Category Archives: Mobile Marketing

How to Create Infographics in Under an Hour [15 Free Infographic Templates]

Wouldn’t it be great if creating infographics was as simple as writing regular old text-based blog posts? Unfortunately, making visual content like this usually takes a lot more time, effort, and let’s face it — skill — than the written word. Usually.

But considering the popularity and effectiveness of visual content in marketing today, you can’t just afford to throw in the towel.

That’s why we decided to take all the pain and suffering out of infographic creation. Seriously — don’t give up just yet. You, too, can create infographics that are professional-looking, high-quality, and completed in under an hour. I’m going to prove it. First things first:

Download our 15 free infographic templates here.

Then, all you have to do is provide the content to use inside them. Easy as that. In fact, I’m going to show you just how easy it is to make your own infographic by demonstrating with one of our 15 infographic templates in PowerPoint (pictured above). Then, I’ll explain exactly what I did so you get a sense of how easy it really is.

Want to watch and listen to the instructions as you read the steps below? Check out the video below:

1. Identify the audience for your infographic.

Infographics don’t sell themselves on design alone. You need to deliver “info” that’s just as compelling as the “graphic,” and to do that, you need to know the audience your infographic intends to reach.

According to Harvard Business Review, there are five possible audiences that can change how you choose and visualize your data: novice, generalist, managerial, expert, and executive. Start by comparing your infographic’s ideal reader with one of these five audiences — which one applies to your reader?

When thinking about the data you want to visualize, let the five audiences above dictate how advanced your data will be. A “novice” audience, for example, might need data whose meaning is more obvious at first blush. An “expert” might be more interested in getting into the weeds of your numbers and posing theories around them. An “executive” has more in common with a novice audience in that they only have time for the simplest or most critical information, and the affect it’ll have on the business.

2. Collect your content and relevant data

Using the audience you’ve chosen above, your next step is to organize all the content and data you’ll use in the infographic. You can either collect third-party data or use your own original data. If you use third-party data, just be sure you properly cite your sources — just like in any other good piece of content.

Organizing Your Data

When collecting your data, make sure you know what story you want to tell through this information. Data for the sake of data won’t add value to your infographic at all.

Compelling data needs to be “comprehensive” enough to give your readers proper context around the data you’re presenting. For example, a spike in website traffic from one month to the next doesn’t mean much — until, say, you reveal that traffic was on a steady decline over the previous three months. Suddenly you have a story of how you were able to reverse a downward trend.

Citing Your Sources

To keep your infographic uncluttered by a ton of different source URLs, a great way to cite your sources is to include a simple URL at the bottom of your infographic that links to a page on your site. You can also list the individual stats used in your infographic, and their sources — such as the landing page to the full offer on which you’re basing this free infographic. I’ll show you what this citation looks like in a minute.

That way, your infographic looks clean and professional, yet people will still be able to access the sources no matter where the infographic gets shared or embedded. It may also even drive visitors back to your site.

3. Choose your desired infographic template.

Your next step is to choose an infographic template appropriate for representing that data. The important thing is to choose a template that specifically works for the type of data set/content you want to present. As you saw pictured above, you can download our 15 infographic templates in PowerPoint and choose whichever template you’d like.

Some of your template options in the offer linked above include a timeline, flowchart, side-by-side comparison, and a data-driven infographic. Here are some basic ideas for choosing an infographic template that suits the story you want your data to tell:

  • Side-by-side comparison infographic: This infographic design can help prove the advantage of one concept over another, or simply explain the differences between two competing entities.
  • Flowchart infographic: This design is perfect for presenting a new workflow for your organization, or how a linear or cyclical process works across your industry.
  • Timeline infographic: This design can tell a chronological story, or history, of a business, industry, product, or concept.
  • Graph-based infographic: This design is suitable for content creators publishing a high volume of data and statistical information, making it a good fit for expert-level audiences, too.
  • Image-heavy infographic: This design caters to content creators who are trying to reveal trends and information from shapes, designs, or photography — rather than just numbers and figures.

4. Download your template to PowerPoint.

For the sake of time (remember, our mission is to create an infographic in under an hour), I’m going to create an infographic based on a compilation of steps and best practices we’ve put together in our new guide, How to Run an Inbound Marketing Campaign in 2018. For this, I’ve picked the “World’s Greatest Timeline” infographic template from our collection of infographic templates, which is helpful for my data set since it outlines each step of the campaign creation process in order.

The timeline infographic template is pictured below, and full of opportunities to make it your own:

5. Customize your infographic

Obviously, this is the most time-consuming part — but it’s also the most fun. Simply come up with a catchy title, plug in your data/content, and adjust your font sizes and formatting. Feel free to switch up the graphics and colors, too, so they’re relevant to your brand and the data you’re providing. For other templates, you can use the simple graphs and charts provided by PowerPoint to create things like the bar graph or the pie chart. (Note: Download our free infographic templates for a cheat sheet for using PowerPoint’s various features and tools.)

To customize the look of the infographic even more, you might add or change up the colors or font styles.

6. Include a footer with your sources and logo.

Finally, I included a link to my source (which can be found here), as well as the HubSpot logo so people know who created the infographic if it gets shared in social media or embedded on other websites — which is definitely something you want, since one of the main benefits of creating infographics is their shareability.

That’s it! This whole thing took me under an hour to put together — much shorter than it would’ve taken me if I’d started from scratch (not to mention more professional looking … and less expensive than hiring a designer). Here it is:



free timeline infographic template customized

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<p><strong>Please include attribution to blog.hubspot.com with this graphic.</strong><br /><br /><a href=’https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/create-infographics-with-free-powerpoint-templates’><img src=’https://blog.hubspot.com/hs-fs/hubfs/free_infographic_template_custom-1.png?t=1519094621186&width=1138&height=3412&name=free_infographic_template_custom-1.png’ alt=’free_infographic_template_custom-1′ width=’660px’ border=’0′ /></a></p>

7. Add embed code and a Pinterest button, and publish it.

The only thing left to do is to publish and promote your awesome new infographic. As I mentioned earlier, we recommend using your blog to publish it (including your list of sources), including a Pinterest button for visitors to easily “pin” your infographic on Pinterest, and create and add an embed code for visitors to share it on their own websites and blogs, as we did above.

Want more? Read How to Create Top-Notch Visual Content in PowerPoint [Tutorial].

download 15 free infographic templates

3 Easy Ways You Can Speed Up a Video

Transitions are arguably the most important element of any piece of creative work. Whether it’s an article or video, engaging someone throughout its entirety requires you to elegantly weave your individual ideas and thoughts together into a cohesive narrative. Otherwise, if you abruptly hop from one point to another, you’ll throw your audience off and confuse them, increasing the likelihood that they’ll disengage with your work.

If you’re a video editor, you know that one of the most common and effective transitions when creating videos is shooting a clip in slow motion, and then speeding up the ending during post-production. To show you how to do this, we’ve put together a guide that fleshes out three easy ways you can speed up a video and, in turn, craft engaging transitions in Adobe Premiere Pro.

1. Use the Speed/Duration command in Adobe Premiere Pro.

If you want to use the Speed/Duration command in Adobe Premiere Pro to speed up one of your videos, follow the instructions below.

1. In your Timeline Panel or Project Panel, select one or multiple clips.

2. Click “Clip” and then choose “Speed/Duration”.

Image Credit: Adobe

3. Change your clip speed to your desired percentage. The higher your percentage, the shorter the duration of your clip will be.

4. To keep your clip’s audio at its original pitch, click “Maintain Audio Pitch”.

2. Use the Rate Stretch tool in Adobe Premiere Pro.

Premiere Pro’s Rate Stretch tool adjusts your clip’s duration by altering the clip’s speed so the entire clip fits within the desired duration, no matter how much you shorten it. To use this tool to speed up one of your clips, follow the instructions below.

1. Click on the Rate Stretch tool

2. Shorten your clip by dragging either edge of it in toward the middle of your clip. This will speed it up.

Image Credit: Adobe

3. Use the Time Remapping tool in Adobe Premiere Pro.

Time Remapping is another tool in Adobe Premiere Pro that you can use to speed up one of your video clips. To do this, follow the instructions below.

1. Right-click on your clip, select “Show Clip Keyframes”, “Time Remapping”, and then “Speed”.

2. After you do this, the clip will be shaded blue and a horizontal line will appear across it. To increase the speed of your clip, drag the line up toward the top. The change in speed will be displayed as a percentage of your clip’s original speed. Time Remapping doesn’t alter your clip’s audio.

Image Credit: Adobe

video marketing starter pack

51 YouTube Stats Every Video Marketer Should Know in 2019

In 2005, when I was 10 years old, a kid from my neighborhood was bear hugging a fallen tree trunk that bridged across our creek and yelled, “I better not see this on YouTube!”

That was the first time I’d ever heard of YouTube. And it definitely wasn’t the last time I’d hear about it. YouTube has experienced explosive growth since it was founded in an office garage in 2005. Just one year after its inception, it was attracting more than 65,000 new video uploads and 100 million video views per day. A couple of months later, the high-growth startup was acquired for over $1 billion by a titan in the tech industry — Google.

Since then, YouTube has opened up avenues for brands to advertise on their videos and, in turn, let content creators earn a living just by making videos. This potential for monetization has incentivized content creators to craft the most engaging videos possible and host them on the platform, which has enabled YouTube to become the second most trafficked website and the second largest search engine in the world.

As a video marketer, you already know how crucial building a YouTube presence is for boosting your videos’ and brand’s visibility. But if you just started your brand’s YouTube channel or need some help convincing your boss to double down on your YouTube efforts, we’ve got you covered.

Check out these 51 stats about the platform’s mobile usage, its demographics, subscriber growth, general usage, and history that can help you build your YouTube following or persuade your boss to focus more of your efforts on the video platform.

51 YouTube Stats Every Video Marketer Should Know in 2019

YouTube Mobile Stats

4. On mobile devices alone, YouTube reaches more adults aged 18-49 during prime time than any cable network does in an average week.

5. 75% of adults report watching YouTube on their mobile devices.

6. More than 70% of YouTube watch time is generated from mobile devices.

7. YouTube mobile ads are 84% more likely to hold attention than TV ads.

8. Over 50,000 years of product review videos have been watched on mobile devices over the past two years.

9. In 2018, YouTube was the most popular IOS app.

YouTube Demographics Stats

10. Over 90% of 18-44 year old American internet users watch videos on YouTube.

11. Over half of American internet users who are aged 75 and over watch videos on YouTube.

12. Over 50% of YouTube’s audience is female.

13. 59% of Generation Z (16-24-year-olds) have increased their YouTube usage since last year.

14. 46% of millennials (25-34-year-olds) have increased their YouTube usage since last year.

15. 70% of millennial YouTube users watched a YouTube video to learn how to do something new or learn about something they’re interested in.

16. 15.8% of YouTube users are from the United States.

17. YouTube attracts the most visitors from the United States, India, Japan, Russia, and China.

18. YouTube is available in more than 91 countries.

19. YouTube is available in 80 different languages.

YouTube Subscriber Growth Stats

20. The number of channels with more than 1 million subscribers increased by more than 75% since 2017.

21. The number of YouTubers who earn six figures per year has increased by more than 40% since 2017.

22. The number of YouTubers who earn five figures per year has increased by more than 50% since 2017.

23. The top ten YouTubers earned 42% more revenue in 2018 compared to 2017.

24. PewDiePie is the most popular YouTube channel, with 85 million subscribers.

25. The most popular branded YouTube channel is LEGO, which has over 7.1 million subscribers and has received over 8.7 billion views.

YouTube Usage Stats

26. YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine.

27. YouTube is the second most trafficked website behind Google.

28. YouTube users collectively watch over 46,000 years of content each year.

29. 68% of YouTube users watched a video to help them make a purchase decision.

30. 80% of YouTube users who watched a video to help them make a purchase decision said they watched the video at the beginning of the shopping process.

31. 95% of the most popular YouTube videos are music videos.

32. 47% of on-demand music streaming was listened to on YouTube.

