Category Archives: business

Google Acquired a Team From HTC and It Surprised No One

Late last night — at least, here on the East Coast — a formal announcement was made that, if you’re as obsessed with the business of mobile as we are, didn’t exactly come as a surprise.

The word: Google had acquired a team from mobile electronics company HTC in a $1.1 billion deal.

When the Taiwan Stock Exchange opened at 9:00 AM local time, where HTC is headquartered, many suspected the announcement was coming. The company, which has been struggling with its valuation for quite a few years now, had already planned to freeze trading on Thursday, sparking rumors that some sort of major organizational move would take place.

Source: HTC

Finally, at 10:00 PM EDT, the announcement came on Google’s blog: The search giant had signed an “agreement with HTC, continuing our big bet on hardware.”

The announcement, penned by Google’s SVP of Hardware Rick Osterloh, explained that the acquired team would be joining primarily to work on the company’s Pixel devices. It’s just one of many announcements, confirmed or not, leading up to the major October 4 event where several products, including the Pixel 2, are slated to be announced.

Google’s relationship with HTC isn’t new, nor is its move to acquire a mobile electronics manufacturer — in 2012, it acquired Motorola, only to amass several financial losses and eventually sell the company to Lenovo for $9.6 billion less than it bought it for. As Osterloh said, representatives from both companies have been collaborating for 10 years, a partnership which in its earliest days resulted in the first-ever Android phone: the HTC Dream. While Google builds and owns the Android operating system technology, it’s largely used by non-Google mobile manufacturers, like Samsung and LG, where the search giant has very little, if any, creative license over how those companies use it.

Which is part of what makes this deal so interesting.

It’s been a long time since HTC was considered a leader in the world of mobile devices. It hit the market with flashy TV commercials and a “fresh face” in 2008, but since then has faced numerous operating losses resulting in budget cuts that caused a blow to its research and development. In 2016, it managed to catch up a bit in the VR market with its Vive headset, over which HTC will retain control even with the Google deal. 

All of that, to us, suggests two main implications from the deal. First, on the mobile device side, both Google and HTC stand to benefit. HTC will receive financial assets in the form of the deal’s monetary value, while Google can boast the growing buildout its mobile hardware team. It also moves the spotlight back onto HTC’s mobile innovation, especially at a time when Google is making headlines leading up to its October event. If Google is enlisting the help of HTC employees, one might say, then the latter must be doing something right.

It’s an interesting move on the heels of Apple’s many product announcements earlier this month, notably the launch of the latest generations of iPhones, including the iPhone X priced at $999. While the feedback on the first Pixel edition was largely positive, it hasn’t exactly garnered quite as much buzz as Apple or Samsung devices since its release. That raises the stakes for Google — will it be able to beat Apple’s latest mobile photography, user recognition, and AR features, and at a more competitive price?

Aha — note that last part about AR. Well, that’s where things really get twisted.

Despite the fact that HTC will retain control of its Vive VR properties, keep in mind that, as per the deal’s terms, Google will gain some non-exclusive licensing of HTC’s IP. It begs the question of whether this team acquisition will somehow play into Google’s potential attempts to compete with Apple on the mobile VR/AR front.

Source: HTC

Google has already been manufacturing its own VR headsets for quite some time now, with products ranging from the extremely affordable Cardboard to the $79 Daydream View. In fact, on the morning leading up to the official HTC deal announcement, Google published a design-focused post on its blog regarding the “best practices [of] creating art assets for VR.”

Source: Google

But both of these devices require VR-ready phones for a full experience — compare that to the $599 Vive, which comes with built-in hardware. The whole thing leaves us wondering if Google will “pull an Apple,” and create standalone AR experiences that don’t require additional gear.

In the weeks following Google’s October 4th event, we’ll be heading to both Oculus Connect and the Samsung Developer Conference, where we predict there will be talk — and perhaps even contention over — various VR and AR platforms. Where Google’s headsets and the Vive will specifically come into play is yet to be determined, and it will be nothing if not intriguing to hear developers’ perspectives on the deal’s implications and chain reaction.

Whatever they are — we’ll keep you posted.

Featured image source: Google

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Thanks Live Chat, Messaging Will Take It From Here

Automation is a funny thing. Too little is the enemy of efficiency. Too much kills engagement.

Think about email. Automated email nurturing campaigns were the answer to individually following up with every single person who downloaded a piece of content from your website. In the name of efficiency, marketers queued up a series of emails via workflows to automatically deliver ever-more-helpful content and insights, gradually increasing the person’s trust in the company and stoking the flames of their buying intent. If at any time they had a question, they could respond to the email and get routed to a person who could help.

But as the number of inbound leads skyrocketed, this system became untenable. The dreaded noreply@company.com address was the solution for scalability. Over time, this set the expectation with buyers that marketers didn’t want to have a conversation with them via email.

Automation made us more efficient, but at the cost of relationships — ultimately defeating the purpose.

Then came live chat, and it felt like a revelation. Buyers were empowered to get answers to their questions in real time from a real person. Better yet, this interaction took place directly on the company’s website — where they were already doing their research.

We started using website chat at HubSpot in 2013. Over the past four years, live chat has facilitated countless conversations between curious prospects and our business. We even created our own live chat product — Messages — to help our customers adopt this model and serve their own prospects better, faster, and directly on the website.

But, just like what happened with email nurturing, at a certain point the system started to strain. According to our usage data, one in every 30 website visits results in a chat. For companies that receive thousands of website visits a day, trying to keep up is daunting.

And similar to how “noreply@company.com” frustrated buyers looking for information via email, customers are again the ones suffering when companies can’t manage the demands of live chat. Recent research found that 21% of live chat support requests go completely unanswered. Even if the buyer gets a response, they can expect to wait an average of 2 minutes and 40 seconds for it. I wouldn’t call this “live” — would you?

Responding slowly (or failing to respond at all) on a channel advertised as “live” is a contradiction in terms. Forcing customers to wait after we’ve set the expectation of immediacy is unacceptable. We can do better.

Today, we’re at the same inflection point we came to with email. What should companies do to accommodate the tidal wave of live chat conversations? Hiring an increasing number of chat coordinators clearly isn’t a scalable answer. But more importantly, apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Slack have changed consumers’ definition of a real time conversation (and also created the infrastructure to support them). If marketers are going to advertise “live” channels — and we must if we want to stay relevant — we need to step up and deliver.

It’s with this in mind that I assert the era of live chat is over. “Conversations” were once synonymous with website chat and incoming phone calls, but in the world of messaging apps and bots, the website is only one small piece of the puzzle. Buyers are thinking beyond the website, but most businesses aren’t.

Buyers’ New Expectations for Business Conversations

Website chat enabled buyers to have conversations with businesses like never before. It was a good start, but just that — a start. Similar to how inbound changed marketing, social changed content discovery and consumption, and conversational search changed SEO, messaging apps have changed how buyers expect to interact with businesses.

Why tether your prospects and customers to your website when they want to chat? Why force them to re-explain their question when they switch channels, or when chat coordinators switch shifts? Why make them wait until the next rep is available to get the information they need right now? This isn’t world-class marketing and customer service even today, and it’ll become even more archaic and frustrating in the years to come.

Think your buyers wouldn’t want to interact with your company via a messaging app? Actually, 71% of consumers globally are willing to use messaging apps to get customer assistance.

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Even if your prospects fall in the “none of the above” bucket today, they won’t forever. Cutting the data by age foretells the inevitability of messaging apps in a business context over time: The majority of consumers currently between the ages 18 and 34 are willing to use Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp to contact companies for assistance.

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When communicating with a business, today’s buyer expects that:

  • Conversations happen where they are. That might be the website, but it could also be social media, or Skype, or Slack, or a messaging app.
  • Conversations are portable. Regardless of where a conversation gets started, it should be able to be transferred to any other channel seamlessly. A thread kicked off on live chat should be able to be passed to Facebook Messenger or email without data loss or crossed wires.
  • Conversations have context. Context shouldn’t leave with the person who fielded the initial inquiry. All of a customer or prospect’s historical interactions and information should be attached to a common record which populates instantaneously.

We need new technology paired with automation to live up to our buyers’ expectations and make these types of conversations a reality. On the technology side, live website chat is part of a conversation strategy, sure, but it can’t be the whole strategy. As for automation, marketers got it wrong with email, but we have the opportunity to get it right with chat.

Stop Chatting, Start Having Conversations

At HubSpot, we’ve always been about helping marketers and salespeople adapt to the ever-changing modern buyer. It’s time, once again, to step up and serve our prospects and customers the way they expect — and deserve — to be served.

Fortunately, this is possible today with the right strategy. Businesses need to do the following three things to enable truly valuable conversations at scale:

1) Make it possible for buyers to have conversations with your business where they are.

Create a presence on website chat, messaging apps, social media — wherever your prospects might want to talk.

2) Add an automation layer with chatbots.

Set up bots that immediately respond on each channel (or even proactively kick off the conversation) and are equipped to answer common questions. This eliminates customers’ wait time and provides immediate responses for the majority of queries. Bots put the “live” in “live chat.”

3) Adopt technology that helps bots and human service reps to “tag team.”

When a complex question arises, the right technology can loop in a human chat coordinator, and provide a unified record of everything that’s happened in this interaction as well as the customer’s entire history. This way, the context never gets left behind in the handoff between bot and human, or the switch from one communication channel to another.

Marketing automation used to solely refer to workflows + drip email campaigns. Today, it’s much more than that. The new marketing automation is conversational technology + bots. This is automation that makes us more efficient, but more importantly, more effective for our customers. This is automation that creates relationships instead of frustration.

Today, we announced HubSpot’s acquisition of motion.ai — a platform that enables anyone to build and deploy bots across any messaging channel. With this acquisition, we not only hope to enable marketers, salespeople, and service folks to serve their customers better, faster, and with more context than ever before, but we also intend to create the “all in one” experience our customers have come to rely on.

The only constant in business and consumer behavior today is change — which I know firsthand can feel overwhelming. But you’re not in it alone. As your customers change, HubSpot empowers you to adapt to and surpass their expectations. As your business grows, we grow with you. And when new technology emerges, we build it into the growth stack so you can stay ahead of the curve without the headache of wrangling countless disparate apps.

