The failings of the individual insurance market

first_imgMost of our members already know what’s wrong with the individual insurance market: it’s incredibly expensive. (Just as an example, here in New York State, the types of plans Freelancers Union offers would cost about three times as much for an individual buying directly from an insurance company.) For this reason and for many others, Emily Friedman, at Hospitals & Health Networks Online, lambasts the Massachusetts plan, which would leave a lot of people to buy insurance on their own (via The Health Care Blog). Obviously, we think that the individual market is dreadful–that’s why we exist. But that’s not reason enough to decry the efforts in Masschusetts. We just think that people should be allowed to form groups that aren’t employer-based. If you’re paying for your health insurance all on your own, you should at least have options.last_img

Future Shock: Millennials are terrible at saving

first_imgMillennials are a talented and fiercely self-reliant generation. In the course of building my startup—Spera Inc., a platform to help freelancers manage every aspect of their businesses—I’ve talked to dozens of them. They tend to be creative, fearless and, as independent contractors, elated to be doing something they love. Barriers? Just something to vault over.But here’s one thing that stops a lot of them cold: saving money for retirement.Why? Some of the challenges are financial. Others are educational. Still others are emotional or psychological hurdles. In discussing his reasons for not putting aside money, one freelancer told me, “I’m looking at working till I die”—so why bother? That’s not a very attractive future, and it raises a powerful reason to find a way to start saving: There’s no other way to continue the independence you enjoy as a freelancer.Let’s take these challenges one at a time.Finding the money to save in a routinized way is hard—especially for freelancers. A lot of them start out with crushing student debt. Then there’s the irregular nature of their businesses: One month may be great, but the next may be terrible. The feast-or-famine cycles of freelancing (a.k.a. income variability) makes it tough to set aside funds for retirement. But here’s an easy out: Put aside a certain amount of money—whether it’s 5% of income, or even just $5—during the good months and skip the bad ones until you figure out a way to smooth the bumps. It’s a lot better than doing nothing.Saving for retirement requires your learning about the different options, in order to decide what plan is most advantageous to you. That sounds daunting, and it can be confusing, given the welter of choices. There are Roth and traditional IRAs, SEP (Simplified Employee Pension) IRAs, Solo 401(k)s (self-managed or –directed funds), and SIMPLE (Savings Incentive Match Plan) IRAs if you have employees—and all of them have different caps on how much you’re allowed to contribute, as well as various tax and pre-tax benefits and consequences. But with a little research, finding the right option for you isn’t all that tough. You can always sit down with a financial planner who can explain the differences and guide you to a plan that makes sense.Maybe the toughest snag for most Millennials is psychological. When you’re in your twenties, it’s hard to imagine that you’ll ever be old. Shocking though it is to fathom, you’ll probably be lucky enough to make to age 65—and long past. Do you really expect to work as hard as you’re laboring now until you expire, as my Millennial friend told me?Even if you do, start a savings plan anyway. It’s part of the same drive that made you decide to go off on your own in the first place. It shows that you’re in charge of your own life. Think of socking away funds for retirement as part of your dues for joining the Freedom Economy—as one of the 55 million American men and women who’ve emancipated themselves from corporate life, electing to pursue a passion, and working with and for people you choose to engage with. Putting away money for the future is a down payment on a guarantee that the freedom you enjoy today will continue in the future.One of the Millennials I’ve been in touch with is Jessica Bishop, who founded and runs Budget Savvy Bride, a website that helps women have “beautiful weddings without breaking the bank.” But planning her own beautiful future wasn’t on her horizon—until “Dad gave me a link to an online article about how important it is to start saving at an early age,” she says.Two things motivated her to get started. First, “I wanted to have as much of my hard-earned money working for me as possible, and retirement savings could help with that goal.” Second, was a little subtler: She wanted to prove to her dad that she had a real business—and opening a retirement plan was a way of showing him that she had some staying power. So she called the financial institution that held her 401(k) from a previous job and got some help rolling it into an IRA.Jessica has applied some of the discipline she’s drawn on to build a business to her retirement savings: They both require focus and a determination to set and maintain goals. You have to be your own advocate—because no one else will. With that in mind, Jessica puts aside a certain amount every monthCK. She’s counting on the beauty of savings that compound over many years.If all this still sounds too dismaying and has you reaching for the antacid bottle, try having some fun with the idea. Turn the whole idea of saving for retirement into a game—with rewards, penalties, monsters to slay, and targets to hit—a new form of entertainment.Whoa. Gamifying retirement planning? Now, there’s an idea for a startup.You can find retirement programs designed for freelancers on the Freelancers Union site here.last_img read more

Moving through time and space: practical tips for tech nomads

first_imgThis is a sponsored post from Joust, the first financial services company animated by and focused on the unique needs of freelancers. What if your bank admired your passion and respected your work? And what if it could guarantee you got paid? PayArmour, a revolutionary new solution from Joust, takes the hassle out of invoicing clients and protects you against client nonpayment.You know the whole truism about “location, location, location”? If you are a tech nomad, forget it. Aside from the wifi signal, you don’t need to worry about it. You are free…in that dimension.Time is another matter. “Time is money” still holds. The converse, money is time, may be even more relevant when you’re taking your tech contract work on the road.Let’s look at some of the possible parameters of tech nomad time:Billing by the hourHard deadlinesTime zonesScheduled callsYour clients’ payment termsWhen they actually pay youYour business and household expense due datesTime spent ensuring that the money is movingThe proportion of billable hours to (so-called) “free” timeThe quality of that free timeWe are going to make the wild assumption that you’re living or aspiring to this life because you value a high degree of freedom. Maybe you’re a dirtbag climber type, or a #vanlife surfer, or a global-schooling parent—those are the go-to, really fun stereotypes. Enjoy!Or maybe your situation is more sober and serious, say you are taking care of an ill out-of-town relative. The point is: you want to be able to focus and be truly present wherever you are. Tech nomads are taking the whole work-life balancing act to the high wire.Much of what I’m saying could be true for freelance work in a multitude of industries. Tech nomads make a nice example because so much of coding and other related work has been digitally accessible for so long. Coming full circle, it’s the work of technologists that have enabled all sorts of information-age remote endeavors.At Joust, the tech nomad archetype holds a special relevance for us — we’re leveraging technology to improve the financial lives of freelancers and entrepreneurs. As a banking platform, we are, of course, very focused on the financial part, and we’ve also honed in on the time aspect.We saw a gaping problem for freelancers with clients paying late—or worse, not at all. Following up on invoicing sucks up time and energy, and many freelancers are also busy managing income volatility even when payments are reliable. Tech nomads are giving themselves the extra challenge of keeping their administrative tasks and other life responsibilities in perfect order to compensate for their absence from a geographic address.There are some tasks that you simply need to stay on top of or get done in advance, say: taxes, medical appointments, and auto registration renewal.Then there are other surprise-type things that can trip up tech nomads, say jury duty summons or a burst pipe. Roll with these cases as they come and hope for helpful neighbors. Not all hazards are avoidable.We created Joust’s PayArmour to move the cash-flow management issue from the latter category to the first. It’s an invoicing tool with a guarantee. (If you want to get technical, it’s a form of “factoring,” a service large banks typically provide large corporate clients, scaled down to freelance size.) It takes the uncertainty out of when those funds will actually show up in your account.When you’re in that getting-things-in-order mode, you could open a Joust account. (Of course, you could from the road too, but we’re putting this in a certain organizational mindset.) After you hold the mail or hire someone to mow the lawn, try billing a client with PayArmour to see if it works well for you and so you know the drill when you’re billing your client from a family friend’s summer cabin.Speaking of summer cabins, let me share a relevant personal anecdote that illustrates how even  experienced contract workers can fall prey to payment problems. Last summer I accepted an invite from my child’s friend’s family to stay at their place up in the mountains. The father is a very accomplished technologist. He’s been doing a variety of contract work. He spent that week fuming about a client who wasn’t paying him for recent hours spent in business meetings due to a “misunderstanding” about their contract.When you are in full-on tech nomad mode you should either be working or doing your thing, not wondering if the accounts payable dude at FlakeClient did, in fact, process your invoice. Because “work hard, play hard, follow-up on invoices hard” just doesn’t sound right.last_img read more

14 Ways to Save $1,000 by the Summer

first_imgIf you’re like me, the upcoming holiday season brings with it a mix of excitement and dread. While you might love the spirit of Christmas — holiday jingles, festive gatherings with those near and dear to you, the aroma of… Full Story,A few months ago, I was hanging out with a good friend at a bar. In between rounds of drinks and amid the din and bustle, she shamefully admitted that although she had nearly $20,000 of credit card debt, she… Full Story,When I was in college, I had a bit of a spending problem. I loved to buy new clothes, go out to eat and go to concerts.  Even though I tried to budget, I always wound up overspending.  The one… Full Story,If you’re in the market for a TV upgrade, retail price tags can be daunting. Here are some foolproof methods to shave down the cost – so you can enjoy the golden age of television in 4K, 65-inch, HDR-compatible splendor.Full Story,Your checking account is held at a bank or credit union that allows withdrawals, deposits, and payments. The money in a checking account is liquid—meaning you can retrieve it or spend it immediately.  Many checking accounts are free and are… Full Story,Saving more money is one of those big goals that a lot of people have, but get stuck. I know this because we use to be right there too. The year would fly by and we were nowhere near our goal…. Full Story,Cutting the cord is easier than ever – unless you’re a sports fan. Even as the major sports organizations reluctantly shift away from an outdated broadcasting model, it’s still hard to catch all the action without a cable subscription. But… Full Story,Table of Contents Jobs to Keep You Teaching Jobs Online and On Apps Jobs to Get You Outside Miscellaneous Part-Time Work  Additional Resources Being a teacher is one of the most essential jobs there is. Educators are the ones that… Full Story,Taking care of aging parents is an inevitable part of life, and it’s not always easy. We watch the people who raised us slowly slip away, and we want to do everything in our power to give them the best… Full Story,Managing your savings is a skill developed over time. As with all things, it’s always best to start small. What exactly is saving? A savings account and the act of saving are not quite the same. Saving — the verb… Full Storylast_img read more

