You’re Pregnant! Just Kidding. Here’s the News You Missed This Week.

Sometimes, I wonder if the internet can be boiled down to a single sentiment: “Oops.”

That was certainly the underlying theme of some major news items this week, like the one our headline alludes to — more on that below.

After all, the digital landscape is a setting that can be described at once as a playground and a hellscape, where mistakes never really disappear (even if you quickly delete them, thanks to screen shots), contentious competition never ends, and consumers are often left wondering, “What the hell is going on? I just want a machine to read my schedule to me in the morning.”

This week — as with many others — was a busy one in the worlds of tech and marketing. Here’s what you missed.

It’s a Boy! Nope, It’s Just a Glitch From Amazon

If our headline freaked you out, you’re not alone: a yet-to-be-determined number of Amazon customers experienced a similar sentiment this week when they mistakenly received emails regarding phantom baby registries.

Last Tuesday, several Amazon customers reported receiving an email from the online merchant reading, “Someone great recently purchased a gift from your baby registry!” And while the internet typically can’t be used for a pregnancy test — unless you count Target’s 2012 public relations disaster after predicting a teen’s pregnancy by tracking her shopping habits — it still caused brief moments of panic among those who got the email.

There were some fears that the emails were a result of phishing attempts, but in the end, Amazon confirmed to TechCrunch that the emails were the result of a technical glitch, going on to send apology emails to the customers that received them. It’s not clear what exactly happened or what the the glitch entailed, but let this be a lesson to marketers: triple check your email workflows.

Among the panic, Twitter had quite a bit of fun with the error:

More Trouble for Targeted Ads

Following last week’s ProPublica revelation that Facebook was allowing advertisers to use anti-Semitic targeting criteria for promoted content, it was quickly discovered that Google and Twitter had similarly flawed advertising technology.

BuzzFeed was the first to discover that the Google allowed advertisers to use anti-Semitic and racially-charged search terms to target certain audiences, and soon after, the Daily Beast reported that Twitter allowed similar targeting criteria, which resulted in an audience of roughly 26.3 million users.

All three companies have since responded that they either have or are working to remove this criteria, with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg publishing a very lengthy, formal apology on Wednesday:

And More From Facebook

Yesterday, Facebook released an official statement on its plans to hand over important documents regarding the ads it sold to Russian organizations to Congress, as well as a second one with answers to several “hard questions” on what happened to cause something like that to happen in the first place.

The gravity of that move is one that cannot be emphasized enough. As Mike Isaac writes for the New York Times:

” … the move to work with the congressional committees underscored how far the social network has strayed from being a mere technology company and how it has increasingly had to deal with the unintended consequences of the tools it provides to reach the more than two billion people who use the site regularly.”

Shortly after those posts went live, Mark Zuckerberg delivered a live address on his own Page to address the efforts it would make moving forward to “protect the integrity of the democratic process.”

Some believe that this address, along with Sandberg’s statement form the previous day, is the first of many efforts by Facebook to proactively dodge federal regulation by staying one step ahead of congressional actions or attempts to curb what such channels and platforms can actually do. It’s even, perhaps, a defensive move, as the legality of the aforementioned ad sale remains in question.

Meanwhile, Twitter is also due to appear at a Senate Intelligence Committee briefing nxt week to further examine its own possible role in influencing the most recent U.S. presidential election.

The Uber-Alphabet Lawsuit Got Even Messier

Last week, we filled you in on the ongoing lawsuit between Uber and Alphabet, Inc company Waymo over proprietary self-driving technology. Since then, there have been a few key developments.

First, over the weekend, Alphabet requested that the trial be postponed after receiving crucial information that the court ordered Uber to turn over. Seeing that information, it seemed, made Waymo realize just how much was at stake with Uber being in possession of these materials, and needed more time to review all of the evidence supporting its case. Megan Rose Dickey of TechCrunch tweeted a key portion of its statement on the issue:

Uber, of course, objected to that request, charging that Alphabet is trying the delay the trial — December 5 is the proposed postponed date — not because of surmounting evidence, but because of a lack of it. The full opposition can be found here:

Opposition by Johana Bhuiyan on Scribd

That same judge also gave Uber permission to publicly disclose some of what Waymo is hoping to gain from the lawsuit: $2.6 billion for one stolen (allegedly) trade secret. But there are still eight other secrets that Waymo says to have been stolen by Uber, and no monetary figure has yet been assigned to them.

At this point, the trial is still set to begin on October 10, and recently-appointed Uber has a decision to make: whether or not he wants to settle out of court, or continue to defend the company’s name in what promises to be a complex, drawn-out trial.

It’s just one of many problems for Uber these days. With the release of iOS 11 this week, Uber was forced to allow users to block the app from tracking their locations.

Additionally, the BBC broke news this morning that Transport for London would not renew the ride-sharing app’s private hire license, calling it “not fit and proper” to carry on operations there. Uber has 21 days to dispute that decision and can continue providing services in London until then.