33. There are twice as many small- and medium-sized businesses advertising on YouTube since 2016.

34. Four times as many people prefer watching video on YouTube rather than on social media platforms.

35. YouTube users watch more than 180 million hours of content on TV screens every day.

36. YouTube users are three times more likely to prefer watching a YouTube tutorial video compared to reading the product’s instructions.

37. “Relaxing” and “feeling entertained” are the top two reasons viewers watch YouTube.

38. Relaxation videos like soap cutting and slime playing experienced a 70% increase in watch time in 2018.

39. Comedy, music, entertainment/pop culture, and “how to” are the four most popular content categories on YouTube.

YouTube History Stats

40. “YouTube.com” was activated on February 14, 2005.

41. “Me at the zoo” was the first video uploaded to YouTube on April 25, 2005.

42. Google purchased YouTube for $1.65 billion on October 9, 2006.

43. YouTube launched InVideo ads in December 2007.

44. YouTube streamed the United States presidential debates for the first time in 2012.

45. The youngest YouTuber is Ryan ToysReview, who is a 7-year old boy who makes $11 million a year and has 18.2 million subscribers.

46. “Gangnam Style”’s surge in popularity broke the video’s view counter.

47. YouTube provides a free space in Los Angeles where YouTubers with over 10,000 subscribers can learn, connect, and create videos with each other.

48. The first YouTube video that reached one million views was a 2005 Nike ad that featured football star, Ronaldinho.

49. The YouTube video that received the most views in 24 hours is Ariana Grande’s “Thank U, Next” music video, which attracted 55.4 million views in a single day.

50. The most liked video on YouTube is the music video for the song “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi featuring Daddy Yankee. It has received over 31.96 million likes and boasts an 89.25% like percentage.

51. YouTube’s own YouTube Rewind 2018 video is the most disliked video on the platform. It has received over 16 million dislikes and owns an 86.53% dislike percentage.

YouTube for Business

The Ultimate Guide to Crowdsourcing

When Charlie Jabaley, co-founder of the artist management and marketing firm Street Execs, released one of his first client t-shirt designs, the euphoric high he felt in the morning plummeted to a heartbreaking low by night.

He had only sold a total of eight t-shirts.

With famous clients like 2 Chains and Travis Porter, Jabaley’s pressure to succeed was already stifling. But this failed merchandising campaign had just jacked it up to suffocating. Instead of freaking out and sulking about his woes, though, Jabaley took a step back and breathed in some well-needed fresh air.

He decided to frame this embarrassing flop as an opportunity to learn. And after some deep reflection and analysis, he dug up a silver lining that would eventually lead to a multi-million dollar model for merchandise design.

The silver lining Jabaley plucked from the shambles of his failed campaign was realizing he needed to focus on his customers more. More specifically, he needed to understand their’ true preferences. So rather than following the standard formula of merchandising — which was designing products based off a whim, buying hoards of inventory, and then marketing them — he broke conventional thinking by reverse-engineering the process.

Before he bought inventory, Jabaley would post merchandise designs on Instagram and use follower behavior and feedback to help him scrap unpopular designs and turn popular designs into merchandise.

By following his new method, Jabaley knew exactly what his customers wanted and what they were willing to buy, allowing him to solely focus on creating products that had proven demand, avoid wasting precious cash on unwanted inventory, and unload a huge amount of risk off the merchandising process.

Eventually, Jabaley’s method for determining which merchandise designs would sell, and which would not, helped him produce his first merchandising hit — a Dabbing Santa sweater that generated $2.1 million in only 30 days.

Image Credit: Shopify Plus

Charlie Jabaley isn’t the first person to inform his product design using the public’s opinion, though. It’s actually a method that iconic brands like Budweiser, Pepsi, and Oreo have leveraged for years — a method called crowdsourcing.

What is crowdsourcing?

When businesses crowdsource, they ask the public for ideas, information, and opinions to help them craft better products and services. By crowdsourcing, companies can tap into a huge group of people’s expertise and skill sets, ensuring diversity of thought, expedited production, and cost-cutting, since they don’t need to hire new, in-house employees.

Companies who crowdsource usually break massive projects into individual tasks, which allows them to assign hundreds or thousands of people small jobs that they can work on by themselves.

Companies can also crowdsource on social media to gauge people’s opinion on their new product releases or updates. Additionally, companies can run contests to see who can create the best marketing material for them — like a logo, jingle, or commercial.

To help you fully grasp the concept of crowdsourcing, here are some concrete examples of the practice in action.

Crowdsourcing Examples

1. Waze

 Image Credit: Mashable

Waze is a community-based GPS traffic and navigation app. Their users, which has grown to over 90 million around the globe, report real-time traffic and road information, like police traps, accidents, road hazards, traffic jams, and the cheapest gas stations near your route. All of this crowdsourced information allows users to help each other reach their destinations promptly and safely.

2. Unsplash

What started out as Mikael Cho’s fun side project on Tumblr, taking half a day and $19 to create, eventually turned into his flailing startup’s top referral source and became its own standalone company — Unsplash.

Unsplash experienced hockey-stick growth because their service offered the ultimate remedy for a huge pain point in the content marketing space — free, unlicensed stock photos. And by using their initial boom in buzz and traffic to convince photographers to contribute free photos to their library as a way to market their art, Unsplash has successfully fostered a community of over 110,000 photographers, built a library of over 850,000 photos, and generates more than nine billion photo impressions per month.

3. Contently’s Freelance Rates Calculator

 Contently, a content creation platform that also connects brands with freelance talent, built a freelance rates calculator to provide more transparency across the industry and help freelancers better negotiate their rates.

By combining their public freelance rates database, where freelancers anonymously submit the rate they received from various companies, with their platform’s own internal data, Contently has crowdsourced precious information from freelancers in order to help the entire freelance community earn a fair rate in the future.

4. Doritos’ Crash the Super Bowl

 “Time Machine” is arguably one of Doritos most memorable commercials, but you might be surprised that it had a budget of $300 and only took six hours to make. Well, that’s because it was created by an aspiring filmmaker who entered the spot into Doritos’ annual Crash the Super Bowl contest in 2014, and won the whole thing.

Frito-Lay, Dorito’s conglomerate, ran Crash the Super Bowl every year from 2007 through 2016, awarding the winner with a huge cash prize and an airing of their commercial during the Super Bowl. And by offering such a can’t-miss opportunity, which allowed them to tap into tens of thousands of people’s creativity, Doritos could associate some of the most unforgettable Super Bowl ads with their brand.

If you’re a freelancer looking for work or a brand looking for talent, check out the following crowdsourcing sites.

1. Fiverr

Fiverr is a freelance service marketplace that empowers freelancers. Instead of being a platform where freelancers search for jobs posted by brands, Fiverr is a place where brands search for freelancers with the expertise and skills for which they’re looking. Most freelancers on Fiverr offer skills and expertise in graphic design, digital marketing, writing & translation, video & animation, music & audio, programming & tech, business, and lifestyle.

2. Upwork

Similar to Fiverr, Upwork is a freelance service marketplace where freelancers create profiles, and then brands can hire them for short-term tasks, recurring projects, or full-time contract work. Most freelancers have skills and expertise in web development, mobile development, design, writing, administrative work, customer service, sales, marketing, accounting, and consulting.

3. CrowdSource

Trusted by brands like Target, Coca-Cola, and Major League Baseball, CrowdSource has trained, tested, and qualified a community of over 200,000 freelancers who can provide copywriting, content moderation, data entry, and transcription expertise and skills. Brands can also search for freelancers by the agency, marketing, publishing, retail, and service provider industries.

4. Contently

Contently is a content creation software that connects enterprise brands with freelance talent, so they’re constantly on the lookout for freelancers who can fulfill their clients’ needs, as well as their own.

If you’re a freelance creative looking for gigs with some big brands, you can register as a freelancer on Contently’s platform and create a free portfolio. You’ll need to get approved and complete their training before you can work with any of their clients, but once you do that, you’ll be apart of their freelance network.

If you’re a brand looking for freelancers to help you craft original stories, check out Contently’s platform here.

5. Skyword

Similar to Contently, Skyword is a content creation software that also connects enterprise brands with freelance talent. If you’re a videographer, writer, photographer, or designer, you can create a portfolio that Skyword’s clients will have direct access to.

If you’re a brand looking for freelance talent, check out Skyword’s platform here.

Crowdsourcing Jobs

If you’re interested in working a crowdsourced job, check out the following gigs you could find in each of the job categories below.

Marketing

Writing

Videography

Design

Photography

Animation

Web development

Mobile development

Editing Jobs

Copy editing

Content evaluation

Content moderation

Proofreading

Administrative

Virtual assitant

Customer service

Usability testing

Audio transcription

Social media post categorization

Image and video processing

Image categorization

Data Jobs

Data entry

Data research

Data categorization

Data processing

Data verification and clean up

Research Jobs

Information gathering

Price checking

Product display checking

Business location verification

Web research

Google searching

Odd Jobs

Making deliveries

Cleaning

Dog walking

Survey taking

case study creation kit - guide + template

5 Link Shorteners to Try Besides Google URL Shortener

Trying to convince people to click on a long, jumbled link is almost as bad as a door-to-door salesman trying to sell people financial services. Needless to say, if your audience sees a link they perceive to be spammy in one of your social media posts, they’ll do the digital equivalent of slamming the door in your face — scroll past it

To avoid being perceived as spammy or sloppy when you have a legitimate link to share, check out our list of the five best link shorteners that’ll clip your links into clean, consistent, and clickable URLs.

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What are the benefits of using link shorteners?

Using link shorteners can benefit your brand in three main ways:

1. When you post long links on social media, it can look like spam or deter users from clicking on something they don’t recognize. In particular, adding tracking parameters to your links can result in URLs that look long and confusing to someone who’s unfamiliar with typical link tracking practices. Link shorteners can prune spammy-looking links into clear and concise links.

2. Many link shorteners also let you track each of your link’s performance and analytics, which can help you understand which pieces of content perform best on specific platforms.

3. Every social media network limits the amount of characters you can include in your posts. Twitter and LinkedIn have the shortest character limits at 280 and 600 characters, respectively, so if you need to squeeze a link or an extra hashtag in one of your posts, link shorteners can help you stay within the limit.

5 of the Best Link Shorteners Besides Google URL Shortener

1. Bit.ly

Image Credit: Rewind & Capture

Bit.ly is a link shortener platform that features a comprehensive dashboard that displays your links’ performance metrics, such as click-through rates, channel stats, and geographic information of the people clicking on your links. They also offer branded links and have integrations with social media management software, like Sprinklr, Sprout Social, Buffer, Hootsuite, and HubSpot to help you seamlessly distribute your shortened links through your social media profiles.

Bit.ly’s free account offers up to 500 branded links, 10,000 unbranded links, and reporting data about your top referrers, which is ideal for small businesses. Their enterprise plan lets you brand as many links as you’d like and provides all the data and metrics mentioned above, which is best for large businesses who want to brand and track every link in their marketing campaigns.

2. Bl.ink

Image Credit: Bl.ink

As one of the more robust link shorteners out there, Bl.ink offers smart branded links that allow you to create custom links that contain relevant words and not just a random string of characters. They also provide analytic reports that can track clicks by date, time, language, referrers, device, and location and integrate with web analytic tools like Google Analytics, Adobe, and others.

Bl.ink offers four subscriptions tiers: a free plan, a plan for individuals and small teams with up to 15 users, a plan for teams and businesses with up to 50 users, and a plan for large organizations with over 50 users. Starting at $12 per month, they price their plans based off the amount of links you’d like create and track. For example, free users can create up to 1,000 links and track up to 1,000 clicks per link. After that, you’ll pay according to how many links you create and track.

3. Rebrand.ly

Image Credit: Rebrand.ly

Trusted by over 250,000 customers, Rebrand.ly is a link shortener platform that can brand your links, track their performance metrics, or integrate with over 50 other platforms to seamlessly distribute your links.

With two plans for individuals and two plans for teams, Rebrand.ly offers link shortening solutions for both small business and enterprise companies. For instance, their starter plan offers 50,000 tracked clicks, 5,000 branded links, and 5 custom domain names for $29 per month, while their premium plan offers 2,000,000 tracked clicks, 200,000 branded links, and 20 custom domain names for $449 per month.

