answer they’re seeking is already on the top of the SERP. As a result, fewer users are clicking on the number one organic result. Ahrefs found that on SERPs without a featured snippet, the top result received 26% of clicks. When a featured snippet appeared on the SERP, the top result received only 19.6% of clicks.

None of these were things we could fix with a band-aid solution. These shifts called for a massive overhaul of our editorial strategy, and a completely new way of approaching blogging in general.

Our New Editorial Strategy

While these trends were scary for the future of our blog, they weren’t entirely surprising. We’d been aware for a while that future-proofing for Google algorithm changes meant restructuring our site architecture. Back in late 2016, Leslie Ye had begun the tedious and challenging work of transitioning the blog’s internal linking system into a pillar-cluster model. This move was intended to give us an organized way to understand our content gaps, and a cleaner architecture to help posts rank faster and bring in more organic traffic.

Thanks to a blog redesign project (headed up by Carly Stec) that automated this pillar-clustering process across the entire blog, our 10,000+ posts were neatly sorted into the pillar-cluster model by mid-2017. But our process for planning and writing new content hadn’t fully adjusted to work optimally within this new system. We had a much better understanding of where our content gaps were, but we weren’t filling these gaps systematically — we were still largely guessing when it came to the topics we should be writing about on a monthly basis.

We were also suffering from a lack of foresight: we weren’t planning for the search terms that would be popular a few years or even a few months into the future. This left room for other blogs and publications to capture organic green space that would be essential to our sustained growth down the line.

With this in mind, we made the decision to focus all our efforts behind stabilizing and growing our organic traffic. If our existing content was slowly but surely losing clicks to featured snippets in search, and our new content wasn’t consistently earning as much traffic from promotional channels like social, we needed to offset those losses. And that meant zeroing in on organic green space in a big way.

This led us to create three guidelines we now use to determine what net new content we create:

  1. Does this topic have search volume, or will have search volume in the future?
  2. Does it fit into our pillar-cluster model?
  3. Is it duplicative (is there a piece of content on this topic that already exists)?

If no one is searching for a topic, and we don’t anticipate the search demand to grow in the foreseeable future, there’s no long-term benefit in covering it. At least for our blog, posts created without a clear keyword in mind tend not to produce sustainable traffic after their first month of publication.

To rank these days, your site usually needs both depth and breadth on a topic — in other words, you need to cover a concept or subject at a high level, then dive deeper with specific, detailed posts. Using the pillar-cluster model (more on that here) makes our content much likelier to rank than if we published an individual post that targeted one or two keywords. If a blog post doesn’t fit into an existing cluster, it’s probably not worth our time and energy to write it.

As you can probably imagine, we’ve covered quite a bit of ground in our 10+ years as a blog. Some overlap is inevitable, but writing on the same exact topic more than once — even if the takeaways are ultimately different — can lead to self-competition in the SERPs. And if we’re already ranking highly for a topic, our efforts are better spent creating a piece of content for a SERP we’re not on at all instead of piling on where we already have valuable real estate.

If a topic doesn’t meet these three guidelines, we won’t create content around it. There are a few exceptions of course — The Marketing Blog’s news program (headed up by Amanda Zantal-Wiener) and thought leadership on topics we think our readers need to hear about — but for the most part, this organic-first strategy represents an enormous shift in the way we plan our editorial calendar and create content. Posts created with an organic goal in mind don’t always pay off immediately, but organic is the only type of traffic that can consistently pay off month over month.

The Editorial Process in Action

Adopting an aggressive organic-first approach required a serious mindset change for our team — one that required us to put aside our obsession (some would even say addiction) with quick wins, and instead put our primary focus on sowing seeds for the future. We weren’t going to publish a post with no strategic organic potential, even if we knew it would bring in a satisfying spike in traffic.

Ultimately, the temporary traffic from a quick-win post brought us nothing of value in the long run. To truly grow, we need to keep our eyes on the organic gaps in our pillar cluster model.

A big part of seeding for the future also means educating ourselves on emerging topics: subjects our readers aren’t too concerned with right now but that will eventually become trending search terms, like the nuts and bolts of artificial intelligence, or practical applications for blockchain. These are the technologies people will likely be searching for in droves in the future, and we want to get out ahead of the competition and position our blog as a resource right now — and earn the traffic when the search volume spikes.

So how exactly do we select which topics to cover? We’ve talked about the reasons behind our new strategy, now let’s see what this process actually looks like on a quarterly basis.

Stage One: Planning

We’ve partnered internally with our SEO team to create a blog taskforce of sorts, headed up by our former Sales Blog Editor and current Sr. SEO Strategist Aja Frost. Each quarter, Aja conducts in-depth keyword research across our three onsite blog properties (Marketing, Sales, and Service), taking into account both gaps in our existing topic clusters, and emerging topics we haven’t yet thoroughly constructed content clusters around.

The resulting quarterly report includes well over 100 post suggestions broken down by topic clusters for each blog. Here’s what our completed “Advertising” cluster looks like on the report:

Stage Two: Execution

Our Multimedia Content Strategy team handles the creation of each cluster’s pillar page (the long-form piece of content that serves as a broad, foundational resource on the subject), and the Blog team owns the production of the supporting blog articles that delve deeper into specific subtopics. Most of the articles need to be written from scratch, but in some cases, we already have a blog post in existence that just needs to be updated to include a fresher, more exhaustive take on the subject.

SEO optimization has always been a consideration for our team when writing posts, but under this new strategy, its become a top priority. Before a single word is typed on a first draft, our writers already have information from our SEO team on the keyword(s) to target, section titles (H2s) to include, and featured snippet sections to work into the copy.

Here’s an example of a typical article assignment on our editorial calendar:

Targeting featured snippets with consistently formatted sections has removed some (but definitely not all) of the guesswork when it comes to ranking for featured snippets. Matthew Howells-Barby, HubSpot’s Director of Acquisition, has stressed that clean and consistent code is a significant factor in winning snippets.

His team created a simple code our writers can use when formatting sections of copy for paragraph or list snippets. Not only has our team started incorporating featured snippet sections into all our new posts, but we’ve also historically “snippetized” hundreds of posts from our archives to help Google surface them more frequently.

If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you’ve likely encountered these snippet boxes before:

While there’s unfortunately not a 100% guaranteed formula to win featured snippets, this method has helped our team capture more than 6,300 featured snippets as of June 2018.

In addition to optimizing our articles more intentionally for featured snippets, we’ve also adopted a more aggressive historical optimization approach in 2018. Our team has had a historical optimization strategy in place for several years now, but it’s been years since we’ve had a full-time human dedicated to making sure our existing content is performing optimally in search.

Braden Becker, a Senior Staff Writer on the Blog team, has taken on the task of monitoring the organic performance and optimization of our 10+ years worth of archives as a full-time responsibility. Each month, Braden works with our SEO team to develop an update strategy that works with the new content clusters we’re producing. He selects posts for updating largely based on their individual monthly organic traffic — “the better they’re performing, the higher the potential benefit once I optimize them,” he explains.

Stage Three: Analyze

Once a month, the Content and SEO teams meet to discuss our progress, dig into the numbers, and plan for the next few weeks. We examine organic traffic numbers across our three blog properties, report on featured snippet attainment and loss, and discuss new ways we can adapt to Google’s ever-changing algorithm.

The biggest shift in our reporting method under our new organic-first strategy has been a mental (and, I’ll say it, emotional) one. Although we still report at a monthly cadence, we’ve had to largely abandon our fixation with month-over-month growth, and instead focus on broader trends over longer periods of time.

When I first joined the Blog team, month-over-month growth was the ultimate goal. If the end-of-month traffic number beat out the previous month, we considered it a success; if that number was in the red — a lost month. No matter what, the slate was wiped clean on the first day of the next month, and we started the race all over again. This short-term mentality led us to become so focused on hitting monthly numbers, we ended up neglecting the bigger picture: our blog’s health and continued growth over time. Enter the traffic plateau of 2017.

Under our new editorial strategy, we’re more focused on seeding for the future — and that means letting go of our monthly traffic goals. An article we publish this month on “How to Create a Content Marketing Strategy for Virtual Reality” might not have a ton of search volume right now, but we’re betting it will sometime in the future. It might be many months before we see the rewards reflected in our traffic numbers, and we have to be okay with waiting, knowing we’re setting ourselves up well for the future.

As a result of this strategy, our team’s mindset has gone from “We’ll do anything to smash our monthly traffic goals” to “Stick to the plan.”

Getting out in front of future search terms and filling gaps in our existing topic cluster structure will pay off more than watching the monthly traffic numbers rise over a few well-timed, clickable posts.

What challenges is your blog facing? How are you approaching growth in 2018? Talk to us @HubSpot.

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How to Start a Business in Australia

Embarking on a new business venture is both exciting and terrifying in equal measure. On one hand, you’ll finally be the boss; the master of your own destiny who’s pursuing success in something that you’re truly passionate about. On the other hand, you now have a laundry list of things that you need to tick off before you even start to make sure everything kicks off smoothly.

Whereas working for someone else alleviates these responsibilities, the startup owner takes on all these stresses themselves. Not only that, every country has different laws, regulations and requirements to get your business up and running. So, even if you’ve started a business in one country, you’ve still got to do a pile of research to make sure you do it properly in another.