Live chat is the standard today, but I think we should aspire to do better for our buyers. Now I want to hear from you. Do you think live chat in its current manifestation is dead? Is your company prepared to meet the expectations of today’s buyers, and the buyers of tomorrow?

Send HubSpot a note on Facebook Messenger. Tell me what you think the future of communication between buyers and businesses should be.

Let’s have a conversation.

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The 27 Best Instagram Accounts for Design Inspiration

Instagram has become a finely curated destination for gorgeous photos, videos, and visual content that all clamor for the best Likes and comments. It’s as if the urge to visit a modern art museum can now be satisfied from the comfort of our own homes — or bus seats, or lunch breaks.

That is, if you follow the right people. As social media generally provides a platform for individuals to become brands, so it goes for the artists and designers who have found Instagram to be a method of building a miniature, digital art gallery — a social portfolio, if you will.

And as for the people seeking remarkable design work? Jackpot.

But to help you narrow your search, we’ve done a bit of our own curation of the best Instagram accounts to follow for design inspiration. We’ve broken the list down by category: illustration, graphic design, pop art and installation, color palettes, street art, photography, typography, and calligraphy — although, you might notice that some of the work below could fall onto more than one list. notice some of their work could fall into a number of different lists.

Check out how these artists are sharing their work with the world — we’re sure you’ll find them as inspiring as we do.

The 27 Best Instagram Accounts for Design

Click on a category below to jump to that section:

Illustration

1) Steve Harrington: @s_harrington

Steve Harrington is a Los Angeles-based designer who describes his own style as having a “psychedelic-pop aesthetic.” His Instagram is full of his brightly colored, playful illustrations, many of which he’s created for brands — most notably Nike, for which he’s designed sportswear, including shoes.

2) Rachel Ryle: @rachelryle

Rachel Ryle is an illustrator, an animator, and a storyteller — and she combines all three on her Instagram account. Most of her posts are beautiful, clever, and often super cute stop-motion videos like the one below. She told Mashable that each animation takes 15–20 hours from the beginning concept to final editing, on average. If you like her work, Instagram is the place to follow her: It’s her most dedicated channel for showcasing her work. 

 

Happy National Donut Day! I was thinking, wouldn’t it be nice to be one of “those people” who proudly post a picture of their six pack on Instagram? Let’s face it, donuts happen. So this is probably the closest I’ll ever get to achieving that dream. The good news is that with donuts we can all have a sweet six pack! Whether you’re a believer in this “hole-y” holiday or not, I hope you all enjoy this very special “fried-day”! Diet or not…donut hesitate, go treat yo’self! PS Of course today’s hidden emoji is this 👉🏻🍩👈🏻. See if you can spot it 😉 #ispyemojis #stopmotion #animation #art #drawing #illustration #instavideo #instavid #holiday #baking #doughnut #donut #pink #icing #sixpack #NationalDoughnutDay #NationalDonutDay #🍩

A post shared by Rachel Ryle (@rachelryle) on Jun 2, 2017 at 5:57am PDT

3) Mikey Burton: @mikeyburton

Mikey Burton, based out of Chicago, calls himself a “designy illustrator” — his way of saying he works part time in both. Burton has done work for clients like Converse, ESPN, Target, The New York Times, TIME Magazine, and Esquire. He’s been working on a lot of editorial pieces lately, which he posts proudly on his Instagram — along with other, often-whimsical illustrations both as sketches and as final, published projects.

 

Beer map I drew for @wsjoffduty Thank you @ufoundforest for the gig! Photo by @fmrphoto 🗺 🍻

A post shared by Mikey Burton (@mikeyburton) on Jan 3, 2017 at 5:57am PST

4) Jamel Saliba: @melsysillustrations

Jamel Saliba, a.k.a. Melsy, is equal parts artist and entrepreneur, having quit her job in her mid-twenties to become a successful, full-time fashion illustrator. Her sketches are beautifully done and cover themes like fashion, friendship, and love — all in the style of contemporary chic. Since her initial success on Etsy caught the eye of consumers and brands alike, Melsy’s done client work for Hallmark, T.J.Maxx, and Home Goods.

On Instagram, she posts a combination of illustrations added to her portfolio, as well as those celebrating events or holidays, like the illustration she posted for Halloween.

Graphic Design

5) Neil A. Stevens: @neil_a_stevens

Neil A. Stevens specializes in poster design, and he’s particularly good at creating sharp, dynamic pieces.  He’s created posters for many cities and countries around the globe, including a handful for the Tour de France. 

 

Out for a spin.

A post shared by Neil_A_Stevens (@neil_a_stevens) on Aug 3, 2017 at 12:20am PDT

6) Hey Studio: @heystuxdio

Hey Studio is made up of three designers: Ricardo Jorge, Veronica Fuerte, and Mikel Romero — and is one of Spain’s most popular graphic design studios. A lot of their work features stunning geometric shapes, which they post to their Instagram account in combination with pictures of their team during the creation process (and when they’re just fooling around).

Tip: Shuffle through the entire carousel of images in the post below to see the full dimension range of work.

 

Chromatics Lamp 💫 back to 2012 a collaboration with @entresuelo1a

A post shared by Hey (@heystudio) on Jul 13, 2017 at 11:32am PDT

7) Luke Choice: @velvetspectrum

Luke Choice is an Australian living in New York whose work covers graphic design, illustration, and typography. His style is very colorful and very unique — I especially love the 3D illustration work he does, some of which are crazy cool animations. Check out his Instagram feed to see his latest work, from his own personal projects to collaborations with brands like Nike. 

 

“Popping Pixels”

A post shared by Velvet Spectrum (@velvetspectrum) on Aug 30, 2017 at 6:43am PDT

Pop Art & Installation

8) Jessica Walsh: @jessicawalsh

I’m so inspired by Jessica Walsh, both as a designer and as an entrepreneur. She joined the design firm Sagmeister & Walsh, Inc. at age 23 — back when it was just Sagmeister, Inc. Two years later, the firm’s founder Stefan Sagmeister took her on as a partner when she was only 25, and the firm eventually became Sagmeister & Walsh. They’ve designed work for very high-profile clients, such as Levi’s and HBO.

Walsh’s Instagram account is a gorgeous display of her own work, the firm’s, and design inspiration from others. 

9) Daniel Aristizábal: @darias88

Colombian Digital Artist Daniel Aristizábal’s talent is transforming regular, everyday objects into surreal, colorful renditions that are full of character. His work is “saturated with science references, retro hues, strange imagery, bold geometric patterns, and a playful sense of the absurd,” reads his SkillShare bio.

Follow him on Instagram for a peek into how he sees the world, including the collaborations he’s worked on with clients like Toy Nail Polish and Refinery29.

10) Dschwen LLC: @dschwen

Dschwen LLC is a creative studio based in Minneapolis that employs collaborative designers throughout the United States. Their design projects are created mainly for brands — including some big names like Amazon, Apple, Juicy Couture, General Electric, Uber, Twitter, and more.

They’ve won a plethora of awards, including a Design Gold at Cannes Creativity Festival for the second image below, “traffic cone in disguise,” which they created for Twitter and Niche. Their Instagram page is chock full of creative, surprising, and clever designs — including some sweet animations.

11) Leta Obierajski: @letasobierajski

Leta Obierajski is a New York-based art director and graphic designer with an eye for bright colors, angles, and curves. What I like about her Instagram account in particular is that she writes descriptive Instagram captions that give her followers a behind-the-scenes look at her thoughts and processes, making for an incredibly interesting read.

For example, in her caption for the image below, she describes her collaboration with a fellow designer on this installation for local restaurant Le Turtle:

Color Palettes

12) Design Seeds: @designseeds

The folks behind Design Seeds’ Instagram account do a wonderful job of showing their followers just how important color schemes are to beautiful design. They use Instagram to create color palettes inspired by images submitted to them on Instagram using the #SeedsColor hashtag. This is a fun way to share their passion for nature’s beauty while encouraging engagement. 

 

today’s inspiration image for { market hues } is by @rotblaugelb … thank you, Julia, for another wonderful #SeedsColor image share!

A post shared by Jessica Colaluca, Design Seeds (@designseeds) on Sep 8, 2017 at 10:15am PDT 

13) Canva: @Canva

As a design tool, it makes sense that Canva’s Instagram account would be centered around design. Not only do they post gorgeous photos and design work, but I especially love their color palette series, where they create color palettes based on photos, much like Design Seeds.

As an added bonus, they include the names and hex codes of each color and prompt their followers to punch the hex codes into their Canva color wheel to use them in their own designs.

Street Art

14) Jaime Rojo: @bkstreetart

Jaime Rojo isn’t a street artist; he’s a photographer of street art. One of his goals, which he articulates on his website, is to photograph new public art, street art, graffiti, and urban art as they’re created, not just in Brooklyn, but all over the world (thanks to a partnership with Urban Nation Berlin). He keeps an eye on developing trends and strives to lead a worldwide conversation about how these trends affect popular and art culture. His Instagram is a live collection of his photographs, in which he credits and tags the artist when known.

 

Daze. For your eyes only. @dazeworldnyc #daze #streetart #nyc #muralart #urbanart #manhattan

A post shared by Brooklyn Street Art (@bkstreetart) on Aug 31, 2017 at 6:07pm PDT  

15) Biafra Inc.: @biafrainc

Biafra Inc. is an anonymous Minneapolis-based street artist who creates his work via spray paint, screen printing, stencils, stickers, and posters. As he tells it, his work is often “a visual retelling of stories that are apart of his life.” As a self-proclaimed news junkie, he also incorporates socio-political themes in his work from time to time. His Instagram account is an inspirational showcase of his work in a variety of urban environments all over the Midwest. 

biafrainc-instagram-4.png

16) Fumeroism: @fumeroism

“My art is an extension of my character, bold and uninhibited, assertive and unorthodox.” That’s how anonymous street artist Fumeroism describes his colorful, expressive, contemporary street art. His designs are often caricatures of real subjects, like his portrait of fellow street artist Sebastien Waknine in Barcelona in the image below. Follow Fumeroism on Instagram for colorful, bold, and energetic street art in locations all over the world.  

17) Banksy: @banksy

Unsurprisingly, the famous British street artist Banksy often goes for long peiods of time without posting to his Instagram account. And yes, it is his official account — Banksy’s publicist Jo Brooks confirmed it in a tweet:

But when he does, it’s not something you’ll want to miss.