4. Ow.ly

Image Credit: TutorialDeep

Developed by the social media management platform, Hootsuite, Ow.ly is a link shortener that’s included in every free Hootsuite account. With Ow.ly, you can distribute your links and track their performance metrics directly in the Hootsuite platform, which allows you to shorten every single link you post to all your social media profiles. Ow.ly is best for anyone who already uses Hootsuite as their social media management platform.

5. Buff.ly

Image Credit: Buffer

Similar to Hootsuite’s link shortener tool, Buff.ly is integrated in Buffer, another social media management platform. With Buff.ly, you can shorten your links, customize them, distribute them to all your social media profiles, and track their performance metrics right in the Buffer platform. Buff.ly is perfect for anyone who uses Buffer as their social media management platform.

 


The Ultimate Guide to Human Resources

When I initially applied for my role at HubSpot, I was immediately blown away by the hiring manager I was working with. She was professional, incredibly informative, and experienced. She had the answer to every question I had about the company, the role I was being interviewed for, and HubSpot’s culture.

From the first point of contact with this HubSpot employee and throughout my onboarding process, she was the prime example of what I believed a person in human resources should be. Even now, she checks in with me to ask how I’m doing and how my job is going when I see her around the office.

Remarkable Human Resources (HR) employees are critical at every company. They handle all employee relations so you can focus on your side of the business. Before we discuss more reasons why your company needs an impactful HR department and how you can go about building one, let’s talk more about what human resources actually means.

 

Based on this definition alone, you can see how it would be difficult to run your operation successfully without the assistance HR provides. That’s why even small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have HR departments with employees who oversee all management, engagement, and development between the company and its employees. HR departments exist to support you and your employees so you can continue doing your jobs successfully.

The work and responsibilities of a human resources employee will touch a large portion of your business every day. So what does that mean for you? Let’s review some of the most common responsibilities these employees have so you can better understand the impact HR will have on your company.

 

Handle employee relations

HR handles the employee-to-employee relationships as well as the employee-to-company relationship. This means they work to develop positive interactions and treatment among all employees within your company so they feel good about coming to work, committed to their jobs, and invested in the growth of the business. Whether it’s a personal matter or a work-related issue, human resources will handle all issues with care and keep the best interest of the both your company and employee in mind.

Create an employment structure

Your HR department will handle your entire staffing plan — meaning they’ll identify the gaps in your current employee structure and fill them by acquiring new talent. They’re also in charge of firing any existing talent that isn’t meeting company standards. Your company’s HR team will ensure you have the right people to help you grow your business.

Manage employee job satisfaction

Once your employees have begun work, you’ll want to make sure they’re excited to come to the office every day and add value to your company — their excitement is directly related to their level of job satisfaction. If your employees are happy in their roles, feel as though they can grow at your company, and can change departments down the road if they choose to, they’re more likely to be productive members of the team. Your HR team ensures your employees really do feel satisfied in their roles, and will work with them if they feel unhappy or unsatisfied at any point in time.

Manage employee benefits

Your HR department will handle the amount and type of employee benefits your company offers. Providing good employee benefits is critical to the success of your business because they’re proven to attract and retain talent as well as increase employee productivity. Benefits keep employees satisfied by giving them a variety of perks and and making them feel secure in their roles.

Handle compensation

All payroll and compensation work is managed by HR — this includes employee salaries, payment schedules, W2s, and all other tax-related paperwork. If an employee is offered a promotion, or if employees are given bonuses, HR will handle all changes in their regular payment schedules.

Maintain the company business plan

Your HR department will help you create, distribute, and maintain your company’s business plan — this serves as an overview of your company’s organizational structure. It covers your company’s philosophy and culture code, the way in which you manage your employees, and how you’ll distribute your resources.

Handle new hire training

When an employee is hired, HR will often take them through the necessary training they need prior to diving into their everyday tasks. Whether it’s one day or six weeks, new hire training is critical to making that person feel comfortable in their new role. It’s also a great way to set expectations early on and get them prepared so they can begin making an impact as quickly as possible.

Create company culture standards

HR is in charge of helping you create and maintain your company culture — this includes your philosophy, mission statement, and work environment. It also includes your company’s ethical standards, values, goals, and expectations. HR may implement programming, activities, check-ins, or events at your office so your employees can learn and develop a better understanding of the culture.

Maintain a healthy work environment

Your HR team will assist you in creating a healthy and safe work environment for all employees. Their role in this includes setting health and safety standards in the office, communicating these standards to all employees, and upholding them as the business grows. These health and safety standards should be written so they can be easily referenced at any point in someone’s time at your company.

Handle necessary administrative work

A lot of your company’s administrative work is handled by HR. This includes paperwork related to federal and state tax laws, job applications, time-keeping and payroll information, and employee contracts.

 

We’ve put together a list of 10 steps — not listed in any specific order — you should take to build a successful HR department. Whether you begin working through this list with or without your company’s first (or first few) human resources employee(s), all 10 items on this list should be thoughtfully considered.

1. Create a company-wide staffing plan

Create a company-wide staffing plan so you can identify all positions you’ll need to fill with your new hires. This may also include moving current employees into new roles or even removing employees and/ or their roles entirely from the company.

2. Set an HR budget

You’ll need a budget for your human resources department — this will cover the costs of building the department and hiring your HR team. The budget will also go to company-wide programming, and culture and team building activities HR may organize. 

3. Make a payroll and compensation system

You’ll need to ensure you have payroll and compensation plans in place for all types and levels of employees. Your employees are going to want to know how, when, and the frequency in which they’re going to be paid the moment they receive their job offer. You’ll also need this information to determine salary ranges for all of your employees.

4. Write job descriptions

Job descriptions posted on your website and job sites such as LinkedIn and Glassdoor are how you’ll attract applicants. You’ll want to create job descriptions for all of the HR roles you need to hire for. Then, as you fill some of these HR openings, those new hires should be able to assist you in creating all other job descriptions for your growing company.

5. Lay out a clear benefits plans

A clear and thorough benefits plan is crucial when trying to attract and retain talent. You’ll want to lay out all of the benefits you offer to your new hires so they can feel good about their decision to join your team as well as secure and supported in their roles.

6. Create an employee handbook

An employee handbook (whether it’s print or digital) is a great way to set clear expectations from day one about workplace behavior, safety, health, and culture. Your handbook should include answers to all the questions your employees may have about these topics — and any others you see fit — as they go through training and begin work at your company.

7. Set safety procedures

Your employees are most likely in the office for approximately eight hours per day — meaning it needs to be a healthy and safe place for them to spend large amounts of time. If one of your employees ever felt unsafe or at risk of mental or physical harm at the office, it’d be very difficult to expect them to be a productive worker.

To avoid this, you should set workplace health and safety standards, which you may choose to include in your employee handbook. State your safety procedures for different types of personal altercations as well as procedures for emergencies and other potential unexpected or dangerous situations so everyone can handle them appropriately.

8. Collect administrative records

Although you may have an executive assistant who collects and organizes a lot of your company’s administrative records, there’s also plenty of documentation that should be collected, organized, and managed separately by your HR department. Some of these items may include job applications, benefit plans, tax documents, and compensation and payroll details.

9. Display necessary employment posters

There are state and federal laws that require companies and their HR teams to hang specific employment posters around their offices so they’re visible to everyone who enters the space. Some of these required posters change over time, so be sure to keep up with the laws and requirements of your state and country.

10. Create performance and feedback processes

Employee success and satisfaction are major components of a prosperous company — without these two things, it’d be difficult to retain your best talent. You’ll want to create company-wide performance and feedback processes to ensure everyone is held to a specific standard that you and your HR team set and maintain.

Employee performance evaluations should be held to ensure all employees are working up to their full potential. This time should also be spent making sure your employees are satisfied with their jobs, feel as though they can grow with your company, and enjoy being a member of your team.

What to Look For in an HR Candidate

Now that you have a better understanding of HR’s responsibilities and how you can start building your own department, let’s review the some of the things you should try to identify in potential HR candidates, including education type and work experience.

Human Resources Candidate Education and Background

It’s no secret that a lot of people often “fall” into the human resources field. By this I mean a lot of people who end up in the field don’t necessarily go into their undergraduate education thinking they want a career in HR. If this is the case for some of your HR applicants, there are a few indicators that you’ve found a great candidate despite their educational background.

  • HR certifications, such as the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) certification or one of the various others offered by the HR Certification Institute.
  • Great work ethic, personality and ability to be strategic. It’s key to find a candidate that will represent your company well and has the adaptability to grow into their role. If you see promise, you might also provide this type of candidate with the opportunity to earn a certification and/or postgraduate education in the field as they begin work at your company.

If you’re considering slightly more experienced candidates for your HR department, here are some indicators to look for:

      • Bachelor’s degree in Human Resources Management, Business Administration, or a closely related field.
      • Master’s degree in Human Resources or Human Resources and Employee Relations (HRER), or a closely related field such as Business Administration.
      • Prior HR experience, whether it’s an internship or job(s) at another company.

Roles in Your Human Resources Department

Now that we’ve covered general requirements and characteristics that you should consider looking for in your HR candidates, let’s dive into some of the actual roles you’ll need to fill within the department. 

We’ll start with your HR department structure. Depending on the size of your company, you may or may not need all of these positions and levels in your own HR department. Another important thing to note is that the titles of these roles and level in which they’re placed also vary based on company, but this diagram will provide you with a general idea of an HR department structure.

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So what do HR employees in these roles actually do? And what are the differences between each position? We’ll cover the answers to these questions below.

Entry-Level Human Resources Roles

Entry-level HR jobs are fit for people who are in school, have recently graduated, or are entering the field for the first time. Their roles may include assistants and HR interns, specialists, generalists, or recruiters.

HR Assistant/ Intern

HR assistants and HR interns are typically in charge of the administrative work — such as organizing paperwork, completing the employer portions of new hire information, and other work their higher-ups ask of them — that needs to be done so everyone else in the department can remain productive and focus on more complex tasks.

HR Specialist

HR specialists focus on one specific department or discipline within human resources. These specialties include HR development, HR management, and organizational development. Their goal is to become an expert in their chosen specialty. For example, a benefits specialist would be required to know and understand the intimate details about a company’s benefits plan and be able to explain that information to new hires and current employees.

HR Generalist

HR generalists have knowledge that covers multiple different areas of the department and its needs. People in this type of role will work on the more typical tasks you may think of when it comes to HR such as compensation, employee relations, and workplace environment.

Recruiter

The sole job of a recruiter is to bring in impressive talent for the company. They find new people to fill the gaps in the company’s staffing plan so the business can continue to grow and remain as productive as possible.

Mid-Level Human Resources Roles

As those in HR work their way up the ranks and acquire more experience, they’ll likely move into a mid-level HR role. Examples of these jobs include advanced specialists, HR managers, and senior recruiters.

Advanced Specialist

An advanced specialist is typically someone who was promoted from an HR specialist role. Their work might include developing job descriptions for specific, technical roles within their specialty, and training and overseeing entry-level specialists who are also in their chosen discipline. Advanced specialists serve as a company’s high-level experts regarding their specific topic within HR.

HR Manager

An HR manager might oversee a group of entry or even mid-level HR employees. They’ll typically handle more of the complex HR tasks such as the creation and management of company-wide policies, values, and culture.

Senior Recruiter

Senior recruiters function as your very own staffing service. They may oversee a team of entry-level recruiters who work to identify ideal candidates for open positions at your company. Senior recruiters may work for your company or you might hire them as a third-party service depending on your budget and resources.

High-Level Human Resources Roles

If someone ends up staying in the HR field for the majority of their career, they may find themselves moving into a high-level position at your company. These roles may include an HR consultant, HR director, recruiting manager, or vice president of HR chief of human resources officer (CHRO).

HR Consultant

An HR consultant is typically someone who oversees all HR administrative work and makes sure you’re meeting all company, state, and federal policies and laws. They can be subject matter experts on a particular HR-related policy. People in this role may be hired as third-party help depending on your budget and resources.