Attack of the Flying Eggplants

I’ll admit it — my new favorite feature of iOS 11, the latest operating system available on the iPhone, is probably the ability to fill your iMessage recipient’s screen with the next, image, or emoji of your choice. But just for the sake of due diligence, I tested it by sending this gem to one of my colleagues:

But my low bar for amusement aside, the new operating system comes with some features that are actually, you know, productive. Here are our five favorites:

  1. Screen Recording. So, just how did I capture the magical moment above? iOS 11 has a screen record tool that saves the video in your camera roll.
  2. Do Not Disturb While Driving. This “do not disturb” feature uses your car’s bluetooth connection to turn on automatically while you’re driving.
  3. Screenshot Tools. The new iOS has a brilliantly simple new screenshot feature, which lets users draw on, crop, or highlight with ease.
  4. GIFs in Camera Roll. The camera roll now allows users to save and view GIFs, plus the newest editing tools even enable you to turn your live photos into GIFs.
  5. Notes App Upgrade. The notes app now features useful tools like a document scanner, and the ability to insert all kinds of formatting into your note.

And, finally — we can’t forget ARKit — Apple’s mobile augmented reality technology — which has been a big portion of the talk of the iPhone town in the days following iOS 11’s release. I tweeted about my experience with using it on Wayfair’s home shopping app:

What’s Google Up To?

A lot happened for the search giant this week, beyond its parent company’s lawsuit and a significant team acquisition. First, there were some leaks around the rumored October 4th release of the Pixel 2 and Pixel XL, but they were mostly limited to the device’s available colors, as per Droid Life.

That same outlet also leaked the rumored Google Home Mini, a much smaller version of the Google Home, which many are calling the company’s response to the Echo Dot. And on Tuesday, a “media streaming device” — the same language used to describe the original Google home — with features remarkably similar to the first Google Home was submitted to the FCC. These developments all align with the timeline leading up to the October 4th press event.

Source: Droid Life

In non-Pixel or Home news, Google announced four new features this week:

  1. The Google app on iOS will now have a suggested content feature, in which users are provided with visual links to more information on what they’re reading about.eoc_4_5mb_VslXrRA
    Source: Google
  2. Contact information like phone numbers, addresses, and email addresses will now — finally — be automatically converted into hyperlinks on Gmail. Official announcement here.
    image2-29
    Source: Google
  3. Natural language processing has been added to Cloud Search — a search tool within G Suite — to help users more quickly find information based on the words that Google deemed to be the most frequently used among G Suite customers: “what,” “who,” “how” or “when.” For example, if you remember which one of your colleagues sent you a shared document, but can’t remember what it was called, now you can search for it with a query like, “Docs shared by Karla.”
    NLQA-Blog_1_1_KauuCTQ
    Source:
    Google
  4. Read receipts are coming to Gmail — kind of. On Wednesday, Google announced the launch of Email Log Search, which allows G Suite users to track the status of sent emails, such as where it is (e.g., the trash), or if it’s been opened.
    Post Delivery Message Details
    Source: Google

Actually, No, Equifax Still Isn’t Handling This Data Breach Well

Remember all of those marketing takeaways from the Equifax hack that we outlined last week? Well, it turns out that Equifax hasn’t exactly heeded that advice — or that of too many others, it seems. In fact, it was revealed earlier this week that the company’s customer service agents on Twitter were directing customers to a fake website that, visually, was nearly identical to the site Equifax set up for users to enroll in free credit marketing.

The clone site was created by by software engineer Nick Sweeting, whose intentions weren’t malicious, but rather, were to show how poorly Equifax was monitoring and managing the situation.

Sweeting was quite transparent about that in creating the site, which has since been taken down, along with any tweets directing customers to it — it was titled, “Cybersecurity Incident & Important Consumer Information Which is Totally Fake, Why Did Equifax Use A Domain That’s So Easily Impersonated By Phishing Sites?”

The “fake” site did not collect any personal information, but Sweeting pointed out how easily it would be for other hackers to create an equally identical site that did using the Linux command “wget” — and he blamed that on Equifax’s choice to establish an entirely new domain, rather than create an equifax.com subdomain.

“wget” essentially permits anyone — yes, anyone at all — “to just suck their whole site down with wget and throw it on a … server,” Sweeting explained in an email to the New York Times. His version, he said, had “the same type of SSL certificate as the real version, so from a trust perspective, there’s no way for users to authenticate the real one vs. my server.”

Creating a subdomain should have been the obvious move for Equifax, Carnegie Mellon IS Professor Rahul Telang told the outlet, “so that if somebody tries to fake it, it becomes immediately obvious.”

This development comes amid news that Equifax actually suffered more than one hack this year. In addition to the headline-making breach in July, the company experienced an earlier one in March, creating even more confusion around the decision to wait until September to alert customers, as well as the massive August stock sale by its executives.

Odds and Ends

I Don’t Want to Grow up, Because That Means I Have to File for Chapter 11

For anyone who grew up begging their parents to take them to the toy store, this week came with some sad news: Toy store chain Toys ‘R’ Us filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this week. Many were quick to blame its demise on Amazon, which has been named the culprit for the financial woes of many other brick-and-mortar retailers, but in reality, the cause may have reached far beyond that. As Recode reports, the move is largely the result of a “cocktail” of limited product selection, a lack of competitive pricing, and piling debt after several 2005 buyouts.

For the sake of our own childhood memories, we hope Toys ‘R’ Us is able to turn things around.

The DHS Got Served … By an Association of VCs

Allow us to introduce you to the International Entrepreneur Rule: a federal measure that, had it passed in July 2017 as planned, would have made it easier for foreign entrepreneurs to obtain visas for the purpose of founding startups in the U.S.

However, the same month it was slated to be effective, the current presidential administration delayed it until March 2018, with many believing that it will only go on to be completely dismantled. But this week, Axios reports, the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) has brought forth a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security, on the grounds that the decision to delay the enforcement of the rule violates the Administrative Procedure Act — which says that the department must first “solicit public comment.”