For example, in February 2015, after almost a year and a half of nothing new on Instagram, Banksy posted a caption-less photo to his Instagram account of a brand new, never-before-seen piece of street art that Paste Magazine theorized appeared to be “done over a door. The location has not been discovered or revealed as of yet.” Follow his account to scroll through some of his great work and to stay in the loop in case a new piece appears.

Photography

18) VuThéara Kham: @vutheara

When it comes to beautiful photography, there are a whole lot of Instagrammers to choose from. One of my favorites is Paris-based photographer VuThéara Kham, who actually started his career on Instagram and became quite popular in the Instagram community. Follow his Instagram account for gorgeously framed photos of Paris’ (and other European cities’, as per below) landscapes and people.

 

Zurich by night 👫💙 #@visitzurich #visitzurich

A post shared by VuTheara Kham (@vutheara) on Sep 10, 2017 at 3:22am PDT

19) Hiroaki Fukuda: @hirozzzz

Instagram is actually the basis of Hiroaki Fukuda’s photography career, which is why his posts on there are so darn good. Like Kham, Fukuda started as an Instagram hobbyist in Tokyo and ended up gaining a huge following.

When big brands caught wind of his talent and began hiring him for different projects, he became a full-time Instagrammer. Now, he travels all over the world taking photos for companies like Nike and Christian Dior. Side note: He told CNN in an interview that he likes when people comment on his photos … so comment away! 

 

Another one from the 🕷

A post shared by Hiroaki Fukuda (@hirozzzz) on Aug 6, 2017 at 7:01am PDT

20) Dirk Bakker: @macenzo

Although Dirk Bakker is an Amsterdam-based graphic designer, he likes to take photographs of art, design, and architecture — and post it to his Instagram account. He has a keen eye for taking something “normal” — like cranes or a staircase — and transforming it into a stunning image with a great sense of depth. He’s especially talented at capturing repetitive patterns like lines, geometric shapes, forms, and colors, making for striking images with strong visual impacts.

 

Summer Balconies . #Brussels #SeeMyCity #Architecture #Minimal

A post shared by Dirk Bakker (@macenzo) on Jun 27, 2017 at 4:11am PDT

21) Max Wanger: @maxwanger

Max Wanger is a Los Angeles-based photographer who specializes in portraits, including wedding photos. His Instagram posts are a combination of his personal photography and the work he’s done for clients. What I love about his photos is that they have a romantic, personal touch, and often make beautiful use of negative space.

 

hope these cheer up those who need cheering.

A post shared by max wanger (@maxwanger) on Sep 10, 2017 at 5:25pm PDT

Typography

22) Erik Marinovich: @erikmarinovich

Erik Marinovich is a lettering artist and designer and an entrepreneur. In addition to drawing letters, logos, and type for big brands like Nike, Target, Google, Facebook, Sonos, and Sharpie, Marinovich has also co-founded Friends of Type, a collaborative blog and shop, and Title Case, a creative work space that runs workshops and lectures. His Instagram account is a great showcase of his impressive lettering work, from branded design work to impressively cool doodles.

23) Ahda: @misterdoodle

Ahda, the man behind the Mister Doodle pseudonym, is a hand letterer who’s done design work for big brands like Element Skateboards, The Sunday Times U.K., Citizen Apparel, and more. His specialty is incorporating his beautiful, curvy hand lettering into shapes and illustrations. Check out his Instagram for photographs of his lettering work, including t-shirt designs and creative showcases of his projects alongside relevant props.

24) Cyril Vouilloz: @rylsee

Cyril Vouilloz, a.k.a. Rylsee, is a Berlin-based designer with a fun and experimental take on typography. His unique hand-drawn lettering work plays with lines and dimensions — and what makes his Instagram posts so cool is that many of them show his fingers “interacting” with his illustrations, enhancing the optical illusions in a way that’ll blow your mind a little bit. Browse through his crazy cool work on Instagram, and follow him to see what original artwork and distortions he comes up with next.

25) Arabic Typography: @arabictypography

Beautiful typography doesn’t just mean Latin letters. In fact, some of the most beautiful typography in the world comes from Arabic script. There are many features that make Arabic lettering so aesthetic: It’s written from right to left, it can include accents and dots or lines, and its letters can vary in shape depending on their position in a word.

The Arabic Typography Instagram account, run by Egypt-based Noha Zayed, is a collection of beautiful Arabic typography — from signage to street art to tattoos — that’s crowdsourced from all over the world.

 

Found by @azaharaem in #Morocco. #foundkhtt

A post shared by #foundkhtt (@arabictypography) on Jul 31, 2017 at 2:45am PDT

Calligraphy

26) Seb Lester: @seblester

Artist and Designer Seb Lester is one of the most famous calligraphy artists on Instagram, with over one million followers (as of this posting). The vast majority of his posts are actually videos — and for good reason.

“So much of calligraphy is about movement and rhythm, and a short video can capture the beauty and the magic of calligraphy in a very Internet-friendly format,” he told The New Yorker. “Recurring words in people’s comments are ‘mesmerizing,’ ‘hypnotic,’ and ‘satisfying.’ For reasons I don’t fully understand, people clearly enjoy watching the process of something perceived as ‘perfect’ being made from start to finish.”

27) Lindsay Oshida: @lindsayoshida

Lindsay Oshida is a Los Angeles-based graphic designer who posts beautiful calligraphy work to her Instagram account. She gained a lot of attention on Instagram for her “Game of Thrones” quotes, which she posted once per day during the ten days leading up to the 2015 season premiere.

For example, she did her piece “Kill the crows” (the image below) in black letter with walnut ink, according to The New Yorker, and the black crows were sketched using a crow-quill nib — “a calligrapher in-joke.” She’s since posted quotes both from “Game of Thrones” and other popular TV shows, and claims other calligraphers have followed her lead.

We hope this list helped you find some new designers to follow. May your Instagram feed be much more beautiful for it!

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The Internet Had a Busy Week. Here's What You Missed.

The drama of this week’s Apple event is hardly over.

Despite many of the announcements having been leaked in the days leading up to it, the tech world is still positively a-Twitter about what was unveiled, and what will come of it.

Many are wondering if the iPhone 8 models are really that different from the iPhone 7. And even U.S. Senator Al Franken has joined the conversation, in his questioning of Face ID’s possible violation of privacy protections. (He actually makes quite a compelling point. Check out his letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook here.)

But hold the (i)phone, people. There was so much else that happened this week — and we’re not about to let it go unnoticed.

Uber’s Got Some ‘Splainin to Do

The Alphabet Lawsuit

Yes: Uber is currently in the throes of a lawsuit with Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company. Let’s take a step back for a minute for a look at everything that led to this point.

Some Background

Back in 2016, Anthony Levandowski, an engineer for Alphabet’s self-driving division, left to create his own autonomous vehicle startup called Otto. A mere six months later, Uber acquired Otto to create its own internal self-driving department, which Levandowski would oversee.

But that was far from a happy ending. Not only was this move rumored to cause a high degree of contention among Uber’s executive leadership, but it would also result in some major litigation down the line.

This February, Google’s self-driving division — now called Waymo — filed a formal complaint claiming that Levandowski had stolen 14,000 files containing confidential intellectual property from Alphabet, prior to his departure. One of the biggest pieces of information within those files was something called the lidar, which stands for “Light Detection and Ranging.” It’s the technology at the core of all self-driving vehicles, which uses a combination of lasers and radar to sense movement. NOAA has used it for some time to sense movement on the Earth’s surface, but in this case, it’s used to detect things like pedestrians and surrounding traffic.

In other words: Lidar is unequivocally essential to self-driving technology. And it doesn’t come cheap — but Alphabet claims to have reduced the costs by 90% by vertically integrating its build-out. Uber allegedly had access to the details behind it, and Waymo filed an injunction against Uber to keep it from using this information.

The entire situation continued to escalate (Recode has a great summary of what happened up to April 2017), leading to even more accusations from Alphabet, Levandowski’s firing in May, and Uber’s then-CEO Travis Kalanick’s June resignation. Dara Khosrowshahi, previously at Expedia, formally replaced Kalanick as CEO in August.

Where We Are Now

Uber suffered some additional, significant blows this week. A federal circuit judge denied its request to move this case to private arbitration, and on top of that, the company was ordered to turn over a document that Alphabet has been trying to obtain almost since the mess began: a report prepared for Uber when it first began exploring the option of acquiring Otto.

Alphabet claims that what is now known as the “Stroz Report” (since it was prepared by Stroz Friedberg, a law firm specializing in cyber security) contains information that could be pivotal to its side of the case. It’s essentially a due diligence report that includes data captured from an interview with Levandowski, who has been exercising fifth amendment rights to remain mum throughout the ordeal. Much of what he is refusing to say, Alphabet believes, could exist in this document.

These developments have all surfaced among a leaked memo from Uber’s Chief General Counsel Salle Yoo confirming her imminent resignation, which New York Times tech reporter Mike Isaac tweeted:

This lawsuit is just one of many ongoing legal battles currently faced by Uber, including allegations that it tracked Lyft drivers to obtain competitive data, as well as high-level international bribery accusations. As Yoo said herself in the memo, after five years with the company, her work has become “incredibly hard.”

And Speaking of Self-Driving Cars …

Earlier this month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the The SELF-DRIVE Act, which essentially approves the placement of self-driving cars onto public roadways. Since then, several parties have proudly announced their own movements in the autonomous vehicle space, including Samsung, who yesterday announced a €75 million (just over $89 million USD) investment in TTTech, a maker of digital safety platforms. The move is part of the overarching Samsung Automotive Innovation Fund, which will dedicate $300 million investment in autonomous vehicle technology.

It’s a move that shows an interesting dichotomy between the industries that are investing in self-driving vehicles.

There are the old-school automakers, like Ford (who invested $1 billion in Argo AI), General Motors (who invested $500 million in Lyft), and Volkswagen (who invested $180 million in Mobvoi).

Then, there are the tech sector players. In a somewhat bizarre turn of events, Bloomberg reported yesterday that Alphabet may be investing $1 billion in Lyft, as well. What’s especially odd, the story points out, is that Alphabet’s Google Ventures (GV) also has some stake in Uber, despite the ongoing Waymo battle.