College Students: Here are The Biggest Financial Mistakes You Need to Avoid

first_imgSlipping up while in college is basically a rite of passage. I made so many mistakes at Indiana University – many of which I would never admit publicly – that reminiscing on my college years comes with a heavy dose of embarrassment.Thankfully, most mistakes made while at university are temporary. They may have short-term consequences, but drinking tickets and dorm infractions don’t tend to follow you into adult life. Financial mistakes, on the other hand, can be a little stickier.College may seem like a safe little bubble, but money is still money. The cash you blow on parties and takeout doesn’t magically get reimbursed once you earn a diploma. Beyond that, the bad habits you develop during these crucial years can haunt you for decades to come. Trust me – I’ve been there.Here are some of the biggest mistakes I made in college, and how you can avoid them.Not Keeping a BudgetMy forays into budgeting as a college student usually fizzled out. Like a New Year’s resolution, I’d make a firm commitment and then give up after a few weeks.When I was a second-semester senior, I decided to finally buckle down and stick to a budget. Graduation was fast approaching and I knew I hadn’t been handling my money responsibly. It was time to get serious about budgeting before I entered the real world.At first it was really hard. I wasn’t used to depriving myself, and seeing how much I was wasting on eating out and buying new clothes was a hard pill to swallow. It wasn’t until I started my first real job after college that I finally got the hang of budgeting – but it took a lot of trial and error.If you’re interested in starting a budget, set up a Mint account and try tracking your expenses for a few weeks. Knowing where your money is going could be enough to change your behavior and establish better spending habits.Not Making Loan Payments While in SchoolDid you know you can start paying off your student loans while you’re still in school? Yeah, I didn’t either.When I was in college, I was certain I’d find a well-paying job after graduation. My loan balance was filed under the “worry about it later” category. It wasn’t until much later that I learned a hard truth – if I had paid just $50 a month, I could have saved hundreds in accrued interest.Start paying back those loans as soon as possible, even if you can only afford ten bucks a month. You’ll still make a dent in the total balance, and the solid repayment habits you develop in college will pay dividends when life gets crazy after graduation.Not Researching My Student LoansI knew while applying to college that I’d have to subsidize my tuition with student loans. Before I made my decision, my parents told me to pick an affordable school where I wouldn’t need to borrow more money than I expected to earn in my first year out of school.I wanted to be a journalist, and the average starting salary for a reporter was around $26,000 a year. I planned to take out $24,000 total, so I felt good borrowing slightly less than my future salary.That was the only research I did into my student loans. I didn’t examine what my monthly payments would be or what it would be like to actually live on $30,000 a year while repaying my balance.When I graduated, I got a job making $28,000 a year and was shocked when my first student loan payment came due. The minimum payment was $350 – or 20% of my take-home pay.  After rent, utilities, groceries, gas and loans, I had little left over to save for retirement, travel or spend on hobbies.If you’re not sure how much money you’ve borrowed, it’s time to take a closer look. I had so many friends in college who had no idea how much they were taking out. A few years ago, my alma mater, Indiana University, started sending out annual letters to current students showing them how much they’d pay every month. The result? Borrowing dropped 16%.Talk to your financial aid office about your loans and see if you can take out less next year. If you’re using loans for living expenses, consider getting a part-time job to cover those instead. The less you borrow now, the less you’ll have to repay down the line. This blog post does not constitute, and should not be considered a substitute for legal or financial advice. Each financial situation is different, the advice provided is intended to be general. Please contact your financial or legal advisors for information specific to your situation.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) RelatedThe 4 Biggest Budget Surprises for New College GradsMay 24, 2018In “Budgeting”5 Investing Mistakes and How to Avoid ThemJanuary 3, 2019In “Investing Advice”529 Plan: 6 Ways Parents Can Save More Money for Their Kid’s CollegeAugust 27, 2019In “Family Finances” Succumbing to Peer PressureWhen I was in high school, I heard a lot of lectures about peer pressure. Teachers told us not to do things just because the “cool kids” were doing it. They’d tell us to avoid alcohol and drugs and stick to our own values.Unfortunately, no one explained how your peers could pressure you to spend more money. I can recount dozens of instances where I didn’t want to go out for dinner or go shopping, but gave in because my friends were doing it.It’s so tempting to live the good life in college, putting off the stress of adult life until after graduation, but it’s also important to learn how to say no and think about long-term consequences. You can always strike a balance between having fun and staying on top of your responsibilities. Not Applying for More ScholarshipsStudents usually assume the only time to apply for scholarships is before they start college. The thing is, there are plenty of scholarships available for current students. While I applied for a couple scholarships during my time in school, I didn’t take the applications seriously.I told myself applying for scholarships was a waste of time. “What’s the point,” I’d think. “I probably won’t get it.”That line of thinking probably cost me thousands of dollars, and it wasn’t until I was repaying my loans that I realized how much money I’d left on the table. If it seems like a hassle to apply for a $500 scholarship, consider how long it would take you to earn that amount in the real world.Avoiding CreditOne of the biggest mistakes a college student can do is not track their credit history. A credit report is like a financial grade that lenders, landlords and sometimes even employers use to gauge your creditworthiness. If you have a low credit score or no credit, you probably won’t qualify for an apartment by yourself and will need a cosigner.Thankfully, I didn’t have to worry too much about my credit while I was in college. My parents made me an authorized user on their credit cards, so while I was attending class and partying on the weekends my credit history was slowly growing.If you don’t have a credit card right now, and you think your parents could be in a position to help, ask your parents if you can become an authorized user on their card or ask them to cosign on a student credit card.Using a credit card to improve your credit history is simple if you have great self control. Pay a couple small bills with your card every month and then pay the balance in full once the monthly statement posts. Doing so regularly can give you a huge leg up after graduation.But do remember a credit limit is not “free money” and should be looked at as a tool for your financial health. A credit card only has benefits if you pay it off in full every month, carrying over debt could be problematic for your financial future. Post navigationlast_img read more

9 Exercises From Cindy Crawford That Can Transform Your Body in 10 Minutes a Day

first_imgIn the ’90s, the legendary supermodel, Cindy Crawford released several video workouts that had amazing success. Crawford’s exercises are simple and effective and require the work of all the main muscle groups without the need for any special equipment.We decided to do the workouts that Cindy developed and liked them so much we want to share them with you! Don’t forget about doing a warm-up before the workout — and then you can start on your journey to getting the perfect shape!1. Squats: knees outwardLet’s start the workout with leg exercises. Put the legs a little wider than the shoulders, and feet should be pointed outward. Do 10 deep squats. Push the hips up actively, you can place your hands on the waist.2. LungesOne more simple and effective exercise for legs is regular lunges. Do 10 reps.3. Squats: “sitting on the chair”The initial position has you with your feet at shoulder width apart and your hands on the waist. You should do squats again, but differently this time: imagine that you are sitting down on a chair. Do 10 reps. Then, do 10 lunges again.4. Squats: legs togetherThe last cycle of squats should be done with your legs together, hands forward. Complete 10 reps. After this exercise, do 10 more lunges.5. Incomplete push-upsNow let’s do a few exercises for the abs and chest. Put your hands at shoulder width, keeping your hips and legs against the mat. Do two sets, 10 reps in each.6. Incomplete body liftingKeep your legs bent and your hands behind your head. Lift your body 20 times, keeping your back on the mat.7. Complete body liftingKeep your knees bent and your hands behind your head. Now lift your entire body. Do 20 reps.8. Abs exercisesReach your right leg with your left elbow, the right hand should be on the floor or on your belly. Do 20 reps, then switch the hand and leg, and repeat.9. Legs upThis exercise is good for the lower muscles of the belly: lie on your back and put your hands down alongside your body. Lift your legs up 20 times.Sourcelast_img read more

With New Joint Announcement with Canada, US Gets Serious About Cutting Methane Emissions

first_imgBuilding on the momentum from the historic Paris Agreement last December, the United States and Canada announced this week a joint effort to cut methane emissions from oil and gas systems by 40-45 percent below 2012 levels by 2025.  It’s a significant move for both countries since these methane leaks account for 3 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions in the United States and 8 percent in Canada. And for the United States, it signals the administration’s intent to set the first-ever standards to regulate methane from existing oil and gas systems, a necessary step for meeting the country’s goal to reduce its emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, with 34 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide, so cutting emissions of it is vital to combating global climate change. Most of the methane emitted from industrial sources in the United States comes from oil and natural gas systems, where leaks occur throughout the supply chain, including drilling wells, producing and processing natural gas, transporting the finished product, and finally, consuming it. It’s a problem for climate change and for business—natural gas is predominantly made up of methane, so leaked gas is ultimately lost product. The oil and gas industry wasted about 7 million metric tons of methane in 2013. And with natural gas sites increasing in the United States–the number of gas wells grew more than 25 percent in the past decade—it’s a growing problem.  The technology already exists to help producers capture wayward methane, and it’s cost effective, too. WRI research indicates that significant reductions in methane leakage can be achieved with technology that would pay for itself in fewer than three years.   The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has already proposed methane leakage rules for new natural gas and oil systems, which should be finalized in the next few months.  Next month, as announced in the statement by President Obama and Prime Minister Trudeau, EPA will begin collecting information from existing oil and gas sources as a step toward an eventual rulemaking for existing sources.  Regulating methane emissions from existing oil and gas systems is a key and necessary step for the United States to hit its international emissions-reduction target, as we describe in our research paper, Delivering on the US Climate Commitment: A 10-Point Plan to a Low-Carbon Future.The joint U.S.-Canada announcement is another positive signal that builds on the action catalyzed by the Paris Agreement. By acting to regulate methane from existing sources, the two nations are attacking an important source of the gases that drive global warming and demonstrating their commitment to meet their goals and join the rest of the world in fighting climate change.last_img read more

Foursquare’s $5.99 SXSW Booth

first_imgWalking by the Austin convention center, I saw a group of people huddled near one of the doors. As I got closer, I saw people were playing the game four square, then I got even closer and saw they were playing it with one of the founders of Foursquare, and check out our full SXSW content feed at . This game of four square had people lined up to play and everyone walking by was talking about it. This is the type of buzz companies invest a lot of money to achieve. The total investment for Foursquare? Around Topics: Originally published Mar 12, 2010 7:58:00 PM, updated October 20 2016 $5.99 for a box of sidewalk chalk At South By South West, some companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in marketing to reach attendees. , the hottest social network on the Web, spent $5.99.  Inbound Marketing Kit Being different wins in inbound marketing kit , whether it is online of off. People often ask how inbound marketing works offline; this is a perfect example. People walking by this game of four square who didn’t know about the application, are likely going to search for it on the Web. Dennis Crowley Inbound Marketing Takeaway Learn more about inbound marketing and how to combine blogging, SEO and social media for results. Inbound marketing isn’t about outspending the competition, it is about being more compelling than them. Getting executives and people who have authority interacting with potential customers can often create a winning combination.  HubSpot’s Virtual Booth Major brands like Pepsi, Microsoft and Chevy have lavish booths with chairs, flat screen TVs, and an army of staff members inside the Austin Convention Center. Foursquare has a CEO playing foursquare outside with potential users. inbound marketing Foursquare Download our Jeffrey L. Cohen . For more, check out this video of people playing four square outside of the convention center: Photo Credit: . . http://blog.hubspot.com/sxsw If you are attending SXSW, be sure to check-in to Foursquare Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlacklast_img read more