The formal complaint can be downloaded here.

No Empty Nest Here

Nest, which was acquired by Google back in 2013, held its first major press event this week, where it unveiled a number of new products. Among them were the Nest Cam IQ — this writer’s personal favorite unveiling from the launch — an outdoor security camera that can detect movement and differentiate whether it’s coming from a person or an object. If it’s a person, the system alerts you, as well as letting you know if it senses a barking dog or a talking person. Even better: it’s equipped with facial recognition, so that if someone familiar comes into the camera’s range, like your regular dog walker, the system will recognize that it’s likely not an intruder.

Also announced was the Nest Hello video doorbell, which uses similar camera technology to the above to alert users if a person is within range, even if they don’t ring. Finally, an overall comprehensive security system was unveiled called Nest Secure, which exists of three key components: Nest Guard, where the system is armed and disarmed with the second component, Nest Tag, which is similar to a key fob and can be used to turn off the alarm system. The first piece is Nest Detect, which can sense general motion and the opening or closing of windows or doors.

Check out the video summary here:

That’s all for this week! Next week, we’re off to INBOUND 2017: one of the world’s largest and most remarkable marketing and sales industry events. We’ll be back with our regular news coverage the first week in October.

Until then — happy autumn.

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Why 2017 Is the Year of Bots [Video]

Last week, while I was using a website’s chat feature to get some much-needed customer service, I realized something shocking:

I couldn’t tell if I was chatting with a human or a bot.

Before 2017, my notion of bots — and chatbots, specifically — was that they could only provide canned, basic responses before escalating to a human being. In short, I thought chatbots seemed, well, robotic, and they couldn’t get me the help I needed with a human touch.

Now, of course, I know that chatbots are the future of marketing, and you might feel the same. More brands have started using chatbots for marketing, sales, and customer service — and these are just a few examples.

If you’re wondering why bots are proliferating so rapidly — and how they’ve advanced to the point where we can’t differentiate their capabilities from those of humans — watch our chat with Motion AI CEO David Nelson above. He sat down and chatted with my colleague, Jami Oetting, about how bots have grown so significantly this year and why businesses should consider implementing a bot strategy of their own.

Why 2017 Is the Year of Bots

1) Natural language understanding has progressed.

Remember my story earlier?

The progression of natural language understanding has made chatbots more human than ever, making 2017 an ideal time to deploy a chatbot to answer questions and provide information.

2) Customer service expectations have changed.

It’s harder than ever to keep customers happy. And that’s because they have more options than ever (from your competition), and they want assistance made for the 21st century — instead of having to wait on hold for hours and repeat their information over and over.

Now, bots can perceive context and use data to give people the relevant information they need, and customers are more willing to interact with bots that give them the help they need — they’re fast, efficient, and just as helpful when they need assistance, on any channel.

3) Chatbots can make your job easier.

Bots can now answer frequently-asked questions, qualify new leads, and even distribute content. Here on the HubSpot Blog, we’re using a Facebook Messenger bot to help readers subscribe and read blog posts like these. Bots can automate processes humans have to do over and over again — saving time and valuable resources.

4) Chatbots can use data you already have to personalize your marketing.

The key to good marketing content is personalization. Bots can help you mine and analyze data you’ve already collected about prospects and customers to send them more customized emails and to have helpful context on calls.

5) Chatbots are easier than ever to create and deploy.

With help from industry leaders like Motion AI, you don’t have to try to demystify bots on your own — it’s easy to create and deploy bots anywhere on your site to help achieve your goals.

Editor’s note: HubSpot has acquired Motion AI, which enables everyone (developer or not) to build bots. Learn more here: HubSpot Acquires Motion AI.

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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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Which Blogging Tips Get Results? [New Survey Data]

When it comes to business blogging, how much time do people put into creating posts? How long are their articles? What goes into them? How often do they publish new content? How do they promote their posts? Do they measure the results?

The answers to any and all of the questions deliver interesting insights on the state of digital marketing. And thanks to the work of Orbit Media Studios, this data has been collected, made available and fun to consume.

For three years running, Andy Crestodina — the web design and development company’s co-founder — and his team have surveyed 1,000+ bloggers about how they create content and compiled their findings into blog posts, infographics, and SlideShares.

And now, behold: We have new data on how marketers view blogging in 2017. Let’s take a look at some of the trends over the years.

Fundamental Blogging Tips

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of blogging ROI, we should establish the basics. When it comes to general, fundamental blogging tips, here are three key ones that we like to follow.

  1. Know your audience. Never before has it been easier to find out who your audience is. Using tools like Google Analytics and more, marketers can find out where their visitors are from (geographically), how long they stay on the page, and more. Plus, you can create buyer personas: semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers, based on market research and real data about your existing customers. Get started creating your own with these templates.
  2. Crowdsource. Now that you understand your audience, reach out. Using forum-like discussions or your social media communities, ask your followers for ideas and thoughts on a topic in exchange for a chance to be quoted. It’s a great way to drive visits back to your blog after the post is published — plus, it builds engagement on your social media channels. This also goes for the readers you already have. If you’re able to, reach out to them and genuinely ask for their opinions on what you’re doing well, and what they’d like to see more of from you.
  3. Teach people something. When you ask someone to read your blog, you’re essentially asking to borrow their brain for the amount of time they spend with their content. Make it worthwhile — entertain and inform. Otherwise, you risk two things: 1) a high bounce rate, or 2) the reader thinking that you just wasted her time. And on that note …
  4. Use a call-to-action. One sign that you’re doing something right on your blog is if readers want more of it. But don’t leave them hanging or asking, “Now what?” A quality CTA should be built to provide your readers with more information on the topic they’ve just read about. But don’t just use it for the sake of lead generation — make sure it actually provides value, too. (Check out this comprehensive list of CTA best practices.)