To help you out in Australia, at least, we’ve put together a list of the main things you need to sort out when starting a business Down Under:

How to Start a Business in Australia

1. Choose your business structure.

The structure you choose for your business is very important, as it has a direct effect on things such as:

  • Your level of control
  • The amount of tax you need to pay
  • Regulatory obligations
  • Health and safety requirements in the workplace
  • The level of personal liability you will incur

There are four structures on which you can build your business in Australia:

  • Sole trader: This is when you register someone (usually, yourself) as the sole owner of the business. That means you’re responsible for all legal aspects of running the business, but you’re entitled to hire people to work for you.
  • Company: This is a commercial business or entity that has a separate legal existence to its shareholders.
  • Partnership: A Partnership is when more than one person and/or entities run a business together, but not in the form of a company.
  • Trust: A Trust is an entity that is in possession of property, income, or any other assets for the benefit of a third party.

Image Source: AnyBusiness.com

You must decide on the structure of your business before you register it, as each structure entails different steps to do so. Along with this, it’s worth noting that you might change the structure of your business as it grows and evolves over time.

2. Pick a business type.

With a structure in place, you can better understand the type of business you’re likely to need. There are a myriad of business types to choose from, and some of the main types include:

  • An online business
  • A franchise
  • Independent contractor

Every industry has a different set of legal obligations and regulatory requirements, so it’s crucial that you pick the business type that best suits your industry.

3. Apply for an Australian Business Number (ABN) and register your business name.

You can’t legally start a business in Australia unless you own an ABN. This is an 11-digit number that is unique only to your business and acts as a government identifier for the business.

Once you’ve got an ABN, you’ll be able to:

  • Register your business name
  • Identify your business to other entities for things like ordering goods and services or sending invoices
  • Claim taxes such as Goods and Services Tax (GST)
  • Avail of credits for things like energy grants

It’s best to decide on your business name before you go about creating assets like your website URL, logo or any other designs. Otherwise, you’ll need to change everything in the event that your business name changes. If you do create a business logo, it’s worth considering if you need to patent it to protect yourself from copyright infringement.

You can register your ABN and business name separately if you wish, but it’s easier to apply for both at the same time here.

Image Source: Department of Industry, Innovation & Science

4. Register your domain name.

You can only complete this step after you’ve secured your business name and ABN as it’s only possible to get a .com.au address if you’re a registered Australian business. The domain name you pick should be related to your business in some way and make it easy for prospective customers to find and recognize.

While you might have the perfect domain to go with a killer business name, you’ll still need to check that someone else hasn’t taken it already. Luckily, there are plenty of sites out there that can help you with that — here’s one of them to give you a head start.

Image Source: Instant Domain Search

Once you’ve found a domain name that isn’t taken, you can go to the .au Domain Administration Ltd (.auDA) website to find links to domain registrars and resellers. Here, you’ll get an idea of how much you’ll have to pay to secure your domain name.

4. Identify your funding source.

If you’re like the majority of new startups, cash flow will be your primary concern. You can have the best business plan in the world, but it won’t be of any use if you don’t have the money to keep the lights on while you’re getting your feet on the ground. With this, it’s important to know what resources are available to make the initial growth period a lot easier.

While there aren’t many government grants to help you start your business, there are plenty of options that are specific to each state. For example, if you’re starting a business in Adelaide, you can apply for a cool $20,000 Small Business Development Fund.

Image Source: Department of Industry, Innovation & Science

There are other grants based on:

  • Taking your idea to market
  • Marketing and sales
  • Buying equipment
  • Importing and exporting
  • Employing people

Check out this page for a full list of grant types that can help fund parts of your venture.

5. Register for the correct taxes.

As the saying goes: “The only certainties in life are death and taxes.” Unfortunately, this is also true if you start a business in Australia – you absolutely must register for the correct taxes to avoid any potential legal implications. The taxes you must register for are dependent on the type of business you choose to start, with some applicable to every type and others only mandatory for certain types.

Some examples include:

  • Goods and Services Tax (GST) – this is compulsory if your business has a turnover of $75,000 AUD or higher
  • Pay as You Go (PAYG) withholding tax – this is required if you need to withhold an amount for tax purposes, such as paying wages or salaries
  • Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) – if you’re lucky enough to be able to provide perks like a company car to your employees, then you’ll need to register for this

You can get more details on tax types by clicking here.

With the above essentials sorted, you’re almost good to go. But, we do have one last tip for you – starting a business is a tough task that’s made a lot easier if you can find ways to save money and build a solid network of peers and partners to work with.

A great way of doing both is to set up shop in one of Australia’s many coworking spaces. You’ll save a tonne of money on office costs and also open the door to networking opportunities which can lead to other benefits down the line.

Whatever you do and wherever you decide to start your business, we wish you the very best of luck!

Decision Trees: The Simple Tool That'll Make You a Radically Better Decision Maker

When faced with an important decision, there are a variety of informal methods you can use to visualize various outcomes and choose an action — perhaps you talk it out with a colleague, make a pros and cons list, or investigate what other leaders have done in similar situations.

Particularly when it comes to marketing, this can feel risky — what if my colleague is so attached to a new product, she doesn’t want to mention any of its shortcomings? What if my marketing team doesn’t mind office growth, but they haven’t considered how it will affect our strategy long-term?

Sometimes, you can’t make a decision properly without introducing a formal decision-making method. In cases like those, you might need a decision tree.

The visual element of a decision tree helps you include more potential actions and outcomes than you might’ve if you just talked about it, mitigating risks of unforeseen consequences. Plus, the diagram allows you to include smaller details and create a step-by-step plan, so once you choose your path, it’s already laid out for you to follow.

Here, we’ll show you how to create a decision tree and analyze risk versus reward. We’ll also look at a few examples so you can see how other marketers have used decision trees to become better decision makers.

Decision Tree Analysis

Let’s say you’re deciding whether to advertise your new campaign on Facebook, using paid ads, or on Instagram, using influencer sponsorships.

For the sake of simplicity, we’ll assume both options appeal to your ideal demographic and make sense for your brand.

Here’s a preliminary decision tree you’d draw for your advertising campaign:

As you can see, you want to put your ultimate objective at the top — in this case, Advertising Campaign is the decision you need to make.

Next, you’ll need to draw arrows (your branches) to each potential action you could take (your leaves).

For our example, you only have two initial actions to take: Facebook Paid Ads, or Instagram Sponsorships. However, your tree might include multiple alternative options depending on the objective.

Now, you’ll want to draw branches and leaves to compare costs. If this were the final step, the decision would be obvious: Instagram costs $10 less, so you’d likely choose that.

However, that isn’t the final step. You need to figure out the odds for success versus failure. Depending on the complexity of your objective, you might examine existing data in the industry or from prior projects at your company, your team’s capabilities, budget, time-requirements, and predicted outcomes. You might also consider external circumstances that could affect success.

In the Advertising Campaign example, there’s a 50% chance of success or failure for both Facebook and Instagram. If you succeed with Facebook, your ROI is around $1,000. If you fail, you risk losing $200.

Instagram, on the other hand, has an ROI of $900. If you fail, you risk losing $50.

To evaluate risk versus reward, you need to find out Expected Value for both avenues. Here’s how you’d figure out your Expected Value: take your predicted success (50%) and multiply it by the potential amount of money earned ($1000 for Facebook). That’s 500.

Then, take your predicted chance of failure (50%) and multiply it by the amount of money lost (-$200 for Facebook). That’s -100.

Add those two numbers together. Using this formula, you’ll see Facebook’s Expected Value is 400, while Instagram’s Expected Value is 425.

With this predictive information, you should be able to make a better, more confident decision — in this case, it looks like Instagram is a better option. Even though Facebook has a higher ROI, Instagram has a higher Expected Value, and you risk losing less money.

While the Advertising Campaign example had qualitative numbers to use as indicators of risk versus reward, your decision tree might be more subjective. For instance, perhaps you’re deciding whether your small startup should merge with a bigger company. In this case, there could be math involved, but your decision tree might also include more quantitative questions, like: Does this company represent our brand values? Yes/No. Do our customers benefit from the merge? Yes/No.

To clarify this point, let’s take a look at some diverse decision tree examples.

Decision Tree Examples

The following example is from SmartDraw, a free flowchart maker:

Example One: Project Development

Here’s another example from Become a Certified Project Manager blog:

Example 2: Office Growth

Here’s an example from Statistics How To:

Example 3: Develop a New Product

To see more examples or use software to build your own decision tree, check out some of these resources:

Remember, one of the best perks of a decision tree is its flexibility. By visualizing different paths you might take, you might find a course of action you hadn’t considered before, or decide to merge paths to optimize your results.

4 Things We Want to Know After Reading Mary Meeker's 2018 Internet Trends Report

Each year, marketers, tech writers, and overall online enthusiasts await the release of the 2018 Internet Trends Report: an annual presentation by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner Mary Meeker, covering the year’s most pivotal statistics and trends in the online realm.

The report, while citing key data points — growth in certain areas of internet use, online shopping trends, and indicators of the future of the workplace — is exhaustively comprehensive. Meeker leaves no stone unturned, identifying numerous pivotal areas where online user behavior is changing, and where investors, marketers, and others should take note.

The full presentation — which took place earlier this week at the 2018 annual Code Conference — can be viewed here.

And even though Meeker’s report covers an impressive amount of ground, the information and insights it contains often end up raising additional questions. If the current is true of X, then what does the future look like for Y?

Here are a few key questions we have about the 2018 Internet Trends Report — and what the future of tech looks like.

4 Questions We Have About Mary Meeker’s 2018 Internet Trends Report

1. The time internet users spend online has increased, but when it comes to the number of new internet users, growth has significantly slowed. Does the future of growth reside in ways for people to connect, rather than getting more people online?

According to Meeker’s report, 2017 saw 3.6 billion internet users globally: a total that amounts to more than half of the world’s population.

“When markets reach [the] mainstream,” she writes, “new growth gets harder to find — evinced by 0% new smartphone unit shipment growth in 2017.”