The Science of Social Media [Video]

first_img Stuff like ‘engage in the conversation’ or ‘hug your followers.’ It’s good sounding advice, and hard to disagree with. He says, “I am not going to tell you to punch your customers in the face. The problem is that it’s not based on anything more substantial than what ‘feels right’ typically”. Dan likes to get beyond the unicorns and rainbows, into the real data, the real social media scientist, Dan Zarrella visited Harvard this week and shared some of his research about Originally published Jan 28, 2011 3:30:00 PM, updated October 20 2016 HubSpot on as it applies to marketing.  Dan attends many events where  people share social media advice and most of it is what he calls ‘unicorns and rainbows.’ Vimeo the science of social media Check out the video below for Dan’s full presentation at Harvard. What do you think about the data he presents? Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlackcenter_img Topics: . about why people behave the way they do online and how marketers can leverage that behavior. from HubSpot’s The Science of Social Media Social Media Video science of social medialast_img read more

3 Steps to Creating Effective Buyer Personas [Marketing Cast]

first_imgAre you marketing to the right people? If you’ve created buyer personas and are now launching campaigns that appeal to those segments of people, you would know.In this episode of the Weekly Marketing Cast, David Meerman Scott discusses how to create buyer personas and what steps you should take next.What Is a Buyer Persona?“A buyer persona is when you slice your marketplace into individual groups of people,” explains David. In other words, the term describes your target audience.For instance, if you are a marketing manager at a hotel, you might have five buyer personas: an independent business traveler, a corporate travel manager, an event planner, a vacationing family, and a couple planning their wedding reception. When running marketing campaigns, you will need to adapt your messaging to fit the needs of these different buyer personas.1. Interview Your Buyer Personas“Once you identify who your buyer personas are, you need to interview those buyers,” advises David. Make sure the people you pick to talk to aren’t already your existing customers. Take 20-30 people who fit each persona and ask them open-ended questions that are not necessarily related to your product or services. “You want to end up with broad questions,” David says.2. Create Profile(s) for the Persona(s)Take the information you have gathered from your interviews and come up with a profile for each group. Give each of your personas a name and an image. If your business is a hotel, for instance, your buyer personas might include Wedding Wendy, for ladies planning their wedding receptions, and Business Traveler Ben, for corporate business professionals. Remembering about the needs of your different target audiences is so critical that some companies have placed images of their buyer personas throughout offices and on the walls of conference rooms.3. How to Market to Buyer PersonasIn order to effectively market to buyer personas, you will need to create content that targets these segments. For instance, for the newlyweds, you might have a blog that talks about wedding bands. The buyer personas are unique in what they need and how you market to them. Before you start a campaign, ask yourself, “What would Wedding Wendy say about this?” or “Would this piece of content appeal to Wedding Wendy?”Buyer personas help your marketing come alive, says David. It’s so much better than merely talking about your products or services.Do you use buyer personas in your marketing? Buyer Personas Originally published Sep 12, 2011 11:00:00 AM, updated February 01 2017 Topics: Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlacklast_img read more

10 Ways to Make Your Content More Fun to Read

first_img“But I write about mortgages (or some other similarly ‘boring’ topic) — there’s no way I can possibly make my content fun to read.” For many of you in the B2B boat, this is probably an excuse you can easily relate to.But I’m going to fight you on this one because, hey, I’m a B2B content creator, too. And we sell marketing software over here — not exactly the sexiest product to peddle, if you ask me. But we’ve heard time and time again from our readers that they love coming back to our content because we make it fun and interesting to read about marketing.Even companies in “boring” industries need to create content. But the thing is, people who read about mortgages aren’t waking up one day thinking, “I think I’m going to read about mortgages today!” They read that content because they need information about mortgages — maybe because they’re considering buying a house. So why not make the otherwise boring, tedious process of reading about mortgages (or insert your industry here) a little bit more interesting — maybe even fun — for them? After all, everyone loves being entertained, right? And injecting a little bit more fun into your content might even set it apart from some of your competitors’ truly boring content.So without further ado, here are 10 smart ways to make your content more fun to read.10 Ways to Make Your Content More Fun to Read1) Tell a StoryYou may be writing about some boring industry concept, but that doesn’t mean you can’t weave in a little storytelling. Telling stories or anecdotes is a great way to engage your readers and make your content relatable. It also makes your reader realize that behind that stuffy industry concept is a real person who’s writing it.Don’t be afraid to draw from personal experiences — just be sure they relate back and transition well to the topic of your content. Here’s an example of how a colleague of mine, Ginny Soskey, incorporated a personal anecdote to set the stage for the 10 free design tools she highlighted in this post:2) Crack a JokeThis one is a little tougher, as it requires a sense of humor 😉 That being said, you don’t have to be the funniest person in the world to make readers smile here and there. Sometimes, your choice of words or a little parenthetical quip will do the trick. Just loosen up, be yourself, and if you’re not sure whether something is actually humorous, run it by an honest co-worker. Take a look at how my colleague Corey Eridon cracks a joke in a post about a pretty dry topic (CAN-SPAM).3) Use Your Introduction WiselyThe intro of your content is one of your best (and easiest) opportunities to be creative and fun. What’s more, this is the perfect place to do it, since you want your introduction to be compelling and interesting enough to get your readers’ attention (no easy feat, believe me).And, hey — whaddya know? Intros also happen to be great places for cracking jokes and telling stories! You can also consider being empathetic or coming up with another creative way to introduce the reader to what lies in the content ahead of them. The goal is to get the reader to emotionally connect with or relate to the content so they want to keep reading. For more tips about writing great introductions — and an example of a great introduction in and of itself — check out our post, “How to Write an Introduction.”4) Watch Your ToneBoring topics will sound even more boring if you write with a bland tone. In most cases, you can get away with a conversational, informal tone in your writing — especially if the writing is going on a blog, not in an academic paper. Think about how you would communicate with someone verbally, and adopt that tone in your writing. Your readers will thank you for content that, albeit educational, is also easy to read and get through. Isn’t the following so much more enjoyable to read than it would’ve been had we stopped after that first little paragraph?5) Use Fun, Hypothetical Examples On the content team, we like to call these “unicorn examples.” Here’s why: For a while here at HubSpot, we had kind of a unicorn thing going on. The unicorn even turned into somewhat of a mascot for us (we called him Hu). In any event, every time we were looking to enhance our blog content with a hypothetical example to explain a concept more clearly, the example went something like this:Off the wall and totally fun, but still very relevant and helpful in getting our readers to understand how to use analytics to identify the topics they should be blogging about — the topic of the post it appeared in.This approach works particularly well when you’re writing for a variety of personas, because it levels the playing field (since you’re using an example that doesn’t just apply to one particular persona and not the rest).6) Hijack a MemeI’m not gonna lie — I loooove memejacking. Meme-what, you ask? If you’re not familiar, a meme is quite simply a concept, behavior, or idea that spreads, usually via the internet. Memes most commonly manifest themselves in visuals such as images, pictures, or videos, but they can also take the form of a link, hashtag, a simple word or phrase (e.g. an intentional misspelling), or even an entire website. If you’re still having some trouble grasping the concept, check out some of these popular memes. I bet you’ll recognize a few.What’s great about doing some memejacking in your content is the fact that memes are inherently fun, engaging, and wildly popular. But how exactly does one “hijack” a meme? Luckily, we’ve written a detailed blog post on the subject that provides some great memejacking tips and tricks. The great thing is, you can either go big like Moz, which announced its Series B funding through an entirely meme-themed news release …… or like we did with our post about marketing pick-up lines, as told through popular memes.Perhaps you can be a little bit more subtle, sprinkling in a meme reference here and there to add a little fun to your content, like we did in our recent post about what the best bloggers do: 7) Incorporate Pop Culture ReferencesSpeaking of popular memes, how about a little pop culture reference to liven up your content? Here’s an example of how we did this recently in a post about Google’s move to encrypt all keyword search data — not exactly the most uplifting article for marketers, but there was no sense in us being total Debbie Downers about it. A little humor, it turns out, is a great way to help cope with bad news :-)Just be mindful of your target audience with this one (and come to think of it, with memejacking, too). If the majority of your audience won’t have any idea who or what you’re referencing, it’ll be a total flop. Now, you won’t be able to appeal to everyone, but use your best judgment and keep your personas in mind when making pop culture references like these.8) Get Creative With Images You know what they say: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Imagery is not only a great way to improve the social shareability of your content, but it can also add a little fun to it, too. Take some extra care in choosing images for your content. Can you use them to enhance a joke you made or crack a new one? Can you simply select a relevant image that’s already funny in and of itself? Can you overlay a caption or add a clever thought/talk bubble like we did in the example below (which can be found in this blog post)? Don’t be afraid to get creative! (Image Credit: horslips5)Just be sure you have the right permissions to use, adapt, or modify the images you’re using. Use photos appropriately licensed under Creative Commons (but be careful), or purchase stock photos. (Bonus: We have 235 stock photos available to download for free here and here that you can adapt however you’d like!)9) Add a GIFHow fun is the GIF pictured below? Writing Skills Originally published Oct 2, 2013 8:00:00 AM, updated August 27 2017 Topics:center_img Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack We added it to the blog post and landing page for our marketing trivia game offer to give it a little oomph and emphasize its game show-esque look and feel. Animated GIFs are great for catching readers’ attention and making your content just a little bit more interesting. To learn how to create an animated GIF, check out this simple how-to blog post. And to learn more about how to use them in your marketing, this post will do the trick.10) Hide Easter Eggs No, I’m not talking about colorful, hard-boiled eggs here. In the internet world, an Easter egg refers to “an intentional inside joke, hidden message, or feature.” And from the reader’s perspective, there’s nothing more fun than a well-hidden Easter egg. You know why? Because there’s a sense of exclusivity associated with them. It also makes you feel wicked smart when you actually discover one! Hiding Easter eggs adds a fabulous level of interactivity to your content, and it’s also a great way to engage your readers and get them to come back.One of my favorite Easter egg examples was hidden in the launch campaign for the return season of Arrested Development. In these examples, the brilliant marketers of the show hid messages to fans — quotes from character Tobias Fünke — in the code of the microsites that were created for the campaign:(The above message reads, “Are you looking at my privates? Shame on YOU sir!”)You don’t have to get as fancy as hiding messages in your website’s source code either — even just hidden messages that certain personas or long-time readers of your content would “get” can be a fun, yet simple, approach. Just be sure that any Easter eggs you hide not only appeal to your target audience, but also enhance (not take away from) your content.What other suggestions do you have for injecting more “fun” into your content?last_img read more