Now, let’s dive into those trends we promised you.

Business Blogging: A Look at Trends From 2014, 2015, 2016 & 2017

2014 …

In the 2014 research, Orbit Media established some baselines and concluded:

  • The majority of bloggers spend two hours or less on a typical post.
  • The typical blogger published several posts per week. 5% published daily.
  • 80% were creating content of 1,000 words or less.
  • Social media was the most common promotion tactic, typically used by 94% of bloggers.

Andy told us that, for bloggers, blogging isn’t a job; it’s a lifestyle. His research indicated bloggers were writing and producing posts everywhere, all the time.

2015 …

In 2015, Crestodina and I collaborated on an infographic to present the key findings, which reported:

  • Average time writing blog posts increased to 2.5 hours.
  • The number of bloggers publishing daily (or more) increased.
  • Blog posts of 1,500 or more words increased by 72%.
  • The use of images increased.

The research indicated more blogging was done during normal work hours. The findings at large inspired Andy to conclude, “Blogging is becoming a more serious, formal discipline.” He also said best practices were emerging.

2016 …

The 2016 results came together in November, and you can find a detailed analysis of the findings here. Once again, we have created an infographic, making its debut below.

I’ll allow it to reveal the findings, which have evolved to include the tactics that business bloggers believe produce the strongest results.

SuccessfulBloggers_Orbitmedia - final.jpg

2017 …

Blogging was at the center of data revealed in the State of Inbound 2017 reports. What we found here is that blogging, when approached and executed with the right tactics and strategy — works. For that reason, it remains a focus of marketing activities and plans.

Specifically, blogging was the second-highest-cited top priority identified by marketers, with 53% identifying “blog content creation” as one of the most important areas of inbound marketing for their companies.

Plus, they know it works. A mere 5% of marketers identified blogging as an “overrated marketing tactic” — for the sake of comparison, 32% said that paid advertising is.

So, there you have it. Curious to see what 2018 has in store? So are we, and we’ll be keeping an eye out.

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Should You Even Bother With Bots? An Expert Weighs In [Video]

 

If you’re a human with internet access in 2017, you’ve probably talked to a bot recently — even if you weren’t fully aware of it.

With over five billion monthly active users on messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, the current tech landscape is set for a veritable explosion of chatbots and AI-based assistants over the next few years. And marketers should be racing to explore the potential power of this exciting new space — with some thoughtful restraint, of course.  

This isn’t the first time we’re talking about the importance of investing early in bots on the HubSpot Marketing Blog, but it’s one thing to recognize the potential of a new technology and quite another to start incorporating it into your exisiting business model.

Especially for businesses on the smaller side, pivoting towards a new strategy can feel like a terrifying leap. You’ve probably asked yourself: should I even bother with bots?

To learn more about practical use cases for bots, we turned to Vedant Misra, the founder and CEO of Kemvi (an AI and machine learning startup recently aquired by HubSpot), and current artificial intelligence tech lead here at HubSpot.

Check out the interview above, and decide for yourself: are bots the right next move for your business?

Editor’s note: HubSpot has acquired Motion AI, which enables everyone (developer or not) to build bots. Learn more here.

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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.

content-trends-1-2.png

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.

content-trends-2-2.png

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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How to Ask for a Promotion (and Have Other Tough Conversations With Your Boss)

Last year, my colleagues launched a tool called The Next Five to help people navigate through those times in their career where they’re feeling kind of stuck. You know — when you’re just not sure what the next step is on your career path.

And while many of us think about this stuff from time to time — and maybe even practice the speeches to go with them in the shower or in the car — I don’t think we often verbalize our thoughts on where we want our career paths to go, if we even know ourselves.

So, we did a little research to see how often people are actually asking for promotions, or talking with their managers about the next steps in their career paths. It’s pretty hard to find a ton of hard data on it — if you know of any, please send it our way — but we did find this: The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average tenure for today’s worker is 4.4 years. If you focus on just younger employees, that number halves.Download our leadership guide for actionable advice & guidelines from  HubSpot's Dharmesh Shah. 

What’s more, 91% of workers born between 1977 and 1997 report going into new jobs with the intent of staying less than three years.

While it sure seems like a jumpy career path is normal, there’s more to be said about the importance of these career discussions. After all, if your manager or employer yourself, which would you prefer: helping your team progress internally, or having them leave for what seems like a better opportunity elsewhere?

And if you’re looking to have this conversation with your boss, keep that question in mind. To help you get the conversation started, let’s take a closer look at why they matter and how you can get the most out of them.

Why Ask for a Promotion? Do Career Path Conversations Even Matter?

Some workplaces look at job-hopping as a phenomenon we just need to accept in this day and age. And they’re probably right … to an extent. I don’t think many industries should expect to return to a time when people stayed at companies for decades. But we might be able to find more longevity out of our roles than we do right now.

Quite frankly, job-hopping sucks for more than just the organization that has to rehire and retrain someone every couple years — it sucks for the employee, too. Yes, maybe they get promotions and raises — in fact, it’s not an uncommon way to make your way up the career ladder. But it also means taking a risk, adjusting to a new team and a new manager — possibly finding out one or both of those are a poor fit — and figuring out the nuances of a workplace and job that you could end up hating.