In other words, with the internet becoming more accessible to more people, growth among new users slows. However, among those who are online, the time spent there has increased.

Source: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

“It seems like we’ve reached a point where more internet users would require a greater investment in infrastructure, especially in underserved or underdeveloped regions,” says HubSpot Social Media Editor Henry Franco.

It’s what HubSpot Head of SEO Victor Pan says is called the “last mile problem”: a term often used for supply chain or transportation to describe the final leg in the process of delivering a good or service to end consumers. That “last mile,” as the saying goes, is typically the least efficient step and said by some to be the most expensive part of the delivery process.

It applies to global internet access, Pan says, “because getting the internet to the last part of that population is really expensive,” largely because of its location in areas that are what he describes as “far and sparse.”

Where any product is available in a limited capacity, costs increase. “The remaining areas of the world without internet access are likely less able to afford it,” Pan explains. “In that case, you see the overall growth of internet users slowing down.”

What we’ll end up seeing, Franco predicts, “is a greater investment in more ways to connect existing users, rather than getting new users online.”

But even so, focusing innovation on new ways to connect people, rather than getting more of the population connected in the first place, is not without drawbacks, he says. “That could exacerbate skill, knowledge, and privilege gaps that already exist as a result.”

2. If the answer to Question 1 is “yes,” could this trend be a “golden ticket” for emerging technology like virtual reality, which has struggled to get a strong foothold in consumer and business markets alike? 

“Let’s assume the answer is ‘yes,'” Pan says. “The golden ticket isn’t actually virtual reality … but rather, a decreased cost for internet access as competition and alternatives increase.”

So the future of growth, then, could be less about the new ways the large volume of people who are already online will start to connect (or the emerging technologies that will support them) — and more about better options for access.

It brings up the question of technology like 5G, which, while considered emerging, is more concerned with better connectivity options than the more niche tools — see: VR — that are “added benefits” of being online.  

At this year’s Mobile World Congress, for instance, 5G dominated many of the discussions and presentations, with multiple mobile device manufacturers and wireless providers battling to be the top provider of this new type of connectivity. The “G” stands for generation, in that this is the fifth generation of this type of connectivity. Currently, 4G powers cellular connectivity like LTE. 

Its goal, fittingly, is to support the rising number of mobile internet users, by providing better speed, handling more data, greater responsiveness, and connectivity to smart devices.

internettrendsreport2018-180530164809(3)

Source: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

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Source: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

And while developing new technology to improve the experience of a growing mobile-first base is crucial, Pan wonders if even that’s moving too far ahead of the “last mile” too quickly.

“Most of the people reading this report, I imagine, are in first-world countries and take 4G granted,” he says. “Most of the world connects to a 3G connection — which may lead to poor mobile video streaming experiences, because it’s cost-prohibitive. Costs need to come down for user behavior to change.”

3. Meeker speaks to the “privacy paradox”: that as innovation becomes a broader channel for growth, it involves a higher degree of personalization that can inevitably require personal user data. Can there be innovation with regulation?

Data privacy has been a widely-discussed and contested topic as of late, ranging from revelations of personal Facebook data misuse by third parties, to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into force last month.

Often, this personal data is used for a purpose that the name suggests: a personalized experience. Facebook, as the company’s executives have long used as a defense, leverages data and information provided by users to personalize the ads and other content they see in the News Feed, for example.

But as the subject of data privacy becomes more front-and-center, especially amid these current events, many consumers are debating the value of privacy over a personalized experience. Meeker calls this the “privacy paradox.”

“Many usability improvements are based on data – collected during the taps/clicks/movements of mobile device users,” writes Meeker. “This creates a privacy paradox … Internet Companies continue to make low-priced services better, in part, from user data. Internet Users continue to increase time spent on Internet services based on perceived value. Regulators want to ensure user data is not used ‘improperly.’”

internettrendsreport2018-180530164809(4)

Source: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

The possibility of regulating personal data (and the Big Tech companies that are often in possession of it) within the U.S. has also been a frequent topic of discussion this year, regardless of how likely it actually is. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress in two days of hours-long hearings in April, and appeared before European Parliament in May. 

But regardless of what these appearances are worth, they do raise the question: Can there be innovation with regulation?

“Meeker’s slides tell a compelling story about the lack of general adaptability of U.S. laws towards tech,” says Franco. “Our data laws are more than 43 years out of date — especially as compared to Japan, Korea, and the EU, which have all gotten updates in the last year or so.”

internettrendsreport2018-180530164809(5)

Source: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

Pan, for his part, says that there’s a global struggle to find a balance of the two. 

“There two ends of the spectrum,” he explains. “One, the government has a hand in all that private data — like China, or even the U.S. with the PRISM program,” the latter being the collection of online communication activity by the National Security Agency, which made headlines when whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked information on the program and was forced to flee the country.

On the other end of the spectrum, Pan says, there are regions like the European Union, “where data privacy is heavily regulated to protect consumers.”

So, is there a balance — a middle ground along this spectrum — in the future?

“I think there will be innovation there,” says Pan. “I can imagine web hosting companies collecting, handling, and keeping personally identifiable information secure and data privacy compliant to their respective countries — for a price.”

The idea of “data protection for a price” is not new, nor is it tremendously popular, according to our research. When we surveyed a panel of 893 consumers — almost evenly divided among the U.S., UK, and Canada — to find out how many would pay for an ad-free version of Facebook, 64% said “no.”

But knowing how this will impact innovation and the industry at-large, Franco explains, would require a side-by-side comparison of what these varying levels of regulation look like — especially in the months following GDPR coming into force.

“That would make a really interesting case study,” he says, “on the impact on innovation of self-regulation, versus government regulation of tech companies.”

4. What, if any, is the psychological impact of the growing amount of time we spend online?

Finally, we revisit the trend of those who are already online spending more time there. According to Meeker’s report, the average number of daily hours with digital media (among online adults) increased 4% in 2017.

The debate over disconnecting is also not new. As we spend more time on our devices, there’s a market for getting away from them, with some organizations advertising, essentially, digital detoxes for hire.

This growing amount of time online is particularly true of time spent on social media, according to the report, with the average global daily minutes spent on such networks increasing by 50% between 2012 and 2017 — for users ranging as young as 16, and as old as 64.

internettrendsreport2018-180530164809(6)

Source: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

It begs the question: What is the psychological impact of this behavior?

“A lot of teens who come to me for therapy often cite social media as a source of stress,” says Laurie Paul, Ph.D., a psychologist in the Washington, D.C. area. “Many of them talk about inter-personal conflicts with peers that are started or intensified by posts on social media.”

This phenomenon, Dr. Paul explains, has real-life consequences.

“I’ve had many teens talk to me about experiencing bullying from peers on social media, and that this causes a lot of anxiety,” she says. “Skipping school, changing friend groups, entire school years ruined — because of being a target of bullying on social media.”

It’s not limited to teens, either. When I asked Dr. Paul if she’s observed similar effects among adults, the answer was, “Yes.”

“I’ve also seen conflicts among young adults that started on social media,” she elaborates. “For example, around Father’s Day, I had several clients who were upset, because one of their siblings posted about how wonderful their father was, but in actuality, the father abandoned the family or was abusive.”

Again, this online (specifically, social media) behavior had real-life implications.

“These posts led to resentment, feeling invalidated, and sparked conflict with the sibling who made the post,” Dr. Paul explains. “Sometimes, it sparked broader conflict and taking sides among several members of the family.”

So with this concentrated amount of time spent on social media being a fairly recent phenomenon — with the most explosive growth, it seems, having taken place over a period of only five years — what are the possible long-term impacts?

“I can only hypothesize. I teach college classes, too, in addition to my clinical practice, and I’ve observed short attention spans,” says Dr. Paul. “I wonder if this is related to students spending a lot of time online and being able to rapidly click until they find something interesting.”

Until next year’s report — we’ll continue to observe the gradual impact of these trends, and how they evolve.

Featured image attribution: By Jasveer10 [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons / Cropped from original

The Beginner's Guide to Google Tag Manager

Collecting data using tools like Google Analytics is critical for expanding your business’s online reach, converting leads into customers, and optimizing a digital marketing strategy to create stronger relationships with your audience.

However, collecting data is easier said than done. Google Analytics and other similar analytics tools aid the process, but they work more effectively with the addition of tags.

Tags, in a general sense, are bits of code you embed in your website’s javascript or HTML to extract certain information.

For marketers, necessary tag information typically includes how long users visit a page on your site, form submissions, how they arrived on your site, which links they clicked, or even what products they removed from their shopping cart.

Each tag tracks something different. For instance, you might create a tag just to see how many people fill out the form on your “Contact Us” page. That tag can then send more precise information to Google Analytics, or AdWords, or another third party.

Unfortunately, manually coding tags can be a tedious and difficult process for marketers without much development or coding experience, and it’s time-consuming to fill out tickets for the IT department.

With Google Tag Manager, your whole tagging process becomes much easier. All you do is embed a code into your site pages once, and then each time you want to create a tag, Google Tag Manager codes it and embeds it for you.

Google Tag Manager does a few things: first, it allows your developers and IT department to focus on bigger-picture tasks by eliminating the burden of coding each individual marketing tag.

Second, since Google Tag Manager codes the tags for you, it significantly reduces the possibility of human error.

And third, Google Tag Manager enables your marketing department to take complete control over the tags they create and monitor. Giving your marketers full reign over their tags increases efficiency. Plus, using tags improves the accuracy of your analytics system, guaranteeing higher-quality reports and a better sense of your true online audience.

With all that said, it’s still a tool you might want to try for yourself before deciding if it’s a perfect fit — perhaps you already have a tagging system in place, or you don’t feel you need that level of organization, since your website doesn’t usually need new tags.