HR Director

If an HR manager is promoted, that person might move into an HR Director role. In most SMBs, the HR Director typically oversees all departmental activities and reports directly to the CEO.

Recruiting Manager

Recruiting managers oversee your company’s recruiting teams. They sign off on your staffing plan and ensure all of your role gaps are filled and talent needs are met.

Vice President of HR or Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO)

In a larger company, you may have a vice president of human resources or a chief human resources officer. This person reports directly to the CEO, oversees the entire HR operation, and creates overarching department goals.

Back To You

Having a fantastic human resources team is essential to the success of your business. Your HR department will manage your employee relations, hiring, training, career development, benefits, and company culture. Without HR, your employees simply wouldn’t be able to do their jobs. Start by thinking about the number and type of HR employees you’ll need and get started building your department so your company can continue to grow.

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HTTP Error 403 Forbidden Messages: What They Are & How to Fix Them

Imagine this — you’ve recently created a new website to host your content, and you’re excited to see it go live. You can’t wait to dive into SEO and begin ranking for keywords, and attract an audience to your brand.

But then a friend emails you and says, “Hey, is there a reason I see this when I click on your website?”

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Undoubtedly, a 403 Forbidden Message is cause for immediate concern — how many potential viewers are you losing, as they come across your website just to find this message?

Fortunately, there are a few quick-and-easy solutions to a 403 error. Here, we’ll explain the top three, so you can get your site up and running.

How to Fix 403 Errors

1. Permission or ownership errors.

Your site might be showing a 403 Forbidden error because of permission issues. If you’ve configured your web server, you’ll want to add the server to the www-data group, and set ownership of /var/www to the www-data user and www-data group.

You’ll then want to make sure your directories are set to 755, your files are set to 644, and your dynamic content is set to 700.

2. Make sure you have an index page.

Your website’s home page must be called index.html or index.php — if it’s not, you should rename the homepage to include one of those URL names.

Alternatively, you can upload an index page to your httpdocs directory, and then set up a redirect on the index page to your real homepage.

3. You haven’t uploaded your website content to the correct directory on your server.

Lastly, you might see a 403 forbidden message if you haven’t correctly uploaded your content to the directory on your server.

There are several different FTP clients you might’ve chosen to host your domain — let’s say you chose FileZilla, which is free and available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

To publish your content online, you’ll need to put your files into the Public-htdocs directory (if you’re using FileZilla — these instructions will vary if you use a different FTP client). Once you’ve dragged-and-dropped your files into the directory, you should search your website’s URL to double-check they now appear online.

If you’re in your FTP server and don’t see the httpdocs directory, you can create a file within the directory with this title, which could also solve the issue.

website redesign seo mistakes

3 Habits to Boost Creativity & Become a More Prolific Marketer

Maya Angelou once said, “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”

Oftentimes, this couldn’t feel further from the truth. Imagine, for instance, the moment you finish your quarterly marketing campaign. You’re ecstatic — the campaign launched without a hitch, and you’ve already seen impressive conversion results.

But you’re also exhausted. You feel you’ve used up so much of your creative energy already — how will you ever come up with a new idea for the next quarter?

In these instances, it can feel like creativity is finite, and maybe even rare. But as marketers, we’re tasked with both the burden and the joy of using creativity to succeed in our roles every day.

Fortunately, there are tactics you can employ to begin building the right habits to become more prolific in your role. Henneke Duistermaat, writer and creator of Enchanting Marketing, created the following hand-drawn infographic to help boost creativity, improve focus, and minimize self-doubt to become a better, more creative marketer. Take a look.

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visual marketing

Form UX: How to Design a User-Friendly Form

Think about a website you frequent — what’s that site’s overall functionality like? How long do the pages take to load? Is the site navigation easy to use? Are you able to quickly find the information you’re looking for? These are all aspects of a website’s user experience (UX).

UX applies to every part of your website, including your web forms, in regards to accessibility, ease of use, and convenience. An online form with great UX is easy for your visitors to work though, simple to understand, and feels professional. When your form has all of these factors, you’re likely to see an increase in your number of conversions. That’s why getting your form’s UX right is critical for your business.

 

Why does form UX matter?

The point of a web form is to collect certain personal information from your visitor, whether that be an email address or their shipping and payment details. But why would a visitor want to convert and conduct any type of business with you if the form they’re being asked to list their information on is difficult to use, hard to understand, or visually unattractive? Simple answer … they wouldn’t.

There are a number of factors that go into great UX and elements to consider when trying to achieve a fantastic and memorable form design. Form UX matters because you want to leave a good (and lasting) impression on your visitors, create a positive experience for them while on your site, and convert more leads.

UX impacts your web form’s level of accessibility (which refers to how easily your forms can be completed and submitted by many types of people, of various backgrounds) and usability (which refers to how easily someone can accomplish their goal, which in this case means completing a form). Without great UX, you’ll not only have poor accessibility and usability but you’ll also lose out on conversions.

10 Form UX Guidelines and Great Examples to Follow

We’ve curated the following list of guidelines that you can apply to your forms to help you enhance their UX. Each guideline also includes an example that you can follow and learn from to help you create successful and thoughtfully-designed web forms for your own site.

1. Enable autofill and autocorrect

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Autofill fills, or completes, form fields based on common attributes or responses, such as name and email, previously provided on the site or in the browser.

Autocorrect corrects, or rectifies, invalid responses visitors may accidentally try entering in the fields. For example, if someone were to enter the incorrect zip code in your form, the form might be able to recommend or fix that error based on someone’s given location or other information they’ve previously submitted. 

Autofill and autocorrect are two features that enhance UX because they simplify the form completion process. By enabling these features, you’re not only ensuring valid information is being submitted, but you’re also saving your visitors time, streamlining the form completion process, and helping them remain as efficient and accurate as possible.

2. Exclude all fluff

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Keep your form as straightforward and easy to understand as possible by excluding all “fluff” — that is any words, images, fields, or characters that aren’t absolutely necessary. By excluding all unnecessary information, you enhance your form’s UX for a couple reasons. First, it removes any confusion for your visitors that could stem from having too much information. Second, users can submit their information with less friction, like scrolling or trying to determine what’s important.

3. Lay out the form in one column 

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Your form field layout should be organized in a single column versus placing multiple fields in the same row or in various locations. Your visitors will easily see all necessary fields and have the ability to tab down to the next open box if they choose to work through the form that way.

A major aspect of successful UX is ease of use. By laying out all of your form fields in a single column, your visitors will be able to flow through your form naturally, with ease.

4. Don’t forget a mobile-friendly design

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These days, it’s crucial your web forms include a mobile-friendly design due to the number of people who browse sites, sign up for new accounts, and purchase items from a smartphone or tablet. Without a mobile-friendly design, your form won’t fit or function well via one of these devices. 

Great UX means a quality end-to-end experience for your visitors. That means your visitors need to have consistent, positive interactions with your website no matter the device they’re on. Without a mobile-friendly design, your forms won’t help you improve UX or boost conversions. This has the potential to be a devastating loss for your business considering how many people carry a mobile device and browse the web via that smartphone or tablet on a constant basis.

5. Provide input constraints

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If you have a form on your site with a long-form text entry box (meaning you need a short answer or a paragraph response from your visitors), you should include input constraints. These constraints prevent visitors from writing beyond a certain word count or limit. This is a helpful feature because it provides your visitors with parameters. It also prevents you and your business from having to read through responses that are several paragraphs long.

Input constraints enhance UX because they provide visitors with guidelines that keep them efficient. They ensure your visitors know exactly what’s expected of them, how much information they need to share with you and prevent them from wasting time writing a long, unnecessary response.

6. Use multi-step forms when necessary

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Multi-step forms are used in situations where there are multiple form fields, several of which could be split up into categories (such as “personal”, “shipping”, “billing”, and “payment review”). They improve UX because they increase a form’s usability by making it easier for a visitor to accomplish their goal (completing and submitting the form). With a multi-step form, you split your fields into several shorter forms, each on separate web pages. They help to organize your form fields and make the form appear more manageable for the user.

7. Provide clear and obvious action buttons

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Action buttons are what your visitors click to either move onto the next part of a multi-step form or to submit it. Needless to say, they’re a critical part of your web form, and that’s why you need to make sure they’re bright, bold, and obvious. 

Obvious and clear action buttons improve a form’s accessibility because they’re universally recognized as the way to submit information on a form. Also, because they’re so easy to see, you avoid confusing your visitor when they go to submit their information.

8. Create inline field labels 

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Inline form field labels are form field labels that are located inside the fields themselves. They make your form look sleek and clean. Placing your labels inline with your fields is the most thoughtful way to title your fields for your visitors — doing this improves your form’s ease of use since there’s no question about which label belongs to which field.

9. Add inline error messages

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Now that you know what inline form fields are, you can probably guess what inline error messages are — they point a visitor to an error in their form by highlighting the issue in line with the field in which it’s located. These messages ensure there’s no question about which field includes the error. Some of these messages even include a short and clear statement that explains how the visitor can make the necessary correction. 

Error messages improve UX by making it as easy as possible for your visitor to correct the error at hand. Inline error messages make your form and company feel professional and thoughtful.

10. Mark required vs. optional form fields 

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You should always mark your form fields as “required” or “optional”. You can do this by writing “required” or “optional” in a small font next to your field, or by placing an asterisk next to your required fields so there’s no question about what your visitors need to complete.

Marking your form fields as required or optional improves UX by making your form accessible to everyone — you provide your visitors with a set of expectations as they fill out your form. Not only does this ensure all of your visitors are on the same page about the information they need to submit, but it also prevents them from having to waste time submitting and re-submitting your forms to try and determine which fields are the necessary ones.

Back To You

Great UX is how you’ll ensure positive interactions between your site visitors and forms. By taking these UX guidelines and examples into account, you’ll create a great experience for your visitors that’ll keep them coming back to conduct more business with you and your company. Let these examples inspire your own UX design so you can implement the guidelines that fit best with your site, business, and needs to boost conversions and make a great, lasting impression on your visitors. 

A Beginner's Guide to POS Systems (& the Best Ones for 2019)

When I studied abroad in Scotland last year, murmurs about the best restaurant in town echoed throughout my dorm complex all semester long. The joint was called Noodles & Dumplings, and despite its bland name, its cuisine was rumored to be packed full of flavor.

Naturally, once I heard about Noodles & Dumplings, I immediately bolted out of my dorm, power-walked down the cobblestone streets of my town, and burst through the front door of the restaurant. I was ready to gobble up all the shrimp fried rice I could possibly buy.

But after I placed my order and handed the cashier my credit card, she said something that turned my growling-stomach hunger into utter disappointment:

“We only take cash.”

As someone who never carries cash, eating my dinner that day required a jog to the ATM and a withdrawal of $200 to justify the hefty international ATM fee. It was quite a large commitment for some fried rice.

Now, I’ll be honest, the dish was delicious. It was definitely all that it was cracked-up to be. But was it worth the hassle? I probably wouldn’t be venting about this experience if it was.

Nowadays, your customers expect you to accept credit card as a form of payment, regardless of the size of your business. In fact, 77% of consumers prefer using credit or debit cards as their main form of payment. If you only accept cash, you risk losing a ton of customers — and revenue.

With this in mind, owning a POS system is crucial for your retail store’s or restaurant’s success. But POS systems aren’t just important because they can accept credit cards. POS systems can also track your inventory, measure your sales, and transfer funds to your bank account. It’s like a smart cash register that can help you better manage your business.

To help you pick the right POS system for your company, we’ve put together a list of the best ones for retail stores and restaurants. Read on to find the best POS system for your business.

What Is a POS System?

A point of sale (POS) system is a hardware and software system that lets you check customers out and accepts multiple forms of payment, like cash, credit cards, and mobile payments. POS systems’ hardware can print receipts, scan barcodes, and store cash. POS systems’ software can track inventory, measure sales, and transfer funds to your business’ bank account.

5 of the Best POS Systems for Retail & Restaurants

1. Square Point of Sale

square-pos-system

Image Credit: Square

Trusted by more than two million businesses across the globe, Square POS is an intuitive point of sale system that can keep tabs on your customers’ purchase history, send digital receipts, collect customer feedback, generate sales reports for specific products, and track your inventory. Square POS can also accept cards, cash, checks, and gift cards and transfer your funds to your bank account within one business day.