Worst case scenario? You end up out of work at the end of all that, and you’re back on the interview circuit.

So I think it behooves of all of us to have these conversations about what we want our career paths to look like with ourselves, and our managers. It helps us get closer to the work and life we want, and it helps clue our managers in on how to give it to us.

A Few Helpful Guidelines

Before we jump into the nitty-gritty of these conversations, let’s set some ground rules for how these conversations go. Keep these in mind before you launch a large-scale discussion about your career path.

  1. Think about your relationship with your boss. If you’re on good terms, great — chances are, the door is open and you can be candid about what you see for your career trajectory, or your confusion around it. The best managers are the ones who know how to create or find opportunities that combine your skills, interests, and challenges, so these are some things to outline before the conversation. However, if your relationship with your boss isn’t so splendid, or she’s just not in a decision-making position like this one, look higher. Figure out who the best person is to speak with, even if she works in a different department.
  2. Chat with colleagues who are changing roles. When someone on your team is leaving her role, knowing why can help you determine what you see for your own career path, and perhaps give considerations to possible changes that you didn’t otherwise think of. Plus, if she’s leaving a vacancy as a result, that might be an opportunity for you — find out what the true nature of the role is; then, determine the next steps for applying for it internally, if it’s a good fit.
  3. Be your own hiring manager. Many managers crave a sense of proactivity and the ability to solve problems independently from their teams. Remember what we said earlier about what makes a good manager? By figuring out some of these things yourself — like the types of opportunities that are a truly a strong combination of your skills and interests, as well as the team’s unmet needs — you might be able to create your own promotion and subsequent role. Explain why your idea checks off those boxes and meet with your team or boss to discuss it. But be sure to come prepared with a clear idea of what’s next, and how to plan to execute this development should it be approved.

What Elements Make Up an Effective Career Path Conversation?

I’m gonna put my money where my mouth is and talk about my own experiences with these conversations.

I’ve had career path conversations with many bosses — the last formal one was around March — but I’ve also held them with people on my team. Both have been awkward … sometimes. But both have been totally normal and non-cringe-inducing just as often.

When I look back at all those conversations at a macro-level, the good ones (whether they were about my career or my teammates’) all came down to three elements:

  • Relationship
  • Timing
  • Forethought

1) Relationship

Technically, this shouldn’t matter. You should be able to have productive career path conversations no matter the manager-employee relationship. But it would be naive to think the relationship you have with your boss doesn’t play into how well these conversations go. That’s not to say the closer you two are, the better the conversations go — sometimes the closer you are, the harder it is to have frank conversations.

But the better you know each other, and the more ease you have talking with one another, the more likely you’ll have already sorted out communication styles that work. You’ll just know how to get from point A to point B with less pain and awkwardness, because you’ve done it before.

It also gives you the ability to “read the room,” so to speak. You can tell if something you said is being poorly received or misunderstood. Those soft skills matter when you’re talking about career paths because they can accidentally veer into uncomfortable territory and leave people feeling insecure if the communication is off.

If you don’t already have a strong working relationship, it doesn’t preclude you from pulling off a successful conversation. It just makes the next two items — timing and forethought — all the more important.

It also might help to run a few practice rounds with someone so you can make sure you’re clearly verbalizing what you intend. Former HubSpotter Katherine Boyarsky does this and can’t recommend it enough: “Have a mantra that you can repeat in your head during the conversation that helps center you if you go off on a tangent,” she explains.

Aim to be very clear, direct, and forthright with what you’re looking to do without putting the other party on the defensive.

2) Timing

There have been a few career conversations I’ve had in the past that were ill-timed. It didn’t turn them into an utter disaster, but they just didn’t seem to stick. The most common instances where the timing has been off in my experience have been:

  • My boss didn’t know I wanted to have the conversation/I sprung the conversation on a team member in our 1:1. When it comes to talking about your career path, you can’t expect great results from a conversation in which half the people in the room are unprepared. Give everyone some time to think about this. After all, it’s a massive topic that has a lot of moving parts to consider.
  • We tacked it on to the end of a meeting but didn’t have enough time to finish the conversation. Because your career path is such a massive topic, allot enough time to do it justice. I think career discussions are best when they take place over a series of conversations, so it’s alright if you just have a quick thought once in a while. But if you haven’t had this talk with your boss or employee yet (or it’s been a while), make a separate meeting dedicated to this, and only this.
  • I could tell my boss was distracted due to other sources of stress. This is where that “reading the room” I mentioned earlier comes into play. Even if you’ve pre-planned a career path meeting, sometimes things come up that distract one or both of the participants. If you’re picking up on some body language — or spoken language — that indicates distraction, reschedule the meeting.

3) Forethought

A lot of this post so far has been a 50/50 thing — managers and employees should both be held accountable for this career path stuff. But when it comes to forethought, this lies largely on the employees’ shoulders. We need to think about what we want to do in our career. No one can tell us the answer to: “What do you want to do in five years?

Sure, your manager, a mentor, or your family and friends can all talk you through that stuff, but it does come down to you to take ownership over the direction in which you want your career to go.