Google Tag Manager is free, so you can try it out virtually risk-free. Here, we’ll show you how to set up an account, how to create a new tag, how to use Google Tag Manager with your Google Analytics account, and how to embed the tool in WordPress.

After that, you can decide for yourself if it’s the right system for your business.

Google Tag Manager Tutorial: Set Up an Account

Setting up a free account is an easy two-step process, but it’s separate from any of your other Google Analytics or Gmail accounts. To ensure a painless set-up for you, we’ve recorded our process for setting up an account.

Here’s what you do:

1. Go to https://www.google.com/analytics/tag-manager and click the green “Sign Up for Free” button. It will ask you to input your account name (company), country, and website URL, as well as where you want to use Google Tag (web, iOS, android, AMP). When you’re finished, click the blue “Create” button.

2. Next, you’ll be given codes and instructions to include one code high in the <head> of your page, and the other after the opening <body> tag. You can do this now, or apply the codes to your site later (they are accessible in your dashboard). Once you’re done, click “Ok”. 

Google Tag Manager Tutorial: Set Up a Tag

Once you have a Google Tag Manager account, the first thing you’re going to want to learn is how to set up a tag.

You can create unlimited configurations of tags in Google Tag Manager.

This is helpful for creating in-depth reports on your audience’s behavior, but it can become inefficient if you don’t organize your tags properly.

Google recommends using the following naming convention: tag type – name of app – detail.

Perhaps you name one tagging configuration, “AdWords conversions – iOS – 2018-02 campaign” and then another, “Google Analytics – CTA – About Us page”.

This way, you can correctly identify and collect data related to specific campaigns or pages.

For instance, the second tag, “Google Analytics – CTA – About Us page,” tells you how well your About Us call-to-action button is performing. That information is valuable, and might be lost if you named your tags more generally, like, “CTA button”.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s check out how to set up a tag:

1. Within your Google Tag Manager dashboard, click the “Add a New Tag” button, circled below in red.

2. Title your tag, and then click anywhere in the top “Tag Configuration” box, to choose a tag type.

3. There are dozens of tag types (they are not all displayed here, and you can also customize a tag type). I chose “Classic Google Analytics”.

 

4. If you want your tag tracked in Google Analytics, the next step will be to input your Web Property ID, found in your Google Analytics account. Then, select a “Track Type”. I chose “Page View”, but there are plenty of other options.

5. Next, choose a trigger (a trigger means when you want the tag recorded, i.e. “every time someone visits the page”). I chose “All Pages”, to get insights every time someone views any of my web pages, but this varies depending on your purposes. 

6. When you’re happy with the information in the “Tag Configuration” and “Triggering” boxes, click the blue “Save” button. 

7. Next, click the blue “Submit” button. Your tag won’t work until you do so.

8. When you click “Submit”, you’ll be taken to this “Submission Configuration” page. There are two options: “Publish and Create Version” or “Create Version”. Since I’m ready to push the tag onto all my site pages, I selected “Publish and Create Version”, and then I pressed the blue “Publish” button in the top right.

9. Finally, you’ll be shown this “Container Version Description”. To keep your tags organized, add a name and description to understand what you’re trying to record with this tag.

10. Ensure your tag appears in your “Version Summary” report.

 

 

Now, you’ve successfully created your first tag.

Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics

If you want to use Google Tag Manager in conjunction with Google Analytics, there are a couple steps you need to take. However, it’s a worthwhile endeavor — embedding tags in your site will increase the precision of your Analytics reports.

First off, you’ll need to remove your GA code from your site pages. You’ll only need your Google Tag Manager tag code embedded — if you use both, it’ll just report everything twice and mess up your data.

Second, you’ll probably want to create a variable for your Google Analytics Tracking ID. A variable is a Google Tag Manager tool meant to increase your efficiency by saving additional (optional) data you provide.

If you save your GA Tracking ID as a variable, you won’t have to look it up every time you create a new tag for Google Analytics (which makes the lazy-person in me very happy).

How to Create a Variable in Google Tag Manager

1. Click “Variables” on your Google Tag Manager homepage. 

2. Under “User-Defined Variables”, click “New”.

3. Name your variable — I named it “GA Tracking ID” so I’d remember. Then, click the “Variable Configuration” box.

4. Choose “Constant” as your variable type, since you don’t want the ID to change for different tags.

5. Now, input your Google Analytics Tracking ID number into the “Value” box, and then select “Save” in the top right.

Next, let’s edit our “TestTag1” that we created earlier in this post, and include the new variable you just created.

How to Edit a Tag and Change its Value

1. Back on your homepage, select “Tags” from your side bar. Click on the tag you want to edit (I clicked “TestTag1”).

2. Click the grey “+” icon beside the “Web Property ID” box.

3. A “Choose a variable” box will pop up, and the first option, “GA Tracking ID”, is the variable we just created. Select that. 

4. Now, your tag’s “Web Property ID” should say (or whatever you named your variable). Click save, and your tag is updated. 

Google Tag Manager for WordPress

If your business uses WordPress to host its website, there’s an easy two-step process to integrate Google Tag Manager into WordPress.

There are plug-ins available if you’ve paid for a business version of WordPress, such as DuracellTomi’s Google Tag Manager.

However, if you’d rather do it manually, it’s relatively simple to do. It will only get tedious if you have a ton of different pages of your site and want to use tags on all of them — you’ll have to copy and paste a code below the <body> tag on each page.

Here’s what you do:

1. Copy the Google Tag Manager code you are given during the set-up process. If you’ve already set up your account, click the blue “Google Tag Manager” code beside “Workspace Changes” on your Google Tag Manager homepage (circled below in red). That blue code will also supply you with your specific Google Tag Manager code.

2. Now, paste that code below the <body> tag of each page on your WordPress site.

Images courtesy of WordPress.org

Now, your WordPress site is prepped for any tags you want to create within Google Tag Manager. Google Tag Manager will automatically code future tags and embed them in whichever page you’ve selected.

17 of the Best Brands on Instagram Right Now

Contrary to what your friends’ photos suggest, Instagram isn’t just a social network for selfies and brunch pics. In fact, Instagram has a whopping 700 million active monthly users as of September 2017 — the last 100 million of which joined in the prior five months.

In a world where visual content remains a crucial part of any business’ marketing strategy, Instagram marketing presents a unique opportunity to visually represent your brand, celebrate its personality, and keep it top-of-mind for all those users who scroll through their Instagram feeds every single day.

Although they’re few and far between, there are some brands out there — in every industry, and with every type of target customer — who are doing really, really well on Instagram.

Ready to get inspired? Check out this list of brands that are thriving on Instagram right now, and what about their posts sets them apart. For each of these brands, we’ve included examples of their best posts. For some of them, we’ve also included their most popular Instagram post of all time in terms of engagement (i.e. combined total of likes and comments) thanks to data from Instagram analytics and management platform Iconosquare.

(Psst — Want to get a stunning Instagram Story auto-magically created for your brand? Check out StoriesAds.com, a free Story generator from HubSpot and Shakr. Click here to get started.)

17 of the Best Brands on Instagram

1. Lego

Followers: 2.6M

If you’re not following Lego on Instagram, you’re missing out on some entertaining content that isn’t just product plugs for kids.

The famous plastic building block brand populates its Instagram feed with fun takes on pop culture references everyone is bound to appreciate — something many businesses can learn from on their own Instagram accounts.

While most of Lego’s posts do serve to announce the release of new Lego characters, the main value in its Instagram account is to emulate familiar social tropes in a classic Lego way. Some of them are pretty impressive, like the life-sized princess carriage below, celebrating the recent Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

Lego built princess carriage on Instagram, celebrating Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Of course Lego doubled down on the Royal Wedding craze with a Lego-style animation of the bride and groom, below …

 

And they lived happily ever after! #RoyalWedding #LEGO #BrickHeadz

A post shared by LEGO (@lego) on May 19, 2018 at 5:04am PDT

2. Califia Farms

Followers: 100k

Califia Farms natural beverage products have some of the most attractive packaging we’ve come across. In fact, it’s so iconic that it won top honors in the global packaging design category from Beverage World Magazine.

Instagram is a perfect platform to showcase that cool, curvy bottle, and the folks at Califia don’t shy away from doing just that — most of the brand’s posts feature the beverage’s containers in some way, whether they’re the main subject of the photo, or more of an accessory in the context of the active, healthy lifestyle Califia’s buyer personas love.

Califia Farms Instagram showing waffles
Califia Farms Instagram

Something Califia does really well on Instagram is create fun, playful videos and GIFs. Check out this one, which they used to teach viewers how to create a veggie-based penne pasta:

And this one, which is just plain fun to watch:

3. #FollowMeTo

Followers: 515k

Ever seen those photos of a woman leading a man by the hand in all different parts of the world? That pose was made famous by a couple named Murad and Natalia Osmann for their #FollowMeTo project.

Their Instagram account is a mix of stunning images of the classic #FollowMeTo pose that have been edited beautifully, as well as some really interesting behind-the-scenes photos of their world travels — including some fun photos of the “making of” the famous pose.

FollowMeTo Instagram account showing snow on mountains FollowMeTo Instagram account showing Chichen Itza FollowMeTo Instagram showing woman in blue dress follow-me-to-instagram-2.png

4. Lorna Jane

Followers: 813k

If your brand were a person, how would you describe its personality? Australian activewear company Lorna Jane has done an awesome job answering this important branding question with its Instagram content. Spend just a few seconds scrolling through these photos, and you’ll quickly be able to name the target Lorna Jane buyer: a young, sporty, twenty- or thirty-something woman who values looking good while maintaining an active lifestyle.