2. Toast

Image Credit: Toast

Tailored specifically to restaurants, Toast is an all-in-one point of sale system that can gather data on your food cost percentage, recipe costs, inventory variance, and menu engineering. It can also generate sales reports, sync your in-store and online menu so you don’t have to make the same changes multiple times, and has a built-in CRM that can collect your customers’ contact information and order history.

3. Shopify Point of Sale

Image Credit: Shopify

Shopify, the leading eCommerce platform, sells a point of sale system that can seamlessly integrate with your online Shopify store. In their POS system, each new order automatically creates a customer profile that includes their contact information, order history, and shopping habits.

You can also organize your products by category, type, season, sale, vendor, price, and inventory level. If you want to analyze your store’s performance, you’ll have access to a robust set of product reports, retail reports, and a dashboard.

4. Aloha

Image Credit: Aloha

Used by more than 80,000 restaurants around the world, Aloha is a single point of sale platform on which most servers and cashiers in the restaurant industry have been trained. With Aloha, you can let your customers order from their table, self-ordering kiosks, or even their mobile devices. You can also offer them promotions, rewards, and gift cards and generate reports about operational, sales, and employee data.

5. Vend

Image Credit: Vend

Designed for retail stores of all sizes, Vend is a smart point of sale system that more than 20,000 business trust and use every day. With Vend, you can keep track of your customers’ shopping habits in their customer database, measure your store’s performance, and manage inventory across multiple stores. Vend also integrates seamlessly with common business applications, like Shopify, Xero, PayPal, Apple, Worldpay, and Square.

Business Plan Template

The Quick & Easy Guide to Fixing 504 Gateway Timeout Errors

In a world hooked on instant gratification, one of the worst things a brand can do is not give their audience what they want. If your website visitors sees a 504 Gateway Timeout Error page when they’re looking for help or information to do their jobs better, they could get annoyed and lose trust in your brand, permanently damaging your reputation.

Unfortunately, 504 Gateway Timeout Errors are rather mysterious. They indicate what happened to your website, but they don’t tell you why it happened, making it challenging for you to pinpoint its cause and ultimately correct the issue.

To help you fix your 504 Gateway Timeout Error and avoid losing brand sentiment and trust, we’ve fleshed out exactly what the issue is and its most common solutions.

pasted image 0-19Image Credit: Cloudflare

Fortunately, there are five common and effective solutions for fixing most 504 Gateway Timeout Errors’ causes.

1. Look for server connectivity issues.

Most websites live on multiple servers or third-party hosting providers. If your server is down for maintenance or any other reason, your website could serve visitors a 504 Gateway Timeout Error page. The only way to troubleshoot this issue is to wait for your server to finish maintenance or fix the problem causing the error.

2. Check for any DNS changes.

If you’ve recently changed host servers or moved your website to a different IP address, it’ll make changes to your website’s DNS server. This could cause your website to serve its visitors a 504 Gateway Timeout Error page. Your website won’t be up and running until these DNS changes take full effect, which can take a few hours.

3. Sift through your logs.

Server logs will provide details about your server’s health and status. Sift through them to uncover any alarming information.

4. Fix faulty firewall configurations.

Your firewall is your website’s gatekeeper, protecting your site from malicious visitors or distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. Sometimes, a faulty firewall configuration will cause your firewall to deem requests from a content delivery network as an attack on your server and reject them, resulting in a 504 Gateway Timeout Error. Check your firewall configuration to pinpoint and fix the issue.

5. Comb through your website’s code to find bugs.

If there’s a mistake in your website’s code, your server might not be able to correctly answer requests from a content delivery network. Comb through your code to find bugs or copy your code into a development machine. It’ll perform a thorough debug process that will simulate the situation that your 504 Gateway Timeout Error occurred in and allow you to see the exact moment where things went wrong.

Improve your website with effective technical SEO. Start by conducting this  audit.  

How Flutter Looks Set to Transform Android and iOS App Development

One of the primary concerns of mobile marketers across the world is ensuring that they have the ability to produce content and apps that are compatible with a range of platforms. However, their two top priorities are undoubtedly creating items that work on both Android and iOS.

The two operating systems dominate the market, with figures from Q2 2018 suggesting that Android OS accounts for an 88 per cent share and iOS holds around 11.9 percent. While the likes of Microsoft and RIM once had a place in this world, they have fallen by the wayside as Google and Apple’s unstoppable creations have marched to the top.

A number of differences

While the pair are now truly out on their own in terms of their performance in the market, they are different in a number of ways. For example, as this VPNbase article on the best Android VPN services outlines, Android devices are seen as less exclusive and arguably more flexible than Apple’s iOS-based alternatives. While the site states this is a “wonderful thing”, it does also warn that this can open Android systems up to a range of risks.

On a more technical level, another key difference is how apps for the two systems are created. While iOS apps are stored on a file type known as an IPA, Android apps use the format known as APK. This issue, in particular, has caused a headache for many businesses in recent years, as this has meant it is not necessarily easy for them to quickly adapt apps for one OS to another.

However, could a major new toolkit created by developers at Google be about to change the game in this regard?

Introducing Flutter

At the start of December, Google announced the launch of its first stable release of the UI toolkit known as Flutter. The company describes the system as a way to build ‘beautiful, native experiences’ for both iOS and Android systems using a single codebase.

While this does not replace the traditional way of creating apps for the two operating systems, it is an engine that can be added to an existing app or used in a completely new one. Google said that Flutter’s set of widgets would ensure a “pixel-perfect experience” on both OSs, ensuring designers are able to achieve their vision without having to “water it down” due to any limitations.

The key benefits of Flutter were highlighted in comments from Capital One’s senior director of engineering Michael Jones, who said the service would mean the company can now think about features “not in an ‘iOS or Android-first’ fashion, but rather in a true mobile-first model”.

Exciting new development

The release of Flutter is an exciting development which could change the game for everyone involved in mobile marketing, with hopes being high that it will make it easier for developers to create apps for both iOS and Android.

While the two biggest mobile operating systems in the world have fundamental differences, Google’s new toolkit has arguably brought them closer than they have ever been before.

The post How Flutter Looks Set to Transform Android and iOS App Development appeared first on Mobile Marketing Watch.

The Short & Sweet Guide to Google Keep

I have a confession to make: organization does not come naturally to me.

To give you a better idea of what exactly we’re talking about here, this is what my phone home screen looks like on any given day:

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Not too pretty.

In fact, the above screenshot gave a few of my more inbox-zero-inclined, Evernote-addicted co-workers a good fright (Sorry, Braden!).

I love the idea of being a person who can take joy in meticulously structuring and optimizing my day via an elaborate bullet journal system, but realistically, I’ll never be. I just go where my Google Calendar tells me to go. I send myself one-off reminders via cryptic email and Slack messages (“email that person you talked to in hall”). I keep track of meeting notes in a series of disconnected spreadsheets. I bookmark Gmail conversations I need to respond to. And when all else fails, I write stuff on my arm.

This (reckless) combination of messages and documents has served me (surprisingly) well, but there’s always room for improvement.

To see if I could structure my work life with a bit more intention, I recently started using Google Keep, Google’s free note-taking app.

The biggest draw of Google Keep compared to other popular note-taking apps is its simplicity. The interface is minimal and intuitive, enabling you to start taking and organizing notes with little (if any) learning curve.

While more robust applications like Evernote offer third-party integrations and additional features for curating advanced databases of notes, Google Keep’s clean, straightforward system is ideal for someone looking to simply keep track of their daily tasks and collaborate with small teams. For users interested in building out a serious archive of content across a larger organization, Google Keep’s capabilities will likely be too limited for anything beyond personal use.

If you’re interested in giving Google Keep a whirl, this guide will walk you through getting started, along with some helpful tips to get the most out of the app.

Getting Started With Google Keep

First things first: you can access Google Keep right here (just make sure you’re logged into your Google account).

Once you log in, you’ll see an area to create notes:

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To add a new note, let’s take a look at the “Take a note…” bar at the top of your screen.

Clicking into the box will automatically start a text note. The paintbrush icon on the left will start a drawing note, and the image icon will start an image-based note.

Once you decide on the type of note you want to create, at the bottom of the note-taking area you’ll see options to:

  • Set a reminder for a specific time or place
  • Add a collaborator
  • Change the color of the note
  • Add an image to the note
  • Archive the note
  • “More” = add a label, add checkboxes, add a drawing
  • Undo
  • Redo
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Pretty simple, right? Once you click out of the note-taking area, your note will be automatically added to the Google Keep screen and synced across any devices where you’re using the same Google account and logged into Google Keep. 

Although these features are fairly bare-bones compared to other applications, they enable you to curate a wide variety of different tasks, to-dos, and reminders.

You can edit any type of note at any time simply by clicking into it. 

Let’s take a deeper look at how these features can be used to organize your tasks and improve your overall efficiency.

1. Pin to prioritize.

When it seems like you have a million things on your to-do list, tackling each task in the order you added them to the list isn’t usually the most effective approach. Some tasks are simply more pressing or time-sensitive than others, and your to-do list should reflect this.

With Google Keep, you can keep your tasks prioritized using the “pin” feature. Hover over any note, and click the pin icon that appears in the upper right hand corner of the note. 

This will add the note to a separate “Pinned” section above the rest of your notes. Pinned notes will remain in this section until you delete or unpin them. It’s certainly a humble organization feature, but I’ve found that pinning my most important tasks at the beginning of each day has helped me prioritize my time more effectively. 

2. Break up larger tasks into smaller tasks.

Got a particularly big, complicated, or just plain tedious task you need to tackle? Break it up into little parts.

This is one of my absolute favorite ways to make it through my more complex to-do list items or group related tasks together in one bucket. Using Google Keep’s list feature, I create a new “list” note card, which creates a little checklist inside a single note. To create a hierarchy of checklist items, you can drag items to nest them under other items.

3. Share notes with team members to keep them updated.

Google Keep has a useful collaboration feature that allows you to share a note directly with another Google user. I’ve found this tool to be particularly helpful when you need to keep a colleague up to date on your progress or send someone a friendly reminder.

To add a colleague to a note, just click on the “+” person icon at the bottom of any note. Collaborators have the ability to make changes once you add them to the note.

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If your team is already using other Google tools, the collaborate feature in Google Keep can be easily integrated into other areas of your team’s processes without having to adopt a new tool to stay connected. 

4. Add annotations to images.

Google Keep allows you to add annotations directly to images — a valuable time-saver if you work on a creative team that regularly deals with visual content. This can save time when you need to make a comment about a particular aspect of an image, since you don’t need to describe it — you can draw directly on the area you want to highlight.

To add an annotation to an image, click on your image note in Google Keep to expand. In the upper right corner of your screen, you’ll see a pen icon (right next to the printer icon):

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This will take you to a separate screen where you can select a pen width and color, and draw directly on the screen. 

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5. Use date-based reminders to keep yourself on track and structure your day.

Need to keep track of a big deadline? Or maybe you just need some little reminders to keep you on track throughout the day? I use Google Keep’s date and time-based reminders as a helpful nudge when I need it — for both larger projects, and smaller things I need to remember to get done.

To set one up, click on the alarm bell icon at the bottom of any note, and you’ll get a menu to select a time and date to get reminded.

6. Set a location-based reminder.

If you move from place to place throughout your day and want reminders when you get to a specific location, you can set that up in Google Keep. Just from the same menu in the previous step, just select “Pick Place” and select the location you want to get a reminder at.

I’ve found this feature is useful for a wide variety of errands  — like reminders to buy something when you get to the grocery store, or a reminder to check up on an outstanding work task when you get into the office the next day. Just remember to have your Google-connected device with you, and location settings turned on to receive these reminders. 

free productivity tips

In-App Mobile Ad Fraud Up 800 Percent

Media Announcement: DoubleVerify (“DV”), the leading independent provider of marketing measurement software and analytics,today announced a partnership with InMobi,a global provider of enterprise platforms for marketers. As part of the partnership, DoubleVerify will provide always-on fraud filtering and measurement for mobile in-app advertising campaigns across the InMobi Exchange globally.