So, put some forethought into the ways your career path could take shape before broaching the subject with your manager. Some people tend to have really clear career goals, while others are a little more … floaty. That’s fine. If you find yourself in the “floaty” camp, here’s are a couple things to think about to get your brain going:

First, it’s okay to not know what you want from your career at all times. I tend to bucket my life in quadrants:

  • Relationships (friends, family, love)
  • Career (skill development, promotions, satisfaction from the work I’m doing)
  • Hobbies (beach bumming, ghost stuff)
  • Health (exercise, cooking, happiness, clean home)

Typically, not all of those areas of my life are banging on all cylinders at once. When life is going great, usually three — maybe only two — are rocking and rolling while the rest are in stasis for a bit. Sometimes, that thing that’s in stasis is your career. And that’s fine. You don’t need to be thinking about your career path all the time. But if you feel a general ennui, it might be that too many of those areas of your life are lagging — and one could very possibly be your career.

If that’s the case, ask yourself this …

What does the team look like today, versus a year from now?

First, think about this question hypothetically — assessing gaps that will need to be filled down the line, and aligning them with company goals. Then, talk to other leaders in the company and on your team about where they see the team going in a year, and what kinds of goals people might focus on in the future.

This is where your manager can help you, and where I have seen really successful (and non-awkward) career path conversations begin. If you can get a sense of what the organization’s needs will be over the next 12 months, you can start to see which of those needs you’re interested in helping fulfill — because even if your dream job is X, there’s not much anyone can do for you if the company’s investments are in Y.

Finally, remember that career progress comes from a lot of different places, and that progress is indicated by a lot of different things. It comes from skill development, networking, and aligning with projects that advance both personal and company goals. And all of that takes time.

If we want to benchmark our progress, we need to look at more than just promotions. Instead, we need to focus on whether we’re developing new skills, being given more responsibility and autonomy, putting ourselves in mildly uncomfortable situations that help us get better at stuff (hello, public speaking), working with new people in the organization, being asked for our opinion more often, or being pulled into meetings with people we respect and admire.

These are all really good signs of progress that are hard to formalize, but indicate you’re taking the right steps to get your career on the path you’re aiming for.

What Would an Expert Say About All of This?

I’m glad you asked.

That was all based on my experience — holding career path conversations with team members, and with my own manager. But let’s ask an actual HR professional who has spent a lot of time thinking about this stuff.

I talked to our Senior HR Business Partner Brianna Manning, and asked her for the advice she would give someone who was struggling to hold productive conversations about career advancement. She echoed two of the sentiments we’ve already talked about — preparation, and giving a heads up that you want to have this conversation. One point in particular Manning shared regarding preparation is the importance of establishing career trajectory dialogue from the beginning of your relationship together:

“If your manager is well aware of what direction you want to take your career, they can purposefully plan on assignments and projects that help set you in the right direction. In fact, if you want to follow your manager’s path, specifically, you should be direct and let them know that. Ask them to lunch to talk through their challenges, and learn what kinds of projects they took on to help get the skills they needed for the role.”

If you feel unsure of how to start that conversation because you don’t have that solid relationship yet, she provided some sample language that helps make it less intimidating:

“Try opening with something like ‘I learned about this really great resource to help us make the most of our 1:1s and layer in some career development focus — would you be open to trying it?’ or ‘I want to make sure we bake in time for communication around career development in our 1:1s, can we set aside five minutes for that on the agenda on a weekly basis?'”

But Pierce hit on one other important point in initiating these conversations I would be remiss to gloss over: You have to build trust and credibility to have productive career conversations.

It’s really difficult for your manager to focus on your career path if you aren’t succeeding in your current role. Make sure you’ve got a handle on your responsibilities before setting your sights on the next thing. In some cases, it might be wiser to focus on the “now” of your career path rather than the next turn down the road. As Pierce put it:

“If you demonstrate that you always deliver on current responsibilities, and always try to go the extra mile, you’ll build credibility and trust around your own personal brand. This will open doors for you. Just remember that it all takes time. It can’t happen overnight.”

She emphasized that credibility also comes from owning the follow-through on those career conversations. If your manager has opened up some doors for you, make sure you own your progression by nailing those stretch assignments, introductions, or whatever it is you’ve been given an opportunity to shine doing.

What Should You Expect to Get From These Career Path Conversations?

If you’re expecting a specific result out of one conversation, you’re setting yourself up for failure. You wouldn’t expect your manager to come in and dump a promotion on your lap, so you shouldn’t expect to solve your career destiny in one swoop.

In order for those doors to open, all relevant parties must be envisioning you in a certain role for a few months, at least.

I would say the best results typically come from people that think about their career path often, and have frequent — whether formal or informal — conversations about it.

Most of all, those with the most interesting paths tend to just keep an open mind about the different, jagged, very weird ways we all make our way through our careers.

Need help doing a little soul-searching? Take a few minutes to check out The Next Five.

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6 Interview Questions to Assess Emotional Intelligence

Despite what you might have come to believe after sorting through the internet’s seemingly bottomless slew of articles on the subject, emotional intelligence is more than just a buzzword.

The ability to empathize with others, build lasting relationships, and manage emotions in a healthy way has been proven time and time again to be one of the biggest indicators of workplace and interpersonal success.

Emotionally intelligent individuals can more easily adapt to new environments and relate to new colleagues and clients — crucial skills for anyone working at a marketing agency. People with low levels of emotional intelligence might have difficulty managing relationships and dealing with stress, which could lead to burnout or bigger conflicts down the line.

Among employees who fail to meet expectations during their first 18 months on the job, 23% fail due to low emotional intelligence. That’s the second most prevalent reason new hires fail, following only general lack of coachability.Click here to download our free guide on how to succeed in your new marketing  job.