The images posted by Lorna Jane, which often show the brand’s clothing and accessories, as well as images of women who embody its target buyer persona, are colorful, playful, and inspirational, which is a perfect representation of the brand’s essence — in other words, its heart, soul, and spirit.

Lorna Jane Instagram account showing woman holding dog
Lorna Jane Instagram account showing donut holes and limes
Lorna Jane Instagram showing woman doing yoga
Lorna Jane Instagram account showing woman in boxing gloves

5. Letterfolk

Followers: 289k

Letterfolk is a small business run by a husband-and-wife team who create and sell beautiful, handcrafted felt letterboards. Each letterboard comes with a full set of characters so people can personalize the walls of their homes, which means endless room for creativity.

Instagram is the perfect platform for them to inspire customers and aspiring customers with real customers’ boards, as well as ideas they’ve come up with and staged themselves. Their Instagram content is funny, thought-provoking, and relatable — all recipes for shareability.

Letterfolk Instagram account showing they said meme Letterfolk Instagram account showing couple on June 24 2017

Letterfolk’s Most Engaging Post

Letterfolk's most engaging Instagram post

[Click here to see the post.]

Why it’s engaging: Not only is this photo showing a funny and clever message, but it’s also very, very relatable for parents of young children — a very large audience and also one of Letterfolk’s target customers. It’s also a very taggable photo, so the comment section is rife with Instagram users mentioning their friends’ usernames so they can share in the fun.

6. Apartment Therapy

Followers: 1.5M

Apartment Therapy’s Instagram account really is a source of therapy, if you love the sight of cozy homes. If you’ve seen social media posts from Apartment Therapy before, rest assured the pictures of residences on its Instagram account are just as creative. 

Two recent posts to Apartment Therapy’s Instagram feed are below. From the plant-friendly living room on the left, to the comfortable A-frame on the right, this brand gives its Instagram followers plenty of inspiration to personalize their own space and, according to its Instagram bio, “live happy, healthy lives at home.”

   Apartment Therapy Instagram account showing plant-inspired living room   Apartment Therapy Instagram account showing bedroom in A-frame apartment

7. Paris Opera Ballet

Followers: 262k

The city of Paris is known for many lovely things — wine, cheese, and art are just a few. But that last one, art, is photographically captured on the Instagram account of the Paris Opera Ballet, or Ballet de l’Opera de Paris.

The account captures candid images of the ballet’s dancers during performances, rehearsals, and backstage, giving viewers an artful glimpse at what goes into the ballet’s productions. It also makes use of something called banners on Instagram, when larger photos can be divided into multiple pictures to create a tiled banner of smaller photos. (There are several apps available to pull that off, but to start, check out Tile Pic).

The way this account highlights performance venues is noteworthy, too. The third photo beneath the first two below provides an intimate shot of rehearsal, conveying a gritty behind-the-scenes feel that can generate excitement for productions.

Paris Opera Ballet Instagram account showing performance of Crystal Pite
Paris Opera Ballet Instagram account showing male dancers

8. Tentsile

Followers: 188k

“Stunning” is the first word that comes to mind when I scroll through Tentsile’s Instagram photos. The company sells tree tents, what they call “portable treehouses” that will “literally take your camping experience to a new level.” Their Instagram is full of shockingly beautiful scenes of their product in use in all matter of terrain: rainforests, mountains, beaches… you name it.

Tentsile Instagram account showing campground Tentsile Instagram account showing water hammock

Tentsile’s Most Engaging Post

Tentsile Instagram's most engaging post

[Click here to see the post.]

Why it’s engaging: Contests draw engagement: It’s as simple as that. In this particular case, Tentsile used an Instagram contest as a co-marketing play with a few of their partners by asking followers to follow three partner accounts to be eligible to win. In addition to following those accounts, they also asked people to Like the photo and “tag your 3 best adventures buddies in the comments below.” That’s a great way to expand reach and do co-marketing on Instagram.

9. Desenio

Followers: 594k

Look at the colors of any well-known brand and you’ll notice that they use the same colors over and over again — in their logo, on their website, and in their social media images. Using the same colors over and over again is a great way to establish brand consistency and help consumers become familiar with your brand.

That’s what the Swedish online art print company Desenio does beautifully on their Instagram account. They use a lot of blues, greens, greys, and blacks, which evoke senses of calm, healing, luxury, and trust.

desenio-instagram-1.pngdesenio-instagram-2.png

Desenio’s Most Engaging Post

Desenio's most engaging Instagram post

[Click here to see the post.]

Why it’s engaging: At first glance, this post doesn’t seem to stick out much from Desenio’s other Instagram content. But what’s unique about it is the universally relatable subject: a really beautiful, comfortable-looking bed in a beautiful bedroom, combined with hints of life like a laptop and some munchies.

Many of the comments included exclamations of how beautiful and inspiring the setup is and how it’s the commenters’ “dream bedroom.” To increase your comment rate, follow Desenio’s lead by posting images of things and situations your followers aspire to in their own lives.

10. No Your City

Followers: 26k

The folks at No Your City produce a documentary series that captures the fascinating stories of people all over the world, but mostly in New York. The brand’s Instagram account, though, is less about these stories and more about showcasing gorgeous images from the city itself.

What we love about these photos is how closely they follow the best practices for taking great photos with your phone. Each one of No Your City’s photos seems to follow at least one of these recommendations, whether it’s focusing on a single subject, embracing negative space, playing with reflections, or finding interesting perspectives. The photos are consistently stunning, and as a result, the brand has built a solid following.

No Your City Instagram account showing Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan, New York No Your City Instagram account showing brownstone apartment in Brooklyn, New York

11. Vans

Followers: 11.4M

Vans is known for its stylish shoes, but the brand’s use of social media is just as stylish. Its Instagram business account is no exception.

The maker of the classic checkered slip-ons has an aggressively flashy Instagram feed, featuring both standalone product shots and action photos of people expressing themselves in their favorite Vans gear.

Vans’ Instagram account’s most unique quality is likely how much skateboarding content it has. The brand doesn’t just appeal to teenage skaters anymore, but it shows its loyalty to that lifestyle in an engaging way. Below, Vans features an Indian girl with a caption that describes her as the “only girl who regularly skateboards in her town.”

Vans Instagram featuring Kamali, an Indian girl who skateboards

Vans’ Most Engaging Post

 

Coming soon… Be the first to know! Sign up now at Vans.com/Marvel #VansxMarvel

A post shared by vans (@vans) on Feb 27, 2018 at 9:12am PST

Why it’s engaging: Vans’ recent video, above, teases a vague but enticing partnership with Marvel Comics. This campaign alone displayed a logo that attracted not just Vans fans, but Marvel fans who likely wanted to know when they can expect new shoes with a decal of their favorite Marvel super hero. The video received more than half a million views.

12. Divinity LA Bracelets

Followers: 251k

Here’s an example of a small business performing very well on Instagram. A beaded bracelet could have any theme.

divinity-la-instagram-1.png Divinity LA Bracelets Instagram account showing woman kayaking

Divinity’s Most Engaging Post

Divinity LA Bracelets' most engaging Instagram post

Why it’s engaging: The caption reads: “Each Sea Turtle and Hatchling bracelet sold helps a Hatchling make it to the ocean.” People tagged their friends to show them the cute sea turtles, or to say “WE NEED TO SAVE THEM!”

13. WeWork

Followers: 283k

WeWork provides shared office spaces in cities and countries all over the globe — so it only makes sense that they should post a lot of photos showcasing their beautiful co-working communities. They do an amazing job photographing the spaces in ways that make followers like us wish we could jump into the photos and plop down with our laptops and a coffee.

They don’t stop at posting photos of their shared workspaces, though. WeWork uses Instagram to capture and share moments from some of the largest branded events that members (and their friends) look forward to all year, like WeWork Summer Camp. Hashtags are used to label these events — like #WWCamp — and to encourage customers to share their own photos of the spaces, using WeWork’s memorable slogan: “Do what you love.”

Our favorite is the #DogsOfWeWork hashtag. Not only is it awesome because, well, dogs … but it’s also a great way for the company to promote their laid-back culture while also inviting customers to interact with their brand on social. Near the end of each year, they actually choose the best photo submissions to the #DogsOfWeWork hashtag on Instagram and Facebook and put together a calendar for the following year.

WeWork Instagram account showing wall graffiti 'Do What You Love'
Creative WeWork office space
Creative WeWork office space with mural and palm trees
we-work-instagram-6.png

WeWork’s Most Engaging Post

WeWork's most engaging Instagram post showing sign 'Work Hard & Be Nice to People'

[Click here to see the post.]

Why it’s engaging: For all their beautiful photos of people and office spaces and dogs, some of you might be surprised that their most engaging photo of all time is a picture of a simple quote. This goes to show the power of motivational quotes on Instagram, which tend to perform very well. Instagram is, after all, a platform for inspiration — and simple quotes that are inspiring and easy to digest are often welcome in a user’s feed.

Use free design tools like Canva, PicMonkey, or even PowerPoint to create these images easily.

14. Finfolk Productions

Followers: 202k

Ever wanted to be a mermaid? You can come pretty close, thanks to companies like FinFolk Productions. Believe it or not, silicone mermaid tails you can put on and swim around in are actually quite trendy in certain areas and for certain age groups — typically young girls, which is one of Instagram’s core users.

Finfolk Productions’ Instagram feed is full of beautifully shot photos that play into the mermaid fantasy by looking more like mythical art than real people.