Apple has also hinted at a delve into this type of technolog — CEO Tim Cook revealed to Bloomberg Television in June that the company would be “focusing on autonomous systems.” Check out the video of that interview below.

Samsung is hardly the first — or the last, we anticipate — of the tech giants to announce a throwing-of-its-hat into the self-driving vehicle ring.

More Trouble for Facebook

Following the September 6 revelations that Russian groups had purchased about $100,000 worth of politically-charged ads on Facebook, the social media platform yesterday announced it would further modify its ad guidelines to prevent targeting to hate groups.

When advertisers create targeted content, they’re able to do so by including interests in the criteria. ProPublica recently tested those interests by creating ads and seeing if targeted interests could include anti-Semitic interests. It could — here’s a look at the criteria used by ProPublica to test the process:

Source: ProPublica

ProPublica created three promoted posts using this criteria, and “Facebook approved all three ads within 15 minutes.”

But how did it happen? To be clear, Facebook did not create those categories. Rather, because the platform allows people to add customizable interests to their personal profiles, enough users — roughly 2,300 — included this language for Facebook’s algorithm to interpret them as targeting criteria available to advertisers.

However, ProPublica contacted Facebook with this discovery before the story ran, and the social media channel removed these categories with a formal announcement of changes to its ad targeting policies.

“To help ensure that targeting is not used for discriminatory purposes, we are removing these self-reported targeting fields until we have the right processes in place to help prevent this issue,” the statement reads. “We want Facebook to be a safe place for people and businesses, and we’ll continue to do everything we can to keep hate off Facebook.”

The Equifax Hack Is a Giant Dumpster Fire, but It Taught Us About Marketing

When we use the colloquial term “dumpster fire,” well, we mean it. Bear with us, as we work our way through the saga of events.

Some Background

Last week, Equifax announced that it had experienced a massive data breach somewhere between May and July 2017, when hackers obtained the personal information (things like Social Security numbers, addresses, and license plate numbers) of roughly 143 people in the U.S.

That timing is important: The company was aware of the breach since July, but waited over a month to alert the public. To add insult to injury, three executives sold close to $2 million of their stock in Equifax sometime within that window, which was not part of any 10b5-1 scheduled trading plans.

Once the announcement was made, it was clear that Equifax was completely unprepared to handle the response. Though it made a website available that claimed to let you know if you were affected by the breach, it didn’t provide any tangible information.

I tried it myself and compared my results to a friend’s. Mine told me that my “personal information may have been impacted by this incident,” while her results said that it wasn’t. We were both prompted to enroll in its TrustedID credit monitoring system, which the company said it would offer for free after the breach.


equifax2

But it turned out that the results were meaningless. To test the system, TechCrunch reporter John Biggs entered “Booger” as his name and “123456” as the last six digits of his social security number, only to receive the same result that his “personal information may have been impacted”.

Then, someone discovered that TrustedID’s terms of service would bar its users from entering any sort of class action against the company if they enrolled in its credit monitoring service. People left with no clear answer on the extent to which the breach may have affected them, and they were left with no solution moving forward. Equifax later went on to state that it wouldn’t bar users from lawsuits related to the hack, and that language appears to have been removed from TrustedID’s terms.

What It Taught Us About Marketing

This is not a tough one to figure out, folks: Transparency is everything.

When I first found out that Equifax sat on this realization for so long, I wanted to give the company some benefit of the doubt — this was a big crisis to deal with. There was a PR firm to hire, and a system to establish that would provide users with answers to the myriad questions they were sure to have.

But in the end, that wasn’t the case. As one of my friends put it, “Everyone is scared, and it’s impossible to get information.”

That’s unacceptable in a world where most businesses with a digital consumer-facing presence collect some semblance of information from customers.

While information like an email address or newsletter preference isn’t as high-stakes as a Social Security number, the reality is that we willingly submit and collect personal data with the same casual attitude with which we sneeze. And when that information is compromised, businesses have to be prepared for an avalanche of responses from unhappy users.

It also opens a path for false solutions, such as a chatbot developer that earlier this week claimed it could automatically sue Equifax for $25,000 on your behalf. (TechCrunch promptly put those claims to rest here.)

As marketers, it’s our job to develop honest, thorough messaging that answers their questions, as quickly and comprehensively as possible. Moreover, it’s our job to understand and be prepared to address their fears, and come up with the communication tools to reassure them as much as possible during a crisis — the exact opposite of how Equifax handled the situation.

There Was Also Non-Apple Mobile Stuff

Mobile World Congress Americas

This week also hosted Mobile World Congress Americas (MWCA): an event dedicated to the mobile industry that features, among other things, product launches. This year’s edition, in what turned out to be the most unfortunate timing possible, overlapped with Tuesday’s Apple event.

But if I’m being honest, even if the event’s timing didn’t parallel Apple’s, its highlights still may have seemed a bit lackluster. Among them:

  • Apple wasn’t completely absent from the event — Lumion debuted its special iPhone X case … before the phone’s launch was even formally announced. What makes the case special, the unveiling said, is its ability to protect the new and all-glass device.
  • Lenovo Motorola unveiled its MotoX4 smartphone.
  • During his opening keynote, FCC chairman Ajit Pai did not once mention net neutrality.

And Then, There’s Google

Yesterday, Google put some promotional content into the universe that hints at an October 4th debut of the Pixel 2. That pending release has been rumored for awhile now, given that what looks an awful lot like a future edition of the device was leaked by Android Police in July.

Here’s a look at the teaser images from the dedicated landing page:


… as well as the nifty video implying some of the next edition’s features and improvements:

Odds and Ends

No More “The”

Parent company New York Times has combined The Wirecutter and The Sweethome to create a hybrid, rebranded Wirecutter — no “the.” It was mentioned during an interview with GM David Perpich during Code Commerce, which was loaded with tons of great content. Check it out here.

The People Have Spoken, and They Want Mobile

Adobe released some cool new data on consumer preferences — but It doesn’t really surprise us. Among the findings, are that “smartphones are the preferred method for consumption,” and that “Facebook is the leading social platform for mobile referrals.” Read the full report here.

Slack, Strides, and Teams … Oh, My

We’re witnessing a showdown among workplace communication apps. Major announcements came both Microsoft Teams and Atlassian of new products and features that seek to rival Slack — the timing of which was suspiciously close to the kickoff of this week’s Slack Frontiers.

A Troubling Trend

It’s worth mentioning this week’s
New York Times profile SoFi scandal, which documents months of harassment allegations and the way it was handled by the company’s board. Its publication aligns with last week’s settlement in the
harassment case filed against UploadVR by a former employee. This year has seen a ton of cases like these — from
Uber to
Lowercase Capital, more employees are coming forward about inappropriate incidents, and companies are trying to correct it. We’ll keep you in the loop on how these discussions are evolving in the industry.

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The 6-Step Brand Build to Grow Your Business on a Budget

In marketing, it seems like the word “brand” is used a lot — the leading brand, off-brand, personal brand … you get the picture. 

But there’s often confusion around its meaning in business. What does it entail? Do I need to hire an expert? Branding is expensive, right?

To that very last point, it doesn’t have to be. As it turns out, there are some pretty creative ways to brand your business without a ton of cash. And while it can require an investment of time, the ROI won’t go unnoticed — in some cases, it can actually help you save money, while also growing your business.

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Building your brand is a crucial part of developing your business. As you’ll see below, it’s the foundation of giving your organization a voice, identity, value, and awareness among consumers. And, thanks to the plentiful number of resources, tools, and platforms available today — a brand build might not be as burdensome (or costly) as you think.

So read on, and see how you can use the following six steps as a guide for your brand build.

Listen to an audio summary of your post:

The 6-Step Brand Build to Grow Your Business on a Budget

1) Know your personas.

It’s no coincidence that 82% of companies with better value propositions also use buyer personas — the semi-fictional “characters” that encompass the qualities of who you’re trying to reach.

The needs, goals, and behavior of your potential customers dictate how you convey your product or service. Understanding those things helps you determine what kind of media your personas are consuming, what motivates them, and where they “live” online. You can see why having that information helps develop a compelling, effective brand — it helps you reach the right people.

Figuring that out doesn’t have to come at a price. A great way to get started is with our free MakeMyPersona tool, which guides you through a series of questions about the ideal person you want to reach. Take your time with it. The questions are meant to get you thinking about how you want to be perceived and by whom — and that shouldn’t be a quick process.

2) Develop an identity and a voice.

Once you’ve identified your buyer personas, your brand can start to take shape. That involves creating a brand identity — the things that make people aware of what your brand is — and its voice, which is the tone you use in any copy or public communication.

As a writer, I’m particularly interested in the voice aspect — but what does that like for you? Figuring that out follows a process not unlike the one that’s used to determine your personas. But instead of answering questions about your target audience, you’re answering questions that are a bit more introspective to your brand. What are its values? What does it represent? How do you want people to talk about you?

Even if you’re not starting from scratch, establishing a strong(er) brand voice can be valuable. Just take the instance of the Zoological Wildlife Foundation — during its recent rebrand, finding its voice was a top priority. The results? Its overall online presence increased by 343%, with website traffic alone seeing a 63% boost.

3) Have a consistent social media presence.

So, we know who your personas are. And now, we know what to say to them — and how to say it. But where are they?

Since you might have a clear picture of the different pieces of your audience, it’s important to figure out where they’re spending the most time, especially on social media. We’ve talked before how effective it is to reach people where they’re already present — that includes their online behavior, too.

We recommend checking out Pew Research Center’s Demographics of Social Media Users, which profiles the users of five major social media platforms — Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Pay attention close attention to the data. Maybe the majority of your personas spend most of their time on one network. While that doesn’t mean you should ignore the others, it does give you an idea of where to dedicate the most resources.

And once you do establish that presence, maintain it. How many times have you gone to a brand’s Facebook Page only to find that nothing has been posted in the past three months? Chances are, it didn’t have a positive impact on your perception.

That can be avoided by diligently planning and scheduling social media posts like you would with any other marketing calendar. Something like our free Social Media Content Calendar can help, and get you thinking about things like the seasonality of what you post. That’s a huge part of staying relevant to your audience — by sharing content that pertains to what they’re likely thinking about at a given time of year.

4) Blog. 