We know gauging a candidate’s emotional intelligence is pivotal when it comes to hiring the best new talent — but can something so complex be sufficiently evaluated in a brief interview setting?

Some candidates have mastered the ability of seeming emotionally intelligent — responding instantaneously with practiced, too-good-to-be-true responses to classic interview questions, e.g.:

What’s your greatest weakness?
Well, I just care too darn much about my work.

To help you sift through the rehearsed responses and dig deeper into a candidate’s real level of emotional intelligence, we’ve put together the following list of interview questions. Learn what to ask below and how to identify an emotionally intelligent response.

6 Interview Questions to Assess Emotional Intelligence

1) Can you tell me about a time you tried to do something and failed?

Asking a candidate to explain a failed project is not only a great way to see how they cope when things don’t go as planned, it’s also an opportunity to see whether or not they’re comfortable taking full responsibility for their actions.

Look for a candidate who can straightforwardly describe a recent failure without shirking the bulk of the blame on other parties or unfortunate circumstances. Even if some external factors played a hand in the mishap, you want a candidate who is comfortable being held fully accountable, and can discuss even the nitty-gritty details of a failed project with fair-minded focus.

Does the candidate seem like they were able to fully bounce back from the issue without getting defensive? Emotionally intelligent individuals possess an inherent self-confidence that can buoy them through setbacks and lets them assess troubling situations objectively, without harsh self-judgment or resorting to outward frustration.

Be wary of candidates who fixate too much on who or what they blame for the failure. When a project doesn’t work out, the key takeaway shouldn’t be based on blame. Emotionally intelligent people know how to move on and examine a situation without bitterness or resentment clouding their judgment.

2) Tell me about a time you received negative feedback from your boss. How did that make you feel?

One of the most easily recognizable qualities of an emotionally intelligent person is their ability to deal with criticism. People with high emotional intelligence are well-equipped to handle negative feedback without losing stride. They can process even unexpected feedback without letting it damage their self-worth.

That’s not to say negative feedback has no emotional impact on emotionally intelligent employees. People with high emotional intelligence experience emotions like everyone else — they just know how to fully process those emotions with a level head and a clear focus on the facts.

Look for a candidate who can specifically describe the feelings they experienced upon receiving negative feedback, e.g.: “At first I was surprised and a little frustrated by my manager’s comments on the project, but when I looked deeper into the reasoning behind her comments, I realized that I could have definitely given more attention to several key areas. On my next project, I was able to use her feedback to develop a more well-rounded approach.”

A response that acknowledges the specific emotions they experienced and shows an empathic understanding of their manager’s point of view indicates a high level of emotional awareness.

Candidates who say they felt “bad” or can’t really express why the feedback affected them might be less emotionally intelligent. Similarly, if a candidate thinks the feedback was wholly undeserved and doesn’t attempt to understand their manager’s point of view, they might have difficulty stepping outside of their own perspective.

3) Can you tell me about a conflict at work that made you feel frustrated?

Everyone gets frustrated sometimes. It’s how you handle that frustration that really matters.

Hearing how a candidate explains a work conflict can offer some valuable clues into their level of emotional intelligence. Conflicts can stir up a lot of difficult emotions, and asking a candidate to describe a dispute and how they dealt with it can give you meaningful insight into how they manage their emotions and empathize with others.

According to psychologist and author Daniel Goleman, emotionally intelligent people have four distinguishing characteristics:

  • They were good at understanding their own emotions (self-awareness)
  • They were good at managing their emotions (self-management)
  • They were empathetic to the emotional drives of other people (social awareness)
  • They were good at handling other people’s emotions (social skills)

All four of these characteristics are put to the test in conflicts situations. Emotionally intelligent people will be able to explain a conflict situation clearly and objectively, giving a specific run down of how they felt at the time, how they managed those feelings, and how they used social cues from those around them to inform their decisions.

As they explain the conflict situation, consider the following four areas:

  • Can they clearly articulate the emotions they experienced during the conflict? (self-awareness)
  • Were they able to move past any negative emotions and work towards a resolution? (self-management)
  • Do they seem aware of the other person’s motivations and challenges? (social awareness)
  • Were they able to mend the relationship and move past the conflict? (social skills)

4) Tell me about a hobby you like to do outside of work. Can you teach me about it?

Ask the candidate to explain one of their hobbies to you as if you know nothing about it. It can be anything — golf, horseback riding, cookie jar collecting — anything they’re interested in and willing to share details about.

As they explain the hobby, prompt them with questions that force them to simplify, re-explain, and change their communication style to suit your clear lack of understanding. See how they react. Are they getting flustered or frustrated? Are they quick to adapt their communication style to meet your needs?

Emotionally intelligent people remain patient and calm when faced with a communication challenge. They can easily read social cues when their message isn’t clearly getting across, and will deftly pivot their approach to meet the needs of their audience.

5) What would your co-workers say is the most rewarding thing about working with you? What about the most challenging thing?

It takes a deep, well-developed sense of self-awareness (and humility) to recognize what really makes you tick. To gauge how well candidates understand their own strengths and limitations in the workplace, ask them to explain how they think others perceive their positive and not-so-positive qualities.

The question is likely to catch some people off guard, but look for candidates who appear comfortable offering up frank commentary without making excuses or immediately invaliding their co-workers’ perceived criticisms.