Finfolk Productions Instagram account showing woman underwater wearing mermaid fin Finfolk Productions Instagram account showing mermaid fins

Finfolk Productions’ Most Engaging Post

Finfolk Productions' most engaging Instagram post

[Click here to see the post]

Why it’s engaging: One of the reasons this post was so popular is because it was accompanied by a long, heartfelt caption written by the company’s founders — which prompted an outpouring of supportive comments from their loyal followers. Here’s part of that caption, below:

Wish you could be part of our world? The good news is, you already are- just by being here! We might not always have custom silicone slots or Mythic tails readily available, but it’s only because we are busy constantly creating and making mermaid tails for every type of mermaid, in every size or color, gender or nationality … A tail is an investment of time, money, and emotions- each one is unique and beautiful, just like you.

#finfolk #finfolkproductions #thelittlemermaid #littlemermaid #ariel #partofyourworld #mermaid #mermaidtail #disney #mermaidlife #finfolkmermaid

Commenters wrote that they love the founders for their dedication to beauty and quality, that they love the designs, and that they can’t wait until they have a tail of their own. What it all comes down to, though, is brand loyalty.

15. Shiseido

Followers: 392k

Shiseido started out as Japan’s first Western-style pharmacy 140 years ago and has since developed into selling high-quality brightening and anti-aging skincare, makeup, and fragrance products.

Its company mission is to inspire a life of beauty and culture — a mission they portray beautifully through their Instagram content. If you take a look at their feed, you’ll notice they post three images at a time so the posts appear in a row pattern on their larger feed — a very clever and original way to organize their content.

shiseido-instagram-content-1.png

Shiseido’s Most Engaging Post

 

A post shared by SHISEIDO (@shiseido) on Apr 23, 2018 at 7:32pm PDT

Why it’s engaging: Back in late March 2016, Instagram started rolling out the ability to upload 60-second videos — and we’ve seen some amazing Instagram videos from brands ever since, like the one above from Shiseido. This one is much shorter than a minute, but its close-up product demo above is curiously satisfying to watch.

But don’t be intimidated by highly professional Instagram videos like theirs. You can post highly engaging videos on Instagram without a huge video team or a bottomless budget. Here’s a step-by-step guide for making great videos on Instagram without breaking the bank.

16. Sephora Collections

Followers: 322k

Sephora Collections’ brand personality is playful, colorful, and feminine. It does a wonderful job of characterizing this personality in its Instagram content, using bright colors, patterns, and fun captions.

This branded Sephora account also diversifies its feed with a lot of fun Instagram video content that gives off the same playful vibes.

Sephora Collection’s Most Engaging Post

Why it’s engaging: No matter what channel you’re creating content for, real stories of real people resonate with your audience. In the video above, Sephora is promoting the hashtag, #lipstories, which spotlights the experience of real Sephora makeup user.

17. Staples

Followers: 55.2k

The folks at Staples do a lot of things right when it comes to Instagram content, but there are two that particularly grab our attention — engaging with followers by asking questions and including calls-to-action in captions, and staying true to the brand’s playful-yet-practical personality.

When it comes to engaging Staples’ followers, it’s all about asking questions in the photo captions. For example, check out the second photo below featuring a series of emojis — its caption reads, “That’s pretty much our day. How about yours? Tell us in emojis.” Scroll through the comments on that photo, and you’ll see followers had a lot of fun responses. The caption paired with the first photo below — the one with the cupcakes — asks users to tag someone who they want to thank.

Staples does a great job staying true to brand by posting fun photos such as the “2016” shot written in office supplies and using the #OfficeHack hashtag to engage their following.

staples-instagram-5.png
staples-instagram-2.png
staples-instagram-6.png

The folks at Staples also use Instagram to post cute videos and GIFs, like the one below that shows businesses how they can use Staples supplies to create a “revamped breakroom.”

 

A revamped breakroom = a reenergized office

A post shared by Staples (@staples) on Feb 7, 2018 at 8:58am PST

Ready to populate your Instagram Story with pics and videos that are as captivating as the content above? We believe in you — just download the free branding guide below and get to posting.

Instagram for Business

 
https://offers.hubspot.com/instagram-for-business-in-2018?hubs_post-cta=slide

Do We Trust Anything Anymore? Surprising New Data From SXSW

Events kicked off today for SXSW — a multi-day series of festivals and conferences in Austin, TX — with a jam-packed, star-studded lineup of interviews and panels on the convergence of interactive, film, and music.

Among those sessions was the “SXSW Report on Trust: Gov’t, Tech & Media”: a discussion with journalist Dan Rather on the annual Trust Barometer, which is a flash poll of SXSW attendees conducted with the help of communications firm Edelman to measure trust in future technologies, media, government, and business.

Rather was joined by a panel that included WP Engine’s Heather Brunner and Edelman Digital’s Jess Clifton, to discuss the results of the poll. The conversation was moderated by Edelman CEO Richard Edelman.

Here are the findings that stood out.

Live From SXSW, Day One: Do We Trust Anything Anymore?

The Majority of SXSW Attendees Trust the Media

What the Survey Results Say

The Trust Barometer indicates 61% of SXSW attendees trust the media (compare that to the global average of 43%), with a scant 14% believing that media is “broken beyond repair.”

However, the panel was sure to make a distinction between the media as a collection of reporters, publications, and news applications — and social media platforms.

“Social media and search [are] not media,” said Clifton, during the panel discussion. “Social platforms are not media publishers. It’s a community that’s publishing content, and we have to delineate.”

Apparently, the audience polled was able to make that distinction, with 98% responding that “media” meant journalists.

That could explain why 84% are more trusting of traditional media outlets, while a significantly smaller percentage is trusting of search engines (44%) and social media (20%).

That low faith in social media could be tied to the ongoing allegations of it being weaponized to spread misinformation by outside agents. Nine out of 10 members of that same polled audience seemed to have significant concerns in this area, saying they’re worried about false information or fake news being published with negative intent.

That aligns with new research from MIT which shows false news is 70% more likely to be re-tweeted than accurate information. While at first glance a high rate of trust in the media may come as surprise, the distinction between traditional sources of news (and those who report it) and the platforms used to share it is crucial.

Trust in Business, Government, and Future Technology Is Down

What the Survey Results Say

While the Trust Barometer surprisingly indicated that trust in the media is up, the audience also reported a declined level of faith in business (31% — 21 percentage points lower than the global average). Government is even lower, with 26% of respondents saying they trust it, which is 17 percentage points lower than the global average.

There wasn’t a great deal of context around these results discussed, though many of them echo the overall sentiment discussed around the trust in media and concerns about social platforms and search engines. The latter two are often managed by publicly-traded businesses, falling under the category that 31% of respondents say they trust. 

What was even more surprising, considering the interactive nature and enthusiasm at SXSW, was the fairly low percentage of the audience polled trusts future technology. The lowest was blockchain technology, which garnered only 27% of attendee trust.

That was followed by autonomous vehicles at 33%, with the same percentage reporting trust in virtual reality (VR) platforms.

While blockchain and self-driving technology do raise concerns about security and safety (a Reuters/Ipsos poll from January indicated two-thirds of Americans are less-than-thrilled about the idea of riding in an autonomous vehicle), the wariness of VR is not quite as easy to explain.

It could come down to the idea many don’t see the practical relevance or applicability of VR. That might also explain why it has yet to become truly mainstream (we’ll be covering a SXSW session on that very topic next week), and why some marketers question its usefulness in campaigns and communications. 

Self-driving technology and blockchain were designed to solve problems — like traffic management and driver safety — as well as the security of transaction-related information. VR, it seems, originated largely in entertainment, but hasn’t reached a price point that makes it accessible to all interested consumers.

Where We Go From Here

While most content creators are not frequently considered traditional journalists or members of the press, the panel emphasized that brands, and those responsible for their messaging, play a crucial role in this widespread distrust of the social platforms often used for marketing purposes.

Consider the changes to Facebook’s algorithm made earlier this year, for example, to surface less content from brands in the News Feed and more from individual users’ friends and family. Since those changes took effect, people are actually spending less time on Facebook — an aggregate drop in usership by about 50 million hours each day.

One must wonder if that’s due to the phenomenon that Edelman called “self-sourcing,” in which many consumers only engage with the news and information that aligns with what they already believe — a sentiment echoed by Henry Franco, HubSpot’s brand marketing associate, when YouTube began labeling state-funded content.

“It all boils down to psychology,” he said at the time. “People tend to believe what aligns with their existing values.”

And that, said Edelman, can make some content creators “more inclined to be in the thought bubble.” So, what is a brand to do to address this issue?

“The intersection of humanity and expertise is what people are looking for,” said Brunner.

“A guide for that,” she added, is asking, “What’s right for your employees? What’s right for your customers?”

That begins, she explained, by building advocacy from within and building trust among your own team and employees. That trust is mirrored in the content the brand and employee advocates broadcast externally.

“If [employees] trust the business, they’re going to be more bought-in,” Brunner said, “and bring that level of authenticity to your customers.”

Rather weighed in here, agreeing brand consistency across all facets of communication is key.

“You can’t be one thing with your employees,” he said, “and another one with your clients and customers.”

I’ll be here throughout SXSW to cover the latest events, announcements, and insights. Feel free to weigh in on Twitter with questions, or let me know which news topics interest you the most. 

If You Think Twitter Is Unhealthy, You Can Now Apply to Study It

In a series of tweets sent out yesterday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced that the social network would be enlisting the help of outside experts to measure its health.

Acknowledging that the network has become more divisive — abused and leveraged for judgment rather than conversation — Dorsey also spoke to Twitter’s own mishandling of how it has been weaponized. He considered its use for harassment, or for bot accounts created for the sole purpose of tweeting our controversial content.

Twitter needs help, admitted Dorsey — who is now inviting experts to apply for funding to study its health metrics and potential solutions to these issues.