We’ve covered the importance of blogging before, and we really can’t emphasize it enough. It’s a core part of our Inbound Methodology, especially the “attract” stage — the one that turns strangers into visitors to your website.

In fact, blogging might be the most fundamental step of inbound marketing. It helps you reach qualified customers, like your personas, by creating the informative content that matches the information they’re searching for. That’s why it’s so important to make it relevant to this audience — when you’re writing, make sure the content is optimized for those searches.

Believe us — your personas are definitely looking for the information that you’re able to provide — if you write about it. After friends and family, blogs are the third most trusted source of information. Plus, that content will also serve as material to populate your social media networks, and we’ve already covered what a crucial part that plays in branding on a budget.

While blogging is fiscally inexpensive, one of the biggest struggles we hear about is the cost of spending time on it. For that, we reference the joke about a doctor asking his patient, “Would you rather work out one hour per day, or be dead 24 hours per day?” The inbound marketing version of that question would ask, “Would you rather blog for one hour each day, or always have insufficient content to draw in visitors?”

Like planning your social media presence, having an editorial calendar for your blog can be helpful in maintaining consistent timing and fresh content. That’s why we put together a free blog editorial calendar template, complete with instructions and content management tips.

5) Make customer service a priority.

When we hear the name “Zappos,” most of us immediately think, “unparalleled customer service.” The online apparel retailer built this level of service into its core approach to doing business — and into its core values.

Why is that so important? For Zappos, making excellent customer service the cornerstone of its brand actually saved money on marketing and advertising. That’s because it created word-of-mouth among existing and potential customers, which is what we call earned media — the recognition that your brand has earned, not paid for, from people talking about something remarkable you did. (Psst — U.S. businesses, as a whole, lose about $41 billion dollars each year because of bad customer service.)

Whether you’re serving customers or clients, the goal is to create a delightful, sharable experience. And when the client or customer experience is a priority, it shouldn’t cost you much for them to talk about it — remember, your work earned it.

But that revisits the importance of your identity and voice. As you go through these brand-building steps, think about the values that you want to be resonated in those things. Is excellent service one of them? Those values are what shape the brand’s culture, and that influences the voice you project to an audience.

6) Take advantage of co-branding.

I’ll never forget what my colleague, Lisa Toner, told me when I asked her about negotiating co-branding agreements.

“Larger companies may have a large reach,” she said, “but what do they not have?”

When you’re just starting to build a brand, you might not have the reach that Toner’s talking about. You can take the steps to build it, like we’ve described so far, but that takes time. Until then, one way to get your name in front of a broader audience is to partner with a brand that has one.

But don’t just pick any old brand to work with. Make sure it’s one that’s aligned with yours — the partnership has to make sense in the minds of your audience. Here’s what we recommend in seeking a co-brand:

  • Consider your partner’s audience. Would it be interested in your brand? Is it that difficult for you to reach without this partnership? How well does it trust your co-brand? That’s crucial to getting them to listen to you, too — people don’t trust traditional advertisements anymore. So make sure your partner reaches the audience in a way that instills confidence, not doubt.
  • Have something to offer your co-brand. Just like Toner asked, “what do they not have?” The experience should be a win-win-win: for you, your co-brand, and the consumer.
  • Consider selecting a well-known and respected nonprofit as a co-brand. More and more people’s purchasing decisions are based on a brand’s social responsibility — in fact, 85% of millennials say that makes them more willing to recommend a brand.

Get Branding

Building a brand might seem like a huge undertaking, especially when resources are limited. But as we’ve seen, there are plenty of economical ways to not only get started, but to continue the momentum you start with these efforts.

And please, have fun with the process. Of course, there has to be a degree of strategy and logic involved — that’s why we’ve built the tools to help you determine what the different pieces of your brand will be. But it’s a creative exercise, so keep that in mind if you get bogged down in technicalities.

free guide to social and PR branding

  

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Yesterday's Apple Event Was as Bananas as We Expected

When it comes to product-centric events and announcements, advance leaks and rumors are nothing new for Apple. But something about this round was different. The pre-emptive reveals came with more detail, more clamor, and — at least for us — more excitement.

“This,” we thought, “is going to be completely bonkers.”

For the most part, our expectations were accurate. Most of the rumored product announcements, names, and price points turned out to be correct, and yes — the seats at the brand new Steve Jobs Theatre were as plush and comfortable as promised (more on that later).

But in case you didn’t have time to attend or stream the two-hour event, fear not — we covered it for you. Behold: Here’s what you missed.

The Apple Event Was Totally About the iPhone 10th Anniversary

The Venue

Part of the anticipation leading up to September 12, 2017 was the fact that it was the inaugural event for Apple’s Steve Jobs Theater. The morning kicked off with a tribute to its namesake, in the form of his voice speaking on the heart and mission of Apple, and one line of text displayed on a large-screen black backdrop: “Welcome to the Steve Jobs Theater”.

“I love hearing his voice,” were the opening remarks of Apple CEO Tim Cook. “We dedicate this theater to Steve, because we love him, and because he loved days like this.”

The theater is merely one segment of the much larger landscape of Apple Park: an allegedly billion-dollar investment to make into a reality what is said to be an age-old vision of Jobs himself. Even the theater’s leather seats were said to be valued at $14,000, and according to this tweet from TechCrunch, that came with quite to ROI.

It’s as if the venue was a preview to the commemorative nature of the event in its entirety. Sure, new products and features were announced with vim and vigor, but not without credit where credit — according to Apple — was due. Be it Jobs himself, customers, or the technology that served as a foundation for what was unveiled, there was an undertone of “what came before it” to everything that was showcased.

And it began with a place so many of us know well: The Apple Store … but with a new name.

Retail

The first major player to take the stage after Cook was Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s SVP of retail. Gone are the days of the Apple “store,” she said — instead, these flagship retail locations will be known as “town squares,” with locations slated for New York’s 5th Avenue, Paris, Milan, and Chicago’s Magnificent Mile.

The in-store experience is also getting an upgrade, including a new initiative called Today in Apple, which will provide workshops and other hands-on ways for customers to learn how to use Apple products to pursue their passions. A big part of it, of course, is the idea of creating a live community rooted in a love for the brand — a sentiment that aligns with the neighborhood-esque naming (and what we anticipate to be design) theme of the new retail presence.

Apple Watch

Once upon a time — no pun intended — a watch served the purpose of letting its wearer know if she was late for a meeting. After yesterday, there are no two ways about it: Watches are high-end items that are used to make a statement, help you maintain a healthy lifestyle, or in the most extreme cases, alert you to a potentially life-threatening situation.

The Series 3, which is the latest generation of the Apple Watch — now the “number one watch in the world,” according to the announcement — has completely redefined the concept of a watch. The more expensive version (priced at $399) has cellular connectivity, allowing you to make and receive calls on the same number you use for your phone, assuming it’s an Apple device. Not only that, but it comes with streaming music capabilities, boasting its ability to let users go for a run and leave their phones at home.

But the Series 3 also comes with a new emphasis on health and wellness, most notably on heart health. Using the new Heart Rate app, Apple says it will collect and synthesize heart rate data from users to not only compile its Heart Rate Study, but also to alert users when something appears to be irregular. For the moment, however, the Series 3 has a built-in feature to let users know when their heart rates elevate while at rest — what one reporter relatably joked as “blogger mode.”

What’s interesting is that the casing for the Series 3 is about the same size as the Series 2, which is quite impressive, considering all of its capabilities. Here’s Apple COO Jeff Williams breaking it all down:

Apple TV

There was less buzz around Apple TV leading up to the event, which was reflected in the announcements today. The biggest unveiling to come from this category is the introduction of Apple TV 4K, which boils down to image quality and viewing experience. Yahoo! correspondent JP Mangalindan concisely described why it matters:

One other pivotal Apple TV announcement was that it will now come with live sports, which might signal to some a further decline in the need for cable television — keep in mind, live sports coverage has been available digitally/via live stream for a while now through Twitter and other platforms.

I’ll be honest: At this point, it seemed like no one was really too concerned with Apple TV, and was itching to get to the iPhone announcements — at least, I was. Keep in mind that 2017 marks the 10-year anniversary of the original iPhone debut (Seriously? How has an entire decade gone by since then?), and many of us anticipated that the event would pay some level of tribute to that chronological landmark. Whether or not that would take form as product, we weren’t sure — but in the end, it did, and it was, as they say, “Some next-level sh*t.” 

The Main Event: iPhone Announcements

iPhone 8 & iPhone 8 Plus

I know. I know — you want to hear about the iPhone X. We’ll get to that, but first, we have to talk about the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. (Notice, by the way, how Apple conveniently skipped a “9” edition.)

The iPhone 8 models aren’t exactly anything to sniff at. Pricing starts at $699 — an even higher point than what most people thought was a stratospheric price tag for Google’s inaugural Pixel — and the phones come with some impressive new features, mostly in the realms of display and augmented reality (AR). Plus, its speakers have improved volume capabilities.

As for the improved visual features, that credit goes to its new retina displays, it was said at the event — what Apple calls “3D touch tech” is built into these models for True Tone display. The camera, too, is vastly improved from previous editions, with a 12-megapixel sensor that offers better image stabilization. In one of the sample photos shown at the event, the image quality was so precise that the photographer’s reflection could be seen in the subject’s eye. Even cooler: The new camera app has machine learning facial recognition capabilities, so that lighting can be adjusted according to individual facial features.

Source: The Verge

Then, there are the AR features, which will undoubtedly bring joy to gamers. Apple has been trying to make a pretty big deal about its ARKit developer tools and resources, which its website describes as “a new framework that allows you to [take] apps beyond the screen, freeing them to interact with the real world in entirely new ways.” Think Pokémon GO, but much, much more sophisticated and realistic.

Two representatives from Directive Games took the stage to demonstrate what was an impressive and — if we’re being honest — downright cool look at how ARKit technology will manifest itself in the new iPhone’s features. Have a look:

Source: The Verge

But what really brought glee to charger-forgetters everywhere was the introduction of wireless iPhone charger capabilities. A new flat charging mat — which didn’t come with any release or availability date information, other than “next year” — will be powered by Qi technology, and is promised to work universally across all of your latest-generation Apple devices. If that technology sounds familiar, that might be because it’s been supported by Samsung devices for some time now, and you may have seen something similar in certain shops like Starbucks: a flat, circular feature built into some sort of surface that claims to be able to charge your mobile device. (Personally, I’ve never been able to get it to work, but if you’ve had any success, please report back.)

iPhone X

Imagine: It’s the future. You live in a world where your phone not only has wirelessly charging and eerily realistic AR capabilities, but also has no home button. It’s a world where your phone — not to mention, your stored payment information — is unlocked by looking at it, and emojis are now “Animojis”: animated characters that reflect your facial expressions and can speak on your behalf.