The integration with InMobi covers pre-bid targeting for all InMobi Exchange impressions within the leading mobile in-app platform, as well as monitoring of post-bid fraud activity, such as spoofing – enabling InMobi to continuously refine the quality of its mobile ad inventory.

“DV’s partnership with InMobi demonstrates our commitment to provide consistent, comprehensive quality coverage for global brand advertisers,” said Matt McLaughlin, COO at DoubleVerify. “With ad spend increasingly concentrated in mobile, it’s imperative that brands have transparency into the quality of mobile app inventory. We are proud of our partnership with InMobi, which expands the footprint of our fraud prevention capabilities and further distinguishes DV as the leader for mobile app verification.”

“InMobi is committed to providing transparency, building trust and delivering business results to our advertisers. This partnership, along with our support for DoubleVerify viewability, is a giant step toward that,” said Anne Frisbie, SVP, Global Programmatic and North America at InMobi. “InMobi is proud to partner with DoubleVerify in this critical battle against mobile app fraud. We strongly believe that only through open collaboration will the industry be able to eliminate fraud.”

As part of its industry-leading mobile app fraud solution, DoubleVerify identifies and screens the most comprehensive types of in-app fraud, including background ad activity, hidden ads, app misrepresentation (spoofing) and measurement manipulation. In March 2017, DV received Media Rating Council (MRC) accreditation for its technology to detect and block sophisticated invalid traffic (SIVT) for mobile app video and display advertising.

The post In-App Mobile Ad Fraud Up 800 Percent appeared first on Mobile Marketing Watch.

The 15 Best Free WordPress Themes for Bloggers in 2019

If you’re a blogger, it’s probably safe to assume you want a website that’s equally as stylish, unique, and high quality as the content you share. You also want visitors to have a positive experience navigating your site — reading posts with ease, searching for topics of interest, and discovering other content that makes them excited to return. A WordPress blogging theme can help you achieve the exact look, feel, design, and layout you envision … without the need for coding.

The 15 Best Free WordPress Themes for Bloggers in 2019

We’ve curated this list of our favorite 15 free WordPress themes for bloggers like yourself — not in any specific order — to consider using for your website. Each theme includes a description of the features that make them unique as well as a list of key takeaways in case you’re in a hurry.

1. Juno

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Juno provides you with unique blog-style layout options that makes it easy to pair your written content with images and/ or videos. Juno is a simple WordPress theme that offers a minimalist and clean design without any clutter. The theme also has a masonry-style blog layout, which displays your content in a grid format to make it organized and easy to browse.

Key Takeaways:

  • Gallery options to pair written content with photos and video
  • Minimalist theme
  • Grid-style layout

2. Kale

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Kale is built for food bloggers. There are a number of feed displays to choose from so you can determine how you want to organize your written content and images of the dishes and menu items that you’re featuring. The built-in social media sidebar widget makes it easy for your visitors to locate, view, and follow your accounts.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ideal for food bloggers
  • Variety of blog feed displays
  • Built-in social media menu buttons
     

3. Writee

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Writee is ideal for photography or image-heavy blogs — the theme has a slider hero image feature which allows you to include several full-width images. Writee’s responsive design automatically changes your site’s format to fit any screen, whether that’s desktop, mobile, or tablet. You might also be a blogger who sells branded merchandise or other related items. If that’s the case, Writee makes managing your online store simple with their WooCommerce integration.

Key Takeaways:

  • Responsive design
  • Full-width image slider
  • WooCommerce integration

4. Hemingway 

Hemingway is a simple two-column blogging theme that keeps your content organized and easy to read. It includes a parallax scrolling feature which adds an interactive, 3D, and video-like experience to your blog pages. Hemingway’s translation-ready feature comes with pre-made language files so your website can be automatically translated into a number of other languages with the click of a button.

Key Takeaways:

  • Simple two-column theme
  • 3D, video-like scrolling feature
  • Auto-translates into several other languages

5. Radiate

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Radiate is a blogging theme that offers unique visuals, including a customizable, full-width hero image and primary color options so you can match your branding. If you have a WordPress.com Premium or Business account (that is, if you pay for WordPress), you can take advantage of custom Cascading Style Sheets, or CSS. CSS is a markup language that determines the look of your HTML so you can modify and customize the design of your web pages.

Key Takeaways:

  • Full-width image background
  • Multiple color options
  • Custom CSS that allows you to modify and customize web page design

6. Flat

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This blogging theme employs “flat”, or 2D, design principles, to give your site a minimalist feel all while using bright colors and unique typography to maintain a level of appeal. The theme has customizable sidebar navigation that allows you to build a clean and functional menu for your blog content. There’s also an easy-to-use “Theme Options Panel” in which you can update your site’s settings, add images and logos, include social links, and more from one, central location.

Key Takeaways:

  • Flat, 2D design
  • Customizable sidebar navigation
  • Easy-to-use Theme Options Panel to customize site pages

7. Bulan

Bulan offers multiple homepage layouts for your blog including full-width, boxed, narrow, and multi-column options to provide your visitors with a unique experience when they enter your site. There are also a number of customizable sidebar and navigation configurations to enhance your user experience. Not to mention, you can install custom widgets to increase your site’s functionality.

Key Takeaways:

  • Multiple homepage layouts
  • Customizable sidebar and navigation options
  • Custom widget options

8. Total

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Total is a blogging theme with a masonry-style layout which places your latest three, six, or nine blog posts in a grid format to keep your content organized. There’s also a portfolio section if you want to share some of your artistic work. Total is SEO-friendly, which means it’s set up to help you rank in Google searches and get more traffic to your site.

Key Takeaways:

  • Grid-style layout
  • Portfolio section available
  • SEO-friendly
     

9. Spacious

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Spacious is a blog theme with four different page layout options and four blog display options to choose from. You can customize your theme’s primary color to match your site to your branding. Building your site with Spacious is a simple and painless process due to their downloadable demo sites that you can use for inspiration and support.

Key Takeaways:

  • Four blog display options to choose from
  • Customizable primary color for your theme
  • Demo sites available

10. Revive

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Revive is a blogging and magazine theme that’s ideal if you have a variety of photo content that you want to share on your website. The theme has a responsive design so your visitors can easily view your website from their desktop computer, mobile, or tablet. Revive also offers access to Font Awesome Icons that you can add to your theme to create a more interactive experience.

Key Takeaways:

  • Blogging and magazine theme
  • Responsive design
  • Access to Font Awesome Icons to create an interactive experience

11. Wisteria

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Wisteria is a blogging theme with a clean, minimalist, and straightforward design. The theme has layouts tailored to a variety of blogs including lifestyle, food, fashion, marketing, and more. Wisteria is retina-ready meaning all of your images and content will be high-definition to ensure your site has a professional look and feel.

Key Takeaways:

  • Clean and minimalist design
  • Created for a wide variety of blog types
  • High-definition
     

12. Editorial

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Editorial is a blog theme with a live customizer feature that lets you edit your site, move sections, add content to your theme, and view changes in real time. The theme is flexible enough to organize large amounts of editorial content in a way that doesn’t seem overwhelming to your readers. Editorial has a variety of easy-to-use widgets that allow you to customize several of your site page sections with the click of a button.

Key Takeaways:

  • Live customizer feature to make and view edits in real time
  • Easy to organize large amounts of written content
  • Variety of easy-to-use widgets

13. Brilliant

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Brilliant is a blog and online magazine theme that allows you to artistically pair your blog posts with photo and/ or video content. You can add or edit your own custom logo on your homepage as well as easily customize your theme’s accent colors to match your blog’s branding. Brilliant is also translation-ready so your visitors can read your content in a variety of different languages with the click of a button.

Key Takeaways:

  • Easily pair blog posts with photo and video content
  • Quickly add a logo and customize the theme’s accent colors
  • Can be auto-translated into multiple different languages 

14. Poseidon

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If you want to include large, professional-looking photographs on your blog’s website, Poseidon is the option for you. This theme offers a full-width image slideshow on the homepage that allows you to display multiple photos. The layout is mainly white to create a clean, organized look that appears spacious and organized. Poseidon also has completely customizable navigation bars that you can implement on your site to enhance user experience and improve your site’s configuration.

Key Takeaways:

  • Full-width image slideshow
  • White background to create a spacious and clean design
  • Customizable navigation bars

15. Author

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Author is suitable for all types of blogs and includes a responsive design so your visitors can read your content from any device and still enjoy their experience. The theme’s minimalist look allows your visitors to easily focus on your content without any distractions. There is expert support available in case you run into any issues while designing your website as well as several tutorial videos to walk you through different customization tasks step-by-step.

Key Takeaways:

  • Responsive design
  • Minimalist appearance
  • Expert support and tutorial videos

Back To You

A free blogging WordPress theme will allow you to create a unique, functional, stylish, and eye-catching website where you can share your content. Each theme has features, layouts, and styling that set them apart from the others — so, consider the overall design you’re going for on your blog to help you determine which option is ideal for you. Then, install your theme and begin adding your blog content and customizing it to your liking to create a great user experience for your visitors that will keep them coming back.

5 Strategies Brands Haven’t Tapped Yet for Holiday 2018

Even though Black Friday and Cyber Monday are behind us, holiday spending is far from over. In fact, the National Retail Federation expects holiday retail sales in November and December to increase between 4.3 and 4.8 percent over 2017, for a total of $717.45 billion to $720.89 billion. That means there’s still time and money left on the table for brands to reach interested and motivated shoppers, especially at the lower end of the marketing funnel.

According to Brett Zucker, CMO at Monotype—a company that empowers the world’s top 2000 brands with design, technology and expertise—sense-based marketing (i.e., appealing to consumers’ senses) is the best way to maximize returns during this high-volume, high-impact time of year. Namely, there are five key strategies marketers should consider, if they want to maximize yields through Dec. 25 and beyond.

  • General Senses
    • Experiential Gifts Win Out—From ax throwing to aerial yoga, this year’s holiday shoppers, especially millennials and GenZ, are increasingly opting to gift experiences in place of material items. The trend makes sense as recent studies from university researchers reveal that experiential purchases tend to provide more enduring happiness. For brands in hospitality and travel, there is a natural connection to “selling” experiences to consumers. For marketers outside these channels, think about how you can make your products an experience; it may be as simple as a small tweak in messaging. For example, you’re not just selling a festive, scented holiday candle. You’re selling nostalgia, the feeling of warmth or being cozy.
  • Sight:
    • Go for Authenticity—Gone are the days of stock photos. Ditch the staged photography, which can come across as cold or un-relatable, in favor of real images of real people. If, unlike CVS, you don’t have $$ to drop on refreshing packaging with untouched photos, consider other avenues, like UGC or influencer content. Both are solid alternatives that not only inspire loyalty, but it will make your brand feel more accessible and authentic. Bonus: reports show that UGC actually has the power to inspire purchase decisions (70% in fact).
    • Know When and How to Stylize Your Brand—Every brand has a complex visual identity, from the typefaces it uses, down to the color of the logo or packaging. Don’t overlook these small details that can have big impact.
  • Sound:
    • Optimize SEO for Smart Speaker Shopping—22% of Gen Xers and 17% of millennials plan to use a virtual assistant for shopping this holiday season. If your customers start their shopping journey via smart speaker, you may want to overhaul your content marketing to prioritize long-tail keywords that are more conversational, or “featured snippets” that appear higher on search results. In any case, optimized SEO is the name of the game.
    • Consider Curated Playlists Consistent with Your Brand—How can you make your online shopping experience unique, if already convenient? Maybe it’s a stylized Spotify playlist shoppers can tune in to while browsing. Not only a festive and personal touch, but it just could put shoppers in the right holiday spirit to convert—not abandon—their cart.
  • Touch:
    • Don’t Neglect In-Store Experiences—We hear a lot about the retail apocalypse or death to brick-and-mortar, but that’s far from the case. In fact, stats show that physical stores still play a critical role in the winding shopper journey. Want to make their in-store experience more memorable? Consider the power of in-store demos where consumers can discover and explore your product with their own two hands. This has proven especially powerful for the likes of beauty upstarts and legacy brands that are embracing experiential.