The Secrets to Creating a Lead-Generating Ebook [Video]

first_img Originally published Mar 25, 2014 11:00:00 AM, updated February 01 2017 Creating an ebook? I can do that. I mean, it’s basically just a really long blog post, right?Wrong.It’s easy to forget just how labor-intensive putting together an ebook can be. For the journalist-type, the bulk of the work may seem like it’s in the actual writing of the ebook. In reality, the written content is just one of many moving parts.Before you even begin typing, there’s a lot to do. From identifying your target audience, to brainstorming a relevant topic, to establishing a production timeline based on your available resources … hey, if you really want your ebook to perform, you have to start with a great game plan.Once the writing is complete, it’s design time. You’ll want to start with a basic structure or skeleton for your ebook, which you can achieve using a pre-designed ebook template or by designing a template from scratch. You’ll then need to paste in all of your copy and images and fine tune the formatting to make sure everything is looking good. And we’re not done yet! You still need to add clickable hyperlinks to your ebook (which can sometimes be a pain) and you need to set up a landing page with a lead capture form. Oh, and that landing page needs to redirect folks to a thank you page (where people can download your ebook) once the form has been submitted.Yikes. And we haven’t even talked about promoting your ebook!Clearly, creating an ebook from start to finish is quite the process. And while we could have explained that process by creating an ebook about it (which would have been a little too meta), we decided to create this five-part video series instead: The Ultimate Guide to Creating an Ebook for Lead Generation.Check out the video below to learn more: Topics: Lead Generationcenter_img The video series comes with an ebook planning worksheet and an ebook template (PowerPoint) so you can follow along. And because we could never cover every detail about the ebook creation process in just five videos, we’ve also included links to several other resources so that you can explore specific topics more in-depth.Do you have any ebook creation tips and tricks you’d like to share? Leave a comment below! Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlacklast_img read more

How Did Codecademy Get 25 Million People Coding? Inside the Growth of a Movement [Podcast]

first_img Originally published Jul 2, 2015 6:00:00 AM, updated February 01 2017 Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack “Everyone should learn how to code.”This has been the narrative in the technology industry over the last few years, and for good reason. Code is behind nearly everything we touch today. Even those who don’t have a desire to become a developer are learning to code in order to gain a fundamental understanding of how technology operates.At the forefront of this movement is Codeacademy. This online interactive platform offers free coding classes, and is quickly becoming a pillar in the New York City startup community. And it all started back in 2011, when co-founder Zach Sims dropped out of Columbia to start the company with Ryan Bubinski. Since then, they’ve helped nearly 25 million people learn how to code.Zach joins Mike on this episode of The Growth Show to talk about:How Codecademy was a viral phenomenonThe decision to drop out of an Ivy league school with only one year left until graduationThe choice to make Codecademy free for everyoneThe future of learning and how they’re re-thinking education from the bottom upClick the play button below to listen to this episode, or subscribe directly on iTunes and you’ll never miss a new episode: And if you’d like to see more recaps of the latest episodes of The Growth Show, click here.last_img read more

12 Tips for Writing With Unforgettable Personality

first_img Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack Writing Skills Originally published Nov 23, 2015 12:00:00 PM, updated July 24 2019 Topics: The best writers aren’t necessarily the smartest, the smoothest, or those with the biggest vocabulary. The best writers are those that possess an unforgettable personality.A writing personality is just as real, unique, and nuanced as your personality in everyday life — except you only release it when you create content. And if you can create content that brims with personality, I guarantee that people will love reading it. They’ll come back to it again and again. They will share it.Your personality becomes your authentic signature, a trademark that appeals to your target audience. Not to mention, it’ll serve as a source of incredible brand power and potential. Want to let yourself shine through in your writing? Check out these 12 methods for writing with unforgettable personality.Download Now: 6 Free Blog Post Templates12 Methods for Writing With Unforgettable Personality1) Embrace your (writing) personality.The problem with a writing personality is that most people don’t realize that they should have one. Instead, they try to follow the rules and regulations handed down to them by a well-meaning 10th-grade composition teacher. Or, if they do realize the importance of a writing personality, they try to mimic someone else’s personality.Neither of these is the right approach. You can’t “follow the rules” and expect to have an unforgettable personality. Nor can you try to force a personality that isn’t yours.You have to discover and shape your own personality in your writing. It takes time and effort, but it’s possible. Each of these tips will help you do just that.2) Pick a focus and stick to it.To have a consistent writing personality, you need to start by having a consistent area of focus. This can be something broad like marketing or more specific like social media. The important thing is that you’re not all over the place. After all, one of the basic tenets of content marketing is dominating a niche. This aids your SEO and your entire digital marketing effort. Food blogger Ree Drummond is a great example of a writer who has a clear topic. She could write about anything and do a darn good job, however, she uses her writing personality to focus on one topic, and one topic only.3) Break grammar rules.Some people are inveterate rule breakers. And that’s okay. While we don’t recommend you throw grammar out the window, breaking a rule every once and a while can serve as a great way to amp up your personality.What kind of grammar rules should you break? It depends. Here are some common ones:Sentence fragments: “Seriously. I mean, people, really.”Punctuation: “I. Just. Can’t. Even.”Starting sentences with conjunctions: “But I’m okay with that.”Using “like”: “It’s not like you’ve sinned.”Using a preposition at the end of a sentence: “You’ve got to get your traffic up!”Again, be careful with rule-breaking. If you’re frivolous with your grammar, people may start to suspect your intelligence rather than respect your personality.I like what T. S. Eliot, an iconoclastic poet, wrote about rules:Credit: AZ Quotes4) Get to know your audience better.The principal group of people who should shape your personality is your audience.Why? Because they are the ones consuming, accessing, and subscribing to it. Make sure that your personality does not cross their boundaries of proprietary, offend their sensibilities, or rub them the wrong way.Comedian Milton Berle used to tell five one liners at the beginning of each routine. Based on the laughter from each one, he would know how to shape the rest of his routine.His overall personality was, of course, funny guy. But he tailored his funnies to the particular audience.You can do the same thing with your writing. You don’t need to reshape your entire personality, but you should adapt it to your specific audience. And the better you get to know your audience through social media, blog comments, in-person interactions, and research, the better you’ll be able to tailor your personality to them.5) Highlight a personality trait that you have in real life.Your writing personality isn’t exactly the same as your real life personality. Writing and in-person interactions are intrinsically different. However, there is usually some overlap.If you’re known as a smart and serious individual in person, then your writing can convey that. If people know you as “the funny guy,” then let your humor shine through in your writing.It’s your personality. Own it.Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal creates hilarious content and comics.Credit: The OatmealPeople expect Matthew to be a funny guy. And he is.The lesson? If you find a way to infuse your writing with your real life personality, go for it. After all, people like reading content that feels like it has actually been written by a human.6) Talk about yourself.To truly own your personality, you have to talk about yourself. Many successful bloggers and writers aren’t afraid of using “I,” “me,” and “my.” It’s not self-centered. It’s just a natural way of communicating.Michael Hyatt runs a successful blog that reaches tens of thousands of people. His writing is personal, and he refers to himself.Take this recent post as an example. He refers to himself seven times in the first few sentences.While this is a great way to show off your personality, it’s important that you also remain focused on your readers. And their wants. And their needs. Inserting yourself into your work makes it easier for people to connect with you, but at the end of the day, you’re creating content for them, not you. 7) Write like you talk.Writing like you talk is generally a good idea. Obviously, you want to cut out useless filler words. “Um” and “uh” aren’t necessary in writing.At the same time, your style of speech is a mark of your personality. If you’re sarcastic, gentle, incisive, crude, bombastic, or use outrageous expressions, shake a little bit of this into your writing.8) Stay organized.Don’t allow your personality, whatever it is, to throw off your organization.Good writing is inherently organized. If you have a disorganized and scatterbrained personality in real life, don’t try to import this into your writing. People don’t like to read scattered and disorganized content. Create an outline and stick to it.Tim Ferriss is an example of someone who writes brilliant content. Often, his articles are far-ranging, discussing things like chickpeas and angel investing (like this one).However, Ferriss maintains a well-ordered structure in each article. His personality is evident in the way that he can move from subject to subject while keeping his outline intact.9) Find a trademark technique.To create personality, find a trademark technique that you can use every time you produce content. One of my trademarks is asking a question at the end of every article. James Clear’s trademark is starting each article with a true story from history.Here’s one of Clear’s articles, in which he tells the story of Robert Wadlow:Clear’s next article starts with a story, too.And so on…Clear’s readers have come to know and expect this style. It’s his consistent trademark, and an excellent facet of his writing personality.10) Write in a way that you enjoy.When you enjoy the way that you write, you know you’re hitting a personality stride.Blogger Crystal Paine explains in her book, Money Making Mom, that when she wrote about her daily life, challenges, and similar topics, she found fulfillment and joy.Her readers could tell a difference, too, and they responded with strong affirmation.While Crystal still posts about daily deals and giveaways, her best posts are the ones that are filled with her personality.A post about daily stress garnered lots of shares:But a post about a daily deal was less impactful:11) Be authentic.If you’re forcing it, people can tell.A personality can’t be forced, so use your normal personality to infuse your writing.Ramit Sethi is completely authentic in his writing. His personality is everywhere. You read a single post, and you practically feel like you know him.If Ramit wants to swear, he swears. If he wants to be rude, he’s rude. If he wants to tell someone off, he does it.This is his personality, and he’s being authentic. While this might not work for every business or industry, inserting a bit of authenticity into your writing can help to make it more relatable. 12) Commit to your style.Once you get into the groove of your personality, don’t change it. Your audience expects you to be a certain way, write a certain way, and convey information in a certain way.Seth Godin is a brilliant writer. Even though a lot of conventional content marketing wisdom says to create long-form, image-heavy content, Godin doesn’t go for it.Instead, he creates bite-sized articles with no images.Is that okay? Yes. Because it’s his style.(Besides, Seth Godin is basically the king of marketing, so he gets to write some of the rules.)Finding your style and sticking with it will serve you much better than flitting off to create a new personality, even if it does seem better.Ready to let your personality shine?You won’t write like Seth Godin, James Clear, Tim Ferriss, or Crystal Paine. That’s okay.You are you, and your writing needs to have your fingerprints, timbre, voice, and personality all over it. Unleashing that personality in your writing starts with knowing it, owning it, and not being afraid to let it loose.What’s your writing personality? How does this impact your writing?last_img read more

8 Time-Saving Excel Shortcuts Worth Memorizing [Infographic]

first_img Originally published Apr 11, 2016 7:00:00 AM, updated February 01 2017 If I had a nickel for every hour I wasted trying to figure something out in Excel, I’d have quite the coin collection. Don’t get me wrong: Excel is an extremely powerful tool when it comes to collecting and analyzing data. But unless you’re a power user, it can be tricky to get the hang of it. If you’re not well versed in the tool’s functionality, even little things like resizing columns and inserting comments can cause you to have to stop and think. Download our free guide to Excel here to learn the essential skills you should know.Luckily, the folks at Best STL put together the following infographic on time-saving Excel shortcuts. While the shortcuts are pretty basic, they’re guaranteed to simplify the way you navigate the tool. Check ’em out below.  Topics: Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack Excellast_img read more