The request for proposals (RFP) comes after more than a year of heightened scrutiny over Twitter — as well as its other social media and online counterparts like Facebook and Google — for the alleged weaponization of the platform and its influence on the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Since then, the social network has continued to not only face backlash, but also address and remedy the issue of harassment, spam, bot presence, and the spread of misinformation and divisive content in a way that many users find less than satisfactory — which HubSpot’s own research has also found.

HubSpot’s research has also found that, in recent months, some social networks have made users feel worse as a result of spending time on them. And while results indicate that Facebook overwhelmingly instills the most negative sentiment, Twitter is directly behind it.

Facebook makes users feel the worst of any social network emotionally after using it

Twitter is the first social network to actively request the public’s help in identifying solutions to these ongoing issues.

And while Facebook has tested some methods of user feedback, like the ability to flag or downvote abusive content, no other networks have gone quite so far as to call for formal proposals.

The announcement coincided with the release of research from not-for-profit organization Cortico on the strongest indicators of healthy use and dialogue on social media:

  1. Shared Attention — an indication that the conversational topics taking place on social media overlap.
  2. Shared Reality — an indication that these conversations are grounded in the same facts (not to be confused with the same opinions).
  3. Variety — an indication that while these opinions may contrast from each other, they are still grounded in the aforementioned shared reality.
  4. Receptivity — an indication that we are “open, civil, and listening to different opinions”.

The deadline to submit a proposal is April 13, 2018, which applicants can do here. Those selected to participate in the study will work alongside Twitter employees on the research, with access to public data and “meaningful funding” for the organization completing the work.

As always, we’ll be monitoring the process as it unfolds.

I Tried Five Morning Routines So You Don't Have To. Here's What Works.

I’m not a morning person.

My morning consists of waking up as late as possible and feeling personally victimized by my alarm clock. And no matter how many times I wake up to my alarm, my first thought is always, “Why are you doing this to me?!”

It has caused a love-hate relationship between my phone and myself. 

Disgruntled, I then scroll through my Instagram feed. Oh, did I say, “As late as possible”? I should mention I give myself ten minutes to get out of bed.

Here are (a few) things I do NOT do in the morning:

  • Work out
  • Make a to-do list
  • Meditate
  • Visit my personal trainer
  • Hang out in my home gym
  • Address critical emails
  • Read all the tech industry headlines
  • Call family members
  • Say goodbye to my kids

Maybe that’s why I am not a widely famous life coach, rich entrepreneur, CEO or founder of any major corporations, creator of any mega-popular social media channels, or author of any best-sellers. 

And that’s also why, for five days, I decided to try the morning routines of five highly successful people: Elon Musk, Gary Vaynerchuk, Sheryl Sandberg, Jack Dorsey, and Tony Robbins.

At the end of it, did I actually become more productive? You’ll just have to read to find out. 

1. Elon Musk

The famous figure behind Tesla and SpaceX gets six hours of sleep, typically waking up at 7:00 a.m. From there, his routine looks roughly like this:

  • Addresses critical emails for 30 minutes
  • Drinks coffee — but is too busy for breakfast
  • Sends kids off to school
  • Showers and goes to work

To prepare for my Elon Musk morning, I stayed awake until midnight to ensure accuracy. He doesn’t get more than 6 hours of sleep, so neither could I. 

 

A post shared by Elon Musk (@elonmusk) on Apr 24, 2017 at 11:49pm PDT

That meant my “address critical emails” time was partially cut short — in my half-asleep state, I flung my cell phone behind my bed and needed to take some time to move the bed to retrieve it. How Musk runs two multi-billion dollar companies on six hours of sleep is beyond me.

I soon realized I had another problem with the address critical email activity. As you might imagine, being a marketing blogger doesn’t require quite as many critical back-and-forth emails as being founder and CEO of Tesla and SpaceX. So, I refreshed my email and replied to the six emails in my inbox, which took about seven minutes — leaving me with 23 minutes to spare.

I’ll admit that I didn’t love starting my morning with emails. I wasn’t fully awake, so I can only hope my responses resembled something coherent. Plus, by the time I got to work, I had to re-read the emails because I forgot what they said.

But I understand why Musk does it. Emailing can put you in a task-oriented mindset: “Okay, here are the things I need to tackle first when I get to the office.”

Showering is also something I also do every morning — and likely the only thing Musk and I have in common — and I don’t have any kids to say goodbye to. And while I respect that he only drinks coffee in the mornings (with only six hours of sleep, I needed it, too), by the time I got to work at 8:45, I was starving.

So, although Musk skips breakfast, I allowed myself a banana. After all that hard work responding to critical emails — not to mention, moving my bed frame — I figured I deserved it.

2. Gary Vaynerchuk

This entrepreneur, author, and speaker wakes up at 6 a.m., followed by these tasks:

  • Reads Techmeme headlines, Business Insider, and ESPN, among others
  • Checks out Twitter and Instagram
  • Works out with his personal trainer, “Muscle Mike,” for 45 minutes to an hour
  • Calls a family member

How Vaynerchuk — better known to some as “Gary Vee” — devours this much information and actually retains it at 6 a.m. is nothing short of miraculous.

 

A post shared by Gary Vay-Ner-Chuk (@garyvee) on Jan 22, 2018 at 9:44am PST

But I made a list of these links in my Notes app the night before, and at 6:01, I opened Techmeme and read the headlines. I then made my way through Business Insider, ESPN — which I barely skimmed, since I don’t understand sports at any time of day — Twitter, and Instagram.

It felt like a ton of information to devour before getting out of bed.

While reading these articles in their entirety wasn’t entirely feasible due to time restrictions, checking out “what’s going on” in one’s industry in the morning seems a good idea. The article headlines inspired me to jot down some new ideas before I even reached the office.

For the next time, however, I don’t have a personal trainer — but I do have Shaun from the T25 “high-intensity” workout DVDs. I figured that was close enough. And I’ll admit: It felt really good to get the workout over with. I was energized and refreshed by 7 a.m. and didn’t have to worry about fitting in a workout after work.

That said, it’s also really hard to do a high-intensity workout without any breakfast. So buyer beware: You might feel like passing out.

After that, Gary calls a family member on his way to work. I called my brother and spoke to him for exactly 47 seconds, mostly about why I was calling him that early and thought it was okay to wake him up.

3. Jack Dorsey

The founder/CEO of both Twitter and Square wakes up at 5:30 a.m., followed by meditation and a six-mile run.

After checking emails during my Elon Musk morning and devouring news outlets during my Gary Vee experience, I was enthusiastic to meditate during Jack Dorsey’s morning. Granted, I was less thrilled to run six miles — but we’ll get to that later.

I’m a meditation rookie, so I downloaded a meditation app called Simple Habit. I didn’t think I could do real meditation if I tried to do it on my own — in fact, I’d probably just fall asleep.

The Simple Habit app starts you off slowly. My first lesson was only seven minutes long, mainly focused on my breathing. Admittedly, at 5:30 a.m., staying awake was the biggest obstacle — which I actually managed to accomplish

Surprisingly, I enjoyed meditating that early. It was easier for me to focus first thing, before my thoughts had the chance to ramp up. Plus, the research behind meditation has indicated numerous benefits to the well-being of employees — things like creativity, focus, decision-making, stress-reduction, and more. 

Of course, then I had to get up off my meditation floor and run. Keep in mind that I’ve taken about five months off of running outdoors, because Boston winters are, in a word, brutal. But Dorsey lives in San Francisco, so I believed it would be unrealistic to re-enact this part of his morning. Oh, shucks.

But then, I did some research and found that Dorsey’s average morning weather in San Francisco is about 39 degrees — which, on this particular morning, was actually colder than Boston’s. So, I got out the running gear. It wasn’t easy, and about three miles in, I took a full-mile walking break upon the impression that my frozen lungs had collapsed.

But I did it. It took me about an hour — so I’m not sure I can make it a standard part of my morning routine.

Six miles seems like a lot, but I see the appeal. Meditation and running can encourage you to start your day in a healthy mindset. Meditation reminded me to stay present and focused throughout the day, and running got my endorphins and energy going. And, once again, I got my workout out of the way — which meant I could spend my evening relaxing.

4. Sheryl Sandberg

The author and Facebook COO wakes up early, in order to get to the office by 7 a.m. And before then, she manages to:

  • Spend an hour responding to emails
  • Work out in home gym
  • Drop her kids off at school

Once again, I ran into the same predicament I had with Musk’s morning. I have about four emails first thing in the morning, and Sandberg has an hour’s worth.

So I took my time responding to those four emails, then scrolled Facebook for a bit, and — in a nod to my Gary-Vaynerchuk-day — read some headlines, and checked Instagram and Twitter.

I missed my Dorsey-meditation-morning.

 

A post shared by Sheryl Sandberg (@sherylsandberg) on Nov 29, 2017 at 2:14pm PST

Unfornately, I don’t own a home gym — but I do own a yoga mat, the aforementioned T25 DVDs, and my very own state-of-the-art staircase. My home-gym exercise consisted of me completing one of those DVD workouts, followed by 10 laps up and down my stairs, topped off with a dash of yoga. And when I think about it, Sandberg’s home workout might not be so different.

Silicon Valley executives: They’re just like us.

I don’t have any kids to drop off at school, but after the investment in creating my make-shift home gym, that might be a good thing  — I wouldn’t have had time.

5. Tony Robbins

This motivational speaker gets three-to-five hours of sleep, waking up between 7 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. After that, he:

  • Performs a breathing exercise
  • Expresses gratitude
  • Experiences connection
  • Visualizes success

I left this morning routine for Friday because it sounded — well, the easiest, if you will. But admittedly, I didn’t follow the three-to-five hours of sleep part. If I had, I wouldn’t be writing this post right now, and would probably be sleeping in HubSpot’s nap room instead.