Yes, it was quite a morning, if for no other reason than that the audience being treated to Apple SVP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi making animal noises to demonstrate that last feature.

Face ID

But really, for anyone else who grew up watching shows like “Star Trek,” this was really something. It was clear that Apple has invested hours upon hours into technology like Face ID — which, unfortunately, malfunctioned when Federighi tried to demonstrate it.

That moment aside, the explanation behind how this technology came to fruition — and how it was tested over, and over, and over again to ensure its security — might perhaps be what sets Apple apart as a leader in the realm of mobile technology. How does it work? With the TrueDepth camera system, which we’ll let Apple’s official statement explain:

“The IR image and dot pattern are pushed through neural networks to create a mathematical model of your face and send the data to the secure enclave to confirm a match, while adapting to physical changes in appearance over time. All saved facial information is protected by the secure enclave to keep data extremely secure, while all of the processing is done on-device and not in the cloud to protect user privacy. Face ID only unlocks iPhone X when customers look at it and is designed to prevent spoofing by photos or masks.”

Face ID is also designed to adapt to any temporary changes to the way your face might be presented — things like growing a beard, cutting your hair, or wearing a hat. And yes, there is a one in 1,000,000 chance that someone else’s face can unlock your phone. That’s a fairly small chance, and it’s worth noting that the team behind Face ID even enlisted the help of Hollywood makeup artists create myriad, life-like masks to test and perfect the feature.

Setting up Face ID is similar to the way current iPhone users do so with Touch ID — by pressing your thumb at a variety of angles to get the device to recognize only your unique fingerprint. Think of this new iPhone X method as an angular facial recognition setup process.

Source: TechCrunch

To be clear, Face ID will replace Touch ID, leaving some to wonder how to unlock your phone, should Face ID malfunction. Given that users have the option of opting out of Face ID, there must be an alternative, and from the looks of Federighi’s experience, there might the option to enter a numerical passcode, which is what users are prompted to do when Touch ID doesn’t work on current iPhone models.

For many, Face ID raises concerns of privacy and security, especially since it can be easily attached to the user’s payment information. Apple has stated that personal facial recognition data won’t be sent to the cloud — more detail can be found about that in the iOS security white paper.

Everything Else

The iPhone X will boast some pretty cutting-edge features — as juvenile as it might seem, it is pretty compelling to see technology that makes an emoji speak with the exact dictation and facial movement as yours — but the Face ID demonstrations and explanations took up the majority of the iPhone X time slot.

Like the iPhone 8 models, it will come with wireless charging capabilities, as well as even better camera features, like a zero shudder lag that results in high-quality photos of moving subjects. It comes with a “super retina display,” as well as battery life that lasts two hours longer than the iPhone 7. And, of course, it comes with an equally heavyweight-class price tag: iPhone X models start at $999, are available for pre-order on October 27, and will ship starting November 2.

But we couldn’t leave you with a classic, goosebump-inducing Apple promo video. So enjoy — and if you end up getting your hands one one of these fancy new devices, let us know how it goes.

Source: Apple

Featured image: Apple

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How to Use Workplace Email Most Effectively

**Sets alarm for 6am, checks email, goes to bed**

**Wakes up to sound of alarm, turns off alarm, checks email** 

Does this routine sound familiar? I can’t be the only one that is nearly attached at the hip to my phone, checking email constantly. For over a decade now, email has been only of the top forms of communication for businesses.

Of course, as time and the workplace itself evolves, there’s an increasing amount of internal communication options. There are apps like Slack, for example, and many people still prefer the good, old-fashioned method of having a conversation in person. But as these methods for interacting grow in number, it also becomes a bit trickier to remember the right “etiquette” for all of them.

But email hasn’t exactly become a thing of the past — yet — it’s just that many of us have forgotten the right way to use it, at least in the workplace. That’s why it’s as important as ever to make good, effective use of it, which means maintaining some basic do’s and don’ts.

As you’ll see from the list below, effective email communication means that it needs to be both relevant and appropriate, depending on its subject and importance. Read on to see the full list.

How to Use Workplace Email Most Effectively

The Do’s

1) Personalize.

No matter whether it’s an internal email to your best friend/co-worker, or a message full of important information to a client, you should always get in the habit of addressing that person appropriately. A good rule of thumb is to address this person as you would in conversation, whether by first name or more formally.

2) Adapt.

By that, I mean: Know your recipient. Study any past emails this person has sent, recognize her tone or writing style, and adapt to that. If her emails are historically short and straight to the point, it might just mean that she’s extremely busy. In that case, try and be concise in your response emails.

3) Always check before clicking “send.”

This point might be the ultimate “do” when emailing. One of the worst feelings is clicking “send,” only to realize that you missed something, didn’t attach a document, or misspelled something (and hey — we’ve all been there). Pro tip: To avoid these mishaps, don’t put the email address in the “to” line until you’ve had a chance to double-check the message.

4) Keep messages short.

There’s no point in fluffing an email with extraneous details — rather, get straight to the point. An email that could double as a novella is not time-effective for the both sender or recipient. We’ll leave it at that.

5) Keep your inbox clean.

We know you’re out there — the folks with unopened emails that number in the triple digits (or worse). When I imagine a horror movie that’s set in a work environment, the vision of hundreds of unopened emails makes me want to sink into the couch and cover my eyes with a blanket. Clean your inbox, break up folders for different clients, and work toward diminishing the stress that can result from seeing big numbers next to your inbox button.

6) Check your email on your time.

In other words: Don’t get caught in the trap o checking your email every few minutes. One of the biggest momentum killers is getting in the habit of checking your email frequently, pausing what you’re working on, and having to reset your focus.

At Revenue River Marketing, we aim to check our email a total of 3-4 times each day, unless it’s necessary to spend more time on it because of something urgent. That practice helps us stay engaged with content creation and client deliverables.

7) Remember that some things are better kept to yourself.

“Oh, you just got back from your buddy’s bachelor party in Las Vegas? Oh, you want to email me and recount the details of it that should probably never surface more than once in your life?”

Stop right there. Receiving emails that fit this discription through your workplace email address is not a good idea.

That’s not to say that your employer is monitoring your emails — although, some might have the right to do so — and maybe you work for a company that wouldn’t necessary frown upon a rambunctious trip to Las Vegas. But here’s a place where common sense is best practiced — some experiences are better left remembered via personal email.

8) Use Zoom and Slack as alternatives.

Across the board, many companies are implementing video conferencing tools like Zoom, for a number of reasons. Not only do they support a global workforce, but also, it provides an alternative to email that can help clarify important connotations that are sometimes lost over email.

Instant messaging apps like Slack, too, are also growing in popularity — not only can they help you get quicker answers from your colleagues, but also, it helps to isolate email as a more formal method of communication.

That said, it’s easy for instant messaging conversations to stray from work topics — but we’re all human, and sometimes, that means sending your colleague the occasional funny GIF image. But, it still helps to reduce email clutter by sending an informal note that doesn’t need to be communicated over email.

The Don’ts

1) Abbrv8 — I mean, abbreviate.

Although we aren’t ranking these tips, this one is might top the list of don’ts. Remember, no matter how laid back your workplace might be, it’s still a professional setting. You might not want to get into the habit of signing emails with things like, “thx,” “lol,” or “c u @ wrk l8r,” only to mindlessly send an email to a client with similar vernamular. Here’s a helpful resource to make sure abbreviations NEVER happen: The Slang Translator

2) !!!!!!!!!

Ah yes, another one that gives me chills every time I see it: the exclamation point. Because I am a visual person, I see the overuse of exclamation points — or the dreaded “caps lock email” — as yelling. Other people might, too. If used excessively, the exclamation point can give false expectations and look unprofessional. There is a right time for an exclamation point, but before you think about holding your fingers down on the “Shift” “1” keys, think about the context in which your email may be received. 

3) 🙂 or 🙁

This may just be me, but does anyone else get a little cringe when you see a smiley/sad face in an email? In a professional setting, much like abbreviating, it gives off the vibe of being a bit too laid back. Keep it professional, and leave out the emoticons. 

4) Send the one-word “okay” or “thanks” response.

Not to counter the point above, but while keeping messages short is ideal — sending the dreaded, non-descriptive one-word email is not. Sometimes, people need a detailed answer. Something like content that’s ready for edits, for example, can’t be answered with a simple “okay”, so give the sender the courtesy of the answer or closure they need. 

5) Use the reply-all button at will.

There comes a time in every marketer’s life at which she realizes that the “reply-all” is rarely necessary. If you haven’t learned that lesson yet, allow this post serve as it.

Replying-all to the email includes multiple people who likely don’t need to be looped in on every single response in the chain. Reply only to the people who need to see your response — their inboxes will thank you.

6) Email if you’re burnt out.

It’s 11:30 a.m. — almost lunch time — and you can practically hear your stomach yelling your name for food. Or, better yet, you just surfaced from your computer screen after writing several blog posts in a row, and your eyes are all but glazed over. But then you remember that you need to send a work email; one that requires serious thought, and wonder, “Should I just get this over with now?”

No.

Take a deep breath, stand up, take a lap, and get some water. There are so many instances where an important email should wait — based on your current level of patience or stress. After you take a break, determine if you feel level-headed enough to send a clear and thought-out email.

Let’s face it: We’ve all broken at least one of these rules. But next time you find yourself tempted to repeat it, take a step back from the keyboard — and think about this list.

To learn more about the transactional email add-on, contact your CSM.

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5 Pillar Page Examples to Get You Started With Your Own

Earlier this year, a handful of my extremely bright and capable colleagues compiled a report on topic clusters: a method using a single pillar page as the main hub of content for a given topic. All of your content assets related to that topic link back to the pillar page — and to each other.

Cool, huh?