5 Elements Of A Compelling Nonprofit Story

first_img Originally published Jun 15, 2016 7:00:00 AM, updated February 01 2017 Topics: Nonprofit Marketing Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack No matter the industry, marketing professionals know that appealing to the “buyer” (donor, client, member) takes a whole lot more than a snazzy logo and nice website. Especially for nonprofits, one of the best ways to attract and engage audiences is with compelling stories.Data-driven statistics and reports are great tools to use when discussing the results of a project, but if you want to mobilize an army of donors, members, and volunteers, then you need something that forms a deeper connection—your story.A good story puts a face behind your mission by describing not just what your organization does, but why you do it. This creates the emotional responses that trigger your audience to take action.By including the five story elements listed below, you can bring like-minded individuals together to rally around the change you’re making in the world.What to Consider When Developing Your Nonprofit’s Narrative1) A Relatable CharacterStart your story by introducing the main character so that your audience can anchor the rest of your narrative to someone or something. This character (protagonist) isn’t necessarily an individual, and can be a family, organization, association, community, school, or even an animal that serves as the “face behind your organization.”  You want your protagonist to be someone or something your audience can connect with, so it stands to reason you should start by understanding your audience. Who do you hope to reach with your story? When defining your audience, address these two questions:What characteristics does your target audience have? Are they donors, volunteers, members, or advocates? Also, consider demographics such as age, income level, and occupation.What does your intended audience care about and what motivates them to take action? Pinpoint their hopes and dreams, interests, and values. What might keep them up at night with worry, or inspire them to get involved?Once you know who you are writing for, find a real or fictitious character that speaks to your audience through similar demographics, hopes and dreams, or pain points and problems. For a great example of a relatable character, check out this story by charity: water. Hadjara, the protagonist, is a young, educated girl struggling with a basic necessity—clean water.   The audience can relate to her as a character because she, like many people, just wants her family to live a healthier life. “Like the other students in Sargane Village, 12-year-old Hadjara learned about the importance of handwashing when the school first received clean water. Which meant that she came to understand — perhaps before many others in the community came to understand — that although clean water was making her family healthier, clean hands and a sanitary environment were equally important. That evening, as she was proudly washing her hands in preparation for dinner, she questioned her father — who had begun eating without washing his hands first.”You want your audience to see themselves, or someone they know, in the protagonist’s shoes.When writing your story, spend time fine tuning your main character or characters based on who your organization stands for, and provide enough information for the audience to understand and relate to them.2) EmotionA main focus of your story should be to help your audience relate to what the protagonist is feeling so they take action.Do you want them to feel angry about an injustice, or maybe hopeful about a solution? The words you use will set the stage for action later on, so choose wisely based on your audience and cause. Try incorporating one of these emotions into your compelling nonprofit story to start with:Awe – Invoke a sense of wonder and rarity to get your audience feeling transformed by what they’ve read.Joy – Whether it’s a feel good story or a sense of humor, audiences appreciate and respond when reading something that brings them joy.Urgency – Tap into the energy that this emotion creates and motivate your audience to take action.Sadness/Despair – Audiences respond less positively to a sad story, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid it. Use a character’s despair to introduce hope.Richard’s Story, featured on the Alzheimer’s Association website, includes a great emotion-inducing statement that leaves the reader with feelings of hope and inspiration.“After regaining equilibrium, I made a conscious decision to not put off exploring things that have been on the “to do” list for years.”For your nonprofit’s story, use words or phrases that inspire your constituents to take action. You’ve created a relatable character, and now you have to hook your audience with emotion. 3) The ProblemTo make a story compelling, your character’s problem should tie back to your nonprofit’s mission. This isn’t to say you should just have a pity-party. Rather that your issue should be relatable and solveable. Your audience doesn’t want to feel bad for your protagonist, they want to feel connected.Share not just the problem, but also your protagonist’s personal experience to evoke empathy in the process. Empathy can arise from a number of emotions. Take this example from Loaves and Fishes.“She jumped to the refrigerator and opened the door, rubbing her tummy and silently saying, “More Food!” Then she leapt on the counter, opening every cabinet door, displaying cupboards full of food. She continued to rub her stomach and giggle…”The audience learns about the struggles of this young girl through her actions. But, we don’t just feel sorry for her, we feel connected to her journey because the storyteller humanizes the problem.Explain how the origin of the problem your protagonist is up against, and how it affects their day-to-day life.4) SolutionYour story isn’t just about the protagonist and their problem, it’s also about the solutions your organization provides. Describe the work that your nonprofit or association does to help people like your main character, highlighting facts such as the number of people dealing with the same issue and how your organization is making a direct impact.World Bicycle Relief uploaded this highly impactful story titled “Ethel’s Dream.”  In it, the audience learns about Ethel and her struggles to get to school every day. The bicycle in this story was literally and figuratively a vehicle for a better life, and the video shows viewers how the nonprofit helped supply it.  Connect the protagonist to the services of your organization to educate your audience on the scope of the problem and inspire them to be part of that solution.5) Call to ActionYou have concluded your story by linking the protagonist with your organization, but you’re not done yet. Your audience is inspired, but may not know what to do with all that motivation. Give them a clear directive with a call-to-action (CTA).Your (CTA) will depend on your organization’s goal, but should always be action-oriented. Some common call to actions include:Donate – Giving money to your organizationVolunteer – Giving time to your organizationAdvocate – Publicly supporting or recommending an organization, policy, or personFundraise – Fundraise: Raise funds through an event or fundraising siteSubscribe – Signing up to receive publications such as an email newsletterHere’s an example of a call-to-action from World Help.“We hope you’ll continue to partner with us to show others, just like Mary, the love of Christ in a tangible, transformative, and sustainable way.” GIVE NOW World Help encourages the reader to get involved by partnering with them to create change. They reinforce their organization’s mission and provided a way for the audience to take immediate action. The page features a donate button (“GIVE NOW”) that uses direct language and stands out with bold colors and fonts. For your story, choose the right language that works with your audience, matches your story, and that has the potential to produce results. Be clear, concise, and give your audience the means to act immediately.In SummationNow’s the time to get started on putting together your nonprofit’s story. Brainstorm ideas with your coworkers and peers about what you want to share, and then map out your narrative using the five elements from above: What type of character will your audience relate to?What is the emotion you want the audience to feel?What is the problem you are trying to solve?What role does your organization have in the solution?What action do you want people to take after reading the story? How can the reader get involved?The content your organization shares can be a powerful tool to rally people around your cause and spark action — what stories do you have to tell?last_img read more