The post 5 Strategies Brands Haven’t Tapped Yet for Holiday 2018 appeared first on Mobile Marketing Watch.

The Ultimate Guide to Communication

The key to any relationship is communication.

This includes romantic relationships, of course, but it also applies to friendships, coworker relationships, manager-team relationships, and even brand-customer relationships.

Any scenario that requires you to convince, inform, entertain, or engage with another involves communication.

The topic of communication is quite broad, right? I mean, it encompasses an entire college major at most universities. But we won’t be covering everything about communication in this guide.

Below, you’ll be reading about communication as it applies to the workplace and to your customers — two pretty important topics, right? We’ll also be sharing ways to improve your communication and learn how your colleagues and customers communicate, too.

Keep reading to get started, or use the chapter links below to jump around.

In simpler terms, communication is said to be the “creation and exchange of meaning.” Communication is also a process … a series of actions. It’s not a single phenomenon, and it varies based on method, channel, and person.

As a partner, friend, coworker, boss, and brand, you have a responsibility to learn how to best communicate. Let’s talk about how to communicate effectively.

How to Communicate Effectively

Not all communication is good communication. In fact, not communicating at all is better (in some circumstances) than communicating poorly.

Not adhering to effective communication practices can exacerbate or worsen a communicative environment, break trust, and make messages harder to receive.

Effective Communication Skills

Effective communication isn’t just speaking clearly and honestly. It also involves creating a safe, comfortable space for communication — even if you’re not the one talking. Employ these effective communication skills to give and receive information successfully.

1. Listening Actively

Effective communication is less about talking and more about listening. Active listening isn’t just hearing what the other person has to say; it also involves understanding their emotions and point-of-view.

The goal of effective communication is to empathize and understand the person or party with whom you’re communicating. Here’s how:

  • Focus on the other person. Don’t look at your phone, look around the room, or begin speaking to someone else. You can’t pick up on voice inflection or nonverbal cues if you’re not paying attention.
  • Show interest in what the other person is saying by nodding your head or saying “yes.”
  • Try not to judge or assume as the other person speaks. We talk more about these barriers in the next section.
  • Ask questions and provide reinforcing feedback, such as “What I’m hearing is…” or “Is this what you mean?”

When you practice active, engaged listening, you becoming fully in-sync with what the other person is saying and feeling. That’s the point of effective communication.

2. Asserting Yourself

Being assertive means considering your thoughts, opinions, and feelings and communicating them in a clear, respectful way. It doesn’t mean being demeaning or aggressive. (We talk more about the different communication styles in the next section.)

Asserting yourself can help you stay clear on your own goals while empathizing with others. Here’s how:

  • Get clear on your own values and opinions before you engage with someone else so that you don’t get confused or change your mind to make a conversation easier.
  • Positively express negative thoughts or opinions. Try to avoid outright anger or demeaning language or attitudes.
  • Be comfortable enough to say “no” or “I don’t agree.”

Although effective communication is about understanding the other person, it doesn’t mean we should forget about our own perspectives.

3. Minimizing Stress and Communication Barriers

Whether you’re speaking or listening, minimizing stress in communication helps create a healthy, effective environment. Here’s how:

  • Stall or pause to collect your thoughts. This can help you avoid outbursts or speaking before you think … and saying something you might regret.
  • Make one point at a time so that you or the other person don’t get confused or overwhelmed.
  • Don’t interrupt or make unnecessary comments or noises while the other person is speaking.
  • Try to stay objective and upbeat as you speak and listen. Keep the mood and tempo of the conversation elevated.

It’s also important to recognize and remove any communication barriers like the ones we describe below. Anyone with a perceived “upper hand” in a relationship — like managers, executives, or parents — should especially keep these in mind.

Common Barriers to Communication

Here are a handful of common communication barriers that may be hindering communication in your relationships. I’ve also included an example of how these might apply in the workplace.

Language/Cultural Communication Barriers

Language or cultural barriers occur when two parties don’t speak the same language or perhaps have different understandings of the same language.

Example: An international intern is shirking his duties to coworkers. The team lead gives feedback by saying “You’re passing the buck.” The intern doesn’t understand the jargon. He isn’t sure how to improve in his role and continues making his mistake, further frustrating the team and team lead.

Today’s workplace environments are more diverse than ever, meaning collaboration happens among all kinds of cultures. The best way to remove cultural or language barriers is by choosing common, clear phrases that are universally understood. If you’re speaking with someone who speaks a different language, try to use a translator or a verified translation tool.

Psychological / Attitudinal Communication Barriers

Psychological barriers happen when one or both parties carry cultural assumptions or are restricted by emotional hurdles or taboos. They also happen when there’s a lack of trust, attention, or empathy.

Example: A female employee is returning from maternity leave and needs a place to pump breast milk. In her previous job, her male manager wasn’t accommodating to her needs as a new mother, so when she approaches her current male superior with her request, she’s defensive and nervous … thus creating a tense, tough conversation.

In this specific case, if the male superior was aware of her previous experience, he’d be able to inject more empathy and patience to make the employee more comfortable. Otherwise he might be uncomfortable with her defensiveness. While the female employee can’t help her previous experience, she could try to approach the new manager without any assumptions.

Everyone’s mind is different, as is their upbringing. When it comes to psychological and attitudinal barriers, the responsibility falls on both parties to set aside expectations and prejudices and prioritize empathy, patience, and understanding.

Physical Communication Barriers

Physical barriers refer to anything that physically stands in the way of clear communication. These barriers typically exist through email, social media, text, or phone communication (anything that isn’t face-to-face) or when hearing or speaking handicaps are present.

Example: A remote employee is awaiting important feedback on a new project. His superior replies, via email, in a way that could be construed as cold or harsh — even though she was quite happy with the results. The remote employee assumes she’s unhappy with the project and loses confidence in his ideas and progress.

In today’s world, digital and text-based communication is very common, especially with remote work.

Receivers can avoid these barriers by not assuming the meaning behind a message or by simply asking for clarification. Also, senders can make their messages easier to receive by adding clarifying punctuation or words when communicating nonverbally.

Lastly, always be aware of personal handicaps with which others might be dealing.

The Four Communication Styles

Personality tests, like DiSC and Myers-Briggs, help others better understand your needs, strengths, and weaknesses.

The same goes for communication styles. Understanding the different styles below gives you a better understanding of how and why others communicate the way they do.

Passive Communication Style

Passive communicators act indifferent and often yield to others. On the outside, they may seem meek, quiet, or flexible. They likely aren’t good at saying “no” or dealing with conflict, but they’re easy to get along with as they typically “go with the flow.”

Phrases you might hear from passive communicators are:

  • “It doesn’t matter to me.”
  • “This isn’t worth fighting over. Let’s just keep the peace.”

Aggressive Communication Style

Where passive communicators are meek and quiet, aggressive communicators are loud, brash, criticizing, and physically aggressive. Their communication style reverberates through their behavior, volume, and wording. Aggressive communicators issue commands, interrupt, and often talk down to people.

Phrases you might hear from aggressive communicators are:

  • “You’re wrong.”
  • “This is your fault. Fix it.”

Passive-Aggressive Communication Style

The passive-aggressive style displays a mixture of both. On the surface, this type of communicator might seem passive, but they probably harbor an aggressive side underneath. Behaviorally, they might seem agitated and display facial expressions or nonverbal cues that don’t match what they’re saying.

Phrases you might hear from passive-aggressive communicators are:

  • “Whatever, but don’t blame me if the team doesn’t agree.”
  • “That’s fine.” (and then proceeds to do the opposite)

Assertive Communication Style

Assertive communicators are said to follow the most effective and healthiest communication style. These communicators can express their own needs, opinions, and commands while also considering the needs and opinions of others. They typically communicate to reach a compromise or win-win situation, and will often employ “I” statements to take ownership of feelings while still expressing a need or desire.

Phrases you might hear from assertive communicators are:

  • “I respect your opinion, but I disagree and here’s why …”
  • “I feel frustrated when you miss deadlines.

Understanding your own communication style, as well as your team’s and colleagues’, can be helpful when conversations get tough. It can also alert you to ways in which you can improve your own communication skills and challenge others to do the same.

The Four Types of Communication

Communication isn’t limited to face-to-face speaking conversation; it applies to any exchange of information. Below, we walk through the four main types of communication and how you might see them in the workplace.

Verbal Communication

This type of communication is exactly what it sounds like: verbal conversation that includes sounds, words, and language. Verbal communication is said to be the most effective way to express emotions, feelings, opinions, and needs. If used correctly, words can help you be very straightforward and concise while leaving little room for question or assumption.

There are four types of verbal communication.

  • Intrapersonal, which is when we communicate to ourselves through our thoughts or out loud.
  • Interpersonal, which is when we communicate one-on-one with someone else.
  • Small group, which is when two or more people are involved. Team meetings, small presentations, and press conferences are examples of small group communication.
  • Public, which is when one person communicates to a large group. Public speeches, company-wide meetings, and TV commercials are examples of public communication.

Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal communication happens when messages are sent and received without words. It typically applies to body language, tone of voice, inflection, facial responses, and other gestures.

It also includes creative or aesthetic means of communication such as dance, painting, and pottery. (Note: Nonverbal isn’t the same as visual, which is explained below.)

Some examples of nonverbal communication include:

  • Making eye contact (or lack thereof)
  • Shaking hands
  • Crossing or uncrossing legs
  • Folding or unfolding arms
  • Fidgeting
  • Hugging
  • Moving eyebrows
  • Smiling or frowning

Written Communication

Written communication is any message sent through written words or text. This form unique because, unlike verbal or nonverbal communication, written communication can be edited and changed before messages are sent.

Written communication also encompasses components of visual communication when sent through electronic means, such as phones or computers.

Examples of written communication include memos, emails, letters, reports, articles or blog posts (like this one!), social media posts, and print advertising.

Visual Communication

Visual communications involves sending and receiving a message with the help of visual aids. While visual communication encompasses some written communication, it mostly refers to symbols, images, and video.

Movies, TV shows, video, and plays are all visual communication as receivers need to watch them to receive their messages. Icons and emojis are also considered visual communication. The most common form of visual communication, though, is the internet, which sends us messages using a combination of text, colors, images, symbols, and design.

Communication in Business

Whether you know it or not, you’re communicating right now by reading this guide. You’re the recipient of this message that I’ve written and transmitted via blog post.

Communication happens all around us, and it’s especially important in business. Not only are we communicating non-stop with colleagues and teammates, but through marketing, advertising, sales, and support efforts, we’re also sending and receiving messages with our customers and consumers.

Communication in the Workplace

This section is about internal communication, meaning communication that happens within the workplace. This communication can refer to conversations with your boss, project collaborations with teammates, or perhaps reading your company’s internal wiki to learn about another team’s updates.

Regardless, here are some tips on communication in the workplace.

Communication as a Manager

As a manager or team lead, you’re dealing with a lot, right? Not only do you have your own responsibilities, but you also have to oversee and organize those of your team.

One of the hardest parts of managing can be figuring out how to systematize and catalog important communications happening within and around your team.

Building an internal communications strategy can help you manage this. Here’s how.

1. Assign a communication medium for specific types of communication.

It’s hard to speak up at work. People aren’t always sure who to trust. They also aren’t sure which information will stay private, and which information will come with consequences if shared.

This is where it’s up to you, as a manager, to create a safe, healthy environment for effective communication. One way to do that is to “assign” specific media or channels for specific types of communication.

For example, constructive criticism or feedback should take place in-person and privately. Instead of sending random emails or criticizing employees during team-wide meetings, consider scheduling one-on-one feedback sessions every quarter. This reassures your employees that hard conversations will remain private, and it also builds trust by showing your employees that you respect them enough to speak in-person.

Here are some other types of communication that might need their own medium or channel.