But it’s not just a nice, clean way of organizing content that brings glee to the most Type A of marketers (read: yours truly). It also keeps Google happy. As it turns out, the search engine giant has changed its algorithm to favor topic-based content, making pillar pages a requirement for content marketers who want to maintain a high SERP ranking.

Let’s dive in — read on.

What Is a Pillar Page?

My colleague, Sophia Bernazzani, does an excellent job of summarizing pillar pages (and comparing them to HubSpot Marketing Blog’s own previous method of topic organization) in her post on the subject here. As the previous paragraphs suggest, she says:

“A pillar page is the basis on which a topic cluster is built. A pillar page covers all aspects of the topic on a single page, with room for more in-depth reporting in more detailed cluster blog posts that hyperlink back to the pillar page. Pillar pages broadly cover a particular topic, and cluster content should address a specific keyword related to that topic in-depth.”

What’s more, however, is that the idea of a pillar page is to cover broad content in a way that is highly linkable itself — that is, external sites would link to it as a canonical resource for the topic. So, to put it into visual terms, here’s what our blog architecture used to look like using this old playbook:

Old structure-2.png

This is where the search ranking piece comes in: the topic cluster model. Using topics you want to rank for, create content based on specific keywords related to that topic that are inter-(hyper)linked — that can support efforts for greater search engine authority. Here’s what our blog infrastructure looks like now using that model:

New structure-2.png

See how the site architecture is more deliberate in this model? The visual above shows how it organizes content assets together to help searchers more easily find information within your domain.

It has three main components:

  1. Pillar content (your pillar page)
  2. Cluster content
  3. Hyperlinks

Cluster model-2.png

Okay, you get it — pillar pages are both nice and important for SEO. After all, on average, a page that ranks #1 in Google will also rank well for around 1,000 other related keywords. But what are they supposed to look like? Are aesthetics important? How do you organize all of your content assets on a pillar page?

Actions speak louder than words — says the writer — which is why we sought answers to those questions by way of pillar page examples that do an excellent job of organizing and linking to content assets.

5 Great Examples of Pillar Pages

1) Typeform: Brand Awareness

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At first glance, it’s hard to ignore the positively inbound-y nature Typeform’s Brand Awareness pillar page. It was built to inform, and lives up to its tagline: “Nearly everything you need to know.”

Not only is it aesthetically pleasing — the color palette is, somehow, at once both soothing and bold — but it’s quite easy to navigate. The table of contents appears immediately, and once you begin to consume the content, it’s clear, comprehensive, and quotable. Notice how the information is interjected with CTAs to tweet various stand-out quotes:

Screen Shot 2017-09-06 at 3.22.27 PMAnd while there are several links throughout the pillar page, the vast majority of them don’t link to other Typeform content assets. In fact, it’s not until toward the end of the pillar page that those links to other Typeform pages begin to appear, and even them, they’re used sparingly, and typically used to support points and direct readers to solutions.

2) Matthew Barby: Customer Acquisition Strategies

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HubSpot’s Global Head of Growth and SEO, Matthew Barby, is no stranger to the HubSpot Marketing Blog, or the people who comprise its team. We regularly quote him here, and frequently pester him with our own questions. Naturally, his website is a go-to resource for marketers who want to learn about SEO — and it includes an exemplary pillar page on customer acquisition strategies.

Similarly to the Typeform example, there’s a noticeable shortage of promotional hyperlinks within the first section of the page. In fact, as you scroll down the page, you’ll also see that links to Barby’s other content assets are both tastefully and seamlessly inserted between large pieces of tactical information.

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But these links are supplemental and relevant, and there aren’t tons of them — all of them direct the user to Barby’s tools on the topic at hand, which is customer acquisition. Instead of bombarding the user with numerous in-text links, well-designed CTAs are used to allow readers to click to learn about these tools.

3) The Atlantic: Population Healthier

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Pillar pages are also an excellent way to organize and create sponsored content with a co-marketing partner. Case in point: The Atlantic partnered with athenahealth to compile a report (and pillar page) on healthcare in the U.S. 

The content is absolutely bananas — in the absolutely best way possible. It begins with a story about a historical building in the Massachusetts town of Lowell, which forays into a full-blown interactive, animated, and highly information report about the state of healthcare coverage in cities like this one as the user scrolls down. But the entire time, there’s a helpful plus-sign along the left side of the page that, when clicked on, presents a table of contents. 

Here, links to additional content found on theatlantic.com are a bit more prevalent than the previous example — but remember, this pillar page was created to support sponsored content. Therefore, it presents an organized, non-intrusive way of linking to this sponsored (but still informative) content that relates back to the central topic of healthcare in the U.S. 

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The Atlantic achieves that by placing well-designed, but noticeable links at the end of each section, which match the visual theme that precede them — such as with the link to “The Culture Wars” content in the example above.

4) ProfitWell: SaaS DNA Project

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We love content that makes good use of examples to point out best practices — just have a look at what we’re doing in this post. But in a move similar to Typeform’s in its Brand Awareness pillar page, ProfitWell’s pillar page on “The Anatomy of a SaaS Marketing Site” incorporates plenty of “in-the-while” instances of both what to do when it comes to SaaS marketing content — and what not to do.

Building that sort of information into a pillar page — or any content, for that matter — preemptively answers the question of, “I know what I’m supposed to do. But what should I avoid at all costs?”

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Once again, there’s a noticeable lack of link inundation here. Within each chapter, a visual CTA lingers along the right-hand side of the page that allows users to download the full Anatomy of a Saas Marketing Site guide, as well as a single click-to-tweet option for one line of quotable text from the section. It’s a no muss, no fuss approach that fits in well with a text-heavy site, which doesn’t distract from the main content. 

5) GoodUI: Evidence

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We’re absolutely delighted by the concept of “Easter eggs” — those little hidden, puzzle-like treasures on the internet that turn up cool tricks or nuggets of information. And to us, GoodUI’s “Evidence” pillar page is one big Easter egg.

The page consists of data — or “evidence” — from multiple A/B tests that have uncovered patterns for higher conversions. Clicking on any data point throughout the page will direct the viewer to an expanded, detailed view of the test leading to that information. It’s a treasure trove of eye-catching, compelling experiment results.

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Within that sub-content, there’s a CTA at the bottom of each dedicated test section to share your own test, providing the reader with an opportunity to contribute her own content and findings to an already impressive plethora of information.

Want to learn more? Check out the video below.

 

 

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7 Social Media Fails to Avoid in 2017

Chances are you’ve witnessed a social media fail sometime in the past year. It usually results from a sense of urgency, or a miscommunication that ignores common sense, all for the sake of gaining attention.

It’s true: Follow just a bit of poorly-advised posting on social media, and you, too, can create your very own brand fail in a matter of minutes.

Many brands are over-concerned with posting frequency and speed, and not concerned enough with tactics that ensure quality and proper context. A single spur-of-the-moment tweet can cause irreparable damage. And even after it’s deleted, the examples below show that content on social media never truly dies — so make sure you have a plan in place that establishes clear boundaries and best practices.Click here to learn about using social media in every stage of the funnel.

As proof, here are seven of the worst social media fails you might ever come across.

7 Social Media Fails to Avoid in 2017

1) Meet-And-Greet, but Don’t Touch

Humor is a wonderful thing, especially on social media. A funny meme, GIF image, or video can reap a wealth of positive interactions. It’s common practice for celebrities to produce goodwill online by sharing one-on-one experiences with fans — meet-and-greets, and surprise appearances, for example, all have the potential to go viral. Unfortunately, the viral effect doesn’t always have the end-result you might wish for.

It doesn’t get much more uncomfortable than Avril Lavigne’s now infamous meet-and-greet photo session. Fans paid almost $400 for a chance to meet their idol before finding out there were some serious restrictions on their experience: no touching allowed. That meant no hugging, wrapping arms around each other, or anything else that tends to make celebrity meet-and-greet photos warm and cozy.

The pictures, as they say, are worth a thousand awkward words.

2) Rhode Island or Iceland?

Good intentions fell flat for the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation in 2016, when it made one grave error in a $5 million promotional video — and used footage not of the great state itself, but instead, of Iceland.

The mistake went viral and gained far more attention than an Iceland-free version of the promotion would have, but it wasn’t exactly the type of publicity we imagine the bureau of tourism was hoping for.

Thanks to the social media skills of Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, you can enjoy your very own private viewing of this social media fail.

3) Ten Cents off Your Next Playstation

In 2015, Amazon created #PrimeDay as its own corporate version of a Cyber Monday. Unfortunately, at that point, many of the discounts and offerings didn’t quite live up to consumer expectations — and the hashtag went viral for all the wrong reasons.

One kicker came when Amazon offered a whopping $0.10 discount on the Sony PlayStation 4 Console. It didn’t take long for #PrimeDayFail to start trending on Twitter.

4) #bendgate

Any time a brand winds up with a trending hashtag that includes the word “gate” in it, you know there’s trouble.

In 2014, Apple released the iPhone 6 with great fanfare, with one of the most aggressively highlighted features being that the phone wouldn’t bend under pressure in, say, your back pocket.

In a video that now has more than 69 million views, Unbox Therapy squashed Apple’s claims by demonstrating how easy it was to bend the iPhone 6. Once the damage was done there was no going back. A war of words promptly took place between avid Apple fans and detractors, garnering even more attention on social media. 

 

 

5) How to Turn a Fail into a Win

Robots aren’t always smarter. In 2014, a Google bot mistakenly attributed an offensive slogan to U.K.-based bakery, Greggs. Hilarity — to some, at least, ensued when Greggs’ Digital Brand Manager, Neil Knowles, turned a potential brand disaster into a monumental win.

Thanks to the clever back-and-forth between Knowles and the Google team, and the massive publicity garnered by the exchange, Google’s original error wound up being one of the best things to ever happen to Greggs.

6) Coca-Cola vs. Russia and Ukraine

If you’re going to create a huge promotion that displays a giant map of Russia, it’s generally a good idea to make sure that map is accurate. Or, better yet: When in doubt, don’t show a map.

Coca-Cola received massive backlash from Russian citizens when it posted a promotional branded image made to look like a map of Russia — which left out Crimea. In response, many consumers took to Twitter to post images of themselved pouring Coke into their toilets, leaving a trending impression.