11 Soundless Videos We Love (And Why)

first_imgWhat was your most embarrassing office etiquette moment? For me, it was when I started to watch a hilarious video of a sheep screaming like a human and quickly realized my headphones weren’t plugged in. I frantically scrambled for the mute button on my keyboard while my distracted coworkers laughed at my mishap.Sound familiar? Since then, I don’t watch videos at work unless they don’t require sound.Video content is in high demand from your audience, and many viewers prefer watching videos that don’t require sound. In fact, 85% of videos on Facebook are watched without sound. Videos on Facebook autoplay without sound until users click to turn up volume, and Instagram videos only autoplay with sound if the phone’s ringer is turned on. Users are telling platforms their video streaming preferences, and they’re responding with features that make it easier to consume silently. Now, it’s up to content marketers to crack the code for making compelling videos that their audience will click and share, even without sound.Check out our interactive guide to creating high-quality videos for social media here.We’ve rounded up some of the best videos from around the internet that you don’t need volume to consume, along with reasons why they’re so great that you can use in your own video content strategy — no headphones required.Creating Content for the Silent Screen Social media platforms have constraints that force marketers to get creative in order to attract attention. Think about it: Twitter has a 140-character limit, which makes you think very strategically about how to tell a story. Snapchat limits recordings to 10 seconds, forcing you to get to the point, and quickly.What does all of this mean for marketers? It’s time to get creative to get noticed on social media. Due to the volume constraints popular social platforms set on what you’re posting, creating a video that doesn’t require sound is a smart strategy to drive video views and engagement. By making videos “volume-agnostic,” anyone can watch and understand them, whether they’re on a desktop computer or browsing their social feeds on their commute. These videos might feature background instrumental music, but the bulk of the information is presented with graphics and captions so your audience can effectively “read” a video when it’s muted.Because nearly 80% of social media time is spent on mobile devices, making videos that are consumable with or without headphones is a great strategy to drive engagement on social media. We found several brands that are doing this well, so keep reading for tips for creating your own soundless video11 Videos You Can Watch Without Volume1) Tasty on BuzzFeedTasty on BuzzFeed shares recipe videos that don’t require volume — or a lot of time — to enjoy. Tasty videos reach 500 million people per month, and in December 2016, Tasty generated 1.4 billion video views — 1.2 billion of which came from Facebook. Tasty’s social media virality has something to do with the fact that the videos can be watched without sound, and a few key things make them so successful. They’re filmed in hyperlapse-style, which is immediately eye-catching and makes viewers want to stick around to learn how to make the rest of the recipe. What’s more, Tasty videos solve problems for the viewer. In the example above, Tasty demonstrates how to make spaghetti in four different ways in a video that earned more than 76 million views.Its “Four Ways to Make Anything” series is among its most popular, with each of the videos accumulating tens of millions (and sometimes, hundreds of millions) of views. Tasty’s Producer, Alvin Zhou, told Adweek that recipe popularity and searches inform the videos they film — for example, vegetable swaps for starches and vegetarian options drive views, so they make new videos in response to its audience’s preferences.If you’re thinking about making a soundless video for your brand, think about Tasty’s approach. Conduct buyer persona research to determine what challenges your audience is trying to solve — in Tasty’s case, it’s finding easy recipes — and adapting the story to a soundless social media landscape.Tasty uses bold captions when needed, but the cooking demonstration is the video’s star to quickly deliver viewers the information they need to go home and make the recipe. Once you have your story, determine if graphics, animations, captions, or demonstrations (or a combination) are the best way to get the information across to your viewers quickly and silently.2) Mode Mode shares lifestyle videos on Facebook and YouTube, and their most popular videos are their “100 Years of” retrospectives that look at a century of changes to a popular trend. And while the decade-specific background music in this video is fun, you can press mute and still learn about the history of women’s workout wear.Mode shared this video in early 2016, a time of year when millions of people resolve to start exercising more as part of their New Year’s resolution. This soundless video drove engagement on Facebook and YouTube because it was timely. Lots of people were reading and watching content about exercise at the beginning of 2016, but the unique and timely angle of this video made social media scrollers stop and click to learn more. Additionally, it features one star who draws focus and makes the story crystal-clear, even without sound. It also has a simple backdrop, which Wistia recommends in order to maintain focus on the video subject.If you have a great idea for a soundless video, it doesn’t need to look extremely high-tech or busy. Stick to a clear and focused subject so the story is easy to understand without sound. Then, try to time its publication for a holiday or event when lots of people will be searching for information on the subject on social media and search engines.3) Refinery29Refinery29 publishes creative lifestyle inspiration videos, such as the hairstyle demonstration video here that garnered over 1 million views on Facebook. It uses bold and bright colors to attract attention. More than half of pageviews are less than 15 seconds long. Bright colors help this video pop out to viewers against the lighter-colored Facebook News Feed, YouTube homepage, and Twitter feed without sound to rely on.It also shares pro tips to make a process easier, which cultivates a positive feeling among Refinery29’s audience that the brand is sharing insider knowledge to help them learn how to do something. Finally, the celebrity social proof makes people familiar with Ariana Grande understand what the video is about without need for sound so they’ll continue watching the video.If you’re sharing a soundless video that’s as short and sweet as this one, make it visually eye-catching with color, and use social proof to compel people to keep watching, if you can. And if you can, amp up your topic’s social proof in the video’s title by mentioning a prominent figure like Ariana Grande, a short stat, or superlative words like “popular,” “best,” and “worst” to draw attention that way.4) NowThisNowThis News, a social media outlet, only produces video content — a neat way to get the news, if you ask me. NowThis publishes video news segments that work with or without sound, and the captions and video content work together to show and tell viewers what the story is all about.In this example, NowThis uses shock factor to draw in viewers. Tylenol is one of the most popular painkillers in the U.S. alone, and the shock factor of learning your headache cure could impact your relationships makes viewers want to watch to learn more. Without sound, dramatic titles and headlines to draw viewers’ attention are necessary. Additionally, the video features a negative headline, which Outbrain get more clicks than positive headlines.When making a soundless video, make sure to choose a compelling angle to play up in the headline, captioning, and the video itself on social media. Whether it’s humor, anger, or disgust, find a unique way to relate a subject to your audience’s story to get them to click.5) Business InsiderBusiness Insider publishes video content about industry news on Facebook, and this video is one of their most popular at almost 3 million views. The video employs the curiosity gap, a psychological concept that awareness of information we don’t know yet makes us eager to learn it. Words like “hidden messages” trigger that curiosity and make viewers want to click to learn more and supplement the lack of sound. The topic is also highly visual. If you’re telling a story without sound, make sure the subject matter can be easily visualized so you don’t rely on captions too heavily. Instead, rely on numerical data, animations, and images to tell the story for you.6) BuzzFeed VideoBuzzFeed publishes videos on a variety of different topics. This one is popular at nearly 2 million views for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, it’s funny. Emotion is a useful tool in advertising, and content that incites positive reactions, such as laughter, drives engagement. In order to communicate humor without sound, the content has to be highly visual, which Snapchat photos and videos already are.Then, by using the word “best” in the video’s title, BuzzFeed has told viewers without using sound that the video will invoke a great reaction, like laughing or being inspired. It’s also a simple concept — a slideshow of funny Snapchat captions — which makes it work as a soundless video because it doesn’t require much additional context to understand.7) The DodoThe Dodo publishes stories about animals, which involved lots of videos of them being cute. Their soundless videos work because they mostly feature animal stars. It’s not an exact science, but animals are a great marketing tool. It’s probably because they’re cute and make us feel positive emotions when we see them. When making a soundless video, try choosing a topic or subject that incites strong positive or negative emotions to drive engagement.Another perk of this video is that it’s unexpected. When you think about pigs, do you typically imagine them wearing jackets or enjoying belly rubs? Me either, and that made me want to click on it just by seeing it, without having to hear anything about it with sound on. If you’re filming a video that can be viewed without sound, think about the star of the content. Whether it’s a brilliant animation or an adorable piglet, try to elicit an emotional response and surprise viewers with something provocative to make them keep watching.8) Tech InsiderTech Insider is Business Insider’s technology news division, and they publish unique science and tech explainer videos that don’t require sound. This one uses cool visuals to break down a complicated concept. The animations used in this video draw attention in busy social media feeds and work with the captions illustrate the story, step-by-step.It also answers a common question. Who else remembers spending the summer covered in mosquito bites? The title of this video made me instantly curious. If your organization has a product or expert who can inform on a common query, that could be a great subject for a soundless video.9) 5-Minute CraftsThe name of their Facebook Page is self-explanatory: 5-Minute Crafts publishes easy craft explainer videos that use household items. Their soundless videos work well because they focus on ease. The name of the page already tells viewers that they’re going to learn how to do something quickly and easily. Then, the video’s title tells viewers that they’ll be able to repurpose things they already have to turn them into toys. This focus on time and money-saving immediately draws people in to watch the rest of the video. If you’re thinking about doing a soundless demonstration or DIY video, consider leveraging the fast-action filming style used in this video — as well as the Tasty videos — as it tends to stand out in busy news feeds where you’re fighting for attention.10) Vox Vox publishes a ton of video content on social media channels where they do in-depth explainers of complicated topics in the news. This soundless video explains Deflategate, the pro football scandal that dominated the news for more than a year, in less than two minutes.It’s a complicated story, but Vox communicates it succinctly and clearly in this video with the help of bold captions, animations, and humor. The captions visually tell the more complicated parts of the story, while the video relies on photographs and animated graphics to set the scene of the story: who was involved, where it happened, and why it matters.The emojis and interactive highlighting and texting add humor to the story to provoke a response and, hopefully, get viewers to share the video.11) HubSpotNot to toot our own horn, but here’s our video review of how social media changed in 2016. The video uses captions and animations to build suspense, and promises to take viewers through a retrospective, which draws them in to watch until the end.It’s also very meta: A video on social media, about social media is a unique story within a story. There’s a lot of variety among the videos included, but all of these videos have a few things in common:They’re under five minutes in lengthThey use captionsThe stories are simpleWhether you work for a B2B software company or a news organization, you can use video to tell your brand’s story in a more engaging way. If your video doesn’t require sound, so much the better for sharing it on social media. When you’re ready to make your own, here are our tips for making a killer marketing video.Want more tips for creating video content? Check out these video production tips. Don’t forget to share this post! Originally published Jan 23, 2017 7:00:00 AM, updated July 12 2019 Video Marketing Topics:last_img read more