6) Can you tell me about a time you needed to ask for help on a project?

Emotionally intelligent people are self-confident without being overconfident. They have a realistic understanding of their own strengths and limitations, and they aren’t afraid to admit what they don’t know. They know that asking for help and collaborating with others is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Be wary of candidates who seem hesitant or embarrassed to admit they need help sometimes. Look for someone who can confidently discuss a time when they sought the help of a colleague due to a gap in their knowledge of a subject.

Emotionally intelligent people will be transparent about their weak points, and will show a real drive to better themselves by collaborating and using all the resources available to them.

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How to Create a Pillar Page

Like the magnificent architectural wonders that hold up The Pantheon in Rome, pillars will help you hold up your blog’s architecture, too.

You have to build them yourself — but we promise it takes less time and effort than building them from marble or concrete.

In this blog post, we’ll dive into everything you need to know about pillar pages — how they fit into the new topic cluster strategy we’re advocating, what they can achieve for your blog’s results, and how to actually create one.Click here to download our free guide to search engine optimization (SEO) for  2017.

What Is a Pillar Page?

Pillar pages help organize your website and blog content architecture according to the changing ways people are now searching for information.

These unique blog posts or site pages are comprehensive guides to a particular topic you’re trying to rank for in search. So, where you might have 20 different blog posts about different aspects of using Instagram in your marketing, a pillar page is an overview guide to all aspects of a particular topic. Then, all of the different blog posts about different aspects of Instagram marketing link back to the pillar page to show readers a route to learn everything they need to know.

By creating pillar pages, you can organize your site architecture to help visitors get answers to their questions and quickly and easily as possible. And that’s more important than ever — because the way people are searching for content is changing.

(But before we dive into why creating pillar pages is so important, learn more about how to define a pillar page in this blog post.)

Why Create Pillar Pages

Like we said before, the way people search for information has changed, and pillar pages are part of the topic cluster model that help your content strategy adapt to this change — and, hopefully, rank higher in search.

Thanks to voice search devices like Siri, Cortana, and Alexa, search queries are becoming longer and more conversational.In fact, 64% of searches are made up of four words or more, and 20% of Google searches are now conducted via voice. So instead of typing into a search bar “how to use Instagram,” you might instead ask your device, “what’s the best way to use hashtags on Instagram?”

Additionally, Google’s search algorithm is doing a better job at providing the exact information searchers are looking for through the mountains of content out there, thanks to advances in machine-learning and semantic search. Google is even better at understanding exactly what you mean when you type in a query and serving results that best answer that question.

And due to these changes, it’s important to organize your blog according to topic clusters — where one topic is anchored by a comprehensive pillar page that links to more in-depth blog posts about specific aspects of that topic.

That way, your pillar page will start ranking in search for the particular topic you’re focusing on, which will help other blog posts rank as well — the expression “the rising tide lifts all ships” applies here. Instead of writing blog post after blog post focusing on different keyword variations of the same topic, you’ll have an organized site infrastructure made up of one pillar page and specific, in-depth blog posts that address content gaps about the topics.

In this model, your blog content is more organized for the reader to jump from post to post learning more about a topic, and your URLs don’t compete with each other for the same long-tail keyword — because they’re all ranking for the same broader topic.

To visualize what this new model looks like, here’s what HubSpot’s blog infrastructure used to look like:

Old structure-2.png

And here’s what our blog looks like now, using the topic cluster strategy:

New structure-2.png

We know it’s tough to think about keywords differently — after years of creating blog content dedicated to ranking for specific long-tail keywords, we feel your pain. This strategy doesn’t advocate for the abandonment of keywords as a strategy — it just calls for focus on topics so you can choose the keywords you base blog posts on more effectively.

(Psst — you can read more about this in our in-depth research report about topic clusters.)

How to Create a Pillar Page

Now that you understand all about pillar pages — and why you should be creating them — here are the key steps to creating a successful one.

1) Choose a topic.

The first step in this process is focusing on topics, and not keywords. At least at first.

Determine who your audience is using buyer persona research, and figure out what they’re searching for, which will determine how broad to make your pillar page. You want the topic of a pillar page to be broad enough to write a pillar page and come up with several more specific keywords related to the broader topic.

In our case using the earlier example, “social media” was too broad of a topic, but “Instagram marketing” is sufficient to create a pillar page and 20-30 related blog posts — HubSpot’s gut-check number for determining if a topic is broad enough.

2) Write (or designate) a pillar page.

Now, it’s time to make your pillar page. You might already have a comprehensive blog post that you can adapt into a pillar page, or you might need to write a comprehensive guide to your topic from scratch. Either way, there are a few key elements HubSpot Staff Writer Aja Frost suggests you include:

  • A definition of the topic or term you’re covering somewhere in the first section
  • A bulleted or numbered table of contents
  • A more specific topic-related keyword in each of your subheadings
  • Content that provides an overview (but not an exhaustive one) of the subtopics discussed on the pillar page (those will make up new blog posts later)

3) Choose keywords.

Once you’ve nailed down your pillar page, it’s time to do some good old-fashioned keyword research — within the bigger umbrella of the specific topic you’re targeting. Choose keywords with a lot of search volume that cover different aspects of the topic, and use those to build your working titles.

4) Start writing.

You already know how to do this — so you can breathe a sigh of relief. Now it’s time to write blog posts based on specific keywords within your topic cluster — making sure to link them to your pillar page to create a streamlined reader experience and help all of your content rank higher in search engine results pages.

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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

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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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