Then, in response to the backlash, Coca-Cola published an updated map that included Crimea — which was promptly bombarded by outcries from Ukrainian citizens, due to tensions resulting from Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Lesson learned: Don’t publish original content that’s inaccurate, and has the potential to be highly (and globally) controversial.

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Source: The Guardian

7) A Giraffe for Ghana

Sometimes, all it takes to avoid a social media fail is a simple Google search.

During the 2014 World Cup game between the USA and Ghana, Delta sent out a congratulatory tweet to the U.S. soccer team. The tweet included an image of the Statue of Liberty with a “2” representing the U.S. score, and a giraffe with a “1” that was meant to represent team Ghana’s score.

There was one tall problem: Ghana doesn’t have giraffes. Of course, Twitter users jumped all over that one. 

Just remember: It’s always best to take extra time to conduct some easy research, and avoid social media gaffes — no pun intended — like this one.

Wrapping Things Up

You might have noticed a pattern in some of the “fail” examples. Twitter is not to be trifled with. Once something goes viral it lives on forever. The best way to avoid a social media brand fail is to establish a meticulous social media management approach. This allows you to control the types of content you post and the messaging your brand communicates with.

Regardless of how small your audience is or how innocent something might seem, there’s always a reason to quality-check before posting.

Social Media at Every Stage of the Funnel

 
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How to Develop a Content Strategy: A Start-to-Finish Guide

Whether you’re just starting out with content marketing or you’ve been using the same approach for a while, it never hurts to revisit your content strategy plan — to make sure it’s up-to-date, innovative, and strong.

After all, you’ve got more competition than ever. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 70% of B2B marketers surveyed say they are creating more content this year than they did in 2016.

The first step to getting a leg up on the competition is to have a solid, smart content marketing plan in place. If you’re having trouble planning for the upcoming year or need some fresh ideas to include in your plan, read on.Click here to sharpen your skills with the help of our content marketing  workbook.

In this post, we’ll dive into why your business needs a content marketing plan and the exact steps you will need to take to create one.

What is Content Strategy?

In short, your content strategy is the piece of your marketing plan and development that refers to the management of pretty much any tangible media that you create and own — written, visual, downloadable — you get the picture.

You may have heard how important content creation is, but as we’ll get into throughout this post, it needs to have a well-planned purpose. When you develop a content strategy, there are some key things to consider:

  • Who you’re creating it for
  • The problem it’s going to solve for that audience
  • How it will be unique
  • The formats you’ll focus on
  • The channels where it will be published
  • How you will schedule and manage creation and publication

Why Do Marketers Need to Create a Content Marketing Strategy?

Content marketing helps businesses prepare and plan for reliable and cost-effective sources of website traffic and new leads. Think about it — if you can create just one blog post that gets a steady amount of organic traffic, an embedded link to an ebook or free tool will continue generating leads for you as time goes on.

The reliable source of traffic and leads from your evergreen content will give you the flexibility to experiment with other marketing tactics to generate revenue, such as sponsored content, social media advertising, and distributed content. Plus, your content will not only help attract leads — it will also help educate your target prospects and generate awareness for your brand.

Now, let’s dive in to learn the specifics of how to create a content marketing plan.

7 Steps for Creating a Content Marketing Strategy

1) Define your goal.

What’s your aim for developing a content marketing plan? Why do you want to produce content and create a content marketing plan? Know your goals before you begin planning, and you’ll have an easier time determining what’s best for your strategy. (Want help figuring out the right goals? Download this goal planning template.)

2) Conduct persona research.

To develop a successful plan, you need to clearly define your content’s target audience — also known as your buyer persona.

This is especially important for those who are starting out or are new to marketing. By knowing your target audience, you can produce more relevant and valuable content that they’ll want to read and convert on.

If you’re an experienced marketer, your target may have changed. Do you want to target a new group of people or expand your current target market? Do you want to keep the same target audience? Revisiting your audience parameters by conducting market research each year is crucial to growing your audience.

3) Run a content audit.

Most people start out with blog posts, but if you want to venture out and try producing other content pieces, consider which ones you want to make. For instance, if you’ve been doing weekly blog posts for the past year, creating an ebook that distills all your blog posts into one ultimate guide would be a one way to offer information in a different format. We’ll go over several different types of content you can use further down on the list.

If you’ve been in business for a while, review your content marketing efforts and the results from it in the last year. Figure out what you can do differently in the upcoming year and set new goals to reach. (Pro tip: Now is a great time to align your team’s goals with the rest of your organization’s goals.)

4) Determine a content management system.

Have a system in place where you can manage your content. A few vital parts of content management include content creation, content publication, and content analytics.

If you’re a HubSpot customer, you can plan, produce, publish, and measure your results all in one place using HubSpot software. Other content management system options include CoSchedule and WordPress (although we can’t speak to the full range of capabilities of these sites).

5) Brainstorm content ideas.

Now, it’s time to start coming up with ideas for your next content project. Here are some tools to get the wheels turning:

  • HubSpot’s Website Grader: HubSpot’s Website Grader is a great tool to use when you want to see where you’re at with your marketing. From your blogging efforts to your social media marketing, Website Grader grades vital areas of your marketing and sends you a detailed report to help you optimize and improve each area. With this tool, you can figure out how to make your website more SEO-friendly and discover new content ideas.
  • What To Write: Get your mind gears going with What To Write’s unique content idea generator. This tool asks you questions that will help jumpstart your brainstorming. It also generates several blog post ideas for you after you’ve completed the questions, so you can use those ideas in your content marketing plan.
  • HubSpot’s Blog Topic Generator: Get blog post ideas for an entire year with HubSpot’s Blog Topic Generator. All you need to do is enter general topics or terms you’d like to write about, and this content idea generator does all the work for you.
  • Feedly: This popular RSS feed is a wonderful way to keep track of trendy topics in your industry and find content ideas at the same time.
  • BuzzSumo: Discover popular content and content ideas at BuzzSumo. BuzzSumo uses social media shares to determine if a piece of content is popular and well-liked, so this information will help you see which content ideas will do well.
  • Content Forest: Content Forest offers free tools, which include KeywordKiwi and ContentIdeator. These tools will help you find popular content from your competitors, effective keywords to use in your content, and great content ideas all in one spot.
  • Blog Post Headline Analyzer: CoSchedule’s tool analyzes headlines and titles and provides feedback on length, word choice, grammar, and keyword search volume. If you have an idea in mind, run a few title options through the Headline Analyzer to see how you could make it stronger, and to move your idea further along in the brainstorming process.

6) Determine which types of content you want to create.

There are a variety of options out there for content you can create. Here are some of the most popular content formats marketers are creating and tools and templates to get you started.

Blog posts

If you haven’t already noticed, you’re currently perusing a blog post. Blog posts live on a website and should be published regularly in order to attract new visitors. Posts should provide valuable content for your audience that makes them inclined to share posts on social media and across other websites. We recommend that blog posts be between 1,000 and 2,000 words in length, but experiment to see if your audience prefers longer or shorter reads.

Check out our free templates for writing great how-to, listicle, curation, SlideShare presentation, and newsjacking posts on your own blog.

Ebooks

Ebooks are lead generation tools that potential customers can download after submitting a lead form with their contact information. They’re typically longer, more in-depth, and published less frequently than blog posts, which are written to attract visitors to a website. Ebooks are the next step in the inbound marketing process: After reading a blog post (such as this one), visitors might want more content from an ebook and submit their contact information to learn more valuable information for their business. In turn, the business producing the ebook has a new lead for the sales team to contact.

Templates

Templates are a handy content format to try because they generate leads for you while providing tremendous value to your audience. When you provide your audience with template tools to save them time and help them succeed, they’re more likely to keep engaging with your content in the future.

Infographics

Infographics can organize and visualize data in a more compelling way than words alone. These are great content formats to use if you’re trying to share a lot of data in a way that is clear and easy to understand.

If you’re ready to get started, get our templates for creating beautiful infographics in less than an hour.

Videos

Videos are a highly engaging content medium that are shareable across social media platforms and websites alike. Videos require a bigger investment of time and resources than written content, but as visual marketing increases in popularity — after all, it’s 40X more likely to get shared on social media than other types of content — it’s a medium worth experimenting with.

Podcasts

Starting a podcast will help audiences find your brand if they don’t have time or interest in reading content every day. The number of podcast listeners is growing — in 2016, an estimated 57 million people listened to podcasts each month. If you have interesting people to interview or conversations to host, consider podcasting as another content format to experiment with.

Here’s our comprehensive guide to starting a podcast.

External Content

Once you’ve been regularly publishing content on your own site for a while, it might be time to start thinking about distributing your content on other sites. This could entail a few things:

  • Publishing website content on social media sites, such as LinkedIn
  • Repurposing content into new formats and publishing them on your blog or social media sites
  • Creating original content specifically for external sites, such as Medium

And speaking of Medium, if you’re considering that platform, check out our insights from our first year of publishing original content on ThinkGrowth.org.

When you’re ready for more ideas, there are a plethora of different content types to diversify your website. Check them out below:

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7) Publish and manage your content.

Your marketing plan should go beyond the types of content you’ll create — it should also cover you’ll organize your content. With the help of an editorial calendar, you’ll be on the right track for publishing a well-balanced and diverse content library on your website. Then, create a social media content calendar so you can promote and manage your content on other sites.

Many of the ideas you think of will be evergreen — they’re just as relevant months from now as they are today. That being said, you shouldn’t ignore timely topics either. While they may not be the bulk of your editorial calendar, they can help you generate spikes of traffic.

Most people count on incorporating popular holidays such as New Year’s and Thanksgiving in their marketing efforts, but you don’t have to limit yourself to these important marketing dates. If there are niche holidays that might appeal to your audience, it could be worth publishing content on your blog or on social media. HubSpot Staff Writer Sophia Bernazzani compiled this ultimate list of social media holidays — keep an eye on it when you’re planning your calendar.

Ready to Get Started?

We know this is a lot of information, but the work has just begun. It takes time, organization, and creativity to grow a successful content marketing strategy. From building the foundation of your content marketing plan to adding tools to better manage your content, setting up your strategy for the new year won’t be a hassle if you follow the steps and explore the resources here. For additional guidance, use HubSpot’s Marketing Plan Generator to create a 12-month strategy in just a few minutes.

Happy creating.

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