Flexible Schedules: The Good, Bad, & the Surprising

first_img Remote Working Originally published Jun 26, 2018 6:00:00 AM, updated September 05 2019 Don’t forget to share this post! Topics: There’s plenty of science to suggest flexible work schedules are critical for happier, more productive employees, and a more successful company overall.For instance, take a look at this graph from The Economist, which shows that working fewer hours correlates with higher levels of productivity in the form of increased GDP (gross domestic product). I guess there’s something to be said for the old “work hard, play hard” motto.Additionally, Jabra, a Denmark-based electronics company, found that, in 2018, four times more employees believe working from home to be the most productive option, compared to people’s perceptions in 2015. In recent years, more people prefer to work from home and believe it to be more productive than working in an office.Download our complete productivity guide here for more tips on improving your productivity at work.But let’s put the data aside for a second. I’m willing to bet we’ve all had those afternoons when we’ve felt entirely unproductive, but still sat at our desks until five p.m. anyway just to clock in the hours.Or, we’ve wished we could have the mornings free to run errands and spend time with family, but a traditional work schedule doesn’t leave us the option to meet those demands.Ultimately, we’ve all been in situations where our rigid work schedule has been a hinderance to our productivity in the office, and our priorities outside of it. A flexible work schedule could allow you to work when you’re most productive, and give you the autonomy you need to create an ideal work-life balance, however that looks to you.There are pros and cons to flexible schedules, just like there are pros and cons to a rigid nine-to-five job. But, as the Jabra study indicates, flexible schedules are becoming more typical nowadays, so we’ve compiled a list of everything good, bad, and surprising about implementing flexible work hours at your office.What is a flexible work schedule?A flexible work schedule allows employees a level of autonomy to create their own schedules and find a work-life balance that works for them. Rather than a traditional, 40 hour nine-to-five work week, a flexible schedule allows employees to vary the times they begin and end their work day. There is still structure to a flexible work schedule: employees must work a certain number of hours, or come up with an alternative agreement with their employer regarding office hours verus remote time.Flexible Schedules: The Good1. You can adapt your schedule to fit family needs. If you make your own hours, you can ensure those hours adapt to your family and social life demands. For instance, we have parents at HubSpot who make their hours fit around their children’s daycare schedules: they work early in the morning, take a break in the afternoon to pick up their kids, and then resume work later in the evening. Or perhaps your flex schedule is less rigid than that — maybe you just want time to see your son’s soccer games, or your sister’s graduation, and you need flexibility to manipulate your work schedule without taking time off.Emily MacIntyre, HubSpot’s Marketing Team Development Manager, agrees that there are pros and cons to flexible schedules in regards to parenting: “There are often in-office events after work that I have to miss out on, because I need to be home. But I get to see my daughter, and spend time with her each night, so it’s a trade-off.”Ultimately, a flexible schedule can go a long way towards maintaining a healthy work-life balance and protecting important relationships in your life.2. You can indulge in self-care. It might sound strange, but having the option to occasionally put your personal needs before work can help you find more joy throughout your day. Plus, in a University of Warwick study, happiness made people approximately 12% more productive. Self-care can be anything from a noon cycling class to finding time to meditate in the park — anything that makes you feel better able to tackle your responsibilities with a clear mind.3. Your employees can pursue passions outside of work.Unfortunately, your employee’s passions can’t always fit outside a nine-to-five work schedule. Sometimes that poetry class starts at four, and other times your hiking group leaves at noon on a Friday.There are a few reasons it’s important to give employees the freedom to pursue other passions. First, passion can encourage innovative ideas. The more well-rounded your employees are, the more likely they are to apply unconventional solutions to your company’s problems. Also, as previously mentioned, happier employees are more productive. And, third, if your employees can find outlets outside of work to pursue their passions, they’re less likely to feel unsatisfied in their current role.4. Your employees can work whenever they’re most productive. For me personally, this is the single most important benefit to flexible schedules: I work insanely well in the mornings. On some mornings, it feels like I can finish two-weeks worth of work before noon. But then, around three or four p.m., it becomes a struggle to even write a grocery list. My brain just doesn’t seem to function past that time. On the other hand, one of my coworkers does best when he can come into the office around 10 a.m., and then work, head-down, later into the night.Tony Schwartz, author of The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working, writes about the importance of working like a sprinter. He says it’s important to work intensely and distraction-free for a period of time, but equally critical to take regular renewal breaks to recover from that intense work period.Ultimately, your employees aren’t all going to be productive at the exact same time. Flexibility allows them to become better workers — they will get everything accomplished during the hours they want, and they won’t feel burnt out from sitting at their desks during times they are unproductive.5. Your employees can avoid rush hour. This might seem trivial, but it’s not — in 2017 in Boston alone, a rush hour commuter wasted approximately two and a half full days out of a year sitting in a car. That’s almost a full 60 wasted hours where they could have been spending time mentally preparing for their day. A truly painful commute could even eventually drive employees to search for companies closer to home or with different hours. An easy way to improve employee satisfaction is to allow commuters the option to avoid traffic by leaving even just thirty minutes later.One study by McGill University’s Charis Loong and colleagues found that “satisfaction with travel mode is associated with higher odds of feeling energized and being punctual,” and “the strain of the daily commute can negatively impact performance at work.” Unfortunately, a terrible commute can interfere with your employee’s levels of energy and productivity, so it’s important to consider alternative options.6. You give employees a sense of autonomy. People like control over their schedules — it enables them to feel fully in charge of their work and personal lives, and makes them feel like their company trusts them. HubSpot’s Culture Code recognizes the importance of autonomy, saying, “Results matter more than the number of hours we work. Results matter more than where we produce them.” And, referring to the Economist graph we mentioned earlier, we can see it’s true — people are more productive even when they work fewer hours, so why not let people choose whichever time they need to commit to deliver the best results?Siobhán McGinty, a Campaign Marketing Manager in HubSpot’s Dublin office, says her flexible schedule gives her the opportunity to “live my best life. I enjoy getting up at 7 a.m., clearing my emails, enjoying my coffee and getting some work out of the way early on in the day. I also enjoy taking two hours off in the middle of the day to go to the gym, or do yoga, or — if it’s pay day — get a massage.”7. You can recruit and retain better talent. Flexible schedules have been shown to increase employee productivity and overall morale. Ultimately, you can use the benefits of a flexible schedule as a selling point for hiring better talent.The Creative Group surveyed marketing and advertising executives, and found 33% are offered flexible schedules and remote options. Offering flexible schedules is a good way for your company to attract talent and stand out from competitors in the industry, particularly as flex hours and remote work rise in popularity and employees begin to expect it from their next job.Flexible Schedules: The BadWe’ve covered seven different ways flexible schedules can benefit both employers and employees. But like any work arrangement, there are also some downsides to consider before committing to becoming a flexible workplace. Here are a few risks associated with flexible schedules.1. It’s more difficult for you to arrange meetings with your team. If everyone has different schedules, figuring out everyone’s availability can get tricky — for instance, perhaps you can’t have any nine a.m. meetings because three people on your team don’t arrive until 10 a.m. This gets even harder if your team works around the globe, or if you need to schedule meetings with clients who work the traditional nine-to-five.2. Lines between work and life blur more drastically. Maybe you’re working from home and your roommate asks you to go to a cycling class at noon, and suddenly it’s three p.m. and you’ve still got a ton of work to do. Or maybe your kids interrupt meetings and calls with pleas for trips to the pool. Whatever the case, life intervenes more drastically when you’re working flexible hours, particularly if you’re working remote. Plus, if all the people in your life work nine-to-five, they might try to pressure you into plans that are inconvenient for your schedule, since you “make your own schedule anyway.” Drawing boundaries between personal life and work can get difficult.Besides having a tough time getting into work mode when you’re tempted by your personal life, it’s also often challenging to shut off “work mode” when you can technically work whenever you want. Maybe it’s eight p.m. and you simply can’t relax when your desk, and all those piles of work, is within view. During those instances, it’s important you separate work from the rest of your life as much as possible, even creating a separate office space and closing the door when you leave.3. You won’t find much structure at home. If you’re working remote, there’s very little structure. With that freedom to take breaks, you might suddenly find you’re getting very little done. Working remotely often requires more focus and discipline than working in an office. You’ll need to set your own rigid structure and stick to it, or you might risk your performance sliding as you take more TV breaks or spend precious productivity hours folding laundry.4. It can be difficult to create a bonded team. If you’ve got a team that works from wherever, whenever, it can be hard to pencil in time to develop organic, authentic relationships between your team members. It just doesn’t happen as naturally as it would if everyone sat beside one another 9 to 5 and digressed into talks about the latest Bachelorette episode. One way to counteract this is to plan fun corporate team-building activities, but you might still need to work with everyone’s flex hours or remote time.Siobhán McGinty admits remote work in particular can get lonely, so, “to overcome that, I set up virtual “water cooler chats” with people on the team if I have 15-30 mins between meetings. It also helps to maintain rapport.” She also says she “practiced” going remote by initially working from home a few days a week, and eventually working her way up to full-time remote, and admits while rewarding, it’s also difficult.Flexible Schedules: The SurprisingWe’ve explored some pros and cons of a flexible schedule for employees and employers, but there are some additional surprising facts you should know when deciding if flexible schedules is right for you and your company.1. The more flexible your employees’ schedules are, the longer they’ll work. If you’re worried about employees taking advantage of flexible hours and working an hour a day before hitting the beach, don’t be — Heejung Chung, a senior lecturer at University of Kent in the UK, conducted research with her colleague Yvonne Lott, and found there’s a tendency for people with more autonomy over their schedules to work longer hours, regardless of level of influence or job type. In fact, “this increase in working hours was greatest when workers had full atonomy over their working hours.”One explanation for this is known as the gift exchange theory, which is the idea that you’re grateful when your employer gives you a flexible schedule and you see it as a gift, which you feel obligated to repay by working harder and longer. You want to prove you deserve the flexible schedule, so you push yourself to work over eight hours a day.2. Flex hours make your employees happier — and their children.A study conducted by the American Sociological Review found workers with flex hours slept better, felt healthier, and were less stressed than their nine-to-five counterparts. Overall, the group with flex hours felt happier than the group with a rigid schedule. But, most surprisingly, as noted by the New York Times, is “the effects even cascaded down to employees’ children, who reported less volatility around their own daily stresses; adolescents saw the quality of their sleep improve.” Happiness is contagious, and so is stress, so it makes sense parents with lower levels of stress and higher levels of happiness were able to spread those emotions to their children.3. It might be harder to get flexible hours if you’re a woman.A 2014 experiment by Furman University sociologist Christin Munsch showed 600 participants a transcript of a conversation between an employee asking for flexible hours and an HR representative. Shockingly, when participants assumed it was a man asking for flexible time, almost 70% said they’d be likely or very likely to approve the request, compared to 56% when they believed it was a woman making the request. There are other studies supporting the same hypothesis — that it’s harder for a woman to receive flex time than a man — here.Munsch speculated the study’s results come from inherent gender biases when it comes to childcare: the participants might’ve felt impressed by a man’s desire to spend more time at home with children, while they might’ve felt a woman should find a better way to balance her home and work obligations. Of course, this varies immensely company to company and even country to country, but it’s important for employers to keep it in mind if they’re in charge of approving flexible work schedules for employees.So what now? Ultimately, providing flexible schedules for employees won’t work for every company or every department. For instance, if your employees work in the services industry and often speak both on the phone and in-person with clients, perhaps you need them to maintain a nine-to-five schedule. Hopefully, weighing these pros and cons will help you make the best decision for your team, or even brainstorm alternative ways to combat some of the negative consequences of a traditional work schedule.last_img read more

How to Create UTM Codes to Track Your URLs [UTM Builder]

first_img Topics: A crucial aspect of being a great marketer is being able to measure your success. No matter which metrics you use, you want to prove to your boss (and the company) that you’re worth your salt.You deserve your budget — and maybe need more of it — and you deserve to dedicate time to the marketing activities that work. Building UTM codes that track your campaigns’ success is the best way to prove it.Measuring the impact of your work can be tricky without the right tools. Sure, you know Twitter drives a certain percentage of traffic to your website … but do you know if your company’s tweets were the ones driving those visits? Or that your specific guest post drove actual leads and customers to your website?Luckily, you can prove all of that with a few special codes added to the end of your URLs: They are called UTM codes. In this blog post, you’ll learn what UTM codes are, how to use them, and how to build them in both HubSpot and Google Analytics.Download our free marketing reporting template here to help you keep track of all your marketing metrics.What are UTM codes?UTM codes are snippets of text added to the end of a URL to help you track where website traffic comes from if users click a link to this URL. Marketers can customize this text to match the webpage this URL is linked on, allowing them to attribute the success of that campaign to specific pieces of content.UTM codes are also known as UTM parameters, or tracking tags, because they help you “track” website traffic from its origin.Now, you might be thinking, “Ginny, I have HubSpot, so I already know if my website traffic is coming from Google, email, social media, and similar marketing channels. What does a UTM code tell me that I don’t already know?”HubSpot Marketing Hub provides you with these high-level sources of traffic, but this tool also helps you drill down into specific pages and posts within these traffic sources.UTM Code ExampleIf you’re promoting a campaign on social media, for example, you’ll know how much traffic came from social media. Building a UTM code, however, can tell you how much of that traffic came from Facebook, or even a particular post on Facebook.Here’s an example of a URL with its own UTM code highlighted in orange at the end of the URL below:http://blog.hubspot.com/9-reasons-you-cant-resist-list?utm_campaign=blogpost &utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebookIn the example above, you’re saying that once traffic comes in from people who click this link, the traffic should be attributed to Facebook. The “medium” is social media, while the “source” is Facebook.Adding these snippets of code after the question mark above doesn’t affect anything on the page — it just lets your analytics program know that someone arrived through a certain source inside an overall marketing channel, as part of a specific campaign.What can UTM codes track?UTM codes can track a medium and a source within that medium. Where it gets more flexible is in the language you use to describe that source. Maybe you want to attribute website traffic to a social network, a type of content, or even the exact name of an advertisement on the web.Here are the five things you can track with UTM codes and why you might track them:1. A CampaignCampaign-based tracking tags group all of the content from one campaign in your analytics. The example UTM code below would help you attribute website traffic to links that were placed as a part of a 20% discount promotion you’re hosting.Example: utm_campaign=20percentpromocode2. A SourceA source-based URL parameter can tell you which website is sending you traffic. You could add the example code below to every link you post to your Facebook page, helping you to track all traffic that comes from Facebook.Example: utm_source=Facebook3. A MediumThis type of tracking tag informs you of the medium that your tracked link is featured in. You can use the example UTM code below to track all traffic that comes from social media (as opposed to other mediums, like email).Example: utm_medium=socialmedia4. A Piece of ContentThis type of UTM code is used to track the specific types of content that point to the same destination from a common source and medium. It’s often used in pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns or with two identical links on the same page, as shown in the sample UTM code below.Example: utm_content=sidebarlink or utm_content=headerlink5. A TermA term- or keyword-based tracking code identifies the keywords you’ve paid for in a PPC ad. If you pay for a Google Ads campaign to rank under the keyword, “marketing software,” you might add the following UTM code to the end of the link you submit to Google to run this ad.Example: utm_term=marketing+softwareThe best part about UTM parameters is that you can make any combination you like of these code — use the bare minimum (campaign, source, and medium) to track all of your links, or use all of them to get super specific about your tracking. Clearly, you can use a combination of UTM parameters in lots of ways:Track the success of certain marketing initiatives.See how well your social channels promote your content versus when your followers promote your content.Measure the effectiveness of guest posting referral traffic.Track the same piece of content across multiple marketing channels.See where most people click on your internal links in a blog post.Okay, so you’re on board with UTM codes … but how the heck do you set them up? It’s easy. Below are instructions for setting up and measuring UTM parameters in HubSpot and Google Analytics.How to Build UTM Codes in HubSpot1. Navigate to your Analytics Tools.In your Marketing Hub dashboard, select “Reports” on the top navigation bar. Then select “Analytics Tools” in the dropdown, as shown below.2. Open the Tracking URL Builder.In the menu of analytics tools that appears, look to the very bottom-righthand corner. You’ll see the option, “Tracking URL Builder.” Click this option at the bottom of the page, as shown in the red box below.3. Open the Tracking URL form to create a new UTM code.Whenever you create a web campaign that includes at least one UTM code, you’ll see this campaign listed on the page shown below. This page outlines a tracking tag’s source, medium, term, content, and creation date, which you can see along the bottom of the screenshot below. Click “Create Tracking URL” in the top-righthand corner.4. Fill in each attribute of your UTM code and click “Create.”In the form that appears, fill in the URL, Campaign, Source, and Medium fields. If you’d like to add Content and Term, you can do so in the bottom two fields of this form. When you’re done, you’ll see an orange “Create” button become available at the bottom. Click it, and HubSpot will log your UTM code as a new campaign, and this link will ready to include on any webpage from which you want to track the traffic.5. Use the shortened link in your marketing campaign.6. Measure your success.You can track your UTM parameters in your Traffic Analytics dashboard under “Other Campaigns,” as shown below. Click on the individual campaign to break down the source and medium.As you can see in the second image, below, the name of the campaign appears to the left — based on the text in the UTM code you created — with the traffic from people who used each URL to arrive at your campaign’s main webpage.How to Build UTM Codes in Google Analytics1. Open Google’s Campaign URL Builder.There are three different types of tracking tags you can create in Google, two of which help you track traffic to new apps on app marketplaces. You’ll be using the Google Analytics Campaign URL Builder — the third option on this list.2. Fill in each link attribute in the following form.Visit the page linked above and click the the link to see to this URL builder. Then, you’ll see the UTM builder shown below. Add the URL, Campaign, Source, and Medium information into their respective boxes.3. Use the link in your marketing campaign.If you’d like to shorten it, you’ll need a tool like bit.ly … or just use HubSpot’s URL Builder if you’re a HubSpot customer.4. Measure your success.If you already have Google Analytics set up for your site, Google will automatically track incoming campaigns. Like in HubSpot, you can access them under “Audience,” then “Sources,” then “Campaigns.” Click on each campaign to view the source and medium.And that’s it — you’ll have custom tracking codes set up and running in no time! In a few weeks, you’ll be able to make a case for what you need because you’ll have the right metrics available. Originally published Apr 7, 2019 9:04:00 PM, updated April 08 2019 Don’t forget to share this post! Marketing Campaignslast_img read more