Robbins curated his own personalized morning routine, which he calls “priming,” which is supposed to bring you into a positive and energetic mindset at the beginning of each day.

First, there’s a breathing exercise, more accurately known as Kapalbhati Pranayama. Robbins sits up straight, closes his eyes, and inhales through his nose as he simultaneously lifts his arms — think of the way you’d do that during a shoulder press.

Then, as he exhales through his nose, he brings his arms back to his body, palms up. He does three sets of thirty, with short breaks in-between.

Truth time: I felt ridiculous doing this on my bedroom floor first thing in the morning.

 

A post shared by Tony Robbins (@tonyrobbins) on Apr 28, 2017 at 3:08pm PDT

The breathing was nice, but without my meditation guru — a.k.a., my Simple Habit app — my mind kept wandering. What should I eat for breakfast? How many reps is this? What time is it?

Next, Robbins spends three minutes thinking about what he’s grateful for — roughly three items per minute). Three minutes doesn’t sound like a long time, but when you only have three objects per minute, it kind of is.

My first minute went something like this: Okay, I’m grateful for my family … and, my health … and, hmm, I am grateful for clean drinking water.

I processed these thoughts for what seemed like an adequate amount of time, only to open my eyes and realized it had only been 20 seconds.

It wasn’t the first time I’ve thought of things to be grateful for, but it was the first time I’ve tried visualizing the list. And even though some items are tricky to visualize, it did make the exercise more genuine. At first, for example, I imagined the word “family”. But when I realized I needed to spend more time on it, I started visualizing specific relatives, and what it is about each one that I’m truly grateful for.

After finishing his gratitude exercise, Robbins moves onto an “experiencing connection” activity, in which he imagines a light flowing through his head, energizing him, and then imagines the light flowing back up through his head and outward to his loved ones and strangers.

This step is supposed to last three whole minutes. My light entered and exited my body in about 20 seconds, so I had to close my eyes and do it again. And while I appreciated the gesture, I’m not sure if this particular exercise is going to become a enduring part of my morning routine.

For the last three minutes, Robbins spends each minute on one goal and imagines how it will feel to accomplish that goal. And for me, that one was easy.

Visualizing success is similar to prioritizing your day, which I noticed seems to be a theme throughout the morning routines of many famous, successful figures. After visualizing three big goals, I was able to organize my day better, by choosing tasks that immediately supported that goal.

In a way, it actually made my day less busy. I visualized high-level goals, then narrowed down my to-do list to ensure these goals were met first.

Long-Term Takeaways

What I’ll Do Next

At the end of my five-day morning routine experiment, I considered going back to my ordinary routine. But there were some morning activities I actually enjoyed — and therefore, some that I’m going to adopt.

First, I agree that working out, even a little bit, is a great way to start the day. But I also enjoy attending late-evening workout classes, so I’ve created a moderation schedule. On Monday and Friday mornings, I now do a T25 DVD or go for a run, inside on a treadmill, weather permitting. On the remaining weekdays, I plan lunchtime or after-work workouts, because let’s be real — I have more time to do Barre classes than Gary Vee does.

I’ve fully adopted tiny increments of morning meditation. And although I haven’t gone full enlightenment, I found it’s easy to switch out my morning Spotify playlist for a seven-minute breathing exercise, which I can do on the train — so I have no excuses.

I don’t like waking up and starting my day with emails or industry headlines, mostly because — as previously stated — I’m only half-conscious in the morning. I do think it’s a good idea to tackle these things early, but since I’m not Sheryl Sandberg, it can usually wait until I’m in the office.

And finally, I’m not going to continue visualizing any lights going through my head and into my soul — sorry, Tony. But instead of a full ten minutes of Instagram in the morning, I’ve switched to seven minutes on Instagram and three minutes dedicated to gratitude.

I’ve done that primarily for two reasons. Not only do I have more time to visualize things I’m grateful for in my own life, but it also leaves less time to feel envious of other people’s “Insta-perfect” lives.

What Else I Learned

And while they didn’t get their own full sections in this article, I came across two other interesting takeaways in the course of my research. First, I learned that Mark Zuckerberg once said he dresses the same way each day, as it gives him “one less decision to make.”

I’m no Mark Zuckerberg, but I will admit that he has, at the very least, proven himself successful. No matter what he wears — or what else people might say about him — he can come into work and no one is going to think, “Wow, what a lazy slacker.”

But on the first day I planned on wearing my Mark-inspired uniform — a grey t-shirt and jeans — I looked into the mirror and realized I looked like someone who had either overslept, or didn’t really care about my appearance. And I’m not the founder of any companies. So I changed, because this early in my career, appearance is still an indicator of effort.

But I like the premise behind Zuckerberg’s routine. Why am I wasting fifteen minutes deciding what to wear each morning? While I don’t want to wear the same thing every day, I can choose my outfits the night before. 

The second thing I discovered is there are both good and bad times to drink coffee in the morning.

As it turns out, your body’s cortisol generally peaks between 8 and 9 a.m., which is when your body is naturally “caffeinating” itself. If you drink coffee during that window, you’re probably not getting the full effects of your cortisol — or your coffee. Plus, your body builds up a higher tolerance to coffee during this time, because it’s thinking, “We don’t need any more of this.”

Now, I try not to drink coffee until 9:30 a.m., when my cortisol levels are dipping. So far, so good.

Give It a Try

And with that, it’s your turn. Try these morning routines for yourself, and see how successful you can become.

If you need a “cheat sheet” to get started, here are seven commonalities of successful people’s morning routines:

  1. Wake up early.
  2. Decide and review what to do for the day, and set goals.
  3. Work out.
  4. Have a healthy breakfast, or at least a smoothie. Whatever you do, don’t start with coffee.
  5. Maintain a journal or visualize how you’re grateful.
  6. Meditate.
  7. Tackle the day — early on — with emails and/or industry headlines.

Why Every Public Speaker Should be Using Messenger Bots

A few weeks ago, I gave a talk at the Multifamily Social Media Summit in Napa, CA. It was my second consecutive year attending the event, and I wanted to give the audience something fresh  —  my talk was going to be about Facebook Messenger.

A few days before the talk, a member of the HubSpot Academy team asked me if I would be using Messenger to educate the audience on Messenger (very meta — I know). I surprisingly hadn’t thought much about it, but since our Academy team is full of smart people who know a thing or two about teaching, I decided they were probably onto something.

So, on the six hour plane ride from Boston to San Francisco, I built a Messenger bot to use during my presentation

Setting Goals: Why Do I Need a Bot During My Presentation?

I started by setting a few goals to ensure my bot would truly serve the objectives of my presentation. Here’s the list of things I decided my bot needed to accomplish:

  • Teach the audience about Messenger: The core purpose of my presentation was to educate the audience about Messenger. If my bot wasn’t going to help reach this goal, then there was no reason it create it.
  • Engage the audience during the presentation: The bot couldn’t make the presentation more complicated or challenging to follow. It had to contribute to a better audience experience overall.
  • Collect NPS after the event: The bot needed to enable audience members to share feedback on the presentation in a fast, friendly, and ultimately simple way.
  • Share slides with attendees after the event: Tracking down a speaker to get their slides after a presentation sucks. The bot had to make this experience easier for everyone involved.
  • Drive traffic to my personal pages to connect with the audience after the event: The bot had to encourage users to continue the conversation with me.

Once I had the goals and function of the bot firmly established,  it was time to build.

Creating and Unleashing the Bot

The first thing I did was build a temporary Facebook page to connect Messenger for the event.

Then, I developed a custom QR code with the event logo for audience members to enter the bot experience.

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This is no longer active, FYI.

This QR code was tied to a sequence designed specifically to accomplish my goals for the event.

The first message in the sequence welcomed users into the bot and allowed me to understand the audience’s familiarity with the subject before my presentation.

This gave me a good idea of how I’d need to adapt my presentation to meet my audience’s expertise level and expectations.

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About 20 minutes into my talk, I sent another quick message asking for audience questions. Instead of waiting for a prompt at the end of the session when time was running short, the bot enabled audience members to ask questions without needing the floor. It also helped me plan the rest of my talk accordingly.

Once the talk ended, it was time for NPS. I set the bot up to send this 20 minutes after my scheduled talk.  The results were great:

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Two days after the event ended, I sent the slides to everyone who opted in to my Messenger bot.

And finally, for some icing on the cake, I set up a persistent menu that would allow the audience to connect with me on Twitter and Medium. Oh, I also linked them to get a free HubSpot CRM, too.

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Did People Actually Use the Bot?

The results of this mini experiment were great. Here are some quick hits:

  • 70 people opted in to the bot, ~50% of the audience members in attendance
  • 51% of people responded to the NPS
  • 100% of NPS respondents were promoters (woo!)
  • Messages sent during the event had open rates of 
    98.5%, 96.9%, 93.8%, and 93.9% (not too shabby)
  • 85% of attendees opened the broadcast message 2 days after the event which included slides from the event
  • 25 people clicked to follow me on Twitter, 11 on Medium, and 5 clicked to get their free HubSpot CRM

As you can see, the numbers really speak for themselves.

By using Messenger before, during, and after my talk , I was able to effectively engage the audience and create a lasting, personal connection. Additionally, due to the topic itself being Messenger, I was able to educate the audience on the channel’s capabilities with tangible examples.

If you’re a public speaker, I honestly cannot imagine a reason not to be using Messenger before, during, and after your talks — even if you aren’t discussing Messenger.

The potential of the channel is unmatched. And, if you’re a speaker talking about Messenger, you can’t afford to miss this opportunity!

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