  • Praise
  • Collaboration or Project Updates
  • Strategies or Processes for Cross-Team Collaboration
  • Concerns or Questions
  • Important Business Updates

2. Encourage your team (and other teams) to adhere to these processes.

Once you define these communication processes, write them down and share them with your team. Encourage your team — and other teams — to adhere to the processes in respect of themselves and their colleagues.

Where appropriate, record your communication. This creates a record for others to reference and makes it easier to review and improve your processes … which is the next step.

3. Review every six months to see how you can improve.

Twice a year or so, survey your team and colleagues to make sure your internal communications strategy is working for everyone. Carve out time to receive feedback from your own employees. Remember, communication is a two-way street.

Communication Across Generations and Cultures

Whether you’re a brand new employee or a CEO, it’s crucial to understand that we all communicate differently. In the beginning of this guide, we reviewed some common communication barriers, namely cultural barriers.

The vast diversity of today’s workplaces (something to be celebrated!) means that people of all backgrounds, upbringings, and ages are collaborating. It also means that workplaces will have a myriad of communication styles and preferences.

Here’s how to prepare and stay aware of those differences.

  • Educate yourself on how others communicate. Based on our upbringings and education, we all prefer to receive praise, feedback, and instruction in different ways. Take the time to ask your employees and colleagues how you can best communicate with them.
  • Define communication as it applies to each culture. What does silence mean to each employee? How do they prefer to collaborate? What does disagreement look like? How do they like to receive praise? Start the discussion and foster an open environment within your team and company. Stay diligent and work to meet everyone’s preferences.

Communication to the Consumer

This section is about external communication, which refers to communication that your business has with consumers and customers. This communication includes marketing and advertising efforts, sales pitches, support conversations, and any public relations and crisis communications.

When it comes to any communication you have with the consumer, it’s wise to have a strategy to keep your business functions aligned and keep brand communication strong. Whether your posting on social media, publishing a press release, or building a new marketing campaign, all communication to the consumer — whether words, images, or video — should be consistent in tone, personality, and overall branding.

Over to You

Communication really is the key to any relationship. It may be a broad, vague topic, but it’s still able to be mastered in the workplace. Prioritizing communication among your team and company can help resolve conflict, strengthen collaboration, clarify strengths, and prepare you to do the same with your customers and clients.

The Future for Casino Software Development Is a Roulette in Your Own Living Room

There are perhaps four software companies at the forefront of casino gaming technology in Europe, some of which have managed to transform how mobile users play and interact with online casinos. Who are they and what should we expect next?

The list below shows some of the main software developers designing and operating online casino games. There is a high expectation that the next generation of casino software will soon be released by them.

Playte

Playtech has been going for almost 20 years, operating in the online bingo, slots and casino arena where it has developed over 600 games. It has licenses with multiple US entertainment companies like HBO, MGM, Marvel and Universal and is listed on the London Stock Exchange.

NetEnt

NetEnt processes over 21 billion gaming transactions every year and serves over 100 online casinos. It won the 2015 EGR awards for slot Provider of the Year and is listed on the Nordic Nasdaq.

Novomatic

Novomatic turned over nearly 4 billion euros in 2015, which isn’t surprising when you consider it has over 28,000 employees. It specialises in slots, card and electronic table games. It is the biggest casino software supplier in Europe.

Evolution

Evolution has become one of the leaders in online poker and roulette software. It is one of the newest and fastest-growing software developers in the online casino sphere and it continues to develop and grow.

An Augmented Reality for Online Casi

The popularity of online casinos has so far matched and probably exceeded the appetites of the bricks and mortar casinos. Amongst the most popular online casino games is the offering of classics like roulette, mahjong and blackjack just like you’d find at William Hill’s table games. The reason why these remain the most popular casino games to play is primarily because they are easy to learn and fun to play; one offering a player the chance to test their skill and the other offering random, but rich potential on the spin of the table.

Currently, online gambling in the UK generates over £3 billion annually and this figure is only going to grow further as online gambling becomes more mainstream and furthers its growth and appeal. Meanwhile Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality have become huge in the technical sector and a major landscape changer. It doesn’t take long to recall the effects that Pokemon Go had on the public’s imagination to see where this technology can go. It was quickly followed up by the BBC’s Civilisations App to reproduce works of art that came alive right in front of you. So how long will it be before online casinos start developing and releasing their own AR roulette table in your own living room?

There are already virtual zones being set up in Las Vegas casinos.

The answer to that is not long. The hardware technology is already here with Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, HTC Vive and Playstation VR becoming more affordable and available. The software for casinos is getting more closely aligned with reality already with slicker graphics and a more realistic ‘casino’ experience. Add in the technical might of the big casino software developers and we should prepare for some nights in where home casino parties with a full array of tables, games and slots might well be coming soon.

The post The Future for Casino Software Development Is a Roulette in Your Own Living Room appeared first on Mobile Marketing Watch.

Cheetah Mobile Vice President Keynotes Microsoft Tech Summit 2018 in Shanghai

MEDIA ANNOUNCEMENT: As a proud partner of Microsoft, Cheetah Mobile, a leading mobile internet company with a strong global vision, was honored to participate in Microsoft Shanghai Tech Summit where its vice president Li Liang gave a keynote speech about Cheetah Mobile’s focus on promoting digital transformation through AI-powered products and services.

Commenting on the news Li stated, “I am honored to have spoken at this prestigious event and look forward to Cheetah Mobile’s continued relationship with Microsoft to develop products that solve real-life pain points and increase efficiency for people and businesses.”

Cheetah Mobile and Microsoft have been working together since 2017, when it integrated Microsoft’s intelligent voice assistant Cortana into its popular launcher app, CM Launcher. Cortana not only allows CM Launcher users to easily control the app with voice commands, they can also use voice commands to make voice calls, read the news, create and manage events, set reminders and perform web searches, all without leaving the app.

Microsoft and Cheetah Mobile expanded their partnership in July 2018 with the release of Cheetah Translator, a portable translation device developed using text-to-speech and translation technology from Microsoft Research Asia (MSRA) and OrionStar, a Cheetah Mobile-invested AI company. The device is light-weight and easy-to use, while providing accurate and reliable translation, making it the perfect accessory for travelers. Cheetah Translator operates on OrionStar’s self-developed Orion Voice OS, the number one smart voice OS in China, with a 30% market share. Orion Voice OS currently powers smart speakers from Xiaomi, Midea and Ximalaya, as well as Cheetah Mobile’s entire line of robotics products and smart devices.

Unlike similar translation devices that feature two or more buttons, Cheetah Translator’s one-button design reduces the number of operations required of users. Whether it is selecting the language, translating or changing volume, it can all be done with one button. In fact, the translation engine provided by Microsoft and OrionStar automatically detects which language is being spoken and translates accordingly without the need to manually switch between languages. It currently supports Chinese, English, Korean and Japanese, with more languages to be added soon.

Li continued, “The major advantage that Cheetah Mobile has in AI products is its combination of user thinking, product thinking and AI technologies. By focusing on users’ needs in specific scenarios, Cheetah Mobile uses the most suitable technology to solve those needs, and Cheetah Translator is the embodiment of this goal. There are no borders between machines and people anymore. Cheetah Mobile’s goal is to provide users with AI products that are truly intelligent and truly useful.”

Microsoft Shanghai Tech Summit was held at the Shanghai World Expo Center from October 24 to 27, 2018. The Summit brings together Microsoft‘s top global technology experts, famous domestic entrepreneurs, industry leaders, entrepreneurial pioneers and technology enthusiasts gather together to discuss hot topics, share the latest & most cutting-edge gains, the most competitive strategies and techniques, as well as industry solutions under digital transformation, to jointly improve business productivity and predict the development trend of the industry.

About Cheetah Mobile Inc.

Cheetah Mobile is a leading mobile Internet company with strong global vision. It has attracted hundreds of millions of monthly active users through its mobile utility products such as Clean Master and Cheetah Keyboard, casual games such as Piano Tiles 2, and live streaming product Live.me. The Company provides its advertising customers, which include direct advertisers and mobile advertising networks through which advertisers place their advertisements, with direct access to highly targeted mobile users and global promotional channels. The Company also provides value-added services to its mobile application users through the sale of in-app virtual items on selected mobile products and games. Cheetah Mobile is committed to leveraging its cutting-edge artificial intelligence technologies to power its products and make the world smarter. It has been listed on the New York Stock Exchange since May 2014.

About OrionStar

OrionStar is an AI company in China that is controlled by Fu Sheng, CEO and chairman of Cheetah Mobile. The company was established in September 2016 by a group of technology industry leaders and product specialists from Silicon Valley, Japan, Taiwan, Beijing, and Shenzhen. OrionStar has developed a complete robotics technology chain, including a voice-controlled operating system, Orion Voice OS, visual recognition technology, indoor mapping and navigation system, and a back-end robotics platform, Orion OS. OrionStar is committed to using AI technology to develop the next generation of ground-breaking technology products and free people from the burden of overly complicated tasks, make homes more intelligent and create a better world through technology.

For more information about Cheetah Mobile and its products, please visit www.cmcm.com

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The Voice Search Barometer: Where Do Users Stand? [New Data]

At this week’s annual Samsung Developer Conference, there was one technology that arguably stole the spotlight: Voice.

Samsung is making a somewhat apparent push to power more devices — from smartphones to smart speakers to home appliances — with its own voice assistant, Bixby.

It got us thinking: Where do users stand on voice assistants, anyway? How widespread is this technology’s use? And as Samsung keeps its audience waiting for its own smart speaker, the Galaxy Home, how enthusiastic are consumers about these digital assistive devices?

We ran some surveys to answer these questions, and with the help of new data from Zazzle, drew some conclusions on the current sentiment toward voice.

How Many People Plan to Buy a Smart Speaker?

We asked 831 people across the U.S., UK, and Canada: Do you plan to buy a smart speaker?

Most respondents — about 43% — indicated that they do not plan to buy a smart speaker.

It’s interesting to note, however, that while a smart percentage, the second-highest number of respondents indicated that they plan to buy one within the next six months.

That could align with more of the top contenders in the voice assistant market continuing to release newer models of their smart speakers, with improved functionalities and additional features (such as video).

The Value of Voice Assistants and Smart Speakers Remains Ambiguous

For many consumers, the purpose and tangible use cases of  voice assistants (and the smart speakers they power) remain unclear. When we asked 818 users across the U.S., UK, and Canada, “If you do not own a smart speaker, why not?” we found that most people simply don’t see the benefits of having one.

If you do not own a smart speaker, why not_

These findings align with two other sets of data.

The first is data from Zazzle, where out of “thousands of social media users” in the UK, 35% said that they don’t believe they would ever actually use such voice assistant devices as smart speakers.

The-State-of-Voice-Search-2018-Zazzle-MediaSource: Zazzle

The second is an additional survey we ran among 481 people across the U.S. and Canada, where 21% of respondents said that they don’t completely understand what voice assistants do.

Do you plan to buy a smart speaker_ (1)

The Outlook

The findings above point to some possible key indications about the outlook for voice assistants and the devices they power.

First, it seems that many users are unclear about the value of voice assistants, or what they do — a finding that’s suggested by the number of survey respondents who, if they didn’t say that their understanding of voice is muddled, said that they want to learn more about the technology before investing in it.

It is possible that some users do not assign the formal terminology of “voice assistants” to the technology with which they might be on a first-name basis; for example, Siri, Alexa, or “Okay, Google.” That’s suggested by Zazzle’s finding that 68% of users acknowledged the convenience of a voice assistant, saying that they were able to find information quicker by using this technology over typing out a query.

The-State-of-Voice-Search-2018-Zazzle-Media(2)Source: Zazzle

That finding is supported by our own findings that about a quarter of users who do use voice assistants do so to answer questions.

Which of the following describes the way you use your voice assistant -- like Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri -- the most_ (1)

To repeat our earlier point: More top contenders in the voice assistant market continuing to release newer models of their smart speakers, with improved functionalities and additional features. As the technology improves and scales, it could become more widespread and accessible to consumers, broadening the value and use cases.

And as it does, points out HubSpot’s head of SEO Victor Pan, so do the different platforms where customers can be reached.

“Pay attention to when your customers start to adopt,” Pan says — such as voice. “The point of marketing is to be where your customers are.”