How to Perfectly Manage a PPC Campaign [Template]

first_img PPC Don’t forget to share this post! Topics: In the world of search engine marketing (SEM), more and more marketers are buying into PPC campaigns. Google Ads specifically has increased its revenue from year to year. In 2018, it was reported that the service was generating 84% of Alphabet’s revenue.Marketers know that properly investing in PPC can result in nearly guaranteed ad placement in search engine result pages. They also know that this placement can help generate leads. If your ads tool is tightly integrated with your CRM, you can even leverage ads data to nurture these leads across their buyer’s journey.As you prepare to create a PPC campaign, it’s important to get a rundown of what a successful campaign entails, and identify management missteps that you’ll want to avoid.Free Guide, Template & Planner: How to Use Google Ads for Business PPC Management Originally published May 30, 2019 4:31:00 PM, updated May 31 2019 PPC stands for “pay-per-click.” PPC campaigns are a form of search engine marketing (SEM) where a company builds an ad with targeted keywords and then pays for it by the click. These campaigns are often built using Google Ads.center_img Download this Template FreeTo understand search volumes and costs around each keyword you want to select, you can use free tools like the Google Ads Keyword Tool or — if you’re a HubSpot customer — our Keywords tool.If you’re running short on inspiration, these tools can help you think of other keywords to include in your campaign. You should always consider the costs of those suggested keywords and keep your economic interests in mind.If this is your first time managing a PPC campaign, it would be wise to read up on how to design a killer keyword strategy. In the case of Google Ads, you might also want to learn more about keyword quality score.Step 4: Create Your AdsThis is the fun part! Both Google and Bing allow you to create more than one ad for each AdGroup (hence the “group” terminology). The service will rotate them until it notices that one appears to drive a higher clickthrough rate (CTR). This is how A/B (and C and D) testing works. While it’s optional, you should take advantage of the ability to create more than one ad.Writing an ad is a bit like writing a haiku. There are character limits for each part, and it can be a little aggravating figuring out how to best complete the ad.You are allotted 25 characters for the title, 35 characters for the display URL — the URL that’s displayed in the ad, not to be confused with the destination URL — and 35 characters for each line of copy. But if you’re using this template, don’t worry about keeping track. The cell to the right of each ad component will count characters and turn red when you have gone over the limit. Handy, right?In my observation, the title has the greatest influence on an ad’s CTR. It’s wise to include a keyword in the headline to draw a user’s attention to your ad. An even better practice would be to use dynamic keyword insertion.I find the copy to be less important, but you certainly can’t just put gibberish in there. Search engines have editorial policies for what you can and cannot put in an ad. These policies also change frequently, so it’s your job to stay up to date on them.A good rule of thumb is to simply try to provide a congruous experience for searchers — from seeing your ad in the search engine results to completing the form on your landing page.Finally, there’s the tricky matter of the display URL. You’re only allowed 35 characters here, but it’s unlikely that your destination URL, the actual URL for your landing page, will be that short. So the search engines allow you to create a display URL, which may not even be an actual URL on your website. It’s critical that the domain in your display URL be the same as the domain in your destination URL.Step 5: Share the Completed Template With a Decision MakerWhether you’re doing PPC for your business or a client, your completed template will ensure you’re aligning the decision-maker’s expectations with the realities of a productive PPC campaign. If you’re the decision maker, this template will help you think about what you’re doing with the money you’re spending on PPC.The end result is that you’ll have created the sort of congruous user experience that search engines like to see. That can benefit you in terms of your positioning in the SERPs and, ultimately, your costs. It will also grant you the agility you need to swiftly reallocate and modify budget as you respond to changes in the marketplace, and the drive to maximize the return on your PPC spend. PPC management involves creating multiple campaigns at once, designating keyword strategies, assigning budget caps, and discussing your plan with company decision makers. It also may involve monitoring the campaigns when they are live. Here are a few ways marketers could go wrong with PPC management:Coming up with keywords on the fly without doing prior research.Only building one basic campaign without utilizing Google Ads’ AdGroups tool.Attaching un-engaging landing pages — or a homepage that generates no leads — to the campaign.Not adding “negative keywords” or monitoring campaigns to avoid wasted spend.Creating campaigns, setting budget caps, and going live without telling key decision makers at your company or a client’s company.So, how do you do PPC properly so you actually get leads at a reasonable cost? It comes down to intelligent campaign structure.How do you master intelligent campaign structure? You use a template!PPC Plan TemplateWe’ve created a free PPC campaign management template that will help you and your clients set up a full-funnel campaign structure that follows PPC best practices. Once you do that, you’ll be better positioned to maximize the return on your PPC investment.We’re going to show you how to use that PPC template in this blog post — so download it now and follow along.If you’re running PPC campaigns for someone who doesn’t understand the importance of good campaign structure, this template will also act as a deliverable that will enlighten your boss or clients.Tips for Using This TemplateBefore we get started, let’s go over a few tips that’ll make using this template even easier:You will want to clear out the example data I have in the template such as keywords, campaign and AdGroup names, ads, and destination URLs. Unless, of course, you’re running a fruit stand named after me.Be careful not to erase columns E, G, and I. They contain formulas that will help you in subsequent steps.Click on the red markers in the top corners of the cells. They contain helpful tips and FAQs. If you ever forget what a cell is used for, those are good reminders.Step 1: Understand PPC Campaign StructureBefore we actually do anything with this template, it’s important we’re all on the same page about PPC campaign structure. Far too many marketers will just set up an account, create an ad, direct the ad to their home page, pick some keywords and hit go. This is not the way to do things.With Google Ads, you have the opportunity to create multiple campaigns. Each campaign may contain several AdGroups, and each AdGroup may contain a few ads and multiple, similar keywords.It’s wise to create multiple campaigns because you can set daily budget caps, day-parting, and select geo-targeted regions at the campaign level. If you’re bidding on generic keywords and branded keywords, you’ll want to put these in separate campaigns because the economics around these two types of keywords will likely be very different.As you can see, your template reflects these best practices, providing space for several different campaigns, AdGroups, and ad variations within those AdGroups.Download this Template FreeStep 2: Identify Your Landing PagesThe “Destination URL” is the place on your website where you want the PPC traffic to end up. Because there is a marginal cost associated with each PPC visitor you attract, I recommend you choose a landing page URL as your destination URL.Do not drive them to your home page or a blog in hopes that they will stumble upon a lead generation form. That’s the job of organic search. Drive them to a landing page with a form on it. Don’t forget to put in a tracking token so you know where these leads are coming from.Major, well-known companies don’t always follow this rule, but they also have millions of dollars in budget that needs to be used by the end of the month. Make it easy on yourself and let your landing pages define your AdGroups.You will notice that the Destination URL within the AdGroup is the same regardless of the keyword or ad. If you really want to drive a keyword to a different landing page, then create another AdGroup. If you want to get even more specific, create another campaign for that keyword.You should also keep your sales funnel in mind when you identify these landing pages. Think about which part of the sales funnel each landing page and offer speaks to.For example, an educational PDF about an industry concept would be appropriate for a top-of-the-funnel offer, while a coupon or a demo would be at the bottom of the funnel.Manage and create separate campaigns for each part of the funnel. If you scroll down in your template, you’ll see that there’s dedicated space allotted for campaigns in all of these funnel stages.Step 3: Build Your Keyword StrategyNext, select the keywords that are relevant to the landing page and offer. Make sure to keep them as relevant as possible to increase the chance that each visitor you pay for completes the form on the landing page.Yes, it would be nice to rank for certain keywords, but if the landing page doesn’t answer the keyword queried, think twice. Or better yet, create another offer and landing page that speaks more directly to the keyword. PPC Campaign The key to building a successful PPC campaign is to follow these steps:Determine your PPC campaign structure.Identify, build, or refine your campaign’s landing pages.Build a keyword strategy based on your research.Create ads based on what you’ve determined in the above steps.Share your campaign plan with decision makers.The problem is, many marketers suffer from poor PPC campaign management, which ends up costing them way more money than they need to spend and delivering underwhelming lead generation results.last_img read more